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Hillsborough Commissioners Approve $61 Million For Amalie Arena

Mark Schreiner
WUSF Public Media
Hillsborough County commissioners voted 6-1 to invest $61 million in Amalie Arena.

Hillsborough County commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of spending another $61 million on maintenance of Tampa’s Amalie Arena.

Commissioner Stacy White was the only one of seven to vote against this plan Wednesday.

“I felt it would be premature to be spending such a large amount of the Tourist Development Tax revenues without knowing if they would become available in the future for critical County needs,” he said in a statement.

White explained that he believes the money might be better suited for expanding HART bus routes within underserved suburban and rural areas or on larger road improvement projects.

The $61 million would bring the county’s investment in Amalie to $108.5 million and coincide with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s goals to keep the hockey team in Tampa as long as possible. The new funding requires that they stay at Amalie until 2037.

The county currently owns the arena, but the Lightning owners are responsible for maintaining the facility. Vinik bought the Lightning in 2010 and has since spent $70 million to improve Amalie, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The most recent modernization started in 2015 and included an expanded exterior deck, two club level lofts and new concession stands. The $25 million renovation cost was picked up by Vinik, but the county reimbursed him $12.5 million once work was completed.

The new funding will focus on maintenance of the 21-year-old building, like air conditioning and plumbing. Funding for these improvements will come from county Tourist Development Tax collections. These taxes, also known as bed taxes, are restricted to only be used on beach replenishment, tourist marketing, and tourism facilities. 

Improvements at Amalie will also contribute to the Water Street Tampa mixed-use renovation. The development is planned by Vinik and Bill Gates’ Strategic Property Partners collaboration.

This $3 billion plan will transform 53 acres of the downtown area, featuring hotels, office space, and new bars and restaurants. The first cornerstone building, which is currently under construction, is the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute, a 13-story, 380,000 square foot facility.

Bethany Hanson is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news reporter for spring 2018.