- Buffalo shooting
- Department of Economic Opportunity
- Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
- Grapefruit League
- gun violence
- HB 7071
- House bill 7071
- Office of Economic and Demographic Research
- Professional Sports Franchise Incentive
- Ron DeSantis
- Spring Training
- Spring Training Baseball Franchise Incentive
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Uvalde shooting
Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t want a penny of taxpayer money paying for professional sports stadiums.
The Republican Governor made national headlines Thursday when he vetoed $35 million for a new spring training facility for the Tampa Bay Rays in Pasco County as part of his $3.1 billion budget veto. The sports and politics publication OutKick reported DeSantis would veto the funds over the Rays’ response to last month’s shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. However, DeSantis told reporters on Friday the veto was coming anyway.
“I don’t support giving taxpayer dollars to professional sports stadiums, period,” DeSantis said. “At the end of the day, that was just the decision that was going to be made.”
Ahead of the first game of a four-game series last week against the New York Yankees, the Rays tweeted they would pledge $50,000 to the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. They also announced they would tweet about gun violence instead of the evening’s game and carried out that mission in 21 subsequent tweets.
Ten Black people were killed at a supermarket in Buffalo and 19 elementary school students and two teachers died in Uvalde.
“Companies are free to engage or not engage with whatever discourse they want. But, clearly, it’s inappropriate to be doing tax dollars for (a) professional sports stadium,” DeSantis said. “It’s also inappropriate to subsidize political activism of a private corporation. So, I think, either way it’s not appropriate.”
The Rays currently lease a facility in Port Charlotte, but that agreement expires in 2028.
It wouldn’t be the first time DeSantis has targeted a major Florida company over their political speech. The Governor — with support from the Republican-led Legislature — engaged in a months-long battle with Disney over the state’s Parental Rights in Education Law, which critics like Disney have called the “Don’t Say Gay” law. DeSantis in April signed two bills aimed at punishing the entertainment and tourism giant, including one that will strip Disney of its self-governing status in the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
The Pasco County Board of County Commissioners had requested $35 million for a new complex for youth, amateur and professional baseball and softball events. The county’s funding request, sponsored by Zephyrhills Republican Sen. Danny Burgess, suggested the stadium will remain public property.
If completed, the project will include several full-size practice fields including one stadium field with lighting and spectator facilities, team clubhouse and locker room facilities, indoor and outdoor training facilities, kitchen and dining facilities, and player housing. It will also include parking lots, stormwater infrastructure and other associated infrastructure improvements.
In March, the Legislature OK’d the funding as part of their $112.1 billion state budget proposal.
Despite DeSantis’ opposition to spending state funds on professional sports stadiums, Florida has a history of providing infrastructure incentives to sports programs, particularly for teams in the Grapefruit League.
The Department of Economic Opportunity offers the Professional Sports Franchise Incentive and the Spring Training Baseball Franchise Incentive, both of which are available to Major League Baseball teams for spring training.
Teams receiving Professional Sports Franchise incentives can receive $2 million annually for 30 years to cover the acquisition, construction, reconstruction or renovation of pro sports facilities. As of January 2021, eight certified facilities for new or retained professional sports franchises have received funding through the program.
Teams receiving the Spring Training Baseball Franchise Incentive can receive up to $500,000 annually for up to 30 years. The funds, typically paid for with designated Tourist Development Tax dollars and other local government resources, similarly cover the acquisition, construction, reconstruction or renovation of spring training facilities. As of January 2021, a total of 11 teams have been certified for the program, but only seven facilities currently receive distributions.
A January 2021 report from the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research found a positive return on investment for the Professional Sports Franchise incentive but a net loss for the Spring Training Baseball Franchise incentive.
Similarly, just last month, DeSantis agreed to expand the tax-free sale of sporting event tickets beyond major baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer and collegiate events. The bill (HB 7071) added FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, Formula One races and NASCAR’s Daytona 500.
Florida will lose an estimated $11.8 million in sales tax over FIFA and Formula One tickets. The Legislature’s economists couldn’t determine how much the Daytona 500 exemption would cost the state.
While the Governor criticized the Rays’ tweets, he noted past measures he’s taken on gun violence as well as future plans, including continuing to carry out recommendations from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 26, 2022