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Get the latest coverage of the 2021 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida Stadiums Would Lose Access To State Funds Under House Proposal

Aerial view of Tropicana Field
City of St. Petersburg

The resurrected proposal would keep an untouched pool of money from being used toward stadium construction and renovation.

A proposal is once again in play to eliminate an untouched pool of state money approved in 2014 to help build and renovate professional sports stadiums.

The House Ways & Means Committee on Thursday voted 16-1 to approve a proposal (HB 6011) that would repeal the funding program, which spells out steps for state dollars to become available for stadium construction and renovation.

Bill sponsor Mike Beltran, R-Lithia, said ending the program, which has never been used, would prevent taxpayer money from being “diverted to professional sports facilities in lieu of other public infrastructure.”

He added, “Sports teams are going to play here whether we pay them or not.”

The program makes available $13 million a year for work involving professional stadiums and for events administered by the Breeders’ Cup Limited and NASCAR. It was set up to prevent a repeat of the type of lobbying that occurred in 2013 when the Miami Dolphins unsuccessfully sought $350 million for stadium upgrades.

House members have repeatedly targeted the program in recent years, but a repeal has not passed.

In casting the lone vote against the repeal proposal Thursday, Rep. Thad Altman, R-Indialantic, said professional stadiums help improve the quality of life for communities.

“There is a misconception that we're giving money to the sports, professional sports franchises or athletes,” Altman said. “That money is spent here in Florida. And a lot of those athletes end up living in our local communities and offering a lot of different opportunities for our youth and spending a ton of money.”

However, Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, said Tampa is still paying for its facilities and “we're getting no real benefits back.”

Based on past decisions, eight facilities in Florida receive up to $2 million a year in sales-tax dollars: Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Amalie Arena and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, the BB&T Center in Broward County, American Airlines Arena in Miami and the Amway Center in Orlando.

Funding for all of the venues except the Amway Center, home of the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic, was awarded in the 1990s, with payments halting between 2023 and 2028. Money for the Amway Center started in 2008 and continues through 2038.