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Spectrum Field Upgrades Could Face Hurdle in County Funding

Bright House Field

Obtaining hotel tax revenue for Spectrum Field upgrades could be an issue for the Philadelphia Phillies, as Pinellas County officials warn that the funds are not immediately available. 

The Phillies and the City of Clearwater are pitching a $79.9 million plan to upgrade spring training facilities, including Spectrum Field and the adjacent Carpenter Complex. The financial framework calls for $10 million from the Phillies, along with $16 million in a local sales tax (dedicated by Clearwater), $40 million from the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council (TDC) funds, and $13.7 million from a state fund designated for keeping Grapefruit League teams in Florida. In agreeing to the proposal, the Phillies would extend their Spectrum Field lease 20 years to 2043 and pledge to cover cost overruns.

One of the sticking points in the project is the TDC funds, which are derived from a six-percent bed tax on hotels and motels in the county. No final decision has made been about the Spectrum Field proposal, but the county says that the number of projects it is committed to over the coming years could prevent it from immediately dedicating funds to the proposed upgrades. One solution could be for Pinellas County to approve the funds this year under the contingency that they are not spent until after 2020, but it remains to be seen if that will be a viable option. More from the Tampa Bay Times:

The County Commission is required to approve conceptual plans for stadiums and spring training facilities before the application can move to the TDC for review. It is expected to discuss Clearwater’s application in July.

The TDC process can take 30 to 90 days before the plans go back to the county commission for final approval, said Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater Chief Operating Officer Tim Ramsberger.

Ramsberger said it would be possible for the county to commit $40 million to the Phillies project this year under the terms that Pinellas doesn’t have to pay anything until after 2020.

But whether the Phillies would be open to that is unclear.

There is a deadline of sorts for the project. Under the terms of a deal with the city, the Phillies can drop the proposal if the state grant and the county contribution are not obtained by the end of this year. It is possible that discussions could extend beyond the December 31 deadline if needed, though it is not certain how the team would approach the issue if the funds are not obtained in that time frame.

We took a closer look at the proposal last week. Spectrum Field upgrades would be aimed at sprucing up some areas of the ballpark while improving the fan experience, with a renovated club level, new seating, expanded offices, and upgraded air conditioning among the proposed projects. For Carpenter Complex, the upgrades would include an expanded clubhouse, more office space, new dining facilities (complete with expanded nutritional tracking both for spring training and the regular season, when minor leaguers and rookies are training and playing), and 160-bed dorm. In addition to Phillies spring training games, Spectrum Field is also used for regular-season home games for the Clearwater Threshers (High A; Florida State League).

RELATED STORIES: Clearwater Moving Forward With Spectrum Field UpgradesPhillies, Clearwater Pitch Spectrum Field Upgrades

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