Taxes to pay for $18.7 million Bucs' stadium upgrades
2010, CLIFF MCBRIDE/STAFF
The videoboards will be replaced with high-definition screens. Locker and press rooms will also get improvements.
By MIKE SALINERO | The Tampa Tribune
Published: June 08, 2011
Raymond James Stadium is getting revamped, more vivid videoboards two years from now and visitors to Hillsborough County will foot much of the bill.
The videoboard improvements, estimated to cost $7.7 million, will present high-definition game replays to fans beginning with the 2013 football season. The scoreboard gadgetry is just one facet of an $18.7 million overhaul planned for the stadium over the next two years.
"It's to the point where … we have to make some major investments back into the building," said Eric Hart, executive director of the Tampa Sports Authority, which manages the stadium. "Over the next two years you'll be starting to see a major overhaul of everything."
The bill for the stadium upgrades will fall on Hillsborough County and Tampa because of a state law that requires the local governments to cover the sports authority's budget shortfalls. In the past, the county and city had to cover just operating shortfalls, or about $2 million and $1 million per year respectively.
Next year, however, the shortfall will be much larger because of long-deferred maintenance at the 13-year-old stadium.
The county, which budgets in two-year cycles, plans to spend $6 million in fiscal year 2012 and $7.4 million the following year for the stadium upgrades. Tampa is budgeting $2.55 million in next year's budget.
The county will borrow the money for its portion and use the fourth cent of the 5-cent Tourist Development Tax to pay back the short-term loan. The fourth cent is dedicated to bond payments and capital needs at the football stadium and adjacent Steinbrenner Field.
The first three cents of the tax go to Tampa Bay & Co., formerly the convention and visitors bureau, and other tourist, cultural and sports organizations that compete for the money. The fifth cent goes toward bond payments on the St. Pete Times Forum.
County Administrator Mike Merrill said his budget staff has been working with the sports authority to make sure only necessary maintenance is scheduled because of county budget woes.
"I believe these numbers are a result of them scrubbing (the maintenance projects) to make sure we only dealing with absolutely critical needs," Merrill said.
Engineering and architectural plans called for the video screens to be replaced four years ago, said Hart, the sports authority director. The video technology, dating to the stadium's opening in 1998, is rapidly becoming dated, added Mickey Farrell, the authority's director of operations.
"We're doing everything we can to keep the picture as good as possible," Farrell said, "but the technology is not going to be supported much longer, so this is a project that needs to get done."
In addition to the videoboard updates, locker and press room floors at the stadium will be recarpeted, refrigerators and icemakers in luxury suites will be replaced and the sound system will be updated.