Raymond James Stadium project a reminder of the Glazers' sweetheart deal
If you’re a taxpayer in Hillsborough County and haven’t yet read about the $18.7 million in planned upgrades for the Bucs’ Raymond James Stadium, you might want to do that now.
Basically, the stadium – now 13 years old – needs some sprucing up, a process that includes $7.7 million for a new high-definition scoreboard. It certainly seems legitimate that the stadium should be maintained to stay on par with other state-of-the-art facilities.
The problem for many, however, is two-fold: First, taxpayers will fund the project, with tourism taxes that could otherwise support schools or essential services being tapped. Second, approximately half of the expenditures will be made in the luxury suite sections, a place Joe Six Pack never ventures.
In this day and age of heightened scrutiny over the spending of public funds, this sort of thing isn’t going to go over well.
But what this does, more than anything, is underscore what a sweetheart deal Bucs ownership got when RJS was built. With owner Malcolm Glazer entertaining moving the team after purchasing it in 1995, nervous voters in 1996 approved a referendum to build the stadium Glazer said was necessary for the team to remain in Tampa.
This week’s news is a reminder of some of the details that went into the team's deal with local government. While the Bucs didn’t pay for construction costs, they do reap the overwhelming majority of the profits generated by the stadium. And that includes more than Bucs games. The organization profits from every event held in the stadium, whether it be a monster truck show or exhibition soccer.
Although there are strong feelings expressed in the link above by county commissioners and activists about the use of public funds for this project, the fact is that it’s a contractual obligation. The issue is more about the wisdom of doing such a deal in the first place.
Though the stadium is now in its second decade, the Bucs are going to profit from it for years to come. This presumably puts them in a much stronger financial position than the owners of teams that have had to fund stadium projects, like the Cowboys, Jets and Giants – who, for the most part, did not receive public funding. Perhaps not by coincidence, those are three teams whose owners have been front-and-center in the NFL’s ongoing labor dispute, personally appearing at negotiating sessions and court hearings. Meanwhile, no one has mentioned the Glazers as playing a prominent role.
Again, it all goes back to the dream of a deal the Bucs got when their stadium was built – a stadium that taxpayers will continue to contribute to for the foreseeable future.