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Pinellas County mulls hotel-tax extension for new Rays ballpark

Tampa Bay RaysMoney talks when it comes to new ballparks, and Pinellas County may have a strong speaking voice when it comes to a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark: the new new board of commissioners is considering an extension of the county bed tax to help pay for a new facility — something Hillsborough County cannot offer.

It’s no secret the Rays would rather be playing in a new Tampa ballpark, but there’s one huge drawback: Hillsborough County has no money, with its available tax sources going to pay off debt on Raymond James Stadium and the St. Pete Times Forum. Pinellas County can raise its bed-tax rate by two cents before reaching the state maximum, and it sounds like the new commissioners will look seriously at doing that.

Add to that source the money currently used to pay off Tropicana Field debt (due to be retired in 2015) and about a million dollars a year paying off spring-training-facilities debts, and you can some more possible funding on the table.

The situation does present a quandary for the Rays ownership: the money and the people in the Tampa Bay area reside on the Tampa side of the bay. Put a ballpark close enough to attract those folks and the team has a fighting chance at drawing larger crowds; keep it in downtown St. Pete and you have problems drawing from the region. Not an easy solution out there, but with partial funding possibly address, one big part of the equation looks rosier.

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