Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hagan, Hillsborough Inch Closer to Rays Negotiations

Hillsborough County's Ken Hagan got unanimous support from his fellow commissioners Wednesday to form a select committee to work on possible stadium negotiations if - and when - the Rays work out an amendment to their current contract with St. Pete.

Hagan indicated the committee would operate under the umbrella of the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA), and would include himself, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, TSA CEO Eric Hart, and one member of the private business community.

"It's critically important that our community is unified," Hagan said after the vote.

He also got 7-0 commission support to line up a list of financial institutions to qualify and bid on potential debt service on the stadium, even though he admitted he didn't know how much taxpayers might ultimately be on the hook for.

"We know back in 2008, (the Rays) were amenable to investing $200-$250 million in a stadium," Hagan said. "(We don't know if) they're still considering that...(but) when you're considering a $500-$600 million facility, you're certainly going to have to have a considerable portion of that come from the team."

When asked if a similar $200-$250 million commitment from the team would be enough to get a Tampa stadium deal done, Hagan said, "I think it gets us in the game."

"(A new stadium) will certainly require multiple funding sources," Hagan continued. "It's going to be critically important for not only the team, but also the private sector to participate in any stadium, (regardless) of where its located."

Buckhorn added that the financial challenge was "huge," and indicated the jury was still out on whether it would make sense for the city to contribute public funds. He speculated the process would be "complex," & "not without its drama."

Buckhorn has always claimed Major League Baseball wants the Rays to play in a new downtown stadium, but in recent weeks, he has been much more hesitant in his support of a Downtown Tampa stadium.   The timing coincides with Jeff Vinik's exciting new plans for new office, hotel, retail, and possibly even university buildings downtown.

"It will be tough to find sites downtown that make sense," a reserved Buckhorn said Wednesday afternoon.

Hagan campaigned in 2010 on a platform of building the Rays a new stadium, although he said at the time he didn't support any public financing for the project. In the years since, Hagan has shifted his platform to "no new tax revenues," while repeatedly "flirting," as he calls it, with the notion of luring the team to Tampa.

But after years of talk, elected officials in Tampa are still waiting for the Rays to negotiate their "out," as well as indicate how they expect to finance a new $500-$600 million stadium.

Hagan added that St. Petersburg's Mayor Rick Kriseman "has to protect his city and do what's best for his constituents," but also "he sees the big picture and the opportunity St. Pete has to really do something special (by redeveloping Tropicana Field)."

That, of course, raises the question, if Tropicana Field is more valuable as something other than a baseball stadium...wouldn't the same go for land in Tampa?

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1 comment:

  1. Phrases like "make sense', "didn't support any public financing for - fill in the blank-" are the bait to get elected and after the con job is done it's the switch to the new con's "no new tax(es)" to the more realistic "flirting", "they'll leave" and self-serving "(Kriseman) something special".
    Rays aren't going anywhere, no matter what politicians spew. So giving in to franchise pressure prematurely isn't protecting (the) city and do what's best for (the) constituents.