A strange thing happened on Wednesday morning. The sun actually came out – even though a day earlier the National Football League snubbed the Miami Dolphins and awarded Super Bowl 50 and 51 to the San Francisco Bay area and Houston, respectively.
The Dolphins owner’s defeat started after the Florida House declined to take up a bill enabling an increase in the hotel bed tax to help pay for the renovations.
Most South Floridians would have welcomed either Super Bowl, especially residents of Miami Gardens, the state’s largest predominantly black city which is home to the stadium. The failure to win either championship game must, therefore, be a big disappointment to them. But it can’t be as big a disappointment as what happened to Miami-Dade residents who agreed to give public money to the owners of the Miami Marlins so a spanking new ball park could be built in Little Havana. In return for that vote of confidence, the owners gutted the team, saving untold millions of dollars. The Marlins have been reduced to a bunch of largely ineffective players on a team being constantly rated among the worst in the major leagues.
It is appropriate that the responsibility to prove good corporate citizenship in major sports fell to Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins, as prospects for upgrading Sun Life Stadium loomed. Instead of taking up the banner, Mr. Ross, a billionaire, chose to hold out the begging bowl, asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue and flatly refusing to follow the lead of the original Dolphins owner, Joe Robbie, and foot the bill with private funds.
The coming period will continue to be one of recriminations and playing the blame game, with stadium supporters pointing out that the two stadiums which beat out Sun Life for the coveted Super Bowls were built using taxpayer dollars. But that is now history. The future must be one in which Mr. Ross clearly and unequivocally asserts a leadership role and continues to pursue the stadium upgrade through other means.
There are viable options. He can reverse himself and pay for the upgrades himself or arrange for private financing. Or he can widen the ownership of the Dolphins and the stadium to bring in partners with money – and they can include Miami-Dade County – while still retaining majority control.
It is clear that residents are no longer in the mood to part with tax dollars for what some critics have rightly called corporate welfare, especially in these times of tough economic circumstances. That is a position that can hardly be argued against or ignored.