FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Lawmakers in Tallahassee are talking about requiring professional sports stadiums to open their doors to the homeless. With two professional teams playing in Lee County, will Hammond Stadium and Jet Blue Park be forced to house those who don't have a home of their own?
Jeff Mielke, executive director for the Lee County Sports Authority, said the two stadiums built in Lee County were not built using state funding.
Earlier this week, a Senate committee passed a bill requiring Florida's professional sports teams to pay back $300 million in taxpayer money if they don't help the homeless. But in Lee County, a homeless shelter isn't an option.
"You have to have received state funding in building those facilities for the current law to be enforceable," said Mielke.
According to a Florida statute not many know about, any professional sports facility constructed with financial assistance from the state shall be designed as a shelter for the homeless. It's why Senator Mike Bennett of Bradenton is going after the money.
"Here we are cutting money for medicaid, we're cutting money for education, we're cutting money for homeless programs, maybe we should ask for that money back," said Bennett.
Mielke said Jet Blue Park and Hammond Stadium were both built using bed tax dollars instead of state funding and that makes Lee County stadiums exempt from being used as homeless shelters.
"Had they received state funding it would be awfully difficult to turn them into homeless shelters anyway because we use them so heavily," said Mielke.
Another part of the bill requires teams to use some of their tax subsidy to purchase tickets for children, veterans and other groups when there's a media blackout because of low attendance.