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Dolphins: No stadium upgrades planned for now


The Miami Dolphins do not intend to pay for even modest upgrades to Sun Life Stadium now that the team's push for a subsidized renovation to the 1987 facility have failed, CEO Mike Dee said Sunday.

"We cannot do this without a public-private partnership," Dee told Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4. "At this time we have no intention of investing more."

Though he maintained that the Dolphins are still vying for Super Bowls 50 and 51, which National Football League owners are awarding later this month, Dee sounded less than hopeful about South Florida's prospects to host the games without improving the Miami Gardens stadium.

"We clearly have our work cut out for us," he said. "Having a stadium that's competitive is, I think, probably comparable to having a good quarterback when you're playing football."

In a live interview on Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede, Dee gave the first in-person remarks by any Dolphins official since late Friday, when the Florida House of Representatives ended the annual lawmaking session in Tallahassee without taking up team-backed legislation providing public subsidies for the renovation.

Legislative approval was required to hold a May 14 referendum asking voters about the stadium renovation; the election was canceled Friday night. The Dolphins were hoping to get $289 million over 30 years from an increase in the mainland Miami-Dade hotel-tax rate, and $90 million over the same period in state sales-tax subsidies.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and the team's campaign arm have released written statements lambasting House Speaker Will Weatherford, whom they blamed for not giving the legislation a floor vote in his chamber.

Dee continued to place the blame squarely on Weatherford, saying the Wesley Chapel Republican told the team privately that he would hear the legislation. Weatherford has denied making that pledge.

"In no fewer than four occasions were we told that directly from Speaker Weatherford: 'Your bill deserves a chance to be heard,'" Dee said. "One guy at the end of the day wrote the eulogy for this process."

Dee said the Dolphins had lined up 87 84 votes supporting the legislation -- a count disputed to The Herald on Sunday by a senior House official.

More than once Dee referred to Weatherford somewhat dismissively as "a guy from Pasco County." And he echoed Ross' statement suggesting the owner plans to remain involved in Tallahassee politics -- against Weatherford.

"This abuse of power I believe will follow his career for a long time," Dee said, without providing details.

When DeFede asked whether the Dolphins' harsh statements would hurt the team next year, when Weatherford will continue to be the powerful speaker, Dee appeared resigned.

"I don't know if you can win him over. You can't do anything more than we did," he said. "This is a political animal. He is a young guy in a big position with big aspirations."

Meantime, Dee said that while Ross doesn't have any plans "today" to sell or relocate the Dolphins, the owner, a billionaire real-estate developer, does not intend to proceed with any of the stadium upgrades planned in the $350 million renovation. Among the proposed improvements were a canopy to shield fans from the sun and rain and doing away with about 9,000 cheaper seats to put in 3,000 pricier ones closer to the field.

Public dollars would have allowed the Dolphins to tap into NFL funds to renovate stadiums.

"We looked at this as a comprehensive modernization -- not a Band-Aid, not a quick fix," Dee said. "To break apart the components of the modernization on an à la carte basis really would be difficult."

Dee noted that public financing helped build facilities for the Miami Heat and Miami Marlins, and said a subsidized renovation would have cost less than building a new football stadium in the future. Ross, Dee claimed, did not know the stadium's condition when he purchased the team for more than $1 billion in 2009.

"I don't think Steve or anyone else know the condition of the facility was as desperate as it was," he said.

As for whether Ross would sell the team or try moving it elsewhere, Dee added: "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Miami Herald political writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report.