TAMPA — It was just another sleepy budget workshop.
Hillsborough County commissioners, still facing depressed tax revenue, were discussing ways Thursday to use public-private partnerships to build roads, transit, parking garages and other things. The idea is to let a private company pay for the construction of, say, a road, in exchange for being able to collect tolls from it or gain expanded rights to develop alongside it.
That's when Commission Chairman Ken Hagan said that might be the approach to take to build a baseball stadium.
"This may be a little premature, but there's a distinct possibility our community may consider building a baseball stadium in the relatively near future," Hagan told a consultant the county has hired to advise it about partnerships.
He went on to say that Hillsborough isn't going to build it and taxpayers won't be asked to pay for it. It may take several sources of money and that could include private interests beyond the team, he said.
The county attorney has advised commissioners that they should not be too specific in talking about the Tampa Bay Rays, and Hagan wasn't. The team has an agreement to stay at Tropicana Field until 2027, but has been agitating to look at other locations sooner.
Hagan has made no secret of his desire to ensure the Rays stay in the region, something politicians on this side of the bay agree upon generally.
"If we lose that baseball team, it would be a tremendous black eye to the region," said Commissioner Mark Sharpe. However, he sought to keep the discussion focused on creative ways to build transit and parking, things that will make something like a stadium in downtown Tampa more attractive.