A regional ballpark authority with the ability to collect taxes could be the key in the Tampa Bay Rays landing a new ballpark — but it’s far from clear whether all cities in the area would want to participate.
There’s one given when it comes to public funding of large projects: by increasing the number of folks impacted you actually diminish the impact of something like a sales tax, because you can get away with a rather small tax. Folks in Minnesota’s Hennepin County probably don’t even realize they’re contributing to a Minnesota Twins ballpark every time they buy a Whopper at a local Burger King because the increased sales tax — 0.15 percent — is a minimal part of the transaction and doesn’t show up on the receipt as a separate payment.
This is why a regional sports authority with the power to issue a sales tax could be the ticket for a new Rays ballpark — an idea being discussed right now by a stadium committee formed by the local chambers of commerce. There’s already the Tampa Sports Authority, responsible for managing operations and debt on Raymond James Stadium and to a lesser extent at the St. Pete Times Forum, but it lacks taxation powers and is limited to Tampa proper.
Small additions to the sales tax can mean big revenues. For instance, in Denver, a one-tenth of a penny sales tax in the greater Denver area generates some $38 million a year, which used to pay down debt on NFL and MLB facilities. Something similar in Tampa Bay could easily be used to pay down a $500-million Rays ballpark.
Now, whether there’s the political will to do so is a question mark. Cities outside of Tampa or St. Pete proper may not be too eager to pay for a ballpark sure to be located outside their city limits, even though you can argue the Rays are a regional attraction. And given the anti-tax sentiment in the Florida Legislature these days, having it establish a ballpark authority with taxation powers may be a surprisingly difficult sell. Still, the fact that such a common-sense solution is eminating from the local business community has to be good new for the Rays ownership.
RELATED STORIES: Mayor, council differ on approach to Rays ballpark issue; Tampa: We could have $100M for new Rays ballpark; Yet another group seeks to break Rays ballpark logjam; St. Pete mayor: there’s nothing wrong with the Trop; Tampa, St. Pete business leaders combine forces for new Rays ballpark; Could Rays declare bankruptcy to escape Trop lease?; Tampa Sports Authority declines to participate in Rays ballpark talks — for now; Chamber to take up Rays ballpark cause; Pinellas County extends hotel tax — but not enough for new Rays ballpark; 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
Share your news with the baseball community. Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subscribers to the weekly Ballpark Digest newsletter see features before they’re posted to the site. You can sign up for a free subscription at the Newsletter Signup Page.