Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rays-to-Tampa Momentum: Day 3

So lots of news today about Ken Hagan's proposed Hillsborough County stadium search committee....including from Mayor Bill Foster on sports radio today:
But a couple quick thoughts on what I'm reading:
  1. Hagan took my advice and said current Downtown Tampa land owners, like Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, shouldn't be on the committee for possible conflict-of-interest reasons.
  2. This will be at least the third public group to look at possible financing for a new stadium.  The first two - the ABC Coalition and the local chambers' stadium caucus - both indicated it would be near-impossible to get a stadium done in Tampa without significant new taxes.
Also interesting were comments from St. Petersburg council chair Karl Nurse, who reminded everyone in Tampa that on top of a $600 million price tag for a new stadium, they'd better budget a buyout of St. Pete's current contract if the Rays are going to move before 2027.

“I'm not convinced that moving 20 miles in any direction will have a huge impact on their attendance,” Nurse told the Trib. “Is it worth $500 or $600 million collectively? I don't know the answer to that.”

My WTSP-TV colleague Dave Wirth agrees:
Sure, blame all the usual suspects: bad location, bad stadium, bad economy, not enough corporate support. But the ugly truth could be we just don't have enough real baseball fans in the Tampa Bay area. Real fans who will pay to see the Rays play, no matter where they're playing.

And even with a new stadium in Tampa, there's no guarantee the team will draw there.

We may have to face facts.
A good friend of my station, Tampa land attorney Ron Weaver, speculated in the pages of the Times that there are lots of creative ways to fund a stadium that are worth exploring: rental car taxes, hotel taxes, ticket surcharges, premium concerts and conventions, etc.  Weaver knows a heck of a lot more about this stuff than I do, but I don't think the ideas are ways to close that $300-$400 million gap in stadium financing:
  1. Rental car tax increases require approval from the legislature and the chamber caucus already identified rental car and hotel tax increases as the major revenue streams for Tampa.  They're not enough to close the gap.
  2. Ticket surcharges ultimately mean the team is collecting less per ticket, so it's the last thing the Rays want.  If they wanted to pay for a stadium themselves, they'd take a loan from MLB.
  3. Concerts and conventions are nice, but you aren't going to convince new artists to go on tour.  So more likely, you'd just be prying events away from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Whatever-Its-Called-Now Amphetheater, and the Tampa Convention Center.  Basically, Tampa would be spending money to move big events from one venue to another one across town.
But the best brainstorming I read today came on Field of Schemes, where Neil deMause writes:
If there’s a lesson from the history of past stadium campaigns, it’s not to get locked in to dollar figures too early, or else the debate shifts from “Should we build this?” to “How can we fill this $__ million funding gap?”
One reaction you won't read is that of the Tampa Bay Rays.  They've declined comments all week.


  1. LOL, I love how everyone freaks out when talking about a new ballpark for the Rays! Most think it's impossible, though most would of thought before 08' that it was impossible to win more games then teams in their division that spend 3-4 x's more on players. Maybe we should just let the Rays present a plan, and go from there. I think they deserve our respect that they can creatively figure a great plan that everyone is cool with, AND I think the plan that they present will be BETTER then we think. Like Maddon said recently, "it will be like a boutique"!
    And as for your boy Dave Wirth, the facts are that he doesn't seem to know any facts about baseball. In baseball (like golf & the Olympics), because there's so many games, you have to have the venue. Back in the day, people use to go to baseball games just to hangout, eat, and drink, etc., also what leads me to believe he doesn't know the "facts" is that the TV & radio rating are among the top tier in the Majors, AND also it's NOT about drawing 20k more people, it's about more quality of tix sold that the Trop can't sell...

  2. The Rays could have presented a plan to St. Pete to amend their contract and they didn't.

    And you couldn't be more wrong indicating fans used to go to games to hangout, eat, and drink.....actually, the trend is toward MORE hanging out at games and less baseball-watching. Same as Lightning, who tore out seats to build "hangout" zones.

    1. To say 50 so or more years ago baseball stadiums wasn't the "hangout" spot to socialize shows your knowledge... Maybe a few more years working for the Red Sux would of helped, lol...
      And why in the heck would the Rays want to show their cards to politicians that aren't in their future plans? That's saying like Obama could of showed FoxNews his campaign plans, lol...

  3. Noah do you think the Rays will eventually move to Tampa and get their new ballpark? That way they stay in the region or something else?

    1. "NO'ah thinks because of this blog, they'll play @ the Trop until 2025 then vanish in thin air", lol...