OPINION: Stadiums are really expensive retail anchors

11:35 AM, Nov 26, 2013   |    comments
An aerial view of Tropicana Field
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Sadly, the Stadium Stalemate drags on, but that doesn't stop the local media from trying to advance the story any way possible.

LINK: Noah Pransky's Shadow of the Stadium Blog

Case-in-point: the Times' Stephen Nohlgren writes this morning the Braves' pending stadium deal could impact the Rays' stadium chances, and we can learn valuable lessons from Atlanta:

• Stadiums are expensive, even without retractable roofs. Counting land, infrastructure and stadium, the Cobb project comes in at $670 million and is due to open for the 2017 season.

• The public purse often seals the deal, even with a franchise as rich as the Braves. Cobb County's share is $300 million.

Total costs in Atlanta - including a real estate development on the site - could top $1 billion, a "staggering figure,'' said Hillsborough County Commission Ken Hagan. 

"But each project is unique.'' he said. "I don't think that model is a reflection of what may potentially happen here,''

There are already many questions about the Braves' deal, such as whether the deal will actually go through and whether they can survive with the bare number of parking spots.  Nohlgren does a good job to point out Tampa's funding options (rental car taxes, TIF money) could quickly dry up and there just isn't anywhere close to $300 million available in Hillsborough Co. for a new stadium.  

But a few addendums to Nohlgren's article:

  • The $300 million Cobb Co. stadium subsidy will likely bypass a referendum.  It's probably a necessity in an age where taxpayers don't want to pay for stadiums, but how would that go over in Hillsborough?
  • Cobb Co. is paying $300 million for a retail center.  The Rays have even said baseball is a retail business.  So when Commissioner Ken Hagan tells the Times he could support tax money for a deal that "furthers county goals," was he talking about the high-wage technology investments that commission frequently mentions?  Or was he talking about low-paying retail jobs the Times editorial board frequently pans?
  • Many of Hillsborough County's commissioners have pledged no tax dollars for a stadium.  Ken Hagan has already broken from his original stance, but it could be very difficult for others to do so.

Continue reading this story here.

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