Tampa rich guys, who benefit from new Rays stadium, sign letter supporting new Rays stadium

If only the combined bank accounts of these forty business leaders and Sternberg added up to a new ballpark.

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Tampa rich guys, who benefit from new Rays stadium, sign letter supporting new Rays stadium
Nothing says a community is fully behind a giant publicly subsidized stadium, than a small handful of local rich guys showing solidarity for another rich guy's looming stadium tax break.

Last weekend, 40 "Tampa Bay business leaders" signed an open letter in support of Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg's proposed split-season concept with Montreal and a new stadium that would only be used half the time in Ybor City.

"We endorse the leadership and membership of the three prominent regional chambers who supported this Sister City Baseball plan and the construction of an open-air neighborhood ballpark in Historic Ybor City," said the open letter, which was  in the Tampa Bay Times.

"The new multi-use facility would be an economic development platform to host national sporting events, concerts and community gatherings, similar to the versatility of Amalie Arena," the letter continued.
Never mind that Tampa already has an arena that's "similar to the versatility of Amalie Arena,"  it's called Amalie Arena, the letter fails to mention that the vast majority of the 40 (mostly white men) business leaders who signed this thing would also benefit from a new stadium at the expense of taxpayers.

Of the noted local elite who signed this letter, there's no shortage of investors and real estate developers, like Carlos Alfonso, CEO of Alliant Partners, whose firm is comically based in Ybor.

Then there's restaurateurs like Blake Casper, who's Casper Company oversees most of Tampa Bay's McDonald's locations, including the one in Ybor. Richard Gonzmart also signed the letter, and would probably love to have a stadium within a few blocks of his Columbia and Ulele restaurants. There's also Chris Sullivan of MVP Holdings, whose restaurant roster includes local chicken tender chain PDQ.

But arguably the funniest person to sign this letter is former Florida CFO Alex Sink. As pointed out by local baseball writer Michael Lortz, you may remember Sink from her now entirely ironic April, 2021 column in the Orlando Sentinel roasting GOP lawmakers for seeking a "three martini lunch" tax break.

"While Republican politicians would like you to believe they’re looking out for mom and pop businesses, the truth is these tax breaks would only apply to the top 1% of Florida corporations. The biggest of the big," wrote Sink. "On top of that, Florida already has among the lowest corporate tax rates in the country. Let me ask you this: Did you contact your representatives and ask them to take money out of your pocket and put it into the bank accounts of the top 1% of giant corporations? Of course not. You know who did? Lobbyists for these giant corporations."

Sounds familiar. 
Then of course there's the absolute theater-level absurdity of this letter being published in the Tampa Bay Time of all places. For the last year, the Times Editorial board has bent itself into pretzels in an attempt to jam through this stadium for its former investor Darryl Shaw, whose Gas Worx development would be at the heart of the idea.

But despite public sentiment souring on taxpayer-funded stadiums and actual Canadians placing billboards in Tampa Bay saying they won't pay for a stadium, it seems the idea is still barreling forward.

While no exact dollar amount has been attached to the new stadium concept, a poll sent out by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor's reelection campaign last December asked if residents would be fine with coughing up $350 million, with Sternberg reportedly paying the other half. 
Mayor Castor also wants this stadium, so this might be a good time to mention that quite a few of the letter signees are also donors to her reelection PAC "Tampa Strong." 

Archie Collins, president and CEO of TECO, not only has a street car with his company's name on it running through Ybor, but it also donated $15,000 Castor's PAC in 2019. Of course, Casper's company donated $1,500, Gonzmart donated $5,000 and Tom Pepin, p
resident & CEO, Pepin Distributing Company, donated $1,000 to the PAC.

Of course, these donations are pennies to the dollar when it comes to how much it will cost taxpayers. If only the combined bank accounts of these 40 business leaders and Sternberg added up to a new ballpark. 

About The Author

Colin Wolf

Colin Wolf has been working with weekly newspapers since 2007 and has been the Digital Editor for Creative Loafing Tampa since 2019. He is also the Director of Digital Content Strategy for CL's parent company, Euclid Media Group.
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