TAMPA, Florida -- Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan made three things very clear Friday morning:
- They want to help build the Rays a new stadium in Tampa.
- They expect it to get very expensive.
- If it burdens taxpayers too much, they'll pull the plug on their efforts.
The top elected officials for the city and county met Friday morning to discuss the next steps in exploring a new baseball stadium, should St. Petersburg give the Rays permission to talk to them.
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Buckhorn indicated between $100 and $150 million could be available in Downtown Tampa for a stadium through the city's existing Tax-Incremental Financing (TIF) program. Also known as Tampa's Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) program, the special property tax collections are in the final years of paying off the city's convention center.
Buckhorn also suggested the Rays would have to kick in between $200 and $300 million of their own money for a stadium, believed to cost upwards of $600 million total. In 2008, the Rays were willing to spend $150 million for their ill-fated sailboat design in St. Petersburg, but the team has repeatedly declined comments on how much they'd currently be willing to spend for a new stadium in a choice location.
Hagan said he wants to commission a new committee to explore stadium locations and financing. Last fall, the Tampa Chamber of Commerce commissioned a study on stadium financing that concluded any new facility would require significant tax contributions.
According to the chamber study group, a new stadium in Hillsborough County may have to:
- Use tax-increment financing (TIF) associated with Tampa's Downtown Community Redevelopment Area (CRA). Increased property tax collections downtown, which must be used for capital projects, would be directed to pay down stadium debt. ($108+ million)
- Re-direct a portion of the Community Investment Tax (CIT) from local road & infrastructure improvements to a new stadium. The local sales tax, of which a portion funds Raymond James Stadium, expires in 2026 and would have to be extended. ($70-$80 million)
- Levy a new 5% surcharge on auto rentals, which would hit tourists more than local residents. This would require a new law from the legislature. ($140-$150 million)
- Levy a new 6th-cent added to the tourist/bed tax. Hillsborough County isn't considered a "high-tourist" county, so state law prohibits it from charging tourists 6% tax on hotel stays. This would also require a new law from the legislature. ($35-$45 million)
If a new stadium were built in St. Pete/Pinellas County, the chamber group concluded the best ways finance a stadium would be:
- Existing revenue streams already paying for Tropicana Field. Most Trop bonds will be paid off by 2015, so leaders can either stop collecting the taxes, re-direct the collections to other city & county needs, or re-direct them to a new stadium. ($115-$148 million)
- Re-direct a portion of the "Penny for Pinellas" local improvement tax to a new stadium. The tax sunsets after 2020, so its bonding capacity would be modest at best without another extension. ($35-$40 million)
- A new 6th-cent added to the tourist/bed tax. ($60+ million)
- Re-directing a large portion of St. Petersburg's share of state sales tax toward a new stadium. The city currently receives $12.2 million/year in general revenue from the state, and much of it could be leveraged into new stadium bonds. ($165-$175 million)
READ: Bay Area Baseball Stadium Finance Study (Dec. '12)
Buckhorn and Hagan both said the process to build a new stadium takes a long time, so they wanted to start discussions as soon as possible. But they cannot speak to the Rays until St. Petersburg comes to an agreement with the team on terms of a contract amendment.
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