Rays spring training site in Pasco County vetoed by DeSantis

County leaders call Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto of $35 million in funding “a stumbling block, but not the end of the road.”

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Plans for a possible spring training home for the Tampa Bay Rays in Pasco County hit a snag with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto on funding the project, but county leaders are hopeful that’s not the end of the road.

Along with his signing of the so-called “Freedom First Budget,” DeSantis slashed $3 billion from proposed spending, including $35 million for what was described as a state-of-the-art “public” baseball facility in Pasco County. .

The project would include “several full-size training grounds, including a stadium pitch with lighting and spectator facilities, a team clubhouse and changing rooms, indoor and outdoor training facilities, a kitchen and halls. dining, player accommodations and associated parking, roadway entrance/exit, storm water and other associated infrastructure improvements.”

Although the Senate-approved funding request for a “youth athletic training and tournament complex” does not explicitly name the Rays, the details and discussions have led the MLB team to praise the development to use for spring training.

County leaders say they’ve had discussions with the Rays and the funding request says the resort “will be leased for use at various times throughout the year under a management and operating agreement.”

“I don’t agree with giving taxpayers’ money to professional sports stadiums, period,” DeSantis said while explaining why he vetoed the project.

Pasco County officials say they are a little surprised by the governor’s veto.

“I think sports complexes are always a bit controversial. But we had heard that we thought we were well placed. But unfortunately, we were vetoed,” said Pasco County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey.

However, Starkey added the veto does not equate to the end of the road for the project.

“We just have to see what the next step is. It would have been easier, of course with that 35 [million in funding] this year, but there’s always next year. And I’m optimistic,” Starkey said.

Partly due to the county-wide tourism effort to become the “Sports Coast”.

“It fits perfectly with what we envision for the vibe and livability of our county,” Starkey continued. “It was more than just spring training. It was a complete development complex for players that was going to be used – or will be used all year round.

On Tuesday, the Pasco County Board of Commissioners will hold its first meeting since funding for the project was canceled, and while it may not be on the agenda, county leaders are hoping to keep discussions going. life to make the project a reality.

“We understand that with this veto it may be a little more difficult, but we’re still going to talk to the Rays about our future,” Starkey said.

The Rays are not commenting at this time; they are currently holding their spring training in Port Charlotte.

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