Dolphins, NFL launch full court press in Tallahassee to save stadium effort
The Miami Dolphins are bringing out the big guns as they try to get lawmakers to approve a taxpayer-supported stadium upgrade in the final days of this year’s legislative session.
In meetings Monday with top state lawmakers, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, team owner Stephen Ross and team CEO Mike Dee made their last-minute pitch.
Standing outside the office of House Speaker Will Weatherford, Ross said he wanted lawmakers to approve the deal in order to let Miami-Dade voters have the final say on whether the Dolphins upgrade Sun Life stadium.
Early voting on a ballot referendum began Monday, but approval of the deal by state lawmakers appeared was uncertain as of Monday morning.
A bill to offer the Dolphins tax breaks to help fund a $350 million stadium upgrade was heard on the floor of the Senate on Monday. The House had not heard the bill since last month, and Weatherford has said he’s not so sure about the stadium tax plan. Gov. Rick Scott has also weighed in on stadium tax breaks, listing strict requirements that a team would have to meet in order to gain his approval.
Goodell, Ross and Dee, met with Scott and Weatherford to try and get them on board.
“Let the voters vote and decide,” Ross said in an interview. “This is a tremendous economic impact to Miami-Dade County and we’re just asking to allow the voters to vote.”
Before meeting with Weatherford, Goodell said the upgraded stadium could have a major impact on the ability for Miami to attract future Super Bowls.
“Having the best possible stadium gets you the best possible chance,” he said before walking into Weatherford’s office. He added that the success or failure of the tax break bill would “send a strong message” to NFL owners scheduled to meet next month and award Super Bowl 50 and 51 to a host city. Miami Gardens is currently in the running.
Weatherford said Monday that he wasn’t sure about language in the bill that might explicitly help the Dolphins and not other teams.
“I think consistency is the key” he said. “We want to be consistent. It’s hard to pick one part of the state and say ‘You get to go first’."