Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stalemate is Uncharted Territory? Hardly...

Of all the coverage of the Rays' rebuff of Mayor Foster's latest proposal, one quote in the St. Pete Times really stood out to me:
"We're really in uncharted territory," said Rick Eckstein, co-author of the 2003 book Public Dollars, Private Stadiums. "If there's going to be a standoff, it would be unprecedented."
Uncharted territory?? Hardly.

"There have been a handful of other cities that have told teams 'You have a lease, so like it or lump it,'" says Neil deMause, author of Field of Schemes. "The state of Minnesota getting an injunction against the contraction of the Minnesota Twins in 2002 comes to mind, as does the original lawsuit threat against MLB's refusal to let the Giants move to Tampa Bay that ended up with the creation of the Rays in the first place."

While deMause acknowledges there hasn't been any court battles recently in the MLB world, he points out the long court fight the Seattle Sonics waged to break their lease. A judge even sided with the city in a key ruling. The Sonics had to pay Seattle $45 million to break their lease just two years early.

For Eckstein to call the current standoff "uncharted territory" is simply inaccurate. There have been standoffs for MLB parks, spring training parks, football stadiums, and NHL/NBA arenas. Even George Steinbrenner used the stalemate as leverage in New York (unsuccessfully).

But, as extremely predictable as the stalemate is, deMause points out politicians turnover a lot faster than team owners do.

"I remember when Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota and declared himself opposed to any and all sports subsidies," deMause said. "The Twins eventually got their new stadium, the Vikings are working on theirs, and Ventura is long forgotten."

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