The Norman Transcript

April 3, 2013

Fla. may change how sports teams get help

By Gary Fineout
The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida may soon force its football teams, baseball teams, racetracks and even spring training teams to compete against each other.

Responding to a push by professional sports franchises seeking help this year from taxpayers, the Florida Senate wants to create a new process where the state ranks each request before they get any money.

It would apply to pro teams seeking aid this year, including the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars as well as requests from Daytona International Speedway and Orlando to lure a Major League Soccer franchise.

“I think it’s better that we look at these sports facility issues as economic development issues because that’s the way they are being sold,” Senate President Don Gaetz said. “All the teams and all the owners who have come to my office have tried to sell their initiatives on the basis of jobs created.”

For the past two decades, Florida taxpayers have paid out close to $300 million for repairs, renovations and the construction of stadiums and arenas for professional football, hockey, baseball and basketball teams. The state also has shelled out money to spruce up ballparks used by Major League Baseball teams for spring training.

With the state’s economy finally on the rebound there are several proposals this year to extend even more financial assistance. The one that has gotten the most attention is a bill that would help the Miami Dolphins get state and local tax dollars to help renovate Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins are seeking $3 million a year for the next 30 years as part of a package to help pay for nearly $400 million worth of improvements.

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