TAMPA BAY, Florida - The Braves want $20 million from the state of Florida for a new spring training home in North Port, on top of the subsidies they are already getting from the city, the county and the land developer. And they're relying on an old study that's been widely criticized to justify the spending.
In an application submitted to the state this week, the West Villages Improvement District claimed a new $75 million spring training park, primarily financed from city revenues and county bed tax dollars, would reap $1.7 billion in economic rewards for the county.
But according to the application, that figure was based on extrapolations from a 2009 statewide spring training economic report from Dr. Mark Bonn, a Florida State University professor who was recently spotlighted by 10Investigates. Bonn is not an economist, but has a rich history of selling reports to municipalities with robust economic impact claims they can use to justify large spending projects.
10Investigates also caught Sarasota County stretching the truth in February, when they tried to sell the project as one that would "pay for itself."
Following watchdog warnings from 10Investigates during the negotiating process with the Braves, the county scored some concessions from the team and developer to better protect taxpayers before agreeing to a final contract on a new stadium.
The $20 million grant sought by the West Villages, Braves, Sarasota County, and City of North Port has already been allocated by the state for new spring training projects, so there may be little that critics of stadium subsidies in Tallahassee can do to stop it.