There’s been lots more posturing over the possibility of a Tampa Bay Rays move from St. Petersburg to Tampa today — check out Shadow of the Stadium for a full rundown — but I’m more interested in a tidbit I hadn’t noticed before from a Tampa Tribune column: The $100 million in Community Redevelopment Area money (a slush TIF-style fund that earmarks downtown property taxes for development projects) that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn wants to dedicate to a Rays stadium is actually worth $100 million over 30 years*, not up front.
That’s a huge difference. Paid out over 30 years, $100 million is enough to finance maybe $50 million or so in upfront costs, depending on what interest rate you get on stadium bonds. Which means that if you assume a $600 million stadium and that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg will put in $200 million — a number he seems to have managed to get reified in the sports media, though so far as I can tell he came up with it out of thin air — there’d still be $350 million unaccounted for, even if Buckhorn manages to wrest the CRA money away from other projects eager to tap it.
Plus, as St. Petersburg city council chair Karl Nurse points out, the Rays would also have to pay off his city for breaking their lease early, if they wanted to leave before 2027. Picking a stadium site in Tampa may turn out to be the easy part; finding the money to pay for one without soaking local taxpayers is going to be … I was going to say “harder,” but I guess the real question is less how not to soak local taxpayers than which local taxpayers to soak, isn’t it? Unless either Sternberg budges from that $200 million figure or somebody invents another solution.
*UPDATE 8/9: Buckhorn now says that Henderson’s report was wrong, and that the CRA actually could provide $10-13 million a year over 30 years, which would easily pay off $100 million in stadium bonds. More on this on Monday…