The payoff for the county is in pride, not dollars
By KYLE PARKS
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 1998
AMPA -- Hillsborough County taxpayers will contribute more than $300-million over the next 30 years to help pay off the construction cost of Raymond James Stadium.
And how much money will come back to the county from stadium revenues? Considering all the money the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be taking in, next to nothing.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers now pay $3.5-million a year in rent to the stadium operator, the Tampa Sports Authority. The Bucs also will pass along to the TSA $1.4-million a year from a ticket surcharge that is levied on all stadium events.
But that money doesn't even cover what it costs the TSA to operate the the new stadium.
The TSA's budgeted expenses associated with operating the new stadium in the 1998-99 fiscal year are projected to be $5.41-million, far more than the $2.94-million in expenses that were related to operating Houlihan's Stadium in 1997-98.
At the same time, the Bucs keep practically all ticket, concession and parking revenues from the new stadium.
So for the county, there's no windfall: The TSA will clear only about $200,000 directly from stadium operations in 1998-99, part of its projected net income of $1.45-million.
This doesn't bother TSA executive director Henry Saavedra. "We are a government agency, so our aim is to break even," he said. And many fans and civic boosters would say that the impact of the stadium -- which allowed Tampa Bay to keep the Bucs in town -- can't be measured simply in dollars and cents.
Most of the money for the new stadium -- about $150-million of the $208-million in initial costs, plus another $160-million or so related to paying off the debt -- will come from the community investment tax, a sales tax increase passed by Hillsborough voters in 1996.
Over the next 30 years, the county projects that $4.7-billion will be collected from the tax. Of that, $311-million, or 6.6 percent, will go to the stadium. Another 25 percent will go to schools, with the rest -- 68.4 percent -- going to the county and to the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City for construction of roads, jails and other infrastructure needs.
While the county won't get much revenue from the stadium, the facility's financial benefits to the community can also be measured by its so-called "indirect economic impact." Some sports marketing experts have estimated the indirect impact of a pro football team in the hundreds of millions of dollars over time. But as studies of sports economics grow more sophisticated, more people are challenging that idea.
"People who spend money on sports are just spending the money on that instead of another entertainment option in the metro area," said Robert Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest College in Illinois and an expert on sports issues. "The area as a whole isn't getting more money."
Since most fans in Raymond James Stadium this season will be from the immediate area, there won't be a major impact on tourism. With local fans clamoring for tickets, the team has cut back on the seats available to people from Chicago; Green Bay, Wisc.; and other Northern cities.
And if the team's owner doesn't have a home or business in the area -- as is the case with the Bucs' Malcolm Glazer, who lives in Palm Beach -- a lot of the team's profits actually get spent elsewhere, Baade said.
People who think sports teams are important to an area measure the impact in less quantifiable terms. A successful NFL team is important to a city's pride, and pro sports increase an area's choices for entertainment.
It could be argued that the new stadium might even hurt business at some of the sports bars and restaurants in its Tampa neighborhood. The theory is this: With more varied concessions and other amenities, the stadium becomes even tougher competition for nearby spots hoping to bring in gameday fans.
Operators of local establishments hope that won't be the case, of course.
A new Houlihan's restaurant -- the first in Tampa Bay -- is opening this fall in the nearby West Shore area, just as the Bucs' stadium loses the Houlihan's name. The restaurant's owners hope a more affluent gameday crowd simply means more money spent before and after the game, both at the stadium and elsewhere.
And since all the Bucs' home games will be televised locally, fans who can't get into the stadium may decide to watch the Bucs at their local sports bar instead.