Sports stadium program targeted once again

A South Florida lawmaker will make another attempt to eliminate an unused pool of sales-tax dollars that could help build and maintain professional sports stadiums.

Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Miami Springs, has refiled a proposal (HB 6057) for the 2020 legislative session that would repeal a controversial 2014 program that spells out steps for state dollars to become available for stadium funding.

The program would make available $13 million a year for work involving professional stadiums or events administered by the Breeders’ Cup Limited and NASCAR. However, amid House opposition, the money has gone unused. No applications were submitted during the annual filing window for the 2020 award cycle, Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman Tiffany Vause said in an email Wednesday. That was the second consecutive year no applications were filed.

The program was set up to prevent the type of lobbying that occurred in 2013 when the Miami Dolphins unsuccessfully sought $350 million for stadium upgrades.

Currently, eight facilities in Florida receive up to $2 million a year in sales-tax dollars: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Amalie Arena in Tampa, the BB&T Center in Broward County, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, American Airlines Arena in Miami and the Amway Center in Orlando.

All but the funding for the Amway Center, home of the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic, were awarded in the 1990s and have payments halting in the next decade. Money for the Amway Center started in 2008 and continues through 2038.

Avila pushed a broader proposal during the 2019 legislative session that also sought to prohibit the use of revenues from tourist-development taxes or convention-development taxes to finance or construct facilities that would be used by sports franchises. The 2019 proposal was approved by the House but died in the Senate. The 2020 legislative session starts Jan. 14.