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I'm a business journalist and a fiction author. My novel Mute is available now from Silver Leaf Books.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Untimely death of Miami Dolphins stadium funding push lacks closure

Whichever side of the debate over public funding for the Miami Dolphins’ renovation of Sun Life Stadium you were on, the biggest frustration all sides can share is that the way the measure died left no closure on the issue.

That means the stadium won’t look like this:

Thousands of people had already cast their votes in a public referendum on taxpayer-support stadium renovations when the clock ran out on the accompanying state bill on Friday. It wasn’t voted down by the Legislature. Speaker Will Weatherford simply declined to bring it for a vote.

The immediate consequences are that Super Bowls 50 and 51 (no silly Roman numerals for me) are almost certainly going to San Francisco/Santa Clara and Houston. The long-term issue is whether Sun Life Stadium should get a major overhaul. It was built in 1987 and at some point it’ll outlive its usefulness unless hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in it.

Should taxpayers contribute to that renovation along with the billionaire owner of the Dolphins? Is attracting a handful of Super Bowls and college football championship games a good return on investment for the public? If the stadium referendum had gone to a referendum this month, up or down, the answers would have been delivered. 

Win and the Dolphins get the money with an endorsement from the public. 

Lose and owner Stephen Ross knows he can’t go that route, at least for many more years. So he’d have to accept the stadium the way it is, or go for a less ambitious renovation with private funding.

A partial roof wouldn’t motivate me to attend games anyway. I’ll stand in 90-degree heat or the rain to watch winning football.

Even a vote in the Florida House (the Senate passed it) would have brought more closure. It was telling that the opposition included many representatives from Miami-Dade County, which stood to benefit the most from the Super Bowls and other events the renovation aimed to attract. But we’ll never know whether it truly had enough support from elected officials.

The bottom line was that one man, Will Weatherford, blocked it. The speaker position changes on a regular basis. The Dolphins can try again when they have more friendly leaders in Tallahassee. The problem is they didn’t get an answer as to whether the public truly supports them.

In politics, as in football, there’s always next season.