The Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas and if that earthquake move doesn’t shake your sports sensibilities because Oaktown is way over on the west coast and the Raiders aren’t your team, consider for a moment the Miami Dolphins could have been in Los Angeles by now.
If Dolphins owner Stephen Ross thought like Raiders owner Mark Davis, or Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, or San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos, Miami would no longer have the Dolphins. Simple as that.
It would be the Los Angeles Dolphins or something.
That should rock your world. And offer a fresh perspective on Ross and his time as Dolphins owner.
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It was 2012 and again in 2013 that the Dolphins — Ross — wanted Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami, Miami Gardens and and the state of Florida to give him concessions to help pay for renovations to his then worn Sun Life Stadium. He spent a lot of money and political capital in Tallahassee and at city and county halls making sure the public bowed to his desire to upgrade his property.
But the politicians in Tallahassee said no. The public in a special election said no. And former Eagles owner and car dealer Norman Braman fought him at every turn to make sure the answer was no.
So the efforts failed. It was similar to the failures in St. Louis, San Diego, and now Oakland in having the public subsidize new stadiums.
But unlike the owners for those other teams, Ross didn’t seek relief from a different suitor. He thought about it. No doubt about that. But he didn’t do it.
“Los Angeles was open. I wasn’t getting what I wanted,” Ross said Monday, minutes after he was the lone dissenting vote in the Raiders move to Las Vegas. “But I reflected and said, ‘What is my position? And what’s important to the city? I believe in cities and I believe the Dolphins are an important, integral part of the city. It’s not a selfish issue. I didn’t get the money so I said, ‘Hey, how do I make it better?’
“I feel very strongly about that. We got turned down. We spent a lot of time and money in Tallahassee and if you remember the controversy I got in with [the legislators]. They made a promise to me that I would get it and I didn’t. But you do what you know is right. When you accept certain positions you have to take certain responsibilities. You have to understand what you’re doing. And you know what your responsibility is. And life’s not all about money.”
Ross is a billionaire so he knows how to play with very high stakes. But rather than chase more gold, a bigger market, or even making a public threat to move, Ross stopped short.
“You don’t play with communities like that,” he said. “I was looking to see what’s best for the community. And that’s how we do our developments. And that’s why we’ve been successful. And life shouldn’t be a question of greed.”
And now I remind you that since 2009 when he became the Dolphins owner, taking over the team’s entire stakes from Wayne Huizenga, Ross has been thought of as an outsider. He’s been considered a New Yorker running Miami’s team from his Columbus Circle headquarters.
Except that now we might be right to realize Ross is more South Florida than we gave him credit for because what he did was best for South Florida. It was about South Florida.
“I went to high school there,” Ross said. “I’ve lived there. My parents moved there permanently. There’s always been a permanent place where if I ever went home to from school or anything. And I still go there all the time. How could I not feel like a South Floridian? I know more about South Florida than most of the people there.
“It used to be a different community. It was much smaller. I’ve watched it grow. And I participated in the growth. We’re the biggest development company in South Florida. The Related Group with Jorge Perez, we started that company together. I’m up in New York but I’m from South Florida. That’s where I go. That’s where I’m from. That’s where I’m comfortable.”
Ross’s league view, if you will, is apparently what caused him to vote against the Raiders moving. He is risking being on the wrong side of history if the Raiders and Las Vegas becomes a grand venture. But Ross doesn’t seem to care denying fellow owner Mark Davis a unanimous vote because his mindset is simply different.
“I think as I told you before, if you own a team, you’re a steward of that team and have obligations to the community,” Ross said. “I think you don’t move a team if you really haven’t exhausted all the possibilities and I don’t believe they did.”
Ross now looks ahead to what he’s doing. Hard Rock Stadium is in its final phase of construction. The budget has soared past $500 million.
But he’s bringing a Super Bowl to town in 2020. Hard Rock is hosting El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona. The Hurricanes have a fine home. And Ross thinks you’re going to love Hard Rock, currently in Phase III of construction, next time you see it.
“When you see our stadium, it will be a showplace,” he said. “The stadium itself, yes the seats and the roof and the clubs we’ve done ... spectacular. It doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country. It’s a totally iconic stadium. You see now with all the suites being redone and the clubs, the major clubs being redone brand new. And the landscaping that’s going to go in, there’s going to be no place like it in the country ... in the world ... best in class.
“When you drive into that stadium next year, you’re going to think you’re driving in to a five-star resort.”