Thursday, October 8, 2015

Gerdes Wants to Sweeten Pot Just Enough to Strike Rays Compromise

The "Pay-to-Stray" concept returned to St. Pete council Thursday, with chairman Charlie Gerdes telling reporters that he'll call for a Rays vote in the next few weeks on a new compromise.

His plan, according to the Times' Charlie Frago and WTVT's Steve Nichols: charge the Rays $1.4 million per year as they look for a new stadium in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties.  Then, if they left St. Pete, they'd pay an annual fee - possibly in the "$2.2 million, $2.3 million" range - through the end of the current contract, which runs through 2027.  All of the "tab" gets forgiven if they stay in St. Pete.

So if the Rays were to hypothetically throw out its first pitch in Tampa in 2020, Gerdes' deal would bring the city around $23.5 million, versus only $17 million or so under Mayor Kriseman's compromise.

Gerdes is also proposing the Rays forgo all development rights to the Tropicana Field site unless they build a new stadium in St. Pete.

Would those sweeteners be enough to flip one of four tough council votes?  We may find out on Oct. 22.

As to whether the Rays would accept....they'd be foolish not to.  But don't expect any warm comments from them on the new proposal - they'd essentially be negotiating against themselves on the payout...and we all know by now that only municipalities do that!

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Three Bonus Opinions on the Rays' Stadium Saga

If reading about the Rays' end-of-season attendance numbers and commissioners waffling on campaign statements wasn't are three new opinions from the last 24 hours on the recent Rays' headlines:

Tampa Bay Times: End the destructive stadium standoff
No surprise, the Rays' cheerleaders-in-chief opined once again for St. Pete councilmember to concede on the MOU:
Unless the Rays can begin a regional search for a new ballpark soon, the County Commission says it may pledge critical resort tax dollars to a different project, a massive midcounty sports complex. That could gut the region's capacity to finance a new major-league stadium and forestall Tropicana Field redevelopment for a decade.
Actually, it wouldn't gut Hillsborough's bonding capacity...and isn't that where everyone wants the Rays to play anyway?  The editorial continues:
The pitfalls of St. Petersburg's foot-dragging on Major League Baseball have been foreseeable for years. The County Commission, which controls the resort tax, invested as much in the Trop as St. Petersburg did to attract a major-league team. The commission deserves the chance to help preserve that investment for a new generation of fans.

Field of Schemes: There is no stalemate
Love this paragraph from Neil deMause:
That word “stalemate” showed up in just about every news story on the Pinellas talks today, and it’s dead wrong: The St. Petersburg council isn’t stuck making a decision, people. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has a lease that runs through 2027, and he asked to buy his way out of it, and the St. Pete council said, “No, thanks.” A stalemate implies an impasse toward a needed decision, but a decision’s been made here — Sternberg isn’t happy with it, but it’s done unless he chooses to make another offer.

Shadow of the Stadium: Rays refused deals that could've allowed Toytown talks
This link directs you to a quick comment I posted on this site that echoes deMause's sentiment - Sternberg and the Rays are able to look at sites in Pinellas. Maybe Pinellas Commissioners should redirect some of their frustrations to the profitable corporation that's refusing to talk because of a 2010 ultimatum they gave to the city of St. Pete?

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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Regarding Rays Stadium, Some Commissioners Sang Different Tune on Campaign Trail

What a difference one term can make.

On Tuesday, Pinellas commissioners tore St. Pete officials a new one for holding the Rays to their original 1998 contract language and not letting them consider possible deals in Hillsborough County (even though St. Pete has basically allowed the Rays to look at sites in Pinellas County). 

The challenge it presents to the county is commissioners don't know if they'll need their tourist development tax (a.k.a. bed/tourist tax) revenues for a Rays stadium, a Braves spring training stadium, or other expenses the money could be spent on like beaches or new tourism-drivers.

But many of those same commissioners were singing different tunes back when running their seats.

Commissioner Janet Long

The Times' Tracey McManus wrote Tuesday that Long was quite upset St. Pete was hogging a regional asset and delaying possible expenditures on a new Rays stadium:
"We are being held hostage, not being able to make a decision, and we have a responsibility to our taxpayers to do that," said Commissioner Janet Long. "We can't just be held hostage forever because some partner can't make a decision, and there's a difference between being a partner and practicing extortion."
But when she ran for office in 2012, she advocated a hands-off approach, honoring St. Pete's contract with the Rays.

"From my perspective," Long said in an e-mail to WTSP, "it is premature to talk about funds for a new stadium for the Rays. This is a conversation that needs to be settled between the City of St. Petersburg and the Rays."

She added, "it isn't the function of government to subsidize multi-million dollar team owners."

Commissioner John Morroni

Charlie Frago tweeted that the commission chairman wanted to delay any Toytown decisions until a new St. Pete council is seated, but pressured the city to make a decision quickly so the county can decide if it will commit any bed tax dollars to the Rays. The Tampa Tribune quoted Morroni as saying, "I would like to wait and see what our partners are going to do...they need to get this done. Either way, get it over with.”

But Morroni told WTSP in 2014 that while he would hate to lose the team, he couldn't see future Pinellas Co. bed taxes committed to a team that doesn't even draw when it's winning.  He added that he wasn't sure a new stadium would be prudent or necessary.

Commissioner Dave Eggers

The former mayor of Dunedin was quoted Tuesday saying, "I don't want to keep flying in the dark," and urging a quick resolution in St. Pete to move forward with any possible bed tax conversation at the county level.  When he ran for his seat in 2014, he said MLB and spring training stadiums are what the bed tax collections are for.  Eggers even went as far to say as he'd support a regional collaboration between several counties to make a new Rays venue a reality, although he admitted it may be far-fetched given the region's attitudes.  He also suggested governments should get a cut of revenues from taxpayer-funded stadiums, while conceding it may also be a far-fetched hope given pro sports teams' demands for all stadium revenues.

Commissioner Pat Gerard

Gerard said Tuesday that she wanted a quick resolution to the stadium standoff.  In 2014, she made a similar comment to WTSP: "I'd hate to see (the Rays) leave the county, but we should do anything we can do to keep them in the area."  She was open to spending bed tax dollars on a new baseball stadium, but also said the county's tourist development tax may be better-spent on tourism-drivers such as arts or a new port.

Commissioner Ken Welch
The most consistent commissioner, Welch has long-supported bed tax dollars going toward a new Rays stadium in Pinellas County. Welch is a St. Pete resident who Tweeted Tuesday: "#Pinellas must consider all options, inc. a home for @raysbaseball. Need help from our #StPete partners."  While running for reelection in 2012, Welch cast votes to extend the tourist tax past 2015 once Tropicana Field bonds are paid off as well as to invite the Rays to speak to the county commission.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Flashback 2011: Foster Tried to Get Rays to Look at Toytown

Remember the Summer of 2011, when we thought the Stadium Saga couldn't get any worse?

St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster said the Rays "have 15 years left on their lease agreement ... so yeah, I'm holding on pretty tightly. If they want to look at sites within Pinellas County, I'm all for that."

But the Rays didn't want to look in Pinellas County without the right to look at Hillsborough too.  So here we are, five years later, with the Rays still refusing to consider a stadium at Pinellas County's Toytown property...but the city and county trying to figure out how to reserve money for them anyway.

Another thing that hasn't changed since 2011 - Field of Schemes' analysis of the Stadium Saga as a whole:
The real question that should be asked, meanwhile, is if the Trop is really "improper for Major League Baseball," why so many teams threatened to move there in the '80s and '90s in order to extract new stadiums from their home cities (off the top of my head: the White Sox, Indians, Giants, Rangers, and at least two or three more that I'm forgetting); not to mention why MLB ultimately gave St. Petersburg an expansion franchise in 1998 despite knowing where their home park would be. Has the definition of "improper" really changed that much in 13 years?
The good news is even at 17 years - the Rays still aren't close to leaving town.

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Romano Adds Fuel to St. Pete's Stadium Saga Fire

As has become custom over the years, Times columnist John Romano has again penned his semi-annual piece advocating for St. Pete to let the Rays look at possible stadium sites in Hillsborough County.

It reads a lot like his similar column from March. And 2014.  And 2013.  And Nov. 2012. And April 2012.  And the Summer of 2011.  And the Spring of 2011, when he suggested MLB could simply fold up the Rays in 2017 if no deal had been struck yet.

Anyway, this time around, Romano lays out another case why St. Pete should just accept the Rays' damn deal and move on.  An excerpt:
Money matters: A deal worked out by the mayor and the Rays would allow the team to explore stadium sites in both Hillsborough and Pinellas for three years. Should the Rays actually leave for Hillsborough, they would pay St. Pete between $2 million and $3 million for every unused season on the Tropicana Field contract.
Except the last year, 2027, where the city gets nothing. But I digress...
Cost of remorse: In the middle of acrimonious stadium negotiations, cities often say good riddance to football and baseball owners. And then, several years later, they spend hundreds of millions to get back in the game. Milwaukee, Kansas City, Seattle and Washington all lost baseball teams in the 1960s and '70s. Houston, St. Louis, Baltimore and Oakland lost NFL teams in the 1980s and '90s. All eventually paid dearly for replacement franchises.  The only city to lose a baseball team in the last 40 years was Montreal — which is now desperately lobbying MLB officials for a second chance.
But since the Rays are driving such a hard bargain, maybe St. Pete could too and still keep the team in Tampa Bay long-term?  Nahhh......

Romano continues:
Here's what's crazy about all of this: We haven't even reached the hard part.

Any new stadium will likely require $300-$400 million in public funds, and there are legitimate arguments about whether baseball is worth that type of investment in either county.

But we can't even begin that debate — nor debates about transit, downtown redevelopment or a host of other issues — until the Rays issue is resolved.

It's time for St. Pete to step up to the plate.
There's a chance a new fixed-roof stadium might only cost in the $425-450 million range...which would mean either a smaller contribution from the public...or most likely, a smaller contribution from the Rays than the $150-$200 million many folks expect them to contribute. 

Of course, the team won't talk about money right now.  So which side exactly needs to step up?

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Top Tweets from Today's Pinellas County Toytown Discussions

This morning, Pinellas County discussed the three - make that now two - bids on the table for redevelopment of the county's Toytown landfill. The headlines were all about the Braves vs. Rays - and the $11.7 million (?!) dollars each year the Braves project could be looking for.

Here are some of the top takeaways:
There was no vote today, only discussion.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

2015 Rays Attendance Post-Mortem

No sugar-coatin' this one: the 2015 Rays' attendance numbers stunk.

Tampa Bay ended its season Sunday in front of 15,815 fans, raising its average attendance all the way up to 15,403 fans per game - once again, the lowest in MLB.  It was also the team's lowest mark since 2005.

That's a full 1,744 fans fewer than the Cleveland Indians (whose state-of-the-art stadium helped them average 17,147 fans this year).

For the Rays, the 1.25 million fans through the turnstiles is a drop of nearly 200,000 fans from a year ago, or about 2,454 fans per game.

Attendance has been a challenge for a lot of teams this year, but thanks to a 9,000+ fans-per-game boost in Kansas City after their league title last year, overall MLB attendance was flat from a year ago.

In Tampa Bay, my personal favorite explanations are the front office's self-fulfilling prophecy, the team's failure to be "cool," and of course, location location location.

But my WTSP colleague Grayson Kamm took a look at some other explanations too.

He looked at Florida's oldest-in-the-nation demographic and the stubborn allegiances older baseball fans still have to the teams they grew up watching.

He also looked at the competition from technology, such as television and cell phones.  Columnist Joe Brown succinctly summarized that aspect this morning in the Trib: "The report also warned that a new ballpark won’t necessarily cure attendance problems because of the growing allure of high-definition TV and other digital options."
More adults are watching the Rays on TV than at the ballpark.  And MLB's revenues will soon be dominated by media rights.  Which raises a couple questions:

Are MLB's glory days behind them as the fan base ages out of prime 25-54 demographics?  And can the league attract young fans who seem to be more interested in selfies than stolen bases?
Those are questions for the Rays and Stu Sternberg to address as they enter 2016, the final year of their television contract and presumably, the time when they'll be negotiating how big of a bucket of money they'll score with a new one in 2017.

But in the meantime, Stu's busy celebrating his 10-year anniversary of owning the franchise...and busy not getting involved in the pivotal St. Pete election on Nov. 5.

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Three Quick Weekend Links

  1. It's the final week of the Rays' naturally, one of the last great first pitch honors goes to...the chairman of Tampa's city council.  No surprise, Tampa's Mayor Bob Buckhorn has probably thrown out more first pitches in St. Petersburg over the past four years than anyone else.
  2. A local architect has imagined what the Trop site would look like redeveloped...even though the site clearly won't be available anytime soon...
  3. Wouldn't it be amazing if the Texas Rangers somehow got a stadium before the Rays?  There's talk of replacing the stadium in Arlington because nobody is going to see the first-placed team anymore.  Something about nobody wanting to go to outdoor baseball games in 90-degree heat. 

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Bucs Wants More Tax Money for RayJay Improvements, But Won't Extend Lease

The Buccaneers and Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) expect to ask the state legislature for additional tax dollars to help pay for renovations at Raymond James Stadium, in addition to the $26 million from Hillsborough County sales tax revenues already committed to the project.

The Bucs released details this week of a planned stadium overhaul with renovations totaling between $78 million and $100 million. The majority of the money would come from the franchise, which didn't have to pay for the stadium's initial construction in the 1990s.

ALSO READ: What the Front-Page Bucs Stadium Stories Didn't Tell You

The county owns the stadium, but the Bucs receive nearly every penny of profit generated there, including most profits from non-football events. The state already commits $2 million each year to pay off Raymond James Stadium bonds.

But new state subsidies - if approved by the 2016 legislature - could give the Bucs a million dollars per year in sales tax rebates, until the end of their lease in 2027. The money would help diffuse the team's financial commitment to the renovations.

Stadium subsidy applications to Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) are due on Nov. 1, which gives the Bucs and TSA four weeks to settle a renovation agreement and submit their application for state funds.

The two sides recently hit a snag over whether the Bucs could play a second regular-season home game as well as a preseason home game at a venue other than Raymond James Stadium. But the TSA has balked at the possibility of losing a quarter of the regular season to another city, such as London.

Hart says the TSA discussed extending the Buccaneers' lease at Raymond James Stadium past 2027 in exchange for the county's help on renovations and renegotiating its contract, but the team "was not interested at this time."

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, WTSP shed light 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. Some are expected to re-apply for next year's funding.

ALSO READ: Four Ironic Twists to Bucs Stadium Stories...and Two Important Life Lessons

"Those dollars are being asked for by all the professional teams at this point in keep these venues up-to-date and modern," said TSA CEO Eric Hart. "We're trying to see if the program would be good for the taxpayers here."

Back in February, this blog first reported the Tampa Sports Authority had reached out to the state's DEO to inquire about the stadium subsidy program, although a TSA spokesman wouldn't confirm if the agencies had specifically discussed the Buccaneers and/or Rays.

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Four Ironic Twists to Bucs Stadium Stories...and Two Important Life Lessons

A day after I wrote about some of the finer points/problems in the Bucs renovation negotiations, I found so much irony abounding in Hillsborough County:

1) Hagan says the Bucs are robbing fans
Hillsborough Co. Commissioner Ken Hagan - a known stadium proponent and member of the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) - had frustrated quotes in both the Times on Wednesday night and the Trib on Thurday night

One topic - the Bucs' refusal to give Tampa Bay a ManU soccer game in exchange for a second regular-season game abroad each year:

“They own Manchester United — why can’t we get a game here?” Hagan told the Trib. “There’s a reason why the Glazers are disliked internationally. It’s frustrating. They said the request for a second home game elsewhere was an insurance policy.”

I feel ya, commish.
Hagan painted a picture of reality to the Times, however: "Whenever it appears that we are close to an agreement, they always change the terms. The reality is, based on the terms of the original lease agreement, what is in the best interest of the fan is not always in the best interest of the taxpayer."

The irony is that Hagan has been Greater Tampa's single-biggest proponent of helping pro sports teams land tax dollars.

He campaigned in 2010 on a platform of building the Rays a new stadium, although he said at the time he didn't support any public financing for the project. In the years since, Hagan shifted his platform to "no new tax revenues," while repeatedly "flirting," as he calls it, with the notion of luring the team to Tampa.

He also considered additional tax dollars for the Bucs this summer if they'd make it more of an "Ethan Allen"-type of renovation, versus a "Rooms to Go"-type of renovation.

But the kicker was this quote to the Trib, regarding an attendance-related clause on the second game abroad:

"Winning cures everything, historically, and this market has reflected that. If the Bucs win, people will return in droves."

I'm sure the Rays rolled their eyes upon reading that line.

2) Trib editorial says Bucs out of bounds
It only took one request from the Bucs to get the Trib editorial board to call for accountability? An excerpt:
Oddly enough, the super-generous lease terms give the Bucs all revenues for home Bucs games and cost the taxpayers $250,000 in operating costs on game day. It would save tax dollars to have the team leave town for two of the eight regular-season home games.

But it would cheat the fans who helped build the $168 million stadium and rob the city of playing host to American’s mega-sport, the NFL.

The Bucs shouldn’t demand a second off-site game, and if they insist the TSA should refuse.
Where has the Trib been the last seven years of the Rays' Stadium Saga, where the team has passed up reasonable offers, declined to open their books and demonstrate a need, and refused to even talk about what kind of financial contributions they'd put forward?

Even more irony: the Glazers are worth a Forbes-estimated $4.7 billion.  Just sayin'.

3) The Bucs expect Hillsborough to abide by letter of contract, but not them
The Bucs are holding the TSA & taxpayers to every penny they're owed in the original 1998 contract. More than $25 million worth. 

But the team still wants a concession from the county in exchange for releasing them from the $11 million practice facility clause...that the team decided against taking advantage of...and will disappear off the books in 2028 if the Bucs doesn't choose to build a new practice facility...which would be silly since they've already got a $30-plus-million facility.

"We reserve our right to the $12 million allowance in perpetuity," Eric Land, former chief operating officer for the Buccaneers, told the St. Petersburg Times in 2007.

4) The Bucs getting bad press after they leaked story to select reporters to soften the blow. 
Despite some not-so-friendly columns from the Trib's Martin Fennelly and the Times' Tom Jones, the initial reactions to this week's news could have been worse.

The Bucs knew their demands were over-the-top, so on the same day I got the negotiating documents through a public records request from the Tampa Sports Authority, the team fed the two reporters they felt the most comfortable with to break the news.  Not the worst idea, as it helped sugar-coat some really negative news.

We'll see how the final negotiations play out this month, but the bad news for taxpayers is Hillsborough County voters approved a deal so sweet for the Bucs that TSA finds itself on its heels, trying to preserve any semblance of a fair deal. 

And it wouldn't be very NFL-like for the Bucs to settle for anything less than arm-twisting and leveraging taxpayers for every penny they can...even though they already have most of them.

LESSON 1: Elections have consequences.
LESSON 2: NFL profits almost always come before fans.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

St. Pete Council to Take Another Stab at Rays Compromise

The Braves' spring training pitch is doing just what it was designed to do inadvertently doing a favor for the Rays: creating leverage and getting local politicians to act faster on Tampa Bay's stadium stalemate.

Thursday at St. Pete's city council meeting, a number of Rays-related items will be discussed, including the request to earmark county bed tax dollars for a future MLB stadium (just in case).

The problem with that is, by pooling a specific stadium-related pot of money now - before the Rays have indicated how much they're willing to contribute - St. Pete/Pinellas is essentially negotiating against itself and setting a baseline contribution the region will be expected to contribute to a new stadium, regardless of location.  That baseline, of course, will only go up.

UPDATE: Mayor asked to reconsider Trop redevelopment study
UPDATE: Council pushes Rays bed tax resolution back a week

Also this week - first reported by Florida Politics' Mitch Perry - council chair Charlie Gerdes came up with a plan to bring back his "pay-to-stray" proposal that nearly passed council back in 2013. 

The Times also covered this Wednesday, writing Gerdes wants the Rays to pay an "exploration fee" of $1.4 million annually for the right to look in Hillsborough County.  That's basically the price of a backup catcher:
If the team decides to build in St. Petersburg or Pinellas, then there would be no more payments. If the Rays decide to build in Hillsborough County, they'll owe a set yearly payment of around $2.5 million for each year they don't play at Tropicana Field until the city's contract with the team expires in 2027.
Gerdes hopes some of the holdouts on council would get behind that proposal, but its worth pointing out the Rays haven't been willing to pay $2.5 million for each year they leave early...and they reportedly haven't been willing to pay for the right to look in Hillsborough County

An attorney by trade, Gerdes acknowledges it may be a difficult negotiation.  But he wants to bring the issue up now and get some sort of a vote in the next month or so - likely ahead of the city's Nov. 5 election.

Could renewed talks turn the tide of a council race or two?  Sure.  But I'm not sure which way.

A lot of St. Pete residents have lost their sympathy for the Rays' plight, and I've written how focusing the elections on the one issue of the Rays' stadium campaign may actually prompt St. Pete voters to support the compromise holdouts.  Remember, Rays fans in Tampa don't get to vote on St. Pete's council races.

ALSO READ: Newspapers may hurt own cause with stadium endorsements
ALSO READ: Times Doubles Down Support for Rays Sympathizers

Meanwhile, it's clear Tampa Bay is in hockey/football mode this first week of October, as the Rays' final home games of the season have produced some of their weakest crowds with back-to-back sub-10,000 games.

Also not helping the attendance situation:

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What the Front-Page Bucs Stadium Stories Didn't Tell You

It was somewhat curious timing that after this investigative reporter spent weeks negotiating - and paying - for hundreds of emails regarding the Bucs' stadium negotiations with county officials, the same documents wound up in the hands of the Bucs beatwriters at the two major newspapers in town.

UPDATE: Tampa Sports Authority says Bucs leaked story

The result?  Positive articles about $100 million in scoreboard, sound, and club seat renovations and a day's worth of "yay! Super Bowl!" reactions.
Of course, this investigative reporter might have scrutinized the deal a little more than the Trib's Ira Kauffman did.  #DamageControl!

If you haven't read "The Glazers' Sweetheart Deal Keeps Getting Sweeter" yet, do yourself a favor and dedicate three minutes to it.  I spelled out how the Bucs would dangle the "Super Bowl" carrot over taxpayers, hoping nobody would ask questions about what's being negotiated.

Amazingly enough, there were some questions asked in Rick Stroud's Times story, as Hillsborough Co. Commissioner & Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) board member Ken Hagan was quoted: "Unfortunately, negotiating with the Buccaneers has been extremely challenging...whenever it appears that we are close to an agreement, they always change the terms.

"The reality is, based on the terms of the original lease agreement, what is in the best interest of the fan is not always in the best interest of the taxpayer."

READ: Sept 22 proposed contract from Bucs

That said, I've reviewed dozens of TSA negotiating emails now and can say the rather-small  seems to be doing the best it can against the super-power that is the NFL.  Hillsborough Co. voters agreed to upgrade Raymond James Stadium back in 1996, so those $26 million in sales tax dollars are as good as gone.

Yet, the haggling by a league that brings in $10 billion a year and a team that's worth north of $2 billion seems unfair to taxpayers.  They want a second regular season game - and potentially a preseason game too - away from home?

That seems to defeat much of the benefit from this "community asset."  What kind of economy does a team bring that can play 30% of its home games overseas?

What the Front-Page Bucs Stories Didn't Tell You
  1. The Bucs may get the public to pay most of the bill.  The team agrees to improving Raymond James Stadium's value by $100 million...but they aren't required to put in $100 million of construction.  In addition to the county's $26 million or so, the Bucs are only obligated to contribute $51.6 million.  And the aren't required to document it all.  And they plan on asking for $30 million in state funds to reduce their obligation.
  2. The Bucs' excuse for refusing to commit to a Manchester United game in Tampa.  The county wants a guaranteed ManU game from the Glazers if they're going to agree to a second regular season game overseas. But the Bucs' COO says the two franchises are "operated independently" and he can't make it happen.  That's funny, a similar relationship didn't stop Red Sox owner John Henry from bringing Liverpool over to Fenway Park for a match.
  3. The Bucs want the county to buy materials for them and take out the bonds for them so they don’t have to pay taxes on any of it. This has become standard practice across pro sports in America, but there's no reason a private corporation like the Buccaneers shouldn't pay local, state, or federal taxes on the business it conducts.
  4. Seating capacity may shrink. Given the team's on-again/off-again attendance woes, it isn't a huge deal.  But 10 Investigates has covered at-length how teams pitch stadium renovations as economic game-changers...while reducing the number of fans who could potentially come in from out of town to enjoy events.
  5. The team still keeps the overwhelming majority of all stadium revenues. But you knew, especially after reading "The Glazers' Sweetheart Deal Keeps Getting Sweeter," that the Bucs don't just get all the money from football games...but from non-football games too.
  6. The team recently-added a "shall meet or exceed current industry standards" clause into a construction clause.  Maybe it's nothing, since it only has to do with construction materials and craftsmanship. Or maybe it's a fatal "state of the art"-type of clause that always costs taxpayers a ton of money.
So lots to give fans and taxpayers pause, but props to the TSA for digging their heels far.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Times Doubles Down Support for Rays Sympathizers

While the Tampa Tribune changed its endorsement in a key St. Pete city council race, despite frustrations and disagreements on the issue of a Rays stadium...the Tampa Bay Times also made a shocking endorsement, choosing a full slate of stadium-supporters in an election filled with complicated issues that go far beyond baseball.

The Times doubled-down on its support of Mayor Kriseman's negotiated deal, endorsing no-name Philip Garrett in District 5 over heavily-favored incumbent Steve Kornell, a liberal councilman the paper has long-supported.  Acknowledging the endorsement was purely about baseball, the Times picked Garrett over "obstructionist" Kornell.

ALSO READ: Kornell will switch vote for $55 million

Other Times endorsements include incumbent Charlie Gerdes and embattled newcomer Lisa Wheeler-Brown.  Supporters of the Rays deal are hoping either Garrett or Wheeler-Brown can win and give Kriseman the fifth vote he needs to break the stadium stalemate and allow the Rays a chance to look at sites in Hillsborough County.

ALSO READ: In Trying to Advance Stadium Interests, Newspapers May Do Opposite

Just how surprising were the Times' endorsements?
Depends whom you ask, but here's one observer's reaction:

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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Monday, September 28, 2015

Trib Endorses New Stadium Opponent

Claiming St. Pete's District 7 council race was all about the Rays stadium was doing everyone a disservice.  And now that the Tampa Tribune editorial writers are looking at a number of issues and recent missteps by their formerly-endorsed candidate, Lisa Wheeler-Brown, they've had a change of heart on their endorsement.

The Trib endorsed Wheeler-Brown's opponent, Will Newton, for the November D7 runoff.  You'll remember Newton is the brother of the current council's biggest opponent of a Rays compromise, Wengay Newton.  The two brothers share similar views on the stadium.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Why Everyone's Gaga for Toytown

Two quick thoughts on the Tampa Bay Times' most recent Rays-related editorial regarding the tug-of-war between the Braves and Rays over Toytown (that isn't really a tug-of-war at all):
  1. The editorial board summarized the Toytown interest this way: "as usual, the key issue is money."  After spending years putting the emphasis on grabbing great land parcels before they disappear - this may be the first time the board really acknowledges finding the public funds necessary for a new stadium are a bigger problem than finding the land for one.
  2. Have you ever wondered why there's so much fuss over a Toytown site they Rays haven't shown interest in, located in a county so many fans assume the team wants to leave?  Either because the team isn't sure it wants to leave Pinellas....or the Rays simply need Pinellas money in-play to leverage Hillsborough money.  Duh, it's the blueprint
I first wrote back in 2009 that if I had to bet on where the next Rays stadium would be built, I'd bet Mid-Pinellas/Toytown because of Pinellas County's available tourist tax.  And there's been little in the last six years to convince me it's not still the frontrunner.

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