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Rays Hines Asking for $Millions More Taxpayer Handouts. What's Next?

My response to the *St. Pete Catalyst article, "Will St. Pete help fund the Rays' share of infrastructure costs?" by Mark Parker, published, March 8, 2024.

As bad as the proposed deal with Rays/Hines is, from my read of the recent article by The Catalyst, it looks like the Rays are asking for the city to be their bank, and they want to tap into more taxpayer funds.

City Council, Pinellas County Commissioners - the train seems to be going off the rails. And I know you know; you have a huge fiscal responsibility to taxpayers.

These are the two (new) major red flags before us that I see.

The Rays now want St. Pete to finance their share of infrastructure costs - estimated at $54 million.
St. Pete may be planning to divert even more taxpayer money for the stadium.

St. Petersburg is going to be the bank for billionaires

The word now is that St. Petersburg administrators are considering a "springing special assessment" to finance Rays/Hines share of infrastructure costs. Reportedly, Chris Roe, an attorney with Bryant Miller Olive, wrote an email to city administrators that the city could maybe do this. Really? The City of St. Petersburg is not a bank and should not be adding to their bonding risk. Rays/Hines are Wall Street guys - they know where to borrow money.

Lisset Hanewicz, St. Pete City Council, is quoted as saying.
"That's one thing that's come out about the deal after the term sheet.... I don't know the details. I still don't understand the whole thing. Why are we taking out municipal bonds for their portion...that's not something that's normally done. I think these are details the public needs to understand."

Diversion and Set Aside Even More Taxpayer $$$

Compounding this new revelation, the city is also considering diverting even more city funds than originally anticipated. It's complicated, but what the city is contemplating has to do with transferring normal real estate taxes to a CRA TIF.

We're talking about the additional use of taxpayer money - monies that would otherwise be available for what really matters - stormwater improvements to prevent flooding in neighborhoods, affordable housing, helping the kids who need us most get the education they need to get good jobs, and so much more. I continue to argue that this reckless spending is fiscally irresponsible, especially to pay even more for a single purpose stadium for an MLB team worth a $billion+, and that only a fraction of our residents enjoy.

As spelled out by Hanewicz, "The issue is you're taking money that will go into the general fund back, that pays for other things, to pay back bonds for the stadium."

St. Petersburg City Council, Pinellas County Administrators - what is going on? Please take your time and DO YOUR INDEPENDENT DUE DILIGENCE. Read my previous blog: Rethinking the Rays Hines Proposal .. Let's take a 7th inning stretch. We can do better.

As Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton said, "The devil is in the detail." 

What's the risk of delay? The Rays keep saying that they might not do the deal if we (the city and county) don't meet their timeline. Is it their terms or else? It sounds similar to what I hear is happening all over the country when it comes to stadium deals.

The Tampa Bay Rays valuation has grown into the $billions largely on the back of our generosity. St. Petersburg gave them Tropicana Field 20+ years ago for next to nothing; and the city has since grown into one of the fastest growing areas in the country. That makes this market extremely important for the MLB to continue to maintain a presence.

We love baseball and we want to keep them in the Tampa Bay area, but let's be honest - our city's growth is not because of the Rays.

The Rays should be thanking the city for the continued stewardship of the team and allow everyone the time needed to complete a thorough analysis to make this a true win-win agreement, consistent with successful public/private partnerships.

Make no mistake about it, this isn't a deal about baseball. The Rays know how the numbers work and it sounds like they know more about the deal on the table than our own public representatives at the St. Petersburg City Council and Pinellas County Commission.

As Hanewicz has said, the changing timeline is "arbitrary." And so, what if it takes another year? The Rays may care, but the city and county have got to get this right; and that should mean Rays/Hines pay fair rent, fair taxes and a fair price for the rest of the land. Then St. Petersburg will have an additional $1.6 billion to focus on what matters to make taxpayers' lives better - no loss of property because of flooding, more children getting the education they need to get good jobs, and more affordable housing.

"This is the largest deal in the city's history ... it's the largest amount of debt that the city has ever're looking at the largest public subsidy..."and at a deal that will receive "national scrutiny." Hanewicz has said.

And I believe, if it goes through as proposed will be the biggest city and county giveaway to billionaires in our nation's history. City Council members and County Commissioner's is that how you want voters to remember your record when you run for reelection or another seat in government? Let's do what matters and protect the economic health of our community. Isn't that your responsibility? And why you were elected?


IMPORTANT NOTE: Numbers contemplated by the new Catalyst reporting are not reflected in our original analysis of the deal. Our full analysis of the Analysis of Rays Hines Deal (available here on remains un-amended until we have confirmation about the term sheet details being discussed.

FOOTNOTE: Link to article from the Catalyst referenced: Will St. Pete help fund the Rays’ share of infrastructure costs?, The St. Pete Catalyst, March 8, 2024



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