The indefatigable Noah Pransky of WTSP-TV has unearthed some documents from law firms working with Hillsborough County that show how the county is considering raising public funds to help pay for a new $600 million–ish Tampa Bay Rays stadium. And the options are:
- Raising the county bed tax from 5% to 6%, which could provide another $6 million a year, enough to pay off close to $100 million in stadium costs.
- A $2 a day hike in car rental taxes would generate $15 million a year (enough to pay off around $250 million total), though with ridesharing on the rise it would risk driving people out of the car rental market and thus providing significantly less than that.
- Extending the Community Investment Tax sales tax surcharge that currently funds payments on the Buccaneers stadium beyond 2026. This could provide $10 million a year (enough to pay off about $160 million worth of stadium), but the Bucs could also want some of that money when their lease expires the same year as the Rays’.
Put it all together, and you’re certainly in the ballpark (sorry) of the $450 million in public funds that would be needed if the stadium comes in at $600 million and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg sticks to his guns about only chipping in $150 million from his own pocket. Of course, the fact that Hillsborough County can come up with $450 million it can raise by taxing its own residents (and visitors) doesn’t mean that it should — that’s a hell of a lot of money to hand over to a sports franchise just so that it doesn’t move to a city that probably doesn’t exist, not to mention for a franchise that is actually profitable right now under baseball’s revenue-sharing system. The documents Pransky uncovered don’t talk about what the effect on the local economy would be of raising multiple taxes by this much, or how a Rays stadium compares to other projects that could be funded by similar tax hikes, but I’m sure Pransky will be examining those questions in coming weeks and months.
Anyway, this is far more information than Pransky got by following local politicians around and asking repeatedly, so kudos, Noah! Sometimes journalism is mostly about finding the right people to pester.