Sunday, September 14, 2014

Paper Reports New Stadium Not Only Possible Use for Tampa Tax Dollars

This blog has long documented all the hungry mouths anxious for a cut of the public dollars supposedly available for a new Rays stadium.  In Downtown Tampa, there could be up to $150 million available.

But of course, there will be competition for the money, and Richard Danielson wrote this weekend {link to Times' site} that Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is in the mix:
The University of South Florida, now exploring the idea of moving its medical school downtown, could be another.

Buckhorn made clear he still likes the idea of a downtown ballpark, but the city has not committed its downtown development money to that project.

"I'm not going to spend seven years waiting for a stadium deal when we have an attractive option in hand," Buckhorn said in an interview at City Hall. "We're going to try to be as helpful as we can to make these things happen."
Vinik, if you remember, forewent tax dollars in 2011 and 2012 when he made approximately $45 million in upgrades to the Ice Palace Forum Amalie Arena.

But this is not the first time we've seen a "Tampa stadium money in jeopardy" kind of headline.

In fact, its similar to an old post on this site that theorized what Tampa could do with its downtown TIF revenue once the convention center is paid off in 2015:
[O]f 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.
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. 
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
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is also quoted in Danielson's article echoing a point I've made countless times on this blog - that a stadium may not be highest-and-best use of downtown development opportunities (especially if the team doesn't plunk down the majority of the cost):
Asked which he thought would give downtown the bigger economic boost — a stadium or the medical school — Buckhorn didn't hesitate.

"In the long run, I think the med school," he said. "That's not to say we won't pursue a stadium given the opportunity with equal vigor."

But unlike a stadium, which would sit empty most days, a medical school would create "a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week environment that would attract thousands of young professionals" who would fill up apartment towers, shop and dine out downtown, Buckhorn said.
The Rays never comment on these kind of watercooler newspaper stories, but the more the topic appears on the front page, you can bet, the happier they are.

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