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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tampa City Council signs off on Yankees spring training stadium upgrades

The Tampa City Council this week approved a plan that would use $26 million from Hillsborough County's tourism tax and the state of Florida to help pay for renovations at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times (2009)

The Tampa City Council this week approved a plan that would use $26 million from Hillsborough County's tourism tax and the state of Florida to help pay for renovations at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The Tampa City Council this week approved an agreement between the Tampa Sports Authority, New York Yankees and Hillsborough County for a planned $40 million renovation of George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The city does not own any of the property involved, is not contributing any money to the project and is not a party to any of the agreements. Still, the state law that enables the sports authority to do the deal required it to get the city’s approval for the plan.

More than $13 million from Hillsborough County's tourism tax on hotel room rentals will help pay for the project, along with another $13 million expected from the state of Florida though its spring training retention fund. The Yankees will pay the remaining $13 million.

The renovation, approved by Hillsborough County commissioners last month, will bring new seats, a new roof, an upgraded outfield concourse and a reconfigured entry plaza, plus changes to the Yankees' spring training practice facility on Himes Avenue.

Renovations are expected to be done before spring training next March. The agreement keeps Yankees spring training in Tampa through 2046. The 10,000-seat stadium also is the home of the Tampa Yankees. In 2013, the Yankees explored the idea of moving the minor league team to Ocala, but that plan unraveled.

Under the previous contract, the county was not obligated to pay for any of the upgrades, but it agreed to do so in return for the Yankees extending their commitment to Tampa. The deal also increases the penalties against the Yankees if they leave.

Still, the deal drew opposition from one member of the public who is enough of a student of the game that he wants to see Tampa's own Fred McGriff, originally drafted by the Yankees, put in the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are just better uses of public money that a lucrative professional sports franchise does not need, said Scott Myers of Lutz .

“Twenty-six million dollars is truly chump change for the Yankees,” he told the council.

Charlie Miranda, who has a long history of opposing public support for professional sports teams, voted against the proposal, which generated no discussion among council members. Yvonne Yolie Capin was not at the meeting.

Super Bowl bid moves forward

In another bit of sports news, the council voted to support Tampa’s bid to host the Super Bowl in 2019, 2020 or 2021.

As part of that, it approved a resolution pledging to provide “reasonable necessary governmental services” such as police, emergency medical, traffic control, public decoration and public works services at no cost to the NFL.

Tampa previously hosted the championship in 1984, 1991, 2001 and 2009. For the most recent game, city expenses amounted to a little more than $1.2 million, though City Hall made some money through increased demand for parking and a few other services, so the net cost to taxpayers was under the $1 million that then-Mayor Pam Iorio promised.

[Last modified: Friday, May 6, 2016 8:52am]

    

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