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St. Pete Chamber: Where are your facts about the Rays Hines deal?

The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce calls the proposal for a new Tampa Bays Rays stadium "A Grand Slam for St. Pete". Many of us don’t agree. Let’s review their recent statements and then our thoughts.

Statement #1: "A catalyst for economic growth..."

More than 100 reviews of sports stadiums demonstrate otherwise and provide clear evidence that new stadiums are not economic catalysts. Check out reports on other stadiums. Where is the Chamber's evidence?

Statement #2: "...will increase prosperity for all of Pinellas County."

The Rays Hines deal will cost the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County $2.4 billion in taxpayer resources (see our complete Analysis of the Rays Hines Proposal) that would otherwise be available for high priority needs; thus, putting pressure on budgets and impact the cost of living. Where is the Chamber's evidence that a stadium will increase prosperity?

Statement #3: "The Rays Hines offer is by far the highest offer."

The Rays Hines net benefit may be higher than other finalists to develop the entire site, but the offer is still far below market value. Recent land sales in the area indicate a value of over $11 million/acre which would put the Gas Plant site at over $700 million at present market value. Yet, under the proposal, Rays Hines are only paying $105 million - and they aren't even required to do that for 12 years. Doesn't the Chamber think the land, which is a community asset, should be sold for its real market value based on the planned zoning and density once it is redeveloped?

Statement #4: "All the communication throughout this deal has been and will continue to be public record."

The first information released to the public was only late October 2023 and since then it has taken time to determine the true cost to taxpayers ... which we now know to be approximately $2.4 billion. Why is the Chamber not providing the data on the total cost to taxpayers (again see our complete Analysis of the Rays Hines Proposal)?

Statement #5: "The Rays are going to contribute $700 million."

That is true. But why is the Chamber neglecting to report that:

  1. With interest, the City of St. Petersburg will be contributing $704 million and Pinellas County $587 million.

  2. Combined, the city and county will be contributing free real estate taxes estimated at $633 million; and

  3. Other than $1 million/year to the county, the Rays keep ALL the revenue from the stadium including the naming rights, TV revenue, etc.

Statement #6: "Mayor Welch has said there will be no property tax increases or new taxes required for the city to pay its share of the costs for the stadium or development."

Did the Chamber ask how this is possible? Where is the money going to come from other than from taxpayers? Does the city have an extra $1.6 billion laying around? Rather, it's more likely that the needed money is going to be siphoned off from funds that would otherwise be used for other important (but competing) city priorities. A good example is the $700 million needed to fund urgent storm-water projects. How is it possible that taxes are not going to go up to pay for these ongoing needs? And what about other important projects? The Tampa Bay Times reports this week So where do St. Petersburg's biggest projects stand? now that so much focus is on the Rays Hines stadium deal. What's going on with...Tangerine Plaza? Port St. Pete? New municipal services center? Manhattan Casino? Municipal Marina? Affordable/workforce housing? Hint: The answer is that most of them aren't moving very quickly.

Statement #7: "Hines chose to partner with the Rays because they will serve as an anchor tenant....and having an anchor will likely increase the value and probability of success of the project."

I think the Chamber is confusing an anchor tenant in a retail mall with an anchor tenant for an office/residential development, which is what is planned for the Gas Plant area. A retail mall looks for a large well know retail store - like a Bloomingdales - that will draw in retail buyers and thus attract other retailers that will want to be nearby as well. The Gas Plant site is not being developed into a retail mall. Rather, its emphasis is on office and residential. Do people really want to live next to a stadium? Imagine walking your dog as a baseball game ends with people pouring out of a stadium, probably many of them having had too much to drink. Further, how many office building tenants want to lease in a building when their employees have to fight in-coming traffic to a stadium just as they are trying to leave work to get home? How are you going to get your car and go home with all that congestion? Quality of life issues have not been considered in the impact analysis.

Statement #8: "Hines did not answer an earlier request for proposals for the site by a previous mayor because the Rays were not involved."

Really? As the Chamber report states, "Hines is a Texas-based development company with a strong track record of developing large projects around the nation and around the world."

Our question to the Chamber, "How many of those deals involved stadiums? And why would they turn down a development project in St. Pete when the Gas Plant site is one of the most desirable sties for development in one of the fastest growing cities in the country and the area around the site is exploding with hotels, apartments, offices and restaurants? I'm unclear why Hines did not respond before, but does the Chamber seriously argue that the property could not be successfully developed without a stadium? Reference for example, the $1 billion plus investment Catsimatidis is making for The Residences at 400 Central - and he's doing it WITHOUT public monies.

Statement #9: "All parties understand that with programming 365 days a year, there is a great chance to add more density on every parcel surrounding the stadium."

Is the Chamber saying that a new stadium is going to have programs every day of the year? Where is the data to support how this is possible? How may days a year does the current stadium get used? In 20 years, The Trop hasn't added any density to the area. I ride by it all the time and the parking lot is empty. And why will a new stadium, on its own, add more density to the surrounding parcels? What does this mean?

Statement #10: "Everyone can have a different idea for what will be successful in this space, but we have to be realistic to what we can all agree upon..."

Absolutely - what we can all agree upon! Has the Chamber provided the full facts and costs of the Rays Hines deal to area residents and then asked what they thought - to see if they all agree with the deal? Has the Chamber provided the full facts and costs to its members and ask if they agree with the deal? I assume the Chamber would not take a position on a project with such monumental impact on St. Petersburg without getting a significant majority agreement from its members.



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