Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hillsborough Commissioner Out to Fulfill Campaign Promise

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan tells the Tampa Bay Times that he's finally ready to take action on one of his campaign promises: keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay:
"I'm just beyond frustrated at the lack of progress regarding the Rays' long-term future in the Tampa Bay region," Hagan said. "For me, just sitting by idly and hoping issues will work themselves out is counterproductive."

In coming weeks, Hagan said he will ask county attorneys to opine on whether Hillsborough can engage in direct talks with the Rays about their future in the region despite the team's lease at Tropicana Field. If he gets a favorable response, he said he will reach out to the team to figure out what the Rays want and how local government can help.
Hagan went on to tell the Times that local governments lose a little bit of leverage every day because the cost for the Rays to break a contract gets smaller.

However, Hagan neglects to acknowledge leverage is also diminished every time an elected official suggests the team break its contract, as he is directly implying.

On the campaign trail in 2010, Hagan said "It's important to our community and our economy to have a plan...a vote for me is a vote for future sporting events (in Hillsborough County)." He made it clear he was prepared to bring the Rays to Tampa.

Additionally, every year that goes by without new stadium talks also means another year of Rays baseball in St. Petersburg, supposedly worth more than whatever buy-out might be proposed.

Also read: What Mayor Bill Foster is Thinking

Politicians like Hagan and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn have been calculated in describing circumstances that could lead to the Rays leaving Pinellas. And that means a possible 9-figure buyout on top of the $500-$600 million stadium cost.

So regardless of what the Hillsborough Commission decides, the county still can't afford to build a new stadium on its own and there isn't enough money in Tampa Bay to build a new stadium without public dollars, or else we wouldn't be having this conversaion.

Instead, the stadium saga continues to be a political football, much to the dismay of local business and community leaders.

"When the cities start fighting with each other, it just drives us up the wall,"
one influential leader told the Tampa Tribune in January.

The most encouraging "way out" of this saga remains the work of the private business groups researching regional financing options. Stay tuned for their updates this summer.

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