Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Henderson: Free Ride for NFL in Tallahassee is Over

The Tampa Tribune's sports-turned-metro columnist Joe Henderson writes this morning the "free ride for NFL in Tallahassee is over":
The National Football League’s business model basically goes like this: We get all the money and the public pays the bills. I actually have a grudging admiration for the amount of gall it took for the NFL to make that its corporate mission statement.

The basic game plan is to use as many public dollars as possible to build palaces filled with luxury boxes and premium seats priced beyond the range of the average taxpayer. In NFL-speak, this is known as “being competitive.”
The NFL pulled in an estimated $9.5 billion in 2012, including $4 billion from television contracts. That figure will go up to $5 billion annually starting this year through 2021. And as long as we’re being so liberal with “B” words, Forbes estimates the net worth of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross at $3.1 billion.

This is probably a good time to remind everyone how Lightning owner Jeff Vinik paid for the $42 million renovation last year at the Forum. For me, that translates roughly to this: Fix up your own damn stadium, Dolphins.
All of this is a cautionary tale for any plans involving the Tampa Bay Rays and downtown Tampa, or anywhere else in the area. Mind you, I believe Tropicana Field is the worst excuse for a big-league baseball stadium in the country. I also have no idea how to pay for something to replace it.

If what we saw in the Legislature is any indication, though, it probably won’t involve a trip to Tallahassee. That would seem to be a waste of time.
Henderson makes lots of good points, except if there's one thing we should never underestimate, it's the lasting power and popularity of pro sports teams - especially compared to politicians. 

Dolphins' CEO Mike Dee, who criticized House Speaker Will Weatherford and called the team's future in South Florida "clearly bleak," is no stranger to the stadium subsidy game either.  He was the man behind the Red Sox' $99 million, taxpayer-funded spring training stadium in Fort Myers.  And all he had to do was threaten a move (to Sarasota) in 2008, even though the Sox' park in Ft. Myers was just 15 years old at the time.


  1. When it comes to the taxpayer largess that the big time sports franchises consider it's own, it's time for someone like the legislature to invoke the adage "spare the rod and spoil the child". That "rod" has been held back so often nationwide resulting increasingly bold commissioners and owners
    assuming that feeding at the public trough is a birthright.
    Let owners bluff moving when they don't get what they want and they'll have trouble following through on those threats in an over saturated big time sports marketplace nationwide that is of their own making.
    The more often locals call 'em out on their threats and show some backbone the less likely those threats will be made.

  2. Joe Henderson makes the great point about the benevolence of Jeff Vinik:

    "This is probably a good time to remind everyone how Lightning owner Jeff Vinik paid for the $42 million renovation last year at the Forum. For me, that translates roughly to this: Fix up your own damn stadium, Dolphins."

    Joe should have gone further to remind everyone about how the Glazers pay for nothing.

    As greedy, demanding, and arrogant as Stephen Ross is, his treatment of the Miami Dolphin fan base for the 2012 NFL season was light years ahead of how the Glazers treated the Buc fan base. To wit:

    For Miami:
    8 home games
    0 blackouts
    76% capacity for attendance
    owners have paid for 90% of the stadium

    For TB:
    8 home games
    6 blackouts
    84% capacity for attendance
    owners have paid for less than 0% of the stadium

    Ross must have spend a few bucks to get to the 85% threshold for all 8 of his home games. All 6 of the Buc blackouts could have been prevented for less than $1 million by the Glazers.

  3. News flash!!! Vinik wouldn't have a renovated Forum if it wasn't for get the GOP convention, which is paid for by, yup, us...

  4. Actually Beazy, Vinik's renovations - which included ripping out seats to improve the fan experience (and concessions) - had nothing to do with the RNC convention.

    The convention's renovations were paid for by federal dollars - and the venue was restored to its initial condition when the RNC turned it back over.

  5. So the Forum would of been renovated without the RNC, and wasn't financially backed by any government money or what you call federal dollars???
    Though you'll say different, I'm going to out on a limb and say you would have a different opinion if the Democrats had their party there...

  6. You are incorrect on any sort of political leanings;

    But you are correct that the Forum was renovated by Vinik without any subsidies in 2011; then separately by the RNC more than a year later.