At least one county commissioner, Victor Crist, believes Hillsborough County has a right to some of that money, which would eat into the pot of money available for a future stadium. Meantime, the chairman of the governmental entity that controls those dollars, Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick, doesn't approve of using them for a sports stadium.They're eyeing tax-increment financing (TIF) money that is designed to be re-invested in Tampa. After the convention center is paid off in 2015, the $12-13 million a year could go toward a stadium. But of course, if you don't spend the money on a stadium, it could go to a variety of other projects such as roads, the Forum, Channelside, or as County Commissioner Victor Crist suggests, renovated blighted neighborhoods:
The pot of money in question won't come up for debate for two more years, but already people are making plans to claim it.
The mayor disagrees, of course. He says Hillsborough County gets huge benefits from downtown Tampa projects such as the convention center, which helps fill hotels all over the county.Buckhorn, who has said he wouldn't get in the middle of the Rays' Stadium Saga right now, may have an easier time lobbying for the Vinik/Channelside project...and he's got the support of County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who wants money prioritized for a stadium or Vinik-led endeavor.
He'd like all the money to continue to be available for big downtown projects, such as a new stadium or a major entertainment complex, which Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is contemplating.
"That is my hope," Buckhorn said. "That is what I'm hoping for the county."
But the debate, which comes after a similar one started in neighboring Pinellas County, drives home the real urgency in the Stadium Saga. It's not a race to prevent the Rays from leaving town (their contract runs through 2027), but a race to claim available funds before some other project does.
In 2015, there should be monies available in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Pinellas County. The Rays know these deadlines. And they also know the 2017 deadline, when they're likely to have a new TV contract in place that will make their subsidy case a lot less compelling.
We should also keep in mind $100 million doesn't go very far in this equation and might simply be the cost of buying out St. Pete's contract a decade early.