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Officials start looking for construction money

Now that a judge has forbidden the sale of government bonds to pay for construction of a new NFL football stadium, local government officials are not sure where they will find the money to keep the work going.

The Tampa Sports Authority expects to run out of construction cash for the $168-million stadium around the middle of April.

For financial support, the authority is turning to city and county officials, who are still trying to figure out where the money will come from.

"There is no plan at this point for the county to provide funding that would continue construction beyond April," said County Administrator Dan Kleman.

The county has no cash available to loan, he added.

To try to devise a plan, county commissioners have scheduled a workshop for April 9 to consider a number of possibilities.

Chief among them is a loan, something that County Commissioner Joe Chillura, the creator of the sales tax package that was going to fund stadium construction, has already looked into.

Chillura estimated that a loan in the neighborhood of $8-million to $10-million at 8 percent interest would cost $30,000 to $35,000 a month.

The only difficulty about that plan, acting Sports Authority Executive Director Henry Saavedra said in a recent interview, is that lenders might hesitate to loan money for a project for which a judge has refused to approve government credit.

The latest estimates say that anywhere from $20-million to $30-million in stadium material and labor is either in the ground or contractually obligated at the site next to the current Houlihan's Stadium.

Should local governments fail to complete the stadium by the time of the Bucs' first game of the 1998 season that September, they will owe the team $437,500 for every game missed, with extra penalty provisions to follow.

If the stadium isn't substantially complete by a drop-dead date of Jan. 1, 2000, the Bucs are free of their obligation to stay.