Pinellas County should give the Dalí Museum $34 million it is seeking, its tourism board said this week, which would cover about half the cost of a planned expansion.
The Tourist Development Council made the recommendation at its monthly meeting Wednesday. The final decision rests with the Pinellas County Commission, which will vote on whether to approve the funding this summer, County Administrator Barry Burton said Thursday.
Staff members who researched the Dalí’s role in bringing tourists to the county suggested that commissioners meet the museum partway, at about $25 million, Burton said. The council — a mix of elected officials and business leaders from around the county — opted for the full amount the museum had sought.
“Even though there’s a little disagreement (between staff and the council) in terms of the amount, there’s no disagreement that we love the Dalí, and it’s a very big community asset,” Burton said.
The Dalí's executive director, Hank Hine, said in a statement Thursday that the council’s recommendation “evidenced the appreciation that our hospitality community feels for the economic impact delivered by the Dalí Museum, and demonstrated their commitment to the potent mix of culture and the beaches as essential to the region’s place making.”
The funding recommendation marks a key step toward beginning the long-delayed expansion. The County Commission first approved $17.5 million for a museum expansion in 2019. Then the pandemic hit, construction costs climbed and the scope of the expansion changed.
The overall price tag increased from $37 million to $68 million. Last fall, Hine told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board that the museum could get a loan for the remainder of the cost.
The museum expansion would add 60,000 square feet of space, nearly doubling the footprint of one of the defining features of the St. Petersburg waterfront. Its focus, according to the museum’s website, would be on immersive experiences and education. St. Petersburg voters last fall approved the expansion via a referendum, which was necessary because the museum sits on land leased from the city.
The county funding, if approved, will consist of tourist tax dollars — the 6% tax the county collects on hotel stays and short-term rentals. In the 2022 calendar year, the county collected $95.8 million from those taxes. Forty percent of that money is spent on capital projects, such as the museum expansion, while the rest goes to marketing and advertising.
The Dalí was expected to be one of several projects to compete for funding this year. A request from the Tampa Bay Rays for tourist tax dollars to help build a new stadium is still to come. So is the Philadelphia Phillies’ ask to help revamp the team’s spring training facility in Clearwater.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
And amid a standoff with the Army Corps of Engineers delaying what Pinellas officials say is a badly needed project to renourish the county’s eroded beaches, officials will have to decide whether they want to try to move forward without federal help. If so, it will likely take more tourist tax money, too.