Field of Schemes
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January 31, 2007

Magic seeking to double their subsidies

The Orlando Magic, not content with a state law allowing them to get $2 million a year in sales tax rebates over 30 years to repay arena construction or improvements, are now seeking to have that doubled to $4 million a year. (Though the Orlando Sentinel story linked calls this a "second wave of $60 million tax breaks," it would actually only pay for about half that in present-value construction bonds.) The Tampa Bay Lightning had pushed for similar legislation last year, but the state legislature failed to act on it; the Magic will now send its lobbyists to work alongside the Lightning's flesh-pressers to see if they can get things moving again.

With nine major pro sports teams in the state, if approved this would amount to a gift of about $270 million from Florida taxpayers to pro sports teams, for just about nothing in return. One legislator behind the bill says teams would have to promise to remain in the state for 15 years to get the added cash, which isn't saying much, as most stadium and arena leases are for far longer than that anyway - and if a team really wants to move, having to repay $30 million in tax breaks isn't going to stop them.

Lightning execs' explanation for seeking the cash, according to the St. Petersburg Times: "The Lightning argues that it is an important force in the economy of downtown Tampa and should share in some of the riches." Selling season tickets for $6,500 a pop apparently doesn't count as enough riches.

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