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Rays Ballpark Funding Among Pressing Questions

Tampa Bay Rays

Despite Hillsborough County‘s announcement of a possible site for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, several questions remain, including how to fund the facility. 

Earlier this week, Hillsborough County confirmed that it is zeroing in on Tampa’s Channel District-Ybor City area as its prospective site for a Rays’ ballpark. The exact site is surrounded by 15th Street and Channelside Drive to the east and west, along with Fourth Avenue and Adamo Drive to the north and south.

While this marks a significant development in the Rays’ ongoing ballpark search, several questions remain, including the Rays’ consideration of possible contenders in Pinellas County as well as the cost and funding model for new facility. In the case of Hillsborough County, some commissioners are showing a reluctance to allocate taxpayer dollars toward a ballpark. However, Hillsborough is inching toward earning high-tourism impact county status, meaning it could potentially raise its bed tax from five cents on the dollar to six cents. More from The Tampa Bay Times:

Once it does, it can raise the current 5 cent bed tax to 6 cents. Bonnie Wise, the county’s chief financial officer, said the bonding capacity on that extra penny is about $75 million.

“Let’s look at that,” [commissioner Les] Miller said.

A portion of the ballpark site falls in one of two community redevelopment areas, or CRAs, for Ybor City. Under a CRA, any additional property tax revenue generated as a result of new development there goes directly back into that area.

County officials hope a new ballpark will generate tens of millions of dollars in development around Ybor. The resulting property tax growth could be bonded to help pay for the stadium, though Wise could not estimate how much because it depends on what is built.

Since the announcement of Hillsborough County’s preferred site has been made, there has been plenty of reaction. As far as residents and business owners in the area are concerned, there are some qualms, including potential issues over traffic and parking. However, many are voicing their early support for a new Rays ballpark in the area, noting the advantages it could offer to businesses. More from The Tampa Bay Times:

“I will trust the concerns will be addressed,” Michael Cincunegui, owner of Ybor City’s Long Ash Cigars, said. “This is good news for Ybor, Channelside and all of downtown.”

George Zwierko, who runs the marketing and video production company Lot 1901 near Adamo Drive, said he may have to reschedule meetings and soundstage shoots around ball games to avoid traffic and noise. But Zwierko sees the stadium as a development catalyst for his side of Ybor City.

“There isn’t a lot going on here now, not many businesses and not many people walking around,” Zwierko said. “Now, people and businesses will want to come here.”

The Rays have been looking for years to replace Tropicana Field with a new ballpark. A previously-approved agreement with the City of St. Petersburg allows the team to canvass the Tampa Bay region for a new ballpark until January 2019.

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