Friday, October 24, 2014

Low Attendance Won't Cost Tampa Bay the Rays, but Played Factor in Friedman/Maddon Exits

It was nearly two years ago I wrote this:
Relocation and contraction are Bud Selig's pipe dreams, but the biggest nightmare possibility of inaction is the exodus of Sternberg, Matt Silverman, Andrew Friedman, and Joe Maddon.
Half the nightmare is here.

Joe Maddon's departure from the Rays today follows Andrew Friedman's last week.

Which reinforces my previous comments that the stadium/attendance frustrations weren't likely to cost Tampa Bay its team...but it was ultimately going to play a factor in the changing of a very valuable guard.

According to the Times, Maddon said he left for the money "and opportunity."  While the Rays were believed to have offered upwards of $3 million, Marc Topkin wrote he could possibly command up to $5 million a year.

A look back at Maddon's love/hate relationship with Tropicana Field:

Why Tampa's City Council Had to Reduce its Potential Stadium Funds

We seemingly have the conclusion to the City of Tampa vs. Hillsborough County tiff over TIFs...

The Tampa Bay Times' Richard Danielson reports Tampa's city council has agreed to a reduced share of future property taxes proceeds from CRA/TIF areas, including Downtown Tampa...which means there may not be as much money available for bonding projects, like a stadium:
Through 2043, the county estimates it will keep at least $280 million more in downtown redevelopment revenue than it would have kept under the terms of the deal it signed in the 1980s.

In other words, if the downtown CRA had been continued on its previous terms — all for the city, none for the county — officials say Tampa could have expected to receive an estimated $660 million over the next 28 years for redevelopment projects.

Instead, under the new deal, the county now will keep at least $280 million of that total.

That still leaves an estimated $380 million for CRA projects over a 28-year period.
On one hand, the county could easily decide to still contribute those dollars to a new stadium.

But on the other hand, once those future revenues are considered "general revenue" and could be spent on things like schools, roads, and law enforcement...it will be much harder, politically, for commissioners to redirect the dollars to a stadium.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rays TV Money - Like Stadium Funding - Depends on Leverage

A new post by Cork Gaines explores what the Rays stand to make on a new television contract...and echoes thoughts I've been posting on this site since 2010 about an impending windfall of TV money:
But that number may largely depend on whether SunSports is bidding against itself. Their price to keep the Rays obviously goes up if the team can get two different parties in the region to compete against each other. 

Sound familiar, politicians of Tampa Bay who want to build a new stadium?

Two Good Graphs, and Why the Bucs Need Twitter Help

In case you missed it, Cork Gaines has a good look at the Rays' TV ratings:
Then, I also noticed a cool Twitter graphic Meredyth Censullo posted, showing the somewhat limited reach of "Bucs Nation":
With 202,000 followers, the Bucs have the third-smallest Twitter following in the NFL; only Jacksonville and Arizona have fewer followers.

Of course, you should already be following tweets by @StadiumShadow!

Rays' New President Talks Stadium Saga

Brian Auld made his first public appearance as Rays' president this week, telling the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. the team wants to work with business leaders on a new park, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal's Chris Wilkerson:
"Baseball can be a catalyst for economic development," Auld told the crowd of about 500 business leaders at Amalie Arena. He referenced cities like Baltimore and San Diego that have used stadium projects to enliven underdeveloped parts of the community.

He noted the 25-year history of Tropicana Field and acknowledged that the location of a new stadium – wherever it lands in Tampa Bay and whenever it gets built – will be the beneficiary of an economic spark.
...
[W]hen Auld said, "We are just getting started," it seemed to mean something else. It had less of a "think of the things we can accomplish together" feel to it and more of a "even though we've been talking about this for years, we are just getting started," feel.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Where Rowdies Owner Bill Edwards Puts His Campaign Donations

St. Pete business tycoon Bill Edwards may be a rookie when it comes to owning a pro soccer team, but the Rowdies' owner is a grizzled veteran when it comes to political contributions.  Since 2003, Edwards has given more than $1.3 million to political campaigns, 99% of which affiliated with Republicans.

 Recipients of Edwards' donations include the Republican Party of Florida, National Republican Committee, Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan, Latvala's Florida Leadership Committee, Ohio Congressman John Boehner, and Gov. Charlie Crist prior to his party-switches.
The donations were among the many findings of my recent piece for WTSP/10 News on political contributions from sports teams and sports stars.  To see the entire list and interactive database, continue reading here.

The few Democrats Edwards has supported include former New York congressman Gary Ackerman and former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd.

WTSP found no political contributions from the team itself, but at least one current executive donated to David Jolly's congressional campaign in 2014.

Where Buccaneers' Players, Glazers Put Their Campaign Donations

When it comes to athletes contributing to political campaigns, no Tampa-area players have been as engaged as former members of the Bucs.  Nearly a dozen players have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to mostly-Democratic campaigns, including Kellen Winslow Jr., Michael Clayton, and Cato June all donating to Obama.

The donations were among the many findings of my recent piece for WTSP/10 News on political contributions from sports teams and sports stars.  To see the entire list and interactive database, continue reading here.

The Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, also leaned to the left, contributing $46,000 to National Democratic committees and another $4,800 to Charlie Crist's Independent Senatorial run in 2009.

However, the team itself has been largely bipartisan with its campaign contributions, donating tens of thousands of dollars to both the state Democratic and Republican parties in the late 1990s when it was working to build a stadium with public dollars. The Bucs also donated $57,800 to Moving Hillsborough Forward in 2010 and $25,000 to Friends of Greenlight in 2014.

Other donors in the database include former coach Raheem Morris and former players Chidi Ahanotu, Jamael "Ronde" Barber, Brooks, and Brad Culpepper.

Lightning, Vinik Donate Generously to Political Campaigns

In addition to support of regional transit efforts ($75,000 worth), the Tampa Bay Lightning - through personal donations from top executives - has also contributed money to every sitting Hillsborough County Commissioner.

The findings were included in my recent piece for WTSP/10 News on political contributions from sports teams and sports stars.  To see the entire list and interactive database, continue reading here.
Team CEO Tod Leiweke has contributed to the campaign accounts of all seven Hillsborough County commissioners.  He also has contributed to Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi, Congressional candidate Gwen Graham, and when we worked for the 49ers in 2008-2009, he contributed $10,000 to the NFL's political action committee.

And owner Jeff Vinik donated more than $50,000 to national Republican committees as well as $73,300 to the Romney Victory Fund in 2012.

Other individuals included in the comprehensive donation report include top Lightning executives and former star Dave Andreychuk.

Rays Start Funding Republican Campaigns, Contrary to Sternberg's Previous Political Leanings

The Tampa Bay Rays have made their first major political contribution in Florida, a $15,000 check to the political action committee run by powerful State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. 

The donation was among the many findings of my recent piece for WTSP/10 News on political contributions from sports teams and sports stars.  To see the entire list and interactive database, continue reading here.

The Rays had never made any major political contributions previously, other than $101,120 in contributions to the non-partisan transit campaigns in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

The donation to Latvala's powerful PAC underscores the importance of teams lobbying the legislature when they are interested in landing large taxpayer stadium subsidies.

"The party that has the majority gets to pass legislation...and reaps the benefit of those dollars," said former legislator Lars Hafner, D-St. Petersburg, who pointed to all the other Florida sports teams that have also poured money into Republican coffers in Florida.
Previously, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg had tended to favor Democrats, including a $5,000 donation to President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012.  Also, minority owner Timothy Mullen has been a loyal Democratic contributor, writing large checks to the campaigns of both Barack Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
However, not all Rays owners lean left; minority owners Thomas Sansone and Vince Naimoli have both been loyal Republican donors for years.

Other individuals included in the comprehensive donation report include Rays President Brian Auld, President of Baseball Operations Silverman, broadcaster Dewayne Staats, former manager Lou Pinella, and Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs.

Athletes, Teams Donate Big to Political Campaigns

Sports teams – as well as their owners, executives, and athletes – are some of the nation's most loyal political contributors.  And since most teams receive some sort of public subsidy, certain donations also raise questions about how the contributors are influencing lawmakers.

I analyzed thousands of financial records from federal, state, and local elections offices for WTSP/10 Investigates to follow how millions of sports dollars are pouring into political campaigns.

"What these owners are asking for...is hundreds of millions of dollars, so anyone would take that return on investment," said former legislator Lars Hafner, D-St. Petersburg.

Individual donors include former local stars like Derrick Brooks, Dave Andreychuk, Wade Boggs, and Shelton Quarles; current executives like Rays President Matt Silverman and Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke, as well as all of the owners of Tampa Bay's major pro franchises.

Rays owner Stu Sternberg has favored Democratic candidates in the past, but the Rays recently started donating more money to state-level Republicans. Hafner suggests Sternberg isn't shifting political leanings, but is seeking access to state's dominant party.

"The party that has the majority gets to pass legislation…and reaps the benefit of those dollars," Hafner said.

Yet the Rays' $15,000 contributions to Republican lawmakers and their committees this year pale in comparison to the donations of their fellow stadium subsidy-seeking counterparts. In recent years, the Florida Panthers and their subsidiaries have contributed $124,000 to state-level GOP campaigns; Miami Dolphins-led organizations contributed $83,000; the Orlando Magic gave $37,000; and the Jacksonville Jaguars forked out $28,800.

To see the entire list and interactive database, continue reading here.