Spring training has returned to Tampa, which means that is is time to once again enjoy the spoils of being home to the Grapefruit League. On Sunday, April 2, the Tampa Bay Rays will host the New York Yankees for Opening Day. The first pitch is scheduled to be thrown at 1:10 p.m.
As expected, tickets to this game at Tropicana Stadium sold out rather quickly. Selling out early for Opening Day is a Tampa tradition that dates back more than 10 years, however, this type of public support will no longer apply to building new stadiums.
According to various news reports coming from Tallahassee, the Florida House of Representatives has voted against the use of public land resources for the purpose of funding stadiums for professional sports franchises. In other words, the Tampa Bay Rays’ search for a new stadium will not end up like the situation with the Miami Marlins a few years ago.
The Marlins were able to secure more than $400 million for the construction of their very own baseball park, but these funds came from a free loan originating from municipal bonds. In other words, Marlins Park will be completed with a chunk of taxpayer’s funds.
Florida House Bill 77 prohibits professional teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays to get public funding like the Marlins were able to secure in 2009. The bill passed by a wide margin of 82 votes in favor and just 33 against.
Critics of the bill complained that it places obstacles to economic growth in the Sunshine State. Aside from the Tampa Bay Rays, the Rowdies soccer team will also be affected by the measure. Rowdies owner Bill Edwards was seeking $80 million to convert Al Lang Stadium in nearby Saint Petersburg into a Major League Soccer venue. It so happens that Tampa is an adequate market for soccer, but Edwards will now have to spend more time looking for private sources of funding.
In the meantime, enthusiasm for the Tampa Bay Rays is not winning as local fans expect that their favorite baseball team will prevail against the legendary Yankees on Opening Day.