Miami Dolphins

Miami Gardens mayor ‘worried’ Dolphins would bolt without stadium fixes

These are heady times in Miami Gardens.

The Super Bowl, after a decade away, will return in 2020. WrestleMania could do the same.

But it wasn’t all that long ago that Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert feared his town’s status as an event destination would be lost — perhaps for good.

During the most contentious days of the Dolphins’ stadium renovation fight, there was the underlying threat that, should the county or state not pitch in, the team might someday move — if not with Stephen Ross as owner, perhaps his successor.

Gilbert, the city’s mayor since 2012, took that threat seriously.

“I worried some, because sometime people don't necessarily know what they have until it's gone, and I never want that to be the case,” Gilbert said recently. “It's interesting that we like to call ourselves a world-class community. To be a world-class community, you have to have the Miami Dolphins, you have to have the Miami Heat. You also have to have culture and the arts. You have to have all of those things. It's a composite. It's not a singular picture.”

In the end, Ross decided to rehab the aging facility with private funds. The price tag: roughly a half billion dollars.

Two years later, the building’s transformation is stunning. Four spires and a 14-acre canopy will give the largely residential community a distinct skyline.

But the job’s not done. Far from. Some 400 workers are on site, round-the-clock, to beat the Sept. 1 deadline — when the Dolphins host the Titans in their preseason finale.

It’s an unfathomably complex and time-intensive project that team officials say only has a chance of being finished on time because of Ross’ commitment and real estate expertise. But there’s no guarantee it will be, particularly if the weather doesn’t start cooperating.

That’s a short-term concern, however. No matter how long it takes, the stadium will get done, and ensure the Dolphins — and major events — are in Miami Gardens for years to come.

Gilbert’s goal is to extend the project’s impact beyond a handful of days out of the year.

Urban redevelopment — always a goal with pro stadiums — could soon become a reality in Miami Gardens.

The city is wrapping up negotiations with a builder who would turn city-owned land just south of the stadium into a mixed-use development. The plan is to put entertainment, retail, dining and residential units at the corner of 191st Street and 27th Avenue — just a mile from the stadium.

“Things our residents can use, but also when people come to enjoy, whether it be events or games or concerts or conventions or whatever it is that we're going to purpose the stadium,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert’s hope is to have the development complete in time for the 2020 Super Bowl.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley