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Let's Have a Fair Deal. We're Smarter Than This.

St. Petersburg and Pinellas County are considering a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays and Hines, a real estate development company, regarding the 86 acres Gas Plant site, where the Rays currently play at Tropicana Field. The deal calls for a new stadium for the Rays on about 22 acres and and the development of the balance of the land with offices, residential and other uses.

The Rays/Hines proposal calls for the city to pay for part of the cost of a new stadium - the cost with interest - $700 million. The Rays will not share any of the revenue to repay the city. And the Rays will pay no rent to offset lost real estate taxes of $400 million. In addition, the balance of the 86 acres are being sold to Rays/Hines for an estimated $500 million under its value. Total cost to St. Petersburg's taxpayers - $1.6 billion. The cost to the county is an additional $800 million.

We love baseball and want the team to stay in the Tampa Bay area. But not at a cost of $2.4 billion. We're smarter than this. The proposed Rays/Hines deal is not in the best interest of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. It won't pay off for taxpayers.

Graham Brink, Editor of Editorials at the Tampa Bay Times has recently written two editorials about the Rays/Hines proposal.

What’s it worth to keep the Rays in St. Petersburg? Graham Brink, Tampa Bay Times, April 4, 2024

His comments are consistent with our primary conclusion:

We don't need a new stadium to successfully develop the 86 acres and we don't need to sell the land at a discount - saving taxpayers an enormous amount of money badly needed for so many high priority community needs.

Salient quotes from his editorial:

"...housing and other amenities could be built on that site with or without a new baseball stadium."

"If the Rays leave...would the property remain a bunch of parking lots? Of course not. The city would come up with a new plan that likely included nearly everything in the current project, other than a stadium."

"And it would almost certainly cost taxpayers less than the deal that is on the table."

"The site isn't a blighted neighborhood in need of financial support. The Current stadium is next to... one of the most vibrant parts of a vibrant city. The area doesn't need "activating." It's already activated - one could argue mostly in in spite of the nearby stadium, not because of it. The Rays, after all haven't drawn many fans... and the rest of the time Tropicana Field is mostly empty."

We don't need the Rays/Hines deal for the property to be successfully developed and we don't need a stadium or baseball for the new development to be successful.

The 86 acres have become very valuable with explosive growth of St. Petersburg. Property in the area has sold for $10-20 million per acre. New apartment buildings, offices, condominiums, and restaurants are being developed all around the property. It is ready - with or without a stadium and with or without Rays/Hines.

"Even without baseball, the city could create a master plan for the property with a similar wish list. Developers would happily partner with the city to make it happen. Many would fall over themselves to a get a piece of the action."

What Graham Brink outlines is exactly what we spell out in our Analysis. The city could achieve a successful development of the property, saving almost all of the $2.4 billion investment by the city and county with a 'Do It Ourselves' development concept.

The city hires a master planner to create a master site design plan for the property. The city develops the needed infrastructure, and the land is sold parcel by parcel in an orderly fashion for appropriate market value. Really not much different than what Rays/Hines plan to do.

Stadiums don't provide economic growth or job growth.

"Using public dollars to subsidize major professional sports teams rarely pays off... listen to the dozens of economists."

"After reading study after study, it doesn't take a Nobel in economics to spot the the common theme:" And that theme is that there is little to no tangible impact on local economies from stadiums and professional sports.

Even our governor doesn't like the idea. "...Gov. Ron DeSantis isn't a fan of giving rich sports owners massive government handouts in the name of boosting a local economy." The Times editorial quotes DeSantis, "I don't support giving taxpayer dollars to professional sports stadiums, period."

The subsidy for the Rays/Hines deal is $1.6 billion by St. Petersburg taxpayers and $800 million by Pinellas County. How would this subsidy pay off? It won't and there are no facts that would support the idea. St. Petersburg's public subsidies should be used for what matters to the public - better job opportunities, streets without potholes, no flooding, affordable housing, a cost of living that is affordable, educational opportunities.

In the case of Pinellas County, most of their subsidy is supposed to be used to promote tourism - and baseball is far down the list of what attracts tourists. * Read our Blog Beaches or Baseball Where should we spend to promote tourism?

A new stadium will not address what matters to the residents of St. Petersburg unless you include bragging rights - which seems a pretty poor payoff for a $1.6 billion investment.

Stadiums and sports teams do not drive economic growth or jobs. And it is economic growth that matters - so that St. Petersburg can keep the cost of living in check, have good job and educational opportunities, and have the funds to fix the potholes, stop the flooding, help to underwrite affordable housing, maintain the parks, and so much more.

What drives economic growth in St. Petersburg?

  1. Tourism. Pinellas County carefully analyzes the reasons that make our community a popular tourist destination for visitors. They've found that tourism is driven primarily by the beaches, the museums, the pier, the restaurants - but not baseball. (Again - read what the Visit Clearwater/St. Pete's study shows at Beaches or Baseball Where should we spend to promote tourism?)

  2. Knowledge-based industries. For working professionals, the areas of health care, financial services, tech, marine science and universities are the biggest draws; which include organizations like TD Synnex, Raymond James, Jabil, Moffit and USF. Knowledge-based industries are sectors of the economy that rely on intellectual capital, innovation and specialized skills to create value. They not only contribute to economic growth, but they also create high-value jobs and attract investments.

So why would St. Petersburg negotiate the deal they have with Rays/Hines? There are no facts that can support the proposal. There are no facts to support a $1.6 billion public subsidy. There are no facts that explain in anyway how this subsidy will address what matters to the public - the citizens and taxpayers of St. Petersburg.

What do you think? If you agree and want to help:

1 Comment

Apr 12

Mayor Ken Welch and most of St Pete's City Council don't care if the proposed sweetheart deal for the Rays benefits the residents of St Pete and Pinellas County. The only thing they care about is satisfying their campaign donors. I've requested the TB Rays Stadium Financials from the last 2 City administrations and the last 2 City Councils. Still, they have not responded because St Pete taxpayers have lost about $600 Million or more, during the previous 30 years corrected for inflation which Mayor Welch and the City Council want to hide from the voters.

Mayor Welch and most of St Pete City Council, are too lazy, ignorant, incompetent, or corrupt to investigate the stadium losses so they don't…


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