Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vetoes funding for possible Tampa Bay Rays facility

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) on Thursday vetoed $35 million in state spending on a youth sports complex in Pasco County, a project that had been touted as a site potential spring training for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The money was included in the $112 billion budget plan sent to DeSantis by state lawmakers earlier this year. DeSantis, however, has the power to veto specific spending, and he used it to slash a record $3.1 billion from the original budget proposal.

On May 26, the Rays released a statement decrying the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, and said the franchise would donate $50,000 to Everytown for Gun Safety, a violence prevention organization. army.

“This cannot become normal,” the team statement read. “We cannot become numb. We can’t look away. We all know that if nothing changes, nothing changes.

In a public address Friday, DeSantis said he “doesn’t support giving taxpayers’ money to professional sports stadiums, period.” But DeSantis, a gun rights supporter who is pushing the state to allow residents to carry concealed firearms without a license, also suggested that the Rays’ support for a gun control organization had also been taken into account in its decision.

“Corporations are free to engage or not to engage in whatever discourse they wish, but it is clear that spending taxpayers’ money on professional sports stadiums is inappropriate,” he said. he declares. “It is also inappropriate to subsidize the political activism of a private company. Either way, it’s not appropriate. But we weren’t in a situation where using taxpayers’ money for a professional stadium would have been prudent use.

The Rays declined to comment on DeSantis’ veto.

In December, State Senator President Wilton Simpson, a native of Pasco County, and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told the Tampa Bay Times that the Rays were interested in Pasco County, north of Tampa, as the site for a training complex and a spring training facility. as part of the team’s plan to build a new stadium in Tampa.

At that time, the team still had hopes of splitting its home games between Tampa and Montreal. But about a month later, Major League Baseball’s executive board rejected that plan, forcing the Rays to restart their decades-long quest to vacate Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, where their user agreement ends in 2027.

The team is reportedly considering both Tampa and the Tropicana Field site in St. Petersburg as possible locations for a new stadium, and owner Stu Sternberg and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred have both expressed their desire for the team to remain in the Gulf Coast region.

The youth sports complex in Odessa, Florida was not specifically tied to the Rays in the state budget proposal, but Pasco County officials had suggested it could also serve as a training complex spring for the team. The team holds spring training in Port Charlotte, Florida, about 80 miles southeast of St. Petersburg.

“It’s not unexpected, but it was disappointing that our youth sports complex was vetoed,” Pasco County Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said Thursday.

Chelsea Janes contributed to this report.

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