Tampa poll: Most oppose using taxpayer money for Tampa Bay Rays stadium
A new poll of 584 registered voters in Tampa finds little support for using taxpayer money for a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.
That almost certainly comes as no surprise to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan — both who say that the kind of sales tax increase that paid for the stadium where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play would never fly with Hillsborough voters now. (Buckhorn has said this for nearly three years, ever since he was a candidate for mayor.) Buckhorn, however, does like the idea of using downtown property tax money that is now paying off bonds for the convention center for a downtown stadium. More on that in a moment.
But the poll, from StPetePolls.org and commissioned by St. Petersburg political blogger Peter Schorsch, puts some numbers to the unpopularity of the idea.
Asked whether taxpayer dollars should be used to help pay for a new Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium in Tampa, 55.9 percent of respondents said no, 36.4 percent said yes and 7.8 percent were unsure. Republicans were slightly more likely than Democrats to favor the idea, but there was no majority in favor of it no matter whether the responses were sorted by party affiliation, race, gender or age.
The automated poll was done Aug. 15, and has a margin of error of 4.1 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.
The poll also asked: “The city of Tampa will soon have $100 million in taxpayer money that can be spent on downtown redevelopment. How do you think the money should be spent?”
Only 11.7 percent favored using it for a Rays stadium. A plurality, 31.4 percent, said it should be used to solve problems related to homelessness. Another 26.6 percent said use it on transportation, 13.1 percent would spend it on police and fire, 4.7 percent on arts and culture and 12.5 percent were not sure.
The convention center debt is due to be paid off in 2015, and Buckhorn's administration has estimated it could borrow about $100 million over 20 years for a stadium using downtown tax-increment financing revenues now earmarked for the convention center.
Buckhorn does not see this as a tax increase, because it is already being collected inside the city's downtown community redevelopment area, which means it can be spent only on downtown improvements.
The poll also asked whether Tampa voters:
• Believe that the city is doing enough to support code enforcement: 44.4 percent agreed, 34.8 percent disagreed and 20.8 percent were unsure.
• Believe that the city of Tampa should create an African-American Walk of Fame, preserve the historic skateboard park called the Bro Bowl or do both: 36.6 percent said both, 21.2 percent said save the Bro Bowl, 19.3 percent said build the walk of fame and 22.8 percent were unsure.