Storin: Politics rears its ugly head in Miami stadium fight

storapse@aol.comMay 9, 2013 

On May 21 the National Football League owners will choose the city that will host the historic 50th Super Bowl in 2016.

Until last Friday, it was a two-horse race between San Francisco and Miami. But the South Florida entry hinged on a $350 million upgrade of Sun-Life Stadium, home of the Dolphins.

No longer.

Politics reared its ugly head when the Florida legislature blocked a bill that would have allowed a South Florida referendum on whether to increase the tourist bed tax by one penny. House Speaker Will Weatherford of Pasco County (Central Florida) decided that it was in the best interest of South Florida voters to give them no say in the matter.

Weatherford's decision single-handedly undid everything the Dolphins and the Miami-Dade Commission had agreed to several weeks before, i.e., put it to a vote.

Why would Weatherford do this? Who knows? Perhaps it is because he is a Tampa Bay Bucs fan and would prefer that any Super Bowls in Florida be played in Tampa. That way his county, which abuts Tampa, would benefit from the tourist dollars that the game generates. And the state of Florida is surely not going to get more than one Super Bowl anytime soon.

Ain't politics wonderful?

As long as I can remember, the politicians north of West Palm Beach have been sticking their noses into the local issues of South Florida. You'd think by the 21st century that thinking would have changed. Obviously it hasn't.

Ironically, if the voters had been given the chance to vote in the May 14 referendum, there is a very good chance the Dolphins would have come out on the short end. But the citizens of South Florida were denied that privilege and that is inexcusable.

I find it interesting that Atlanta is on the road to building a new stadium for its Falcons that will be partially funded by the same kind of bed tax proposed by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank has gained government approval for a billion dollar edifice using two of the same arguments as Ross -- a better chance for his city to host Super Bowls and NCAA title football games.

And get this: the Dolphins' home opened in 1987 (built for $115 million with owner Joe's Robbie's money); the Georgia Dome, home of the Falcons and headed for the wrecking ball, isn't even 20 years old and was built entirely with taxpayer dollars.

Ross sought $289 million from the increase in the hotel tax for improvements that would add 3,600 seats and a partial canopy roof to shield fans from sun and rain.

Blank got approval for $300 million from the hotel tax for his billion dollar retractable-roof stadium that will have vibrating seats and a 100-yard sports bar. I'm not making this up. What's next -- a quick massage at halftime?

To his credit, Blank is putting up a great deal of his own money, but he has a plan to get a lot back. Falcon fans will be obliged to pay for a license that will then permit them to purchase tickets for seats -- even those that don't vibrate. I question whether the average fan will ever be able to afford to enter the stadium.

When this stadium opens in 2017, the NFL surely will look favorably on Atlanta for future Super Bowls. As will people who decide where to play the college football championship and the Final Four.

Meanwhile, Miami, which has hosted 10 Super Bowls, will have to depend on the NFL owners long-time love for the city's reputation as a "party town" with great mid-winter weather.

Unlike many pro sports team owners, Ross has not threatened to move his team to Los Angeles or London. But one day there will be a new Dolphins owner who might have other ideas.

One thing you can be sure of: politicians of all persuasions will still be around making dumb, self-serving decisions.

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