Conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Florida has long criticized taxpayer-funded sports stadiums, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ new ballpark is no exception.
A recent report found that the preferred site for the new stadium is in a tract of land that was recently designated as an “economic opportunity zone,” making it eligible for federal tax breaks. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says that the Ybor City tract’s designation isn’t just because of the stadium. While the report certainly sheds a little more light on who will pay for the Rays’ new home, AFP-FL isn’t a fan.
In a Thursday press release, the group slammed Buckhorn for expecting taxpayers to pay for most of the new stadium.
“The only ones who will benefit from this lopsided deal are crony politicians and the Rays’ ownership. The audacity of the team to insist that they will only pay for $150 million of a potentially $800 million project is emblematic of the entitled mentality that drives these corporate welfare schemes. Taxpayers deserve better,” AFP-FL said.
The economic opportunity designation allows for developers, stadium builders or otherwise, to delay paying federal taxes on certain investments or real estate sales if they invest in that zone.
Count Gov. Rick Scott among those “crony politicians,” too, as took the Governor pulling some strings to get the Ybor City tract added to the list of sites. Other sites had to apply for the designation and only about a third of applicants made the cut.
On sports stadiums, AFP-FL has maintained that taxpayer-funded incentives deals aren’t just “corporate welfare,” they’re financial losers.
A 2018 study from The Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, a research arm of the Florida Legislature, found that state-level incentives deals for pro sports stadiums returns only 32 cents per tax dollar spent. An that was an increase from 2015, when that incentives program saw a return of about 30 cents on the dollar.