Lightning seeking $40m in public cash for arena upgrades

So here’s how my day is going so far: I finally finish posting this morning’s stadium news updates, then get a call from a Minneapolis Public Radio reporter wanting to set up a live appearance for me to talk about the ongoing Vikings stadium controversy. (It’ll be airing next Wednesday between 10 and 11 am CST, for those who want to tune in.) One of the questions asked is whether we’re really going to be tearing down 1990s-era stadiums like Camden Yards to build new ones only 20-30 years later; I allow that what’s probably more likely is teams demanding major publicly funded upgrades, a la the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs with their 30-something stadiums a few years back.

I return to my computer, and an email from a reader alerts me to this news item:

The Tampa Bay Lightning plans to announce roughly $40 million in renovations to the St. Pete Times Forum that the team hopes will significantly improve the hockey game and concert-going experience.

Documents obtained from Hillsborough County indicate that the team’s new owners want to get reimbursed for much of the work with tourist taxes.

The original deal for building the St. Pete Times Forum — in 1996 — included a provision for paying for future improvements with tax money, but apparently the Lightning owners want more than was provided then, so they’re looking to get added subsidies in exchange for a lease extension. Yet another example of how arena deals can be the gift that keeps on giving, if the people negotiating the lease from the public side are clueless enough.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to hearing how “replacing all of the seats within the arena with new blue ones to match the team’s new colors” (one of the new reno list items) would represent a “significant upgrade” to the concert experience. Unless they plan on requiring Justin Bieber to dye his hair blue and white to match.


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