Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stadium Saga Re-Focuses on Money...and Logic

Times columnist John Romano makes a great point in this morning's paper: the stadium issue "all comes back to money."

The column echoes mine from November 2010, when I said the debate about stadium location was moot until they discovered a magical pot of money somewhere....or discussed a regional-funding effort.

While Romano has been way off-base at times on the stadium issue , he was also critical of Rays' manager Joe Maddon in 2010 the last time the skipper criticized the stadium.

Now, he fine-tunes his tone on the matter, bringing about some relevant points:

Catwalks, broken lights and ESPN blowhards have no business in the discussion of whether the Tampa Bay area needs to consider the construction of a new stadium.

When Rays manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday that Tropicana Field was improper for Major League Baseball after 14 seasons, it sounded almost as silly as St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster once saying the catwalks were the equivalent of Wrigley Field's ivy.

This isn't about artificial turf or low-hanging speakers or lightning strikes on national television. This is about money. And it is about the future of baseball in Tampa Bay. And it might even be about the city of St. Petersburg's reputation and its ultimate direction.

Romano goes on to say "Attendance and revenue streams at Tropicana Field are not sufficient for Major League Baseball's needs" - a point may take issue with since MLB hasn't provided any evidence of this.

But Romano hits the nails on the head when it comes to what's going on inside the head of Stu Sternberg: "Stu Sternberg (isn't) going broke...the Rays are (simply) making far less money than 90-95 percent of their baseball business partners."

The column continues by applauding Sternberg for saving the Rays franchise and making it a winner, but applauds St. Petersburg for building a stadium on the backs of taxpayers.

Romano says it comes down to the commissioner:
Bud Selig needs to acknowledge that MLB owes St. Petersburg a debt. We were his street corner tart for more than a decade, helping stadiums get built in other markets. Maybe that doesn't get us a lifetime pass, but MLB is flush with enough cash that it needs to take an active part in any new stadium discussions here.
But tougher questions about the stadium saga are posed by Field of Schemes' Neil deMause:
There's no doubt that Maddon and Silverman would love a new workplace — hey, who wouldn't? — but some of their complaints border on the bizarre: Rain is a "disruption to the game"? Rays players can't focus on baseball because they're worried that other cities are making fun of them? And, for that matter, how exactly is a shattered lightbulb — the first in nearly 14 seasons of games at the Trop — an indication that the whole place needs to be torn down (as opposed to, say, switching to sturdier light fixtures)?
The real question that should be asked, meanwhile, is if the Trop is really "improper for Major League Baseball," why so many teams threatened to move there in the '80s and '90s in order to extract new stadiums from their home cities (off the top of my head: the White Sox, Indians, Giants, Rangers, and at least two or three more that I'm forgetting); not to mention why MLB ultimately gave St. Petersburg an expansion franchise in 1998 despite knowing where their home park would be. Has the definition of "improper" really changed that much in 13 years? If rain is now an unacceptable distraction, I guess maybe...

1 comment:

  1. It's a bit of a stretch to call that a "good column". Romano is a hack who churns out the same crappy columns endlessly pushing for a new stadium without ever bothering to address the bigger issues of who pays for it or why it's St. Pete's responsibility to throw more good money after bad while Sternberg can only bitch endlessly about attendance or whatever recurring issue he thinks will get a new stadium built.

    The key point you make is that MLB provides NOTHING - no evidence of finances or additional revenue brought to the area. They just want more millions spent even before the last ones are paid off. If the Rays and Tampa want to strangle their tax revenue on an empty building with a bound-to-malfunction retractable roof, then that's fine with most of us here in St. Pete.