Hillsborough County (Fla.) commissioners are “laying claim" to money that had been designated for a new Buccaneers' practice facility, saying it should be spent on "other pressing needs such as parks for children or roads for commuters,” according to Bill Varian of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. The $12M set aside for the Bucs' practice facility was part of a deal that approved a half-cent sales tax to pay for construction of Raymond James Stadium, but in order to get the money, the team “had to deed the complex to the Tampa Sports Authority, the governmental agency that is the stadium's landlord.” Commission Chair Ken Hagan said, "With the increasingly challenging times we have, we cannot afford to leave that money in escrow." The commissioners late last month “voted unanimously to start the process of taking that money back.” The Bucs in ‘07 “built something that looks a lot like a first-class practice facility,” but the team “so far has elected not to transfer ownership to the Sports Authority.” Team officials previously have said that the “sparkling complex may have practice fields, workout rooms and equipment to rehab injuries,” but it is “not the ‘practice facility’ contemplated in the original stadium agreement.” Through the years, several alternatives “have been discussed between the Bucs, the Sports Authority and officials with Tampa and Hillsborough County.” However, those talks have “failed to bear fruit.” About $11.6M remains and the team “tapped some of it as it analyzed locations and designs for a training complex.” The county's share of what is left is estimated at $8.5M. The team could bring a lawsuit, "though such a move would carry a substantial public relations risk at a time when it is struggling to fill Raymond James on game days” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/8).
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is “still looking for a redevelopment catalyst in the downtown railyard ... has turned his eye to a new sport, asking his Think Big Sacramento task force to look this summer into marketing Sacramento as a big-league baseball town,” according to Tony Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Johnson also has begun “soliciting insider advice from a notable local name," former Pirates Owner Kevin McClatchy. Mayoral aides said that Johnson's moves “are aimed at sending a message to Major League Baseball that Sacramento wants to be in the mix if and when a team is looking for greener pastures.” The initiative “appears to send a message as well" to the NBA Kings, who recently turned down a financing deal to build a $400M downtown arena. McClatchy said he believes Sacramento is “a great baseball town” and a “viable option for major league baseball.” Johnson aides added that the mayor “sees the downtown railyard -- not an expanded Raley Field -- as the best site for a major league ballpark because of its potential as an economic development stimulus" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 7/9). The Triple-A PCL Sacramento River Cats, who currently play at Raley Field, led all Minor League Baseball teams in attendance during 10 of the club's first 11 years of existence ('00-10). The team finished third in attendance among all MiLB last season (THE DAILY).