New ad campaign attacks the potential use of public money for new Rays ballpark

Group has powerful backers, Koch brothers
Posted at 4:30 PM, Mar 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-22 17:43:28-04

There’s a new ad campaign you could soon see blasting across your social media. It’s by a conservative group and it’s attacking the potential use of taxpayer money for a new Rays stadium in Ybor.

Plans are not even anywhere near the official decision to break-ground for the new ballpark. But the ad campaign has pretty powerful backers. Americans for Prosperity-Florida is the group launching this digital attack. Its founder are the billionaire Koch brothers.

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It’s a 30 second digital ad, throwing the conservative group into the fight over the new rays stadium. The pro baseball team announced last month they plan to leave St. Pete for Ybor. But Americans for Prosperity are questioning where the money’s coming from.

“It’s not the role of government to prop up the bottom line of a baseball team," said group spokesman Andres Malave.

They insist no public money should be used for a private corporation. The group is no rookie on what they call the fight against corporate welfare. In the past they’ve taken on other stadium plans including one for the Miami Marlins.

“These outside special interests groups that come in and drop a lot of money on these issues, they don’t live here," responded Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, "They don’t know us, they don’t know the dynamics.”

Buckhorn says it’s simply too early to figure out how exactly the Rays are paying for the likely $800 million ballpark.

"I’m prepared to put our best efforts in this but I’m also prepared to walk away if it’s not a good deal for the taxpayers," he said, "I’m not going to burden my kid’s generation paying for a stadium that just doesn’t make sense.

But he tells ABC Action News the Rays deserve the city’s best effort to make the move a reality. He gave what he calls “creative” examples of coming up with some cash.

“Tax increment financing districts. There are entertainment districts. There are development districts where the growth around the stadium will contribute to pay off the debt," he said.
Another is a tourist tax which he says will barely touch the average taxpayer. But Americans for Prosperity says it’s still public money that should be put elsewhere.

“Let’s make sure that taxpayer dollars are used for their best and most intended purposes which is roads, schools; actual infrastructure needs." said Malave.

The group is also collecting signatures for a petition. It’ll be delivered to the Hillsborough County Commission. The ad campaign doesn’t end there. The group plans to launch phone banks, take radio ads and mail flyers to spread its message.