Friday, March 25, 2016

How Commissioner Ken Hagan Flipped on Opposition to Rays Stadium Subsidies

Hillsborough Co. Commissioner Ken Hagan, the self-appointed lead negotiator on the Rays-to-Tampa talks, promised to be totally transparent with his peers on commission regarding any stadium negotiations...except for that pesky issue of where the Rays want to put a stadium...which means conversations about funding in specific parts of town may remain secret too.

So does that mean Hagan is expecting "no public dollars" for the project, as he pledged several times along the tea party-influenced 2010 campaign trail?  And again in 2013?

Of course not.  Which makes it all the more interesting to track his shifting stances on how many tax dollars the Rays will wind up getting.
First, Hagan's 2010 pledge: "I am certainly not talking about public financing."

But six years later, Hagan flipped his stance to "no new tax dollars," opening the county up to paying for infrastructure projects related to a new stadium, as he successfully pushed for in the controversial Bass Pro Shop deal back in 2013.

He tried to rewrite history in a recent interview with my WTSP colleague, Mark Rivera, saying he's always been open to using public dollars for the Rays:

OK, so Hagan's current stance is that he doesn't want to raise taxes. But he hasn't talked about where the existing tax money for a stadium would come from.  The county has an $9.7 billion transportation deficit right now (according to Hagan), so adding new highways around a stadium rather than fixing the county's broken roads will be a tough sell.

Furthermore, the much-repeated Hagan claim of "no new taxes" would also seem to apply to taxes on rental cars and hotel rooms, which have both been mentioned by stadium proponents as possible new revenue streams for a Rays stadium.

Then last week, Hagan introduced another new tax development to the Trib's Chris O'Donnell: he's brainstorming ways - with the Rays - to make a tax bill pill easier to swallow by incorporating year-round community and cultural assets into ballpark construction.

Do you get the feeling politicians on Florida's West Coast failed to learn the lessons from Miami's baseball boondoggle, or even the Braves' secret, not-so-great-for-taxpayers deal in Cobb Co?

Here's some more of that interview with Mark Rivera, where Hagan claims the Rays are an economic engine worth hundreds of millions of dollars, then says St. Pete has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in opportunity cost by keeping the team (WHAT!?!?!?):

Claiming St. Pete's valuable land is better off without a baseball stadium - but that Tampa's would be better with one - ignores just about every economic principal in the book.  {See this chart for more

But then again, if we didn't ignore economics, we wouldn't be talking about funding new palaces for our teams in the first place!

UPDATE - MAY 31, 2016: Hagan suggests a number of different funding sources could be used to pay for park, including many which would be new to Hillsborough County.

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  1. I can remember all the shenanigans used by the groups in Saint Pete to get the Rays. Arrogance ruled!

    1. ... and it worked out to St.Pete's benefit in the long run.

  2. Com'on man, let's not be naive in believing he doesn't already know the finances that will be involved in the stadium in Channelside. Besides, more investment from the Rays means more revenues not going to the city of Tampa, simple economics...

  3. Maybe working with Ocala's Star-Banner might be better suited for your digressive ideology...

  4. Though even the "stupidest" of "investigative reporters" would have an idea of the revenue numbers of having & not having a mlb stadium in town, especially if they had a dedicated blog toward the issue, opposed to simply saying city investment is bad, not spending good..

    1. Of course I have an idea of the numbers....and how Hillsborough simply doesn't have any available revenue without raising taxes.

      So this is a call - if the commissioner knows where the money will come from - to vet it publicly, so we can all weigh the real costs.

    2. So, no money in Hillsborough and St Pete is not an option. Where do you think the Rays will go?

    3. Please don't give us a Trump answer to knowing real numbers... Though I'm going to assume you do know why he won't give a "tell all" on the Rays stadium, duh...

    4. Though he like many does a bad job explaining positive facts about the new stadium...

    5. There have been several studies that have spelled out the costs of a new stadium. And it's impossible in Hillsborough without the team paying the large majority of costs...or raising taxes. So which one will it be?

    6. Naw, their is no PUBLIC study of real overall $$$ in terms of jobs, taxes, real estate area values, infrastructure cost, other possible events to be held like the financial impact of a MLB ASG, future financial revenue projections, what Tampa might be in 20-30-50+ years to West Central Florida, etc....
      You NOah should understand more then most that like Fenway Pah'k, a stadium could serve it's benefit for a century plus, so it's not IF a new ballpark will payoff it's city investment, but WHEN...

  5. The Rays will stay in the Tampa area. The deal has been done.