Thursday, December 11, 2014

What Could a New Rays Stadium Really Cost Taxpayers?

Yesterday, I reported for WTSP on the potential tax implications of a new Rays stadium in either Tampa or Pinellas County.

In short, I looked back at some of the numbers the Tampa and St. Pete chambers of commerce came up with to address the perceived funding shortfall of building a new park:

The group concluded between $300 million to $400 million would be required to build a modern stadium, and the best mechanisms available for that funding in Hillsborough County include (with approximations):
  • Redirect a portion of the Community Investment Tax (CIT) from local road and infrastructure improvements to a new stadium. The local sales tax, of which a portion funds Raymond James Stadium, expires in 2026 and would have to be extended. ($70-$80 million over 30 years)
  • A new 5% surcharge on auto rentals, which would hit tourists more than local residents, but require a new law to pass through the legislature. ($140-$150 million over 30 years)
  • A new 6th-cent added to the tourist/bed tax. Hillsborough County isn't considered a "high-tourist" county, so state law prohibits it from charging tourists 6% tax on hotel stays. However, the law could potentially be changed, and Hillsborough might hit the "high-tourist" threshhold within the next decade. ($35-$45 million over 30 years)
  • Tax-increment financing (TIF) associated with Tampa's Community Redevelopment Areas. The funding mechanism earmarks property taxes from city and county coffers to specific neighborhoods for the purpose of economic growth. (tens or hundreds of millions over 30 years)
READ: Bay Area Baseball Stadium Finance Study
Pinellas County has an easier time getting to $400 million since its tourism coffers are more robust, thanks to beach visitors:
  • Existing revenue streams already paying for Tropicana Field. Most Trop bonds will be paid off by 2015, so leaders can either stop collecting the taxes, redirect the collections to other city and county needs, or re-direct them to a new stadium. ($115-$148 million over 30 years)
  • Re-direct a portion of the "Penny for Pinellas" local improvement tax to a new stadium. The tax sunsets after 2020, so its bonding capacity would be modest at best without another extension. ($35-$40 million over 30 years)
  • A new 6th-cent added to the tourist/bed tax. Pinellas County, unlike Hillsborough, is considered a "high-tourist" county, so the county could increase the tax on hotel stays from 5% to 6%. ($60 million over 30 years)
  • Re-directing a large portion of St. Petersburg's share of state sales tax toward a new stadium. The city currently receives more than $12 million/year from the state, and much of it could be leveraged into new stadium bonds. (tens or hundreds of millions over 30 years )
I'd also throw in $35 million in state money on either side.

Rays President Brian Auld said Tuesday he didn't know what kind of costs a new stadium would bring because the Rays wanted a "next-generation" stadium, and he was focused first on seeing the agreed-upon deal through St. Pete's city council.


  1. Good report, Noah.
    I suggest six other potential revenue sources, which have been done in other places. Three fairly common, three less so.
    1. Stadium use taxes: per ticket surcharge and extra markup on in-stadium concessions. These taxes are paid 100% by people who voluntarily spend money attending events. In theory, though, they cut into team revenue or reduce the amount teams can charge.
    2. Parking surcharges. Variable meter rates on game/event days, increased fees in public and private parking garages and increased fees for special event lots.
    3. New borrowing. City/County/State can issue new construction debt instruments.
    4. Transportation based taxes. Surcharge on airplane, train, bus, and cruise ship passengers. These are generally regarded as undesirable by travel and tourism companies, but if increased enough with only a portion going to public stadium construction/debt service.
    5. Federal grants. Other public sports facilities have received outright grants for disability access, emerging energy features, and for including public education/historical preservation aspects / features.
    6. Joint missioning. Collegiate sports facilities often add classrooms / other educational aspects then receive funding for construction from schools. Imagine a university/community college/magnet school partnership with classes/internships in culinary arts, media, sports training/medicine, security/law enforcement, retailing, and business operations.

    All of the above have been incorporated in public facility financing elsewhere.

    1. The problem with 1 & 2 are those typically are factored into the team's contributions. Even if it's not the same line item, it comes out of the team's pocket because it's a portion of the ticket/parking charge.

      No. 3 is basically what the above story was about - TIF spending IS new borrowing. No. 4/transportation taxes are also mentioned (car rental tax). Nothing else is really feasible here.

      No. 5 and 6 are possibilities, but probably not huge amounts of money. There are lots of ways to get little pots of money, but you need BIG ones to get to $400M.