Thursday, May 5, 2011

Promises of "Baseball in Orlando" Empty So Far

It's now been 16 months since former Congressional hopeful Armando Gutierrez promised to bring a Major League Baseball team to Orlando...a promise which eventually evolved into any professional baseball team.

And eight months ago, Gutierrez held a press conference implying the Tampa Yankees were ready to move to a new ballpark he was going to build in Orange County. Months went by with no progress.

Now, Gutierrez is proposing a 5,000-seat stadium next to the Orange County Convention Center (and away from Downtown Orlando). Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas panned the proposal in no uncertain terms:
Former Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry once called us the "low-forehead, nose-picking yahoos of Orlando."

That impression must still exist, because a developer from South Florida is making us an offer that only low-forehead, nose-picking yahoos would accept.


But this is his offer: If we give him a 65-year lease, he will give us 75 cents for each ticket sold. According to the proposal, we will keep getting 75 cents for the next 65 years, no matter how much the tickets go up in price.

The economic-impact study calculates ticket sales will bring in $183,750 a year, based on selling 3,500 tickets for each of the 70 games.

I wonder how many shots of tequila it took to get those numbers.
Of course, when the Orlando Rays (AA) existed, their attendance numbers were nowhere near 3,500 per game.

Right now, in a city similar to Orlando, the Tampa Yankees are right at the league average with 1,634 fans per game. The highest-drawing team in the league is Charlotte with 2,621 fans per game.

Gutierrez says convention-goers in Orlando would help fill the stands. But as Thomas suggested, that idea is drunk on something. I know if I flew in from Scranton, Pa. for the National Paper and Printer Convention, I wouldn't go watch minor-league baseball when I could do it at home.

Thomas continues:
No private landowners on I-Drive would do this deal or anything close to it. That's why Gutierrez isn't bringing it to them.

The odds of finding low-forehead, nose-picking yahoos are much better in government.

Only a yahoo would tie up such a valuable piece of land for 65 years based on phantom revenues. Do you know what that property would be worth if you could put a casino on it? And don't think that day isn't coming.

Gutierrez is using social media to urge fans to write their county commissioners in support of the proposal. And, as Thomas concludes, some good ole'-fashioned political strategies too:
Apparently, former Mayor Rich Crotty blew off the deal, but now Gutierrez is back with current Mayor Teresa Jacobs' campaign manager as his lobbyist.

Talk about inside baseball.

As I pressed him with questions, Gutierrez got flustered.

"It's obvious you're not a baseball fan," he said. "If you were a baseball fan, then you'd understand the honor that it is to have the Yankees in your backyard."

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