Dolphins' stadium renovation plans take big hit

Bill to provide taxpayer support for Dolphins' stadium renovation fails to get approval.

The Miami Dolphins needed a Hail Mary to have any hope at hosting a Super Bowl anytime soon. But their effort fell short as time ran out and Florida's legislative session ended just before 7 p.m. on Friday.

South Florida legislators and team officials had pushed throughout the 60-day legislative session to pass a bill that would provide a $350 million upgrade to Sun Life Stadium.

The bill passed through the Senate but never came up for a floor vote in the House before Speaker Will Weatherford called an end to the session.

"You're talking about a lot of money. You're talking about a major public policy issue. This is the first time that a lot of these folks had come to the state for subsidies," Weatherford told the Sun-Sentinel. "Before you spend $300 or $400 million in tax subsidies, I just think we need to talk about it and evaluate it more. And there's always next year."

It was a stunning turn of events for the Dolphins, which had assembled an all-pro team that included NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, South Florida politicians and powerful lobbyists. The Dolphins had pushed for the project, which they believe would have led to the hiring of thousands of construction workers and brought a significant economic impact with the hosting of another Super Bowl.

But now South Florida's hopes of hosting a Super Bowl are essentially over.

"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," Dolphins owner Steve Ross said. "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."

The Miami Herald reported Friday night that a scheduled referendum vote on May 14 will likely be called off.

Dolphins officials were seeking up to $289 million through a 1-percent increase in the Miami-Dade hotel tax. Other pro sports franchises in Florida could request funds and compete for money based on remodeling needs to arenas, stadiums or racetracks. The bill was designed to deliver funds to those needs that delivered the greatest amount of economic impact to the local economy.

And there really is no sporting event with a bigger economic impact than a Super Bowl, an event that Miami has hosted 10 times but now may have to wait a lengthy period before earning an 11th opportunity.

On May 21, the NFL is scheduled to award Super Bowl L, the 50th annual game, which is slated for January or February 2016. San Francisco and Miami were the top competitors for the game.

Ross isn't giving up, although he concedes that South Florida is now a longshot.

"In the weeks ahead, I will do all I can to convince my fellow owners to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami Dade," Ross said. "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."

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