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Study: New Rays ballpark shouldn't require new taxes

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Tampa Bay Rays

Neither Tampa nor St. Petersburg holds an advantage when it comes to funding a new Tampa Ray Rays ballpark, as a study indicates existing revenue streams in both cities could be tapped without residents facing a tax increase.

The Baseball Stadium Finance Caucus, a joint effort of the St. Petersburg and Tampa chambers of commerce, set out to study the financial feasibility of a new Rays ballpark somewhere in the greater Tampa Bay area, without coming down on the contentious issue of where a such a facility would be located -- though, at the end of the day, the group encouraged the Rays to seek a solution with St. Pete and Pinellas County.

The study begins with an assumption that a new ballpark would cost $500 million (including $100 million for a retractable roof, but not including land and infrastructure costs) -- a reasonable assumption given how much recent ballparks have cost. The study then made some other financial assumptions (a ballpark would be financed with 33-year, long-­‐term fixed-rate bonds, requiring total revenues of $25-$55 million) and factored in $150 million coming from the Rays; again, neither are unreasonable assumptions.

With these assumptions in hand, the caucus then looked at funding options in both Hillsborough County (Tampa) and Pinellas County (St. Petersburg). In St. Pete, the current tax-revenue stream paying for Tropicana Field could go over to a new ballpark and then be augmented by a number of smaller state and local axes combined into a ballpark revenue stream (5th Cent Tourist Development Tax, State Revenue Sharing, Pro Sports Facilities, First
Florida Governmental Financing. etc.). In Tampa, the same plan would take place: smaller state and local taxes could be combined into a ballpark revenue stream (Tourist Development tax, Community Investment tax). One slight advantage for Hillsborough County here: the "opportunity costs" (that is, revenues that could potentially take away from current or future Bay Area Programs) are lower for Tampa than for St. Petersburg.

However, there's one big hurdle in both municipalities: voters would need to approve the shift of tax revenues in both counties.

The results of the study were revealed at a press conference today.

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