I spent 30 minutes on the phone with the Dolphins Monday and the topic was the now-dead stadium renovation bill.
After that and several other conversations with NFL people, I wrote this column on the topic in today's Miami Herald. It addresses whether the Dolphins will be moving any time soon and whether they'll move eventually. I explain the circumstances and the historical precendent for such a move.
I also ask the question why kill an election? What are the politicians and opponents of the renovations afraid of? Check out the column.
Other questions were left out of the column. Here are some of those questions and answers from Dolphins CEO Mike Dee:
Q: What is the Dolphins reaction to Florida Speaker Will Weatherford refusing to pick up your bill Friday and instead killing it by ending the legislative session?
Dee: "We believed based upon the word of the speaker who told us on four occasions the process would not kill this legislation that if there were votes to move it, it would be allowed to move through the process and ultimately be heard on the floor, so our first reaction was disappointment and shock. How could he have decided his vote in not moving this forward could count more than the collective votes of the legislature. We knew we had the necessary number of votes required to pass it, not to mention the 60,000 votes that had already been cast in Miami-Dade County. Speaker Weatherford decided his vote was the one that mattered and that he wasn’t going to allow the bill to be heard.
"And his comment that there needed to be more discussion or more information, I mean, we’d done everything he asked along the way. We were shocked.
“We relied on the word of the speaker of the house of the state of Florida and he didn’t deliver on his word. If this process had ended with the voters of Miami-Dade County saying this isn’t for us, if this process had ended at the beginning of the session with the Speaker of the House or the Governor or anybody saying this isn’t going to happen, that would have been one way for it to come to an end and we would have had to accept that.
“But when you’re committed to take it to the voters to make the final decision and the guy gives you his word that your bill will be heard and at the end of the day he doesn’t deliver on his word, that’s extremely disappointing.”
Q: To be fair, Weatherford tweeted that your contention that he gave you any assurance is, “untrue.”
Dee: “What reason would we have to take this position? We were assured by him, and by the way, there were people in the room at various points of these four meetings outside of the Dolphins organization and those we pay to help us who heard it as well. I’m sure he’s going to say what he has to say and I can’t tell you what he said to other people, but I can tell you what he said to us. And what he said to us was your bill will be heard. The process will not kill your bill. I can’t deliver votes. But your bill will be heard.”
Q: What is Plan B?
Dee: “Stay the course. There is no Plan B that includes a modernization or investment in the facility. We’ll get back to the business of working hard on the 2013 season and hopefully seeing a turn-around that those on the football side of the organization are working hard on and a team we can be excited about.”
Q: Why doesn't Stephen Ross pay for the project himself?
Dee: “I think his commitment to this organization already stretches beyond what anyone else has done anywhere else with any sports franchise in North America. In terms of the stadium and team being able to do it, there’s no structure that provides for that and I don’t think there’s any intention to invest from the outside either with equity or limited partners or any other plan that might be contemplated."
Q: Speaker Weatherford will remain in his position next session. Will you go back next year and start the process again?
Dee: “It's too early for us to make that decision at this moment in time.
“I thought this was the moment in time that a non-relocation part of this agreement was an important element of it. Now the future is uncertain beyond Steve’s tenure. Steve has said he has no intention of moving the team time and time again. I believe he stands by that today. But at some point you’re going to have facility tht will pass its 30th birthday without a full-scale modernization because of what Will Weatherford did. And you have to look and see what options are out there for a long-term stadium fix. There’s no Plan B, so I can’t come up with any today.”
Q: Wasn't Weatherford previously considered an ally by the Dolphins?
Dee: "Absolutely. He had been speaker designate two years ago when we had worked with legislators in Tallahassee at that time. And at that time he was one of the only guys in senior leadership who was completely straight up with me about the prospects we faced at that time. I found him at that moment in time to be a transparent and forthcoming guy. I’ve known him for three years. I’ve seen him between then and know and he was always engaged on our issue, always engaged on the importance of Super Bowls and big events for our economy.
"He told us again on four occasions that the bill would be heard and we took him at his word. Unfortunately, he didn’t deliver.
Q: Could you have done more to make this process work?
Dee: "We opened our books to the county's independent experts. We offered to repay $120 million of the public funds committed. We took on cost overruns. We removed financing risks that insulated the county from the tourist bubble bursting and we paid for the referendum.
“I don’t know if there’s one thing people asked us to do that we didn’t do.
“It's hard to imagine that we could have done any more than we did this session to align with the requests that were made by Speaker Weatherford and others to make this legislation work. The form of the partnership that was created with Miami-Dade County, the commitments around Super Bowls and big events, the criteria that was laid out by governor Scott that we met with respect to the state’s part of this investment, the endorsement of the hotel association and the major hotels, the Greater Miami Chamber, the numerous organization that were supportive of this.
"I don’t know what could happen that would cause the Speaker to see this differently, but I’m not optimistic irrespective of what may be taking place on the airwaves that he could see it differently. I think he made his choice and we’re going to have to live by it. Unfortunately, he’s going to have to live by it too because it has a long-lasting impact on the future of these kinds of events coming to South Florida."