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Monday, May 6, 2013
Dee: Fins' future in Miami 'bleak'

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Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said in a television interview Sunday his team won't pay for any renovations to Sun Life Stadium after the Florida Legislature ended its session without passing any funding plan that would assist the team's quest to refurbish the stadium.

"We cannot do this without a private-public partnership," Dee told WFOR-TV in Miami. "At this time we have no intention of investing more."

When asked about the long-term future of the Dolphins in South Florida, Dee said: "I wouldn't want to prognosticate what the future holds, but it's clearly bleak."

Dee said in the interview that 73-year-old owner Stephen Ross has no intentions to move the franchise, but at some point he'll sell the team and the aging stadium will be an issue confronting the new owner.

Dee was asked in the interview whether moving the franchise to Los Angeles now becomes an option.

"I don't think it's an option for Steve Ross, but for a subsequent owner? The Dolphins are one of the only franchises in the National Football League that do not have a long-term lease with their community," he said.

The refusal of the GOP-controlled Legislature to aid the team wasn't just a defeat for the Dolphins -- it could also sack South Florida's efforts to lure another Super Bowl to the region in the next few years. Miami was expected to vie, along with Santa Clara (home of the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium, opening in 2014) and Houston for Super Bowl L in 2016 and Super Bowl LI in 2017.

"We clearly have our work cut out for us," Dee said. "Having a stadium that's competitive is probably comparable to having a good quarterback when you're playing football. You can win without one, but it's hard to win regularly, and it's hard to beat a team that's got a good quarterback. And in this case we're playing a community [Santa Clara] that has a great quarterback, a brand-new stadium. Houston has a new stadium that's been renovated, so we're going to have to work hard."

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said his city won't become complacent about its chances of hosting the 2017 game.

"Certainly what happened doesn't help Miami's bid. There's no doubt about that," McNair said. "But that doesn't say that the owners couldn't decide to still go to Miami."

Miami has hosted the Super Bowl 10 times.

"The House leadership has made our efforts to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami and South Florida much more difficult," said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee.

Dee said the Dolphins aren't interested in a "Band-Aid" approach to renovations but instead wanted to pursue a plan to modernize the stadium that would be "tantamount to a new stadium."

Sun Life Stadium
CEO Mike Dee said the Dolphins won't pay for any renovations to 26-year-old Sun Life Stadium and without help from the state to help refurbish it, the team's future in South Florida is "bleak."

The Dolphins wanted both state and local help to pay for $400 million worth of renovations to 26-year-old Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins wanted $3 million a year for the next 30 years from the state. Dee said Ross was committed to funding 70 percent of the cost.

The Dolphins weren't the only sports franchise affected. Others who lost out include the city of Orlando, which was hoping for help to lure a Major League Soccer team, as well as the Jacksonville Jaguars and Daytona International Speedway.

The professional sports teams were all backing a Florida Senate proposal that would have allowed each of them to compete for a share of state tax dollars. The measure would have created a process for pro teams to vie for $13 million a year in state incentives.

But the House -- led by Speaker Will Weatherford -- refused to bring up the legislation.

"I think part of the complication was the fact that it wasn't just the Dolphins," Weatherford said Friday. "You had five or six different franchises that were looking for a tax rebate, and that's serious public policy. You're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, and I think the House just never got comfortable there when the session ended."

But the defeat was especially stinging for the Dolphins because the team had already agreed to pay for a Miami-Dade County referendum on whether to raise local bed taxes to assist the team. The initial Senate bill authorized the use of the taxes. The failure of legislators to act makes the May 14 ballot question meaningless, even though early and absentee balloting had already begun.

"We suspect that it's a pure political decision, that [Weatherford is] choosing politics over the right for the voters of Miami-Dade County to decide this issue, and that's a shame," Dee said.

The Dolphins could try again next year for legislative approval, but they may have burned that bridge with their criticism of Weatherford.

"He'll still be the speaker of the House next year," Dee said, "and I don't see him changing his opinion."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.