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Pinellas County extends hotel tax — but not enough for new Rays ballpark

Tampa Bay RaysThings are getting interesting in Tampa Bay: Pinellas County extended a 5 percent hotel tax to 2021 — far short of the time needed to potentially pay off a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark — while the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce announced ballpark financing would be one of the group’s main priorities in 2011.

The hotel tax was slated to go down in 2015, when bonds to pay off Tropicana Field will be paid off. Commissioners argued that extending the tax would serve as a solid base for funding a new ballpark, but there wasn’t enough support on the board for a permanent extension during a Wednesday night vote; instead, the compromise was to end the tax in 2021. And that won’t generate enough money for a ballpark.

Meanwhile, the announcement by the Chamber of Commerce is the clearest sign businesses are eager to land the Rays in Tampa Bay. There are all sorts of financial issues — Hillsborough County is tapped out paying down debt on Raymond James Stadium and St. Pete Times Forum — but the move by the business community indicated a level of dedication to a new ballpark, possibly located downtown.

RELATED STORIES: Selig still “concerned” about Rays ballpark situation; Pinellas County mulls hotel-tax extension for new Rays ballpark; Rays: No, we’re not interested in limiting ballpark search to St. Pete ; Can Tampa Bay support MLB?; St. Pete officials now say Trop is replaceable — at a price; Potential new player emerges in Rays ballpark battle; Rays: Time to talk new ballpark again; Rays ballpark brawl: Tampa versus St. Pete; Three Rays ballpark sites recommended by committee; New Rays ballpark discussion shifts to Tampa; Group: Any new Rays ballpark needs retractable roof; Group: Renovating Trop isn’t option in keeping Rays; Rays task force may have prelim recommendations by June — but no site; Rays propose Carillon Town Center site for ballpark

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