Florida man proposes eliminating world’s most confusing sports subsidy slush fund

The history of Florida’s state-level sports subsidy program is a weird one: Back in 2014, the state legislature, tired of dealing with constant competing asks from all of the state’s sports owners, set up a ranking system for teams to request a cut of $12 million a year in sales tax money. The next year, the panel doing the ranking approved all of the applicants, which totally defeated the purpose because there wasn’t enough money in the sales tax pool to fund all of them; the year after that, the state was asked to fund three projects that were already underway regardless of whether they got the money. It’s such a mess that no money has ever actually been approved, which while kind of a silver lining if you believe the numbers showing that the state massively loses money on these subsidies.

Anyway, that all brings us to today, with some Florida legislators trying to just eliminate the sports subsidy program once and for all, and presumably reclaim the money for other uses:

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, with little comment Monday, backed the latest proposal (SB 414) by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, to repeal a controversial 2014 program that — despite never being used — lays out steps for the stadium money to become available.

“Should the Legislature decide at some point it did want to fund a particular facility for a particular purpose, the Legislature could always go back and do it the way they’ve always done it, and that is through a direct appropriation,” Lee said. “But to use this process as cover for an appropriation from this Legislature for a facility that can’t prove economic benefit, to me is just kind of a ruse.”

Lee noted that the first four applicants way back in 2015 — the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Orlando S.C, and the Daytona International Speedway — all continued with their stadium projects even after the state rejected approving funding, which has “done the best job of anybody to make the point that these aren’t really economic development incentives,” since any economic development happened exactly the same even without the subsidies.

Of course, as Lee also noted, Florida can always approve stadium funds on a case-by-case basis, as it has done in the past. It’s hard to know what to think of this: Eliminating a stadium slush fund normally sounds positive, but if the sheer stupidity of the state funding process has dissuaded team owners from even asking for money … it’s a tough call. If I were a Florida state legislator, I’d probably call Stu Sternberg and ask what he thinks of the bill, and then vote the opposite.


7 comments on “Florida man proposes eliminating world’s most confusing sports subsidy slush fund

  1. Gotta admit, I was a bit scared to find out who the “Florida Man” being referenced was. It really could’ve been anyone from Rick Skeletor to Alan Grayson to Hulk Hogan.

  2. The only way this could be better would be if the only project the slush fund actually funded was group campaigning against sports subsidies.

  3. So, what’s with the hit piece on St. Pete in Deadspin?

    The reason why the Rays are not doing well is really simple. No one wants to hear constant complaining about their supposedly substandard building. The Trop is perfectly fine for every purpose other than filling Stu Sternberg’s pockets. And we have seen the financials, he is quite capable of doing that himself.

    Why should i invest a single dollar in Rays gear or in going to games when Stu simply refuses to tell anyone what he actually wants. He is the worst owner, and i lived through Art Modell.

    St. Pete is a wonderful city which has almost none of the traffic jams except for 275 and everyone who knows anything gets off at 4th or 9th street and avoids most of the issues.

    I drive that bridge every single day to get home from Tampa so I actually know what I am talking about.

    Besides, as your research clearly shows, baseball in St. Pete doesn’t really add anything other than civic name recognition as a “major league” city and we don’t even get that.

    The Trop is sitting on land that would sell in a minute if it isn’t being used for baseball. Downtown is hopping and a great place to be. Plus we have beaches on three sides and none of the pretentious twits who live in Tampa.

    So what exactly do you propose we do?

    • “Stu Sternberg sucks” was, in fact, one of the theories I proposed.

      If that’s the reason why fans aren’t showing up to games, I guess he should sell the team, and then the new owner will watch the fans pour in, and all will be well, and Tommy Pham will finally be happy.

      • I like your work. I really do. I am a big believer in it even though I also like sports.

        It is not just that if he sells the team, fans will pour in. He needs to sell the team to someone who will make a $500 million minimum investment in the new stadium, and then be a real partner. The days of just expecting us to pay for it all are gone. That goose was cooked in Miami.

        He could have had his stadium in Ybor, if he had kicked in his share. But he didn’t want too, so screw him.

        • Is a $500m investment in a stadium going to generate $30m a year in new revenues, though? Because that’s what it would take to pay off $500m in construction debt.

          And if “increasing payroll” is a requisite too, then add on covering the cost of that.

          Otherwise, it’d be a better business move for him to just keep on going as he’s going, at the Trop.

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