Wednesday, October 17, 2018
  • Bay Buzz
  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Why Hillsborough’s record tourism year may help build a Rays ballpark in Ybor City

TAMPA — For the first time, visitors staying overnight in Hillsborough County hotels, motels and other short-term rentals spent more than $600 million in a calendar year.

The record-setting year means Hillsborough is now a "high-impact tourism" county, meaning county leaders can decide to raise the tax collected on each night's stay to 6 cents per dollar spent. The tax, called the Tourist Development Tax or sometimes the room tax, currently sits at 5 cents per dollar spent.

For the elected officials who want to see the Tampa Bay Rays move to Ybor City, it's especially good news. Those like County Commissioner Ken Hagan have repeatedly seen the sixth cent as a way to help pay for a ballpark.

There are two reasons the tax appeals to community leaders for the purposes of helping to finance a ballpark.

First, it's a tax that mainly is paid by visitors to the area. Unless a residents takes a staycation at a Hillsborough County hotel, nearly all the money collected comes from out-of-towners.

Taxing tourists more is seen as far more politically palatable than raising taxes on residents, like the contentious tax increase that paid for Raymond James Stadium. Hagan and others have said they will not support a tax increase on residents to pay for a ballpark.

Second, local governments are limited in how they can spend taxes collected from hotels. State law dictates three uses for these tax dollars: tourism advertising and marketing; beach renourishment and financing for tourism facilities like convention centers, museums and, yes, stadiums. It cannot go toward things like teacher salaries or road repairs.

With those limitations, the room tax has been attractive to the county to help pay for sports facilities. In recent years, it paid for upgrades to Raymond James Stadium, George M. Steinbrenner Field and Amalie Arena. Whether there is an appetite on the county commission to again leverage a penny of the room tax for another sports facility remains to be seen.

The room tax won't cover all the costs of building a new ballpark. Far from it. Hillsborough County Chief Financial Officer Bonnie Wise estimated last year that the bonding capacity of the additional penny over 30 years is about $75 million.

But Hagan and Wise have always said it will take a very creative financial package from multiple sources to help finance a ballpark. With Monday's announcement, Hillsborough cleared a major hurdle in unlocking one potential source.

Comments
Buckhorn backs transportation sales tax plan

Buckhorn backs transportation sales tax plan

TAMPA – Mayor Bob Buckhorn is the latest Democratic leader to throw his support behind a proposal to raise sales tax by one penny on the dollar  to pay for road, bus and transit projects.In a statement released by All for Transportation, B...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Environmental groups settle sewage lawsuit against St. Petersburg

Environmental groups settle sewage lawsuit against St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Three environmental groups on Monday agreed to settle a federal lawsuit with the city to hold St. Petersburg accountable for spilling hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage in 2015 and 2016.If a judge approves the settlement...
Published: 10/16/18
Rhea Law isn’t jumping into Tampa’s mayoral race—-yet

Rhea Law isn’t jumping into Tampa’s mayoral race—-yet

Tampa's political circles have been abuzz over the last week about whether or not the city's crowded mayoral field may be about to add another heavyweight.Last week, Rhea Law, 68,  Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney chairwoman of the firm's Florida off...
Published: 10/15/18
Tampa’s plan to convert wastewater to drinking water stalls after Tampa Bay Water vote

Tampa’s plan to convert wastewater to drinking water stalls after Tampa Bay Water vote

CLEARWATER  — Tampa's plan to turn highly treated wastewater into drinking water for the region's booming population was rejected Monday by a coalition of Pinellas and Pasco politicians who want more time to determine how the plan might af...
Published: 10/15/18
Free rides for now, hopes of a bigger future for Tampa’s streetcar line

Free rides for now, hopes of a bigger future for Tampa’s streetcar line

The vision for the future is grand, but the free rides start now.The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority hosted a ribbon cutting Friday at Dick Greco Plaza downtown to mark what it calls a "New Era of Transit" for the TECO Line Streetcar Sys...
Published: 10/12/18
‘Kim’ is now ‘Kimberly’ Overman to separate her from a commission opponent

‘Kim’ is now ‘Kimberly’ Overman to separate her from a commission opponent

Democrat Kimberly Overman, formerly "Kim," is changing her name on all her campaign literature in pursuit of a seat on the Hillsborough County commission in hopes of avoiding confusion with Kim O'Connor, a Green Party candidate who filed just before ...
Published: 10/12/18
Realtors back Democrat Mariella Smith against Commissioner Victor Crist

Realtors back Democrat Mariella Smith against Commissioner Victor Crist

In a move that surprised local insiders, the 11,000-member Greater Tampa Realtors has endorsed Democrat Mariella Smith for a countywide Hillsborough County Commission seat against Republican Commissioner Victor Crist.That's unusual because trade grou...
Published: 10/12/18
More St. Pete residents could qualify for once-a-week trash pickup

More St. Pete residents could qualify for once-a-week trash pickup

ST. PETERSBURG — Thousands of homes could save $55 a year on trash fees by downgrading to once-a-week pickup if City Council approves a new ordinance.City Council members will vote at a future meeting on whether to allow more hom...
Published: 10/12/18
St. Petersburg reauthorizes the Rowdies’ lease to use Al Lang

St. Petersburg reauthorizes the Rowdies’ lease to use Al Lang

ST. PETERSBURG — City Council quickly approved the reauthorization of the Rowdies lease to Al Lang Stadium lease on Thursday, a necessary step to complete the Rays' purchase of the soccer team.News of the sale broke Oct. 1. Thursday's...
Published: 10/12/18
Tampa’s getting some momentum on its flooding problems

Tampa’s getting some momentum on its flooding problems

Tampa isn't on dry ground yet (see Bayshore Boulevard or the Davis Islands ramp among many other trouble spots), but Mayor Bob Buckhorn is declaring a tidal shift in the city's long struggle with flooding.Two years after a contentious City Council vo...
Published: 10/11/18