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No Surprise: Florida’s Economic Development Agency Wants Tax Subsidies for Daytona Speedway, Jaguars and 2 Other Sports Venues

| January 25, 2015

Rolling in dollars, looking for more at the state's expense. (Dennis Pires)

Rolling in dollars, looking for more at the state’s expense. (Dennis Pires)

Florida’s economic-development agency Friday gave support to four professional sports facilities that are seeking state sales-tax dollars to help pay for construction projects.

It will now be up to members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission to determine how the stadiums’ requests should be ranked and if any money should be awarded.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity advised Jacksonville, Orlando, Daytona International Speedway and South Florida Stadium, applying for the Miami Dolphins home Sun Life Stadium, that their applications met all “statutory criteria.” In a letter, the department also recommended that lawmakers could approve all four.

Daytona International Speedway and South Florida Stadium are each seeking $3 million a year for 30 years for ongoing improvements to those facilities. (The Speedway reported profits of $21.5 million in the second quarter of 2014 on revenue of $190.3 million, up from $178.4 million for the previous year’s equivalent quarter.)

Orlando has requested $2 million a year for three decades to help pay for a planned $110 million soccer stadium. Jacksonville, with its application supported by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has asked for $1 million a year for three decades.

Lawmakers have set aside a $7 million pool of funding that can be used this year for stadium projects. But that isn’t enough to meet the requests of the four stadium projects, which collectively are seeking $9 million a year in payments.

Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said the president’s office is reviewing the state agency’s letter and that a meeting of the Legislative Budget Commission has not been scheduled. The commission is made up of House and Senate members who meet periodically through the year to deal with budget-related issues.

Backers of the stadium-funding requests expressed confidence that their proposals would merit support from lawmakers.

“I don’t think of ourselves as competing against any particular facility. We want to stand on our own merits, and we think it’s exactly what the Legislature will tend to support,” said Paul Harden, representing Jacksonville.

Jacksonville’s request would help pay for a recently completed $100 million upgrade to EverBank Field. The project includes a new north end-zone party deck, upgrades to the stadium-wide Wi-Fi and two new 60-foot-tall, 362-foot-long scoreboards.

Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway, pointed to the impact of an ongoing $400 million front-stretch expansion called “Daytona Rising,” which supporters say will help draw additional non-Floridians to the raceway.

“The (state’s) Sports Development Program provides the necessary scrutiny to assess the worthiness of providing state tax incentives to sports franchises, and Daytona Rising boasts the type of economic impact numbers from out-of-state visitors that no other Florida sports franchise can,” Chitwood said in a prepared statement.

However, Chris Hudson, the Florida director of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, questioned using tax dollars to pay expenses for businesses that collect billions of dollars.

“Our state residents support these professional sports franchises by buying tickets to games and races, purchasing jerseys and other licensed merchandise, and watching sporting events on live television, boosting ratings and advertising revenue,” Hudson said in an email. “Reaching into the state coffers to take money that should be going to health care and education is a poor way to repay their loyalty, all the more so in light of the (Office of Economic & Demographic Research) report that clearly shows how little these businesses give back to the state economy.”

The Department of Economic Opportunity’s letter came after a report earlier this month from the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research that was critical of past state stadium-funding efforts. The report said that for every $1 spent on professional sports facilities, the state gets a 30-cent return on its investment.

By comparison, the report indicated that subsidies to the Florida Sports Foundation, which draws visitors to Florida for amateur sporting events, has a return of $5.61 for each $1 that comes from taxpayers.

Harden noted that the study didn’t take into account ticket sales. The study said people would spend money on entertainment regardless of the stadium events.

“The numbers looked skewed,” Harden said. “About 40 percent of our dollars comes from folks who live in the state of Georgia. Because of the location of our franchise, we bring in a lot of dollars that otherwise wouldn’t come in.”

State lawmakers revamped the funding process for stadium projects during the 2014 legislative session in an attempt to reduce lobbying efforts for stadium money. Betta said the legislation created a new process that differs from what the research office studied.

The new law required applications to be filed by Nov. 1, 2014, for funding in 2015. It gave the Department of Economic Opportunity until Feb. 1 to determine if each application was economically viable.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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10 Responses for “No Surprise: Florida’s Economic Development Agency Wants Tax Subsidies for Daytona Speedway, Jaguars and 2 Other Sports Venues”

  1. m&m says:

    This is all a bunch of crap. The cities that thrive on the extra revenue coming in for the events they begged for and built should return some of that revenue to the state for allowing them to build.. This is uncalled for GREED. The state and the smooth talking lawyers will somehow figure out a way to get it even with citizens objections.

  2. NortonSmitty says:

    Just another example of Welfare for the rich, Capitalism for the poor philosophy in America today.

  3. Rich says:

    Will the management of these entities have to undergo drug testing to qualify for this welfare from the state?

  4. Yellowstone says:

    What a bunch of horsecrap! Volusia can’t afford to fix their C-rated school – so what do they do? . . . Fire the Supervisor and raise taxes. Volusia wants to buy more land to support off beach parking – solution – charge more for beach access (taxes on top of property taxes). And the list goes on . . .

    But, and a big BUT, they can graciously give away millions to a forum wherein people sit for hours and hours, in the rain, watching cars way down there go round and round in circles. Go figure huh?

    What a goofy this place is getting to be. But folks, like some of us said previously, “you voted for’em – now you get to pay for’em”.

    Enjoy those very expensive tickets as you watch the cars go round kiddies . . .

  5. tulip says:

    I’m in agreement with M&M and Smitty. The businesses mentioned make a fortune and are paid well. There is no need to subsidize them with taxpayer money. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

    The governor has slashed tax money for Medicaid and a few other things because the budget needs cutting. So it’s okay to subsidize profitable businesses, and will find ways to add fees and taxes to pay for it? How unfair.

  6. #1 Gator Fan says:

    Who cares? It beats giving welfare and food stamps and free cell phones to people who sleep until noon everyday and milk the system. Thanks Nobama.

  7. Lancer says:

    This is NOT capitalism. This is crony capitalism. This is government picking economic winners and losers subsidized by taxpayers.

    The entire system is a failure…100+ entitlement programs and decades and trillions spent…not a single percentage drop in, nearly, 50 years! Keeping people dependent for their vote is a horrible thing to do.

    Next is the funding of business interests, always under the guise of some do-gooder name, which almost always, goes to some heavy campaign donor. Giving tax dollars away to sustain a struggling or failing business model is a horrible thing to do.

    People need to wake up and realize the decisions and actions of government, EXCEEDING ITS PARAMETERS have created and continued economic hardship in our country.

    As a nation, our economy is struggling and barely moving forward…not because of government, but in spite of government. Bureaucrats and politicians are the impediment to progress, not the deliverers of it.

  8. Flagler Resident 45 yrs. says:

    If Florida wants to continue to provide for tourism and compete with other States to provide Pro Sports we must provide Sales Tax revenues for these sport complexes. Not everybody goes to Disney World..

  9. Anonymous says:

    maybe a small % of the tax that is collected at such sites should stay at such places for repairs and upkeep.

  10. Bill harvey says:

    Feed the wealthy from within each forum. Increase the sales tax at each site to pay for upkeep. I don’t go to any of these things so why should my tax dollars support them. It doesn’t matter anymore we the average taxpayer lost the crooked lawyers and useless politicians are in bed with each other and we are left out side, it will never change no more trust here for any politician. They are destroying the country from within. No need to worry about Iran or north korea

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