Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Trib Editorial Backs Florida Stadium-Ranking Bill

This week, the editorial board of the Tampa Tribune penned a piece on proposed legislation that would force pro sports teams and leagues to "compete" for taxpayer subsidies, possibly even capping them at $12-$13 million per year:
The proposals make sense and should be supported by lawmakers. Agreeing on a process for evaluating funding requests puts each of the teams on equal footing. It gives the owners and the fans in a particular city a better understanding of why a request is approved or denied, and it establishes accountability measures to ensure the teams are living up to their end of the bargain.

Professional sports is big business in Florida, and the state can justify making sensible investments in the facilities where the teams play. Successful teams generate sales tax revenue and attract overnight visitors who pay bed taxes. The teams also help promote the state and the cities where they play.
The question about laws passed during Florida's short 60-day legislative session is always about unintended consequences.  Will this bill actually make it harder for teams to prove their economic impact to the state...or easier?

The Trib explains a new Orlando MLS team will bring Florida's major league franchise total to 10, plus 33 minor-league teams and 15 spring training teams.
The state already awards $2 million in sales taxes each year for the facilities where eight of the major league sports franchises play, including Tropicana Field and Raymond James Stadium. The bills being considered would replace the piecemeal process of awarding the state money and replace it with a defined set of rules for teams to follow.

The state’s Department of Economic Opportunity would rank the proposals based on a team’s ability to have a positive impact on the state. Among the criteria: the length of time a team has agreed to use the stadium; the number of signature events a facility is likely to host; a facility’s multiuse capabilities; how many Floridians a facility is projected to employ; and how well it will draw tourists.
Ranking the proposals is great...but will the state still give the money out if none of the proposals are terribly convincing?  Will the state do its own economic studies or trust the team's rosy projections?

Will Florida consider factors like likelihood of relocating (Rays slightly higher than NASCAR) or the team's financial committment (Dolphins spending more than the Bucs)?

These are questions that seldom get answered in Tallahassee in the rush to push through legislation.


  1. James L. Rosica of the Tampa Tribune wrote a very informative article regarding this bill (HB7095/SB126) on 4/2/2014 entitled “"Legislation sets up 'process' to allow public money for sports stadiums.

    The list of criteria can be found in the draft house bill document

    I suggest that most of the criteria are subjective, not measurable, and therefore unenforceable. And if the project is capable of having a positive return on the state’s investment, why would any of these projects need state support at all? Why would the private entities applying want to share the profits with the government? So I do not see this as a good use of up to $12 million per year of taxpayers money.

    James points out in his article that the state already directs up to $2 million a year in sales-tax dollars to each of eight sports centers (up to $16 million per year total): Sun Life Stadium, Everbank Field, BB&T Center, American Airlines Arena, Amway Center, Tropicana Field, Raymond James Stadium, and the Forum.

    I think it is interesting to note that the net worth of the 8 owners of the sports franchises that use these venues range from a minimum of $500 million to a maximum of $7.2 billion as shown here.
    Stadium City Team Owner Owner net worth
    Sun Life Stadium Miami Miami Dolphins Stephen Ross $5.5 billion
    EverBank Field Jacksonvile Jacksonville Jaguars Shahid Khan $4.3 billion
    BB&T Center Sunrise Florida Panthers Vincent Viola $1 billion?
    American Airlines Arena Miami Miami Heat Micky Arison $6.2 billion
    Amway Center Orlando Orlando Magic Richard DeVos $7.2 billion
    Tropicana Field St. Petersburg Tampa Bay Rays Stu Sternberg $800 million?
    Raymond James Stadium Tampa Tampa Bay Buccaneers Glazer Family $4.6 billion
    Tampa Bay Times Forum Tampa Tampa Bay Lightning Jeff Vinik $500 million?

    So instead of giving this money to billionaires, I suggest that these funds (up to $16 million) could be better spent on replacing broken down school buses, increasing the pay of special needs aides, reducing the cost of after school care for working parents, and other such 'mundane' needs.

    Or, how about this? Take that $16 million per year and add it to the Port of Tampa capital budget so that they can accelerate enhancements to the port to increase its container and automobile shipments that will create permanent (not temporary) high paying jobs. I’m sure the ports of Miami and Jacksonville could similarly benefit.

  2. Oha, so we the people own the stadiums, but want these owners foot the bill for them? Sounds like we're the crooks...