TAMPA, Florida - Hillsborough County commissioners chose an investment bank for the financing of a potential new Rays stadium even though there are no public plans for a stadium, no indication of how many public dollars may be needed, and seemingly little appetite in the county to redirect tax dollars to a third pro stadium.
Commissioners voted to name Citigroup its bank for any public costs related to a new baseball stadium, which the county's lead negotiator, commissioner Ken Hagan, said he hoped would be limited to just "infrastructure."
"We have yet to have any discussion (with the Rays) regarding any financing," Hagan said. "But it is critically important that we have the best of the best assist us when we begin that discussion."
But the lack of details about where a new Rays stadium might go - or how it would be paid - continues a trend of behind-closed-doors meetings that keep taxpayers in the dark about where their money could eventually end up.
There's also been little to no collaboration between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, increasing the chance the two counties might end up in a bidding war over the Rays' future home.
Hagan, who repeatedly ignored interview requests from 10Investigates in recent months, told a 10News reporter that he had hoped to bring a plan to his fellow commissioners within six months, including a preferred site, financing plan and public uses for a new Major League Baseball stadium.
"It's not practical to discuss land acquisition in public," Hagan said. "I wish it were, but we are trying to avoid land prices escalating through the roof. So that's why it's very important (to do) some things privately."
County attorney Chip Fletcher said the negotiating group had a "long way to go" before narrowing its current list of "about 10" potential sites down to a preferred two or three.
But despite the conversation centering around potential ballpark financing, there was once again little discussion about the actual financing mechanisms on the table. Discussions about tax revenues wouldn't seem to be subject to the same kind of speculation-related inflation Hagan and Fletcher referenced regarding location acquisition.
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