For years, the Tampa Bay Rays have been trying to get taxpayers to build them a new ballpark. It doesn’t matter where the ballpark is located. They will go to Tampa, outside Tampa and even to Montreal for half the year. Wherever they go, you can be sure that they will do everything in their power to keep all negotiations closed off from the public until the very last second.
When the Rays do construct a new ballpark, it will be with a significant amount of taxpayer money. For years, it has been reported that the Rays are “willing to finance half of the cost of a new (ballpark)”. How nice of them. But the Rays couldn’t build it on their own if they wanted to because their owner isn’t wealthy enough to fund such a project.
This means the Rays will need as much taxpayer funds as possible. One big source of that comes from the tourist taxes collected in Pinellas County. This 6% tax on hotels/rentals is collected and put into a pot. It is then dispersed to certain projects that the city approves. In 2022, the pot had $95.8 million. According to the city county administrator, “40% can go to capital projects that would drive tourism … the other 60% funds tourism marketing”. Meaning, this money must be used for so-called tourism-generating projects.
According to county leaders, the Rays have not discussed using any other type of tax to pay for a new ballpark. But what happens when multiple projects require more money than the pot has in it? According to the Tampa Bay Times, County Commission members will then decide “what their priorities are” and who gets what.
For example, the Phillies are going to want a LOT of this money quite soon. They have played spring training in Clearwater, Florida since 1947. They also have shown an ability to get money out of local and state leaders for their spring training facility. Whether it is
bribing purchasing donating large amounts of money to the exact local leaders who decide on Phillies projects or leaking out documents stating that the Phillies economic impact brings in absurd amounts of money for the area. Do I even need to explain the insanity of economic impact reports that the team paid someone to do?
In 2019, the Phillies demanded and received roughly $70 million in taxpayer money for upgrades to the Phillies spring-training facility. Last year, the Phillies wanted to build a massive new facility that would have cost $300 million. Although the big project was not agreed upon, the Phillies still bought a significant amount of land around their current spring training site.
So, on we go as the Phillies continue to need money every few years while only being asked to spend barely 15% of the cost from their own pocket.
Does it not make anyone else a bit nervous when you read things like this?
“The (Phillies) Complex is planning an $80 million expansion … Funding for the project is expected to come from multiple sources, including … a one-percent sales tax that’s used to fund infrastructure and public facilities…(the Phillies asked) for an additional $6 million … It was approved without opposition … As a result of the additional funds going toward the sports complex, funding for the Sand Key Bridge replacement will take a $6 million hit” – Tampa Bay Business Journal, 01/18/19
Clearwater has been laying out the carpet for the Phillies for many years now. In 2004, another city’s mayor noted that the ballpark that Clearwater had just built for the Phillies, made the mayor’s city look like their own ballpark was from the “Dark Ages”.
Good luck to whoever wins the most amount of public money!