Tampa officials didn’t waste much time responding to St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster’s declaration that he’s willing to let the Tampa Bay Rays consider sites on the other side of the bay for a new stadium. Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan announced plans for a task force to help the Rays explore stadium options, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn exulted that “the Rays would be warmly received here.”
Buckhorn also said that he had no idea how a stadium would be paid for, which was … refreshingly honest? He’s previously said he’d be willing to kick in $100 million from a downtown TIF district once it’s done being used to pay off Tampa’s convention center in 2015. The Tampa Bay Times for some reason hit up a local land-use lawyer named Ron Weaver for funding ideas, and he came up with:
- Hotel and car rental taxes.
- Federal New Markets Tax Credits, which are only supposed to be used for the benefit of low-income communities, though that didn’t stop them from being used for the new Houston Dynamo stadium.
- Ticket surcharges.
- EB-5 money, which has been floated before.
- Revenues from naming rights and concerts and pay-per-view broadcasts.
And there have also been rumblings of a regional tax of some sort to help pay for a stadium, though it might be hard to get St. Petersburg officials, say, to sign off on spending tax money to let the Rays move out of town.
That’s a list, all right, though it’s pretty all over the place: hotel and car rental taxes, for example, clearly come out of the pockets of taxpayers, while ticket surcharges and concert revenues are going to be seen by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg as coming out of the money he wants to use to, you know, make a profit off this thing. Hagan has suggested using naming-rights and advertising revenue to pay for a stadium, but as Shadow of the Stadium’s Noah Pransky notes, “advertising and naming right revenues typically go to the team, not to pay off a stadium. So when you factor in the Rays’ presumed $200 million contribution, there’s a good chance those revenues would be part of the $200 million, not on top of it.”
That $200 million team contribution is very “presumed,” actually, as is the overall price tag for a new stadium, with numbers being thrown around in the $450 million to $600 million range. If there’s a lesson from the history of past stadium campaigns, it’s not to get locked in to dollar figures too early, or else the debate shifts from “Should we build this?” to “How can we fill this $__ million funding gap?” The alleged problem that Tampa is trying to solve here, remember, is that Sternberg is complaining that he’s not making enough money, even though he’s actually making money. If there’s a way that a new stadium in Tampa can help there by boosting team revenues even after paying off construction costs, fine, Sternberg should knock himself out exploring it. If this is just a way to boost team profits by getting fancier digs at public expense, though, then the dilemma really shouldn’t be how to pay for it, but rather which door to tell Sternberg not to hit himself in the butt with on the way out of the mayor’s office.