The Jacksonville Jaguars, Orlando Lions and Daytona International Speedway are now essentially on the same team in Tallahassee.
The House Subcommittee on Finance and Tax supported a trio of measures Wednesday that keep alive each entity’s hopes of scoring millions in sales tax rebates from the Legislature, but making it future requests less likely.
In advancing the proposals, committee members limited the number of professional entities in Florida that would be eligible for the rebates to nine, with one being a new spot for a Major League Soccer team in central Florida, where the Lions are trying to join the country's top league.
Still, several committee members – already opposed to using tax dollars to assist the multi-million dollar business of professional sports – expressed concerns that the state would set a precedent in allowing Jacksonville to become the first entity to receive a second rebate, raising its annual total from $2 million a year to $4 million.
“We’ll have eight teams back next year, each seeking $4 million,” predicted Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach.
Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, sponsoring the soccer measure, disagreed with any contention that the rebates will impact state sales tax collection totals as each team and or stadium owner would have to generate more in sales taxes to qualify.
The measures seek $2 million a year in sales tax rebates to assist in upgrades at the NASCAR track (HB 1049) and EverBank Field in Jacksonville (HB 721) and for the construction of a stadium in Central Florida (HB 219) with a goal of attracting a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.
The soccer bill would also expand sales tax exemptions when the NBA All-Star Game weekend or the MLS All-Star game are held in Florida.
The bills don 't include a separate proposal (HB 165) that would direct $3 million a year in sales taxes to Sun Life Stadium in Miami and direct Miami-Dade County to hold a referendum of mainland voters on using hotel bed tax money for $400 million in stadium renovations, or Gov. Rick Scott’s request for $5 million a year to improve Major League Baseball spring training stadium in Florida.
The Lions are working with Orlando to build an 18,000-seat, $105 million stadium as the Orlando club seeks to move up from fielding loaned reserve players from the MLS's Sporting Kansas City, while Jacksonville is considering more than $100 million in improvements to EverBank Field,.
The Jaguars "bring credibility to our city," said Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville, in arguing for the economic impact of the stadium that also may soon be fighting Atlanta as the future home of the annual University of Florida-University of Georgia football game.
International Speedway Corp. plans a $450 million overhaul of the grandstands along the front stretch that will include upgraded concessions and larger seats.
The Jaguars and speedway have appearances before the Economic Affairs Committee before reaching the Appropriations Committee. The Lions must face the Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee before appearing before Appropriations.
Facilities in Florida that already receive the sales tax rebate are: Sun Life Stadium, as part of a deal with the Miami Marlins; the BB&T Center, home to the Florida Panthers; Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; American Airlines Arena, the home of the Miami Heat; Amway Center, the Orlando Magic's home; Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays; and the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning play.