Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Season, Same Game in Stadium Saga

It's opening day and that means more talk of the Rays' antiquated stadium!

While I was tempted to simply re-post my "New season, same refrain" column from a year ago, I'll freshen it up. (Although I admit, it's a fun read one year later)

The 2011 season begins much the way the 2010 season did: Rays owner Stu Sternberg makes poorly-veiled threats about the team leaving town and the St. Petersburg Times wants St. Pete to cut the team a break and let it explore other stadium options.

For my readers that get worked up about every Sternberg comment and every rejection from St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster, I say this: relax, and enjoy some baseball.

This is all part of a very long and frustrating process that will continue to get painful for all parties involved. How do I know? As I explained in 2009, it always goes down that way.

But right now, the Rays have little leverage other than the fear that they may relocate (or get contracted, but that's silly).

So expect a steady dose of Sternberg and Bud Selig comments designed to grow that fear. It's your choice to buy into it or not.

I suggest, instead, you enjoy the Rays' exciting on-field action - they're poised for a number of real good years on their not-so-real Tropicana turf.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sternberg's "They'll Find a Place for Me" Comment

At first, I didn't write about Rays' owner Stu Sternberg's "(MLB) will find a place for me" comment because it isn't the first time recently he reiterated his frustrations with the Stadium Saga.

However, a lot of intelligent (and not-so-intelligent) things are being said about it on some other websites and message boards.

Judge for yourself:
Field of Schemes
Rays Index
Rays Renegade

Why shouldn't this come as a surprise? Because as any MLB owner can tell you, you create leverage by:
1) Scaring your region.
2) Negotiating through the media.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Can't Escape Ticket Fees at Grand Prix of St. Pete

I think most fans of sporting events (or even cultural events) are used to paying ticket fees and convenience charges when buying tickets for an event online.

Usually, we pay because the convenience is worth the fee. But when the fees on the inconvenient option costs just as much as the convenient option, the point of the fee becomes unclear.

At the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, tickets were as low as $10 for juniors on Fri/Sat. But whether you ordered tickets online or bought them at the gate, you still had to pay a service fee. The costs range between $5.00 and $6.50 per ticket.

So really, there were no $10 tickets - just $16 tickets. And the adult tickets really weren't $25 and $40, as advetised - they were $31 and $46.

Event organizers said it was simply the "industry standard" and the cost of doing business with an online vendor. But what about the service fee for tickets purchased at the gate? It was explained as the cost to pay for a ticket booth and people to staff it. That's silly.

And what industry is it standard? Not the sports entertainment industry, where the Bucs, Lightning, and Rays all sell tickets at face value at the gate.

Maybe the racing industry? I haven't done my research on it yet, but I'm not holding my breath on it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Forbes: Rays' Value Up to $331M

The Rays may not be turning much of a net profit (although, they may be and we wouldn't know it), but the estimated sale price of the team keeps soaring.

According to the annual Forbes' valuations of MLB franchises, Tampa Bay is up to $331 million, a five percent gain from 2010's figure of $316 million. That's almost double the $176 million it was worth in 2005 when Stu Sternberg assumed majority control of the club.

For those of you counting at home, the Yankees remain the most valuable MLB club ($1.7 billion), worth almost double the next-most valuable club, the Red Sox ($912 million).

The Biz of Baseball has more here, as well as historical values here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Another Chapter in the Glazer Financial Saga

As the Associated Press reports, Manchester United posted a $171.5 million loss last season. Ouch.

The Glazer family, which is much more scrutinized in its role as owners of Man U. than they are in their role as owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are downplaying the numbers:
"But in the annual report for the year ending last June 30, director Joel Glazer
says the club has "sufficient cash reserves ... for investment in the playing
Read more here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tampa Mayoral Candidates Promise to Back Tampa Stadium*

The two candidates still standing in the race to be Tampa's next mayor both pledged this week to help find the Rays a new home on the "better" side of Tampa Bay.**
**if negotiations don't prove fruitful in St. Petersburg

With a close election expected on March 22, both Rose Ferlita and Bob Buckhorn are fighting tooth-and-nail over every available vote. That means the Rays fans' contingency too, as the two candidates suggested Monday how they could possibly help keep the team in Tampa Bay if St. Petersburg doesn't work.

Of course, a Tampa vs. St. Petersburg tug-of-war is just what the team needs to create the leverage to get a new stadium...but St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster told us today he's hoping the mayoral candidates start talking about helpful ways to cooperate with their friends across the bay, rather than talking about ways to compete with them.

Furthermore, Buckhorn needs to get his stadium facts straight, as a Truth Test fact-check shows he's making claims about stadium funding that are misleading, at best. To indicate Tampa (the 54th-largest city in the county) can put together stadium packages similar to that of a metropolis like New York City, San Francisco, or Dallas is pointless.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why MLB Contraction Won't Happen. Period.

After writing why it's time to "Redact the Contraction Talk," I simply cannot stress enough that the threat of contracting the Tampa Bay Rays (and Oakland Athletics) isn't worth the paper (or LCD screens) the rumors are printed on.

While it may fall short of tortious interference, columnists and "experts" who toss around the C-word are irresponsibly creating leverage for the league. Bud Selig won't directly threaten contraction, but he may make a well-placed call to Ken Rosenthal or Peter Gammons. It has the same effect.

Why won't MLB contract?

The league grossed $7 billion in 2010. It's doing very well in a terrible economy. The Rays were a profitable team despite a bad television contract and a bad stadium location. Could they be more profitable? Sure. Do they hinder MLB's profitable operation? No.

And, when you consider the Rays are due for a huge windfall when their television rights are renegotiated in a few years, there's no way MLB would contract a team in the 14th-largest media market in the country.

Simply put, there's no traction for contraction (hat tip to friend Maury Brown at Biz of Baseball).

And even if MLB wanted to contract the Rays and A's, there are insurmountable problems with MLBPA union issues and various television deals.

For an idea of how tough it is to contract teams in a major professional league, look to the NHL - a league decimated by overexpansion. Both their product and profits have suffered in the last 20 years, but all 30 teams have somehow survived. Many of the Southern teams shouldn't have.

Right now, Anaheim is 25th in attendence despite a good record and playing in the No. 2 media market. Atlanta is 28th despite playing .500 hockey in the No. 8 media market. And Phoenix is 29th despite their second-place record in the 12th-largest media market.

If any league needs to contract, it's the NHL. Or maybe I'm wrong and all those teams simply need new stadiums to cure their attendance ills?