So the Tampa and St. Petersburg chambers of commerce were set to announce the results of their study into building a new Rays stadium today, and yes, I like to make leetle joke. But what did the chambers’ report actually say?
Not a whole hell of a lot, it looks like. For starters, it assumes that the Rays owners would pay between 20 and 40% of a $500 million stadium, and then concludes that the public would have to pay $350 million, which at least shows a grasp of basic arithmetic. (Though it also estimates between $30 million and $150 million in land and infrastructure costs, which be paid for by Not Included In Box.) As for where that money would come from, the chambers float such ideas as an existing downtown Tampa TIF district, Hillsborough County car rental or hotel taxes, existing Pinellas County taxes currently going to pay off Tropicana Field, redirecting St. Pete’s share of state sales taxes, or these guys who came to their door and totally said they were from FEMA.
In essence, then, this was an exercise in throwing funding ideas against the wall and seeing which stick. (And the corollary goal, which is to get people arguing about how to pay for a stadium with public funds, rather than whether to do so.) Though the chambers did compile a list of funding ideas that would let them issue a statement saying these sources all avoided “imposing new taxes on local residents,” which is sort of true depending on what you mean by “new,” “local,” and “residents.”
One big question, meanwhile, which seems to be unasked by any of the media coverage thus far, is why exactly it’s assumed that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg would only be able to kick in around $150 million. Is it because that’s what Sternberg has said he’s willing to pay? Is it because somebody’s actually figured out how much a new stadium would be worth to the Rays? Doesn’t anybody in Tampa Bay know how to haggle?