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Report: Rays stadium, development district to exceed initial cost estimates

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(The Center Square) — A new report shows that a new Tampa Rays stadium could cost taxpayers far more than initially thought.

The new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays would include the development of 65 acres in the historic Gas Plant District that surrounds the field, which would offer affordable housing, shopping and entertainment venues at an initial cost estimate of $1.3 billion.

The cost of the project would be shared between the City of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay Rays’ ownership group Rays-Hines.

The city would pay an estimated $287.5 million, which would include $130 million towards infrastructure, while the county would pay $312.5 million and Ray-Hines would pay the remainder and any overruns.

However, a report from Florida TaxWatch raised concerns about the real cost of the project to the city and the county, which is estimated to be a total of $2.4 billion, not $600 million, when accounting for parking garages, infrastructure support and lost revenues.

According to the report, the city would pay an estimated $1.6 billion, including $704 million for the new stadium and supporting infrastructure, $411 million in lost property taxes and $545 million in lost city revenue from the sale of 64 acres to Ray’s ownership.

Pinellas County would pay its share of $809 million, $587 million towards the new stadium and $222 million in lost property taxes. Neither the city or the county has the funds to cover this expense.

The report further notes that as of 2022, per game attendance averaged 13,927, while revenue generated in 2022 by the franchise was $248 million, ranking the Rays 28th out of the 30 Major League Baseball teams.

“To be clear, Florida TaxWatch is not drawing conclusions as to whether the Tampa Bay Rays’ ballpark proposal is ‘good’ or ‘bad,"” said Florida TaxWatch acting president and CEO Jeff Kottkamp said in a news release. “With this report, we simply outline a variety of important factors, including a few major risks, that should be taken into consideration by local officials in order to determine if the plan is in the best interest of Tampa Bay area taxpayers.

“At the end of the day, fulfillment of the deal will require hundreds of millions of local taxpayer dollars — which could be used to pay for other needed services and improvements in the community — and therefore, we believe it should receive close and careful scrutiny before a decision is made. We look forward to discussing our research and recommendations with all involved stakeholders as the matter comes before the St. Petersburg City Council and Pinellas County Commission.”

Kennesaw State professor J.C. Bradbury, opposes these types of stadium deals and posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that stadiums are “terrible development anchors,” and that the initial $600 million proposal alone would cost $5,263 per household.

However, according to the new estimated cost to the city being $1.6 billion, this would translate to $14,035 per household.

“The social benefits of hosting sports teams are difficult to measure, but they’re not incalculable. I doubt most residents would be willing to pay that much and that’s the burden they’re required to bear to fund this proposal.” Bradbury posted to X.