In fact, this spring's legislation that aims to fee up $50 million at a time for new and renovated spring training stadiums may not be doing Tampa Bay any favors; it's pitting Florida communities against each other in competitions to spend more money on stadiums, instead of beach renourishment, tourism marketing, or other capital projects:
"That legislation was not helpful. We need to keep a nucleus of teams in the area to keep spring training viable,'' Pinellas Commission Chairman Ken Welch said. Bed tax money may be needed to "either maintain the teams we have now, or allow us to add a team, or if we lose the Blue Jays, replace them.''Welch's point is that $50 million in county bed tax money would not be well-spent if it ultimately causes the Rays to leave Florida altogether.
And of course, many - as this blog has suggested before - see it as unnecessary taxpayer handouts:
"It's odd that we would spend taxpayer money to move one team to the West Coast, then two teams to the East Coast,'' said Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers.
"We used to be upset about Arizona stealing our teams. Now we are almost encouraging cities within Florida to steal from each other, and using lots of taxpayer dollars.''
Another interesting point was made by Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala, whose ex-husband Jack Latvala was the legislator behind the push for new spring training spending:
"Beach nourishment has to be the top of the list, and maybe there's not money for anything else after that,'' Commissioner Susan Latvala said.The Times story didn't mention the commission's most conservative member, Norm Roche, who suggested in 2011 that the bed tax dollars go toward a different kind of park - public parks. At the time, Roche had just voted against the county extending its five-cent bed tax to 2021 (the vote passed anyway) and he made it clear he thought there were better uses of tax dollars than stadium subsidies.
So while proponents of a new Rays stadium should realize they "don't have a lot of time" before available bed taxes get gobbled up, let us not forget a lesson learned from the Tampa Bay Lightning: if stadium construction is really a worthwhile investment, an owner can pay for it on his own anyway.