SBD/Issue 165/Facilities & Venues

Rays Present Financing Plan For New Waterfront Ballpark

Rays Present Preliminary Financing Plan
For Proposed $450M Waterfront Ballpark
The Rays Thursday presented an outline of a preliminary financing plan for the team’s proposed $450M waterfront stadium to the St. Petersburg City Council, and said that “parking revenues and the extension of city and county taxes would play vital roles” in the ballpark, according to Aaron Sharockman of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker called the Rays’ plan “a good start.” The Rays said that they “would pay cost overruns if they oversee construction of the stadium.” The team also said that the public’s contribution of $175M “would be dwarfed by more than $303[M] in new taxes generated by redeveloping Tropicana Field.” Rays officials said that they “plan to meet with county commissioners, perhaps as early as Tuesday.” The plan must pass a November referendum, and City Council members on June 5 will begin the process of scheduling that referendum. The following chart lists the preliminary sources of funding for the proposed $450M ballpark (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/16).

AMOUNT
SOURCE
$150M
From Rays
$70M
Developers who buy Tropicana Field
$55M
Parking revenue from new ballpark
$100M
Extension of 1% tax on Pinellas County (FL) hotel stays for 25-30 years
$75M
Extension of St. Petersburg's contribution to Tropicana Field for 25-30 years

Silverman Says City Council 
Seemed Open To Financing Plan
FAST PITCH: Rays President Matt Silverman said Thursday “was a very good start. The council workers seemed engaged and receptive and open minded to what is a very complicated project. And they seemed to begin the dialogue we need to determine whether this is something that works for all of us.” MLB.com’s Bill Chastain wrote the plan “limits the risk to the city and county by immediately paying off the Tropicana Field debt, then not requiring any additional dollars beyond what had already been committed to Tropicana Field from the city or county until 2017.” The “majority of the public funding sources beginning in 2017 would come from an extension of the tourist tax, funds that come primarily from out-of-state visitors and which cannot be used for public services.” The remainder of the public funds would be about $75M of the ballpark’s cost, with the tax dollars “created directly from the redevelopment of Tropicana Field estimated to significantly exceed that figure” (MLB.com, 5/15).

NEW HOME: In St. Petersburg, John Romano writes under the header, “Rays Will Get Their New Stadium -- Somewhere.” Romano: “This ownership group is not staying at Tropicana Field for the long term. That could mean either selling the team or breaking the lease, but one or the other seems inevitable if a new stadium in St. Petersburg is not in the Rays’ future.” Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg is “not going to remain at Tropicana Field through 2027,” the final year of the team’s lease. Does that mean Sternberg would have an “army of lawyers seeking ways to break the lease for a possible move to Charlotte or Portland? The closer we get to the stadium’s debt service being paid off in 2017, the more plausible that prospect will seem. Does it mean Sternberg will talk to investment bankers about selling the team? That’s harder to imagine but, like Lightning owner Bill Davidson, he is an out-of-town businessman with no loyalties here” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/16).

GOOD Delivery: A ST. PETERSBURG TIMES editorial written under the header, “Rays’ Offer Promising,” states the financing plan released by the Rays “does in large measure square with the Rays’ original commitment to avoid any tax increases or new taxes. … If the Rays want voters to bless this deal, they will have to show that the split is fair and the numbers are genuine. They took a major step in that direction on Thursday” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/16).

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