Hope for the homeless? Football stadiums!by Dara Kam | January 20th, 2012
Converting football and baseball stadiums into homeless shelters might seem like a strange idea, but Florida law apparently already includes such a provision.
State law now requires that any professional sports facility built with state money must be used as a homeless shelter except when the facility is being used for a specific event or activity.
But none of the 17 football, baseball, basketball and hockey arenas that relied on state money for construction have ever been used to house the homeless, according to Sen. Mike Bennett, who’s filed a bill that could cost counties and professional sports franchises big-time.
Bennett’s measure (SB 816) would require that counties and professional sports franchises who’ve received state aid to build stadiums or other facilities prove to the attorney general that they’ve got a homeless shelter in place, or refund the money to the state.
So far, Florida taxpayers have contributed more than $261 million to the facilities. St. Lucie County received nearly $1.3 million in 2007 to help cover the costs of a spring training ball park for the New York Jets.
Dolphin Stadium could be on the hook for the biggest pay-back, if Bennett’s bill goes anywhere. They’ve been paid $37 million thus far by the state. Also on the line are counties, cities or other backs of nearly every major-league sports team in the state.
Bennett called the teams’ and counties’ failure to provide housing for the homeless “yet another example of how taxpayers are supplementing the super rich owners of sports franchises while the taxpayers of Florida are receiving very little in return” in a press release this afternoon. He said he discovered the requirement in existing law over the summer.
“I cannot believe that we tax people who are making a living catching mullet in our state and then take that tax money and send it to billionaires so they can have fancier stadiums,” Bennett, R-Bradenton, said.