Spurned by legislature, Dolphins worried about future

Super Bowl L and the Miami Dolphins’ long-term future remain hot topics a week after plans to refurbish Sun Life Stadium were dealt a severe blow by the Florida legislature.

The Dolphins and the South Florida Super Bowl Bid Committee held a news conference Thursday to give details of their plans for hosting Super Bowl L in 2016 or LI in 2017. A presentation will be made to NFL owners on May 21 in Boston.

There’s widespread belief that South Florida has fallen behind San Francisco/Santa Clara, Calif., for Super Bowl L and Houston for Super Bowl LI after the Florida House failed to pass a bill that would have helped pay for Sun Life Stadium renovations with taxpayer dollars.

South Florida’s Super Bowl L plan includes turning Bayfront Park into Super Bowl Park, playing a football game on a Navy aircraft carrier anchored next to the American Airlines Arena, a Ferris wheel-type structure that would offer great views of Miami and barges on Biscayne Bay for night clubs and parties.

Although hosting another Super Bowl would be a nice get for South Florida, there’s a bigger issue for Dolphins fans — the team’s long-term future.

Dolphins CEO Mike Dee has said lack of either a refurbished Sun Life Stadium or a new facility could result in owner Stephen Ross selling the team to someone who would look to relocate.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, however, told NFL.com this week the league wants the Dolphins to remain in the area.

“We do want to see the Dolphins stay in Miami,” Goodell told the website. “We want to see them stay in a facility that will allow them to compete, and to bring in other big events, including Super Bowls.

“And that takes work, it takes investment, and Steve Ross was doing the investing and was really the guy who was putting his heart and soul into this and his passion into this. And that’s what’s frustrating is that it didn’t get a chance to get to the voters.”

Goodell added that he thought Ross and Miami-Dade County officials worked hard to put together an “intelligent” plan to rebuild Sun Life Stadium, and was disappointed the state legislature did not let residents vote on the issue.

The Dolphins were seeking a reported $200 million from the county to help pay for a $400 million stadium renovation. Ross said he would contribute the remaining funds. The team also wanted $3 million annually for the next 30 years from the state, but the House refused to consider a bill.

“I went down to Tallahassee myself before the legislative session ended,”
Goodell told NFL.com. “Of course we will stay involved, we will do whatever is necessary because we do think it’s right for all of Florida. We think it’s particularly good for the Miami-Dade area. It will help attract bigger events, and that will have a real economic impact on the community.”

Dee side-stepped a question concerning whether the Dolphins would be open to moving to Palm Beach County.

“We’re open-minded to all long-term solutions,” Dee told the Miami Herald. “You can’t close the door on anything. I wouldn’t say it’s a priority to evaluate that and march down that road at this time, by any means, but the simple fact is we have to address a long-term issue with the venue. All ideas — good, bad, indifferent — should be considered.”

The Palm Beach Post said a high-ranking team source told the newspaper earlier this year the Dolphins likely wouldn’t consider a move to Broward County, where officials have shown little interest in providing public funds for sports teams. The Baltimore Orioles left their Fort Lauderdale spring training home in 2009 after a deal for a new facility could not be worked out.

The Post’s source said the team would investigate sites in Palm Beach County, most likely in the western portion of Delray Beach or Boynton Beach.

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at mac1763@bellsouth.net or on Twitter at @mccarthy_chas.