The talks surrounding a potential new Rays stadium came to a screeching halt when St. Pete mayor refused to amend the Tropicana Field lease to give the Rays the option of looking at stadium sites outside Pinellas County, something the Rays have always insisted on before they would agree to enter negotiations for a new stadium in any particular place. That remains a problem. But there is some progress on another front: how a possible stadium would be funded.
On Monday, the chambers of commerce of Tampa and St. Petersburg presented their findings from the Baseball Stadium Funding Caucus that they came together to work on. The goal of the caucus was to figure out how to fund a potential stadium without concern at this point for whether the stadium would be in Tampa (Hillsborough County) or St. Pete (Pinellas County). According to Noah Pransky of 10 News, both counties would be able to secure around 400 million dollars to fund a potential stadium without adding new taxes to the people of the county the stadium would be in. Both counties could redirect and extend taxes going towards stadiums already, the taxes already going towards the Trop in Pinellas County and the Community Investment Tax in Tampa, part of which is going to Raymond James Stadium. Both taxes would have to be extended. Then both could utilize community improvement taxes, the tax-increment financing charging higher property taxes in downtown Tampa for Hillsbourgh and the Penny For Pinellas in Pienellas. In addition, both counties could raise their tourist/bed tax from 5 to 6% on tourists in the area staying in hotels, although that would require a law change in Florida because Hillsborough and Pinellas are not considered areas of high tourism. The rest of the money would come from an additional 5% charge on auto rentals in Tampa while St. Pete would use their share of state income tax for stadium bonds. The Rays appreciated the effort of the two counties to work out this important issue of funding.
“We applaud the joint effort of the Tampa and St. Petersburg Chambers in identifying potential funding sources for our next ballpark,” said Rays President Matthew Silverman in a statement released Monday afternoon. “Regional cooperation like this is sorely needed as we all move forward and work together to secure the future of Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay.”
Potential issues remain- the Caucus did not delve into the compensation the Rays would have to pay St. Petersburg if they left for Tampa nor the cost of a potential parking lot. But this is definitely a step in the right direction and hopefully the Caucus’ findings can help the Rays’ stadium talks slowly start up again in the near future. The promising proposal for a ballpark in the Carillon Business Park remains on the table, and hopefully the Rays will be able to look at enough alternate options that they will be able to make concrete progress towards the new stadium almost everyone agrees that they desperately need.
Back to the baseball diamond, the Rays have been rumored in a potential Justin Upton deal and we discussed what a possible deal would look like last week. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, don’t get your hopes up too much. According to Diamondbacks executive, there is a 90% chance that Upton will be starting in the Arizona outfield next season. The thing about that figure is that it’s basically dependent on the offers the D-Backs receive- it sounds like the D-Backs are skeptical they’ll receive an offer worth trading their young potential superstar. The Rays could definitely put as competitive an offer as anyone for Upton on the table, but the question is how far they’re willing to go to make a deal to happen. The Diamondbacks are not going to settle for below Upton’s value, and unless something chances, it sounds like he’ll be remaining with them next season.
Funny timing, but ESPN’s Jim Bowden discussed (Insider-only) possible trade options for Upton and among them was the Rays. Bowden proposed a package built around Jeremy Hellickson and top outfield prospect Drew Vettleson for Upton, which would allow the D-Backs to improve their rotation while also getting a player in Vettleson who could replace Upton in right field in a few years if he can continue developing as a prospect, but as we discussed before, if the Rays traded Hellickson and not James Shields for Upton, that would practically force them to trade James Shields as well and that would be a major hit to their rotation losing their number two and three starters. I can’t see any way that Hellickson is traded for Upton unless the Rays are willing to drastically increase their payroll.