Dolphins find right time to modernize Sun Life Stadium

Posted Jan. 16, 2013 @ 3:04 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Roger Goodell set the ultimatum in 2009, and the Dolphins hope they have done enough to win the right to host the 50th Super Bowl.

Owner Stephen Ross announced a plan to modernize Sun Life Stadium, a project that will range in cost from $375-400 million and create 4,000 local jobs. The renovations would make the stadium ready for the 2015 season, and the Dolphins are one of two finalists, along with the 49ers, to host Super Bowl L.

In December 2009, prior to Miami’s last Super Bowl, Goodell said work needed to be done for South Florida to get another Super Bowl.

“The key thing is to make sure the stadium is state of the art and that it can compete with the stadiums in some of these other communities. They are moving to another level in some of these stadiums,” he said.

One of the problems at the time was the location of the lower-level seats, and they will be moved 18 feet closer to the field on each sideline in the modernization plan. The renovations would also include a canopy to bring “a sun, rain and weather protection to the seating bowl.”

Even though Ross plans to cover more than half the project out of his own pocket, he faces residents in the Miami area who have been burned before by sports owners, most notably Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who asked for and received public funding for a new stadium and then had a fire-sale of sorts of the team’s talent this past offseason.

"Make no mistake, we’re willing to pay more than our fair share to make this happen and Steve has told me ‘we’ve got to find a way to make this happen,’ " said CEO Mike Dee.

In a six-point pledge, Ross stated that this plan would “secure the future of the franchise by committing the Dolphins play at a modernized Sun Life Stadium through at least 2034,” though, when asked, Ross was clear that does not imply the team would move if the renovations don’t occur.

The way we hear it, these plans have been in the works for a long time, and for Ross and Dee to make the announcement in the fashion they did shows a confidence that this can be approved to get completed. Even though the plan won’t result in higher taxes for Miami-Dade residents, public dollars are involved, likely in the form of sales tax rebate and a higher hotel tax in the county.

At times during his tenure as the Dolphins owner, Ross hasn’t been the most popular figure in Miami, and the simple idea of a sports owner asking for public funding is a tough thing to do in that area, but the threat of not having a Super Bowl for a decade, starting with the 50th in 2016, may help get the support needed. Ross’ private funding of the project, in addition to the fact that a Super Bowl has a strong economic impact, puts him ahead of the other owners in South Florida who have asked for similar contributions.

“This has got to be a situation where everybody wins and I think we’re prepared to sit down and work that out because I think this is a situation that that can happen,” Ross said.