Monday, August 5, 2013

Foster Calls Tampa's Bluff on Rays Stadium

For the first time since his election almost four years ago, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster says it is time for the Rays to explore stadium options in Tampa, according to a report from the Tampa Bay Times.

This is either a major Foster concession that reshapes the nature of the Stadium Saga…or it may merely be the mayor calling the bluffs of elected leaders across the bay.

According to the Mark Puente/Stephen Nohlgren story, "tepid attendance over the last few years has changed his thinking, Foster said Monday, in a remarkably candid interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board."

Foster's new revealation comes on the heels of recent news that St. Pete and the Rays have been hammering out the framework of a deal that could let them explore new stadium sites anywhere in Tampa Bay - one of Stu Sternberg's basic requests/demands in 2010.

But as we all know, location isn't the big problem in the Rays' Stadium Saga - funding is.

Could Foster, an attorney so keenly aware of how valuable leverage is in the stadium game, find a way to redirect some of the negative public opinions of him as an obstructionist at Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan?

"It's somewhat humorous to watch (County Commission Chairman Ken) Hagan and (Tampa Mayor Bob) Buckhorn kind of backpedaling a little bit because they were all wearing their finest trying to court the Rays to look over there,'' Foster told the Times. "Now that it might actually happen, you got Ken Hagan saying he's not going to commit any taxpayer money to it, which is naive."

Foster's referencing a comment Hagan made a few weeks ago that a taxpayer-funded stadium like Raymond James Stadium would never happen again.  And in Hagan's defense, he hasn't really changed his stance; he's never suggested a idea of how to pay for a new $600 million stadium

But credit Field of Schemes author Neil deMaus, who first speculated Foster may be taking the risk of letting the Rays look elsewhere, only to prove Pinellas County may be best-situated to keep the Rays in the long-term.

That said, regardless of which scenario is playing out right now, we are still a long way from the Rays being able to explore possible stadium sites in Hillsborough County.

That's because no deal is done yet on how St. Pete would guarantee the Rays looking elsewhere wouldn't make it easier for them to break their current contract.  And the Rays haven't agreed yet to the possible multi-million dollar price tag on exploring new stadium sites.

Again, Foster is an attorney, so there's no way he's going to simply let the Rays walk out on their contract - and obligations to St. Petersburg - without significant compensation.

But any Rays fan has to be happy with any sign of progress in the ongoing Stadium Stalemate (any fan, that is, except the two former councilmembers who have hopes of replacing Foster as mayor this fall).

Now if only Tampa Bay could come together to find a way to finance a stadium....the Rays wouldn't have to!


  1. Noah - it's very sad to hear you say:
    "Now if only Tampa Bay could come together to find a way to finance a stadium....the Rays wouldn't have to!"

    The Rays are the entity that will profit (maybe) from a new stadium, so let them pay 100% for it. Stu Sternberg bought the Rays for $200 million in 2004, and the Rays are now worth $450 million according to Forbes - that's a 9+ % annual rate of return. Since the number of MLB franchises is not going to grow, this scarce resource will continue to increase in value nicely in the coming years. So Stu can easily pick up the tab, if indeed a new stadium is a smart investment with his money. On the other hand, if Stu get's to use other people's money (e.g. we taxpayers) to pay for the stadium, then it can be a stupid investment, and what does he care?

    1. Confess that raised my eyebrows too, Scott. And the prospect of a "multi-county tax" . . . dear Lord. I have a different idea. Let's get rid of counties entirely, or at least rein them in to their supposed historical purpose, governing unincorporated territory.

      In my own home state, there is barely any unincorporated territory left, and counties have essentially been eliminated, with the exception of mostly honorary positions held by the flunky relatives of elected officials.

      Like baronies and duchies before them, the very concept of a county is an anachronism leftover from feudal times. I propose eliminating this unnecessary and redundant layer of government, if only to stop them from conspiring together to tax us for the purpose (in this instance) of making a rich man richer.

  2. Newsflash Scott, the Rays AREN'T the entity to profit, Tampa has a lot to gain. You're just as naive as Noah to think Tampa wants to "help" build a ballpark, and not gain a dime more in return in time. But to "Noah's boy!"(lol) ole' Billy, he's naive as well if (like I been saying) he thinks the they're not a lot further along then most think. I believe if or when he signs off on what he said, that the floods gates are about to open on the behind-the-scenes work of Tampa & the Rays over the years w/ sketches, plans, and numbers. Though besides all that, I couldn't help thinking how much closer I'am today to winning "2015 Rays season tix" from Noah for if or if not the Rays will have started the process for building a ballpark in Channelside by the start of the 2015 season...

    1. Tampa has nothing to gain, however having read your previous posts, I know you reject all the evidence that stadium deals are always bad deals for communities, and that is your right.

      At any rate, you've won. Before long, once the I's are dotted and T's are crossed, the Rays will be able to look wherever they want. Congratulations! You should be happy about that. What more do you want?

    2. Well, to think Tampa has nothing to gain is your right as well, and I reject NO'ah's idea that all stadium situations are bad. Stadiums situations are no different then most other businesses, location, location, location. Miami's decision to build a ballpark in lower class area w/ not much room for growth around the stadium is a lot different the ballpark Washington built where they didn't build a stadium, they created an area like Tampa wants to do. And I didn't win nothing, the Rays & the Tampa Bay area is set to win more then the WS this year, and that's what counts...

    3. "The Rays AREN'T the entity to profit, Tampa has a lot to gain."

      Funny, that. Didn't we say the same thing about the Bucs before the city of Tampa built Ray Jay?

    4. If this wasn't about boosting profits for the Rays, the team and MLB would just build the stadium themselves. But they won't, because its not profitable to do that.

    5. "I reject NO'ah's idea that all stadium situations are bad."

      Well, it's not "Noah's" idea, it is the result of years of statistics and academic study that publicly-funded stadiums are always a bad deal for taxpayers.

      The people of New Jersey are STILL paying for the old Giants Stadium, torn down years ago, and paying for the new one.

      The people of King's County are STILL paying for the Kingdome, torn down more than a decade ago, as well as Safeco Field. Oh, and to add insult to injury they are also STILL paying for Key Arena, where the Seattle Supersonics USED TO PLAY.

      I could go on. With respect, I think your slavish devotion to professional sports has blinded you to reality. Think about it.

    6. "Funny, that. Didn't we say the same thing about the Bucs before the city of Tampa built Ray Jay?"

      And how did that turn out - well the Glazers are getting $26 million per year from the taxpayers and returning an average of $1.1 million per year (2001-2011) - 4 cents on the dollar, and of course blackouts, at no extra charge.

    7. I love people's desperate reach saying Raymond James Stadium shouldn't of been built like it would of been better if it wasn't. Now I'm no math major, or economist, I'm from Pittsburgh where we don't complain about paying for stadiums & ballparks, and I "investigate" on stadium stuff as much as NO'ah does, but if the price tag was only about $170 million (which is cheap for a NFL stadium), the Buccaneers pay every penny off of their mortgage, and between it's opening & paying it off, (without even talking Bucs football (which soldout every game for a while)), the stadium hosted 2 Super Bowls that Tampa won't of got to host if there was NO RJS, brought an estimated $150 million each time to Tampa, plus 14 years of revenue from the Outback Bowl, Bulls football which draws big crowds, concerts, events, ect., and again, all that revenue Tampa made PLUS having the mortgage paid off. Either I'm missing something, or there's a lot of misinformed people...

    8. To dumb it down, just because there's still a loan on a stadium doesn't mean the county is "in debt" because of the $$$ made on the back-end from the stadium's hosted operations. Just because I might take out a business loan for a business doesn't mean I wouldn't be making more money then my monthly payments...

  3. You nailed it, Dufala - There's a lot of misinformed people.

    1. lol, knowing people from Bahstun, I know that was a "1-down" toward me, but let's just say we both agree on something...

    2. I think we can all agree that you're a slavish moron to professional sports...

      I swear, you don't care about real facts or figures or data or anything. You're going to plug your ears and empty your wallet (and ours as well) just so you can watch a bunch of grown men chase a leather ball around.

      There's no explaining or reason to any of your opinions. If Sternberg and Glazer offered to sell you the Brooklyn bridge, you'd probably steal from your parents to get in on the "sure thing".

      It'd be funny if you weren't trying to rob the rest of us as well.