Saturday, November 17, 2018
News Roundup

Joe Henderson: Road to new Rays stadium will be a wild ride

About two seconds after the $892 million price tag for the Tampa Bay Rays proposed stadium in Ybor City was revealed, I’d bet more than a few people thought, "Well … buh-bye."

Montreal? Charlotte? Nashville? Las Vegas?

The Planet Zortron?

Anywhere but here.

It does seem like it will take an extraordinary amount of hat-passing to raise the coin needed to pay for this thing, but if you’re a Rays’ supporter and think there must be a way to get this thing built — take heart.

History is on your side.

Around this time 22 years ago, it looked for all the world like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were leaving town.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE Rays’ Ybor stadium revealed: Translucent roof, $892 million price tag

Then-owner Malcolm Glazer’s demand for a new stadium seemed to be going nowhere. Glazer forgot his promise to pay "about half" (a direct quote) the cost of the project, and his increasing demands for concessions from the city and county seemed calculated to set the stage for moving vans at One Buc Place.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE Stu Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays’ share of Ybor ballpark will be more than $150 million

There was even a false radio report that the Bucs had a deal to move to Cleveland. It sent reporters stampeding here from northern Ohio in what was a colossal waste of time and money for all involved. But it gave local politicians an added sense of urgency, since none of them wanted to be tagged for losing the Bucs on their watch.

A negotiating group that included then-Mayor Dick Greco kept saying yes to Glazer until he ran out of things to ask for, but there was still the question of how to pay for it.

County Commissioner Joe Chillura eventually got the Community Investment Tax on the ballot, leaving the issue squarely up to the people. It was a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for roads, schools, police, other services … aaaaaaaand, something they called "A Community Stadium."

I always got a good laugh about that.

The same measure, without the stadium, failed soundly a year before. With the stadium, it passed 53-47 percent in a record voter turnout. It was a solid victory.

What does this have to do with the Rays and their hopes to land in Ybor?

Maybe a lot.

First, it would be foolish to underestimate how much lawmakers in Tampa want to make this happen, but they will be smart about it. They must be. Ray-Jay’s base price was capped at $168.5 million. This project is more than five times that amount.

Most of them remember the backlash that still resonates over the giveaway lease to the Bucs. Former Mayor Bill Poe even sued to have it overturned after the referendum passed.

Any financing plan will have to be accompanied by the framework of a lease with the Rays. That will be a well-studied document. The city and county will go hard after hotel tax money, maybe rental cars, and whatever other fees they can find that are paid by tourists.

You can count on ticket surcharges, too, and maybe a special taxing district where the revenue generated by development around the stadium will go toward the cost.

You also can expect a lot of bluster out of Tallahassee about using any public money at all for the stadium. It’s really not a good time for municipalities to be asking state lawmakers for cash to build a sports stadium.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE Rays unveil their plans for an Ybor City ballpark: All our coverage of the stadium

There will be days when it looks like this thing is doomed.

There will be reports and rumors about the Rays and other cities.

Most of these same issues were in play 22 years ago though, and I’ve always believed enough of the community decided that having professional football was important.

Having the Rays is important too.

Can we afford them? I guess we’ll find out.

But I believe the community really wants them, and that’s not a bad place to start.

The end of the Bucs’ Dirk Koetter-Jameis Winston partnership

The end of the Bucs’ Dirk Koetter-Jameis Winston partnership

It's hard to imagine the head coach and the quarterback both back with the Bucs in 2019.
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Buccaneers-Giants: How Tampa Bay can lose if it wins

Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Buccaneers-Giants: How Tampa Bay can lose if it wins

The Bucs are in a race, just not the one you hoped they would be in.
Updated: 4 hours ago
Football playoffs: Jefferson 34, Lakewood 23

Football playoffs: Jefferson 34, Lakewood 23

ST. PETERSBURG — Jefferson continues to prove that seedings don't matter in Class 5A. A week after upsetting top seed Hardee, the No. 8Dragons took down No. 4 seed Lakewood 34-23 in the region semifinals.Niko Duffey scored two first-half rushin...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Football playoffs: Bloomingdale 21, Palmetto 14

Football playoffs: Bloomingdale 21, Palmetto 14

VALRICO — In the offseason, Bloomingdale coach Max Warner told his players the goal was to play on Thanksgiving weekend.That left a lot of perplexed looks from the Bulls."They didn't know what that meant," Warner said.Bloomingdale had neve...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Football playoffs: Plant 39, Viera 18

Football playoffs: Plant 39, Viera 18

VIERA — Once again, the Plant Panthers proved they're the kind of team that can take a little momentum … and run you over with it.That was the case in Friday night's Class 7A, Region 2 semifinal as the Panthers rallied from an 18-10 halft...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Football playoffs: Seffner Christian 27, Carrollwood Day 16

Football playoffs: Seffner Christian 27, Carrollwood Day 16

DOVER – Isaiah Knowles connected with Christian Helms on a pair on 10-yard touchdown tosses as Seffner Christian defeated Carrollwood Day 27-16 on Friday, giving the Crusaders their first playoff win in school history. The win, a rematch o...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Sunday’s letters: Guardian ad litem advocates for neglected children

Sunday’s letters to the editor
Published: 11/17/18

Football playoffs: Nature Coast 17, Baker County 16

BROOKSVILLE — Nature Coast, an easy winner most of its past 10 games, really never had the need to attempt a field goal this season. Nor did the Sharks need to throw much, despite quarterback Fabian "2 Fabe" Burnett possessing a talented arm.Bu...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Football playoffs: Admiral Farragut 40, Cambridge Christian 14

ST. PETERSBURG — Admiral Farragut's Courtney Eubanks came out for his first home playoff game ready to play.Early in the first quarter, Eubanks had an interception on defense and followed that play with a touchdown on offense as the Blue Jacket...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Football playoffs: Citra North Marion 40, Zephyrhills 21

ZEPHYRHILLS — Zephyrhills' perfect season is imperfect now that it is over. A 40-21 loss to Citra North Marion in Friday night's Class 5A region semifinal ended the Bulldogs' season at 11-1. They were ousted in the second round for a second str...
Updated: 9 hours ago