Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Controversial Future of Spring Training in Pinellas...and Beyond

With pitchers & catchers reporting across the Sunshine State, we're seeing a lot of headlines about the spring training shuffle, where local communities bid against each other to try and keep MLB teams happy (even when they aren't candidates to leave the state).

The Trib's Steven Girardi writes today about the city of Dunedin's frantic negotiations with the Blue Jays, whose contract expires there in only 14 months.  Basically, politicians and county tourism folks quoted a bunch of economic impact numbers, said the team could move to Arizona (which is doubtful), and everyone should get their checkbooks ready.

The National Post recently wrote "the Jays prefer to keep their spring-training complex in Dunedin...but if Dunedin cannot deliver 'a state-of-the-art, top notch facility,' (team president Mark Shapiro) says, the club could decide by this summer to move elsewhere."

Typical non-threat threat.

Oh, and here's another: "'There were three or four places that actually came forward and expressed interest in bringing us to their city,' Mr. Beeston said during an interview (in Toronto) last week."

If the Jays wanted to spend the $50+ million required to build a new "state-of-the-art" facility like they'd prefer, they could of course, just build it themselves right now.  But they'd rather spend $58 million on Mark Buehrle and have you just build them a stadium!

The Braves' future is also very much in flux, with Pinellas bed taxes off the table until the Rays' future is a little clearer.  I participated in a forum last week with Gary Sheffield, part of the investment group hoping to bring the Braves to Pinellas, and it was clear he was a little frustrated by the slow process.

Sheff said the Braves were still interested in Pinellas, but the Times' Charlie Frago recently wrote the team did not participate in a recent meeting with county leaders regarding the future of Toytown.

Maybe it was the cold reception they got to requests for $10.5M/yr in tax money?

As I've written countless times before, the Braves (as with many MLB teams), will move anywhere someone will build them a free, spankin'-new stadium.
UPDATE: One day after this post went live, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the Braves have hired a lobbyist in Palm Beach County to explore possible subsidies there.

But if that fails...there's always Option B....

Option B is one I first wrote about in 2013: expanding the Phillies' Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater to a two-team facility.

County officials have discussed it, and it would likely cost a lot less than building a brand-new facility. Dunedin wouldn't like it, but the county would theoretically retain most of the tourism benefits from spring training.

The idea is several years old, but I can tell you the commissioners most in-favor of the idea in 2013 are still on the board.

Meanwhile, a grass-roots effort popped up to remove language in the state's 2016 tax package (HB 7099) that would allow counties to use up to 10% of its Tourist Development Tax, also known as the "bed tax" or "tourist tax," to pay for law enforcement, emergency medical and other public safety services.  The email I received regarding the effort came from the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.

Currently, the state restricts how taxes collected from hotel room stays, only allowed to go to projects designed to increase tourism, like stadiums, convention centers, beach renourishment, and marketing.

God forbid we allow our taxpayers to spend a small portion of the tourist tax on things tourists consume!

Floridians love the idea of tourists paying for things we don't want to pay for, like stadiums.  So who thinks voters wouldn't like the idea of tourists paying for necessities like first-responders too?!?

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1 comment:

  1. Gov. must be spending more wisely these days cause we haven't seen any new material lately, lol...