Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kriseman, Buckhorn Sit Down Together, Talk (a Little Bit of) Baseball

In this week's Political Connections on Bay News 9, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn sit down to talk a variety of topics, including (of course), the ongoing Rays Stadium Saga.  Adam Smith of the Times summarizes {link to Times' site}:
We asked them to predict where the Rays will be playing in 10 years.

No idea, said Buckhorn.

Kriseman predicted they will remain in St. Petersburg, and cited recent comments by Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg as evidence that his administration is making more progress dealing with the team than his predecessor, Mayor Bill Foster, did.

"What you heard Stu Sternberg say was that he has confidence in our discussions moving forward, which is very different from what you've heard before," said Kriseman, 51. "And you even heard Bud Selig not throwing missiles and bombs about this relationship being broken and there being a problem here. The reason you didn't hear that from him is that there has been progress in our discussions."
Buckhorn's response didn't exactly make him seem like a guy who is going to spend some much-needed political capital trying to finance a ballpark.  He has grander aspirations for his career, after all.

And Kriseman's response is a reflection of the difficult position he finds himself in as mayor of St. Pete; he can want to broker a deal all day long, but how does he squeeze any value out of the remaining years of his contract if the Rays don't want to compensate the city?

Furthermore, it seems little has changed in the 18 months since we sat Buckhorn and then-mayor Bill Foster down to talk sports.  At the time, Buckhorn said he understood where his counterpart was coming from in fighting for the equity St. Pete had built up in the contract.  And even though Buckhorn campaigned for Kriseman, claiming the Stadium Saga was a reason voters should vote out Foster, those comments likely had as much to do with political leanings than they did the Rays.

Political Connections re-airs tonight at 8 p.m.

If St. Pete Builds It, MLS Will Come (Maybe)

The Tampa Bay Times had a story on page 1B this morning about the worst-kept secret in St. Petersburg: Bill Edwards' long-term bid to take the Rowdies to Major League Soccer {link to Times' site}.

This blog has gone into depth several times since March about the behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts by Edwards and former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker to land a new soccer-only stadium on the St. Pete waterfront.  And a new stadium is surely a requirement for MLS acceptance. 

But it won't be easy to convince local residents, who were so concerned about legacy and tradition downtown that they spiked a well-thought-out proposal to replace the city's failing pier.

Times reporter Charlie Frago writes Edwards and Baker are eyeing the MLS' planned expansion to 24 teams by 2020, "all but one of (which seems) spoken for."  All to "have a chance" at MLS acceptance:
To have a chance, the Rowdies need more fans. The team averages 5,000 fans a game.

"If I can get 8,000 people coming to 15 games a year, it'd be a no-brainer to take it up a level to the MLS," Edwards said.

Another challenge is the proximity of another MLS franchise a little more than an hour away.

Would the 19-team league allow two franchises in Central Florida? MLS didn't return calls for comment.
Of course, Al Lang upgrades (or replacement) would be expensive, and Edwards, although one of the area's most generous donors at times, hasn't said a peep about where the money would come from. 

However, he did successfully lobby state senators (one of which, he donated $50k to afterward) and governor (to whom he donated $1 million) to add the Rowdies to the list of major-league sports franchises now eligible for state stadium subsidies, originally designed to drive tourism.

The humor in that is captured in the Times story:
Getting enough out-of-towners to justify bed tax dollars for an Al Lang soccer makeover would be a stretch, said Kevin King, chief of staff for Mayor Rick Kriseman. The Tourist Development Council, which makes recommendations on how to distribute bed tax money, focuses on attracting overnight hotel guests, he said.
Like that will stop Edwards and Baker from getting their way in St. Pete...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Well, at Least There's This Practical Thought:

Good news Tampa Bay, nobody right now thinks playing baseball in our sticky summer heat (when it's not raining) is a good idea:

More Claims from Cleveland on the "LeBron Effect"

So this made the rounds yesterday, supposedly providing more evidence of the huge economic "LeBron Effect" in Cleveland:
I reached out to the incomparable Neil deMause, of Field of Schemes fame, since he is more familiar with Cleveland's financing, and he pointed out a number of possible problems with this message:
  1. Like the $500 million LeBron economic impact claim, there is no source to this data. So, who knows if it was just made up like the $500 million LeBron economic impact claim.
  2. For LeBron's eight years in Cleveland, the ticket sales tax had five crappy years and three good ones; after he left, three crappy years and one good one. 
  3. The Cavs currently sell about $30 million a year in tickets (per Forbes) and the ticket tax is 8%.  So it makes no sense that the chart claims the ticket tax alone is providing $4M-$8M per season in revenue.  Furthermore, 8% of an extra 200,000 tickets per year (at ~$50 a pop) would only seem to generate an additional $800,000 in tax receipts.
  4. The arena also hosted non-Cavs events as well, so its impossible to tell from the chart how much of the tax revenue was actually due to basketball games.
  5. As for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 projections, deMause indicates the asterisk next to the projections likely means "wild-assed guess."

Tampa Bay Rays Employee at Center of International Scandal

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is reportedly pretty pissed off about a parody video circling the Interwebs...and a Rays employee is indirectly responsible.

Recognize him in the first 0:38?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vinik Finally Puts Channelside Bay Plaza Drama Behind Him

From Richard Mullins at the Tampa Tribune, Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik will pay more than $7.1 million (but we don't know how much more) for Channelside Bay Plaza:
Vinik, officials with Port Tampa Bay and executives with the Liberty Group/Convergent Capital pair of developers all agreed over the weekend to a new legal settlement of their issues, just hours before a judge was scheduled to rule on the matter Monday. The deal now gives a green light to Vinik’s long-term hopes and dreams to remake the entire neighborhood into a gleaming mixed-use entertainment and shopping district around the Forum.
As for what happens next, Vinik’s representatives have been especially quiet about their specific plans for Channelside, but there have been some hints of where they intend to take the center.
During a June 30 meeting before the port’s governing board, Lightning Chief Executive Officer Tod Leiweke described their general hopes to make better connections around the neighborhood spanning from Florida Avenue to the cruise ship terminal.
That presentation included watercolor artistic renderings of the area it called “Channelside Live” with glass-walled bridges between parking garages, and back-lit, window-like facades of buildings, altogether giving the area the feel of an entertainment district in the vein of Downtown Disney or Universal City Walk.
Let the Rays stadium rumors continue!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Kriseman to Throw Out First Pitch

According to the calendar of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, the man who has reportedly given Rays' owner Stu Sternberg hope in recent months, will throw out the first pitch at next Saturday's game (7/26).

It will end a streak of more than four years without a first pitch from St. Pete's mayor (Bill Foster had the honor on July 10, 2010).

In those four years, Bob Buckhorn has thrown out a Rays' first pitch twice (even though the stadium resides in St. Pete).

What's the over/under on how many Stadium Saga questions Kriseman will field next week?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Selig Thinks Baseball Can Work in Tampa Bay...Maybe Because it's Currently Working in Tampa Bay?

In his annual All-Star Weekend press avail, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig reminded us he is still un-intervening in the Rays' Stadium Saga {link to Times' site}:
"It's obvious they need a new stadium," Selig said. "It's no secret. … All you have to do is look at the daily attendance figures, the attendance figure to date this year, … and you can see what they need."

Despite MLB-worst attendance — an average of 16,902 that is barely half of the MLB average (30,028), Selig said, "The demographics in the market are good, I have no question about that."

Asked later if that meant he felt that baseball can work in the market, he told the Tampa Bay Times, "I'm sure it can, but talk to Stu Sternberg."
For what its worth, Sternberg emailed the Times later and said he was optimistic of the progress with Mayor Rick Kriseman at the helm of St. Pete.

Selig also said Montreal was an "excellent candidate" to land another MLB team sometime, but wouldn't elaborate.  Why?

Because, of course, he's confident baseball can work in Tampa Bay, as long as the Rays get a new stadium!

My response would be, "is baseball working in Tampa Bay right now?"  Because the team is turning a profit, it's usually competitive, and its TV ratings are high enough the team will get a huge windfall in would seem to be working.

So then, Mr. Commissioner, at what point would baseball in Tampa Bay stop working without a new stadium?  Are we talking 2015 or 2025?  Because that's a big difference to the taxpayers being asked to figure it out and shell out the cash.

Anyway, the latest headlines are not worth getting worked up about - they're really just fodder for sports talk guys so they can make bold statements like "it is time to quit playing around and address the Rays stadium issue once and for all" because "Montreal could be back in the baseball business by 2027."

Because we only have 13 years to solve this problem!!!

Terrible Journalism = Letting Sports Fans (or Teams) Make Economic Claims

A Cleveland politician said LeBron James' return would mean $500 million a year to the city.  And for some reason, Bloomberg printed it.

The scary thing is this number will be repeated enough that some gullible folks will believe it.  But if you want real economist opinions, I point you to The Sports Economist blog, which writes, "The Worst Economic Impact Estimate Ever?"
Even before getting into the more serious economic problems with the study, let’s look at the raw data itself. With a metropolitan area population of 2.1 million, a $500 million impact on the area would mean that every single man, woman and child the region will be engaging in an average of $240 in Caviliers related spending every year for the rest of James’ career. Possible, but unlikely.
The bigger problem with Fitzgerald’s claim is that it falls prey to one of the most serious fallacies in economic impact analysis: the failure to account for the substitution effect. Any money spent by local residents at Cavs games is money not spent elsewhere in the local economy. The extra 150,000 fans that will be going to watch LeBron next year are 150,000 less people going out to nightclubs, restaurants, and theaters. The higher ticket prices that fans will be paying leaves less disposable income to spend on Indians or Browns games, or movie tickets, or bowling, or free-style skydiving, or whatever it is that Clevelanders would do, and have been doing, without being able to watch LeBron win games. Similarly, every kid in Cleveland will be getting a LeBron jersey for Christmas or Hanukkah this winter but this doesn’t mean they will be getting more presents, just different presents. The jersey manufacturers’ gains are equally matched by losses for the makers of ugly sweaters.
If you needed more analysis, there's always Field of Schemes:
Last year the Cavs sold 710,000 tickets, and had 132,000 go unsold. Even if the team were, let’s say, to double ticket prices next year, each of those 132,000 new attendees would have to spend $3560 apiece on their visit to a game in order to generate $500 million in economic activity.
A little piece of Bloomberg's credibility died with the publishing of that piece.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rays Attendance Watch: All-Star Edition

For those of you keeping score at home, the Rays enter the 2014 All-Star Break with the league's worst attendance mark, 16,902 fans per game.  That represents an 858-fan drop from last year's mark at the very same point.

The good folks at Tampa Bay Baseball Market have been doing a good job at tracking attendance this year, which includes all of the minor league teams too:
But for the Rays, there's not a ton of good news.  They still have a number of games against the Red Sox and Yankees remaining, but with the team struggling to stay out of last place, it's unlikely they'll get out of the MLB cellar in attendance.