Senators amended a massive transportation bill to add language related to sports stadiums, but the House — which has played spoiler for the Dolphins throughout the session — refused to bring the bill up for a vote.
The Dolphins were seeking up to $289 million in taxpayer support from an increase in the Miami-Dade hotel tax, from 6 to 7 percent. The proposal also offered the team a shot at up to $90 million in state sales tax rebates. The bill allowed other sports organizations to compete for state tax dollars as well.
Bogged down by strong opposition within the Miami-Dade caucus of lawmakers, the Dolphins struggled to get their proposal through the House. The failure was not for lack of trying.
Top football names, including National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, along with Ross, came to Tallahassee in support of the effort.
The team also agreed to a series of concessions in an attempt to gain support from detractors, including agreeing to repay much of the tax money after 30 years and land several Super Bowls. Gonzalez said the team spent more than $10 million trying to land the deal, including $4.8 million for the now-canceled referendum vote.
The Dolphins said the multimillion-dollar stadium upgrade would help South Florida land several future Super Bowls and other major events. The team is competing with the San Francisco Bay Area for the right to host Super Bowl 50 in 2016. A group of NFL owners are scheduled to meet on May 21 to decide host cities for Super Bowls 50 and 51.
Jorge Arrizurieta and H.T. Smith, who co-chaired the Miami Dolphins’ campaign for a stadium renovation, blasted Tallahassee lawmakers for adjourning without approving the stadium deal.
“The House put at risk the future of Super Bowls and other major events in Miami, which are so critical to our tourism economy,” the men said in a harsh statement. “It’s a sad day when Tallahassee gives San Francisco and Houston a victory at the expense of our community.”
In the end, the bill simply did not have adequate support of power players in the House, where Weatherford repeatedly said he and other lawmakers had concerns about it.
“We’re talking about a lot of money,” Weatherford said. “We’re talking about a major public policy issue … Before we spend $300 or $400 million in tax subsidies, I just think we need to talk about it and evaluate it more.”
Senators sent three different proposals to the House, which all died there.
Miami Herald reporters Doug Hanks and Marc Caputo contributed to this story. Toluse Olorunnipa can be reached at tolorunnipa@MiamiHerald.com or on Twitter at @ToluseO.