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Poll: Little support for public funding of new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark

Tampa Bay RaysA poll of Tampa residents reveals little appetite for public funding of a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, as residents would rather use proceeds from a downtown tax district to house the homeless or transit upgrades.

Now, it’s not unusual to see ballpark funding plans receive poor ratings in polls — people love the idea of a new ballpark, just not the idea of paying for one — but the fact that it polled so poorly is an eye-opener. At 12 percent approval, a Rays ballpark trailed increased funding for homeless services (31 percent), transportation upgrades (26 percent), and improved police and fire services (13 percent). The poll of 584 Tampa residents, performed by St. Pete Polls, also yielded opposition to any public funding of a new ballpark by a 56 to 36 percentage margin. From Creative Loafing Tampa:

The monies in question come from the Downtown Tampa Community Redevelopment Area (CRA), a special taxing district under Tampa City Council control that funds projects to improve downtown. The city takes a share of the property tax revenues generated in the district and spends it in the district. Currently those funds go towards paying off debt at the Tampa Convention Center, but that debt is scheduled to paid back in 2015.

At a recent news conference Mayor [Bob] Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commission Chair Ken Hagan discussed the idea that those funds could be part of an overall mix to help pay for a new ballpark, estimated to ultimately cost around $550-$600 million.

As we noted, public funding of any new sports facility tends to poll poorly. Still, it sounds like the Rays and Tampa will need to work the PR angle pretty heavily if they are to gain public support for a new ballpark.

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