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Hillsborough County Mulls Funding of Rays Ballpark

Tampa Bay Rays

Hillsborough County has previously discussed using lodging tax funds to build a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, but the funding model requires more consideration. 

As the Rays look to move out of Tropicana Field, Hillsborough County is seeking to lure the team into its borders, with lodging tax revenue seen as one potential funding source. That plan is becoming more feasible in some respects. The county is currently on pace to generate more than $30 million in tourism tax revenue by the end of this year, a milestone that would grant it high impact tourism status. Under that designation, the State of Florida will give Hillsborough County the power to increase its hotel tax from 5% to 6%.

However, Hillsborough County officials recognize that the increase may not cover the full public share of a ballpark. As a result, discussions are taking place about which other revenue sources could be utilized for the project. More from the Tampa Bay Times:

“Whatever the numbers are on both sides, there’s going to be a gap,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said. “And we’re going to have to be extremely creative.”

The brainstorming is well under way, say officials involved in the stadium discussions, and include these options:

• Creating an entertainment district around the stadium that will take a percentage of every sale within the district.

•  Imposing a new tax on rental cars.

• Tacking a surcharge on all game tickets and any item purchased at the ballpark.

• Asking lawmakers in Tallahassee to pitch in up to $2 million a year for 30 years.

• Selling development rights around the new stadium.

Hagan said the Rays have not yet said how much they are willing to contribute toward a stadium. It’s likely to depend on the design and location. But the criteria for a new ballpark the team released earlier this year made clear that “the ability to structure a public-private partnership … is critical.”

The Rays have not yet committed to a site, and are still considering options in Hillsborough County as well as neighboring Pinellas County. Unlike Hillsborough, Pinellas County has already secured its high impact tourism status and subsequently increased its tax.

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