Raymond James Stadium renovation deal sails through Hillsborough County commission
TAMPA -- Hillsborough County commissioners approved an agreement Wednesday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to spend $87 million on upgrades to Raymond James Stadium.
The vote was 6-1, with only Commissioner Stacy White, a Republican representing east Hillsborough, voting no.
Under the deal, the Tampa Sports Authority, a taxpayer funded agency, will spend $29 million in tourism tax dollars to help renovate the 18-year-old publicly owned stadium. The Buccaneers are committing $59 million to the two-year renovation, which will include significantly enhanced scoreboards and four new video displays, updated sound systems and concessions, and improvements to the concourse and luxury suites.
While White did not explain his “no” vote, the six other commissioners heaped praise on the deal. They said the pact vastly improved on the existing lease agreement with the Buccaneers and will help attract future marquee sporting events and concerts. Tampa is a finalist to host the Super Bowl in 2019 and 2020.
“I’d like to know what kind of adult beverages you were feeding those people when you were negotiating because we have a heck of a deal here,” Commissioner Victor Crist said to county CFO Bonny Wise, who presented the agreement. (Bucs COO Brian Ford sat stone faced in the audience after the comment.)
According to the terms of the 1996 lease agreement, the TSA was on the hook for $25.8 million in maintenance and repairs to the stadium. The TSA, along with county staff, negotiated to pay another $3 million in taxpayer funds to build a larger scoreboard.
In exchange for the additional TSA monies, the Buccaneers agreed to increase the TSA's share of revenue from non-Bucs events held at the stadium, like concerts. That could net the county an additional $250,000 a year, though it's more likely to be closer to $150,000 if the recent revenue trend from those events continues.
The team also forgave the TSA’s obligation to spend $11.5 million to build a practice facility for the Bucs. Hillsborough officials said that's an important victory that ends a two-decade dispute between the team and the county.
The Bucs, meanwhile, are required in the deal to double the county’s contribution and team officials have said they could pump an additional $12 million into renovations to bring the total price tag of the project to $100 million. The existing stadium lease agreement does not force the Bucs to pay anything for stadium upgrades.
The Tampa Sports Authority approved the agreement on Tuesday. The Tampa City Council are the last to weigh in and will vote on the deal Thursday.