The Phillies have a history with Clearwater, Florida. Since 1947, the Phillies spring training facility and ballpark has been found here. But over the last decade or so, the Phillies have struggled to get money out of local city leaders. In early 2019, the Phillies asked for $40 million from tourist taxes for ballpark renovations and were flatly rejected. But now they are trying again. Maybe. We think.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about the financial fight for tourism tax money between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Rays want money for a new ballpark, while the Phillies want funds for a new spring training ballpark and entertainment district. Last year, the Phillies told Clearwater officials that a new ballpark, a center for player development and “visitor experiences” would cost around $300 million (updated: $320 million). Then, last week, the mayor of Clearwater and other city officials met the Phillies to discuss another project that the Phillies want to embark on. This time it is a “$250 million residential, dining and shopping complex”.
Only who is paying what? Nobody is talking about the most important question in public. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Phillies met with city leaders in January to tell them about their non-ballpark vision “but did not provide a cost estimate” or any other financial numbers. But one councilman told the Times that the Phillies told him in this January meeting that the city would be given a request for public money “in two weeks”.
“Then every two weeks it was the same thing…I think there’s value in having the Phillies here…but we’ve got to come up with something everybody feels comfortable with…and until we know the ask, that’s hard to do” – Council member David Allbritton, Tampa Bay Times, 06/24/23
The team must have been waiting for their most recent visit to announce and request for public money? No. In their most recent visit to city hall, the Phillies remained tight-lipped about how much the team wants from taxpayers. The city manager told local media last week that the Phillies plans continue to be “still conceptual” However, the mayor of Clearwater seems to literally be in love with the team’s vision. The new ballpark? “Latest and greatest thing in professional sports”. Non-ballpark development? “High-Tech, expansive rebuild…(will) revitalize that entire corner”.
Yeah, I have heard the revitalizing line many times before, so let me find just a few quickly off the top of my head…Atlanta for the Falcons new stadium, Columbus for their MLS team and Jacksonville recently for the Jaguars new stadium. Excluding Jacksonville, I am still waiting for the revitalizing to bear fruition in any of the cities where it was promised in the past two decades.
Since taxpayers will help fund the Phillies projects, can we get a copy of the most recent presentation to city officials? Darn…“the team did not provide copies of the presentation”.