The 49ers may not be the only team locked in a multi-million-dollar dispute with the local government. The Buccaneers also are dealing with a possible cash grab involving money that had been set aside by a public body.
For the Niners, Santa Clara County decided to renege on a commitment to kick $30 million in taxpayer money into the $1.2 billion pot for a new stadium. For the Bucs, Hillsborough County may try to reclaim $12 million that was set aside 16 years ago for the construction of a “first-class NFL practice facility.”
According to Bill Varian of the Tampa Bay Times, county commissioners want to take back the money, which never has been used, and devote it to other projects.
“It’s not the Buccaneers’ money,” County Commission chairman Ken Hagan said. “It’s the taxpayers’ money.”
The money never was spent because the team was required to give ownership of the practice facility to the Tampa Sports Authority. The team nevertheless built a practice facility (One Buc Place), but without surrendering title to the Tampa Sports Authority and in turn without getting the $12 million.
According to Varian, the team and the county have discussed using the money to build an indoor practice facility, or for upgrades at Raymond James Stadium. Neither possibility seriously was pursued.
Five years ago, the team publicly declared an entitlement to the money. According to County Administrator Mike Merrill, the Buccaneers privately have said that the money should remain in escrow indefinitely, available for the team to use whenever it chooses.
“We have important needs,” Merrill said. “That money’s been sitting there since 1997.”
And so, basically, the Summer of Law could soon ensnare a team named for the inherently lawless.