State rejects Tampa Bay Buccaneers' bid for $12M grant to fund RayJay upgrades
TAMPA — When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers asked the state in November for $12 million to help pay for improvements to Raymond James Stadium, the team’s applications was lacking the pizazz of its competition.
The South Florida Stadium LLC (i.e. the Miami Dolphins), Daytona International Speedway, and the City of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Jaguars submitted hundreds of pages backing up their bids for a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity sports facility grant. The proposals were peppered with graphics, financial figures and promises of economic benefits to the community.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, meanwhile, only submitted a signed page on the last day of the application period that asked for $1 million through the end of the team's lease agreement with the Tampa Sports Authority in 2028. The spare submission was supposed to be a placeholder. Team officials planned to add to the proposal in the following weeks but ultimately couldn’t as negotiations with the TSA to renovate Raymond James lingered into December.
Monday evening, Florida officials said the team’s application wasn’t enough and the Bucs ran out of time.
Applications for the Dolphins, Jaguars and Daytona racetrack were all sent to the Legislature for approval with the department’s blessing.
In a letter to Joe Fada, CFO of the Buccaneers Football Stadium Limited Partnership, the Department of Economic Opportunity said it “acknowledges that you are not able to provide a complete application prior to the statutory deadline. Therefore, the department is not able to transmit your application to the Legislature for this application period.”
Bucs COO Brian Ford said the team will try again next year.
“Due to the overall timing of our stadium renovation project, certain required documents were not deliverable within the timeframe set forth by the statute,” Ford said in a statement. “We anticipate submitting a complete application during the next filing period.”
Whether the Legislature actually approves and funds any of the stadium grant applications remains to be seen. Lawmakers haven’t in recent years — a sign of growing angst toward using public money to fund professional sports facilities — and the looming election makes it even less likely that they’ll do so.
The Buccaneers and TSA reached an agreement in early December to renovate 17-year-old Raymond James to the tune of $84 million. The taxpayer-funded sports authority’s share will be $28 million. Under the original lease agreement, the TSA was required to pay about $25 million for maintenance to the stadium, which it owns.
The extra $3 million will go toward building large, modern scoreboards. In exchange for that contribution, the Bucs agreed to double the TSA’s commitment and to forgive the TSA’s obligation to build the team an $11.6 million practice center near the stadium — a longstanding point of contention between the two.
The negotiations took almost an entire year, and, once finalized, still needed approval from the TSA board, Hillsborough County commissioners and the Tampa City Council. That came in mid-December. After, a renovation plan still needed to be worked out with Manhattan Construction Company. Work started on the upgrades a few weeks ago.
With so much in flux, it was not feasible for the team to submit a more complete application by the end of January. The state asked entities to explain in the application the project, the "signature events" the improvements will attract and the economic benefit in the application.
The Bucs have said when it’s all said and done, the team could put in another $16 million into the renovations, making it a $100 million projet. That additional influx is close to the amount to the team has asked for from the state.