Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Anti-Stadium Legislation Filed in Florida...Again

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, tells me he will - for a third time - file a bill that would require voter approval for taxpayer-funded stadium subsidies.

Bennett has been fighting public funding for stadiums since the Florida Marlins first came to legislature in 2005, but the previous versions of his bill - in 2009, then again in 2011 - failed to make it out of committees. Bennett blamed lobbyists for Florida's professional sports teams.

"It's time to put this thing to a halt," he said, referring to the leverage teams put on local communities to help fund stadiums.

"People are saying we've got more important things to spend our money on: educating our children, providing better schools, providing better opportunities for our people, and I think that that's what they want to spend the money on."

Bennett added that he doesn't want the Marlins' scenario - where they eventually got local taxpayers to build a new state-of-the-art stadium - to repeat itself with the Tampa Bay Rays. He said he was also irked by blackouts of Buccaneers games in a taxpayer-funded stadium.

The longtime legislator is term-limited out after 2012, but will pitch the stadium bill one more time to his colleagues.

"If you can pay someone $30 million to throw a baseball 90 feet," Bennett said of team owners, "you can probably afford to build your own stadium."

The words were strikingly similar to Bennett's comments from February of this year when he filed the bill for a second time:

"If you can pay someone $52 million to play the game of baseball, certainly you can build your own stadium with your own money."

And in 2005, when he helped kill a bill to provide subsidies for the Marlins, Bennett told the Sports Business Daily, "if you can afford to pay somebody $53 million to throw a baseball 90 feet, you can afford your own damn stadium."

As influential as the Republican has been in Tallahassee, he hasn't always been right:

"You're going to see a drastic change in the way (stadiums) are financed," he said in 2005. "People are finally fed up. And so I think the Marlins and others will be funding their own projects in the future."

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