Last night, the Florida House of Representatives did what no one in the NFL can do at this point - guaranteed the results of the upcoming Super Bowl vote. With the House's failure to even give the bill a vote, despite the State Senate already approving the bill, the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium are all but out of the consideration for Super Bowls 50 or 51, which the NFL owners will award during their Mary 22 Owners Meeting.
Super Bowl 50 will be awarded to the San Francisco 49ers and their new stadium in Santa Clara. The Houston Texans and Reliant Stadium will receive Super Bowl 51. The Dolphins were the other finalist against the 49ers for the 2016 game. Whichever team lost the vote would then be the second finalist with the Texans for the 2017 game.
Now, with no chance of public funding for renovations to Sun Life Stadium, including the addition of a canopy over the seating area, high definition lighting, and improved replay board s the NFL has requested, the games will go to the other, newer, facilities.
After the House of Representatives adjourned their legislative session without the bill reaching the floor for a vote, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross released the following statement:
Tonight, Speaker Weatherford did far more than just deny the people of Miami Dade the right to vote on an issue critical to the future of our local economy. The Speaker singlehandedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami Dade and for all of Florida. He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami Dade, and that is just wrong.
I am deeply disappointed by the Speaker's decision. He gave me and many others his word that this legislation would go to the floor of the House for a vote, where I know, and he knows, we had the votes to win by a margin as large as we did in the Senate. It's hard to understand why he would stop an election already in process and disenfranchise the 40,000 people who have already voted. I can only assume he felt it was in his political interest to do so. Time will tell if that is the case, but I am certain this decision will follow Speaker Weatherford for many years to come.
I want to thank Mayor Gimenez for his leadership. He was a tough negotiator whose persistence led to an agreement that offered taxpayers the strongest protections of any agreement of this kind in the country. I also want to thank our bill sponsors and supporters in Tallahassee, especially Senator Oscar Braynon, Representative Erik Fresen and Representative Eddy Gonzalez; our County Commission sponsors, Commissioners Jordan, Diaz and Barreiro, as well as all of our supporters on the County Commission; HT Smith and Jorge Arrizurietta, the Co-Chairs of the Miami First Campaign; The University of Miami; The Orange Bowl Committee; The Greater Miami Hotel Association; the many volunteers who lent their support to our campaign, and the members of the Dolphins organization and our campaign team who worked so hard in the last several weeks. I believe without a doubt that the voters would have supported this project if given a chance to vote.
In the weeks ahead, I will do all I can to convince my fellow owners to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami Dade. The Bid Committee has done a tremendous job to give us a great shot, and my only hope is that it is enough to overcome the terrible message Speaker Weatherford has sent to the NFL tonight. In addition, I will continue to do all I can to build a winning team for the people of Miami Dade.
In the future, I will look to play an important role in fixing the dysfunction in Tallahassee and will continue to work to create good jobs in Miami Dade and throughout South Florida.
The Dolphins and Miami-Dade County had come to an agreement that the decision on using public funding would be made by the citizens of Miami-Dade County, through a May 14 referendum. The voting had actually already opened, with early voting starting this past Monday.
The team already gave the county a $4.3 million check to cover the cost of the election.
Now, it's all for naught.
As Ross said, the team will still move forward with the bid and try to win in an upset, but things are bleak for Miami right now on the Super Bowl front. Sun Life Stadium, originally named Joe Robbie Stadium, opened in 1987. Since that time, 21 new stadiums have opened, with five more proposed or under construction. One of those proposed stadiums, a new home for the Atlanta Falcons, is actually being built to replace a stadium that opened after Joe Robbie Stadium.
Ross could now turn to private funding sources to try to keep the Super Bowl bid, and Sun Life's renovations, alive, but that's highly unlikely. Ross was already paying for the majority of the renovations through private funding methods. He, nor the NFL, want to set the precedent that public funding can be rejected and the owner will simply pay for a new stadium or renovations himself.
And, don't look for the NFL to be giving South Florida, currently tied for the most times hosting the Super Bowl, the championship game any time soon. They are not going to want to reward Florida for failing to assist the Dolphins.
So, in the end, the Dolphins' attempt to renovate Sun Life now seems dead, the Super Bowls all but gone, and a lot of questions.
Congratulations to Santa Clara and Houston.