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Can Hillsborough pay for a new Rays ballpark? | News

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Can Hillsborough pay for a new Rays ballpark?
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster is now saying low attendance at Tropicana Field means the Rays should be allowed to look to locate a new stadium anywhere that will keep the team in Tampa Bay.

If St. Pete's City Council agrees, that will toss the ball to Hillsborough County to prove they can handle the toughest part of building a new ballpark: paying for it.

TIMELINE: Rays' Stadium Saga

Ken Hagan, chair of the Hillsborough County Commission, says the county will not raise taxes to pay for a new Rays baseball stadium in any location, calling a taxpayer-heavy deal to build Raymond James Stadium in 1996 a "sweetheart deal" that won't be repeated.

So without taxpayers picking up most of the tab like they did with Ray Jay, how do you pay to build a replacement for the Trop in or around Tampa? A retractable roof ballpark goes for $600 to $700 million.

Here's the math: Hillsborough County has not pledged any specific money to a Tampa stadium project.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the city can likely come up with $100 million for the effort.

The Tampa Bay Rays have in the past pledged at least $150 million to a stadium project; Hagan expects the team to contribute perhaps $200 million, but the team has not declared an amount.

That leaves $300 million or more left unaccounted for.

Hagan said the Tampa business community will step up to close that gap, with advertising deals, naming rights, and other agreements adding revenue.

Ryan Neubauer and his business group Build it Downtown Tampa have looked at how to fund a stadium in Hillsborough County for five years now.

He says once St. Pete formally allows the Rays to talk with Hillsborough County -- a decision that has not been set in stone yet -- Tampa companies that had been afraid of lawsuits for meddling with St. Pete will now be free to talk realistically about money and how to pony up to pay the bills for a new ballpark.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is expected to release a statement on the subject Tuesday afternoon.

Click here for more insight on the stadium saga from 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky.

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