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How St. Pete and Pinellas County will fund plans for new Rays stadium

Once the Rays pay for half, the city and county still have to come up with $600 million for a new stadium.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County will be left with a $600 million price tag as part of a deal to build a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium.

10 Investigates is taking a deeper dive into where that money will come from. 

County Commissioner Kathleen Peters said the bed tax will be used to pay their part of the bill. That tax that's collected when visitors stay in Pinellas County brings in about $92 million a year for the county.

That is typically used for projects like beach renourishment. Peters says there will be enough money for both.

“It’s not property taxes. It’s not coming out of the general fund. That tourist development tax is for construction, capital costs and for beach renourishment," she said. "Beach renourishment has been something we’ve been very concerned about, but we have gone through numbers and projections, and we do have enough money in reserves and incoming through that tourist development tax that will take us to fully fund the beach renourishment and fully fund this as well as some other projects coming along."

Now, the county commission still has to vote on their part of the deal, and she said that could happen at the next commission meeting in two weeks.

This is a deal that has been talked about with city leaders for over a decade. 

Former St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster, who began these talks with the Rays back in 2009, says after Tuesday’s announcement, it feels good to see this come through. 

10 Investigates asked him as a taxpayer about that price tag. He says while it’s a larger price tag than his or Mayor Rick Kriseman’s proposed stadium projects, it will work out because of all the mixed-use development. 

While current Mayor Ken Welch says they are getting creative on how to pay this money, Foster says it is ultimately taxpayer money that doesn’t end up in the general fund that could down the road be used for potholes, firefighters or law enforcement.

“You’re going to start seeing millage rate, potential mileage rate increases to cover the cost of living for general operating, and could the monies now dedicated to the Rays go to general operating? Eventually, it could," Foster said. "But the city decided long ago if you build it, they will come. The city of St. Petersburg decided we were a Major League Baseball city. We committed to that. You know what? There’s a price tag and we’re going to pay for it."

The Pinellas County Commission is set to vote on their part first. Then, it’s up to St. Pete City Council members to consider.

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