Will Weatherford: No new stadium funding in 2014

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House Speaker Will Weatherford is not inclined to set aside funds in 2014 for professional sports stadiums, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida, a position he took in 2013 when Weatherford opposed tax dollars going to improve Sun Life Stadium, the home of the  Miami Dolphins.

Weatherford expects to see legislation in the House to redefine the way stadium owners ask for taxpayer money.

“Our focus right now is on a process that treats everyone equitably and not writing any checks,” Weatherford told The News Service of Florida in a recent interview.

Daytona International Speedway just might have to wait until Weatherford is out of office next year to pursue Florida’s help with sweeping renovations.

The same is true funding requests for the new Major League Soccer franchise in Orlando, as well as a proposed soccer team for Miami.

Miami Beckham United, requesting a dispensation from the Major League Soccer and searching for a stadium site in Miami, hired well-known lobbyist Brian Ballard. The Orlando City Soccer Club also hired lobbyists from GrayRobinson PA.

“If you want to come to the state of Florida, and you want to participate and be a partner with the state of Florida, you have to prove that there is a return on investment,” Weatherford said of the proposed policy changes. “You have to go through the process with the Department of Economic Opportunity just like everybody else does that wants to create jobs in Florida.”

The House Economic Affairs committee is drafting the new process.

State Rep. Erik Fresen and Sen. David Simmons each have filed measures (HB 887 and SB 618) to have facility certification set aside for MLS franchises by the Department of Economic Opportunity.

The proposals also seek to expand the definition of professional sports franchises, putting MLS on equal footing with other leagues – Major League Baseball’s National or American Leagues, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League.

Weatherford’s comments suggest that measures such as HB 127, co-sponsored by Reps. Jason Brodeur and David Santiago, which seek to give up to $2 million a year for 30 years to the Daytona speedway—referred to as a “motorsports entertainment complex” with a minimum of  50,000 fixed seats  – can expect trouble in the House.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill filed SB 208, a similar plan to allow $2 million in sales taxes every year, a total of $60 million over 30 years, for upgrades to the Daytona International Speedway. The bill passed the Senate Finance and Tax Subcommittee and the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

Hukill is promoting the Daytona upgrades, including new entrances, wider seating,expanded entertainment concourses, increased refreshment and concession areas, as job creators, Turner adds.

The money is in addition to the “Daytona Rising” project, where  International Speedway Corp is putting up $375 million to $400 million.

Currently, more than $2 million sales-tax dollars goes annually to each of eight major league sporting venues: Amway Center in Orlando, American Airlines Arena in Miami, BB&T Center in Broward County, EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa ,Sun Life Stadium in Miami-Dade County, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.