New Tampa mayor Jane Castor attended the Tampa Bay Rays‘ not-quite-sold-out Game 4 of their Division Series on Tuesday night, and as she said when she was elected in April, was very enthusiastic about building the Rays a stadium in her city:
“I really feel like we should probably maybe just start over again,” Castor said as she greeted people behind home plate at Tropicana Field on Tuesday. “Everybody just come back to the table and start over again. Finding out what the Rays want and need, and then which community can best fulfill those needs.”
We already know what Rays owner Stuart Sternberg wants and needs, and it’s somebody to build him a $900 million stadium without him having to pay much toward it. That’s what crashed and burned last December, after Hillsborough County proposed going halfsies on a stadium but without even really having the money identified to do that; going back to the table and starting over again is a nice idea, but it still leaves everyone staring at a table with a “place $900 million here” sign.
And, because why be an elected official if you can’t promise all things to all people, Castor added this:
“If a decision was made to build a stadium in Tampa, I have said from the beginning that taxpayer dollars would not be used to build a new stadium, and I stand by that,” Castor said. “There are many ways to get a stadium built.”
I mean, not really? There is only one way to get a stadium built, and that is by paying a construction company to build a stadium, which requires somebody writing a check. Sternberg has made very clear that he is not going to be the one to write the largest check — if he’d wanted to do that, he could have built a stadium four or five times over by now — so if taxpayer dollars won’t be involved, then that leaves, I guess, a GoFundMe?
The other possibility, of course, is that Castor intends to use taxpayer dollars, but taxpayer dollars that she can pretend aren’t taxpayer dollars: free land grants, property tax breaks, tax increment financing districts that funnel only “new” taxes to the stadium, etc. Or maybe she thinks that telling Sternberg, “You can have your stadium, but you have to pay for it” will work better now than it did the past few years? Either way, she’s coming off as either naive or disingenuous, which is not a great start for the next round of Tampa stadium talks.