People stand in line at a May 2 job fair at Sun Life Stadium. (Getty Images)
Now that the Florida Legislature has let a vote lapse that might have passed a hotel tax facilitating up to $380 million in subsidies for Sun Life Stadium, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has gone on the attack. Ross, who has owned the team since 2009, blasted Speaker of the House Will Weatherford. Ross claimed that Weatherford backed out of a promise to let the stadium improvements go to a vote.
Last week, the Dolphins held a job fair at the stadium, while knowing that the project may not go forward.
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"Tonight, Speaker Weatherford did far more than just deny the people of Miami Dade the right to vote on an issue critical to the future of our local economy," Ross said Friday in an official team-released statement. The Speaker singlehandedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami Dade and for all of Florida. He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami Dade, and that is just wrong.
"I am deeply disappointed by the Speaker's decision. He gave me and many others his word that this legislation would go to the floor of the House for a vote, where I know, and he knows, we had the votes to win by a margin as large as we did in the Senate. It’s hard to understand why he would stop an election already in process and disenfranchise the 40,000 people who have already voted. I can only assume he felt it was in his political interest to do so. Time will tell if that is the case, but I am certain this decision will follow Speaker Weatherford for many years to come."
The decision to refuse a vote seems to have had immediate, and possibly far-reaching, effects on the team. Not only will Sun Life and the Dolphins be on the outside looking in for any future Super Bowl bids without improvements, but team CEO Mike Dee has intimated that the Dolphins aren't a lead-pipe lock to stay in Miami on a no-matter-what basis. While Dee stopped short of saying that Ross might move the team, he told WFOR-TV that another owner might down the road.
"I don't think it's an option for Steve Ross, but for a subsequent owner? The Dolphins are one of the only franchises in the National Football League that do not have a long-term lease with their community."
Dee said that the team wanted $3 million per year for the next 30 years from the state, to which Ross would pledge a 70 percent payment for all the stadium improvements. But the team wants to make it very clear -- without a private-public partnership," as Dee put it, Ross has no intention of putting up his own capital.
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