Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Wednesday that he remains committed to winning public dollars for the team’s proposed stadium renovations, and would not rule out a return to Tallahassee in 2014.
“Have I given up? The answer is no,” Ross said, speaking to reporters during his first major news conference since last spring’s legislative defeat.
Ross’ bid for both state and county financing for the $350 million rehab project died when House Speaker Will Weatherford declined to put the bill up for a vote during the legislative session.
The Senate had already passed its version of the bill, the Dolphins claim they had assurances from Weatherford the bill would see a vote.
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When it did not, they lashed out at the Wesley Chapel lawmaker, and Ross has since created a political action committee targeting opponents.
“I was very disappointed that we lost that,” Ross said.
Weatherford will remain in his leadership post through the 2014 session, but Ross indicated Wednesday that another showdown with his political foil could come this winter.
The team has repeatedly argued that the 26-year-old stadium needs significant work to remain a viable facility. The team blames last May’s NFL vote against Miami as host of Super Bowls 50 or 51 on Sun Life Stadium’s poor condition.
Even if the deal had passed in Tallahassee, it still needed to win approval of Miami-Dade voters to succeed. The team fronted the cost for the countywide referendum, cutting a non-refundable check for more than $4 million.
The election never happened, aside from votes submitted early, which showed the plan was trailing in the polls. Ross said Wednesday he believed the referendum had a good chance of passing, had all the votes been cast and counted.
Ross has pledged to not move the franchise, but again reiterated the need for improvements.
He would not entertain a question about possibly moving to another South Florida municipality if a renovation deal in Miami-Dade was never reached, but did say Miami Gardens is “the best location” for the team.
Earlier this year, outgoing CEO Mike Dee wouldn’t rule out possibly seeking a new stadium in Palm Beach County if efforts failed both in Miami-Dade and Broward.
“You don’t own a company without being tenacious,” Ross added. “We’ll continue to pursue it.”
Politically, Ross has aligned himself with Gov. Rick Scott, who supported the deal. Asked about possibly alienating himself among some fans by backing Scott, who public opinion polls say is unpopular statewide, Ross said he supports Scott’s jobs plan.