Saturday, September 27, 2014

What We Should Make of Latest Rays-to-Tampa Rumors

Once again, the cover story on page 1 of the Tampa Tribune plays directly into Rays fans' fears of losing the team: "Rays About to Be Wooed."  In much smaller type, it indicates the wooing would be done by Hillsborough County.

Not like the Trib really needs "news" to plaster a good Rays-to-Tampa headline across its front page.

Today's article explains that Hillsborough's biggest Rays advocate, county commissioner Ken Hagan, wants to form a new committee, under the umbrella of the Tampa Sports Authority, to help make a Tampa stadium happen for the Rays should they St. Petersburg allow it.  Hagan also suggested the TSA get involved in 2010.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman called Hagan's push "premature" and potentially "problematic," according to the Trib.  It's a similar reaction Hagan has received every time he "flirts" with the Rays, who are contractually bound to St. Petersburg until 2027:
Working through the Tampa Sports Authority actually makes a lot of legal & financial sense if Tampa/Hillsborough want to build a Rays stadium.  But not at the expense of burning the figurative bridge between Tampa and St. Pete.

And, Hagan doesn't want to leave it up to the Authority's board to talk with the team - the Trib reports the commissioner wants the agency's director, Eric Hart, to join him and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on a select committee that would work with the Rays.

It's not clear how much support Hagan will enjoy from his fellow commissioners - some of whom are running for re-election this fall - when he pitches the next step in negotiations this coming Wednesday.  Many of them have pledged no tax dollars for a stadium.

RELATED: Where Hillsborough commission candidates stand on the stadium

Some of the questions will be over the commission's continued debate over subsidizing retail-type jobs (like those at a stadium) versus high-paying/high-tech jobs, which the board has indicated are a priority.

Hagan also once pledged "no public dollars" for a stadium, but has since essentially shifted to a "no general revenue dollars for a stadium" stance, indicating CRA/TIF funding could be justified "as long as it did not lead to new property taxes."

Hagan also acknowledged on-the-record in 2012 that the buy-out of St. Pete's contract would likely cost "tens of millions" of dollars on top of stadium costs.

Ironically, I’m hosting a Hillsborough County candidate debate Tuesday night, featuring many of the county commissioners. Safe to say, there will be at least one question about this hot-button topic. So please come join for the 7 p.m. event at the Junior League of Tampa building on Davis Islands!

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