Tim Robbie is not a neutral observer on the subject, nor could he be expected to be.
Peel away layer upon layer from the marquee on what is now called Sun Life Stadium and you’ll find the words “Joe Robbie Stadium,” so originally named for the founder of the Miami Dolphins who in 1987 ushered South Florida into the facility after constructing it with private money.
The late Joe Robbie, of course, was Tim’s father.
So it’s understandable that Tim Robbie’s ears perk up as criticism reaches a boil over whether Sun Life is up to Super Bowl standards nowadays. Experts agree that Santa Clara, Calif., and Houston are heavy favorites to be awarded the 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls over Miami on Tuesday during NFL meetings in Boston.
“I don’t think anybody can look at that facility and say, ‘Aw, geez, it’s not up to par,’ ” Robbie said. “I think that’s a stretch.”
Robbie, 57, might not be the only one feeling that way. What if Miami is awarded another Super Bowl on the heels of the state legislature failing to approve a referendum that would have allowed Miami-Dade voters to approve public-private funding for $400 million in renovations? Would that undermine the case for improvements?
“They run into a bit of a Catch-22 because they said if you don’t improve the facility, we’re not going to get any Super Bowls in the near future,” said Robbie, who coincidentally is seeking a stadium solution for the North American Soccer League’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers, for whom he serves as managing director of team personnel and stadium development.
“So the flip side of that coin is, well, if you give us Super Bowls, we look like we’re full of crap, so what do they do? Go in there and half-heartedly ask for a Super Bowl and hope that they don’t get it? They’re in a bit of a funny position right now.
“How does it look if they get one? Someone’s going to come out and say, ‘Oh, I guess we didn’t really need those stadium improvements, did we? It was all a big smokescreen.’ More than one person would come out and say that, obviously.”
Robbie said that thanks to stadium enhancements under Wayne Huizenga’s ownership of the Dolphins, especially to the concourses and club level, the stadium “compares favorably” to contemporaries.
“And with the number of Super Bowls and national college football championships that they’ve had there over the years, obviously I’m not the only one that feels that way.
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said there’s a “zero percent chance” current owner Stephen Ross would move the Dolphins out of South Florida but added it’s impossible to predict subsequent owners’ intentions. Knowing that his father helped launch the franchise in 1966, and seeing it dominate the South Florida sports landscape, Tim Robbie finds a potentially unsettling future to be just that: unsettling.
“The idea of the Dolphins leaving South Florida, I think, is one I can’t even fathom to start with,” he said. “If they leave that facility and go play somewhere else — I wouldn’t anticipate that would happen anytime in my lifetime because there’s no reason to do that. And the team owns the facility, so it seems a bit of a head-scratcher to me.”
Deserting South Florida was a card Joe Robbie didn’t prefer to play even when presented the chance. In a bit of a reversal to today’s climate, in the late 1970s, community leaders wanted a Super Bowl but didn’t want to help pay for a stadium. Robbie wanted a stadium but opposed the Super Bowl bid. Within a few years, Robbie had cleared the way for ground-breaking in Miami Gardens and was back chasing Super Bowls, but in the interim, an interesting offer quietly came his way.
“He was approached by developers in Manhattan to build a stadium in Manhattan and have the Dolphins move there,” Tim Robbie said. “But he didn’t really pursue it.”
Last week, when asked if the Dolphins would ever consider a stadium site in Palm Beach County, Dee said everything is open for discussion.
“Although you’re not centrally located in Palm Beach County in terms of the South Florida population, I wouldn’t see it as something that wouldn’t potentially work,” Robbie said. “So I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility over perhaps a long-term view.”