1. News

Does the money exist for an Ybor City baseball stadium?

The proposed Ybor City baseball stadium would cost nearly $900 million. Hillsborough officials believe redevelopment fees and tax breaks could generate half the money, which means the Tampa Bay Rays would need to pay the other half. That could be a fatal sticking point. [Rendering by Populous Architects]
Published Oct. 4, 2018

In the not-too-distant future, the happy, hopeful vibe surrounding the Ybor City stadium plan will start to crack. It's almost inevitable, really. The stakes are too high, and time is quickly running short.

And, more than anything, the money is not adding up.

That was always going to be the stumbling block, right? Location, drive times and the surrounding corporate head count were just details. The real trick was paying for a nearly $900 million stadium.

And I'm not sure there's enough magic in Tampa Bay to make that happen.

That doesn't mean the deal is presumed dead. It just suggests that someone — either Tampa Bay Rays ownership, a Hillsborough politician or a corporate partner — is going to have to come up with more cash than they're currently considering. A ton more cash.

Here's the basic dilemma:

Hillsborough officials want the public portion of stadium funds to be generated exclusively by the investment, redevelopment and spending of consumer dollars within what would be a newly designated Ybor City entertainment zone. In other words, no new taxes.

But that plan is predicated on the idea that the Rays will pay for half of the stadium themselves. And if the Rays consider that an affordable option, they certainly haven't indicated it.

Which means we have what you might call the Ybor Gap.

Let's say Hillsborough's plan really is good for $450 million. That means the team's contribution would have to be triple the $150 million owner Stu Sternberg originally suggested was doable.

Sternberg has since acknowledged the team will have to invest more than expected but there's a long stretch of highway between $150 million and $450 million.

"That's the dance, that's the negotiation,'' said attorney Ron Christaldi, a leader of the business group that is seeking corporate partners for the Rays. "All deals go through something like this.''

The Rays say their share of the cost is contingent on how much more revenue they can generate but, lacking a gigantic deal for stadium naming rights from a Publix or a Hard Rock Casino, it's hard to imagine the team is ready to drop $450 million.

"We are going to contribute more than makes business sense for us,'' Sternberg said. "That reflects my strong desire to have MLB in Tampa Bay for generations to come. The corporate willingness to support is the one area that public officials and the Rays cannot really control. I still expect that to be the linchpin that informs our contribution size.''

Is there another solution?

One option used in stadium deals elsewhere is a tourism tax. Whether it's raising fees for rental cars, airports, cruise ships or hotel nights, it brings in revenues not typically paid by local residents.

But that has complications of its own.

Hillsborough has two referendums on the November ballot for education and transportation initiatives that would raise the county's sales tax from 7 to 8.5 percent. To push through another tax — even one that dings tourists and not residents — is not going to happen before Nov. 6.

Even after that, it's hard to imagine a Hillsborough official being bold enough to push it through before the Dec. 31 deadline the Rays have to negotiate outside of St. Petersburg.

So is the stadium in trouble? It sure seems that way.

And I don't see a simple way out.


  1. Pasco County community news TMCCARTY80  |  Tara McCarty
    Pasco County news briefs
  2. Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins, left, looks on while school board chair Tammy Shamburger speaks on newly raised concerns of a undiscovered cemetery for indigent African Americans that may be within the vicinity of King High School in Tampa, Florida on Friday, October 18, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  3. Joanne Glenn, Pasco eSchool principal, addresses the eSchool faculty on opening day of teacher preplanning week in 2018. Pasco eSchool is launching its first online dual-enrollment courses in conjunction with Pasco-Hernando State College in the second semester.  GAIL DIEDERICH | Special to the Times
    Students will have access to two sections of two courses — microapplications and public speaking.
  4. Challenger K-8 School students, from left, Jeremy Gonzalez, 13, Jackson Hoyt, 12, Benjamin Harper, 12, and Gianni Labdar, 12, finish meals consisting of fresh salads, quesadillas and nachos during a lunch service on Oct. 15 at the school in Spring Hill during the county's Fresh from Florida Plate Day event. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Starting a farm-to-school initiative has been more complicated than district officials expected.
  5. Tampa Bay homeowners are now able to sell their homes to Zillow. Zillow
    It joins Opendoor and Offerpad in making "instant'' offers.
  6. The microbrewery Double Branch Artisanal Ales is the first tenant signed at The Grove after the acquisition of the Wesley Chapel shopping center last month by Mishorim-Gold Properties for nearly $63 million. Double Branch Artisanal Ales.
    Mark Gold wants The Grove at Wesley Chapel to become the community’s downtown
  7. Jorge Zambrana and Fabiola Montealegre listen to the music at the Town 'N Country Senior Center. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    It all started at the exercise bike, after he approached her. He had a feeling.
  8. District 3 City Council candidates Orlando Acosta, left, and Ed Montanari. Scott Keeler, Chris Urso
    The St. Petersburg City Council races are supposed to be nonpartisan. Partisan politics are leaking into the campaign anyway.
  9. Disco Freak will perform music from the 1970s in a free concert Oct. 27 at the South Holiday Library. Pasco County Libraries
    Things to do in Pasco and Hernando counties
  10. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The driver of a Ford F250 truck took evasive action but collided with the pedestrian, officials say.