Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Athletes and Political Contributions

You root for your favorite players on the field, but do you know whom they're rooting for off of it?

The 10 News Investigators identified more than 200 individual political contributions since 2007 from Tampa Bay athletes, teams, and sports executives. Hundreds more were identified from previous years.

Dave Andreychuk, Ronde Barber, Warren Sapp, Wade Boggs, George Steinbrenner, the Glazers, and Stu Sternberg are all among the names you'll find in the database.

You'll also learn how much teams and leagues pour into PACs and lobbying to maintain their comfortable "way of life," such as anti-trust and tax exemptions, blackout policies, relationships with gambling, and even the BCS.

Search the contributions and read about the trends here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Forbes: Glazers 8th-Worst NFL Owners

The lastest Forbes list dissing Malcom Glazer & fam names them the 8th-worst owners in the NFL. The list "looked at teams’ change in franchise value and win percentages (including a bump for playoff and Super Bowl victories) over the last five years. Each factor accounts for half of their rank."

Forbes cites the Bucs' pedestrian 2% increase in franchise value since 2006 and just 44% winning percentage over that time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Could Rays Piggyback a Rail Referndum?

Last week, I wrote that Tampa Bay stadium talk may be entirely premature considering the giant leaps forward the region may make in the next few years when it comes to transit.

Monday, Trib reporter Michael Sasso wrote that light rail could be seen as a remedy to the Rays’ attendance ills.

Eighteen months ago, the Rays took a rare public political position in donating $50,000 to rail advocacy group "Moving Hillsborough Forward." And they may be willing to do it again.

In an era where few prominent sports figures are willing to speak their minds politically (new Rays slugger Luke Scott not included), it would be refreshing to see Stu Sternberg use his leverage to push for better transit in Tampa Bay.

Of course, it could potentially help the Rays too. While St. Pete politicians may think rail could keep the Trop relevant long-term, I have a feeling Sternberg & co. have already discussed the possibility of a Rail & Rays referendum.

Just as the Bucs piggybacked their stadium efforts onto a schools referendum in 1995, the Rays could potentially tout the region-changing benefits of getting both rail and a stadium for one "low" price.

Of course, the price would likely be somewhere near $2 billion over 30 years in the form of a penny-per-dollar regional sales tax. And such a project would require significant legislative finagling. But it's happened time and time again in Florida and history could certainly repeat itself.

Monday, January 23, 2012

One Man's Quote of the Decade on Stadium Subsidies

Florida State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, sure knows how to deliver a quote. In fact, he's been delivering the same one for seven years.

Today in Tallahassee, he said, “We have spent over $300 million supporting teams that can afford to pay a guy $7, $8, $10 million a year to throw a baseball 90 feet. I think they can pay for their own stadium."

A few months ago, the quote read something like this: "If you can pay someone $30 million to throw a baseball 90 feet...you can probably afford to build your own stadium."

Back in February of last year: "If you can pay someone $52 million to play the game of baseball, certainly you can build your own stadium with your own money."

And the first time we heard his words in 2005: "If you can afford to pay somebody $53 million to throw a baseball 90 feet, you can afford your own damn stadium."

Stadium subsidy, NFL blackout critics join forces

Could a pair of movements designed to attach strings to stadium subsidies be gaining momentum in the state capital?

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, announced today his bill to ban blackouts in taxpayer-funded stadiums (SB 836) was adopted in the Senate Community Affairs Committee. It was amended onto SB 816 from State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, a bill that would require taxpayer-funded stadiums to operate as homeless shelters on non-game days.

"I thank Senator Bennett for his desire to assist the fans of professional sports by offering to amend his bill with the blackout ban language," Senator Fasano said in a statement. "With the unanimous support of the committee I look forward to this good bill moving forward."

Continue reading on WTSP.com.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Should Tampa Propose New Stadium Sites?

Granted it was written before Stu Sternberg allegedly made his "Tampa is not a panacea" comments, but nevertheless, this sounds like a bad idea: The Gulf Coast Business Review advocating Mayor Bob Buckhorn propose a new Rays stadium location in Tampa:
The conflict over the Trop has been like a chess game; each move has been slow and calculated. For example, the city of St. Pete hired a bankruptcy lawyer while drafting the contract, a strategy to counter the team using bankruptcy as a means to escape its agreement.

But Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has the power to change that game, by officially proposing a location in downtown Tampa for a new Rays stadium.

Buckhorn often speaks about the benefits of having the Rays downtown, but publically announcing a Hillsborough location for the Rays to call home could give the team’s owners the leverage to broker a way out of St. Pete.

How long can the Rays compete with the bloated salaries of the Yankees and the Red Sox while ranked second-to-last in average attendance? Certainly not for the next 15 years. Especially while serving as a pseudo-farm system for their two divisional rivals.

Mayor Buckhorn says the Rays “can’t start dating” until the team escapes its use agreement at the Trop. But offering a stadium site in Tampa could put the Rays back on the market.
Even though the idea was called a "bold prediction for 2012," one can't help but to wonder how another round of Tampa vs. St. Pete would pan out.

I suppose Tampa leaders would keep talking about how a stadium across the Bay would be better for the team....then the Rays would be able to pit one city vs. another....then some bold leader would hitch his political wagon to getting a stadium deal done....then fans might forget that the Rays still haven't provided any evidence that they can't compete in their current situation.

Or, the local media could simply advocate real regional cooperation instead of pitting one community vs. another.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Foster/Sternberg Summit - Extended Fallout

There was infinite Thursday-morning quarterbacking after the 2012 Foster/Sternberg summit, but the most thought-provoking opinions came from today's lead editorial in the Tampa Tribune. However, it didn't provoke many good thoughts.

The Trib joined the chorus of criticisms calling St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster "shortsighted" in the fight to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay. They urge him to make concessions on a contract that runs until 2027 - a contract the mayor is confident will keep the Rays here for at least 15 more years.

Foster added that the team's biggest concerns appear to be whether Tampa Bay can sustain three professional teams at all. A recent study suggests the market is over-extended (but not nearly as bad as in other cities).
"When (Sternberg) says he wants to look everywhere (for a new stadium), he means it," Foster said on WQYK. "It's not just Tampa Bay. . . . I don't think they see Hillsborough County as the answer."
So Devil's Advocate poses this question - if the concern really is the region, isn't it shortsighted for newspapers to push the issue now when it could be addressed in 2020 instead?

It seems the Rays have neither the legal leverage nor the alternatives to leave before then. And 8-10 years from now, we'll have a much better idea of where people live in Tampa Bay and how they get around.

By 2020, the region could have bus rapid transit or light rail to eliminate some of the inter-county transportation headaches.

By 2020, the region will be designing a new, improved span of the Howard Frankland Bridge.

By 2020, the economy could have improved to the point where residents may be willing to pay a 1/10-cent sales tax for a new stadium.

By 2020, we'll have a better idea of where a stadium will be best-situated and if the region really is capable of supporting three teams.

In 2012, we simply don't know these things yet. So to force the issue now (that means you, Tampa Tribune) may be shortsighted.

PS - the least thought-provoking opinion on the Foster/Sternberg summit came from the Trib's Martin Fennelly, who simply wasted column space with Godfather quotes. Really? REALLY?!?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Could Tampa Bay learn from Cal Ripken's stadium snub in Sarasota?

SARASOTA, Fla. - While Tampa Bay tries to sort out its stadium stalemate, critics of public subsidies in Sarasota are sending a warning to their friends to the north.

Three years after Sarasota landed Orioles spring training with a $31.2 million upgrades package, some of the promised benefits to the county still have yet to materialize. That includes a Cal Ripken Jr. Youth Baseball Academy, similar to two other year-round facilities in Aberdeen, Md., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

"The public was promised one thing and now the Orioles and Cal Ripken aren't coming through," said Cathy Antones, president of Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government. "It seems that when you put the name Major League Baseball or someone like Cal Ripken or the Orioles on it, [county commissioners] lose their common sense."

Ripken is now in talks with neighboring Charlotte Co. to possibly build his youth academy in Port Charlotte. The Ripken Baseball Group claims economic impact from the facility could reach $40 million.

But the Orioles, who put out a press release in 2009 touting the Ripken academy, never wrote a guarantee into their contract with Sarasota County. They say nobody was misled and they still plan on developing a youth academy, even if Ripken builds his own just down the road.

Continue reading here.

Matt Garza Wants $10.2M; What's Wrong with this Picture?

If you wonder why the Rays can't compete with the "rich" teams of MLB, consider this: the Cubs offered former Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza a healthy raise to $7.95 million next year and he turned it down. He's going to arbitration, hoping for $10.225 million.

Apparently, a 33% raise isn't enough for a pitcher who has gone 33-32 with a 3.73 ERA the last three years. Why? Because the current salary structure rewards players for merely lasting in the league. Experience = salary.

Meanwhile, David Price, who has posted superior numbers the last three years, just signed for a mere $4.35 million, the most ever for a first-year arbitration-eligible player.

Which leads me to ask again, are the Rays' problems really just a result of MLB's broken system?

Foster/Sternberg Summit - No New News

Exactly as predicted, the status of the Stadium Saga is the exact same as it was a few days ago: a stadium stalemate.

As I reported yesterday for WTSP, the mayor of St. Petersburg met with Rays owner Stu Sternberg for roughly two hours at Tropicana Field. Yet, Foster told me he had no comment and Sternberg essentially said the same thing to the print reporters staking out The Trop.

Other reactions include WFTS's Tom Korun chipping in a column about how Sternberg may be Tampa Bay's best owner, but he's probably not getting a stadium in Tampa. And WFTS was also one of several stations to chase down Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn for his reaction, which remains "we'd love a chance to keep the Rays, but we won't interfere with St. Pete's contract."

You could make the argument, however, the more "Tampa" is mentioned in the same sentence as "Rays," the more it interferes with said contract...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Henderson Column: "Taxpayers Have Paid for Enough Stadiums"

Tampa Tribune columnist Joe Henderson has never loved the idea of taxpayer dollars for stadiums, but now that he's opining in the paper's "Metro" section, he's taking a harder line against subsidies.

Almost two years after writing "a new stadium is what it costs to keep the team," Henderson wrote this morning that "between the Bucs, Lightning and Yankees, Hillsborough taxpayers have paid for enough stadiums. I love baseball, but business is business."

He joins the chorus of columnists urging Mayor Foster to cooperate with the Rays and for Stu Sternberg to reveal his financials (good luck with that). However, Henderson doesn't suggest how to break the stalemate.

In fact, his column merely reiterates why we're in the Stadium Saga: the Rays would be better off with a stadium in Tampa, yet nobody has any money to pay for it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Foster/Sternberg Summit - What to Expect

Even if tomorrow's meeting between St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster and Rays owner Stu Sternberg produces developments in the stadium saga, they will take place behind closed doors and likely remain secret for quite some time.

So, in anticipation of more news headlines touting "no new news" in the stalemate, here's a chance for you to get caught up on where everything stands with the Rays and their hunt for a new home:

Sunday - Stephen Nolgren's op-ed: A way out of the Rays dilemma
Aug 2011 - Noah Pransky's take on "a way out" of the stadium saga
June 2011 - What Bill Foster is thinking
June 2011 - What Stu Sternberg is thinking
Nov. 2010 - Land isn't the problem in stadium saga; funding is

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bud Selig: Commissioner for Life!

Good read this week from Maury Brown (The Biz of Baseball) about how Bud Selig won't retire as planned and may just be comissioner for life.

And why not? He's helped most of the teams in the league get new stadiums and taken MLB from a $1 billion business to a $7 billion business. Which is why he's not done yet.

Aside from another increase in revenues, 2012 will likely gift baseball with a resolution to the A's stadium saga, leaving Selig to focus fully on Tampa Bay in 2013.

Baseball: I live for this!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mayor Foster and the Stadium Saga "End Game"

Glad to see the Times' John Romano still providing insight on the Rays' Stadium Saga even after his move to the Metro page. This morning, he made a very reasonable suggestion for Mayor Bill Foster to consider the end game in negotiations with the Rays.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that the mayor roll over. There is no reason for that. He has a
terrific lease at Tropicana Field, and he should use it to his greatest benefit.

But he needs to recognize the lease will be half-over by the end of the year, and the Rays are going to pay less and less to get out of it as the expiration date draws nearer.
He should tell Sternberg he considers the Rays to be important business partners. And he hasn't given up on the idea of baseball in his town.

But if his business partner wants to look at sites in Hillsborough, the mayor will not stand in the way as long as the Rays make some concessions.

First of all, they need to sign a contract that acknowledges that such a move in no way weakens the lease at Tropicana. Since the Rays signed a similar document when looking at a waterfront site, this shouldn't be a problem.

The Rays also need to put up $1 million in earnest money for the privilege of talking to Tampa. Again, this shouldn't be much of a deal breaker.

Finally, should the Rays eventually decide that moving to downtown Tampa is integral to the
franchise's future, they must agree to allow St. Pete to view their finances to prove this is true. I'm betting that one will be sticky.
Wait, did I say Romano was being reasonable? Nevermind, he suggested the Rays might one day voluntarily open their books.

People don't give Foster (a lawyer) enough credit for paying attention to the end game. He has always known his job is to leverage a buyout number the city can live with. Just like Sternberg's job is to wiggle his way out of the contract with minimal financial penalty.

So while the topic of contract buyout will be discussed next week, you probably won't hear about it in the media. Foster will continue to maintain his lawyer-like approach, while Sternberg will continue to call for a regional remedy.

Meanwhile, Foster's counterpart in Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, will continue to tout his city's baseball potential while maintaining his statesman status.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rays Build a Playground, A's Build a Stadium???

If you build it, they will come.

As predicted, during a Rays' playground-building event, Stu Sternberg saved some time to chat about the Rays' stadium saga. But after reading this story from the Trib's Roger Mooney, I was blown away:

The A's have a new stadium in San Jose???

Mooney wrote, "With the Marlins set to play in a new stadium and the A's moving out of Oakland, the Rays are the last team looking for a new stadium."

Of course, the A's don't have a new home yet and their stadium saga is almost as messy as the Rays'...but I digress.

Back to Sternberg, the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays' owner didn't have much new to say about the saga or his Jan. 17 meeting with Mayor Foster (first reported on Shadow of the Stadium). It quotes Sternberg as saying, "it's good to communicate" and "if (Foster) has something to chat about other than normal chatting that would be great."

And while that meeting between the shrewd team owner and the shrewd lawyer-turned-mayor is just 8 days away now, it wouldn't be wise to bet on the high-stakes impasse ending anytime soon.....no matter how much the recently-rebranded Tampa Bay Times wishes it would.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Save the Date: Foster Talks with Sternberg

The date of the big (OK, probably not-so-big) meeting between St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster and Rays owner Stu Sternberg will be January 17, reports Michael Van Sickler.

However, the first off-season rumblings of the Stadium Saga may actually come Saturday when Sternberg makes a public appearance with his family in Sulpher Springs. The Rays will be helping to build a playground there and the Sternberg family is planning on attending. Thus, so will members of the media.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mayor Foster Sets Meeting with Stu Sternberg

Mayor Bill Foster finally has an offseason meeting scheduled with Rays' owner Stu Sternberg. The two will meet at Tropicana Field later this month.

But while the meeting may be long-awaited for Rays fans, it doesn't expect to be terribly productive for new stadium supporters. Foster is unlikely to bend much when he has a contract that ties the team down for 16 more years and Sternberg is unlikely to stop insisting Tampa Bay take a regional approach to keeping the team.

Related: What Bill Foster is Thinking
What Stu Sternberg is Thinking

Foster's summer criticisms of the team's marketing efforts may make the meeting a little uncomfortable, but it's not like Sternberg hasn't rocked the boat in recent months, either.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Easy Ways to Follow Shadow of the Stadium

If you haven't found Shadow of the Stadium on Facebook and/or Twitter yet, what are you waiting for? These outlets are the easiest way to follow local sports business storylines and they often include additional materials you won't find on this blog.

So make it your new year's resolution and connect!