Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, general manager Jeff Ireland, and head coach Joe Philbin visited several of the Miami area newspapers yesterday, including The Miami Herald. During their meeting with reporters, the three spoke about their plans for the football operations side of the franchise, but that wasn't the only topic they covered. As Armando Salguero reported yesterday, Dee also brought up the team's plans for Sun Life Stadium.
Essentially, the Dolphins feel the stadium is too big.
Dee told the Herald, "We have the furthest distance from the sidelines with our lower bowl in the NFL," Dee said. "We have the fewest number of seats in that lower seating level between the 20 yard lines, between the goal lines, in the NFL. Not just the facilities that compete for Super Bowls. We've got to fix that ...
"At the same time, we may look to amend capacity in areas where we may have too much. Right now, we have the largest upper deck in the NFL -- 35,000 seats. The next facility in line is 27,000. The Redskins took 10,000 seats out of their upper deck this past year. We're looking at all those things to retrofit the stadium to today's standards."
The team has talked about wanting to bring the stands closer to the sidelines for the last few years, looking forward to when the Florida Marlins moved out of the stadium, becoming the MIami Marlins. With the baseball dimensions of the stadium no longer needed, the stands could be moved closer to the field.
However, the state currently has legislation proposed that would actually require professional sports teams to pay money back to the state if publicly-funded stadiums are no used as homeless shelters. While it appears the Dolphins are immune from the legislation, because the city does have plans to use Sun Life Stadium if necessary, but has never asked the team to do so, the state is not very likely to fork out more money for the modifications - even if the Dolphins are planning to put in a bid for an upcoming Super Bowl to come back to Miami.
So, unless owner Stephen Ross decides to privately fund the renovations himself, the team will have to find other ways to fix the "too big" stadium.
One of the easiest, as Salguero points out, is to simply not use sections of the stadium. The Dolphins would not be the first team to throw a tarp over a section, and just not offer tickets to that area. The Jacksonville Jaguars do it now. The Miami Heat did it before LeBron James joined the team.
However, the team would have to apply to the NFL to allow the seats to remain empty, if the blackout rules are to be affected. And, really, that's what is the major concern for the Dolphins. Last year, Ross and several local companies were forced to buy tickets to home games to ensure the Dolphins would be televised on local stations.
Of course, the easiest way to bring back the full capacity days of Joe Robbie Stadium is to return the Dolphins to their winning ways. In order to make sure that happens, the team has to make a splash this offseason in free agency and the draft.
For now, though, the Dolphins are looking for ways to make the stadium that has seen every game since early in 2001 sold out smaller.