TAMPA — Back in the 1990s, Hillsborough County voters rejected a half-cent sales tax for roads and schools but passed it when a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was added to the mix.
If voters this year give the new transportation tax a thumbs down in November, would it stand a better chance of passing later if it included money for a baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays?
The answer is no, according to a new St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll.
In a survey of 601 probable voters, 32 percent said they would be less likely to vote for the tax if it included a stadium for the team and 53 percent said it would make no difference. The poll was conducted Oct. 1-3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Rose Mary Ammons, 77, said she supports the proposed tax as it is.
"If they put that baseball stadium in, I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole," said Ammons, of Lutz. "I know the history of baseball in St. Petersburg, the careers that were risked to bring it there and Tampa wasn't doing a darn thing. Why should Tampa get it?"
The Rays are in search of a location for a new stadium in Hillsborough or Pinellas counties, and team owner Stuart Sternberg has implied the team might leave the area altogether if local officials don't come up with the money to help build a new ball park.
But Hillsborough officials have said their budgets are too tight to come up with any money to build a new facility.
And people who participated in the Times/Bay News 9 survey generally aren't willing to pay higher taxes to woo the team. So it isn't likely to change any minds about the transportation tax.
Richard Scott, 62, said he doesn't support the transportation tax, but adding a stadium to the equation makes it even less appealing.
"I am absolutely opposed to funding the stadium. They haven't paid off the one they're sitting in now," said Scott, who lives in the Northdale area. "I am simply not in a position to buy toys for millionaires."
When asked if a new stadium would convince him to support a new transit tax, Steven Blackman, 66, gave a resounding "Absolutely not!"
"I don't understand why they can't convert that Raymond James into a baseball stadium like they used to do in the old days," he said. "All they'd have to do is reschedule certain baseball games."
Janet Zink can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.