TAMPA, Fla.-- As the Tampa Bay Rays appear to move closer to building a new stadium in Ybor City, questions remain as to who will pay the lion's share of the $900 million cost.
- Mayor Buckhorn says taxpayers will not fund majority of project
- Rays owner says he'd contribute between $100 to $400 million
- Rest could come from private investors, bonds or higher sales tax around site
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn acknowledges that while people are excited about the potential move, there is little appetite for taxpayers to pay for the ballpark.
"You're not going to see the public sector write a check," Buckhorn said. "I don't speak for the county, but I don't have the ability to write a check to them."
Renderings of the estimated $800 million, 28,216 seat stadium were revealed July 10 in splashy media event. Another $100 million will be used for making improvements to the surrounding area.
But what wasn't revealed are the funding sources. Principal Owner Stu Sternberg has said he'd contribute between $100 to about $400 million toward the project.
The rest would likely come from either private investors, a bond offering which would likely be backed by city and county to ensure the bonds won't default or a higher sales tax on local businesses around the new site which includes community development agency funding.
"Having that (community redevelopment agency) revenue in and of itself, while it's a nice thing, it's nowhere near what you need to help facilitate the construction of this facility," said Chris Jones, an economist and instructor with USF.
Jones said a bond offering could work if it is backed by a separate city or county fund that doesn't include general fund money. But that too, is a huge risk.
For example, Marlins Park, the home of the Marlins in Miami, was built with $488 million of bonds back in 2012. But with interest, residents in the city and county will end up paying $2.6 billion by 2049.
"If you have shortfalls, the county and the city could be obligated to cover debt service payments that take away from other essential and vital facilities that Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa need to be providing the residents," Jones said.
Buckhorn does not want to see that happen.
"I will tell you this: I'm not going to leave my kids' generation a debt that they can't pay," he said.
A spokesman for the Rays did not respond to an email seeking comment.