The following is cross-posted from Noah Pransky’s Shadow of the Stadium blog.
Yesterday, I wrote why Mayor Bill Foster’s easing up on the Rays Stadium Saga may be good news. It could mean progress on discussions of how to pay for a new venue. But on the other hand, we are likely years away from figuring out that conundrum.
So where exactly are we at and what are the major players saying?
Hillsborough Commission Chairman Ken Hagan: A conservative Republican, Hagan once pledged not to use public funds for a stadium. He told my WTSP colleague Grayson Kamm the “Tampa business community will step up to close that gap, with advertising deals, naming rights, and other agreements adding revenue.”
However, advertising and naming right revenues typically go to the team, not to pay off a stadium. So when you factor in the Rays’ presumed $200 million contribution, there’s a good chance those revenues would bepart of the $200 million, not on top of it.
Epect Hagan’s biggest contribution to be forming some sort of a search committee in Hillsborough County. Hopefully they come up with an easier pill to swallow than these guys.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn: Out-of-state on vacation, Buckhorn issued a statement that said “it is time we broke the stalemate…It would be a complicated project, but it is worthy of a full and healthy discussion.” They mayor may not be the one to come up with the funding for a new stadium, but he has indicated he’s up to the challenge. Foster chuckles and calls it “backpedaling.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster: Hard to imagine a phone blowing up more around Tampa Bay today, but the mayor insists the news doesn’t mean the Rays are leaving the Trop anytime soon. “My position hasn’t changed in protecting the interest of the taxpayers….we’ve really moved past 2027,” he told WFLA. That means he’s still planning on enforcing the current contract…and until the Rays agree to his terms, they can’t go and look in Tampa either.
The team’s contract with St. Pete: It’s still there. It still runs through 2027. And it still will require a signed agreement between the city and the team if the Rays want to look elsewhere. Oh, and it’s still not a “lease!”
Foster’s opponents in the Aug. 27 election: “It’s a shame that it takes the mayor’s political future being on the line for him to care about the future of baseball in Tampa Bay,” former councilman Rick Kriseman said in a statement. He may have a point about the timing of this all, but Kriseman and Kathleen Ford saw this coming weeks ago. (PS – they’re all debating tonight)
Pinellas County: The Tampa Tribune’s Michael Sasso reports, “Coincidentally, the Pinellas County Commission is expected to discuss how to divvy up some of its hotel bed taxes at a Tourist Development Council meeting this week. One possibility is redirecting some of the bed tax money now going to pay off Tropicana Field bonds toward a new potential stadium, Pinellas County Commission Chairman Ken Welch said.” Pinellas County, home to Tampa Bay’s beaches, brings in a lot more bed tax money than Hillsborough County.
Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano: “There are still plenty of details to be worked out. For instance, an amendment to allow the Rays to look at stadium sites outside of St. Petersburg must be written. And a settlement to the Tropicana use agreement will also have to be negotiated if the Rays get funding for another stadium elsewhere…For today, at least, Foster has figured out it’s not such a bad idea to pass the buck. Or several hundred million bucks.”
Tampa Bay Rays: They’ve yet to comment. But knowing the blueprint of how stadium deals get done, they have to be happy.