Hillsborough County proposes going halfsies on $892m Rays stadium, unspecific about how public’s share would be funded

WTSP’s Noah Pransky reported yesterday afternoon that Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill has finally provided some plans for how to pay for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium. In a memo Friday to the county commission, Merrill laid out the following:

  • Rays owner Stuart Sternberg pays half the cost of an $892 million stadium.
  • “The remaining 50% funding would come from some, or all, of the following sources: private investment via an Opportunity Zone Fund; private investment by Ybor landowners via a Community Development District(s), authorized by the City of Tampa; and Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) property tax revenues.”
  • Cost overruns and future maintenance costs would be paid for by Sternberg, who would also pay rent, but not property taxes.

On the face of it, that doesn’t tell us a ton, since those three public funding sources are very different in where the money would come from. The Opportunity Zones are a Trump creation that allows land development to be used as a tax shelter on capital gains taxes; it’s not entirely clear how the county would monetize this, though it’s certainly possible. CRAs are effectively tax increment financing, where any rise in tax receipts in an arena gets kicked back to pay off a project’s construction bonds. CDDs are similar, but are a tax surcharge, not cannibalization of existing taxes, so are somewhat easier on the current public purse.

Clearly those are all different kinds of subsidies with different pros and cons — the CRAs are the most straight-up of a cash grant, while with CDDs and OZs the concern would be more if the county would have to promise to backstop any shortfalls if the new revenues didn’t turn up, which is a thing that happens. On Twitter, Pransky took a guess at what the breakdown might look like:

And as for the likelihood of all this actually working to pay for a nearly billion-dollar stadium cost:

There are other options as well, including a 1% hotel tax increase that the county could put in place, which as Pransky notes would raise less than $100 million, but every drop counts.

The concern here is that Tampa is going to get caught focusing on “How can we find enough money to make this happen?” instead of “How much is it worth to taxpayers to make this happen?”, which as any experienced eBay bidder knows is a great recipe for paying more than you wanted to. There are some potentially not-terrible funding ideas here, but none of them are likely to get anywhere close to the kind of public money Sternberg is looking for — which raises the question, if Sternberg doesn’t think it’s a good investment to put more than a couple hundred million into a new $900 million stadium, are we sure that building one is a good idea in the first place?

5 comments on “Hillsborough County proposes going halfsies on $892m Rays stadium, unspecific about how public’s share would be funded

  1. I think it would be fun to see how apoplectic everyone would become if the bedtax were only enacted during baseball season. That way their increase in tourism claims would be backed up by their actual taxing.

  2. I was hoping that Opportunity Zones would turn out to be a modern day equivalent of ‘one hour martinizing’.

  3. Would the world really miss the Tampa Rays? Just consolidate both Florida teams into one. The Florida MarlinRays.

  4. In Arizona news, taxpayers get no say, again.

    Phoenix City Council to vote on $230 million Suns arena renovation