Friday, August 30, 2013

Fact-Checking Rays' Revenue Sharing Campaign

After a quick chat with Field of Schemes' Neil deMause this week, it seems we both came to the conclusion that some of the MLB criticisms heard at this week's Stu Sternberg/Matt Silverman/Tampa Bay Partnership discussions may be off-base.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, prominent businessman and Tampa Bay Partnership chair Chuck Sykes said Sternberg and Silverman reiterated MLB's growing frustrations with how much money they have to share with the Rays:
Sykes said it was interesting to hear that the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians used to be recipients of revenue-sharing, "then over time, as they worked with their various initiatives and new stadiums, they're now a payer into the system."
That was news to our ears, and deMause wrote this morning:
According to Forbes, as of two years ago the Indians were recipients of the biggest revenue-sharing check in baseball; and since then, the team’s attendance has actually gone down. And even if somehow they’ve made a miraculous turnaround since then, it’s hard to see how this can be credited to a stadium that opened in 1994.

It looks like this is going to be the Rays’ PR strategy, though: Yeah, we’re winning ballgames, and making money, but we’re doing it with the help of this revenue-sharing program that MLB specifically set up to help low-revenue teams win ballgames and make money, and there’s no way they’re going to let that continue. To which the sensible response would be: What, so MLB thinks the Rays wouldn’t be revenue-sharing recipients if it moved them to Charlotte or something? But then, sensible responses aren’t the game that MLB is playing — nor, it would seem, is the Tampa Bay Times.
Those comments came within minutes after I posted my dissection of what seems to be MLB's silly revenue-sharing argument.  But at the very least, its comforting to know I'm not the only one who thinks the Rays' campaign to reduce Yankees/Red Sox revenue sharing isn't terribly convincing. 

After all, even if the Rays climbed out of the bottom-10 in revenue, another team would simply take its place and we'd still have the 10 richest teams cutting checks to the 10 poorest teams to preserve some semblance of parity...

Crazy Simplistic Thoughts on the Stadium Saga & a Foolish Revenue Sharing Argument

Some simplistic thoughts following this week's private Stu Sternberg & Matt Silverman chat with local business leaders:
  • Everyone seems to acknowledge MLB's problem with Tampa Bay is that the Rays are sucking a lot of money out of the revenue sharing system.  In fact, Tampa business leader Chuck Sykes even confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times that was the key takeaway from Sternberg/Silverman.
  • So MLB teams such as the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers are upset they have to pool together some of their enormous profits to keep teams like the Tampa Bay Rays (and Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland A's, etc) competitive on the field.  Of course, the uber-rich NFL shares way more revenue between teams, but I digress....
  • Let's not forget MLB created this revenue-sharing system because it was making so much money in big markets that it needed a way to preserve some sort of competitive balance (because it refused to enact a salary cap).
  • And because the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers want to send less money to the Rays, they are pressuing Bud Selig to expedite the new stadium process in Tampa Bay.
  • Meanwhile, MLB & the Rays don't want to pay for the majority of a new stadium itself, because that wouldn't increase their revenues.
  • Therefore, MLB's "intervening" means pressuring the local community to tear up (or at least alter) it's existing contract with the Rays and spend public funds to build a new stadium so MLB can profit more.
  • In exchange for St. Petersburg agreeing to tear up its current contract with the team/league (I doubt that would ever happen if Evan Longoria decides he doesn't like his contract), MLB promises Tampa Bay that it will receive indirect financial benefits, like a rejuvenated downtown (even though Downtown Tampa is thriving regardless right now).
  • So Tampa Bay municipalities would spend between $25-35 million a year in public subsidies for a new stadium.  And this would - in theory - increase revenues at a stadium by $10-15 million a year.
  • Of course, those revenues don't really allow the Rays to spend more on players; they simply reduce the amount of revenue sharing the team receives from the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, etc.
So in summary, we are talking about spending $25-35 million a year in public subsidies to help the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers pocket an extra $10-15 million a year.  And, of course end the threats from MLB for another 20 years (hopefully)....

Sure, Tampa could enjoy some new additional benefits Downtown if the project is done right in the perfect location...but this line of thinking should also beg the question: how much public help is really worth it?

Given these numbers, there's also the question of whether Tampa Bay would just be better off cutting the Rays a check for $10-15 million a year for the next 20 years, which they could just direct sign over to the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers.  At least that would satisfy MLB into not threatening relocation or contraction for a decade or two....

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Referendum Questions: From St. Pete to Sacramento to Tampa

With the referednum on continuing to build a new St. Pete Pier going down in flames this week, the topic of referendums seems to be coming up quite a bit.

And, depending whom you ask - especially given the pier problems - voters may not always know best.  In fact, there are probably at least a few Rays fans who wish there would have been more support for the canceled "sailboat" stadium referendum in 2008.

But there's an interesting take from the New Ballpark blog on the importance of putting stadium subsidies to a vote:
  1. Public money for stadia in the form of cash, loans, or bonds – whether or not secured by upfront taxes or fees – should never happen in this day and age.
  2. All new or renovated venues that do not require public money are generally good, as long as they don’t come with significant kickbacks for the team and developers.
  3. Any public assistance that goes beyond processing permits or planning work (providing land, money, or other benefits) should require a public vote over the terms of the deal.
New Ballpark is especially critical of the Sacramento arena efforts, which are intentionally avoiding a voter referendum - presumably for the same reason the Rays yanked theirs off the table in 2008 - because true democracy doesn't always produce what elected officials consider the best results.

The post continues:
Are these people nuts? Have some respect for your citizens, politicians. Allow for campaigns. Allow the citizens and fans to be fully educated on the issues. You owe them that much. Sure, campaigns are expensive. The billionaires and millionaires who want these projects can afford campaign costs, they’ve seen and done it before. Chances are that they’ll outspend opponents 10:1. They have the resources. That’s fine. That’s the way the process works.
Eventually, we may see the process repeat itself in Tampa Bay....where a recent poll shows voters have no interest in approving a taxpayer-subsidized stadium.

And a Letter to the Editor in this morning's Times (3rd one down) echoes the sentiment of many residents here, it seems:
We are paying enough for problems from the past -- reservoirs under repair, nuclear energy plants that will never be built, a section of an expressway under construction, and now a section of road just three years old leading to Tampa International Airport...We must learn from our many mistakes. Any plans to build a new baseball stadium must not include any citizen funding and must be approved in a referendum in the 2014 elections.
There's a reason referendums are not part of the standard blueprint for stadium campaigns.

Sternberg Speaks to Tampa Bay Business Group

Michael Sasso from the Tampa Tribune has the latest on Stu Sternberg's relationship with the Tampa Bay business community (hint: it's pretty good):
On Wednesday, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and team president Matt Silverman gave an informal talk to the (Tampa Bay Partnership), which is a group of area businesses and local governments that tries to market the region to employers. The press wasn't allowed into the chat, but afterward Sykes provided the Tribune with a synopsis of what happened.

The partnership took no formal action on the stadium issue Wednesday.

As he's said in other venues recently, Sternberg told about 60 members of the partnership how Major League Baseball is frustrated with the slow pace of progress in the stadium stalemate with St. Petersburg.
Few other details were available about the meeting, but Sykes indicated some of the limited participation from interested local business groups was because of St. Pete's threat of legal action. 

Nevertheless, the business communitiy remains one of Sternberg's biggest allies and could ultimately help break the current stalemate should the Rays and St. Petersburg fail to find a friendly medium during direct negotiations.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The $1 Million Reason College Football Season Starts with Blowouts

Good post from the Priceonomics blog as to why there are so many lousey NCAA games to start the football season:
The main consideration in scheduling cupcake games is that the NCAA has no rules about playing an equal number of home and away games - or how you share revenue with visiting teams. So, universities like Ohio State that sell out their 100,000 person stadium for every game gladly pay teams like Buffalo to give up one of their own home games to play at Ohio State.

The weaker opponent may be less of a draw for ESPN and television networks, but universities are largely shielded from the financial consequences of scheduling patsy opponents as they split television revenues with their conference. Colleges pay cupcake opponents $400,000 to over $1 million because an extra home game brings in as much as $4 million to $5 million in additional revenue for the biggest programs. And during a mediocre season, that extra victory could be the difference in earning six wins and a profitable trip to a postseason bowl game.

In return, small programs receive increased exposure, a pipe dream of victory, and a check for as much as two thirds of their football budget and 20% of their athletic budget in a single game. (Head coaches are sometimes literally handed a six or seven figure check after the game.)

Despite the opulence of elite college football programs, the financial logic of the exchange is just as necessary for the elite teams as their cupcake opponents. As Priceonomics wrote in a prior article about the NCAA:
University presidents overwhelmingly view the high cost of athletics as a problem and athletic directors are busy cutting their budgets - a process only accelerated by the recession. Just over half of elite football and basketball programs turn a profit. Only 14 out of 120 athletic departments in the upper tier of Division I cover their costs. The remainder run a median deficit of $10 million.
Of the schools in the top conferences, only a quarter play a balanced schedule of 6 home games and 6 away games. The remainder schedule a guarantee game in order to play 7 home games or a game at a neutral site where they can split ticket revenue with their opponent.

The small school players may often be victims on the field, but their administrators are in the position of power. Every major program wants to schedule their guarantee games in September as the pollsters that rank teams and influence bowl placements give less credence to early games. That means the supply of small schools with amenable schedules is limited. Ohio State’s athletic director told USA News "Sometimes they've got you over a barrel.”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What the St. Pete Mayoral Election Results Mean for the Rays


Tuesday's St. Pete primary, which eliminated Kathleen Ford from the race, does nothing to shift the Stadium Saga.

That's because the two men with slightly different visions of how to handle the Stadium Saga are still in the running for the mayor's office.  Incumbent Bill Foster (41% of votes) will face former City Councilman Rick Kriseman (39% of votes) in a November run-off, which could be much more consequential to the Rays.

Flashback: Foster's 2009 mayoral victory was considered a "win" for the Rays at the time

Orlando Outrage Continues (From Just One Person??)

Jeffrey Billman from the Orlando Weekly has been banging his head against a wall lately, wondering why he's the only guy in town who seems outraged over the continued subsidies offered sports teams and stadiums in Orlando.

This week, he penned, "If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention: What Orlando could learn from St. Petersburg’s war over The Lens."  An excerpt:
Here’s the thing: This isn’t a fight over public spending or corruption or anything nasty or sordid. It’s a battle—an entrenched, vituperative battle—over architecture. Architecture!

Contrast that to Orlando City Hall this morning, where we had yet another round of glad-handing and civic boosterism dressed up as a city council workshop. The performing arts center folks talked about how close they are to finishing this magnificent structure, just $25 million more, please. The Citrus Bowl backers promised the sun and the stars—NFL games! NCAA championships!—if only we’d add $12 million to their coffers. And then there was Orlando City Soccer, brandishing its $1.2 billion in economic impact and an MLS franchise if only taxpayers helped them build a spanking-new stadium.
And yet, there’s no outrage, no movement for change...not one commissioner questioned the fundamental wisdom of having taxpayers subsidize professional sports facilities (of course, that horse left the barn the day the Amway Center opened) or blinked an eye at Orlando City’s economic impact assertions, even though economists are nigh-unanimous in thinking such studies—commissioned by the team, for the team—are hogwash.
To be more specific, 85 percent of economists oppose taxpayer-subsidized stadiums. That, my soccer-loving friends, is a consensus, and it’s backed up by (most ofthe economics literature. You don’t have to like the facts, but they are facts nonetheless.
I’d love to see the city’s media (especially on TV) do something more than parrot the team and mayor’s talking points. I’d love to see this town get actually pissed off about the fact that our glut of tourist tax money can go to hundred-million-dollar venue after hundred-million-dollar venue while our schools are substandard, our city is quantifiably dangerous, and our public transit system is a mess.

I’d love to see us be half as enraged about that as St. Petersburg is about its pier. I’d love to see something other than apathy.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

New Poll: Public Subsidies for Stadium in Tampa Unpopular

A new poll shows that while Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is wildly popular in Tampa, his idea of public dollars going toward a new Rays stadium may not be.

According to SaintPetersblog, 584 randomly-chosen Tampa voters - weighted to account for citywide demographics - said they opposed taxpayer dollars going toward a stadium by a 56%-36% margin.  The survey had a 4.1% margin of error and polled all voters; not just likely voters.

A follow-up question asked how voters would prefer to spend the city's $100-$150 million in soon-to-be-available dowtown TIF money.  Only 12% of voters chose the stadium option, trailing homeless solutions (31% ), transportation projects (27%), and police/fire (13%).  It's a bit of a misleading question, however, since the TIF money is quite limited in how it can be spent and can only go toward Downtown Tampa projects.

Now, I haven't seen the actual poll yet and don't know the exact questions, so its tough to draw conclusions.  Especially since - much like you can make statistics say anything you want - you can often determine a poll's outcome by the phrasing of the question.

For example, a series of 2012 polls asked Atlanta residents if they favored tax dollars going toward a new Falcons stadium.  About 70% of residents opposed it.  But when it was explained the tax dollars were from tourist taxes, which came mostly from out-of-towners, the opposition dropped to almost 50%.

The voter opposition didn't matter in the grand scheme anyway, because Atlanta's city council made the decision to subsidize a stadium without voter approval.  But I suspect a few more Tampa voters could be convinced to support a taxpayer-subsidized stadium if the money was coming from tourist or rental car taxes (even though, of course, that money could be used in a host of other ways across the city).

UPDATE - The entire poll is posted here.  The exact question was "Do you believe that taxpayer dollars should be used to help pay for a new Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium in Tampa?"
Interesting: more Republicans favor tax dollars for a Tampa stadium than Democrats.  Support for stadium subsidies was stronger among white and younger voters; weaker among black and older voters.

New Week, New Reading Material

A few links for your Sunday reading pleasure:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

UPDATE: Rays Supporters Cast Votes in St. Pete Mayoral Election (with Checkbooks)

Following up an Aug 1 post about Rays-related campaign contributions in the St. Pete mayoral race, candidates just filed their final reports before Tuesday's primary and there are a few interesting contributions for each of the frontrunners:

Mayor Bill Foster:
  • $500 from Thomas Sansone, minority owner of the Tampa Bay Rays
  • $500 from the St. Pete Chamber PAC, one of Pinellas' pivitol players in the Stadium Saga
  • $500 from David Feaster, former president of grass-roots Rays boosters, The Clutch Hitters
  • $100 from Dick Greco, former Tampa mayor
Challenger Rick Kriseman:
  • $100 from Bob Byelick, chairman of The Clutch Hitters
  • $250 from Harry Cohen, Tampa city councilman
Ironically, Feaster had previously donated to Kriseman and Byelick had previously donated to Foster.

And it should be noted: while the St. Pete mayors race is a non-partisan affair, many contributions tend to fall along party lines, rather than stances on a stadium.  Nevertheless, there was little support for candidate Kathleen Ford's campaign from those involved in the stadium debate.
The maximum allowable donation in this race is $500.
The polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday night, with the top two finishers facing off in November.

St. Pete Chamber Chair Fires Back Across Bay

The chairman of St. Petersburg's Chamber of Commerce, David Punzak, penned a Letter to the Editor in response to Cathy Peek McEwen's Op-Ed earlier this week entitled, "MLB has duty to help free Rays from financial prison."

There was one seemingly glaring factual inaccuracy in the story about Rays ticket-holders, but Punzak was even less impressed:
As a 16-year Rays season-ticket holder and the current chairman of the St. Pete Area Chamber of Commerce, I was very disappointed to see the above-referenced article printed in the Tribune. I recognize Cathy Peek McEwen’s column appeared in the Other Views section, so her words are not the position of the newspaper. That is good news.

The article is close-minded, factually inaccurate and deliberately inciteful. It is the baseball equivalent of race baiting. It was written to include many material inaccuracies, and many regional myths perpetuated by these types of articles.

What disturbs me most about this article is that it dredges up a lot of very bad, decades-old history between the Tampa and St. Pete communities. I thought we were past that. As business leaders, it is our job to move past this unhealthy rhetoric. We’re working hard with our partners and leaders at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce to help reshape the conversation about baseball.

We all need to look forward, not backward.

In order for Major League Baseball to succeed in the Tampa Bay area (whether in St. Petersburg or Tampa), it is going to take the collective goodwill, buy-in and economic contribution of people living in all communities in the Tampa Bay area.

Parochial, mean-spirited views, like those of Ms. McEwen that intentionally malign nearly half of the entire Tampa Bay area community, do nothing to ensure the continued success of MLB in this area.
The St. Pete Chamber, which teamed up with the Tampa Area Chamber to research stadium financing last year, hasn't exactly been supportive of a Tampa stadium replacing the Trop.  However, it should be encouraging for stadium supporters to hear the suggestion of "economic contribution of people living in all communities in the Tampa Bay area."

Could multi-county contributions be in the region's future?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Buccaneers Hire New Lobbyists

According to Saint Petersblog, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hired lobbying firm Corcoran and Johnson.  The team also retains GrayRobinson and RSA Consulting as representation.

So while there's no indication what issue(s) the Bucs will be pushing in Tallahassee, it was just a few days ago I wondered out loud when the Rays might hire their own lobbyist.

Maybe they two franchises can team up so the Rays can spend more on players and the Bucs can spend more on locker room cleaning?

Orlando Soccer Stadium Idea Making Headlines

Public subsidy opponents may not oppose public subsidies as much as you think.  It's just that being a watchdog means watching out for the public's investment.

In Orlando, there's great momentum to build an $85 million soccer stadium for a minor-league-but-hopefully-soon-major-league team.  But as upwards of $55 million in public money is being discussed for the deal, Orange County commissioner Pete Clarke is suggesting the city secure a share of ownership in the team in exchange for the money.

So rather than just handing the money off to another entity, the city would become an actual investor and actually benefit from the real profit of a stadium generates (ticket sales, stadium revenues, etc).

Now, since Major League Soccer isn't a bunch of individual businesses, but a single business entity (the league owns the teams and the players' contracts), Clarke suggests instead the city guarantee itself a share of new stadium revenues.

Deadspin called it “the best idea for stadium financing I’ve ever heard.”

And Field of Schemes author Neil deMaus sent the following critique to the Orlando Sentinel:
That looks like a great idea. As I’ve always said, the problem with the current stadium business isn’t that the public is putting up money, it’s that the public is putting up money without getting anything back. If Orlando could get an actual share of the stadium revenues – and it’d have to be gross revenues, mind you, not net profits, since it’s too easy for clubs to cook the books with the latter – then this could actually be an investment, and not just a gift.
Meanwhile, there are other thoughts coming out of Orlando.....alt weekly Orlando Weekly had some tough words for Bud Selig & MLB in its story titled "Stadiums. Don't. Work."
Here’s an idea: Bring (the Rays) to Orlando. Our local leaders have yet to meet a taxpayer-subsidized sports facility they didn’t love.
But the economics literature is clear: Taxpayer-subsidized stadiums are losers. Full stop. Anyone who says differently is either lying or woefully misinformed.
The economic impact studies teams bandy about – Orlando City (soccer club), for instance, promises a $1.2 billion impact over the next 30 years – are hocus-pocus. They “overstate the contribution that professional sports make to an area’s community. … Specifically, because of sport- and stadium-related activities, other spending declines as people substitute spending on one for spending on the other.”

In the 37 metropolitan areas Coates and Humphreys studied, building a stadium had no discernable impact on the growth rate of real per capita income. Once you factor in the cost of building the stadium, per capita income actually decreases.
Needless to say, the story continues to quote numerous economists who have studied stadiums' (lack of) effects...which will obviously still fall on the deaf ears of some of this blog's readers, who I'm sure are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to debunk the evidence with independent economic impact studies of their own...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Possible New Stadium Locations: Anywhere There's a City Block & a Cell Phone

I've always said you could poll 100 Rays fans about where they'd like to see a new stadium built, and 100 would agree they'd like one built closer to where they live.

So it should be no huge surprise Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist is floating the idea of a possible stadium in his district, near Sulpher Springs and USF, a little ways up I-275 from Downtown Tampa. 

He says the former Tampa Greyhound Track could be an ideal location, with ample land and I-275 exit ramps already built.  Crist says it would preserve valuable Downtown Tampa land for other uses, and even speculates the complex could also possibly include a new USF football stadium.

Of course, Hillsborough County doesn't have the money to pay for a new baseball stadium, let alone a football stadium too.  And if the stadium isn't built in Downtown Tampa, you can kiss the $100-$150 million in established TIF funds goodbye too.  Crist suggests a new TIF could be created in the currently blighted area, but with no track record, those funds would be much tougher to bond.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn seemed unimpressed, telling the Times: "I don't think anybody has really given it any serious consideration, because the model for Major League Baseball over the last decade has been stadiums in the downtown core...They want a stadium that's walkable."

Remember, location has never been as important in this discussion as financing.  And even Buckhorn admitted possible stadium locations are a dime-a-dozen.

"Anybody with a city block and a cell phone is going to try to put their property in play," he said.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A McEwen Op-Ed on Rays

I often wondered what legendary Tampa sportswriter Tom McEwen thought about the Rays' Stadium Saga - so I interviewed him about a year before his 2011 death.  He had an interesting perspective; his old-school mentality approached stadium-building much like a fan approaches his/her favorite team.  To Tom, cheerleading a cause like a new stadium was justified because of its benefit to the community.

Today, McEwen's former daughter-in-law and Trib sportswriter, Cathy Peek McEwen, penned an op-ed in her former paper calling on MLB to step in and fix its broken system in Tampa Bay:
Simply put, MLB is as much to blame, maybe more, on the Rays’ poor attendance as St. Petersburg and Pinellas County (which lag behind Tampa in providing behinds in seats, interestingly). Accordingly, MLB itself needs to atone for the sins of the owners who voted to imprison a franchise in a place their commissioner recognized could not be a major league town.
Agree to fund a meaningful share of a new stadium in a central location, one that can be easily reached by a critical mass of fans. That critical mass together with the Rays’ talented owners and local governments that value keeping MLB in the central Gulf Coast area will do the rest.
But McEwen also blamed St. Pete Mayor Foster for "trying to reinvent history" and claim his city needs to be compensated for what its owed on its investment.  Her contention is that St. Pete built the Trop without a baseball team and its not owed a baseball team now.

Except the one flaw in the argument is that St. Pete's residents have paid millions of dollars the last few decades for the right to have a baseball team.  And MLB, Vince Naimoli, and Stu Sternberg all agreed to a contract promising baseball to St. Petersburg until 2027.

Promises may be meant to be broken, but contracts can be a stickier subject...

You Can Make an Economic Impact Report Say Anything

The Rays bring $200+ million a year to Tampa Bay.  According to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The funny thing about economic impact reports is you can make them say anything you want.

When the Rays wanted to justify a new stadium in 2008, they commissioned a study that validated their nine-figure annual economic impact.  There has been some good journalism since then questioning the methodology of the Rays' study; the Times' Stephen Nohlgren pointed out spending on a baseball game is often transferred spending from other areas of the economy, not new spending.

Even the pro-baseball ABC Coalition acknowledged "economic impact studies are often overblown."

But those kind of important questions and disclosures were missing yesterday when the City of Tampa and RNC 2012 Host Committee announced its $400 million economic impact last August for the Republican National Convention.

Both the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times ran glowing reviews, and even though the stories pointed out retail, restaurants, and bars all lost out during convention time, there was little questioning the report's methodology.

Now, I'm no economist, but it was easy to see the report was using robust sales tax receipts from outlying counties (Polk, Pasco, Manatee) to make up for slow sales numbers in the convention's host county, Hillsborough.

In fact, if sales tax numbers compared to the rest of the state indicate how the RNC affected a local economy, we should blame the RNC for Hillsborough County's bad August sales tax receipts, which grew much slower than the state's average.

And I'm not sure how any economist can claim - at least with a straight face - that a boost in spending at places like LEGOLAND (Polk Co) or Weeki Watchee (Hernando Co) had anything to do with the RNC.

One thing is clear:  Tampa did a nice job hosting the event and for an up-and-coming city, the convention was a great resume-builder.  But the beautiful thing about claiming $100+ million in media impressions and other intangibles is that you can claim them and there's no tangible evidence to disprove them.

"With all my effort I have looked for evidence of any kind of economic impact from a Super Bowl or the RNC and never found any," USF economist Philip Porter told me in an e-mail.  "In terms of what people in Tampa sell, including their labor, events (like the RNC) have no impact."

Don't expect Porter to land any economic impact studies anytime soon.

Nor will Field of Schemes author Neil deMause, who wrote about a pro-Oakland Athletics study back in 2010:
Ah, "economic activity," the last refuge of the economic development consultant. As I've discussed here previously, this just adds up all the money changing hands in your city, regardless of who's spending it and who's receiving it — so that if the A's double ticket prices, that's not a horrible ripoff of Oakland fans, but rather a wonderful boost to "economic activity," notwithstanding that the people actually receiving the bulk of the cash (the A's owners and players) don't live in town.
Journalists live by the motto "question everything."  And the more we ask about these studies, the better-informed we'll be the next time we have to make decisions about which events and institutions to spend money on.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Forbes: Bucs' Franchise Valuation Ticks Upward

The latest Forbes valuations are out, and while they may not be worth the paper they're (not) printed on, the Glazer family can celebrate the fact that the Bucs' estimated franchise value is up to $1.07 billion, a 3.5% increase from last fall.

That's pennies to a family worth $4.4 billion, but the uptick in value is impressive given the fact that the Glazers continue to let blackouts tarnish the experience for fans in Tampa Bay.

The league's most expensive team was once again the Cowboys, who surged from $2.1 billion last year to $2.3 billion this year, courtesy of a new half-billion-dollar stadium naming rights deal.

But as Cork Gaines points out, the NFL's rise in franchise values (currently averaging $1.17 billion) aren't growing nearly as high as MLB franchises' (currently averaging $744 million).

Why Haven't the Rays Hired a Lobbyist Yet?

Just thinking out loud here, but sooner or later, the Rays will probably need to hire a lobbyist governmental relations expert.

Hillsborough County's biggest pot of money possibly available for a new stadium would be in new rental car taxes, which tend to be easy pills to swallow politically, because they put most of the burden on out-of-towners (even if those visitors have no clue the region has a MLB team).

However, new rental car taxes at Tampa International Airport are currently illegal.  So the Rays would need help from the legislature.  Which typically requires a little lobbying firepower.

Not to mention, the team could use some help with another legal issue its having with the state.

MLB teams hiring lobbyists is hardly unheard of; several have succeeded in the legislative sausage factory by hiring "governmental relations experts."

So how long before the Rays hire theirs?  We'll have some sort of an idea; professional lobbyists in Florida need to register with the state.

Report: Rays May Lose Billboard

You can't blame the Rays for trying to maximize every revenue opportunity they have, but apparently the State of Florida does.

According to the Tampa Tribune, the team's 34-by-64 sign above I-275 was never permitted as a billboard.  While businesses are allowed to advertise their own events, the Rays sell space on theirs to other companies, which would required billboard permitting.  And because its too close to other billboards, the Trib reports the team's permit is likely to be turned down:
But state officials warn that is likely to be turned down because the Rays' sign is closer than 1,500 feet to another permitted billboard, the minimum distance state regulations allow between signs.

“There would be a spacing conflict with another permitted sign,” said Rob Jessee, FDOT manager of outdoor advertising control. “It predates their sign and would cause a spacing conflict along the interstate.”

That may leave the Rays with a dent in their revenue.
The Rays wouldn't comment to the Trib on how much revenue the sign produced.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A New Rays Stadium...on Layaway?

Marine Layer, the talented founder of, this blog's counterpart that tracks the Athletics' stadium stalemate, penned some thoughts this weekend on Bud Selig's promise to "intervene" in Tampa Bay:
Chances are Selig won’t do anything other than make that visit. He’ll decry the attendance woes at Tropicana Field. He’ll continue to say that the team needs a long-term solution. Yet when he attempts to proselytize St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster and other pols, he’ll do so with the knowledge that he has very little leverage in the matter.
Contrast that with our home situation, where the Giants have all the leverage over the A’s internally with MLB and MLB has leverage over San Jose. As we saw with MLB’s response to the antitrust lawsuit, they’re perfectly willing to shove the antitrust exemption in San Jose’s face when they feel they have power. What about in St. Pete, where they have little power? How about using ATE now, Bud?
Look on the bright side. 14 years is a long time to save money. Bud should suggest a Rays ballpark layaway plan. That’s part of the way we fund infrastructure in California. The BART-to-Silicon Valley extension is being partly funded by accrued sales tax increment. Only when the revenues hit certain targets will the full extension to downtown San Jose take place. Both Tampa and St. Petersburg have indicated they have limited funds to throw at what will surely be a $600-800 million (in today’s dollars) stadium when all is said and done. Even with some sort of out-of-the-box financing plan, there still will be a major public component, which is unsavory to say the least. added its now been 53 months since Selig promised "intervention" in the San Francisco Bay area, with no tangible progress to show for it.  But Layer has an interesting take on the Rays' here to read more of it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Re-posting Henderson's Missing "Thumbscrew 101" Column

Reader Kevin Vahey pointed out the column penned this weekend by Tampa Trib columnist Joe Henderson disappeared from  Not sure why, but here is what was published:
To help the Tampa Bay Rays get a new stadium, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says he might send someone to “intervene” (whatever that means) here in bickering bay.

I know what most Rays fans believe it means: A leg-breaker sent here by Selig with stadium blueprints and orders to get busy building, or else.

Here’s the point where we ask: Or else, what?

Ryan Roberts is brought back to the team and installed as the permanent clean-up hitter? Pat Burrell is appointed to the Hillsborough County Commission? The Rays cut David Price and re-sign Dewon Brazelton?

They turn that 20-foot python that was in the Rays clubhouse Thursday loose in the home of St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, with orders to put the squeeze on?

Let’s get serious.

Baseball values stability. It has had exactly one team move to a new market since 1972, and that happened after Montreal basically kicked the Expos out of town.

In the same time period, 13 National Basketball Association teams moved, along with eight National Hockey League teams and six from the National Football League.

I wouldn’t consider this a toothless threat, though.

The last time Selig sent someone here to “intervene” was when former owner Vince Naimoli couldn’t get along with his partners. That’s how the Rays wound up with current owner Stu Sternberg.

As always with pro sports, follow the money.

The Rays get at least $35 million a year in subsidies from baseball’s richest teams. Those clubs are tired of paying so much to get their butts kicked by this exceptionally well-run organization.

With a new stadium, preferably in downtown Tampa, the Rays theoretically wouldn’t need handouts on that scale any longer.

Fine, I get that.

But instead of dispatching a hit man here from the commissioner’s office, how about sending someone with a plan to help us mortals solve this problem without raising taxes or going bankrupt? That’s what I hope Selig intends to do.

The early signs are not encouraging, though.

Just a few months ago, Sternberg told reporters that MLB no longer believes Tampa Bay is viable as a market. That’s no way to start a dialogue, but I wouldn’t read a darn thing into it.

We heard basically the same thing about Seattle and other cities when those places needed new stadiums and St. Petersburg just happened to have an empty one. If we don’t know the game by now, we never will.

This is Thumbscrew 101. Leagues do this because stadiums almost never get built without the kind of posturing we now see.

And you know what? Tropicana Field, as I have repeatedly said, needs to be replaced. I also believe there are enough baseball fans in this area to make it work, just like it has in all those other cities where teams struggled but now mostly thrive.

So, “intervene” all you want, Bud. I actually think that could be a good idea.

Just leave the python out of this. Oh, and Pat Burrell. You can keep him, too.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ballplayers as Punks

Courtesy of The Morning News:
Think baseball today is rotten from drugs and punks? A century ago, things weren’t much better. A brief history of baseball’s dark traditions—cheating, substance abuse, obscenity, violence—and the colorful players who brought them to life.
Ty Cobb had a nervous breakdown in his rookie season; Pittsburgh’s Ed Doheny was committed to an asylum in 1903, with a local paper declaring “His Mind Is Thought To Be Deranged”; in 1907, Chick Stahl borrowed from the fiendish Bowery dive McGurk’s Suicide Hall and ingested carbolic acid; Patsy Tebeau, player-manager for the hard-drinking Cleveland Spiders in the 1890s, later shot himself; in 1900 Boston’s Marty Bergen slit his throat after killing his wife and two children with an axe; Hall of Famer Old Hoss Radbourn, who had half of his face blown off in a hunting accident, became demented from syphilis; the notorious drunk Bugs Raymond of the New York Giants once illustrated his curve by hurling a mug through a restaurant’s plate-glass window; Mike “King” Kelly drank himself into an early grave but not before creating the devil-may-care jock stereotype in America.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What Conclusions Can We Draw From Selig's Intervention?

We all know not to read too much into Bud Selig's saber-rattling, but are this week's comments a sign of anything more than the commissioner's continued frustrations in Tampa Bay?

We can draw some conclusions (plus some snarky responses!) from Selig's quotes in a piece:
"We were optimistic that this was moving in a very positive direction," Selig said. "Unfortunately, we're stalled. It's serious enough that in the last 48 hours, I've given very strong consideration to assigning someone from MLB to get involved in this process and find out what's going on.
It would seem all the optimism between Rays owner Stu Sternberg and St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster has turned sour.  The city gave the blessing for the Rays to explore Tampa sites, pending a contract amendment, but could negotiations have broken down?

Just a few weeks ago, St. Pete's top attorney, John Wolfe, said an agreement is "a long way off."  And Foster has repeatedly cautioned the media and his Tampa counterparts against getting too far ahead of themselves.

Clearly, the Rays and St. Pete haven't found common ground yet on the ground rules of a search: either the financial terms or the legal limitations, designed to protect St. Pete's contractual interests.   However, Foster denied negotiations have stalled.

Selig continued:
"(The Rays have) been a model organization, extraordinarily capable. Under this ownership, they've done everything in their power to make their ballpark situation work. They have a very, very, very competitive club. Years have ticked by with no progress to resolve the situation. And frankly -- and this is coming directly from me -- baseball needs a resolution to this problem."
So MLB "needs a resolution" to the region's hesitance to spend half a billion dollars on a new stadium.  I guess it would be too much to suggest MLB open up its checkbook for a "resolution?"

USA Today's Bob Nightengale, who was the first to report on Selig's comments, even questioned how much Selig could do, telling WTSP's Chris Fischer, "I just don’t know if there’s another city in the county that there’s a good spot for baseball."

The Rays' owner spoke Thursday as well:
"We just want to look at a number of spots in the Tampa Bay area," Sternberg said. "St. Petersburg has threatened to talk to anybody who talks to us. It's a free country -- we can do whatever we want to do -- but I guess it becomes a potential legal issue for anybody who wants to talk to us. Tampa, in particular, has decided not to because of the threats. We can't do the deep down dive to explore the situation because of this."

Sternberg and Selig go back to their trusty well here, using public opinion to leverage St. Pete off its contract.  St. Pete's council chair, Karl Nurse, told the Tampa Tribune that Selig's comments were the “usual pressure on the city to go borrow several hundred million dollars and buy us another facility...I guess if they bring a big enough checkbook, that would be just fine...I assume their intention is not to bring a big checkbook.”
Sternberg said the club is surviving on revenue sharing, but his fellow owners are beginning to wonder how long it's going to take for the Rays to reach some sort of self-sustained economic stability.
"The key here is to recognize that without the revenue-sharing dollars, we wouldn't even be able to compete or do what we're doing.

"The other owners are looking at this and saying, 'How many years is this going to be? How much money is this going to be to a failing situation?'"

Revenue sharing will never go away; it's a mechanism MLB set up to ensure teams in smaller media markets could still compete with teams in large media markets.  Everyone in MLB is making money, and everytime a new stadium is built on someone else's dime, everyone in MLB profits even more.  No one team can cost any other team huge amounts of money.

So is it really the fault of Bill Foster, Karl Nurse, Bob Buckhorn, Rays fans, or Tampa Bay taxpayers that MLB's owners aren't getting richer as fast as they'd like?  Or is it simply because MLB built its business model this way (and done quite well under it, too)?

Tampa Tribune, You're Better Than That

Even Bud Selig admitted Thursday that contraction isn't on the table.  Anyone who pays attention to the business of MLB knows it's not a possibility.  But in justifying its editorial, "Selig adds urgency to Rays-St. Pete stalemate," the Tampa Tribune makes a silly assertion:
But (Selig) could render (St. Pete's) contract mute by contraction — eliminating the team altogether, something he has said he does not support.
The editorial didn't say much else other than Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan "is right to view Selig’s comments as a warning."  Even that is very, very, very hard to justify.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hagan Gets Stadium Analysis Out of Left Field

Hillsborough Commission Chairman Ken Hagan has always driven the "Move-the-Rays-to-Tampa" train, but responding Thursday to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's "intervention" comments, Hagan merely helped the Rays further escalate the Stadium Saga rhetoric:

"It reaffirms what Mr. (Stuart) Sternberg stated during his (Hillsborough) County Commission presentation in January and it is a reflection of what I've stated for over three years," Hagan told the Tampa Bay Times. "There exists a sense of urgency to resolve this issue. The sense of urgency is real. It's borderline dire."

Things can't be too dire: the Rays have a secure home for 14 more years if nothing else happens.  The team consistantly pulls in some of the top profits in baseball, the franchise's value has more than tripled under Sternberg, and MLB's national television revenue is explodingRelocation is not possible anytime soon, and contraction will never be an option.

I'm sure the Rays would love to increase attendance by a few thousand people a night and it will take many years of work to actually get a new stadium open.  But there is nothing dire about the Stadium Saga and there is no reason to move so fast as to ignore the important financial questions that need to be asked.

Fed Up, Selig Will "Intervene" in Tampa Bay Stadium Saga

The Tweet that set off Google Alerts all over Tampa Bay today:
It also launched plenty of sarcastic replies:
But in reality, does this mean much of anything?

As @emluvsbaseball tweeted, Selig "intervened" in the A's stadium issue four years later and nothing has happened.

It's also not Selig's first saber-rattling in Tampa Bay:
2010: "There has to be concern."
2011: No reason "to be too optimistic."
2012: Attendance is "inexcusable" and "disappointing."
2013: Situation is "economically not tolerable" and "beyond disappointing."

So what did Selig mean this time around?
Well, if anything positive comes from this, hopefully it's the last time MLB or the Rays use contraction as a threat.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Jay Mariotti: "Tropicana Field - The Worst Major League Ballpark I've Ever Seen"

Jay Mariotti put together a little video review of Tropicana Field, calling it "the worst major league ballpark I've ever seen." (video below)

The three-minute clip was actually quite complimentary at times:
(The Rays) consistently do more with less than any franchise in American sports.
Of course the Rays deserve more fans and they deserve a new stadium, but for now, public money in 2013 should be going to education; the homeless; things like that.

I think there's something special about a team that doesn't complain about where its playing; does things the right way; the smart way; and simply wins.
So aside from the fact that Rays have complained about where they play and Mariotti incorrectly called the team's contract a "lease," the piece was extremely fair.  The Rays would certainly benefit from a new stadium, but the cost looks to be immense...and it's probably not the top priority for penny-pinching Florida cities.

Editorial Boards Take Another Swing

After years of pushing for a new Rays stadium, the Tampa Bay Times editorial board finally asked an important question this morning:
But at what cost?
(T)he bigger question is the viability of the project itself. Major private fundraising has yet to get under way publicly, the attendance projections appear optimistic, and...(it) also wants part of the (county's bed) tax money when the Tropicana Field bonds are paid off, and the competition for that revenue is stiff.
(The Mayor) remains supportive and says the (facility) "could be a game-changer''...
This watchdog-type of thinking is what you're used to from the Times, but as it turns out, this editorial had nothing to do with a Rays stadium.  It was written about a proposed new $160 million aquarium in Clearwater.

The important issues raised by the Times could prove to be quite productive for both the aquarium and the taxpayers of Pinellas County.  But where are the same critical questions for a new baseball stadium when the Rays remain one of the most successful teams in baseball off the field as well as on it?  So far, those questions have been largely absent.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Tribune editorial board admitted to cheerleading for a new Downtown Tampa stadium - something its editor denied back in 2010.

And while there's a separation between the paper's strong business writers and its opinion page, it should be no surprise the editorial board admitted "We’d like to see the Rays move to Hillsborough, particularly downtown Tampa — if objective analysis shows it would be a success here."

The Trib deserves credit for acknowledging the case has yet to be made for a new stadium, as well as the fact that progress remains unlikely unless Pinellas County leaders are included in all discussions too.

But whatever group is formed to tackle the questions surrounding a new stadium shouldn't just look at locations and financing, but also the appropriate number of tax dollars that deserve to go toward the new project.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Could Tampa Stadium Money Be Better Spent Elsewhere?

There's a lot of talk of how a new stadium can revitalize a region, but it doesn't always work.  Just ask Gary, Ind., which (wrongly) assumed its $50 million downtown stadium would help businesses.

But there are also lots of cities with positive downtown stadium experiences.  Tampa hopes to one day join the ranks.  But there will always be that pesky question of, "at what cost?"

An investigation from FOX 5 in Washington D.C. looked at the big crowds populating Nationals Park and its surrounding area, finding plenty of indications of unfulfilled economic promises:
In a report used by the city's Chief Financial Officer to obtain financing, the city had counted on the stadium to bring in $24 million a year last year from taxes on tickets, parking and concessions. In fiscal 2012, tax figures provided by the CFO's office showed the stadium only brought in $12.6 million in tax revenue despite finishing with the league's best record.

"Having a team, a baseball team in Washington is a great, great thing. But having a winning team is not the same as saying it's a winning financial bid for the city," said Ed Lazere, Executive Director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.

The group believes the numbers show the stadium isn't pulling its weight. It was critical of a taxpayer-funded stadium then and now.

The city tapped a ballpark fee and utility tax on businesses to pay the lion's share of the stadium. That tax brought in $42.6 million last year, according to the District's CFO's office.

The team owners chipped in only $5 million in rent. Critics call it corporate welfare for billionaire baseball owners that don't benefit the welfare of the city.

"There is no doubt we could clearly use those resources to pay for things that are important to the city ... our libraries and recreation centers are not open on Sundays for the most part because we don't have the money to keep them open," Lazere pointed out.
There's no telling if DC will ever break even on the Nationals deal, since exact economic effects are tough to track and so much of a stadium's value isn't financial.

But in Tampa, politicians will repeatedly face the question, "can this money be better-spent elsewhere?"

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has made it clear $100-$150 million will soon be available to a possible stadium from tax-incremental financing (TIF) revenues that can only be spent in Downtown Tampa.

But that's not "free money" - those are tax dollars.  And that money could go toward a lot of other places: upgrading buildings, renovating the Tampa Bay Times Forum, building a transit hub, or even buying/rebuilding the biggest blight on the city's waterfront, Channelside Bay Plaza.

Monday, August 12, 2013

One Businessman's Opinion on Stadium Saga

Prominant St. Petersburg businesman Scott Wagman, who failed to make a 2009 mayoral run-off in his only bid for public office, penned a column this past weekend on how the region should move forward on the Rays Stadium Saga. 

Not only did Wagman recognize the important difference between a revenue problem and the Rays' problem - simply an inability to "optimize...stadium-based cash flow" - but he also called out the team for trying "to muscle the team landlord, the City of St.Petersburg, to give up its right(s)" in its contract.

That said, Wagman suggested a new approach to the new stadium conversation:
The fact is, modern stadiums, many of which will be deemed obsolete in 25 years, cost far too much in society dollars to justify.
I believe that a reasonable cost for a state of the art, fun to attend stadium in Tampa is no more than $400 million.   

To attain that lower level, two fundamental things need to be changed. One, lower the amount of seats to  23-28,000 and two eliminate the retractable roof.
50-70 inch HDTVs have made the viewing experience exceptional with instant replay, your own bathroom, cheap beer and food a fine way to cheer on our Rays. Tampa Bay residents do support the Rays, but the discretionary entertainment dollar just isn't there to support 34,000 fans actually attending 81 games in person.

The major construction cost reduction would come from the elimination of the retractable roof. The absurdity of watching summer baseball in Florida is known by any owner of a car with a convertible roof or sunroof. The heat, UV exposure and rain in June, July, August and September make opening the roof a joke. A very expensive one.
Wagman suggests a photochromic roof could allow enough sunlight in to give an "outdoor" feeling without "baking" the fan.  And a side benefit of a new stadium would be a new concessions contract for the Rays, who Wagman writes, are stuck in a poor deal (I haven't seen any numbers on it).

But one potential problem with Wagman's numbers is he suggests a possible $20-40 million payment to St. Petersburg for the right to terminate the current contract early.  I suspect the number might be a lot higher if prior to 2027.  After all, the Rays themselves said they were a $200 million economic engine annually.

Wagman acknowledges much of the value of major-league teams comes in the form of "community pride, legacy issues and an emotional belief in the economic efficacy of having a sports team."  But he also calls for fiscal responsibility, which is often absent from stadium conversations in other cities (ahem, Miami):
We need a tough negotiating team with representatives from both sides of the bay to hammer out a deal that will cost the public a reasonable amount to make the move happen.

Monday Morning Links

A few good links to keep you busy instead of catching up on a weekend's worth of e-mails:

Field of Schemes: Tampa May Have to Rely on 'Elfin Magic' to Fund Stadium
Global News (Canada): Could Baseball Return to Montreal?
Miami Herald: State Reps Bash Dolphins Owner
New York Times: Playing the Stadium Name Game
US News & World Report: Should NCAA Athletes Be Paid?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Times: TV Numbers May Be More Important Than Attendance Numbers

I've always suggested the Rays should have a countdown clock somewhere in their offices to 2017, because that's when they'll get a huge boost in local TV revenues, making their campaign for public stadium dollars a much tougher sell.

And in this morning's Tampa Bay Times, Stephen Nohlgren points out Rays attendance may not matter nearly as much as how many fans are watching their games on TV (and there's a lot of them).  Not to mention the huge MLB television revenues that have started to pad everyones' pockets:
The league recently renegotiated its national TV contracts, which, beginning in 2014, will earn each team an extra $25 million or so a year. That helped the Rays re-sign fan favorite Evan Longoria to a hefty new contract.

The prospect of the team moving from the Tampa Bay area may also diminish as other owners leverage their territory into lucrative, long-term TV deals.

"Television has now become so valuable that you can't move to Portland without impacting Seattle,'' said (Business of Baseball's Maury) Brown. "In San Antonio, the Rangers and Astros would fight any stadium deal.''

Even so, Rod Fort, sports economist at the University of Michigan, thinks the pressure for a new stadium will continue. He thinks baseball could engineer a third team in the metropolitan New York market by generating enough new wealth to pay off the Yankees and Mets.
Nohlgren also acknowledges the Rays may not get rich in 2017 after all, if the cable rights bubble bursts and the team cannot leverage two networks to bid against each other:
In Tampa Bay, Fox remains the only sports network with cable and dish channels throughout the region. It's like the Rays have a rare antique to sell, but only one person might be buying.
Of course, leverage drives up the price in all negotiating, which is why the Rays are probably loving all the Tampa vs. St. Petersburg talk for a new stadium.

Oh, and there was this interesting nugget in the Nohlgren article:
Despite the recent Miami Marlins' debacle, Fort said, new stadiums typically boost team revenue $10 million to $15 million a year.

What television revenues may do "is beside the point,'' he said. "It is always true that they would rather have a new stadium than an old stadium. It is the essence of what Major League Baseball is all about.''
So despite Stu Sternberg telling me the team hadn't looked into the revenues a new stadium would bring, the Rays know exactly what a new stadium is worth....and they know exactly how much they'd be willing to pay for it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

All the Geeky Math on a Possible Tampa Stadium (So Far)

Because all this Tampa stadium talk is...well, just talk...without some real, hard numbers, this weekend is a good opportunity to take a better look at some of the math behind building a new stadium:
  • As I wrote Friday, there are lots of ways to create new tax revenues for a stadium, but none of them would be terribly popular politically.  And none of them alone get you even halfway to the $600 million price tag a retractable-roof stadium is expected to cost.
  • Tampa's downtown Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) could bond somewhere in the $125 million range, although fluctuating interest rates could honestly put that anywhere from $100 million to $150 million.  There's data available on the math in last fall's stadium finance caucus report.  And that's the easy money, as long as Congress doesn't stop cities from using tax-exempt municipal bonds to pay for stadiums.
  • It's a well-known fact that the Rays were willing to pony up $150 million for their ill-fated 2008 sailboat stadium in St. Petersburg, but there's also evidence the team was willing to possibly concede another $55 million in parking revenues.  It's tough to tell if the Rays were really willing to give $200 million at the time, since they never gave specifics on whose pockets the parking revenue would come from, and we didn't know if the deal would include concessions back to the Rays (rent, upkeep, etc).  But it's safe to say $200 million for a Tampa stadium would be reasonable; upwards of that might be possible.
But as the region dangerously tackles the issue of "how can we pay for this," rather than, "is this really necessary," keep this in mind:  the Rays have yet to actually demonstrate a financial need.

The team hasn't opened its books to the public, yet its asking for public assistance.  It's up to local elected officials to demand transparency from the team.  I'm guessing Miami officials wish they demanded so much from the Marlins.

Would you co-sign a loan for a business partner without first asking about his/her finances?  Would your bank ever agree to lower your mortgage without first checking your paystubs and bank statements for a hardship?  Would you approve of someone collecting welfare who never had to prove if he/she had a shortage of income?

Did Somebody Say Tug-of-War???

What's that I hear?  The sound of a Tampa vs. St. Pete tug-of-war?

This was the headline to the story on WFTS' website, possibly indicating the next step in a "who can spend more money on a stadium" competition. 

The story was actually about how Pinellas County has a lot more money than Hillsborough County (which we already knew), but its easy to see how the mainstream media can play right into the MLB blueprint for building stadia.  Go ahead, click on that link from 2009.  You'll be amazed at how much has held true.

Times Endorses Kriseman for Mayor; Trib Endorses Foster

A recent shift on the Rays Stadium Saga wasn't enough to win Mayor Bill Foster the endorsement of the Tampa Bay Times in this month's mayoral election.  He did, however, pick up the endorsement from the more conservative Tampa Tribune editorial board.

The Times, the region's paper-of-record, endorsed former city councilman and state representative Rick Kriseman, mentioning his willingness to negotiate with the Rays as one of the reasons.  The Times Editorial Board opines Kriseman would talk to the team, "while protecting St. Petersburg's financial interests and trying to boost attendance at Tropicana Field."

Kriseman has long campaigned on the stadium issue and says he wants to fight to keep the Rays in St. Petersburg.  But he also favors letting the team search for sites in Hillsborough County.

Kriseman, Foster, and Kathleen Ford are currently fighting for the mayor's office; if no candidate secures 50% of the vote (current polls show they won't), the top two finishers will head to a run-off in November.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Buckhorn, Hagan Talk Stadium Saga and Subsidies

It was merely the opening statement, but Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough Co. Commission Chairman Ken Hagan made a case Friday for the Rays to put up or shut up.

While two of the area's top officials don't even have permission to speak to the Rays yet, they're making plans to launch a stadium search committee to figure out how to get a stadium deal done in Downtown Tampa.   And they're calling on the Rays to put up huge sums of money to make it happen, too.

Buckhorn suggested the Rays should pay between $200 and $300 million for a new stadium - a figure that could be nearly half of the cost of a new facility, but also double what the team was previously willing to pay in 2008. 
For what it's worth, the Rays still aren't commenting on this week's developments and told me in January they had "no idea" how much they'd contribute - or make - from a new stadium.

And even more importantly, how much will Buckhorn's numbers change over the next few years?  Typically, they drop while a city's contributions tend to climb.

Now, in Buckhorn's defense, his office provided me the numbers on downtown TIF financing that would, in fact, likely bond between $100 and $150 million over 30 years.  It clears up that little tiff about the TIF from earlier this week.

But $300 million from the Rays is not only unlikely, it's also not nearly enough if Buckhorn keeps his word to only spend $100-$150 million in existing revenues.  Hagan has said no public financing for a stadium, so don't count on county revenues (until he changes his mind).

So maybe the stalemate is coming to an end...but it's still a "Stadium Standstill" because financing this deal will be darned-near impossible without huge public subsidies.

Oh, and one more question....with the Rays consistantly pulling in some of the top profits in baseball and MLB's national television revenue exploding and 14 more years left on the Trop's contract...why is everyone in such a rush to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to increase attendance by a few thousand people a night?