Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a conservative advocacy group backed by David H. and Charles Koch, has begun running video ads urging Tampa Bay area residents to oppose the use of tax dollars for a new stadium, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The state legislature has already acted to prevent teams from using state funds for stadiums, a move strongly supported by the AFP and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who works closely with the organization.
Now the AFP will seek to influence local elected officials, at present through a video campaign that — according to the Times — includes instructions for residents to write to their county commissioners to express their opposition.
The Rays have proposed building a new baseball stadium in the historic Ybor City area of Hillsborough County (see our coverage here). Thus far, no financial details have been made publicly available, but observers have estimated that a new stadium and its attendant infrastructure would cost somewhere between $600-800 million.
The Rays will raise some portion of these funds privately, but have claimed that they would need some (as yet undisclosed amount) of public subsidy to make the budget work, particularly if features like a retractable roof are included.
It is highly unlikely that Hillsborough County county commissioners would propose the sort of tax increase that necessitates a public referendum (which was how funds were raised for Raymond James Stadium), where an AFP-backed campaign could well influence voters’ decisions.
These efforts, however, could still influence stadium financing decisions if county commissioners believe there will be a high political cost to supporting stadium subsidies in general.