Monday, January 31, 2011

Lightning Say They Don't Need Bed Tax Dollars

Following a noontime press conference to announce uniform changes, Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik previewed the renovations he was planning for the St. Pete Times Forum.

We asked Vinik if he was still going after bed tax dollars, as uncovered by the Times.

"We do not have a deal with the county for public funding at all," Vinik told WTSP-TV reporter Mike Deeson. "We are announcing this plan to go ahead whether we eventually get funding from the county or not."

In a time where almost every commission and council in Florida is looking to cut spending (even tourist taxes), Vinik's comments are truly a nice surprise. They also show he's a really really bad poker player.....unless he's a really really good one and we don't know it yet.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lightning Looking to Grab Few Available Hillsborough Tax Dollars

News this week of the Lightning's renovation plans for the St. Pete Times Forum should come as no real surprise, nor should their plans to ask for reimbursement from the county:

The Tampa Bay Lightning plans to announce roughly $40 million in renovations to the St. Pete Times Forum that the team hopes will significantly improve the hockey game and concert-going experience.

Documents obtained from Hillsborough County indicate that the team's new owners want to get reimbursed for much of the work with tourist taxes.

Among the changes being discussed: new seating, an overhauled ventilation system, a new interior color scheme and an upper-level concession area.

Deferred payment on immediate upgrades to a public building isn't a bad deal for the county. But it also reinforces my point from last year that Hillsborough County has no money for a possible Rays stadium.

When there's discussion of bed taxes potentially not covering the $2 million annual tab for the Forum, there's no way money will just magically free up for a brand-new baseball stadium before the bonds are paid off in 2027.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rays Sign Damon, ManRam; Fans Rejoice

Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez may both be in the twilight of their careers but my guess is they'll sell more tickets in 2011 than Carl Crawford did in 2010.

For that reason, I give two big thumbs-up to the reported one-year deals awarded to the former Red Sox teammates. Fans in Boston may be plenty content with Carl Crawford in left field and the drama of ManRam some 1,300 miles away, but fans in Tampa Bay are buzzing about their two new exciting attractions.

Even smarter may have been the Rays' reported attendance bonus offered Damon, a sure-fire way to keep one of their now-marquee names active on- and off-the-field in 2011. Management knows the deck is stacked against them in the A.L. East, but at least they stand a better-than-average chance of winning at the box office now.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Great Wall (and House) of Jeter is Complete!

The Tampa Tribune reports Derek Jeter's slightly-controversial waterfront mansion is done:
"After more than a year in the making, the House That Derek Jeter Built, the biggest home in the county, is finished. On Wednesday, Tampa's building department issued a certificate of occupancy for the famed Yankee shortstop who calls Tampa his permanent home."
The best line of the story is, "Jeter is in town this week for his charity golf tournament, but it was unknown if he's staying at the new waterfront home or if he's staying in his quaint $1 million home in Avila."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baseball-to-Orlando Efforts Stalled

With their attempt to lure Major League Baseball to Orlando going nowhere, it seemed the folks with "Bases Loaded Orlando" were planning to hang a"Mission Accomplished" banner atop an acquisition of the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League (high-A). They promised to build a new stadium in Orange County on their own dime - a deal described as "a bad one" by league insiders - but a possibility for young investors with disposable income.

However, it seems Armando Gutierrez and co. are learning it's a lot harder to land a minor league baseball team than they thought.

Wednesday morning in Apopka, Fla., at a press conference where Gutierrez had promised "a big announcement" and "once in a lifetime experience" that "is usually not even done outside of New York," all the investors had to show for months of work was a Yankees-sponsored youth baseball clinic.

The Orlando Sentinel writes that "their initial (stadium) proposal struck out with former Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty, and negotiations have fallen to newly elected mayor Teresa Jacobs...Jacobs and Gutierrez have not spoken since she was on the campaign trail."

Gutierrez says there's more coming from his group, which I can attest from conversations with him, is a very determined one.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FC Tampa Bay Moves to St. Petersburg

Professional soccer team FC Tampa Bay, formerly known as the Rowdies, is moving to St. Petersburg. Mayor Bill Foster and team representatives will announce Wednesday morning that the franchise is leaving the confines of Tampa's Steinbrenner Field, where it enjoyed modest success, for St. Pete's Al Lang Field.

Al Lang remains popular in Tampa Bay, but the move will be an interesting experiment in a time where the Rays say they can't draw to Downtown St. Petersburg largely because of location.

For what it's worth, in my humble opinion, the ingress/egress at Tropicana Field is superior to any other venue in Tampa Bay, including Al Lang Field.

Bucs Lower Season Tickets 20 Percent

According to the front page of the Bucs' website today, 2011 season tickets will cost fans 20 percent less than they did in 2010, a season in which the Bucs couldn't sell out a single game.

"Our organization has spent a lot of time listening to our fans at this time when our team is thriving and our economy is not. As a result, we are now offering several pricing changes in response to our community’s needs,” Buccaneers Co-Chairman Joel Glazer said in a press release.

Adult tickets now start at $35 per game, with youth tickets starting at $17.50. Parking and concessions have also been discounted for season ticket-holders.

However, don't expect to go to for any other last check, the landing page contained just two links: one to chat with a ticket rep live and one to buy tickets on Ticketmaster.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

St. Pete Mayor: International Spring Training in '11 is Tryout for WBC Games in '13

Mayor Bill Foster, on his way to Tampa International Airport to welcome the city's first international spring training team, the Nexon Heros from Seoul, Korea, said he thinks a successful slate of games in 2011 can help St. Petersburg land World Baseball Classic games in 2013.

Foster says private donations will make up just about all of the subsidies the Canadian, Dutch, and Korean teams will receive. Additionally, the city will reap the rewards of hotel stays and retail sales from the squads' two-month visits.

The vision for international baseball in St. Pete is to host a 13-game slate in the spring of 2011, land World Baseball Classic play-in games in the fall of 2011, and a full round of WBC games in the spring of 2013.

While Foster and his sports lobbyist Jim Neader have done a great job of making international contacts in their first year, one has to wonder if the city's handling of the Rays' stadium demands will hurt its WBC chances. I also don't know if Bud Selig would allow WBC games to be played in the the league's only remaining domed stadium.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January Potpourri

It's been real quiet on the Rays' stadium front, but a few interesting links to kick off the 2011 sports business season:

Roy Peter Clark, the vice president of the Poynter Institute, which owns the St. Petersburg Times, penned a column saying the Rays' attendance woes have nothing to do with the stadium, using the Bucs' attendance problems as evidence.

Meanwhile, Times business writer Robert Trigaux details the many legal problems Tampa Bay's teams and players have to endure.

Finally, internet sensations continue to want their 30 seconds of fame on Super Bowl Sunday. Word is Groupon tried to buy an in-game ad but acted too late and had to settle for a spot in the pre-game show. Should be interesting to see what they come up with.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dynamic Ticket Pricing: Another Big 2011 Story

The growing trend of organizations experimenting with dynamic ticket pricing is one worth watching in 2011.

You may be familiar with the concept, where demand dictates the price of tickets. Airlines have relied on it for years. The San Francisco Giants have enjoyed success with it for two years now.

Although website is technically the secondary ticket market, its one of the best-known ways for fans to buy discounted tickets for less-popular events. Similarly, tickets to popular games cost more, but offer fans a safer alternative to scalping at the stadium.

While the Rays are no stranger to variable pricing, they have resisted true dynamic pricing, where demand can adjust prices daily. It stands to reason the team (and the Bucs, for that matter) has resisted dynamic pricing because the excess of supply would de-value their product.

After all, teams have long raised ticket prices to whatever the market can bear. The Rays make more money selling 20,000 tickets at $25 a piece than they would selling 30,000 at $10 a piece.

That's why teams like the Yankees would rather keep hundreds of their best seats empty all season long than lower the price on the section.

There was also an interesting article recently in the Wall Street Journal that introduces us to a new start-up that will offer available concert and sports tickets for a discount. Much like, fans would submit a bid for available tickets and if its high enough, the ticket is yours.

The common theme in all of these ideas is supply-and-demand dictates prices. It's a concept that stands to reward fans - and maybe even the franchises - if their favorite teams embrace it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Biggest Sports Business Stories of 2011?

It won't take much to predict the biggest sports business stories of 2011.

In Tampa Bay, it will be the lack of progress in the Rays' stadium saga. While Tampa business leaders are beginning the process of studying stadium financing, the economy and lack of traditional funds will continue the stalemate - and frustrations.

For the best updates on the Stadium Saga, I encourage you to follow Shadow of the Stadium on Facebook or it's updates on Twitter.

Nationally, the NFL's ongoing labor negotiations will be the multi-billion-dollar soap opera no American will be able to ignore. Will the owners lock out the players on March 1? Will there be a season in 2011? If there is, will it have 18 games?

I recommend following Maury Brown from the Business of Sports Network for the answers. His September primer on the dispute is a must-read.

Should be a fun year in the Shadow of the Stadium.