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Beaches or Baseball? Where should we spend to promote tourism?

In Pinellas County, there is a six (6) percent Tourist Development Tax (commonly known as the 'Bed Tax') that short-term renters pay during their stay in our county. These funds are used by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater to promote tourism, and they can also be used to pay to add sand to the beaches after storms, for construction of stadiums or museums, or reserves in emergencies.

St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays are asking the county to pay for part of a new baseball stadium using a portion of the Bed Tax. Here are the facts:

  • Average annual bed tax revenue for the past three years has been about $90 million.

  • Stadium Cost to Pinellas County: With interest - Pinellas County will have to borrow $587 million to pay its share of stadium cost. The loan would be paid back at about $20 million per year for 30 years. Doing the math... $20 million per year out of the $90 million per year = about 22% of the total from the annual county bed tax revenues collected. And if there are years where bed tax revenues have a shortfall, due to either a storm or red tide, the loan payment will almost certainly be a greater percentage of the total tourist tax revenues.

  • Visitor Preferences: According to a survey by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, only 3% of visitors expressed interest in attending a sporting event, while over 40% indicated interest in restaurants, beaches, and museums. 

What makes sense? What clearly doesn't make sense would be to spend 22% of the Bed Tax revenue (and be committed to do that for 30 years) on something of interest to only 3% of tourists. Logic says... that we should promote what brings people here.

To our Pinellas County Commissioners - we need your leadership. Spending a hugely disproportionate amount of Bed Tax revenue on a stadium is a bad business decision when we know only about 3% of visitors have an interest in baseball. We should spend more of our budget promoting the great variety of restaurants, the amazing beaches, the museums, and shopping - all of which are of interest to more than 40% of tourists - not baseball.

In particular, we all know our beaches are unquestionably critical to the vitality of our tourism industry and have suffered tremendously in recent years. Moreover, with Pinellas County and the Army Corps of Engineers locked in a years-long battle over the restoration of the county’s badly eroded beaches, we need to save for beach damage repair, as well as plan reserves that may be needed after any additional storms that are sure to come.

"The bottom line is we've got one piggy bank, and we're all trying to draw a lot of money out of it," Public Works Director Kelli Levy said. "And when there's nothing left, you know, we're going to be struggling to find ways to pay for all of these things that people want." 

"We're going to have decisions, potentially in the next several weeks, months, that really rely on a portion of the bed tax, that, you know, really can't be made," Commissioner Charlie Justice said. "You can't make any of those in silos and then the next day wake up and go, I wish we had this money to spend on the beach. We don't have it anymore." 


We are as concerned as Public Works Director Levy and County Commissioner Justice regarding the proposed funding for a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays and the impact on important tourist development needs. Their statements underscore the fiscal challenges confronting the county, urging us to carefully evaluate the long-term impacts of allocating a significant portion of bed tax revenue to baseball.

That's not all. The estimated cost of the proposed stadium exceeds $1.2 billion, and, as proposed, the Rays would be exempt from paying real estate taxes. If the property were repurposed, the county would receive an additional $222 million in real estate taxes over 30 years - money for general county needs and for education.    


What should the County do:

Make the Proper Business Decision: A proper business decision would allocate bed tax revenue to promote what is most important to visitors. Allocating 22% of bed tax revenue to an activity of interest to only 3% of visitors is wildly disproportionate and cannot yield the desired return on investment. 


Remember - Fiscal Responsibility and Sound Business Judgment: Pinellas County residents are looking to our county leadership to be fiscally responsible and to use sound business judgment in determining how to allocate revenue designed to increase tourism. Prioritizing investments that align with visitor preferences and offer a higher potential return on investment would be a strategic and responsible approach. 


Be Mindful of Redundancy in Attracting Visitors: The county does not have to spend its bed tax to encourage people from Boston or New York to come to town to watch the Red Sox or the Yankees. Those are the fans that result in higher attendance on game days. Fans of these teams are already aware of the game schedules. 


Remember the Seasonal Challenges of Baseball: No wonder baseball only garners 3% interest in the survey. Baseball is predominantly played in the summer, and it's hot here. If someone is looking to watch baseball, they are more inclined to travel to a location with a cooler climate. 


Don't Get Sidetracked by Discussion of Additional Revenue from Development: Some argue that investing bed tax revenue in a new stadium is a good idea because of the additional acres that will be developed, generating county real estate taxes. The rest of the property will be developed - it is prime land. It will be developed, and the taxes will be generated with or without a stadium. (***See our Rays Hines Deal Analysis for a full breakdown.) The county does not have to invest $20 million a year in stadium debt to realize the potential revenue from land development. 

Don't Forget About the Impact of Natural Disasters: When we get the next major storm, our county will experience a drastic reduction in bed tax revenue while still being obligated to allocate $20 million annually for stadium debt repayment. This will coincide with a need to make a major investment for beach re-nourishment—one of the primary attractions for visitors to our area. 


County Commissioners

Take a comprehensive approach to the allocation of bed tax funds.
Prioritizing investments in sectors that resonate with the preferences of our visitors, coupled with a clear understanding of the potential challenges tied to baseball's seasonal appeal and climate considerations, is crucial.


To make your voice heard, you can:

Beaches or Baseball Funding in Pinellas County
Beaches or Baseball Funding in Pinellas County

*Slide provided by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

1 則留言


St Pete's annual housing budget is 10 Million and St Pete and Pinellas County want to spend 80 million each and every year fior 30 years ie 2.4 Billion???

I've been asking the lazy, stupid or corrupt city council and Mayor Ken for the financials for the stadium since they started pissing money away back in the 80's.

Why can't you Tom and Bill stop this corruption?


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