We already knew how the Tampa Bay Times editorial board would like Pinellas County Commissioners to spend their new bed tax revenues...but why not pen another Monday morning editorial urging commissioners to reject the calls to commit a full 60 percent of the tourist tax to tourism advertising and promotion?
Because committing 60 percent of the new, sixth penny of tax (as they've done with the previous five cents) would reduce the county's ability to bond a baseball stadium:
[I]f St. Petersburg and Pinellas County are serious about trying to keep the Rays, it may take more than that to help pay for a new stadium that could cost $500 million. Yet just as it appears the St. Petersburg City Council will finally have the votes to break the stadium stalemate early next year and allow the Rays to look in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, the Pinellas commission could lose leverage by locking in now how the resort tax money can be spent."Resort tax" is a fancy way of saying "Shhh! nobody will notice it's a tax because tourists pay it!"
Also, since when does the Times case about preserving leverage?!?
The Rays are not the only issue. The Tampa Bay Rowdies are expected to seek resort tax money to build a stadium in St. Petersburg. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium wants to expand its home, and it's a safe bet that opportunities to help museums expand will come up, just as one did a few years ago to help the Dalí Museum complete its new home. The Toronto Blue Jays need a new spring training facility to replace their outdated home in Dunedin. Then there is the ambitious proposal to build a massive sports complex on a former county landfill that would include a new spring training home for the Atlanta Braves. That also would require resort tax money.The Rowdies "ask," of course, was first forecasted by this blog in early 2014. But that's not to dismiss the Times' important point about lots of hungry mouths to feed in Pinellas County. And that tourist tax money can only be spent on a few specific things, such as facility construction, tourism marketing/advertising, and all-important beach renourishment.
Wait, why is nobody talking about possibly spending the money on the health of the beaches, the single-biggest tourism-driver in Pinellas County?!?
Tourism is a huge economic driver for Pinellas, and it takes smart advertising and promotion to continue to lure more visitors. But it would be shortsighted to reserve at least 60 percent of a higher resort tax for that purpose when so many projects are in flux. County commissioners should reject putting that 60 percent in concrete on Tuesday and insist on more flexibility — or risk limiting their ability to help keep the Rays, preserve and enhance spring training and capitalize on other opportunities.Well, it'll be an interesting off-season regardless, with St. Pete council expected to open the floodgates on stadium talks in January. Stay tuned.
ALSO READ: Some Pinellas Commissioners Sang Different Stadium Tunes on Campaign Trail
ALSO READ: What St. Pete's Election Means to the Rays' Stadium Saga
A brief history of Times editorials on the Stadium Saga:
- 11/3/15 - St. Pete voters should tell council to give up on enforcing its contract
- 11/1/15 - St. Pete Should Cough Up More Money for Stadium in Another City
- 10/23/15 - Next "Last Chance" comes in two weeks
- 10/22/15 - "Last Chance" for council to save Rays
- 10/7/15 - Hurry up, already! We need to free up editorial space for other news!
- 9/29/15 - Times Doubles Down Support for Rays Sympathizers
- 8/2/15 - Times: We Want Rays to Look in Tampa, but Pinellas Should Raise Taxes Now Anyway Just in Case
- 7/23/15 - In trying to advance stadium interests, newspapers may do opposite
- 6/14/15 - Opportunity cost of keeping Rays costing St. Pete big
- 6/4/15 - Council blind to economic opportunities at Trop
- 5/30/15 - Times cranks up pressure on opponents of Rays compromise
- 5/28/15 - Hurry up and pass MOU or else we'll have to hurry up in a few years
- 3/31/15 - Times suggests replacing councilmembers who oppose MOU
- 3/28/15 - Maybe council will finally listen to us?
- 2/23/15 - Sternberg wrong to hate on St. Pete council...that's our job!
- 2/20/15 - St. Pete should just give up now
- 12/10/14 - It's in St. Pete's financial interest to let the Rays go to Tampa
- 11/7/14 - St. Pete should amend contract b/c Rays lost their manager, GM
- 10/3/14 - Cheers, warning on Hillsborough negotiations
- 6/30/14 - Save Pinellas tax money for new stadium
- 3/31/14 - Hurry Up! Only 14 More Years to Solve Stadium Stalemate!
- 1/1/14 - Kriseman Should Solve Stadium Stalemate Within "Months"
- 12/1/13 - Message to Kriseman: no time to waste
- 11/12/13 - New mayor will bring an open mind to the negotiations
FOLLOW: Shadow of the Stadium on Twitter
FOLLOW: Shadow of the Stadium on Facebook