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.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).
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.
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.