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The Rays' stadium plan is 'fair and reasonable,' Florida TaxWatch says

An aerial rendering of buildings with a pyramid shaped structure in the middle
Hines and Tampa Bay Rays
A rendering shows proposed Tampa Bay Rays stadium and surrounding redevelopment project in downtown St. Petersburg.

The taxpayer research institute identified two potential risks: one if the new stadium is built and one if it's not.

After closely considering the Tampa Bay Rays’ proposal for a new ballpark in downtown St. Petersburg, a state taxpayer research institute is calling the plan “fair and reasonable.”

The city and baseball team have a plan to replace Tropicana Field with a $1.3 billion ballpark as part of the redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District, raising concern among some taxpayers.

The city and Pinellas County are slated to split about half the cost, with the team covering the rest. The county's tab would come from its tourist tax.

In a report released this week, Florida TaxWatch identified two potential risks: if a ballpark is not built, the team might leave the city at the end of their lease in 2027. But if it is built, what are the long-term economic impacts of a new stadium?

Bob Nave, the organization's senior vice president of research, said he would be surprised and disappointed if the Rays and government leaders in St. Petersburg and Pinellas can’t reach an agreement.

“We were pretty clear upfront that we weren’t going to say this is a good deal or a bad deal,” Nave said. “We looked at questions that needed to be answered in order to make an informed decision.”

With those questions in mind, Florida TaxWatch recommended that the development should give “money back” to the taxpayers.

“If there’s a new stadium, one would expect attendance to increase. If attendance increases, and sales taxes increase, other taxes increase,” Nave said. “That’s money that would be available to local governments depending on the final terms and conditions of the agreement.”

The report also included two other recommendations to accommodate both taxpayers and the Tampa Bay Rays:

  • The ballpark lease should include provisions whereby revenues generated by the use of the ballpark (ticket sales, television viewing, parking, advertising, etc.) are shared among the Rays , city and county.
  • The lease should include provisions that sufficiently deter the Rays from relocating.

Nave added that a new ballpark — as well as planned elements of the Gas Plant redevelopment, including shopping and entertainment — would generate more foot traffic and “considerable consumer satisfaction.”
“That all translates into revenues that are available to the Rays and to the city and the county,” Nave said.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the City Council will hold workshops to discuss the proposal on May 9 and 23. One meeting will focus on the Gas Plant redevelopment, the other at the planned stadium.

The St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP also announced Wednesday that it supports the plan, saying it would provide opportunities for local African American businesses.

“The Rays | Hines Historic Gas Plant Development Project is more than just an infrastructure endeavor; it’s a beacon of hope for economic revitalization and social justice,” NAACP St. Petersburg branch president Esther Matthews said in a press release. “This project embodies our commitment to securing the economic sustainability of our community by ensuring African American businesses and the wider community benefit significantly from this development.”

Madelyn Todd is a WUSF-USF Zimmerman Rush Family Digital News intern for spring of 2024.