Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oops, They Did it Again!

In case you're counting at home, this morning's cover story updating us on the number of empty seats at the Trop marks the paper's third cover in the last eight days dedicated to the topic. It's their sixth New Stadium Cheerleading effort in the past month.

Apparently it's a big enough story to squeeze onto the front page (above the fold) alongside Gov. Crist's major Senate announcement today and the growing, flaming oil spill in the Gulf.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Awful Attendance; Rays ready to talk stadium?

It's no fan's obligation to actually go to a baseball game. I think it's perfectly alright to root your team on from in front of the television - especially in this tough economy.

But with as well as the Rays are playing, there are surely a LOT of Rays fans who are missing some GREAT baseball. And honestly, a great baseball experience at The Trop too.

The team has turned in some awful attendance numbers lately, and of course, the team's official New Stadium Cheerleader, The Tampa Trib, included a column on it.

But while Joe Henderson points out the team is 17th in the league in attendance so far, he doesn't point out that the Rays haven't finished a season higher than 23rd in the league since their first season. So 17th doesn't sound so bad.

And while he also points out that "home series this week against Oakland and Kansas City" are likely to hurt their numbers even more, he doesn't point out that their 24,275 average so far was despite two series against lousy teams. Their only good draw so far - against the Yankees - took place on a weekend, where they draw pretty well anyway.

Yes, attendance is a problem. 10,691 on Wednesday night is unacceptable. But when a dozen teams are drawing WORSE than the Rays are drawing right now, MLB needs to get its player salaries in-line so teams can afford a real lineup when the economy hits attendance numbers.

As for the future of a stadium, talks have been at a standstill because, well, the Rays aren't ready to talk yet.

But team president Matt Silverman told WTVT today that they could initiate talks with the City of St. Pete this summer.

It's going to be a long and painful process regardless of what happens...but at least Silverman indicates the team is a little more willing to work with the other parties involved.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Possible Stadium Locations Should Take Backseat to Financing

As much as I can't stand the recycled cover stories on the Rays' stadium saga in the Tampa Trib recently, I applaud the paper for one thing (even if it's by accident): shifting the focus of the stadium talk from a silly debate over stadium location to the challenging task of finding funds.

Similar stadium situations in Minnesota and Sacramento underscore how easy it can be to find land and how difficult it can be to find financing.

I still maintain if the Rays get a new Tampa Bay stadium, it will be at - or near - Toytown in North St. Pete. If the environmental issues of the area prove to be too challenging, a land-swap could be easily worked out.

And regardless of how much land developers may find in Downtown Tampa, they'll never come up with the huge amounts of money for a stadium. One way or another, that task will be left to the taxpayers and the Rays...with both sides leveraging for the other to shoulder the bulk of the load.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Trib Plasters Stadium Saga on Sunday Cover Again

Can someone please explain to me what the Tampa Tribune is trying to do?

The Trib reprinted this April 23 article on the stadium saga on April 25 with a different headline.

Read for yourself - the only other differences are the re-arranged 4th, 5th, and 6th grafs. That means my criticisms of their coverage on Thursday can be repeated on Sunday.

I have a lot of respect for the writers and editors at the Trib, but I don't understand trying to sell papers with old news. Unless the recycled material was an Earth Day promotion...

CORRECTION - The Trib says it would not reprint an article in print and while the article was published online Thursday, it didn't hit print until Sunday. My apologies.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tampa Trib Wants a New Rays Stadium!

I don't always take myself seriously, but I always take my role as a journalist seriously. Media serves as the public's watchdog. But I'm embarrassed by the series of articles in the Tampa Tribune that is nothing more than propaganda for the Tampa Bay Rays' stadium efforts.

Sure, the Rays need a new home sometime down the road. And nothing in the Trib's coverage has been outrageously incorrect. But what's with the constant regurgitation of the ABC Coalition report? Sure, putting "Rays" and "Stadium" on your front page probably sells papers, but why cast aside your responsibility as journalists to become Tampa Bay's biggest cheerleader for a new stadium ?

4/23/10: "Trop lacks revenue streams to keep Rays competitive, experts say" - The "experts" the Trib quotes include Craig Sher from the ABC Coalition, Rays owner Stu Sternberg, a Twins executive who says their new stadium sells a lot of tickets, and a professor in Massachusetts whose expert advice was "people would just enjoy (a new stadium) more."

4/18/10: "Rays stadium buzz rarely includes how to pay for it" - Trib dedicates front page of Sunday paper to explaining why nobody is building a new stadium for the Rays yet. It's beacuse nobody has any money for a stadium right now. Real ground-breaking stuff.

4/4/10: "Off the field, Rays face major hurdles" - Trib Editorial Board puts the entire ABC Coalition report into an easy-to-read column, advocating leaders - in St. Pete or Tampa - to start planning for a new stadium now.

3/31/10: "Stadium is legitimate concern for Rays" - Sportswriter Joe Henderson echoes the ABC report and encourages leaders to get the ball rolling.

Again, I don't necessarily disagree with any of the specific articles or columns printed, but Trib - what gives? Why are you beating the dead horse when there's nothing new to report right now?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More Glazer purchases?

The Palm Beach Daily News reports the Glazer family may have just bought another $19.3M property on Florida's East Coast after reportedly buying a $20.5M property there last month.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rays "Not Prepared" to Answer Tough Question

The ABC Coalition visited Pinellas County's Tourist Development Council today, and St. Pete City Council Chair Leslie Curran had a chance to speak directly to Rays Senior VP Michael Kalt.

"Do you want to stay in St. Pete?" she asked, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Kalt's response was: "That's not a question we're prepared to answer right now...we want to stay in the Tampa Bay area and find the best place to play."

If you read between the lines here, the Rays are saying that they aren't ready to talk stadium because nobody has presented them an attractive stadium plan since the waterfront deal fell apart.

But you can bet the team wouldn't mind St. Pete officials getting nervous about losing the just might prompt someone to step up and lead the charge for a new publically-financed stadium.

Of course, as I explained nearly a year ago - long before the ABC Coalition repeated it - the Rays have always wanted out of Downtown St. Petersburg. Toytown will be the focal point of a new stadium if there ever is one in Tampa Bay.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pressure Slowly Mounting on Rays to Talk Stadium

One of the leaders of the ABC Coalition is now saying the Rays need to step up to the plate and tell St. Pete what they want.

Hmmmm, I seem to remember a similar call on this blog once or twice in the past few weeks...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

St. Pete Working on New Rays Stadium??

We got the first look at the commercial the mayors of St. Pete, Tampa, and Clearwater shot together to encourage Tampa Bay to support the Rays. Not the best acting I've ever seen, but nice to see them teaming up for the common good.

One interesting note is that Mayor Bill Foster says St. Pete is "working behind the scenes" on long-term plans for the Rays. I'm guessing it's in the very very very preliminary stages since Rays owner Stu Sternberg told the Tampa Trib that he was not involved in any behind the scenes efforts.

I also think Foster knows better than to attempt a deal behind closed doors after the 2008 waterfront stadium debacle. So that probably means nothing's changed since last month and he's still waiting on the Rays...who are still waiting on him.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Season Brings Old Stadium Refrains

The start of a new baseball season brings a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings. But, in the case of the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s also bringing a rash of commentary on the team’s stadium situation.

As unsurprising as the attention is, the similar nature of all the talk is surprising. Other than some good analysis of the pros/cons of building a new stadium from the St. Pete Times, all the editorials seem to urge elected officials to get off their glutes and get the ball rolling.

The Times editorial board calls on St. Pete city leaders to act promptly. The Trib wrote an editorial simply calling for a new stadium. And Trib columnist Joe Henderson echoed the editorial by repeating the ABC Coalition’s findings in column format.

An interesting take on it all comes from the website "Field of Schemes." The site usually provides a level-headed approach to stadium-building and public financing, and it criticizes Henderson for wanting to build a stadium “just because.”

(In full disclosure, the site also sells these snarky t-shirts which wouldn’t exactly get ABC Coalition-approval)

And just as I predicted back in the ABC Coalition’s infancy, columnists and editorial boards are jumping on municipalities to act. But where’s the pressure on the Rays to come back to the table with ideas (or even a fair request) of their own?

As reported back in March, the Rays are still sitting on the sidelines, “waiting for the process to play itself out.”

But the process has basically played itself out with the ABC Coalition having already delivered its final report. It will soon drift off into the sunset, but there’s no indication the Rays will sit down with any community leaders anytime soon.
Why aren’t they at the table if they want a new stadium so badly?

It seems that - because although they’re counting on public money for a stadium - there’s not much public support for one. So the Rays continue to wait.

They’re still following the stadium-building blueprint that so many MLB teams have used, but anybody in Tampa Bay hoping for a quick resolution on the Rays' future will be thoroughly disappointed. All interested parties right now are playing a poker game with very valuable leverage at-stake.

There’s no debating the fact (or the editorials) that local leaders need to step up and help build a stadium if they want the Rays here into the 2020’s. But it’s not going to happen without the team’s help too.

No municipality can build a stadium by itself, so until the team shows its cards – both what it wants and how much it is willing to contribute to it – we’re at an impasse.

The Rays’ brass is undoubtedly still bitter about the way the waterfront deal fell through in 2008. But it’s going to take a similar united effort for the Rays and the community to get what they’re each looking for. And making things more difficult, it will have to be in full public view this time around so taxpayers aren’t left with an equally bitter taste in their mouths.

The time is now for the Rays to step up to bat and contribute more than their disappointment to the process. And fellow journalists, instead of penning editorials that encourage elected officials to work with the Rays (since there's proof they ARE trying), maybe we should be pushing the Rays' officials to work with them.