tampabay.com

Extra stadium security dispute delayed again

The Tampa Sports Authority puts on hold a suit over who should pay the tab for added security at Bucs games.

By BILL VARIAN
Published January 18, 2006


TAMPA - The agency that runs Raymond James Stadium has once again postponed filing a lawsuit against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to determine who should pay for added security there.

This delay came at the team's request.

The Bucs have a new chief operating officer, and he appealed to the Tampa Sports Authority board to give him a chance to learn more about the issue. It voted unanimously to give him, and the Bucs, another month.

He expressed optimism that an agreement can be worked out over who should pay for added security, which the Sports Authority claims has cost slightly more than $400,000 since 2001.

"I hope we can," said Eric S. Land, who became chief operating officer for the team two weeks ago. "We'll work toward that, because that's in the best interest of the fans."

The Bucs requested extra security at home football games in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. The team initially agreed to pay for it, but the following year began demanding that the Sports Authority pick up the tab.

Team lawyers point to contract language with the Sports Authority that places the responsibility for security with the agency. Sports Authority lawyers, meanwhile, say the same contract stipulates that security is only required to be kept at levels that existed in 1996, when the stadium was built.

Because of the loggerhead, Sports Authority members have been threatening for months to sue so that a judge can settle the matter. They even set a deadline of today for filing, which was postponed with Tuesday's vote.

Given player salaries, the estimated $7,500 per game cost would seem to be relatively minor for the Buccaneers. Currently, the tab is picked up by taxpayers.

"I don't think any amount is chump change," Land said. "No matter the dollars involved, these are precedent-setting issues."

Sports Authority Chairman Patrick Manteiga, who has been pushing the board to file a lawsuit, said the delay seemed reasonable given Land's newness to the matter.