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Tampa may seek share of funds earmarked for Bucs' practice facility

TAMPA — The Tampa City Council will consider this week whether to seek about $2.57 million from a fund created in 1996 with Community Investment Tax money to pay for a "first-class NFL practice facility" for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"It's about time we get back our $2.5 million," said City Council Chairman Charlie Miranda, who opposed creating the fund in the first place.

The money was set aside after Hillsborough County voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for roads, schools and other projects, including the construction of Raymond James Stadium and the Bucs' practice facility.

The original deal was that the Bucs would get the money — now totaling nearly $11.67 million — after the team built a facility and turned it over to the Tampa Sports Authority.

In 2007, the Bucs ended up building an even more expensive practice facility, but never deeded it to the Sports Authority.

Last summer, county officials said they had waited long enough and needed the money for park expansions and other priorities. The Sports Authority's board agreed.

The county already has requested the transfer of its share, about $8.5 million, and now Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace are getting ready to do the same, Sports Authority general counsel Steven Anderson said Tuesday.

The City Council is scheduled to consider the transfer at its meeting Thursday. The money would have to be spent on the city's Community Investment Tax program, which over the years has paid for park enhancements, police vehicles, stormwater improvements and other capital improvement projects.

"There are numerous capital projects that we can use it for," Tampa chief financial officer Sonya Little said. The $2.57 million the city stands to receive would give a boost of more than 14 percent to the $17.9 million it has budgeted this year in Community Investment tax spending.

So far, nobody has gotten any of the funds. The money is invested in short- and medium-term securities that are being liquidated as they mature.

It's estimated that the transfers to local governments will take place in March.

There is one caveat: The agreement negotiated by the Sports Authority and local officials requires the county and the cities to give the money back if at least two-thirds of the authority's board votes to make that request.

Hypothetically, that could happen if the Bucs ever turn over ownership of their practice facility.

The Bucs have long opposed these transfers, saying that its agreement with the Sports Authority provides that if any money is left over after the practice facilities are built, the team could use it for fan enhancements at the stadium. (To which the authority has countered: Not if the completed practice facility isn't turned over to the public.)

On Tuesday, the team's Michael Pehanich said the Bucs' position hasn't changed.

While the team has made it clear it prefers the authority not transfer the funds, Anderson said the authority and the Bucs have a good working relationship.

"I don't expect any adversity to arise from this," he said.

Tampa may seek share of funds earmarked for Bucs' practice facility 02/05/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 10:59pm]
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