Monday, October 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseballís future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will have to be fairly shared by the franchise, the business community and government. To transform this from artist renderings to reality is going to require more leadership from the public and private sector to come up with creative financing options in the next six months.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Rays unveil their plans for an Ybor City ballpark

To their credit, the Rays have followed through on a pledge to design a compact, modern stadium that fits into the neighborhood. There would be a translucent roof, plenty of windows that open to views of Ybor City, the port and downtown. There would be varied seating options in different configurations, wide concourses and gathering spaces that would distinguish it from other stadiums. At first glance, this would be a graceful blend of the smaller ballparks of old with new fan sensibilities and modern technology.

Even better is the Raysí reaffirmation that the stadium should be a true community asset that would be open year-round. There would be retail and restaurants at street level, and there would be potential opportunities for the public to use the outfield, workout facilities and kitchen areas. Imagine work spaces with Wi-Fi, coffee bars, yoga classes and other amenities that bring people together in the off season. Itís an alluring pitch that strengthens the argument for a reasonable investment of public money into a transformational project.

The challenge, of course, is negotiating who pays how much to cover the $892 million cost of the project. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Wednesday he expects the team will contribute more than the $150 million he suggested last year. He said he doesnít envision the Rays paying half of the total cost, but he said that could change depending on the level of support by the business community and other economic factors. Regardless of the exact number, to win the public and political support needed to pull this off the Rays are going to have to cover a significant portion of the cost.

By this fall, the separate Rays 100 effort to build financial support from the business community also is going to have to show real progress. Business leaders from the entire region are going to have to step up to preserve this regional asset. Just like strong transportation networks and vibrant cultural arts, professional sports are part of the fabric of thriving urban environments.

The most difficult challenge is coming up with a significant amount of public money for the ballpark without tapping sources that would be politically unpopular or more appropriately allocated to other needs such as transportation and education. Some stadium funding could come from Hillsboroughís resort tax on hotel rooms. More could come from tax increment financing, or a food and beverage tax in the Ybor City area that will benefit from the project. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn suggests there could be a half-dozen or more sources of public revenue that will have to be cobbled together, and that may be a conservative estimate.

So think of this as a three-legged stool for financing a ballpark: The Rays, the community and government. All three legs have to be strong. Cut short any one of them, and the whole stool collapses.

There is no time clock in baseball, but there is one on this project. The Raysí agreement with the city of St. Petersburg that lets the franchise look for a new home in Hillsborough County expires at the end of the year. A new Tampa mayor will be elected next spring, and that person will have other priorities to juggle as they settle into office. By Christmas, it should be clear whether the public support and the financing options are viable enough to make this work.

Tampa Bay should not be the next region to lose its major league baseball franchise and regret it later. The Rays have offered a compelling vision for securing the franchiseís long-term future here. Itís up to the public and private sectors to work with the franchise to build the three-legged stool to make that vision a reality.

Comments
Editorial: Local leaders must act on climate change when Trump refuses

Editorial: Local leaders must act on climate change when Trump refuses

The effects of climate change are coming harder and faster than expected, according to a new report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial notebook: Times editorial writers reminisce about Sears

Editorial notebook: Times editorial writers reminisce about Sears

Sharing memories of the “wish book,” shopping on Saturday nights and many memorable purchases
Published: 10/19/18

Editorial: FBI should take a hard look at CareerSource

The scrutiny now extends to the state agency that oversees the local jobs centers
Published: 10/19/18
Editorial: Toughen Florida’s building code

Editorial: Toughen Florida’s building code

Experts are right that Hurricane Michael should force a review of Florida’s building standards. While newer homes generally fared better than older ones, the state needs to reassess the risks posed by high winds and storm surge.
Published: 10/19/18
Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

You wouldn't skip a trip to the gas pump, would you?Then don't miss the chance to cast your general election ballot, either, when Hillsborough County opens its many early voting sites Monday morning for a two-week engagement.If you do your homework a...
Published: 10/19/18

Editorial: Glazer Children’s Museum quickly regained its step

Jennifer Stancil was terminated from her $169,280 a year job last month as museum president and chief executive, a post she held for three years. Exactly why remained a mystery to those outside the museum.
Published: 10/18/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Trump should demand Saudis account for journalist

Editorial: Trump should demand Saudis account for journalist

Twenty-seven journalists have been murdered so far this year just for doing their jobs, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. That number doesn’t even include Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident journalist who hasn’t been ...
Published: 10/17/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Restart selection process for Florida Supreme Court justices

Editorial: Restart selection process for Florida Supreme Court justices

The Florida Supreme Court reached the right conclusion by ruling that the next governor has the authority to appoint three new justices to the court rather than departing Gov. Rick Scott. That is practical and reasonable, and it reflects the will of ...
Published: 10/16/18
Updated: 10/19/18

Editorial: Housecleaning was necessary at Clearwater parks department

The theft of money and a hostile atmosphere show a city department out of control
Published: 10/15/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Bilirakis mimics Trump, colleagues in misleading voters

Editorial: Bilirakis mimics Trump, colleagues in misleading voters

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis wants voters to believe he is different than his Republican colleagues in Congress and President Donald Trump. The Palm Harbor Republican says he pays more attention to local issues than to the president, claims he doesnȁ...
Published: 10/15/18
Updated: 10/16/18