TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Tampa City Council Thursday became the third governing body this week to approve a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that will bring up to $100-million in renovations to Raymond James Stadium.
As part of the agreement, the Bucs would pay a minimum of $58-million towards the improvements, while $29-million will come from taxpayer money out of the county's tourist tax, which must be spent on sports facilities or promoting tourism.
The City Council, Hillsborough County Commission and Tampa Sports Authority board all signed off on improvements, making it a done deal.
"This is a very exciting day for the community," said Brian Ford, Bucs chief operating officer, who had not spoken publicly about the deal during the negotiations, which started in January. "There's a lot of time and effort that went into this and the end result, I think, is going to help us maintain the crown jewel of the NFL, Raymond James Stadium, as well as enable us to bring large events to the area."
The renovation would include two new end zone video boards that are more than four times the size of the current ones, as well as video boards on each of the four corners of the stadium. It would also include a new sound system, new concessions and a new concourse. These renovations would be completed in time for the Buccaneers' 2016 season.
A second phase of renovations would include renovations of the club lounges, expansions of the general concourses, a team store and other fan enhancements. This phase is expected to be completed for the Bucs' 2017 season.
Harry Cohen was among the council members who pointed out that the taxpayer funds must be used on projects like this.
"In this case, we are not putting general fund dollars into a facility that we don't own. We are simply allowing the community take advantage of a tax structure that's been set up by the state that is specifically earmarked for these types of expenditures," he said.
The lone dissenting vote on City Council came from Charlie Miranda.
"Not anyone would do a deal like this because it's a bad deal," he said, questioning why the team needs to use taxpayer funds to make renovations. "It's time this country -- not Tampa -- but this country understands that you're getting robbed. Not with a gun, but with a pen."
County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who helped broker the deal, has said both sides saw an urgency in getting an agreement in place, with Tampa hosting the College Football National Championship in 2017. The city is also hoping the stadium upgrades will help draw a Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020.
Construction is expected to begin in January.