The Tampa Bay Rays are still looking for a new ballpark. In the past year, the team has been looking for a suitable location in the St. Petersburg area. Now it seems that the funding of an eventual ballpark has hit another bump.
The Rays have been exploring locations in the Pinellas and Hillsborough counties but have not made a decision yet. Other questions remaining unanswered are the financing of the ballpark and the price of the construction.
But the funding of the ballpark may become more difficult than ever since Florida state politicians are reluctant to spend public money on ballparks. They are no longer moved by pleas to support the financing of ballparks.
There was an era when cities and the state of Florida spent money on new ballparks.
Between 1989 and 1999, governments in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Jacksonville, Miami and Orlando opened stadiums paid for with taxpayer dollars. Also, the Florida Legislature approved $2 million a year for three decades to professional sports complexes.
But nowadays, politicians expect team owners to contribute more, and who can blame them? It is very likely that this attitude reared up after (former?) Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria tricked Miami-Dade County into the funding of Marlins Park. For decades, Loria whined and cried about the fact that he did not have the money to spend on a stadium and that he was losing money because Dolphin Stadium wasn’t suitable for baseball. To “prove” his point, he shipped his best players away, resulting in crappy teams.
Miami-Dade County must have felt betrayed when Loria suddenly had the money to spend big on players after the construction of Marlins Park was finished.
Republican Senator Tom Lee said times have changed for sports stadiums. Lawmakers aren’t as pressured to approve tax dollars for projects like they were in the 1990s, he said.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran brought up the idea of preventing counties from financing stadiums with tourist development taxes collected on hotel bills. Several Republicans have made clear they would support a bill like that.
St. Petersburg Mayor, Rick Kriseman isn’t happy with the new attitude. “If they don’t want to make state funding available to these sports teams that’s their decision but don’t tell me and my council what we can and can’t do.”
With this new attitude towards the funding of sports arenas, the move of the Rays into a new local ballpark has become questionable. Could it be the omen of a move to another city (Montreal or Las Vegas to name a few)? Time will tell.