BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Public funding will be available to private stadiums in the state under new legislation passed last week.
The Florida Legislature approved House Bill 7095 on May 2 recommending Gov. Rick Scott to sign it. The bill establishes a process by which sports franchises are able to apply to receive sales tax refunds from the state based on the amount of sales tax generated by the facility.
Under the bill, Daytona International Speedway’s $400 million Daytona Rising project is eligible for application to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
“Today’s decision by the Florida Legislature makes evident that the state recognizes the tremendous value that Daytona Rising has and continues to deliver to our area,” International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy said in a statement released on May 2.
“If signed, the legislation will set the framework to potentially provide additional capital for the project, allowing us to build upon the already massive economic benefits being generated in the region – from thousands of new jobs to millions of dollars in new tax revenues.
Daytona International Speedway (DIS) President Joie Chitwood III stated, “If the bill is signed, Daytona Rising will stand as the model for a true private-public partnership with far-reaching advantages for Florida.’’
For constructing or renovating
The House voted 89-27 to approve Senate changes to the overall measure. The bill requires the Department of Economic Opportunity to evaluate economic viability and rank funding proposals before lawmakers are asked to approve sales-tax dollars for multimillion-dollar construction projects and improvements.
Up to $2 million a year could go to the Speedway and to soccer teams in Miami and Orlando.
Public money can be used for “constructing, reconstructing, renovating, or improving a facility or reimbursing such costs,” the bill states.
Money tiered for plan
The plan bases distributions on 75 percent of the average of new state sales taxes rung up on sales at a stadium. It tiers money available based on project cost:
Projects costing $200 million or more can get up to $3 million a year.
Projects of $100 million to $200 million can get up to $2 million a year.
Projects of $30 million to $100 million can get up to $1 million a year.
Stadiums already receiving public money are eligible for up to $1 million a year. In all cases, funding would last up to 30 years.
“We are proud of our efforts with Daytona Rising, and are especially grateful to all our local community supporters who rallied on our behalf to help keep these dollars in our community and region. We’re also grateful to the leaders in Tallahassee for their willingness to create a means by which to partner with us to build a better economic future together,” France concluded.
Scott spokesman John Tupps said in an email that the governor “looks forward to signing this legislation.”
“This economic development bill creates a process that measures return on investment to help protect Florida’s taxpayers,” Tupps added.
The process was drawn up after controversial efforts last year by the Miami Dolphins to land tax money for upgrades at Sun Life Stadium.
“Last year we saw the frustration up to the last minute, with CEOs coming in, running to the speaker’s office, going to the president’s office, trying to do this and do that, and, at the end of the day, get nothing,” said Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee. “A lot of municipalities will benefit from this as we try to turn the economy around.”
But Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, said the process would only make it easier for communities and teams to get state money.
The Senate backed the measure, with its changes, in a 35-3 vote.
Daytona Rising is expected to create 6,300 jobs, $300 million in labor income and over $80 million in tax revenue. It will be completed in time for the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona and Daytona 500. Daytona Rising was recently cited as a key source of expected job growth in Volusia County as part of a Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.
Five expanded and redesigned entrances, or “injectors,” will lead fans to a series of escalators and elevators, transporting them to three different concourse levels.
Each level features spacious social areas or “neighborhoods’’ along a nearly mile-long frontstretch. At the conclusion of the redevelopment, the Speedway will have approximately 101,000 permanent, wider and more comfortable seats, twice as many restrooms and three times as many concession stands.
In addition, the Speedway will feature over 60 luxury suites with trackside views and a completely revamped hospitality experience for corporate guests.
Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.