Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Some Perspective on the $61 Million Deal Between Hillsborough Co. & the Lightning

So you probably saw that Hillsborough staffers have lined up a deal that would extend the Tampa Bay Lightning's deal at Amalie Arena for an additional 16 years, through 2037.  The cost?  $61 million dollars worth of renovations, or $3.8 million per season.

Field of Schemes' Neil deMause acknowledged it wasn't the worst stadium deal in recent memory, especially since many teams (like the Bucs, for instance) get cash without a promise of extending their lease at all. 

However, deMause also makes a good point about Hillsborough's ROI:
"(Vinik) already has innumerable reasons not to flee town, even before handing him $61 million as a bonus. Far be it from me to tell Hillsborough County officials how to do their job, but are you guys sure you’re good at this whole lease negotiations part of it?"
Two days later, deMause added:
The Tampa Bay Times insists that giving the Lightning $61 million in tax money to upgrade their arena in exchange for a lease extension isn’t really a subsidy, because it’s tax money that couldn’t have been spent on teacher pensions anyway. Seriously, guys, how many times do we have to point out that money is fungible, so the hotel-tax money could be spent on some other tourism-related expense, and that could be used to free up cash for other things, including, sure underfunded teacher pensions?
This is actually something I've written about extensively, as stadium cheerleaders have consistently mislead the public on what bed tax dollars can be used for - far more than just stadiums.  In fact, Attorney General Pam Bondi recently opined that it is legal to use tourist tax dollars for things like transit, since duh, tourists can benefit from that too. 

Also, Hillsborough has been paying for things like the cross-bay ferry and certain events with general revenue funds, when they could be using bed tax money.

There is even momentum in Tallahassee to remove all restrictions on bed tax funds, so they can be used on things like police or roads or even, heck, schoolteachers too.

So by inking a new deal with Vinik now, Hillsborough might prematurely commit away funds that could soon be eligible for more pressing needs.  Of course, that's part of the reason why the Lightning want the deal now.

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  1. Excerpt from the Tampa Bay Times story:
    "The county owns Amalie Arena, but under the existing contract Hillsborough is not under any obligation to pay for maintenance or upgrades. That onus falls on the team, which runs the day-to-day operations."
    So why should the taxpayers put up a dime, no matter where the taxpayer money comes from?

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  3. Another excerpt from the Tampa Bay Times story:
    "If the Lightning bolts before the lease expires, the team would have to reimburse the county half of its outstanding debt related to the arena."
    Why shouldn't the Lightning have to reimburse 100% of the outstanding debt?