No overt opposition to Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ proposal to upgrade Sun Life Stadium

Stephen Ross’ offer to upgrade Sun Life Stadium has not gotten any open resistance from other NFL owners despite the fact it might set a bad precedent.

03/25/2014 12:01 AM

09/08/2014 7:10 PM

If the NFL’s other 31 ownership groups are stewing over the Miami Dolphins’ decision to pay for major stadium renovations themselves, they’re doing so privately.

Tom Garfinkel, at his first NFL Annual Meeting as Dolphins CEO, told reporters Monday that he had not heard any blowback — from either the league or other owners — about the team’s proposal.

As for the plan’s critics at home — most specifically, the city of Miami Gardens and the Miami-Dade County School Board — Garfinkel said the roadblocks are not insurmountable.

“Miami Gardens is our neighbor,” Garfinkel said. “We want to work with them, as well as the school board to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make this work for everybody.”

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has offered to foot the bill for the entire $350 million renovations on one condition: That he can hand over Sun Life Stadium to the county. In doing so, the team will avoid paying some $4 million in property taxes per year.

But that would have a direct impact on both Miami Gardens and Miami-Dade County schools. Both stand to lose roughly $1 million annually — a prospect neither wants. Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert said earlier this month that he wants that revenue stream “forever.”

When asked specifically about that demand, Garfinkel responded: “Discussions are ongoing. I’d say we’re still in the early stage of the process. These things take a little bit of time, so I’m sure it’ll take some time.”

Some expected the plan to find critics in league circles, too. The NFL wants stadium development spending to have a public component, and by Ross going about it on his own, it could set the wrong precedent.

As of Monday afternoon, such pushback had not materialized. Jets owner Woody Johnson said Sunday that “I assume if you want to pay for it yourself, it will be approved.”

Garfinkel added Monday: “I know it’s important to Steve to ensure that the Dolphins are in South Florida for a long time to come. That’s what we’re working to try to accomplish.”

One possible issue: If the team’s plan would make the Dolphins eligible for the league’s G-4 funding, in which the NFL loans a maximum of $200 million for new or renovated stadiums.

To receive the grant — which is paid back using annual money that teams must send to the league anyway — the NFL wants both a private and public commitment.

“Again, we’re at such early stages right now that we’re working through that,” Garfinkel said when asked whether he was concerned about being able to secure G-4 funds.

Garfinkel also wasn’t specific when asked whether the repairs could be made without the G-4 assistance, saying it would be addressed once the local issues were resolved.

Others inside the organization believe the team could indeed be eligible for the funding, but insist that it is not one of their most pressing concerns at this time.

This and that

• Brian Hartline, who sustained a torn PCL in the last week of the 2013 season, is progressing well in his rehabilitation, the Miami Herald has learned. Hartline is expected to be ready for the start of the 2014 campaign.
• The sense here is that Richie Incognito — who in the past year has been suspended for half the season, been called a bully by an NFL investigator, destroyed his luxury vehicle and checked himself into a mental health facility — will have a very difficult time finding work.
• The Dolphins remain interested in Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno and are in discussions with his agent. Moreno visited the team facility last week but left town without a contract.
• The NFL did not have a hand in the firings of line coach Jim Turner and trainer Kevin O’Neill for their roles in the team’s bullying scandal, commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday. That decision was Ross’ alone, he added.
• The Dolphins did not receive a single compensatory pick in May’s draft. They will have six picks total — one in each of the first six rounds.

Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.

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