Buccaneers Haggle With County Commissioners Over Practice Facility Funds
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).