Friday, July 20, 2018
Business

Hillsborough officials seeking 'creative' ways to pay for a Rays ballpark in Tampa

TAMPA — Reality is setting in for local officials hoping to lure the Tampa Bay Rays to Hillsborough County.

They know the Rays are likely to provide less than half the money needed to build a new stadium in Tampa. And there is little appetite to build a ballpark with taxpayer dollars, they acknowledge, except for taxes paid primarily by tourists, of which there is only so much.

"Whatever the numbers are on both sides, there's going to be a gap," Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said. "And we're going to have to be extremely creative."

The brainstorming is well under way, say officials involved in the stadium discussions, and include these options:

• Creating an entertainment district around the stadium that will take a percentage of every sale within the district.

•  Imposing a new tax on rental cars.

• Tacking a surcharge on all game tickets and any item purchased at the ballpark.

• Asking lawmakers in Tallahassee to pitch in up to $2 million a year for 30 years.

• Selling development rights around the new stadium.

Hagan said the Rays have not yet said how much they are willing to contribute toward a stadium. It's likely to depend on the design and location. But the criteria for a new ballpark the team released earlier this year made clear that "the ability to structure a public-private partnership … is critical."

Hillsborough County chief financial officer Bonnie Wise met with the Rays and their financial representatives at Goldman Sachs in New York on Oct. 24. Also there was the law firm Foley & Lardner, hired for their stadium expertise and ties to Major League Baseball. All are expected to meet again soon to start hammering out particulars. Hagan hopes he can bring a site and funding package before the County Commission early in 2017.

The tourist development tax, collected on every dollar spent at hotels, motels, RV parks and the like, is expected to make up a large piece of that package. If Hillsborough surpasses $30 million in tourist taxes collected by the end of the year as expected, commissioners can vote to increase the levy from five cents on each dollar to six cents.

The sixth cent could go to help pay for a Tampa ballpark. Beyond that, it's not clear what will be on the table and some options may not work for every site. But the goal, Hagan said, is not to put the burden on residents.

"We've yet to determine what our financial capacity is, much less what is politically palatable," he said, "and those are likely two distinct positions."

That package is likely to be far more complicated than the competing offer from St. Petersburg.

Pinellas County already unleashed the sixth cent of the tourist tax for a stadium and with significantly more hotels and visitors, it's likely to generate more revenue than in Hillsborough.

St. Petersburg also has the city-owned Tropicana Field site. Most parcels under consideration in Tampa are privately owned, meaning the team and local governments would have to purchase the land, demolish existing structures, and relocate residents. All of that costs money.

The Rays and St. Petersburg are awaiting the results of a plan to redevelop the existing site, but Mayor Rick Kriseman is confident it will confirm that St. Petersburg is the best home for the Rays.

"I always felt like we had an advantage when it comes to sites and funding," Kriseman said. "It was one of the reasons I was comfortable doing this deal with the Rays (to search for a new park)."

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn acknowledged Hillsborough's pitch will be more complex than St. Petersburg's but he doesn't think that will "drive the decision on the Rays' part."

If the Rays want to stay in the region, population growth in Hillsborough is the best way to drive attendance in the future, he said. An urban stadium that connects downtown and Ybor City and utilizes the existing trolly, for example, should appeal to the Rays front office, he said.

"Sure, it's less complex and probably an easier deal to do (in St. Petersburg)," Buckhorn said. "But it's not just a destination, its about a long-term relationship with the region. It's bigger than just the financing package."

Contact Steve Contorno at [email protected] Follow @scontorno.

Comments
Open office plans are as bad as you thought

Open office plans are as bad as you thought

A cubicle-free workplace without private offices is supposed to force employees to collaborate. To have them talk more face-to-face. To get them off instant messenger and spontaneously brainstroming about new ideas.But a recent study by two researche...
Published: 07/21/18
Officials speak out against demolition plans for historic Jordan Park section

Officials speak out against demolition plans for historic Jordan Park section

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County School board chair Rene Flowers was fired up Friday. She talked about growing up in Jordan Park, the city’s first public housing project and a sentimental and historic marker of St. Petersburg’s African-American commu...
Published: 07/20/18
Florida is still paying SunPass contractor, even after officials said they would stop

Florida is still paying SunPass contractor, even after officials said they would stop

Florida has not stopped paying the SunPass contractor responsible for the tolling system’s outage, even after transportation officials said the state would suspend all payments.In a letter on Monday, FDOT secretary Mike Dew said the state would not p...
Published: 07/20/18
Florida among the top 3 states with the most income inequality

Florida among the top 3 states with the most income inequality

Florida is one of three states in the nation with the biggest income gap between the very rich and everyone else.In 2015, a family in the top 1 percent nationally had an average income of more than $1.3 million — or 26.3 times as much as the $50,107 ...
Published: 07/20/18
Tampa International Airport ranked in top 10 for defense against cyber threats

Tampa International Airport ranked in top 10 for defense against cyber threats

TAMPA — Tampa International Airport was ranked this week as the 10th safest U.S. airport to go online without being hacked, but the ranking is not only about the place, but also about how savvy its travelers are.The data security firm Coronet ranked ...
Published: 07/20/18
When suicide threats come calling: ‘I try to make a connection.’

When suicide threats come calling: ‘I try to make a connection.’

TAMPA — At first glance, it’s a typical office with more than a dozen cubicles under florescent lights. The operators wear headsets and stare into computer screens, some tinkering with handheld toys, others browsing Facebook or chatting with colleagu...
Published: 07/20/18

State record of $321 million in unclaimed property back to residents and businesses

More than $321 million was returned to Florida residents and businesses from the state’s unclaimed property in the past fiscal year.Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis took office in July 2017 and said this year’s total broke last year’s rec...
Published: 07/20/18
Trump ready to hit all Chinese imports with tariffs

Trump ready to hit all Chinese imports with tariffs

Associated PressPresident Donald Trump has indicated that he’s willing to hit every product imported from China with tariffs, sending U.S. markets sliding before the opening bell Friday. In a taped interview with the business channel CNBC, Trump said...
Published: 07/20/18
Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

TAMPA — Tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and other countries are beginning to push up prices and depress demand in spots around the Tampa Bay area and Florida, business executives say."We’ve definitely seen that the tariffs have increased ...
Published: 07/20/18
Get this: Bank of the Ozarks is the country’s largest construction lender

Get this: Bank of the Ozarks is the country’s largest construction lender

This surprised me: Little ole Bank of the Ozarks is the country’s largest construction lender, loaning out more to the industry than financial heavyweight Wells Fargo and Bank of America.Those factoids were part of a lengthy profile of the bank pub...
Published: 07/20/18