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House approves crackdown on public investment in pro sports stadiums

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The Florida House approved legislation on an 82-33 vote Thursday that would ban professional sports teams from building or refurbishing stadiums on public land.

CS/HB 77, by Bryan Avila, would forbid the construction, renovation, or improvement on any pro facility “on public land leased from the state or a political subdivision thereof.”

Cities and counties could sell public land to teams only at fair market value. Teams would have to assume public debt undertaken for their facilities if they move away.

Coconut Creek Democrat Kristin Jacobs said she liked the idea but warned of unintended consequences. She pointed to negotiations with a new owner of the Florida Panther that required Broward County to upgrade the scoreboard, club room, and other amenities at the BB&T Center.

“This bill would preclude that investment by Broward County. And if, in fact, the county could not go forward and make these investments to attract a new owner, guess what? You’d have no team. You’d have a big, hulking, empty facility that costs the taxpayers.”

Avila maintained that anyone with enough money to buy a professional sports franchise can afford any improvements.

“I ask that you think about taxpayers. I ask that you think about protecting public dollars. And I ask that you do away with this practice of giving away our taxpayers’ moneys and giving away publicly owned land to businesses that have more than enough capital to buy the land, purchase the materials for the stadium, to construct the stadium, and be able to be profitable without any sort of government incentive.”

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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