By Scott Myers, Contributor
On July 15, the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners, by a vote of 6 to 1, approved a proposal from the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) to spend $10.4 million of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money to implement Corona Virus safety measures at Raymond James Stadium.
The beneficiaries: the Tampa Bay Bucs, a highly profitable private company, who would be able to have more fans attend their games.
Well, we can’t have the Lightning and the Yankees (both also highly profitable private companies) feeling left out.
So early this month the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners, once again by a vote of 6 to1 (Stacy White being the only ‘no’ vote) approved a total of $4.1 million of CARES money for Amalie Arena and George M. Steinbrenner Field for safety improvements related to Corona Virus. $2.4 million will go to Amalie Arena and $1.7 million will go to Steinbrenner Field.
The total of CARES money given to professional sports franchises in Tampa is now $15.5 million. One has to wonder how many small businesses in Hillsborough County, with legitimate and pressing needs, have been unable to get even a dime of this money.
The taxpayer charity to the Lightning and Yankees, just as to the Bucs, is nothing new. Amalie Arena has been 53% funded by public money at a cost of $219 million in current dollars.
Steinbrenner Field has fared even better having been 86% funded by the taxpayers at a cost of $88 million in current dollars.
Consider the ridiculousness of giving taxpayers’ money to the Lightning and Yankees. Jeff Vinik, the wheeler/dealer owner of the Lightning needs no more money from us. He is the poster child for free enterprise – high risk and high reward. In July of 2019 Vinik borrowed $102 million from Goldman Sachs, not for any specific need but more because interest rates were at a generation low. And then, on June 15, 2020 Vinik borrowed another $45 million from Deutsche Bank.
So for Vinik to be given $2.4million of taxpayer money when he can borrow money so easily and economically certainly makes sense, right? And for such a non-essential need! I don’t think so.
Steinbrenner Field is the Spring Training home for the New York Yankees, the most highly valued of the 30 Major League Baseball franchises, estimated to be $5 billion by Forbes on April 9, 2020. And minor league baseball is played there after the Spring Training season.
Of course, the Yankees could in no way afford to spend $1.7 million for COVID measures,assuming they deemed them necessary. Right! After all, they have had to pay for 13% of Steinbrenner Field. Boy, have the taxpayers gotten over on the Yankees!
These dole outs to the rich folks are happening while Hillsborough County food bank lines are over a mile long, unemployment and under-employment is sky high, thousands of families are on the verge of being evicted, and COVID continues to be ignored by the POTUS prolonging the length of time before the economy and society can fully re-open. Great Job and great sense of priorities, Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners!
The Jock Sniffing disease is epidemic among Hillsborough County elected officials and will persist long after COVID is contained. It is too bad that Stacy White can’t pass his immunity from this terrible disease on to his peers. The other six Hillsborough County commissioners are: