Last Call for 9.19.23 — A prime-time read of what’s going d…

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Americans for Prosperity-Florida loves dunking on stadium deals, and the Tampa Bay Rays gave the conservative group another opportunity to flex the arguments they’ve been honing since the early 2010s when stadium funding was a perennial issue in the Legislature’s budget-writing process.

The will-they-won’t-they over the Rays stadium has been a yearslong saga, but it entered a new phase on Tuesday when the team and the city of St. Petersburg announced they will move forward on plans to build a new ballpark as part of a sweeping redevelopment plan for the Historic Gas Plant District, home to the current Tropicana Field.

The stadium is expected to cost $1.3 billion, with the Rays committing to half the price tag and any potential cost overruns. Pinellas County and the city of St. Petersburg will contribute about $600 million for the project, in equal amounts.

AFP-FL said the nine-figure taxpayer commitment is essentially a corporate handout, much as they have with past stadium deals, including the still-developing plans to modernize the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium and build a new entertainment district in the surrounding area.

“The economic benefits promised by proponents of publicly funded sports stadiums fail to materialize time and time again. Studies have consistently shown that the return on investment for such projects is questionable at best, with most of the economic gains flowing to private interests rather than the general public. This means that taxpayers are forced to shoulder the financial burden yet reaping limited rewards, if any,” said AFP-FL State Director Skylar Zander.

“For years, Tropicana Field has drawn some of the lowest attendance in Major League Baseball, and there is little reason to believe — and certainly no guarantee — that this would change at a new stadium. We cannot support such a waste of hard-earned taxpayer dollars, especially while the area is experiencing plenty of infrastructure failures,” Zander added, citing cost overruns for St. Pete’s Main Library renovation, underfunded beach renourishment projects and low affordable housing stock.

AFP-FL’s views aside, construction on the new Rays stadium is expected to begin in late 2024 and will span two phases. The team will continue playing at Tropicana Field through the 2027 season, which also marks the end of its current lease with the city. Phase 1 of the development, which will include the new ballpark, is expected to be complete and ready for the Rays’ Opening Day in 2028.

Evening Reads

—”Ron DeSantis thinks pot is a menace to society. His biggest backer is working to legalize it.” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO

—”Billionaire who once backed DeSantis is staying ‘on the sidelines’ in GOP primary” via Marisa Iati of The Washington Post

—”Urgency grows for DeSantis in Iowa as Donald Trump looks to finish him off” via Nicholas Nehamas of The New York Times

—”Florida ethics cases sit on DeSantis’ desk as he vows to ‘break the swamp’” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel

—”Brett Kavanaugh’s whoopsie forces Groundhog Day at the Supreme Court” via Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern of Slate

—”Will 20 more years have to pass until another woman leads the Florida Legislature?” via Jackie Llanos of the Florida Phoenix

—”Americans are sleepwalking through a national emergency” via Tom Nichols of The Atlantic

—”With half Miami’s elected officials under investigation, the city’s history is repeating” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald

—”New Rays stadium price tag: How much taxpayers are contributing” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“You’re right; nine is better than seven.”

— Florida Transportation Commission Executive Director Ralph Yoder, who conceded that the state should be more eager to fill the empty seats on the FTC board.

Put It on the Tab

Look to your left, then look to your right. If you see one of these people at your happy hour haunt, flag down the bartender and put one of these on your tab. Recipes included, just in case the Cocktail Codex fell into the well.

Ron DeSantis — If he manages to cut pump prices in half, we’ll snag him all the Gasolines he can stomach. Or Guinnesses, if that’s really his preference.

Cyndy Stevenson — How about a bottle of Swamp Ape while she mulls over the next steps for wetland mitigation banks?

Ken Griffin — The GOP megadonor could use a pint of Fence Sitter while he hangs out on the sidelines of the Republican primary.

Stu Sternberg — We don’t know if St. Pete has a signature cocktail, so he gets a 6 a.m. on 7th Ave. for keeping the Rays in the Bay.

Tracy Marple — Someone grab her a spiked Arnold Palmer (do they still call that a Back Nine?) for bringing U.S. Girls Golf to the capital city.

Breakthrough Insights


Last Call is published by Peter Schorsch, assembled and edited by Phil Ammann and Drew Wilson with contributions from the staff of Florida Politics.

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