Dolphins Owner Warns Team Could Move If Stadium Agreement Not Reached

Let the posturing begin. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has warned that the team could move from South Florida if his recent tax proposal is not agreed to.

“If I sell the team, I can assure you, with the viewpoint of the politicians and what they want to do, the new owner is going to move the team.”

Ross wants to turn ownership of Sun Life Stadium over to Miami-Dade county, which would save him upwards of $4 million in property taxes. His model is based off fellow South Florida franchises: the Heat and Marlins. Neither the NBA or MLB team pay property taxes, as they operate county-owned stadiums, the American Airlines Arena and Marlins Park, respectively.

A main point of contention has come from Miami Gardens, whose mayor claims the lost tax money will be detrimental to teachers and public works. Mayor Oliver Gilbert has requested payments in perpetuity from the Dolphins (in ratio to tax growth) in order to finance his city.

Ross lost a bid last year that would have resulted in the team finding relief through hotel taxes. He is intent on not failing a second time.

“People should be saying, ‘How can we make this happen and get it done fast?’ ” he said. Ross added that this time he would not accept a referendum, which he agreed to last year in his quest to boost hotel taxes to fund the renovation. Miami-Dade commissioners agreed to the referendum, but the vote was called off when state legislators declined to pass the law needed to enact the higher tax.

“When I saw that I’m not going to get it through the Legislature, I looked at a different course of action,” Ross said. “I want to get it done in my lifetime, want it to be part of my legacy. That’s basically the intent of doing it and doing it now, if we’re going to get a Super Bowl. And the sooner we get a Super Bowl for South Florida, the better it is for South Florida.”

Despite claims that South Florida Super Bowls and big-ticket events help local economy, Gilbert contends that his community actually operates at a loss. Only the tourist destinations see gain.
“We lose money when those events come,” he said. “While hotels on Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale may benefit . . . we have to keep police on and don’t get compensated for it in those events.”
This should be a contentious battle, considering both the financial implications and emotional connection of the Dolphins within the community. With Ross’ deep wallet, the NFL’s political pull and the recent history of cities bowing to franchises, Gilbert and Miami Gardens may have an uphill battle ahead of them.