In the wake of the NFL’s
declaration that Land Shark Stadium would need millions of dollars in
renovations to host future Super Bowls, Phins.com has learned that Dolphins
owner Stephen Ross is considering public options to fund the needed
improvements, up to and including sale of the stadium to a third party, perhaps
even local government.
In a story first reported by
ESPN’s Hank Goldberg, Ross and his representatives are exploring options to
sell the stadium which could include local government. One approach is that a
buyer would fund the improvements and then do a lease back to the users of the
stadium. Major tenants of the stadium today include the Dolphins, Florida
Marlins, the University
of Miami, and the Orange
While no deal has been
reached, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee confirmed to Phins.com that all options remain
on the table.
“This (project) is a
community impact”, Dee said. “The truth is
that the Dolphins, or any franchise that hosts the Super Bowl, really doesn’t
benefit a great deal economically from the Super Bowl being here.”
“This is not our game. As
soon as the season’s over, we toss the keys to the facility to the NFL and to
Homeland Security. The major winners in this is the community from an economic
perspective, over $300 million for the 2007 Super Bowl in direct spending and
$500 million in direct and indirect spending to the region. The BCS Championship
was about 50% of that.”
Dee doesn’t deny that the Dolphins gain some measure of
benefit from the Super Bowl, but doesn’t believe that the gains outweigh the
investment that Ross would have to make. Given that Ross has already committed about
a billion dollars in acquiring the team and stadium, it could be that his
tolerance for further major investment is low, especially given the current
“Are there benefits to (us)?
Sure”, Dee noted. “Anything that’s good for
football in South Florida is good for the
Dolphins. But this is a community partnership, and we’re in active discussions
with parts of the community. This isn’t just about us. It’s about business and South Florida.”
Dee confirmed that two of
the organizations that the Dolphins have already met with are the Super Bowl Host
Committee and the Chamber of Commerce, presumably to gain public support for
exploring a third party sale. Indications are that the Dolphins gained some
traction in those discussions.
“This game's awarded to the
community, not the Dolphins”, Super Bowl Host Committee chairman Rodney Barreto told The Miami Herald. “The community
needs to come together and ask, `Is this important to us?'. A $450 million
economic impact in South Florida is important
to me. As I told the governor, `We've had three Super Bowls in the last four
years [five seasons] in Florida.
That's over a billion dollars of economic impact to a tourist state. We're a
tourist state. Our beaches, our hotels, our restaurants -- these are what drive
us in South Florida. We as a community have to
get together with the ownership and the NFL and ask, `Do we want to keep doing
The implications of a public
sale are clear in that bonds or tax increases would have to be explored in
order to pay for the needed improvements. The cost of these funding options is
often passed to the public in terms of higher taxes or ticket prices.
Dee said he wasn’t sure yet as to the outcome of the
discussions, but hopes that there wouldn’t be an impact to the public
“I don’t know. I hope not”, Dee said in response to concerns that fans could face
higher prices or taxes.
“What we want to do is find
a way to make the stadium competitive, not only to compete for Super Bowls but
to make the stadium competitive from a Dolphins perspective for many years to
come. We’re in a master planning stage. We’re not at a point where we even know
what it’s going to cost, so I can’t tell you how we’re going to pay for it. Our
goal is to do it in a way that gets it done and is in everybody’s best interest.”
Up to now, the Dolphins have
privately funded capital projects associated with the stadium. Joe Robbie
completed the construction of the facility for about $115 million in 1987, the first
of its kind to be constructed entirely with private funds. Acquiring total
ownership of the stadium from the Robbie family in 1994, H. Wayne Huizenga
poured over $250 million into major improvements and renovations.
Huizenga sold 95% of the
stadium to Ross in January 2009.