Hillsborough County considering $500 million in tax hikes to fund new Rays stadium

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.

Friday roundup: Crew claps back at Modell Law suit, Cincy mayor thinks his citizens are dumb, Wrigley Field is a construction zone again

This week brought thundersnow that led to a fireball in a subway tunnel, but the stadium and arena news was reasonably exciting too:

  • Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt says the lawsuit to force him to offer the team for sale to local owners before moving it to Austin is groundless, since he made “significant investments” in the team “both on and off the field” and yet the team isn’t making money hand over fist like he’d like it to. I would have gone with “fine, you can buy the team if you want, my asking price is one quattuordecillion dollars,” but that’s why Precourt pays himself the big bucks.
  • Oakland Raiders management says it has identified room for 27,000 parking spaces within 1.5 miles of its Las Vegas stadium, and 100,000 spaces within three miles. “Now, obviously, people don’t want to walk three miles, so you have to have a pretty strong infrastructure program and transportation plan in place,” said Raiders president Marc Badain. “We’re working on all of that.” Cool, get back to us!
  • Residents of the West End opposed to building an F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium on the site of a revered high school football stadium there are all about “maintaining disinvestment, maintaining the status quo and not closing racial and economic gaps but keeping them divided,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said this week. “I think that’s wrong.” But enough with the pandering to your constituents, Mayor Cranley what do you really think about them?
  • Because no arena project can truly be cost-free for the public, the new Muni Metro stop being built at the Golden State Warriors‘ new San Francisco arena has now risen in cost to $51 million, and the city of San Francisco hasn’t figured out how to pay for $17 million of that yet. Not that a new mass transit stop isn’t a public benefit for people other than Warriors fans, but just saying.
  • This is what Wrigley Field looked like as of a couple of weeks ago. There’s still time before opening day, so hopefully this renovation will go better than the Chicago Cubslast big one.
  • Does an “asteroid the size of a sports stadium” zooming past Earth count as stadium news? It does to my custom RSS feed for “stadium” news, so enjoy!

Friday roundup: Warriors debt fight, giant American butts, and the blackout curtains that will eat Minneapolis

It’s laugh to keep from crying week! (Just kidding: It’s always laugh to keep from crying week.)

  • The 46-year-old Richmond Coliseum is “clearly past its prime” and “smaller and gloomier than many competing venues,” and the city should use “original thinking and strong leadership from the private and public sectors” such as tax-increment financing to help pay for a new arena, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Not included in the editorial: any indication of how much a new arena would cost or whether the benefit to the city would be worth it, because why think about such things when there’s new-car smell to be had?
  • Oakland and the Golden State Warriors owners are still fighting over who’ll pay for $40 million in remaining Oracle Arena debt once the Warriors move to San Francisco in 2019. It sure sounds like the team’s Oakland lease requires them to pay off remaining debt if they leave before 2027, but the city really would have had a much stronger case if it had refused to grant the team a lease extension without an agreement on debt payments, and made Steph Curry go play in the street for a couple of years.
  • The Texas Rangers‘ new stadium will feature seats that are 1 to 2 inches wider than in their old one, which is good for fans with wide butts (I stand accused, although not of being a Rangers fan), but less good for fans with butts of any size who will have to make do with seats farther down the outfield lines to make way for the butts of more well-off fans. Everything’s a tradeoff.
  • The Detroit Grand Prix owners, seeking to justify turning a public park into a private raceway for three months of preparation each summer, claim the annual event is worth $58 million to the local economy, and I told the Detroit Metro Times why that’s probably bullshit.
  • Here are some pictures of Los Angeles F.C.‘s new stadium in the final stages of construction that look disturbingly like pictures of stadiums in the first stages of demolition. At least season-ticket sales are going well, and those are way harder to fake than individual game ticket sales!
  • Derek Jeter may have gotten rid of anything not nailed down from the 2017 Miami Marlins, but he still can’t move Red Grooms’ horrific home run sculpture, because the public helped pay for it so now it’s public art. (Too bad Marlins fans couldn’t have tried the same argument about Giancarlo Stanton.)
  • The NCAA has awarded the 2019 men’s Final Four to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and now is demanding a giant blackout curtain to cover up the building’s windows for the event. Cost, according to Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Mike Vekich: “It will be expensive — obviously.” Crazy idea: Tell the NCAA, “You already awarded us the Final Four, if you want a giant venetian blind, pay for it yourself or go play in the street with Steph Curry.”
  • The cost of a pedestrian bridge to get fans to a new stadium in Atlanta — no, not that bridge to that stadium, a different bridge to the Falcons stadium — has nearly doubled from $12.8 million to $25.1 million, thanks in part to rush charges to get ready for next year’s Super Bowl. You know where next year’s Super Bowl would look great if the NFL won’t pay rush charges for a bridge? You guessed it!

Friday roundup: Some stuff happened, man

I’ve pieced together this week’s news roundup via WiFi made from powdered limestone and gum-tree resin, so if I missed anything important, let me know and I’ll pick it up starting Monday. In the meantime:

  • The state of Connecticut approved spending $10 million to renovate Hartford’s Dillon Stadium if it can lure a USL soccer team. In totally unrelated news, the last guy who promised to lure a soccer team to Dillon Stadium is awaiting sentencing for embezzling city funds spent on the project. Second time’s the charm!
  • That Koch Brothers–sponsored bill to ban sports subsidies in Arizona that got all the attention last week is now apparently dead after it was opposed by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, Arizona and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association. Maybe it’ll have better luck in one of the other 24 states where Americans for Prosperity said they were introducing it, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
  • The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Politics Extra column says that the West End is going to get gentrified against its will whether it likes it or not, so shouldn’t it be by a local guy who wants to build an F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium as part of it, and not “a developer from, say, New York or Chicago who doesn’t know or care about you or your homes”? Yes, it really truly says that.
  • The Oakland Raiders‘ Las Vegas stadium-building company is proposing to provide a $5 million bond to restore the stadium land to its original condition in the event that construction has to be halted partway through if it goes bankrupt. This is simultaneously an excellent way to safeguard the public interest in all contingencies (except for the $750 million the public would be out either way, obviously) and also really not the kind of thing you want newspaper readers to be thinking about when your new multi-billion-dollar stadium project is about to get underway. Here’s hoping Roger Noll is wrong about this thing having a shot at working.
  • The Miami-Dade County lawsuit against the Marlins‘ former owner Jeffrey Loria and current owners Derek Jeter and Friends over not cutting the county in on a share of the team sale proceeds went to court yesterday, and probably something happened, but it’ll be next week before the latest news story loads for me, so somebody recap anything important in comments, okay? I’ll see you next week.

Friday roundup: Pistons disguise empty seats as other-colored empty seats, Olympics tourism is bad and likely to get worse, Suns have no clue about arena plans, and more!

Off we go! In my case, literally: I’ll be traveling all next week, so if you don’t hear much from me around here, hold tight and I’ll catch up with all the news on my return. In the meantime, keep yourself warm at night with this week’s worth of fresh items:

  • Pyeongchang’s surge in tourism for the Olympics is unlikely to be sustained in future years, according to a study that shows tourism levels quickly drop back to normal, when they even have an Olympic uptick in the first place. (Overseas visitors to London were actually down in the summer of 2012.) Given that you can still walk up and buy tickets to most of this year’s Olympic events, I wouldn’t count on it being an exception to the rule. Hope the locals enjoy all those new hotels!
  • Phoenix Rising F.C. is designing a new MLS-ready stadium on the site of its current temporary stadium on the Salt River Pima reservation, and claims it will pay the whole $250 million cost. That would sure be nice, but then that’s what we were told in Sacramento, too.
  • The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity is sponsoring bills in state legislatures that establishing bans on spending public money on pro sports stadiums, which would kick in as soon as 25 states agreed to join the compact. Better they spend on that than on trying to buy Congress, certainly, but as sports economist John Vrooman noted to the Arizona Republic, this wouldn’t stop the other 25 states from continuing to spend to try to lure teams, at which point the whole system would break down. Vrooman said really any legislation needs to happen on the federal level, and “unfortunately for local taxpayers held hostage, that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.” You gotta believe, John!
  • The projected cost to restore Miami Marine Stadium — remember Miami Marine Stadium? — has risen from $45 million to $59.6 million, and Miami has only $50.4 million set aside to pay for it, and yeah, that’s not good.
  • If you were wanting a long, fawning profile of the Golden State Warriors COO in charge of building their new arena, the Associated Press is here to serve. I’m more interested in the accompanying photo of a giant model of the arena, which makes the upper deck seats look kinda crappy thanks to an intervening clot of suites and club seats, but other images that show the end seats make it look not so bad, so I’ll withhold judgment until somebody (maybe even me!) sees the new place with their own eyes.
  • Hey, Phoenix Suns president Jason Rowley, how are your arena plans going? “‘What’s the best solution?’ It hasn’t been figured out yet.” Are you thinking of going in on an arena with the Arizona Coyotes? “There really hasn’t been a whole lot of conversation between us and the Coyotes.” Any hints at all about what your plans might be? “There are so many pieces to an arena conversation that it’s very difficult to identify one thing that would either be a go-forward situation or one thing that would impact where you’re ultimately going to end up.” The Suns have an opt-out in their current arena lease in 2022, so expect more heated rhetoric once we get closer to that date.
  • The Detroit Pistons are putting black seat covers over the red seats at their new arena during their home games, to make it less obvious how many empty seats there are. The covers are removed for Red Wings games, because the Red Wings’ team color is red, so I guess for them it’s not embarrassing, it’s promotion of their brand? The Pistons are also letting fans move down from the upper deck to the lower at no cost to make the empty seats look less bad on television. Hope Detroit is enjoying all that economic development!
  • At least Detroit got lots of local construction jobs from the arena, and that’s one thing no one can take away! Unless you believe the claims of a local construction worker’s lawsuit against one arena contractor, which says he was only hired to meet the project’s 51% local hiring quota and then immediately fired, while at the same time suburban workers were brought in under fake addresses. And even then, city data shows that only 27% of total workers on the arena project lived in Detroit.
  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says he approves of the Tampa Bay Rays‘ preferred Ybor City site for a new stadium — it’s literally his job to say this, so no surprise there — and has told Tampa business leaders that they need to be “engaged in this effort” because “it’s good for community over the long haul.” He then added, “It’s crucial that we get a facility here that allows the Rays to get more toward the middle of the industry in terms of their revenues,” which pretty much sounds like, Hey, local corporate titans, one of your brethren isn’t making as much profit as he’d like, please give him a bunch of your money so his bank balance looks better, okay? More power to him if that sales pitch works, I guess, but I’m in no way confident it will take a significant bite out of that $400 million-plus funding hole, and remain concerned it’s mostly misdirection so that whenever the Rays eventually go to taxpayers hat in hand, they can say, Look, the business community is already chipping in, you gotta do your part too, capisce?

People are now designing sports venues based entirely on abstract geometric shapes, this is truly the future

Okay, the Tampa Bay Rays may have just won vaportecture for all time, as team owner Stuart Sternberg declared Saturday that he wants his new stadium to look like this:

Or not look exactly like Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi’s 1923 sculpture Bird in Space — it would make for some really short foul lines — but at least use that as “our guiding design” towards a building that will be a “minimalist, iconic, porous facility.” (“Porous” here appears to be a hip architectural term that means “relating to its surroundings,” as coined by Richard Goodwin in his memorably named Porosity: the Architecture of Invagination.)

“We’re going to continue to push the designers really hard,” Sternberg said the day after announcing the Ybor project was the team’s choice for a new home. “If the stadium is done correctly, it’s going to be iconic yet you won’t even know it’s there.”

It’s an invisible stadium, you guys! Or maybe one that’s just so in tune with its surroundings that it disappears into them, like a Mayan pyramid or this guy.

All this, of course, is roughly 50% bluster and 50% misdirection, since the whole point of Sternberg’s current push, what with announcing a stadium site and all with no idea how to pay for it, is to get people all excited about this and hope the sense of momentum gets them to view a multi-hundred-million-dollar funding gap as an obstacle to be overcome, rather than a reason maybe not to do this at all. The Tampa Bay Times editorial board is already down with this, writing on Friday that “significant progress has to be made by the end of the year” because “it will take regional support to ensure baseball remains in Tampa Bay” and this “could be the last, best option.” (To be fair, they also said Sternberg will have to kick in more than the $150 million he’s promised, but still, this is how-do-we-get-it-done-ism in a nutshell.)

In fact, I would dismiss Sternberg’s Brancusi references to just the ravings of a rich dude hoping to sweet-talk the public out of their tax dollars if not for the fact that Madison Square Garden has announced it’s building an 18,000-seat arena in Las Vegas that will be shaped like a sphere, and called, naturally, the MSG Sphere:

This will be for concerts only, no sports, and will cost nobody knows how much, and will feature “high-speed internet at every seat” and “beamforming” technology so that people in adjacent seats can hear different things and 36 miles of LEDs on its exterior that will enable projection of anything they want, including the event taking place inside or even:

A different camera system set up around the city will be able to virtually cloak the dome with real-time images and video of its surroundings, making it seemingly disappear.

An invisible arena. Maybe that way Las Vegas can pretend it doesn’t already have 43 other arenas. Vegas is headed for the Arena Event Horizon any day now.

Friday roundup: Tons of news, but you’ll forget it all once you see that Houston is spending public money on a pro rugby stadium

And in other news that doesn’t involve proposed Tampa Bay Rays stadium sites:

  • United Airlines is spending $69 million on naming rights to the Los Angeles Coliseum in advance of the 2028 Olympics, but IOC rules prohibit corporate names during the Olympics, oops. Hope you enjoy the most expensive college-football naming rights deal in history, United!
  • Hotel revenue fell 16% in San Diego last year after the Chargers left town, but went up 0.2% in St. Louis after the Rams left. I’m not honestly sure what if anything this means — you’d really have to look at hotel revenue on football weekends to do this right, and it doesn’t look like this study did — but feel free to speculate wildly.
  • Did I mention the Yahoo Finance article yet that compares the Amazon HQ2 chase to the competition to host the Super Bowl, and cites me saying that while Amazon will bring more jobs, “that said, there’s almost no way it’s worth the kind of money that cities are talking about”? Well, now I have, enjoy!
  • AL.com has recalculated the public costs of a proposed University of Alabama-Birmingham football stadium and come up with a total of $18.2 million a year — $10.7 million from a bunch of county taxes, $3.5 million from a new car rental tax surcharge, $1 million from other county funds, and $3 million from city funds — not the $15.7 million I had previously reported. UAB and a naming rights sponsor and other private contributors, meanwhile, would only put in $4 million a year, and only for the first ten years. Out of his goddamn mind, I tell you.
  • Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report filed a Freedom of Information Law request to see the competing bids for the Belmont Park site that eventually got awarded to the New York Islanders, and was shot down on the grounds that it would “impair present or imminent contract awards.” Wait, wasn’t the contract already awarded? Will it be okay to ask again once it’s too late to do anything about it?
  • The WNBA’s Chicago Sky are moving to the new DePaul basketball arena that the city of Chicago helped pay for, which I guess is marginally good for Chicago in that it gets to steal a tiny sliver of economic activity from Rosemont, screw those guys, right? (Actually, Rosemont is apparently a gated community, so maybe screw those guys.)
  • A New Orleans Pelicans game was delayed because the arena roof leaked. No one is demanding that a new arena be built just yet that I’ve heard, but given that the current one is 19 whole years old, it’s gotta to be a matter of time, even if this one does have a fire fountain.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates are threatening to sue the city-county sports authority over who’ll pay how much for $10 million in improvements to their stadium, because apparently the people who write these stadium leases are idiots.
  • If you enjoy this site but were thinking, “Wouldn’t this be better as a YouTube video with lots of animated charts?”, Vox has got you covered.
  • The Houston city council has approved spending $3.2 million in tax dollars on a pro rugby stadium for the Houston SaberCats, who are a pro rugby team that is going to play in a pro rugby league, which councilmember Jack Christie calls “a beautiful example of public-private partnerships that we ought to look at in the future, because as far as I have heard, there’s not been one city tax dollar used for this development.” I’m done. Have a good weekend.

Sternberg picks Rays stadium site, will pay for it mumble mumble, look, shiny!

That day we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived: When Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and local officials will announce where they intend to build a new half-billion-dollar-plus stadium, but not how on earth to pay for it:

The team told St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman it plans to put all site selection efforts into the Ybor City location first identified last October, Kriseman said during a City Council meeting Thursday…

The team will formally announce its stadium site preference at a press conference scheduled for the Tampa Baseball Museum in Ybor City, Friday at 1:30 p.m., Kriseman said.

Here’s a photo of the site, courtesy of Tampa Bay Business Journal:

And here’s a mockup of how a stadium would fit there, courtesy of WFTS-TV:

That’s certainly workable, if a bit compact. But then, compact sites have led to some good stadium designs, like the San Francisco Giants‘ AT&T Park, and — gaaaaaah, no, wait, we’re just playing into their hands! This is right out of the standard stadium playbook: Make a big deal of announcing a site, get everyone debating whether it’s the right site and what it would mean for fans  — no more driving across the bay bridge if you live in Tampa! more driving across the bay bridge if you live in St. Petersburg! — and hope no one notices that you still have at minimum a $400 million funding gap, or at least that you can shift the debate from “should we build a stadium?” to “we’ve picked where the stadium will go, now we just have to see who draws the short straw to pay for it.”

The only discussion on that front yesterday came from Hillsborough County commissioner Ken Hagan vowing that some local business leaders will lead a push for more corporate sponsorships, which, spoilers, ain’t gonna raise no $400 million. Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn immediately called Hagan’s announcement “bush league” (for announcing it before Sternberg got to, I think?) and that he intends to focus on “whether this deal makes sense,” which the Fox 13 News headline writer turned into “Buckhorn vows to make ‘best deal’ for Rays, taxpayers,” though that quote isn’t actually in the article.

In any case, feel free to debate the pros and cons of the Ybor City site, but try not to get distracted from the real issue here: Stuart Sternberg wants a new stadium, and wants somebody to pay for it who isn’t him. Because forgetting about that while staring at a shiny stadium site is exactly what he wants you to do.

Cobb County is closing libraries so it can keep paying its Braves stadium debt service

Cobb County, Georgia, is proposing to close or consolidate eight public libraries to save money in the midst of a budget crunch, and Deadspin has blamed this on the county spending $369 million on a new Atlanta Braves stadium. Is this a fair accusation? Let’s turn to our old friend math!

  • Property tax levies are up, but the county still faces a $30-55 million budget deficit.
  • Cobb County is spending at least $8.6 million a year out of its general fund on stadium construction and operations costs.
  • The county could try to raise more money by, say, increasing hotel and car rental taxes, except it already did that for the Braves stadium, and is likely approaching blood from a stone territory.

Verdict: The stadium isn’t the only reason Cobb County residents are going to have a harder time finding books to read — as Deadspin notes, former county commission chair Tim Lee also cut taxes (I think he cut millage rates, so while property tax valuations are up, actual revenues are down, but I have a cold and don’t have the patience for the googling it would take to piece this together from media reports, so feel free to correct me in the comments if I got this wrong) — but it sure ain’t helping.

I’ll sometimes get criticism for being skeptical of all plans that involve spending a whole lot of public money on stadiums and coming out ahead because “economic impact,” but there’s a reason for that: When you start in a several hundred million dollar hole, it’s damn near impossible to climb out of that thanks to whatever money trickles in from new spending. Sure, in a best-case scenario you steal some consumer spending from neighboring jurisdictions, and the “multiplier effect” of money recirculating in the local economy isn’t mythical, just overblown. (Especially when most of the money never enters the local economy because it goes to athletes and owners who live and spend out of town.) But you’re counting on pennies to pay off dollars, and that’s never a good business plan — whether it’s for stadiums or for movie shoots.

Anyway, Cobb County is hosed, but we knew that already. Just set this one aside for the next time anyone says, “It’s not like this stadium money would be going to fund schools or libraries otherwise!”, because sometimes — oftentimes — that’s exactly what it means.

Hillsborough officials holding secret meetings with secret consultants to keep secret on where $400m in Rays stadium funding will come from

A correspondent accidentally referred to me yesterday in email as “Noah,” then immediately apologized; I said no apology was necessary, because I assumed (correctly) that he’d momentarily confused me with WTSP reporter and Shadow of the Stadium blogger Noah Pransky, which I took as a compliment.

And you want to see why, oh man has Pransky been on fire lately in his reporting on the Tampa Bay Rays stadium mess. The short version: Hillsborough County elected officials have been holding stadium meetings so secret that they have been hiding them from their official calendars, while the county has hired outside consultants who appear to be hiding public documents from the public, and even from the members of the county commission.

Here’s a sample, via Pransky:

10Investigates repeatedly requested public records related to stadium discussions from County Commissioner Ken Hagan, and after multiple responses indicating none existed, a county attorney produced a series of text messages and emails between Hagan and Raij from the commissioner’s personal phone and email accounts.

Those messages reveal a pattern of private meetings and behind-the-scenes negotiations on a project that could include hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies. One text, sent from Raij to Hagan on Nov. 14, references a “marked up Rays document,” which has not been turned over.

Other texts between Raij and Hagan coordinate negotiations with local landowners, as well as the county’s response to media questions about the prospective new Tampa stadium – a surprise to several Hillsborough County commissioners interviewed by 10Investigates…

Florida’s public records laws require most records Hagan creates to be turned over when requested by any member of the public, including documents Hagan created and later gives to either the Foley or O’Melveny firms. But no such records have been produced yet in response to 10Investigates’ requests and a pair of county staffers have confirmed the existence of such documents.

Hagan has a long history of refusing to turn over public records to 10Investigates.

Transparency is important here, because the proposed Rays stadium is currently facing a funding gap in the hundreds of millions of dollars: Previous estimates for a retractable-roofed stadium say it would cost about $800 million, and while Pransky’s sources say a fixed-roof stadium could be built for $500-600 million — which, the team already has a fixed-roof stadium, just saying — team owner Stuart Sternberg only wants to kick in $150 million of his own money. So where will the additional $400 million or so come from?

“I would never put the taxpayer on the hook for that entire difference … that doesn’t work at all,” said Commissioner Pat Kemp. “What’s going to have to be seen is … to the extent (the Rays and county) can privately leverage (financing).”

Ah, yes, leveraging. That’s … not actually a way of making money grow on trees, you know that, right, Commissioner Kemp? A private investor is going to want a return on their money, which means getting either rent from the team of some cut of stadium revenues, and if Sternberg wanted to give up that he could just go to a bank and finance it himself, which is what he said he doesn’t want to do.

Of course, “what Stu Sternberg wants” shouldn’t be the guiding principle for Tampa area government, so maybe this is a sign that local officials are trying to find a way to kick back some of the costs for a Rays stadium onto the Rays owner, while using nice words like “leverage” to pretend that that’s not what they’re doing. Or, maybe this is a way to foist costs onto the public while pretending you’re not. Or to just kick the can down the road by pretending a $400 million funding gap isn’t a big deal. Your guess is as good as mine — sure would be nice if there were some public documents to let us know what Hillsborough County officials were discussing here, huh?