Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Stadium Subsidy ROI: Rich for Teams; Poor for Taxpayers

Floridians aren't quite paying enough attention to what's happening in North Texas, as the city of Arlington moves forward with a $519M referendum for a modern Rangers stadium to replace their existing modern Rangers stadium...because we are now learning baseball in hot climates requires a roof.

By all accounts, Arlington is overpaying to avoid the scary thought of possibly "losing" the Rangers to Dallas, just 30 minutes away....even though there doesn't appear to be a lot of indication relocation was either imminent or likely.  Oh, and the team's owners are billionaire oil magnates.

Tip o' the hat to my investigative counterparts at WFAA-TV for doing great watchdog work on a lease that has seven more years left on it. 
Regardless of what you think about Arlington's plan, it's a great reminder that nobody can make money by building a stadium - that's why teams rely on the public to do it for them.  Neil deMause points out "we’re already looking at Arlington putting down at least $519 million for a return of at most $60 million."

Basically, a city of Arlington analysis showed its investment would generate more tax dollars without new Texas Rangers stadium.

Sound familiar Tampa Bay?

It should - it echoes the exact thing Rays owner Stu Sternberg told St. Pete a year ago: that it's in the taxpayers' "best interest to get the (Trop) land back" and redevelop it as something other than baseball.

And devout readers of this blog will remember my post about how much economic activity Tampa might lose if it were to spend tax dollars on a new stadium downtown (using the Tampa Bay Times' own fuzzy math):

Also worth noting: a recent study in San Diego puts the ROI on that city's proposed stadium/convention center at just three cents on the dollar!

And, if you need any more evidence that stadiums don't generate profits and are only called "public" facilities so they can avoid paying property and construction taxes....Maricopa County is selling off the Diamondbacks' ballpark - lock, stock, & barrel - for only $60 million dollars, a fraction of what the stadium cost to build 18 years ago.

That's a pretty crappy return on your real estate investment during a period when the franchise's value has grown exponentially.  But the politicians out in the desert may actually have a pretty decent idea about cutting their losses.

It's a much better idea than, say, fighting with the public when you need their support for a stadium referendum:

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Where Pinellas Commission Candidates Stand on a New Rays Stadium

While select leaders - on both sides of Tampa Bay - debate the future of the Rays, any possible public funding for a new stadium will ultimately require the approval of either the Hillsborough or Pinellas County commissions.

10News WTSP asked each candidate running for a commission seat this year about his or her opinions on a new stadium. Below is a summary of their answers. Primary day is August 30 with general elections in November.

2016: Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand
2014: Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand
2014: Where Pinellas BOCC candidates stand
2012: Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand
2010: Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand

* = incumbent
Write-in candidates were not included.

District 1 (No Election)
Janet Long* (D) – An outspoken advocate of the commission’s increased role with stadium negotiations, Long said she had opinions on where a stadium should go and how it should be funded...but wouldn’t elaborate much on either idea. She has frequently criticized fellow Democrat and St. Pete mayor Rick Kriseman for not bringing the county commission into the stadium conversation. And she suggested state dollars might be on the table if Pinellas County’s bed taxes weren’t enough public dollars to fund a new stadium.

District 3
Mike Mikurak (R) – Challenging the incumbent commission chair, Mikurak is openly critical of the role the commission has played in discussions so far and what he considers a lack of planning legwork to this point. “There is also little forecasting as to what will happen if it moves to Tampa which is a very real possibility,” Mikurak said. But on the topic of whether public resources should be committed toward a new Rays stadium in Pinellas County, Mikurak said it would depend on “verifiable investment benefits,” which are typically quite subjective when it comes to stadiums. He said he was open to using bed tax dollars for a stadium to “invest & promote sustainable jobs”, but “limited taxpayer resources should not be used for the sole benefit of private sector business.”

Charlie Justice* (D) – The sitting commission chair, Justice has supported the county’s methodical approach toward helping the Rays explore more than a dozen potential stadium sites from Oldsmar to Derby Lane to Downtown St. Petersburg and explained, “Commission and Administrator are in frequent communication with the team as they perform their due diligence” and the process can be slow and frustrating, “but it is a generational decision and we must make the right one.” Justice expressed confidence that the county would have enough revenue in its robust bed tax collections to help fund a new stadium without any additional tax revenues and his only preferred site was one “where the team will be successful in building a strong attendance base.”

District 5 (No Election)
Karen Seel* (R) – An incumbent commissioner, Seel expressed her confidence in the county’s current baseball plan, adding that she had no personal preference for a future stadium location. She said she would “only support using limited amount of bed taxes only from and in Pinellas County” and that she would like to see the team go through the county’s new capital funding process to make their case for public financing. Seel also said she’d like to see any new stadium include features that could be “widely used by the community.”

District 7 (No Election)
Ken Welch* (D) – Longtime commissioner Ken Welch, representing most of St. Petersburg, has quietly played an active role in stadium discussions over the years. He advocated for the county to hold off on committing bed tax dollars to other major projects until the Rays stadium is settled. Pinellas County’s bed tax might bond upwards of $200 million in stadium construction. Welch also lobbied for St. Petersburg to include the county in stadium discussions, resulting in his appointment to the city’s “Baseball Forever” campaign group, aimed at keeping the Rays in the city for decades to come.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Secret Rays Tampa Stadium Talks to Remain Secret for a While

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the officials in talks with the Rays about a potential new stadium in Hillsborough County are going out of their way to avoid creating public records and giving notice of their meetings with the team for good reason.

"Anytime you start talking real estate and locations, the price goes up," Buckhorn said, adding that the group has not spent much time yet addressing perhaps the biggest challenge of a Tampa stadium: how to pay for it.

FACEBOOK: Entire exchange with Mayor Buckhorn

On Monday, the mayor met with the Rays and several other local leaders, including Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, to discuss a series of possible stadium locations on Tampa's side of the bay. That included Downtown Tampa and West Shore, but not the county fairgrounds, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

But on the mayor's weekly calendar, which typically provides local reporters the topics and locations of the mayor's meetings, the morning rendezvous with the Rays was simply listed as "Ken Hagan," with the location and meeting topic omitted.

And months' worth of public record requests to both Hagan and Buckhorn have come up empty; the public officials attending the meeting claim they don't have a single document, email, or text message pertaining to their behind-closed-door discussions, which could ultimately cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

A new stadium is expected to cost at least $500 million with taxpayers likely called on to fund a significant portion of the construction and infrastructure.

While Pinellas County has robust tourist tax revenues, which could potentially bond upwards of $200 million in stadium construction, Hillsborough County's available tourist tax revenues would likely bond no more than $75 million. Additional revenues, such as a rental car tax, have been discussed but are considered neither particularly lucrative nor politically popular.

"I think all of us ... at least on the public side ... are trying to find a way to (finance a ballpark) without the way that Raymond James was publicly financed," Buckhorn said. "I don't think a referendum would pass, so we will have to look at other things.

"We're going to have to look at bed tax, we're going to have to look at potentially rental car surcharges ... to the extent that we can place the burden on tourists, that would be ideal. But at this point, we don't know. It's going to be expensive, and if you asked me today how we would pay for it, I couldn't tell you."

Buckhorn said the Hillsborough group's next meeting with the Rays will be in October. Hagan didn't return requests for comment Tuesday.

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Florida's Next Governor(?) Doesn't Like Stadium Subsidies

The leading candidate to be Florida's next governor, Adam Putnam, doesn't appear to be a fan of state subsidies for the Rays (any other pro franchise), a stark contrast to the current governor, Rick Scott:

This blog has previously explored the state's role in helping to fund pro stadiums, as well as the current lack of interest in the legislature to continue the practice.

The good news for the Rays is that term limits guarantees a new slate of lawmakers is never more than a couple years away.  But with limited money for a stadium in Tampa, any lack of state funding would put the idea of a Hillsborough stadium out of reach.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Where Hillsborough Commission Candidates Stand on a New Rays Stadium

TAMPA, Florida – While select leaders - on both sides of Tampa Bay - debate the future of the Rays, any possible public funding for a new stadium will ultimately require the approval of either the Hillsborough or Pinellas County commissions.

In my latest for 10News WTSP, I asked each candidate running for a commission seat this year about his or her opinions on a new stadium. Below is a summary of their answers. Primary day is August 30 with general elections in November.

2016: Where Pinellas BOCC candidates stand
Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand
2014: Where Pinellas BOCC candidates stand
2012: Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand
2010: Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand

* = incumbent
Write-in candidates were not included.

District 1 (No Primary)
Sandy Murman* (R) – District 1’s sitting commissioner, Murman supports moving the Rays to Hillsborough County, comparing the potential relocation to that of a major corporate headquarters. But she remained reserved about how to pay for a stadium. “Under no circumstances will I support a sales tax increase or use of general revenue to finance a ballpark,” Murman wrote, adding that any subsidy proposal needs to be thoroughly vetted by county staff before commissioners can consider it, and she wishes the current conversations were more transparent. She said she “didn’t have a number in mind” for how much the county could contribute to a stadium, Murman wrote “We need to resolve our transportation funding plan before we begin the Rays conversation.”

Jeff Zampitella (D) – A Downtown Tampa resident, Zampitella says he would like to see the Rays move to the Tampa Park Apartment site, sandwiched between downtown’s Channel District and Ybor City. He says the site has promising transit, parking, and ingress/egress potential. And while he said he opposes general property tax revenues going toward a stadium, Zampitella has a liberal view on using other tax revenues to secure the Rays’ future, including bed taxes, sales taxes, property tax breaks, Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) property tax earmarks, and the local telecommunications tax. He applauded Commissioner Ken Hagan’s leadership on the negotiations so far, but also believes the discussions need to be more transparent for the public’s benefit.

District 3 (no election)
Les Miller (D)
– The sitting commission chair, Miller responded to 10News’ questions with a simple seven-word statement: “I have no comments at this time.” However, he has allowed fellow commissioner Ken Hagan to lead the county’s secret negotiations with the team. And in previously-public comments from January, Miller was quoted as saying, “We want the Rays to stay no doubt...but we have to figure out a way to pay for it and not ask taxpayers to pay for a new stadium."

District 6 (Countywide)
Jim Norman (R) – The former commissioner failed to return numerous emails, but helped craft the Bucs' subsidized stadium deal while county commissioner 20 years ago. However, in 2010, he expressed hesitation when fellow commissioner Ken Hagan tried to pry the Rays from St. Petersburg without first getting permission. And recently, told the Tampa Bay Times "the pot is just not deep enough" to retain three pro franchises, pointing to the Bucs' and Lightning's expiring stadium leases in 2027.

Tim Schock (R) – Since his unsuccessful 2014 commission run, Schock has maintained his call for Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to work together to find the Rays a new home, rather than compete against each other. “Lack of cooperation between Hillsborough County and Pinellas County is leading to competition that is detrimental to both,” Schock wrote. He said he’d likely support bed tax revenues going toward a stadium, but not any other local “unrestricted” funds. Instead, he suggested the state should step up to retain MLB in Tampa Bay, just as it funds spring training stadium projects, and better collaboration between the two counties could advance that goal.

John Dicks (D) – A proponent of a Rays-to-Hillsborough move, the former mayor of Plant City advocates using bed tax and a new stadium Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) to help pay for a facility. CRA districts redirect local property taxes from redeveloped areas back into the same area. However, the revenues can be unpredictable and they ultimately come from county tax coffers. Dicks said state money could also help the county land the Rays, which he believes would drive new tourism revenues. He also emphasized the need for Hillsborough to work with Pinellas on a comprehensive transit & transportation plan, “paramount for our quality of life as well as the success of any professional sports team.”

Pat Kemp (D) – An advocate for regional transit, Kemp said funding a baseball stadium cannot be prioritized ahead of transportation and other issues. “I would likely oppose the use of any general revenues to fund a new stadium,” said Kemp, but she said she could see a possible stadium downtown or near West Shore and that she “might support tax increment revenues generated strictly by stadium development and parking revenues accruing from stadium events.” Kemp added that she was concerned about the lack of transparency in the county’s discussions with the team to-date and “the stadium cannot be the product of a backroom deal.”

Tom Scott (D) – A former county commissioner, Scott says he favors a new stadium somewhere in the “urban core.” But he also says public financing should be limited to just the bed tax, which he says “has the capacity to produce the funding needed for the stadium.” However, most estimates of Hillsborough County’s bed taxes project the revenues to bond no more than $75 million in construction. Scott says “enough energy is being given already for the stadium” and has suggested a long list of other priorities for the county.

Brian Willis (D) – Perhaps the race’s most outspoken candidate on the issue of expanding transit, Willis suggested every Rays stadium conversation needs to revolve around transportation, “If we get the transportation piece right,” Willis said, “well-connected to our regional transportation network and future transit connections...everyone will benefit, including any future stadium location.” He also encouraged Hillsborough and Pinellas County to stop competing against each other for the Rays, and not to get in bidding wars with other U.S. cities either. But Willis said if the team pays for more than half of a new stadium’s cost, he could see Hillsborough contributing bed tax dollars, applying for state money, and also asking the airport authority & state legislature to increase rental car fees to help subsidize the construction cost.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Snug Harbor Rays Site: Baseball by Boat in Tampa Bay?

The front page of the Tampa Bay Times this morning touts a new Pinellas ballpark stadium location, on the Gandy waterfront, just East of Derby Lane.

"Snug Harbor," as described by Mark Puente and Charlie Frago, is 39 acres that the Rays are interested in, with the ingress/egress and potential ferry access the team could need.

And while this site was not on the Pinellas County's recent list of 10 possible sites was recently-added to Pinellas County's list of now-17 possible sites, we're reminded anyone with a pile of dirt still has a chance to land the team....if only they had a way to pay for it.

That said, this blog has written endlessly about why Gandy Blvd. locations in Pinellas Co. are so much more likely than any site in Tampa, as Pinellas County has nearly triple the bed tax revenue available.

And, I'm quite familiar with the Snug Harbor site, literally working across the street from it...it certainly could be a beautiful location, with ample waterfront space for docking boats.

The site is within St. Pete city limits (barely)...but this morning's article suggests St. Pete & Mayor Rick Kriseman don't want to consider the site yet, putting all their eggs in their Downtown basket.
UPDATE: Kriseman spokesperson Ben Kirby wrote this morning, "St. Pete has been very clear our position is NOT Trop site or bust. It's in our city and it's our preferred site. That's all."  He also provided this original information from the city's Baseball Forever plan.

Ironically, Kriseman's predecessor, who lost his job for refusing to let the Rays talk to Tampa without paying for the right....was one of the first politicians to suggest the team could/should consider moving to Gandy Blvd.

A "Trop site or bust" attitude wouldn't be very good PR, but it might kind of make sense for the Rays....

While Snug Harbor has a lot of things to like about a new stadium site, it doesn't offer the one most-important thing the Rays want to make the money on: ancillary development.

With only 39 acres - 5 of which are submerged - the team won't have much opportunity to profit on surrounding real estate deals.  Not to mention the land acquisition price ($30M) and possible flood remediation costs (???) would ultimately come out of their pocket.

These days, stadium deals aren't so much about making money on the butts in the seats; just ask Jeff Vinik; or the Red Sox or the Braves or the Rangers.  Sometimes, there's more money to be made around the stadium than in the stadium, and St. Pete seems ready to hand the Rays a blank check if they help anchor Tropicana site redevelopment.

Of course, if the legislature helps the team cut a deal with Derby Lane to keep paramutuals on-site, Gandy Blvd. looks a lot more appealing again.....

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Returning...Without Subsidies

I first broke the news on WTSP today that the city of St. Petersburg will give a road race organizer a third chance to make a first impression, inviting it to bring the “St. Pete Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon” back to town in March 2017.

This blog helped expose how the Competitor Group Inc., a San Diego company best-known for its “Rock ‘n’ Roll” half marathon series, drew disappointing crowds to its events in St. Petersburg in 2012 and 2013 – despite receiving $130,000 in public subsidies each year – before pulling out of the market completely prior to 2014’s events. It also purchased the successful St. Pete Women’s Half Marathon from a local company, only to cancel the race two months before its Nov. 2014 running.

UPDATE: Newly-obtained records indicate "the total bill for City services & equipment was $66,253.80 for the last Rock N Roll Half Marathon in 2013. This included costs for Fire/Ems staff, Parks & Recreation staff, Sanitation services, and Traffic/Transportation staff. The police staff/equipment costs totaled in excess of $55,000."

But Competitor Group Inc. (CGI) was the largest company to submit a bid during the city’s recent RFP seeking race organizers to bring a half-marathon back to Downtown St. Pete. And, unlike its previous events in St. Pete, the Competitor Group said in its application that it would not request any public subsidies at the onset of the St. Pete Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. However, it kept the option open in its application:

“CGI would be interested in a partnership with the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission should the opportunity arise.”

Unlike CGI’s robust projections ahead of the 2012 and 2013 races that never materialized, the company only projected 7,000 runners for a March 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon in St. Pete. It projected 7,500 and 8,000 runners for the 2018 and 2019 races, respectively.

In 2012, CGI projected 12,000-15,000 runners but only 7,021 completed the St. Pete Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. The following year, only 4,379 runners completed the race.

The race was also plagued by frustrations from runners who were hit with $15 parking fees, a $10 fee to get a ride from the finish line in North Shore Park to the starting line at Tropicana Field more than two miles away, plus another $15 for parking to simply pick up the race packet at Tropicana Field as was required in the days leading up to the race.

There didn’t appear to be any mention of parking costs or any shuttle fees in CGI’s 2017 race proposal, but the company requested a course that starts at Albert Whitted Park, only 1.3 miles from the finish line at North Shore Park. It also told the city it was open to adjusting the course.

The Competitor Group has also hosted more than a dozen successful "Rock 'n' Roll" half marathons and marathons each year since they left St. Pete, and used their national exposure and experience to set their application apart from the local companies seeking to host a race.

CGI requested a race date during the third weekend of March, which would put next year’s race on March 19, likely fewer than two weeks before the IRL’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The company told the city it “would be willing to adjust the race course to accommodate planned construction near the Pier/Bayshore Drive area, assuming we are allowed to return to the area once construction is completed” and it “would also consider evaluating alternate start and expo locations to accommodate Grand Prix activities.


The nipple band-aids are once again coming off!

While the city also voted to award a November half-marathon to Pinellas-based EndorFUN Sports, the process may get delayed by a formal bid protest by the runner-up, Florida Road Races.

The initial protest by Florida Road Races (FRR) cited a number of issues.

You can continue to read about the controversy here.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Why Hillsborough Remains a Rays Stadium Longshot

There's been lots of talk in the last week about Pinellas County's list of 10 specific sites the Rays may want to consider for a stadium, based on the basic criteria set out by the team.

This blog has long pointed out that anyone with a pile of dirt thinks they have a chance at landing a stadium.  But most of them are silly...even though Tampa Bay residents won't agree on which ones are silly:
I've always said you could poll 100 Rays fans about where they'd like to see a new stadium built, and 100 would agree they'd like one built closer to where they live.
But that point was echoed this weekend by a John Romano column that said there really are only two sites the Rays can consider - Downtown Tampa and adjacent to the current stadium in Downtown St. Pete. 
But that doesn't mean a move to Tampa is a foregone conclusion. There is not a perfect plot of downtown land available, and funding in Hillsborough could be tricky.

So, yes, Pinellas County is most definitely in the picture.

But you have to understand how the Rays view this. By itself, a shiny new stadium will not change the franchise's fortunes. If it's built in Pinellas, the Rays' new home has to have some way of drawing the Tampa crowd that has never flocked to Tropicana Field.
Romano goes on to say Derby Lane promise the best hope for that, except it doesn't have the highway infrastructure to ever get fans to the stadium quickly enough.

The columnist may not be aware the Selmon Expressway is expected to be extended to the Gandy Bridge by 2020, providing a lightning-fast, ride free of traffic lights from Downtown Tampa to Derby Lane.  And that the state is connecting Derby Lane to I-275 in Pinellas County with a set of overpasses, set to be completed within just a couple of years.
So don't write off Derby Lane just yet.

But Romano continues with the option of last (and most probable) resort in his mind:
And that pretty much leaves Tropicana Field's land. Between the interstate access, the growing hipster scene in St. Pete and the possibility of redeveloping the extra acres with destination-type amenities, it's Pinellas' best bet.

In baseball scouting terms, it has the highest upside.

Now this doesn't mean the Pinellas list was a waste of time. On the contrary, it served an important purpose. It successfully pointed out what should now be obvious.
The most fans are in Hillsborough, but the money's in Pinellas.  And I have a sneaking suspicion which one the Rays will ultimately choose.*

*If they choose either option at all

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

USF's Last Chance to Leave "Have-Nots" for "Haves"

Back in March, I took a close look at USF's struggling athletic financials and how conference re-alignment has really crushed the program's momentum; the difference between the NCAA's "haves" in the Power Five conferences and the "have-nots" was growing. Last week's announcement of a mega-TV deal for the ACC is just the latest reminder.

Well, there's been a lot of talk lately about the possibility of USF capitalizing on the Big 12's expected expansion.
This is USF's last chance to play ball with the "big boys."  It will get expensive, but the Big 12's TV riches make it a much better option than staying in the bargain-basement AAC, where USF Athletics will continue to struggle to balance its budget.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Why the "Tampa" Rays Could Use a Swear Jar

Oh boy:
Of course, Poison frontman Bret Michaels is in good company, as national broadcasters and writer/bloggers have long referred to the "Tampa Rays" and their home in "Tampa."

But it's not like the Rays have exactly gone out of their way to correct the slight to "Tampa Bay" and St. Petersburg, either.  Can you imagine how FSU would react if the national media kept calling them the "Florida Seminoles?" 

Or a rival?
Heck, even their own employees do it, even if it is unintentionally

But what could the Rays do to better-represent their region and St. Petersburg's investment in the team?  How about the same thing they did when they dropped the word "Devil" from their name in 2008?

The team developed a "swear jar":

But instead of sending pleasant or funny reminders of their official team name, the Tampa Bay Rays have generally allowed the convenient slight that suggests the franchise should be playing across the bay.

It wouldn't be such a bad tip of the hat to the team's fans around Tampa Bay who don't happen to live in the city of Tampa.  And who knows, it may even help them get some positive national exposure again?

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

"The Worst Sports Stadium Deal Ever"

If the Braves' super-secret not-so-great, potentially-illegal deal wasn't bad enough, VICE Sports suggests the Braves' boondoggle may actually be "the worst sports stadium deal ever" after baseball park funding - which was not approved by voters - basically prohibited the county from spending a planned $40 million on actual parks, which was approved by voters. Oh, and about a million other things regarding hidden costs and an unforgivable lack of transparency. Never forget: Cobb Co. commissioners did everything in their power to avoid letting the public know what they were doing. Hey Tampa Bay voters, you paying attention? Because it's dangerously close to happening here too.

And if the whole "traffic sucks in Atlanta, but lets build a new stadium in the middle of the worst part, while not accounting for any new transit" thing wasn't bad enough in Atlanta, the Braves are working on running game-day traffic through suburban residential streets...which of course, isn't going over well.

Nor is the public concession from Cobb Co. that prohibits owners of private parking lots near the stadium from operating on game days?!?!

Or that private concessionaires won't allowed anywhere near the stadium, either!

Again, I ask: Tampa Bay stadium planners - you paying attention?

UPDATE: Cobb Co. appears to be backing off the ridiculous parking ban (but don't hold your breath on the concessions)

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Manfred, Montreal, and Vegas...Oh My

Ahhhh, the MLB All-Star game. A chance to see baseball's brightest executives answer questions about the hunt for new stadiums.

Commish Rob Manfred broke from tradition a bit yesterday, refusing to threatmonger Oakland and Tampa Bay and instead politely expressing his patience, support, and hope for new stadiums in two of baseball's most-challenging markets.

But he didn't miss a chance to remind everyone that Montreal won't be getting a team until the league can successfully use the threat of relocation to get new stadiums in Oakland and Tampa Bay:
Manfred said any move to add teams beyond the current 30 must wait because of the stadium searches.

"Both of those clubs need new major-league-quality facilities," he said, "and until that's resolved, I think expansion has got to be on the back burner for us."

Of course, if Montreal relocation threats weren't bad enough in Tampa Bay, some observers really want to crowbar Las Vegas into the mix too.

But as the nation's 40th-largest media market (Tampa Bay is 11th), Las Vegas would be the league's smallest, and a serious drain on big-markets' television revenues. Plus, Vegas is about to get its first big-league franchise (hockey), so there wouldn't seem to be nearly enough disposable income in the most transient of towns to add another big-league team to the mix. After all, the blackjack tables will always come first.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Transit is the Rays' Real Biggest Problem

The TB Baseball Market blog had a nice read yesterday on the Tampa Bay market's transportation challenges and how they affect the Rays.

Figured it was a good time to revisit some of this blog's transportation-related writings from the last seven years, including a 2011 post on how the lack of transportation might doom a new Rays stadium, wherever it may end up in West/Central Florida:
Floridians aren't used to driving 60 minutes for a baseball experience, and...MLB and Sternberg underestimated Floridians' desires to drive to baseball games.

If you handed someone in Connecticut a free Yankees or Red Sox ticket, there's a good chance they'd travel 90 minutes to the game. If you handed someone in Tampa a free Rays ticket, they probably wouldn't drive 30.
A couple years later, I wrote "why transit is more important than stadium location" for the Rays:
While it's all well-and-good to figure out how many people currently live within a 30-minute drive of Carillon vs. a 30-minute drive of Downtown Tampa (hint: it's the same), the region's transportation picture will be drastically different by 2035. And the presence of light rail and/or rapid-transit buses (could) reshape our impressions of a "reasonable" commute.
Then, of course, within the last two years, local voters and politicians have dealt a few considerable blows to the Rays' long-term future by killing potential transit expansions. Read here how it impacts baseball.

Finally, here are a few other posts from over the years related to the market's transportation challenges

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Teams Will Say Anything to Keep Subsidy Spigot Running

I haven't had much time to blog lately - partially due to speaking at the annual IRE (Investigative Reporters & Editors) convention about the importance of watchdog journalism in sports business.

I pushed journalists around the county to go investigate their own local stadium subsidies; to scrutinize economic impact claims; and to hold elected officials accountable.

We also talked about how the real value of new stadiums is not in more seats or luxury boxes anymore - in fact, Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan recently said a new Rays park may have zero suites. But instead, the real value of new stadiums lies in 1) increasing demand for teams' product and 2) other real estate/ancillary deals around the park.

I've always said teams are much better at this subsidy game than cities...and elected officials of Tampa should give a real long, hard look at this invaluable 1998 article (page 68) on the Bucs' $600 million "sweetheart" deal....that wound up costing taxpayers at least $26 million more this year.

Also worth reading this weekend - the Tampa Bay Times' synopsis of how stadiums "aren't built the way they used to." Kidding, they're built better. But as I wrote a few years ago, 20 is the new 40 for stadiums and teams seem to have little interest in honoring the spirit of their original 30-year leases:
What's worrisome is that baseball teams seem to be accelerating their demands for new stadiums, effectively shortening the lifespans of pricey stadiums to mere decades. Consider this a sports version of the old Space Race when the United States and Russia went wild with checkbooks trying to establish dominance above Planet Earth.
It's beyond worrisome. And an important question worth asking of Ken Hagan, Bob Buckhorn, Rick Kriseman, and other politicians talking to the Rays: how do you expect to ensure the Rays would return 30 years of investment to the people who pay hundreds of millions of dollars for their new home?


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Friday, June 10, 2016

Another Blow to Baseball in Tampa

Last night, Hillsborough Co. commissioners voted again to keep a potential transportation tax referendum off this fall's ballot, not only dealing a blow to the Rays' hopes for better transit in Tampa Bay, but also the hope that residents in Hillsborough County might be willing to spend new money on infrastructure improvements.

Of course, the case to spend money on baseball - at a time the county has a multi-billion-dollar transportation funding shortfall - gets even harder here. But as the Times' Steve Contorno reports, citizens are starting to mock commissioners for their seeming willingness to spend on sports and not roads:
One speaker, Yvette Maldonado, sarcastically suggested that commissioners may discover the will to pave roads if they were named after baseball stadiums.
"Wow," she said, "I think I found the solution folks."
Making things even harder on stadium advocates, the commission ultimately voted to look into whether tax-increment financing (TIF) could be used to earmark property taxes for transportation...which might make hopes of a stadium TIF even harder to accomoplish.

ALSO READ: Hillsborough has no idea how to pay for a stadium
ALSO READ: Land isn't Problem in Stadium Saga; Funding is.

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