Thursday, October 30, 2014

Buckhorn: Medical School Could Be "Bigger Than Baseball"

WUSF's Mark Schreiner reports from a USF Board of Trustees workgroup today that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said a new medical school in Downtown Tampa could be "bigger than baseball."
Buckhorn was referring to the possibility that the Tampa Bay Rays could eventually move from Tropicana Field to another field of dreams on an empty lot in downtown Tampa.
"It's 365 days a year (vs. 81 home games for a baseball team), it creates a medical educational cluster down here," Buckhorn said. "The students that work here will fill up the buildings that will be built, the retail will follow to service the medical students. I mean, it really is a more sustainable economic engine than just an arena or a baseball stadium."

"Now that doesn't mean they're mutually exclusive," Buckhorn, who's married to Dr. Catherine Lynch, Associate Vice President of Women's Health at USF's Morsani College of Medicine, said. "I think we can accommodate both, but I think in the long run, the relocation of the Medical School is a more significant economic development project than almost anything we could imagine, including baseball."
Both a medical school and a baseball stadium could possibly succeed in Downtown Tampa, but as I suggested earlier this year, Buckhorn and Vinik have both made clear what their priorities are.

UPDATE: Jamal Thalji adds {link to Times' site} Buckhorn suggested the next-most logical site for a baseball stadium downtown would be the current site of the ConAgra plant, but "I think it is safe to say that the Vinik group has plans other than baseball for their holdings...but we have assumed that for the past year."

For what it's worth, I've assumed that since 2012...but who's counting?

Regardless, the ConAgra dream would be wonderful for Downtown Tampa - far better than a stadium on Vinik's land. It would remove one of the biggest eyesores downtown, while replacing it with something that connects two thriving parts of the city.

But the challenges remain the money.  On top of $550+ million in stadium costs, you'd be looking at a likely 8-digit fee to relocate the plant, plus an 8-digit buyout of St. Pete's contract.  Start saving, Tampa.

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