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Dolphins owner Stephen Ross found it impossible to hide his disappointment last spring when NFL owners resoundingly rejected South Florida as a Super Bowl site.
"I wanted it to be my legacy," said Ross, 73.
He still does, so he now is planning to pay up to $400 million to renovate Sun Life Stadium rather than continue to seek to share the cost with public money, a source familiar with the situation confirmed Monday.
Ross has not announced his intentions, but he has spoken with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Ross had previously insisted he would not cover the entire cost himself, but his apparent change of heart would put South Florida back in the hunt for future Super Bowls.
"The NFL, I think, was very clear that they would not award us a Super Bowl without improvements to the stadium," said Jimmy Cefalo, the team's radio voice who presented South Florida's bids last May in Boston. Assuming the report is accurate, Cefalo added, "I think it means an economic windfall for South Florida. We win -- with more Super Bowls and more national championship games from the college side, with more events drawn to Sun Life Stadium. South Florida wins."
A source told The Post that the Dolphins would save about a few million dollars annually in property taxes under the plan, similar to what the Heat and Marlins have for their facilities.
With Super Bowl applications due in August, Ross wants to begin planning for renovations, including a canopy to cover exposed seats.
Ross and the South Florida bid committee were disappointed when during a 10-minute span, owners awarded the 50th Super Bowl, in 2016, to the San Francisco Bay Area over Miami, then granted the 2017 game to Houston, again over Miami. Both votes were via super majority, meaning Sun Life Stadium, which opened in 1987, was deemed so unfit for a Super Bowl it could not muster even nine of 32 votes.
At the time, committee chairman Rodney Barreto pointed out that cities must be invited by the NFL to bid for Super Bowls and that the resounding defeat made it unlikely South Florida would even get that far in 2014.
Miami has hosted the Super Bowl 10 times, most recently in 2010. With this year's game successfully held for the first time in an outdoor, cold-weather area (New Jersey), competition for Super Bowls is more wide open than ever, with an emphasis on state-of-the-art facilities.
What's not known is how Ross' plan would be received by the NFL, which has preferred stadium projects be a private-public partnership. Last year, the Florida legislature killed an initiative that would have allowed Miami-Dade County voters to decide via referendum whether to help pay for upgrades. The odds clearly were against South Florida despite a pitch from Dan Marino, who said the area should host every Super Bowl.
"I think everybody in that room would rather be in Miami in February than they would anywhere else in the country," Ross said after the vote. "And I think no one knows how to host the Super Bowl better than Miami."
This year, Super Bowl festivities included shutting down a stretch of Times Square to vehicles so it could be transformed into "Super Bowl Boulevard."
South Florida's committee pitched a similar bash for downtown Miami, plus a Ferris wheel by Biscayne Bay, a zip line over water by Bayside marina and a football game on an aircraft carrier docked by AmericanAirlines Arena.
While pushing for the referendum, the committee often spoke of the economic impact of Super Bowls.
"We would talk to cab drivers and bartenders and waitresses," Cefalo said. "And they all talked about how much more money they'd make during the period of time when a big event like that is at the stadium."
Other improvements to Sun Life that Ross presumably still has in mind include bringing seats closer to the field and better replay boards.
Staff writer Andrew Abramson contributed to this report.