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St. Petersburg Believes it Could Help Fund Rays Ballpark

Tampa Bay Rays

Though they have not finalized a funding plan, St. Petersburg officials believe that they could help finance a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark. 

The Rays are continuing to explore their options in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties for a new ballpark. The process has not yet led to a site being selected for a new ballpark, but St. Petersburg has sought to make sure that it stays in the mix to keep the team.

With numerous variables–including site and cost–remaining unknown, St. Petersburg does not have its exact funding plan in place. Furthermore, revenue from the state sales taxes source that assisted the city in paying off it share of Tropicana Field is now being diverted to other projects.

Despite this, St. Petersburg officials believe that they could finance a contribution to the ballpark. While development rights to the current Tropicana Field site could be in play, the city is cautioning that it is still early in the process of exploring its options. More from The Tampa Bay Times:

“From our standpoint, it’s a revenue stream just like any other revenue stream,” said city administrator Gary Cornwell of the state sales taxes.

If the Rays decide to stay in St. Petersburg, Cornwell said, the city can find the money either from the guaranteed state sales tax or somewhere else. But he added: “We don’t have concrete plans. It’s way too speculative right now.”

The mix of public and private dollars that St. Petersburg and Pinellas County could contribute to help pay for a baseball stadium is largely a mystery. The county has pledged bed tax money, but legislative support — long considered an essential part of the equation — looks shakier. Nor have the Rays discussed how much they might contribute.

The city has a tentative agreement with the Pinellas County Commission to reserve the “sixth cent” of the county’s bed tax revenue to service bonds for a stadium. The county collected $8.6 million in 2016.

St. Petersburg may actually be in a better position to finance a stadium now than it was in the late 1980s because it would have a new potential funding source: the city’s half of the Trop development rights.

Among the proposals for a new ballpark that have surfaced comes from St. Petersburg, and it calls for a new facility to be constructed near Tropicana Field. As part of that plan, the ballpark would be demolished to make way for development.

The Rays have not yet committed to a site, and owner Stuart Sternberg recently said that the team is continuing its evaluation process.

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