TALLAHASSEE (TBO.com) - New public money would be available for privately owned stadiums, including a potential new home for the Tampa Bay Rays, under legislation passed Friday by the Florida Legislature.

The Senate made some last-minute changes to a House bill (HB 7095), which the House then passed 89-27, sending it to Gov. Rick Scott. His office did not indicate whether he’ll sign it.

Teams would apply to the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity for sales tax rebate funding. Public money can be used for “constructing, reconstructing, renovating, or improving a facility or reimbursing such costs,” the bill says.

The Rays don’t hide the fact they would like a new stadium, but team executives have declined to say whether they would ask for money from the state.

A Rays spokesman did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.

The idea of using taxpayer money to build or renovate sporting centers continued to upset some lawmakers, who said evidence doesn’t back up claims that sports contribute to economic development.

Photo Credit 970 WFLA/K. Norman

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