Friday, September 28, 2012

And There She IS!

Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times:

One man's vision of a new Rays stadium in the Gateway/Carillon area.

But how to pay for it?

Rays Ready for New Stadium Proposal, New Elected Officials if Necessary

Before anyone gets to excited about today's stadium proposal in St. Pete, realize it's just another tiny chapter in the eternally-long Stadium Saga.  The problem, of course, is not where to put a stadium, but how to fund one.

However, the Rays can sleep well knowing one advantage they'll always have over local municipalities is turnover rate.

That is to say, while politicians change frequently, the leadership of sports teams/leagues doesn't.  So if a current team/city relationship isn't going smoothly, a team only has to wait for voters to replace him or her.  Just ask Minnesota or Miami.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Rays' stadium czar Michael Kalt has been scheduling meetings with Pinellas County Commissioners, both ahead of - and after - St. Pete's stadium forum.  The Hillsborough Commission, which has anxiously awaited its chance to talk to the Rays, may not be far behind.

So while there's no telling what's going on behind closed doors and there's no telling how today's presentation will go (actually, I think I know), all the Rays have to do to get a shift in opinion is wait out a few more elections.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rays Attendance Watch: September 26

It would take a near-miracle at this point for the Rays to avoid a 30th-place finish in the MLB attendance standings, sitting at 19,418 fans per game with just one week to go.  They'd have to give tickets away (and they practically are)!

But the good news is the team still has a chance at the playoffs....and the Rays are up more than 500 fans a game from last year

Also, there will be several distractions the next few days to keep the sports talk hosts from harping on that last-place attendance finish:  Friday, a Pinellas Co. developer will pitch his idea for a Gateway/Carillon stadium; and this weekend, the Rays might actually be playing a meaningful series against the Orioles for a wild-card spot.

Of course, if the season ends next Wednesday, we can look forward to 6 months of stadium rumors.  But should the Rays see their shadow and reach the postseason, it will be just 26 weeks of repetitive talks on the Stadium Saga.

The Business of Lockouts

We all know the referee lockout is hurting the "integrity" of the NFL, but it isn't hurting its business.  People are still going to games (except in Tampa), people are still watching games on TV, and people are still betting on games.

Yesterday I wrote how former NBA ref Tim Donaghy was concerned how the lockout could even affect the integrity of gambling; then WTSP's Charles Billi sat down with the Sarasota resident to discuss the issue.

Other lockout losers, as pointed out in today's Tampa Tribune, include businesses around hockey arenas.  The already-struggling Channelside complex in Tampa could see business drop by 50 percent or more, while the city could see revenue drops associated with the team as well.  Of course, if there is no drop in sales tax, does that mean teams don't bring the economic impact to cities they claim?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Former NBA Ref Donaghy: Replacement Refs Risk Corruption

Ask any of the tens hundreds of thousands of betting Americans who lost money on a blown call in last night's Packers/Seahawks game and every one will tell you replacement refs are ruining the NFL.

Of course, Roger Goddell - with his record TV audiences and record revenues - may disagree, but disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy doesn't.

Donaghy, serving out the last month or so of his three-year probation in Florida, told Pittsburgh's 93.7 The Fan that inexpensive, inexperienced refs add huge corruption risks to the NFL.

"The bottom line is, you're showed film (and) maybe there's holding that needs to be cracked down on a certain team," Donaghy said of referee's weekday film sessions. "Gambling guys love to get their hands around information like that.

"When you have access...that information is very, very valuable and it's used to get an edge."

No New News on Stadium Saga....Yet

When all is quiet on the Stadium Saga front, why not re-hash the last few months worth of stories into a front-page spectacle?

The top story in today's Tampa Tribune was the news that a meeting is scheduled Friday to hear a stadium proposal in St. Pete's Gateway/Carrilon area; which was, of course, reported earlier in the month by just about every media outlet in town.

Michael Sasso reports:
Can a St. Petersburg developer save the Rays for St. Pete? The public will get a chance to see what Darryl LeClair, who developed the Carillon business park, has up his sleeve on Friday.

His proposed stadium to house the Tampa Bay Rays in Carillon faces long odds, with the biggest hurdle being how to pay for it. Not to mention that the Rays and Major League Baseball haven't let on whether they're even interested in his idea.

Still, some see his plan as St. Petersburg's last realistic effort to keep the hometown team. He will unfurl it at 1:30 p.m. Friday at a special St. Petersburg City Council meeting at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park, 950 Lake Carillon Drive.

"If St. Pete wants to keep them, this seems like the only viable plan to keep them in St. Pete," said David Heavenridge, who co-owns the Courtside Grille near the proposed ballpark site.

LeClair is a former real estate executive with Florida Power Corp., who made his name developing the Carillon business park along Ulmerton Road. He has a knack for jumping into public debates, previously developing a plan on his own dime to redevelop The Pier in downtown St. Petersburg. The city chose another group's design but praised him for trying.

Now he's entering the stadium debate. The president of one of his companies, CityScape LLC, wrote to St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster last month asking to present CityScape's ballpark proposal. What he's up to has been a well-guarded secret.

His letter to the mayor doesn't give details about his ballpark plan, city leaders profess to know nothing about it, and no one from LeClair's St. Petersburg office returned a reporter's calls last week.

What is known is that he controls about 12 undeveloped acres in Carillon business park, just south of Publix supermarket. That isn't much property for a professional sports stadium. Tropicana Field and its surrounding parking sit on about 86 acres.
But it might be enough to get by.

The Minnesota Twins, for example, opened their new stadium, Target Field, on 12 acres in downtown Minneapolis in 2010, said Dan Kenney, executive director of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority.

The real test might be how to scrape together parking for a stadium that could seat up to 40,000 people. Accommodating them could require about 13,700 parking spots, according to a study by the ABC Coalition, a St. Petersburg-sponsored group that studied the need for a new stadium.
Continue reading here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

To Dome or Not to Dome?

Clearly, nobody wants to watch sporting events in a dome.  Just ask the Rays or Falcons or Rams.

Yet, Cleveland might actually be considering a dome over Browns Stadium so they can use it in all kinds of weather?  Novel idea!

NCAA, Collegiate Licensing, EA Fight Former Athletes over $1B

A California court has a very consequential decision in front of it: do former NCAA athletes deserve royalties when their likenesses appear in video games?

ESPN's Darren Rovell speculates more than a billion dollars is on the line:
The case, which has been combined with Ed O'Bannon's antitrust suit that alleges that the NCAA wrongly uses and sells content related to specific athletes beyond the years of their eligibility, is currently in the hands of the Ninth Circuit in California because Electronic Arts' defense is that they had a right to use the athletes thanks to the First Amendment. The decision of the panel of judges could come down any day now. If the judges affirm the district court's rejection of EA's defense, the case would go to trial. So how much is on the line for Electronic Arts, CLC and the NCAA if they eventually lose?

Well, much of that will depend on whether the defense of CLC and the NCAA -- that they didn't expressly license anything more than trademarks to the video game maker -- is any better than EA's argument.

It is not known exactly how many players will be included in the class action suit, but at most, it's every player in every game on each platform from 2007 on. Including all the games on every platform, that's 22 games in the past six years. There's roughly 15,300 individual players in each game.

Each player can be awarded up to $1,000 per likeness, per platform. That works out to $336.6 million. Then there's the NCAA basketball game, where roughly 3,600 players were featured in four games on eight platforms. There's another $28.8 million.

But that $365.4 million could be trebled, thanks to an Indiana publicity rights statute that would penalize them for a "knowing, willful or intentional" violation. Total potential loss? $1.09 billion, which would then be split among the defendants.
One big question I have, as a former collegiate mascot, is how much do I stand to win for the reproduction of my likeness?

Update: Glazers Richer than Rich

When the newest Forbes 400 list came out this past week, it was no surprise Bucs' and Manchester United owner Malcom Glazer (& family) ranked No. 108 on the list. What was a bit of a surprise (a pleasant surprise if your last name is Glazer too) was the family's estimated worth: $3.61 billion.

Last year, Forbes estimated the Glazers' worth at $2.7 billion. Then in April, it figured the family topped the $3 billion mark when the value of ManU climbed by $420 million. Then, the world's most valuable franchise went public, netting the Glazers another $110 million from the IPO.

Clearly, estimating wealth is an imperfect science since the math doesn't all add up, but still, with a $900 million jump in value, it's been a very good year to be a member of the Glazer family.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Longo Takes to Twitter to Talk Attendance

The last time Evan Longoria talked about the Rays' attendance on Twitter, he said he was "embarrassed" by a crowd of 12,446.  Yesterday, he took to the topic again.

At 10:55 a.m., Longo tweeted, "Only a few home games left and the race isn't over! Come support us! #Rays #162strong" with the last hashtag a nod to the Rays' late-season marketing push. 

He then re-tweeted a Dick Vitale criticism about the empty stands Monday night: "Sad - PATHETIC - this is a major league game - with the Rays still alive 4 a wildcard - barely, DESERVE BETTER ."
Longo, perhaps to avoid criticisms like in 2010, then tweeted at 12:28 p.m., "And for the record I appreciate and love every fan that is in the stadium and supporting us."

It's a tight rope to walk for the athletes caught in the middle of the Stadium Saga - while anyone would rather play in front of full stands, anything perceived as a possible criticism of the fan base risks alienating supporters.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rays Schedule: Unfair & Unbalanced

When it came to the high number of games MLB teams play against in-division rivals, Stu Sternberg once told me "any change is really in our favor."

Unfortunately for Rays fans, Sternberg was wrong.  Instead of balancing out the schedule as it once considered, MLB added one more game against division rivals next year, bringing the Rays' total to 19 against each the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, and Orioles.  Sternberg doesn't like that.

It will make the incredibly tough task of winning a wild card even harder for the Rays, but FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal suggests an interesting fix.
One way to mitigate the Rays’ disadvantage would be to scale revenue sharing so that Tampa Bay would receive a greater percentage than a low-revenue club such as the Cleveland Indians, who compete in a division with lower payrolls.
Rosenthal, who very reasonable explained in 2011 that contraction will never happen, that the Rays have nowhere to go, and that revenue sharing is working, adds another intelligent thought to baseball's ever-evolving equality argument.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rays Announce #162Strong Campaign, Discounts

With 10 home games left on their regular season schedule, the Rays announced a new "#162strong" campaign to capitalize on both the excitement of their 2012 playoff push as well as the more-than-exciting 2011 campaign that came down to the 162nd game.

Fans can get three-game ticket packages for as cheap as $25, including ballpark discounts and a #162strong t-shirt. The shirt is neon, as pointed out by team owner Stuart Sternberg during during tonight's Rays telecast.

Sternberg was also taking breaks between questions to keep the scorebook from his front-row seat at Camden Yards.....the true sign of a real baseball fan.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bucs' Blackout Fallout

An exciting Bucs opener came and went without most football fans in Tampa Bay realizing what happened. The game was blacked out, even though some insiders speculated the team needed to sell just a few thousand more seats to reach the new 85% threshhold necessary to televise home games.

As I've written before, the NFL's "concessions" to fans were no real concessions at all. And on Saturday, Tampa Tribune columnist Joe Henderson echoed the sentiments, writing "If I were (the Bucs), I would have done whatever was necessary to put this game on local TV....The Bucs continue to grope in the dark, and it's tough to care about something you can't see."

Many fans apparently felt the same way, writing numerous letters to the editor criticizing the league and the team.

One fan claimed "to me, the Bucs don't exist" while another wrote "(i)f the Glazers wish to forgo the exposure of televised games by not buying the difference between 71 percent and 85 percent of the sale of non-premium seats, then they may have to deal with a shrinking fan base."

The next two weeks, fans can watch the Bucs play on the road, but unless Tampa Bay reels off consecutive wins against the Giants and the Cowboys, they're going to have an awful tough time selling Week 4 at home against the Redskins.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rays, Lightning Score Big in ESPN Rankings Again

In case you missed it, the Rays were once again named pro sports' most affordable team by ESPN.

In the annual "ESPN Ultimate Standings," the Rays ranked 16th overall out of 122 teams (fourth among MLB franchises). They got generally strong ratings across-the-board, but suffered from a poor "stadium experience" rating and lack of long-term success.

The Lightning ranked seventh overall (second in NHL), backed by top-10 performances is the "fan relations," "ownership," and "stadium experience" categories.

ESPN was more generous toward the Lightning than Businessweek was recently when it comes to how the Lightning spend its dollars. ESPN ranked the Bolts 27th in "Bang for the Buck," while Businessweek just ranked the team 76th. Businessweek ranked the Rays first.

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, ranked 97th overall, with the Miami Dolphins Florida's only franchise to fare worse (110th). The Bucs' 2002 title was the only factor preventing the team from suffering below-average ratings in each of ESPN's eight categories, including "stadium experience" and "affordability."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Odds & Ends: Bucs Blackouts, Franchise Values, and Manu Stock

Tampa Bay is getting used to it by now, but the NFL will black out another Bucs season-opener this weekend. Even with the reduced 85% capacity threshhold, the team didn't appear to come close to selling enough tickets.

It's more evidence that the NFL's off-season "concessions" weren't a concession to fans at all. After all, it's not like the NFL was really all that desperate to sell a few thousand more tickets with $9 billion in annual revenue...

It should also come as no surprise that, according to Forbes, every single NFL teams' franchise values held steady or jumped again this year. The top-ranked Cowboys are up to $2.1 billion; the Buccaneers are up a bit to $1.03 billion; and the Vikings, on the heels of a billion-dollar new stadium subsidy, jumped a league-high 22 percent to $975 million.

The Bucs' boost in value, however, won't do much to console fans of the Glazer's other team, Manchester United. Many scooped up the team's stock on the NYSE in July at $14/share, but it has since slipped to around $12.7/share and as the "Sports & Monsters" blog points out, all fans were really buying was worthless souvenirs to hang on their walls.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"Filling the Stadium isn't Nearly as Critical for Teams as it Used to Be"

There are two teams in Tampa Bay right now that are only halfway through their stadium contracts, yet they cannot fill the stands if their lives depended on it.

However, while the Tampa Bay Rays are rumored every other month to be jumping to a new city, there has been no such talk (yet) for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Why?

WTSP's Adam Freeman poses that question and arrives at this possible answer:
USF Associate Professor of Sports Management Dr. Mike Mondello says filling the stadium isn't nearly as critical for teams as it used to be.
"The NFL is in such a great position with their national TV that teams andorganizations, it's almost gravy what they make at the gate," Mondello explained.
And while it's easy to point to the NFL's $9 billion annual revenue figure as evidence, don't forget MLB was turning $7 billion a year before signing a new multi-billion dollar TV deal.

So if the Bucs prove that you don't need to sell tickets to be profitable and MLB is turning record revenues, why are the Rays hinting at relocation while the Bucs aren't?

It's a simple lesson in leverage.