So of course, we can count on the typical weekend stories about how baseball fans in Pinellas think the Trop is just fine and Hillsborough/Polk fans think a stadium should move closer to them. The Tampa Bay Times delivered. As did WTVT-TV.
But over in the pages of the Trib, there was Michael Sasso's watchdog piece, "Sports teams woo investors but keep finances in the shadows."
There's great value in a story explaining how reluctant the Rays are to "open their books," because - as I wrote in 2011 - the people of Tampa Bay haven't seen a single piece of evidence that the Rays have an actual financial need for a new stadium. Sasso explains:
Maybe only in professional sports can a private business request so much money from the community and offer so little proof it even needs it.(Editors' note: this blog takes great pride in the wide-acceptance of the term "Stadium Saga," as well as the headline of Sasso's article referencing a "shadow," even if the reference was purely unintentional.)
At least six years into the Tampa Bay Rays stadium saga, few politicians or business leaders have called on the team to open its books or prove that a new stadium would help it survive in the long term.
Consider if the Rays were seeking money from a bank or investor, though. Whoever puts up the money would require the Rays to turn over a few years worth of financial statements and provide its projected future revenues, bankers say.Sasso mentions how both Mayor Bill Foster and his paper have failed to get answers about the team's willingness to share its financials. He also points out the unsual lobbying from local business groups to support a new stadium even though they (presumably) haven't seen any financials yet either.
Sports teams largely have been given a free pass from taxpayers and seldom have opened their books. Given the Rays' own questions about the strength of the Tampa Bay market, can the community be sure even a new half-billion-dollar ballpark would keep the team here in the long term?
The story contends nowhere else in the business world would we be talking about financing a new capital project like a stadium without having thoroughly examined current - and potential new - revenue streams. Yet when I asked Sternberg recently about what kind of revenue a new stadium could mean to the Rays, he said the team hadn't looked into it yet.
But isn't that what the entire Stadium Saga is about? Creating new revenue for the team so it can better-compete?
Sasso goes on to explain how the Astros, Mariners, and Twins all shared financials in order to get their new stadiums built. But he also included the disclosure that a pair of sports consultants - who have done work for governments (another important disclosure) - say it's not always necessary.
It's a good read...and after some recent missteps, the Trib shouldn't allow anyone write about the Stadium Saga other than Sasso and columnist Joe Henderson.