$975 million for baseball in Orlando? Bianchi, Maxwell debate

Orlando sports propeller Pat Williams wants Orange County executives to commit $975 million in hotel taxes for a Major League Baseball stadium if he can snag a new team or convince the Rays to leave Tampa Bay and settling in Orlando. Columnists Mike Bianchi and Scott Maxwell have very different views on whether this is a good idea. So today, we’re going to let them speak.

Mike: Can we lay down some ground rules here? If we are going to discuss this subject, I would ask you not to complicate the situation by saying that we should use the tourist tax for affordable housing, more funding for the police and better public transport. No one disputes that! However, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the TDT intended for tourism projects and isn’t it prohibited by law to use it for more practical purposes? So can we please forgo the non-sequence and just discuss the merits of bringing Major League Baseball to Orlando?

Scott: So, if I understand correctly, you would like to start this debate by asking me to drop my most compelling point? Man, if you were Aaron Burr, you would have invited Alexander Hamilton to a shootout on the condition that Hamilton be unarmed. TDT spending rules are as flexible as elected officials wish. Guidelines on hotel tax expenditures were not given by God to Moses. They were written by men and women — who can change them and who have has changed them several times in the past to address community issues needed throughout Florida. Not here.

Orlando Sentinel sports columnist Mike Bianchi

Mike: Well, as soon as they change the rules, I’ll change my position, but until then, let’s not forget that Orlando was built on tourism and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that. Without tourism, Orlando would be Ocala and you’d write articles criticizing the county for subsidizing the local flea market. Since the TDT is for tourism, a beautiful domed stadium and a Major League Baseball team on I-Drive would be a boon for tourism and, more importantly, give local residents another sports team. professional to encourage.

Scott: Who’s ashamed? Orlando does not exist without tourism. I just think tourism – and professional sports – should stand on their own free market feet. That’s what virtually every other private for-profit company does. You remember capitalism, don’t you? That’s the value that all those ultra-rich team owners claim to believe, except when they ask for alms. Rich DeVos used to decry welfare, until he wanted half a billion dollars from Orlando taxpayers for a new NBA arena. Then he tried to hold that community hostage to get his piece of the welfare pie.

Mike: Sigh. I feel like I’m arguing with an 8-year-old who tells me that yes, Santa Claus really exists. You are an idealist; I am realistic. In your idealistic perfect world, of course, team owners would pay for their own arenas and stadiums, but in my real world, I understand that cities and counties often up the ante because if they don’t, then someone else will. It’s just like that; not how it should be. If we want a Major League Baseball team, we have to help fund the stadium or Nashville, Charlotte, Portland, Salt Lake City or Montreal will do it. What’s it gonna be, Scott? Do you want to be a big city or do you want to be Omaha?

Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel Underground Columnist

Orlando Sentinel

Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel Underground Columnist

Scott: And I feel like I’m arguing with a sports columnist – the ones who are always threatening that Orlando will become Omaha or Poughkeepsie unless we remove more corporate welfare checks. I remember the same thing 10 years ago, when local sports boosters were demanding taxpayers absolutely, positively had pay for a new football stadium if Orlando ever hoped to be worthy of MLS. A few of us refused to be held hostage, saying the team had to pay for it themselves. Call it idealism if you want. But guess what? Orlando City Soccer ended up doing just that, paying for its own stadium like professional teams have done all over America – but only when communities stood up for taxpayers instead of backing down on team owners.

Mike: MLS is not MLB. Major League Baseball rarely grows and rarely has teams available, which is why I think we need to do everything we can to get baseball. RIGHT AWAY. The last time baseball expanded was in 1998; Do we want to wait another 30 years before having this chance again? We are already the 17th largest media market in the country and the largest media market without a Major League Baseball or NFL team. We are bigger than 10 other media markets that ALREADY have baseball. The beauty of Pat Williams’ plan is that we don’t have to spend money on a new ballpark unless Pat and his group recruit a team. I say let’s go and see if Pat can work his “Magic,” like he did 40 years ago when he brought the NBA to town.

Scott: It sounds a lot like doublespeak to me. We claim that Orlando is one of the best markets in America while claiming that no one would consider coming here unless we gave them $1 billion. It’s quite a pitch. And the argument for taxpayer subsidies is necessary crumbles pretty quickly when you consider that the San Francisco Giants paid for their own stadium. Whether it’s MLB or MLS, there’s always a mob arguing that grants are the only way — until it’s pretty clear that’s not the case.

Mike: Wow, did you grow up in an orchard? Because you are an excellent cherry picker! You chose Major League Baseball’s only privately funded stadium since 1962, but failed to tell people that San Francisco gave the team a million-dollar lot on San Bay. Francisco and many other “grants”. Hey, I have an idea, since we obviously disagree on this. Unlike our partisan state and national government politicians, I am willing to go to the other side of the aisle and offer a compromise. I will support your inaugural proposal to have the rules/laws changed so that we can use TDT money for infrastructure, transit, affordable housing and other needs in the community but if the rules remain the same , then you support my proposal and jump on the baseball bandwagon!!!

Scott: The City of San Francisco gave the Giants some of its city-owned land for the team to fund and build their own stadium. I would be fine with this business here. (Although I’m not convinced that hardly anyone but you and Pat are taking this MLB idea in Orlando seriously.) Plus, you know full well that teams in most professional sports leagues – from baseball and from soccer to hockey and soccer — funded their own arenas and stadiums. But only when local communities refused to turn around and play dead. And listen, there are a lot of other things that Florida law currently allows to spend on hotel taxes that I would prefer. But I’ll give you this, Mike: I’d rather spend hotel taxes on a ballpark than an extra million square feet at the convention center.

Mike: The convention center is already so huge that we can probably build the baseball stadium inside and save some money! Would you be in favor of that?

Scott: Brother, now you speak. Heck, we could build two ballparks, an NHL arena, and the world’s largest pickleball complex — and still have more convention center space than we ever need most of the year. . I knew we would find common ground.

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