Venue News: Tampa Business Community Jumps Into Stadium Debate

The Tampa Bay Rays have been fairly quiet in pushing their case for a new ballpark. Principal owner Stuart Sternberg hasn’t given any ultimatums, and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig hasn’t threatened to move the team. But there’s a collective voice willing to speak up for a Rays ballpark: the Tampa Bay area’s business community. This week, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce said it is considering getting more involved in the stadium debate. And at least three other local business and civic groups have jumped into the mix. Plus, key business executives who have worked to build stadiums in the past may push to have their voices heard, too…

…Edmonton, AB, City Councilors could soon have another funding proposal to chew on for a new downtown arena. It involves turning a selected number of seats into real estate. The latest proposal from NHL player agent Ritch Winter came in a letter to council that suggests selling arena seats in advance for purchasers to own for 40 or 50 years, then using that money to help build the new facility, according to media reports. The idea, called a “sports mortgage,” could see 1,000 seats sold for about $100,000 each, which could raise $100 million for construction instead of using taxpayer funds or borrowings. Similar schemes have been used in the U.S. to fund various projects, Winter noted in the letter…

…An initiative to create a special taxing district to fund a sports arena on the Las Vegas Strip has qualified to go before the 2011 Legislature, but opponents this week said they haven’t ruled out a court challenge. Secretary of State Ross Miller said county clerks in Nevada’s three congressional districts verified 157,778 signatures, about 60,000 more than needed to send the proposal to lawmakers. If the Legislature, which convenes in February, rejects it or fails to act on the proposal, it will automatically go to voters in 2012. The measure would authorize creation of a special taxing district in the Strip area, where an additional sales tax of 0.9% would be imposed to fund construction of the $448 million arena on land donated by Caesars Entertainment, formerly known as Harrah’s Entertainment…

…Louisiana Tech received good news this week as the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System gave the University’s Foundation and Athletic Department approval to move forward with the plans for the development of a new athletic complex. Louisiana Tech will now proceed with the next phase of the project, which will include soliciting proposals from design professionals to develop plans and specifications for construction of the facility to be built in the south end zone of Joe Aillet Stadium…

…Only 11,368 fans showed up at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, for Florida Atlantic University’s final game against Troy University, the smallest crowd of the season. That does not bode well for filling the stands at FAU’s new stadium, which has room for 30,000 and is currently under construction on the FAU campus in Boca Raton. “South Florida is a big event town. Our hope is, our stadium will create that excitement for people to come out, and we also need to get a better product on the field,” FAU Athletic Director Craig Angelos says. “I am a little concerned, but I am also optimistic at the same time.”