The only competition remaining for the Bay Area's quest to host Super Bowl 50 seemed to evaporate Friday when Florida lawmakers adjourned without taking up a deal to renovate the Miami Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium.
With the Florida measure apparently dead, the 49ers' new $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara could now win by default, as the NFL has told Miami it needs the renovations to have a shot when league owners formally pick the host for the 2016 title game later this month.
Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the Bay Area's bid committee, said Friday afternoon that it's "too early to break out the bubbly. It ain't over until May 21, when the NFL owners make their decision."
Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews said he's "cautiously optimistic," but also won't pop any Champagne corks just yet.
"As an elected official, I know that the only poll that matters is the one that happens on Election Day, and for this, that'll be the vote of the owners on May 21," he said. "I have always put our faith in our bid."
Florida lawmakers ended their 60-day legislative session Friday without voting on a deal to provide taxpayer support for a $350 million stadium upgrade. Without the legislature's support, Miami-Dade voters won't go to the polls May 14 to weigh in on the tax measure -- the last hope in a hastily scheduled referendum ahead of the NFL owners' vote.
But even some Miami-Dade-area lawmakers flat-out opposed the taxpayer subsidy, leading Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford to ignore supporters' pleas to even hear the bill Friday.
That infuriated the Florida group pushing for the renovation. Miami First Co-Chairs H.T. Smith and Jorge Arrizurieta issued a statement saying their state's lawmakers "clearly showed our community that they would rather play politics than do the right thing."
"The House put at risk the future of Super Bowls and other major events in Miami, which are so critical to our tourism economy. It's a sad day when Tallahassee gives San Francisco and Houston a victory at the expense of our community."
The runner-up for 2016's game was expected to compete against Houston to host the 2017 game, but with Miami now facing fourth-and-long, both years might now be foregone conclusions.
Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross was similarly perturbed, but declared he wasn't giving up.
"In the weeks ahead, I will do all I can to convince my fellow owners to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami-Dade," Ross said. "The bid committee has done a tremendous job to give us a great shot, and my only hope is that it is enough to overcome the terrible message Speaker Weatherford has sent to the NFL tonight."
But Florida lawmakers might've been spooked by the controversial 2009 deal to build a new stadium for the Miami Marlins baseball franchise, replete with huge public debts, lengthy litigation, the recall of several local officials who'd supported the deal and even a Securities and Exchange Commission probe of the Marlins' financial figures.
South Florida's turmoil could turn into the South Bay's gain.
The Bay Area Super Bowl committee of local officials, celebrities, business leaders and dignitaries will wrap up six months of prep work Tuesday by overnighting a package to NFL headquarters in New York City that lays out their case for Super Bowl 50.
Up for grabs are hundreds of millions of dollars in potential economic activity and worldwide prestige to host what could be one of the biggest sporting events in U.S. history -- not to mention home-field advantage for the Niners if, like last season, they make it to the Super Bowl.
The Bay Area is touting its network of hotels and freeways, as well as its extensive tourism experience, in trying to attract its first Super Bowl since 84,000 fans packed Stanford Stadium in 1985. The league's baseline requirements, laid out in a 200-page guidebook, include space for a 10,000-person tailgate party, 35,000 local hotel rooms and a security perimeter to accommodate 2.5 miles worth of fencing around the stadium.
The NFL's 32 owners will review the Bay Area's and Miami's proposals over the next two weeks and vote after 15-minute presentations from both bid committees in Boston on May 21.
The 49ers are on track to kick off in Santa Clara in 2014, with Super Bowl 50 culminating the stadium's second season. On Friday, at the stadium construction site, engineer Greg Rogers said building the stadium that might host the gold anniversary Super Bowl was just another motivator.
"It's obviously great for everyone involved to know their hard work and planning paid off and the stadium will get a real marquee event."
Staff writers Mike Rosenberg and Eric Kurhi contributed to this report.
Wednesday: Bids for Super Bowl 50 are due to NFL headquarters in New York.
May 21: The 32 NFL team owners meet in Boston to hear brief, final presentations from bidders before voting.
2014: Santa Clara Stadium is projected to open.
# February 7, 2016: Super Bowl 50
# -- Tentative