May 04, 2013 by
UPDATE: San Francisco Submits Super Bowl Bid To NFL
UPDATE: San Francisco, Houston, Miami Super Bowl Bid Efforts Now In NFL Owners Hands.
Dolphins Owner Steve Ross with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
Think San Francisco’s a shoe-in to win the right to host the 50th Super Bowl in NFL History? Think the Miami Dolphins Super Bowl 50 Bid is just plain dead in the water after Friday’s setback with the Florida Legislature? Anyone who’s ready to pencil in the San Francisco 49ers New Stadium in Santa Clara for the 50th Super Bowl should put down their pencil and cool their jets. The San Francisco Super Bowl Bid is far from out of the woods as of this writing.
But lets’ look back at what happened in Tallahassee Florida.
A bill that, if passed, would have given the Dolphins and the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee access to monies from a one-percent increase in the Miami Dade County hotel tax and $90 million in state tax rebates over 30 years, didn’t even make it to the floor of the Florida Assembly.
The bill, called CS/CS/CS/SB 306 – Economic Development and sponsored by Senator Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens), was blocked by the one person Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross counted on to move forward, Florida Speaker of the House Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). If it reached the floor, the bill would have been approved and a public vote would have been held May 14th. But instead of bringing the bill forward for a House vote, Speaker Weatherford just sat on it and let it die.
And caused Mr. Ross to fume, issuing this statement:
Tonight, Speaker Weatherford did far more than just deny the people of Miami Dade the right to vote on an issue critical to the future of our local economy. The Speaker single-handedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami Dade and for all of Florida. He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami-Dade and that is just wrong. I am deeply disappointed by the Speaker’s decision. The Sun Life Stadium renovation bill sought to secure roughly $3 million in sales tax refunds from the state for 30 years. It also would have allowed residents in Miami-Dade County to vote on allowing an increase in the tourism tax to help pay for the Sun Life Stadium renovations.
As the statement was being released, Ross, who had NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with him as the Commish helped with lobbying legislators, wasn’t done unwinding his coiled emotions, calling the situation “dysfunction in Tallahassee” and saying that Speaker Weatherford went back on his word that he supported the bill. Indeed, considering that it sailed through five committees without a single “no” vote, it was certain to pass the House.
Here’s the bill’s description:
General Bill by Appropriations and Rules and Appropriations and Braynon (CO-SPONSORS) Abruzzo
Economic Development: Providing that tourist development tax revenues may also be used to pay the debt service on bonds that finance the renovation of a professional sports facility that is publicly owned, or that is on publicly owned land, and that is publicly operated or operated by the owner of a professional sports franchise or other lessee; requiring a majority plus one vote of the membership of the board of county commissioners to levy a tax for renovation of a sports franchise facility after approval by a majority of the electors voting in a referendum to approve the proposed use of the tax revenues; providing that the Department of Economic Opportunity shall screen applicants for state funding for sports development, etc.
Effective Date: Upon becoming a law.
Last Event: Amendment 557295 filed on Thursday, May 02, 2013 12:42 PM
The bill’s last minute amendment was reportedly to accommodate the $350 million renovation of Sun-Lite Stadium, a key part of the South Florida Super Bowl Bid.
But the overall problem was the perception that Stephen Ross, a billionaire NFL team owner, was proposing the use of a type of corporate welfare to fix the run-down facility. Ross didn’t present the Super Bowl Bid as a way to help leverage more money for Florida’s cash strapped service system, which he could have done by focusing on how Super Bowls can and do raise money for local charities and needs.
The Florida politics around the request for public money and the attachment of a gift of a Super Bowl Bid, are the most complex I’ve seen since, well, when I led the 2000 bid for Oakland to host the 2005 Super Bowl.
Florida Speaker Will Weatherford Meet Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid
In my case, Oakland Councilmember, and friend, Larry Reid (District Seven) was the swing vote when he was on the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority Board on October 26, 2000. The decision was simple: to allow the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and the Oakland Alameda County Sports Commission (which I created from scratch and on a bet with Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb) to sign a contract turning over use of the Coliseum and the Arena to the National Football League.
Larry abstained from voting, thus deadlocking the panel into a tie, and effectively killing the contract with the NFL, and with that, it seemed, our Super Bowl Bid.
Prior to the vote, as I stood at the podium explaining our innovative Super Bowl Sponsorship Plan (which allowed the branding of various parts of the Coliseum’s East Side luxury box building using a cover in the logo of the corporation or firms that purchased up to $30 million of space), then-Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (District Five) said “We’ve met with a group of CEOs and we don’t see how this sponsorship plan can work.” This, as Michael Lynch, then head of Global Sponsorships for VISA openly said my approach was workable and innovative.
But the news that stung was they were meeting behind my back.
By the time the vote came down, I was already so pissed I was one step from a transformation into The Hulk. Instead, after the vote, reporters came to be and asked what I was going to do. I said that, as Captain Kirk once said ‘They said no, so we’re going anyway,’ and I proceeded to work on the bid, and still with the idea that we could win it all.
It almost happened.
The competition for the 2005 Super Bowl then was Miami, Jacksonville, and Oakland. Miami was the establishment candidate, Jacksonville, the hyper-aggressive new bid kid, and Oakland the undersized worker bee – the product of the work of a handful of dedicated people fighting giant odds, from the Raiders lawsuit against the NFL, to Oakland’s own chronic insecurity problem.
After the vote, I was pissed, went home, had a good glass or three of wine, and then wrote an email from hell where I accused then-Mayor Jerry Brown of being racist because he did not work directly with me, even as he had a phalanx of young white staffers and interns who came into his office, and regularly met with him and blasted two other board members who seemed to be instrumental in not keeping Mayor Brown engaged with me. Yet, here I was, working on what would be Oakland’s largest economic development project at that time, and I couldn’t even get time with him.
I recalled one time on April 21st 1999 at 4:21 PM at a reception in a place called ‘The Dalziel Building’ when Jerry, standing with his then close-friend and confidant Jacques Barzaghi, openly told me “I don’t have time for you,” in response to my request to meet with him on Oakland’s Super Bowl Bid.
Then there was the time, May 5th 2000, when we were in New York at NFL Headquarters for a pivotal 2 PM meeting with then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Jerry Brown arrived with Oakland Developer and friend Phil Tagami (who was on my Super Bowl: Oakland Committee) a good 15 minutes late to our presentation, and then left with another hour to spare.
In a meeting that included Commissioner Goodell, who was then NFL EVP for Football Operations, Now-Governor Brown gave Commissioner Tagliabue every sign that he didn’t take the Oakland Super Bowl Bid seriously – asking me questions regarding the Oakland bid as if he were an observer and not a champion, and he was the Mayor of Oakland.
It was a moment in my life I’ll never forget, particularly because it was left to me and to then-Oakland Tribune Publisher Scott McKibben to rescue the meeting. We did.
I spent a lot of time trying to explain to then-Mayor Brown how the NFL Super Bowl Bid Process worked, and how we could leverage it to get more money for Oakland’s constantly embattled school system.
It wasn’t until we were at the 2000 Atlanta Fall NFL Owners Meeting for the final vote, and the media pressure had come to bear on Oakland, that Jerry finally got it. But even then, as he was finally working with me (I had my first meeting with him on the week before I left for Atlanta), I also knew he was trying to plot a way to replace me behind my back, thanks to a number of friends in the NFL. The trouble was, no one in Oakland knew the complexities of the NFL requirements like I did – I memorized 300 pages of requirements, wrote a book on how Oakland would respond to them, and could recite them, chapter and verse.
I wanted to win.
As it turned out, so did Jerry, once he realized the press was watching.
Jerry Brown walked in with our delegation, and even though little things went wrong, like us standing in the wrong place because some of the team members skipped the rehersal meeting I’d planned (including Jerry), now-Governor Brown gave a speech that brought the NFL Owners Meeting to a stand-still. It was powerful. It was effective. It was awesome. It was, what Jerry Brown said it was. It was one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard a politician give in my life.
Brown ended the speech by saying “Here’s my Hail Mary pass, catch it.”
The power of that speech caused Oakland to be so well-considered by the NFL Owners that instead of getting bounced out on the first ballot, it took three votes before all was said and done.
We came to within eight NFL owner votes of actually landing the thing.
We had supporters, and to a large degree, that fact alone made up for how terrible the City of Oakland had treated me prior to that time.
After the vote, I came back, but Jerry asked Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb to fire me over the whole deal of me calling him racist. I told Robert, or “Mr. Bobb,” “You can’t fire me, because I quit.” (I didn’t even bother to mention to Bobb that Oakland’s then-Economic Development Head Bill Claggett had set aside $80,000 for the Sports Commission I’d started as a kind of reward for my job-well-done.)
Then to make it all good, I put out a press release, and the news was on the front page of all three major Bay Area newspapers of the day – Chronicle, Mercury News, and Oakland Tribune.
So I understand how Stephen Ross is feeling right now – mad enough to chew nails, throw cars, and perhaps the Speaker of The Florida House. But the difference is that he’s an NFL owner and in the best position to salvage something from this political set back. At the end of the day, his is a stadium financing problem, and thus there is a solution, he just has to find it, and fast because the Boston Super Bowl Bid vote is May 22nd.
San Francisco Has One Large Problem
San Francisco does not have the clear advantage the media thinks it has. The SF / Santa Clara bid is about 75 percent of the way, and arguably it added eight percent with the Florida political issue. But the problem is the stadium’s brand new, and hasn’t hosted an event like the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl is a unique event planning animal because its requirements really are, well, super. You have to have larger than normal walk ways and throughways for the stages used for the Super Bowl Halftime show. The TV network wants almost double the normal light candlepower used at a typical NFL game. Seats have to be in the right positions and sellable – something not an issue at the 49ers new stadium.
It’s the other matters with electrics and lighting, energy, and access, and storage, and other matters, that add up to a less than 100 percent score, right now. Thankfully, the hotel room contract situation, where the NFL wants 24,000 hotel rooms blocked off at “top-quality” hotels within an hour of the stadium, is not much of a problem at all.
And on the stadium matter, the San Francisco Super Bowl Bid Committee Members have been very aggressive in meeting with the league on a regular basis to work through these issues. But if they’re not done by the time Boston comes, San Francisco could still lose the Super Bowl 50 bid to Miami.
But that assumes Stephen Ross fashions a workable backup financing plan for Sun-Light Stadium. Don’t bet against him yet, because his back’s against the wall and he feels he has to save Miami’s bid. He’s a caged animal about now and could propose, or just plain do anything. And the real wild card will be in what kind of deals he cuts with each NFL Owner.
This is where the game’s really fun to watch. NFL politics at its best.
But if Ross doesn’t come up with something, San Francisco could wind up the winner, being the host of Super Bowl 50, and for the first time since 1984.
And then there’s Houston, and the equally determined Houston Texans Owner Bob McNair, and the excellent members of the Harris County Administrator’s Office. Many say they’re a lock to host Super Bowl 51, over San Francisco or Miami.