TAMPA — The Tampa Sports Authority voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a $40 million deal to renovate George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The board blessed a deal that the TSA and the New York Yankees agreed to on April 11, one that will keep the Yankees in Tampa for spring training through 2046. This was just the first of several approvals needed before the deal is finalized.
The Yankees would pay one-third of the cost, or about $13 million. The rest would be split between the state's spring training retention fund and Hillsborough County's tourist development tax, which is generated through hotel bookings.
The facility once known as Legends Stadium was renamed after the Yankees' famous owner in 2008. He died two years later at the age of 80 in his adopted hometown of Tampa.
But the stadium is now two decades old and has a lot of problems, said Anthony Bruno, senior vice president and chief financial officer for Yankees Global Enterprises.
"The seats are brittle, the roof is leaking … my office is under one of the leaks," he told the TSA board during Tuesday's public hearing.
The original blue seats have faded to white, he said, and the stadium's current setup is inefficient and detracts from the fan experience.
The renovations will involve replacing the stadium seats as well as adding an overhang around the rim of the stadium to provide more shade for fans.
Renderings of the renovated stadium depict a large statue of the Yankees logo for visitors to pose with, Bruno said, as well as other attention-grabbing spots "to take a selfie."
"We want it to be a signature field," he said, one where television viewers will be more inclined to travel to Tampa to see the stadium in person.
"We looked at every training site in Florida and Arizona to see what the fans were interested in and what was working today," he said.
The stadium will lose about 500 of its 10,000 seats in the renovation, but Bruno said that by making more standing room available with "social gathering spaces" it could then accommodate around 11,000 people. Those spaces near the left and right field bullpens will allow the stadium to host corporate or group events. Together those two areas will cost about $9 million to renovate, according to documents filed with the TSA.
There will also be more space for food vendors and expanded merchandise areas.
"The building needs work and the building needs to have these enhancements," Bruno said. "Our fans needs change, our visitors need change, and there's an opportunity with the state program that it's important for us to be on top of.
"We think that this is an extraordinarily efficient way to make these improvements to this building feasible and viable for another 30 years."
The contract was also amended to allow the TSA and the Yankees to hold nonbaseball events at the stadium, such as a Super Bowl party or events built around college sports. The Tampa Yankees, the franchise's local minor league team, will continue to play there.
The next step for the agreement is approval by the Hillsborough County Commission, which will review the contract at its meeting today. Then the deal has to go through the Tampa City Council, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority and the Hillsborough Community College board of directors before it's finally approved.
The Yankees plan to start construction by June and hope to have the project completed before the start of spring training in 2017. Bruno said construction could be delayed if the approval process gets held up:
"We don't have an awful amount of time to lose and still make that time period."
Contact Alli Knothe at [email protected] Follow @KnotheA.