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    Stadium proposal unveiled

    The city would spend about $5-million and the Phillies would spend $3-million for the project.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published August 19, 2000

    CLEARWATER -- It will cost Clearwater more than $5-million to build the Philadelphia Phillies a new spring-training stadium, according to a tentative deal released by the city Friday.

    The Phillies are agreeing to chip in $3-million.

    Clearwater also is asking the state and Pinellas County each to spend $7-million to round out the costs of the 7,000-seat facility to be built off Drew Street and U.S. 19. The agreement calls for the stadium to be completed by 2003.

    Although terms of the deal between the city and the baseball team still must be debated by the City Commission and then finalized with the Phillies, the basics of the proposal are:

    The Phillies are willing to lease a new stadium in Clearwater for a minimum of 20 years, with options for 20 years in extensions after that.

    The city will spend $5-million on construction of the new $22-million stadium, while the Phillies agree to spend a minimum of $3-million on the project, including hiring the architect who will design it.

    Clearwater will have to spend at least $2-million of its savings in a central insurance fund to afford the deal. The Phillies are willing to pay the city $204,000 a year in rent for 20 years to try to reimburse the city for the $2-million in spent reserves.

    The city will split with the Phillies the revenue for concerts or other special events the city puts on at the stadium. And Clearwater will get one-third of the money from stadium naming rights that the Phillies will have the right to sell.

    The city will have to cover the expenses of the Phillies' utilities bills, stadium maintenance and all security or traffic control needed by the team.

    The team and the city will split the costs of any county property taxes levied on the stadium, and the city agrees not to charge city property taxes on the stadium.

    City officials will get a luxury suite and 12 tickets for all games.

    The Phillies get to keep all the revenue from ticket sales, parking fees, purchases of corporate luxury suites, concessions and a sports bar that may be included.

    The Phillies and the city are trying to seal the deal by Sept. 5.

    No breakdown of the city's future yearly costs was available Friday. But looking at potential costs and revenues, it seems as if the city will barely -- if at all -- break even.

    But city officials say the deal is a good one, because it will generate some additional revenue to offset about $312,460 yearly that the city spends now to maintain the Phillies' presence in Clearwater.

    Keith Ashby, the administrator who has been in charge of negotiations, said the city did not enter negotiations from a purely financial perspective.

    "We never expected to make significant revenues from this project," Ashby said, reading from a list of important "discussion points" about the deal. "We expected to get a new stadium that would keep the Phillies in Clearwater, while decreasing the costs to the city."

    Previously, Ashby said, the city has received no rent from the two complexes that the Phillies lease at Jack Russell Stadium and Carpenter Field.

    Ashby said that the Phillies deal was a very favorable proposal, compared with what other cities have had to do to keep their spring training teams across the state. He said it is rare for a team to commit this much money to the building of a stadium.

    However, terms of the deal make it possible for the Phillies to leave after 20 years, with the state and county still obliged to make payments for another 10 years on bonds issued to build the stadium.

    Ashby thinks the scenario is unrealistic, because the Phillies have been in Clearwater for more than 50 years and have expressed a desire to remain.

    Phillies representatives could not be reached for comment Friday about the tentative terms of the deal that were released.

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