Friday, November 27, 2015

Columnist Asks St. Pete to Stop Kidding Itself on Another Downtown Rays Stadium

Joe Henderson's column in the Trib today, "Please, St. Pete, don’t make same baseball error twice," comes after months of speculation by St. Petersburg's mayor, Rick Kriseman, that the city could replace Tropicana Field with a next-generation stadium on the exact same spot.

But Henderson doesn't like that idea, writing, "this isn’t difficult to’s all about location."
I’m starting to feel like I’m watching a car wreck in slow motion. You see it start to spin and shout, “NOOOOOO” but it keeps spinning until ... SPLAT!

I had the same feeling in 1986 when the council approved building what now is Tropicana Field without a tenant. Plenty of people sounded the alarm then about building at the far western end of the marketplace. St. Petersburg officials ignored warnings to stop from the late George Steinbrenner (he was dismissed as a Tampa puppet) and then-Commissioner Peter Ueberroth.
I don’t think the Rays would sign a deal there anyway, and even if they did not enough people would come to make it worth the $700 million or so a new stadium will cost. Instead of focusing on the starting rotation or the playoff race, both sides of the bay would engage in their favorite pastime of finger-pointing.
He comes to same conclusion I came to in May 2009, when I first wrote how all of The Trop's critics were wrong to point to the facility and should focus on its location:
The independent ABC Coalition has been studying proposed ballpark locations and while they haven't released their reports yet, I've got another poorly-kept secret for you - they're going to find playing in Tampa would be much more lucrative for the Rays.

And since the team can't get out of its current lease until 2027 without some cooperation from St. Pete and Pinellas County, the ABC Coalition is likely to suggest the team relocate to the Toytown/Gateway area, where residents of Hillsborough County could get to the park with much more ease.

In our initial story on May 8, we asked each of the six frontrunners for mayor of St. Pete what he or she thought the Rays needed.  While all agreed keeping them downtown was in the city's best interest, only three acknowledged the team would want to move closer to the bay bridges.

Businessman Scott Wagman and former City Councilman Bill Foster both said they'd prefer a downtown location, but said they could live with a site further north.

Former Councilman Larry Williams - to his credit - said, "What's best for the Rays may not be what's best for the city," and pledged to try to keep them downtown.
The ABC Coalition, sponsored by the City of St. Pete, ultimately decided Downtown St. Pete was too remote of a location to build a successful new stadium. It did, however, suggest Gateway/Mid-Pinellas may be just as good of a location as Downtown Tampa.

Larry Williams, who lost his mayoral bid in 2009, was right about one thing: what's best for the Rays may not be what's best for the city (or any of the taxpayers who may ultimately help fund the team's next home).

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Why the Bucs - Just Like the Rays - May Soon Be Seeking a New Stadium

It has never been more clear that the Bucs, just like the Rays, will soon be seeking a new stadium somewhere in Tampa Bay...and they'll lean on taxpayers to pay for it.

Of course, "soon" is a relative term since the real PR blitz may be nearly a decade away, as the team's lease at Raymond James Stadium runs through 2027. But it can take a decade for the seeds of a new stadium to why not plant them now?

We can see the early stages of the leveraging as the Bucs jockey for leverage with the taxpayer-funded Tampa Sports Authority, regarding terms of their stadium renovations.  What should have been a simple "taxpayers pay $26 million; we'll pay the rest" discussion has broken down over the team's out-of-the-blue request to play multiple regular-season games in another city (or country).

In fact, I reported in October how the county asked the Bucs about extending their lease at Raymond James Stadium past 2027 in exchange for some of their requested contract & renovation concessions, but the team said it "was not interested at this time."

If the heavy-handed arm-twisting and relocation threatmongering in San Diego, Oakland, and St. Louis is any indication, Tampa Bay fans can expect the league to threaten relocating the Bucs in the late 2020's if plans aren't underway for a new stadium by the middle of the decade.

And as valuable as cities like Los Angeles and London may be as NFL markets; they're potentially even more valuable as stalking horses for other cities to use as relocation leverage.

Of course, Tampa Bay baseball fans already know all about being used as a pawn to help other cities get new taxpayer-funded stadiums...

The stadium blueprint also explains why team owners ultimately insist on stadium deals where they control stadium profits, but taxpayers technically own the facility.  Neil deMause explains
Not only would they have to pay their own property taxes then, but they wouldn’t have expiring leases to hold over the heads of local officials. Or have the local news media hold over officials’ heads — it’s so much more convenient that way. 

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Monday, November 23, 2015

The Stadium Saga Business Squeezed in Before Thanksgiving

UPDATE: According to Tracy McManus, commissioners basically voted to spend 60% of new revenue on promotion until there's a need for something they deem more important. They did not vote on the requested ordinance to lock in the radio permanently.

We already knew how the Tampa Bay Times editorial board would like Pinellas County Commissioners to spend their new bed tax revenues...but why not pen another Monday morning editorial urging commissioners to reject the calls to commit a full 60 percent of the tourist tax to tourism advertising and promotion?

Because committing 60 percent of the new, sixth penny of tax (as they've done with the previous five cents) would reduce the county's ability to bond a baseball stadium:
[I]f St. Petersburg and Pinellas County are serious about trying to keep the Rays, it may take more than that to help pay for a new stadium that could cost $500 million. Yet just as it appears the St. Petersburg City Council will finally have the votes to break the stadium stalemate early next year and allow the Rays to look in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, the Pinellas commission could lose leverage by locking in now how the resort tax money can be spent.
"Resort tax" is a fancy way of saying "Shhh! nobody will notice it's a tax because tourists pay it!"

Also, since when does the Times case about preserving leverage?!?
The Rays are not the only issue. The Tampa Bay Rowdies are expected to seek resort tax money to build a stadium in St. Petersburg. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium wants to expand its home, and it's a safe bet that opportunities to help museums expand will come up, just as one did a few years ago to help the DalĂ­ Museum complete its new home. The Toronto Blue Jays need a new spring training facility to replace their outdated home in Dunedin. Then there is the ambitious proposal to build a massive sports complex on a former county landfill that would include a new spring training home for the Atlanta Braves. That also would require resort tax money.
The Rowdies "ask," of course, was first forecasted by this blog in early 2014.  But that's not to dismiss the Times' important point about lots of hungry mouths to feed in Pinellas County.  And that tourist tax money can only be spent on a few specific things, such as facility construction, tourism marketing/advertising, and all-important beach renourishment. 

Wait, why is nobody talking about possibly spending the money on the health of the beaches, the single-biggest tourism-driver in Pinellas County?!?
Tourism is a huge economic driver for Pinellas, and it takes smart advertising and promotion to continue to lure more visitors. But it would be shortsighted to reserve at least 60 percent of a higher resort tax for that purpose when so many projects are in flux. County commissioners should reject putting that 60 percent in concrete on Tuesday and insist on more flexibility — or risk limiting their ability to help keep the Rays, preserve and enhance spring training and capitalize on other opportunities.
Well, it'll be an interesting off-season regardless, with St. Pete council expected to open the floodgates on stadium talks in January.  Stay tuned.

ALSO READ: Some Pinellas Commissioners Sang Different Stadium Tunes on Campaign Trail
ALSO READ: What St. Pete's Election Means to the Rays' Stadium Saga

A brief history of Times editorials on the Stadium Saga:
And a bevy of Bill-Foster bashing too: Oct. 2013 | Sept. 2013 | Sept. 2013 | Feb 2013 |Feb 2013 | Jan 2013 | Jan 2013 | Oct 2012 | April 2012
The history goes further back than that, but for a good synopsis, watch my 2010 piece on newspapers cheerleading for new stadium projects.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

What St. Pete Leaders Still Don't Agree on Regarding Rays Going Into 2016

In case you missed it, the Trib wrote again this weekend about St. Pete's interest in building a new stadium on the site of the current one:
Trickier, however, is how to make it work — how to make a baseball stadium attractive not only to the Rays, but to baseball fans who largely have stayed away from the Trop, where the team has finished last in attendance in 10 of its 18 years, and next-to-last in three other years.
Everyone now knows what we first started identifying in 2009: the Trop problems were not as much facility-related as they were location-related.  I also forecasted in 2010 that perception-related issues would continue to push attendance numbers down. 

But there are even more issues to resolve moving forward, as the Trib explains:
“Letting the Rays look isn’t the difficult question,” city council member Darden Rice said last week. ”The difficult question is, what if they look and they want to come back and build a new stadium at Tropicana Field?”

Or, as Rice and others said, deciding whether a baseball stadium is the best use of the 85 acres of prime real estate on the edge of the city’s booming downtown.
Sounds like St. Pete's council has been reading up on important blog posts like this one!

The Trib also weighed Andrew Zimbalist's "MLB wants to be downtown" comments with the new mentality of, "look, the Braves can build in suburbia!"  It's a debate playing out in the Toytown vs. Downtown discussions.

ALSO READ: Would St. Pete taxpayers foot bill for another stadium?

But one of the most interesting comments in the Trib story comes at the end, from St. Petersburg councilman Jim Kennedy:
Kennedy, who has opposed letting the team look outside the city, said if the Rays make a more permanent commitment to St. Petersburg more people will come to the games. Kennedy, a season-ticket holder, said baseball is generational, where grandparents, parents and kids follow the same team, and it needs time to take root.

“When you have a 30-year use agreement and you try to get out 10 years into it, it doesn’t lead to a whole lot of unity,” he said.
Actually, the Rays started planting those seeds just 25 games into their contract.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tampa Council to Vote on Another Super Bowl Chase

Tampa's city council will vote Thursday on what has become a bit of a formality - whether to publicly support another Super Bowl bid.

However, there really is nothing "public" about how much taxpayers are paying to make this kind of event happen.

Super Bowls are, of course, sought after by every city with a stadium, so the competition is tight. But given the fact that the NFL wants exemptions from many of the taxes the local community might benefit from;  the fact that the game doesn't provide all that big of economic boom in the eyes of leading economists; and the fact that the major taxpayer-funded concessions made to the NFL are generally kept secret, maybe cities shouldn't be willing to write blank checks to land the game.

It's that last link, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, that pulled back the curtain just a hair on how much the NFL demands from the cities already forking over hundreds of millions to its franchises:
Free police escorts for team owners, and 35,000 free parking spaces. Presidential suites at no cost in high-end hotels. Free billboards across the Twin Cities. Guarantees to receive all revenue from the game's ticket sales — even a requirement for NFL-preferred ATMs at the stadium.

Those requirements and many others are detailed in 153 pages of NFL specifications for the game. An official on the host committee that successfully sought the game — Minneapolis beat out Indianapolis and New Orleans — said the panel had agreed to a majority of the conditions but would not elaborate.
I mean, it isn't much more than Hillsborough Co. taxpayers already give the Bucs for a regular-season don't expect much of a fight from Tampa city councilmembers tomorrow when they're asked to give their blessing for another blank check.

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Monday, November 9, 2015

The Two Best Things I Read This Weekend

For those of you who like pragmatism:
For those of you chomping at the bit for Stadium Saga developments:
  • MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred: "What's new is that Mr. Sternberg remains committed to the idea that he'd like to get something done in that region. He's continuing to work to create enough flexibility to get something done."
Now, the worst thing I read this weekend:
  • Jaguars Owner Shad Khan: The billionaire, already seeking tax money from the state of Florida, wants the city of Jacksonville to help him build an amphitheater that will cannibalize concerts and events from other parts of the city. Because why share profits from big events with the taxpayers when you can just keep them to yourself?

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

St. Pete City Council Upheaval - the Morning After the Morning After

The morning after the morning after the Rays & St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman got the fifth city council member elected they need to get last year's compromise passed, we have more reaction and coverage of the fallout as attention starts to turn toward Hillsborough:
  1. 10 News WTSP: Mark Rivera interviews Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn about "what's next," and while Hizzoner was optimistic, he also did not rule out city/county general revenue tax dollars going toward a new stadium. He had a similar warning last December.
  2. Tampa Bay Times: Steve Contorno writes Hillsborough Co. Commissioner Ken Hagan says no "tax hike" for a Rays stadium, but he also didn't rule out redirecting current property tax money to a new facility. I've reported on this shift before, but back in 2010 courting the conservative vote, Hagan joined his fellow commissioners in saying "no public dollars" for a Rays stadium.
  3. Tampa Bay Times: Charlie Frago writes Lisa Wheeler-Brown's election isn't a guarantee of a deal, since councilwoman Amy Foster now becomes the key swing vote. She supported Kriseman's deal this summer, but only once it included a transparency clause on how the Rays evaluated stadium sites. Will that clause be offered again? Will bad blood from the election swing her back to a "no?" These factors could decide whether a deal gets done.
      1. Side pondering: Did the Tampa Bay Times create a great divide on council by making such a big deal out of the Rays' situation during the recent council campaigns?
  4. Tampa Tribune: The editorial board calls for the Rays to return to the table and for Pinellas County Commissioners to set aside $7 million/year in bed taxes for a potential new stadium...sooner, rather than later.
      1. Side note: The Trib continues to use bad math, writing the Kriseman deal would have the Rays paying between $4M and $2M for every year they left the Trop early. But they neglect the $0 the team wants to pay for skipping out on the agreed-upon 2027 season.
      2. Side note II: $7M/yr - bondable to maybe $90M in construction - likely won't be enough for Pinellas to nail down a stadium. The county might need to pull more money from beaches & tourism...unless, you know, the Rays were to finance the bulk of their stadium...but I won't hold our breath for that announcement.

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      Wednesday, November 4, 2015

      St. Pete City Council Upheaval - The Morning After

      After Lisa Wheeler-Brown soundly defeated Will Newton in St. Pete's pivotal D7 city council race last night, giving Mayor Kriseman the five votes he needs to pass a stadium deal amenable to the Rays, we've got a smattering of reaction this morning:
      1. My report for 10 News/WTSP revealed Lisa Wheeler-Brown is ready for St. Pete to move past the Rays. Her interest in expediting the negotiations is steeped in a desire to redevelop the Trop site into something that creates more jobs.
      2. The Tampa Bay Times editorial board is patting itself on the back for pushing Wheeler-Brown to victory, opining that "voters sent a clear message Tuesday: They want the stadium stalemate with the Tampa Bay Rays resolved." Yes, the paper's endorsement was influential. But it's ridiculous to assume the vote was a mandate on the Rays stadium when the city has so many other issues at-hand and the paper's other baseball-motivated endorsement failed in removing incumbent Steve Kornell.

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      Tuesday, November 3, 2015

      Rays Can Rejoice! St. Pete Elects Stadium Swing Vote

      The Tampa Bay Rays may finally be on the verge of getting their five-year-old wish granted: a blessing from St. Petersburg to explore stadium sites in Tampa at a price of their liking.

      Although Tuesday's city council elections will influence countless of issues in St. Petersburg from wastewater problems to extreme school inequality to impoverished neighborhoods, the election for most outsider observers - and one local newspaper editorial board - came down to where candidates stood on the Rays' Stadium Saga.

      Lisa Wheeler-Brown cruised to a 58%-42% District 7 victory over Will Newton, the brother of term-limited councilman Wengay Newton. Turnout for the election was just 17% of all eligible voters in St. Petersburg, approximately 30,000 votes. Incumbents Charlie Gerdes and Steve Kornell also coasted to victory.

      Although she won't take office until January, Wheeler-Brown represents the pivotal fifth councilmember in favor of Mayor Rick Kriseman's negotiated compromise with the Rays.

      ALSO READ: Give the Rays credit, they didn't get involved in campaign

      Wheeler-Brown earned an important endorsement from the Tampa Bay Times by supporting Kriseman's deal that would allow the Rays to explore possible new stadium sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, but require the team to pay the city approximately $2 million for every year the Rays leave St. Petersburg ahead of 2027, when their current agreement at Tropicana Field expires.

      Will Newton, like his brother Wengay, had indicated the team should pay more and refused to support the mayor's deal. Kriseman's 2014 compromise was rejected by city council by 5-3 and 4-4 votes. Wengay Newton recently voted to approve a $4.6 million-per-year counteroffer to the team, which the Times panned and the Rays promptly rejected.

      ALSO READ: Rays may be getting the bargain of the century

      Mayor Kriseman has maintained his believe that a regional search will ultimately convince the Rays that they should build a new stadium in Pinellas County, most likely next to where Tropicana Field currently sits. He recently told me he thought it could be done without city tax dollars because of private interest in redevelopment around a new stadium, but Kriseman didn't offer funding specifics beyond that.

      He did, however tweet congratulations to Wheeler-Brown Tuesday night.

      While Hillsborough County appears to have a geographical advantage in landing a new baseball stadium, its available revenue streams are limited. Many current commissioners have pledged "no tax dollars" for a new stadium and the Rays don't appear likely to self-finance a new stadium themselves.

      The Rays said they had no comment Tuesday night.

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      It's Election Day for the Rays! (and the rest of St. Pete too)

      It's election day in St. Pete!

      And like it or not, an election about so many important issues - from poverty and extreme school inequality to wastewater failures and affordable housing - has been simplified by the Tampa Bay Times into a referendum on the Rays' stadium situation.  Oh look, there's another editorial today.  Ho hum.

      St. Pete voters (albeit, not many of them) will go to the polls to cast ballots for three city council seats, one of which is expected to be the swing vote in future negotiations with the Rays.

      At the start of 2015, I wrote there were three ways the Rays could break the so-called stalemate:
      1. Pay more to get their way, which we know they really don't want to do.
      2. Form a PAC to influence St. Pete's election with dark money, which they said they wouldn't do.
      3. Get involved by backing a candidate publicly, which they also said they wouldn't do.
      To the Rays' credit, they stayed true to their word and did not get involved in this complicated political and social decision (with the small exception of general counsel John Higgins donating a few bucks)...but if a recent poll is any indication, they may still get their way if Lisa Wheeler-Brown defeats Will Newton in St. Pete's District 7.

      Wheeler-Brown won support from the Times by pledging her support to Mayor Kriseman's previously-negotiated deal with the Rays, which would pay the team an average of about $2 million for each year they left the Trop prior to 2027.
      Newton indicated he would lean more toward the kind of deal his brother, term-limited councilman Wengay Newton, just voted for that would net the city about $4.6 million for each year the Rays bail out early.
      READ: The math on St. Pete's three proposed Rays plans
      READ: Nobody covering the Stadium Saga can count...or read

      Of course, council has been negotiating against itself for so long, even the worst-case scenario for the Rays right now is an extreme bargain compared to the tens of millions per year other teams have had to pay for ditching out on leases early. 

      The winner of today's election won't take office until the new year, so if it's Wheeler-Brown, we may be able to expect some real movement come January.  But if it's Newton, council may have more leverage than ever to demand MLB and the Rays put up some real cash if they want to break the terms of the deal they originally negotiated with the city in the 1990s.

      A brief history of Times editorials on the Stadium Saga:
      And a bevy of Bill-Foster bashing too: Oct. 2013 | Sept. 2013 | Sept. 2013 | Feb 2013 |Feb 2013 | Jan 2013 | Jan 2013 | Oct 2012 | April 2012
      The history goes further back than that, but for a good synopsis, watch my 2010 piece on newspapers cheerleading for new stadium projects.

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      Monday, November 2, 2015

      Bucs Among Four Teams That Will Seek 2016 State Stadium Money

      UPDATE: The story has been updated to reflect the Bucs' request for $1 million through the end of their agreement at Raymond James Stadium as well as the $100 million-plus estimated cost total of renovations.

      The Tampa Bay Buccaneers submitted an application to the state's Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Monday requesting tax money to help subsidize the cost of Raymond James Stadium renovations.

      The Bucs already receive $2 million per year from the state for stadium bonds and the team is expecting $26 million in new renovations paid for next year by Hillsborough County. But the state cash - if approved by the Legislature - could provide another $1 million per year for as long as the team stays at Raymond James Stadium, where its lease runs through 2027.

      The Bucs are currently negotiating with Hillsborough County on scope of the renovations, which could total upward of $100 million. But the team hasn't released many specifics yet beyond what the county's $26 million would pay for and negotiations recently broke down over the Bucs' demand for the right to play two of their eight regular-season games abroad.

      ALSO READ: What the Oct. 1 Bucs renovation stories won't tell you

      The Bucs' application wasn't available Monday evening due to the late hour the team submitted it to the DEO and the team refused to turn it over, citing its ongoing "policy of not commenting regarding this process"...even though they leaked the last set of renovation stories and issued a comment at the time.

      Eric Hart, CEO of the Tampa Sports Authority, which manages the stadium, said his agency was not provided a copy Monday.

      Applicants for the state money are required to show how stadium construction or renovation projects would create jobs and new economic revenue. But earlier this year, this blog focused a lot of attention on the poor return on investment state economists estimated from stadium subsidy projects, as well as the outrageous claims some teams made in their applications.

      Those factors helped prompt legislators to deny all four subsidy applicants this year. However, all four applicants went ahead with their construction projects anyway.

      ALSO READ: Why pro teams need your money to remove seats

      Three of last year's applicants - the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, and Daytona International Speedway - are back again, resubmitting applications.  They join the Bucs as the four entities eligible for funds from the state next year.  If any winners are chosen, they can secure either $1 million, $2 million, or $3 million annually for a term of 30 years.

      The DEO has until Feb. 1 to rank the four applications and submit the recommendations to the legislature for consideration in 2016.

      READ: Daytona's 2014-15 application
      READ: Jaguars' 2014-15 application
      READ: Dolphins' 2014-15 application


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      Nobody Covering the Tampa Bay Rays' Stadium Saga Can Count...or Read


      I write today's headline with my tongue firmly planted in-cheek, but seriously: just because the Rays refused to compensate St. Petersburg for the final year they'd ditch out on their Tropicana Field contract  doesn't mean the contract all of a sudden now expires in 2026.

      Remember, if the Rays leave St. Pete at the start of 2020 as some have speculated, there would still be EIGHT seasons left on the deal they signed;  not SEVEN, as most of my Tampa Bay media counterparts seem to believe (I'm not naming names because I like all of you).

      For that reason, the counteroffer the city just sent the Rays for the right to explore stadium sites in Hillsborough County would be worth $37 million if the team is gone by 2020, not the $33 million figure that's been repeated infinite times in the last few weeks.  That's $4 million for each of the eight seasons the team leaves early, plus a one-time $5 million redevelopment fee.

      Did my counterparts fail to read the documents?  Or just do the math involved?  I first explained this two weeks ago, but apparently it needs repeating.

      READ: The math on St. Pete's three proposed Rays plans

      So Kennedy's plan, which serves as the new high-water-mark in negotiations, would still only cost the Rays an average of $4.6 million per year.  For those of you counting at home, that's less than they paid David DeJesus or Grant Balfour in 2015.

      The deal, just rejected by the Rays, also seems to be an incredible bargain that seems to give them exactly what they've been begging for since 2010: the right to look at stadium sites in Hillsborough County.

      That $4.6 million per year is a fraction of the $6.7 million per year ($9M/yr in 2015 dollars) the Lions paid to Pontiac for leaving the Silverdome four years early....

      It's a fraction of the $22.5 million per year ($25M/yr in 2015 dollars) the Sonics paid to leave Seattle two years early...

      And it's a fraction of the $19 million per year ($20.5M/yr in 2015 dollars) the Tampa Bay Times once suggested the Rays should pay for the right to end its Trop contract early.

      Maybe the Rays don't want to explore stadium sites in Hillsborough County all that badly?

      Bottom line for my media counterparts: read the documents.  Do the math.  And while we're at it, the Rays don't have a "lease"; they have a "use agreement."

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      Sunday, November 1, 2015

      Sunday in the Stadium Saga: City Council Elections and Where Rays Payout Money Might Go

      A smattering of stories this weekend about the Rays and Tuesday's impending city council elections, including the Tampa Tribune summary of how the Stadium Saga could hang in the balance and the Tampa Bay Times piece forecasting low voter turnout.  And the Times had an editorial that advocated for more financial concessions from St. Pete.

      We also saw the Trib reinforce its endorsements for Charlie Gerdes, Steve Kornell, and Will Newton, despite the fact that it doesn't agree with the stadium stances taken by Kornell and Newton.  (The Times endorsed both of their opponents based solely on the stadium issue)

      ALSO READ: In trying to advance their interests, newspapers may do opposite with endorsements

      But the most interesting article of the weekend was from Chris O'Donnell in the pages of the Trib: Who benefits if Rays leave town?

      One thing we know for sure is the beneficiaries would not include the St. Pete businesses that enjoy the crowds from 81 home games a year; none more than Ferg's Sports Bar, whose owner told the Trib he'd lose $2 million per year if the Rays leave St. Pete, forcing him to lay off 40% of his employees.

      But across St. Pete as a whole, O'Donnell writes there could be little financial loss from a Rays departure since residents and visitors might be just as likely to spend their available discretionary income on other entertainment in the city.

      "Most sports economists explain this as a consequence of substitute spending," O'Donnell wrote.  "Money spent by fans at bars and restaurants around a stadium likely would have been spent going to movies or other restaurants anyway."

      So while some businesses would lose, others might win.  Sadly for the businesses that lose, they'd not likely see any direct revenues from a Rays payoff to St. Pete:
      When other cities have lost professional sports franchises, they did little for surrounding businesses.

      Seattle was paid a $45 million settlement by the Sonics in 2008 so the team could move to Oklahoma City. Most of the money — about $34 million — was used to pay off outstanding construction loans on the KeyArena. The city also used $2.8 million to pay legal bills for the litigation and about $6 million for capital improvement projects at the KeyArena and surrounding Seattle Center.

      Pontiac, Michigan, received a settlement of $26 million in 2001 after suing the Detroit Lions for breaking their Silverdome lease. The money went into the city’s general fund.  
      Paying to demolish the Trop likely would be the first priority for the city since the center has required an average yearly subsidy of $1.4 million.

      It may also have to pay for new roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure to configure the stadium site and its enormous parking lot into an area suitable for development.

      That may not be cheap. Tampa this year agreed for one of its community redevelopment agencies to pay $30 million to modernize infrastructure at a much smaller site around Amalie Arena as preparation for Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s proposed $2 billion redevelopment project.

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      Times Calls on St. Pete to Cough Up More Money for Stadium Outside City Limits

      Unsurprisingly, another weekend editorial from the Tampa Bay Times advocating St. Pete's city council lower its demands for what the Rays would have to pay to leave the city before its original agreed-upon date of 2027.

      Essentially, the Times (which once suggested St. Pete should get $150 million from the Rays) is calling on St. Petersburg to increase how much it's willing to contribute to a new stadium outside of St. Petersburg:
      The Tampa Bay Rays' rejection of the St. Petersburg City Council's stadium offer was all too predictable. The proposed Tropicana Field buyout fee would have added $33 million to the cost of any new stadium built outside St. Petersburg in 2020, jeopardizing the Rays' future in the region.
      Pinellas County commissioners face tough decisions on allocating resort tax dollars, a key part of any stadium financing package. As soon as the Rays settle on a next-generation stadium site, Trop redevelopment can dramatically transform St. Petersburg's urban center. Losing even a year of momentum costs the city much more than any buyout dollars can possibly cover.
      It's the first time the Times has been transparent about wanting St. Pete to help pay for a stadium in another municipality, something that would help get a new stadium built much faster.

      But here's the thing: regardless of what St. Pete and the Rays negotiate, Pinellas Commission should right now be analyzing whether a new MLB stadium is the best use of its limited bed tax dollars. If that stadium is not the best use of those dollars, the county should be going ahead right now with their other projects anyway.

      And if a MLB stadium is the best use of limited tax dollars, then it is a project worth waiting a little longer for, if necessary.  Remember, there is no law requiring Pinellas County to spend the bed taxes it collects. A wiser choice might be to save those revenues for a few years (or however long it takes to settle the Stadium Saga) so the county would be in better position to build a stadium if it's so chooses.

      Yet the Times continues to advocate for a hurry-up approach to prevent Pinellas County from possibly spending those dollars on a better project.... even though the hurry-up approach may also cost the taxpayers of St. Petersburg more of their earned equity in the team.

      A brief history of Times editorials on the Stadium Saga:
      The history goes further back than that, but for a good synopsis, watch my 2010 piece on newspapers cheerleading for new stadium projects.

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