Fla. push to make stadiums house homeless

Jan. 24, 2012 at 12:47 PM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- A Florida bill would make sports teams pay millions of dollars for not complying with a law requiring them to house homeless people when they have no events.

The bill, which a state Senate committee passed unanimously Monday, is based on a 23-year-old law requiring sports facilities built with the aid of state funds to house the homeless on nights when no official events are scheduled, The Miami Herald reported.

Stadium and arena owners that failed to meet the requirement would have to return a total of more than $270 million.

"We have spent over $300 million supporting teams that can afford to pay a guy $7 [million], $8 [million], $10 million a year to throw a baseball 90 feet. I think they can pay for their own stadium," said Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, who introduced the Senate bill.

Under the bill, owners of sports facilities such as Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, and American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat, would have to return the public funds and begin operating as homeless shelters. Major teams receive monthly subsidies of $166,000 each and would continue to be fined that amount for any month in which they don't meet the requirement for housing homeless people.

Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, introduced a companion in the Florida House of Representatives.

"I cannot believe that we're going to cut money out of Medicaid and take it away from homeless and take it away from the poor and impoverished, and we're continuing to support people who are billionaires," Artiles said.

The Herald said it remained unclear whether any of the state's major sports facilities house homeless people.

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