Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How the Rays are Like Bass Pro Shops

Sports columnist-turned-metro columnist Joe Henderson, who has questioned some of the motives behind the Rays' stadium campaign, has penned another strong column for the Tampa Tribune

Today's closing graf:
Here's what I can't get past, though. If this project is going to be such a home run, why does the developer need taxpayer money to make it work? It seems a reasonable question. I just haven't yet heard a reasonable answer.
While this question could apply to any big league club's push for a new stadium, Henderson is actually talking (this time) about a controversial plan to subsidize a new retail complex anchored by Bass Pro Shops.  The proposed $6.25 million subsidy was supported by Henderson's paper, the Tribune, while opposed by the rival Tampa Bay Times.

Bass Pro isn't all that different from a pro sports team: a big-time retail business that makes hard-to-prove and potentially misleading claims about its value as a tourist attraction (among other things). 

In fact, a month ago, I pointed out how Rays' vice president Michael Kalt identified the team as a "retail business" that had trouble getting people to drive more than 30 minutes to visit. 

If Hillsborough commissioners reject the proposed subsidies to Bass Pro Shops this week, it will be because they'd rather invest their dollars in high-tech, high-paying jobs rather than retail.  And if they ever apply the same logic to the Rays' stadium search, it would make it virtually impossible to pay for a stadium in Hillsborough County.

Meanwhile, in Orlando, a wanna-be MLS club is looking for $75 million in tax money for a new stadium.

And in Atlanta, the Falcons' campaign to replace the Georgia Dome prematurely is facing some resistance.  Both stories are courtesy of Field of Schemes' Neil deMaus.

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