Thursday, October 31, 2013

St. Pete: Damned if They Do, Damned if They Don't

Interesting comment from St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster to WFTS' Brendan McLaughlin:
"My role as mayor is to protect the interest of taxpayers, Mr. Sternberg's role is to protect the interests of the Rays. They don't always line up, but we're still trying to bridge the gap" said incumbent mayor Bill Foster.
Few would disagree with the above statement, yet the Tampa Bay Times editorial board continues to pile 100% of the blame for the Stadium Stalemate on Foster.  This morning's editorial {link to Times' site} calls for new, "bold leadership" on the eve of the city's mayoral election, once again citing the Rays negotiations as one of the reasons.

Foster - and thus St. Pete - are "damned if they do, damned if they don't."  If leaders look out for the interests of taxpayers, the newspaper tries to replace them.  If they compromise on their current contract and negotiating position with a "retail" business like the Rays, the newspaper will rip them like it has to so many other local governments.

Which is why the Rays have incentive to merely hold their position on the issue.  They don't want to "pay to stray," they don't want to open their books to prove financial need, and they are currently turning profits.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"This is the Most Asinine Idea I Have Ever Heard"

Entertaining read in today's Ocala Star-Banner, where at least one irate Ocala resident echoed my skepticism about building a $45 million stadium for the Yankees' Florida State League team:
"This is the most asinine idea I have ever heard," said Dr. R. Asokan, who has been a doctor in Ocala for 33 years. "The New York Yankees don't make money."

He said New York City gives the Yankees the money, and that city sold bonds.

Asokan suggested the council read "Field of Schemes" by Neil deMause and "Free Lunch" by David Kay Johnson.

"If the Steinbrenner family feels so charitable, maybe they should come and build the stadium for us," Asokan said. "I don't think this is a good idea to build a stadium here, and what it's going to do is cost money forever."
For what its worth, I imagine the Ocala Yankees would draw better than the Tampa Yankees (if the Florida State League would even OK the deal).  But few communities ever ask the honest question, "at what cost?"  The deal would require citizens across Marion County to pay an extra half-cent on everything they buy over the next five years (if the county and voters approved it).

There's almost certainly no way the number of jobs and residual business a new stadium would drum up would be worth the $45 million the county would actually have to pay...but how can you put a price tag on community pride and "dreams?"
"This is a referendum on us more than it is the Yankees," Councilman Daniel Owen said.

"Are we willing to dream, to understand what those costs are? The referendum will allow the opportunity for these conversations to take place. Once you say ‘No,' you are done."

The community benefits include allowing the city to conduct 20 events at the stadium, the Yankees will promote the city, the Yankees will provide four charity events a year and four Yankee players will be available for annual public appearance.
It's not clear if the four public appearances each year would be minor-leaguers or New York Yankees players, who will continue to train each spring in Tampa.

Next up for the proposal will be a city council vote on Nov. 5.  If the agreement is approved, it will next go to the county commission, then the voters in the spring.  And at some point, the FSL would need to approve it too.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Buckhorn Indicates Rays are Reason St. Pete Should Support Kriseman

Excerpts from a raw Tampa Bay Times' interview {link to Times' site here} show Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is increasingly frustrated with the Rays' Stadium Saga stalemate...and is giving a non-endorsement endorsement to fellow Democrat Rick Kriseman.

Buckhorn, who previously lauded St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster for protecting his city's interests, tells the Times' Richard Danielson he thinks Tampa Bay could lose the Rays if voters don't replace Foster with Kriseman:
Q — Do you think the mayor’s race is going to make any difference over there in how this matter is negotiated?

Buckhorn — Yeah. I do.

Q — How so?

Buckhorn — Well, there hasn’t been any progress so far, so it can’t get any worse. And if there is a new mayor, then perhaps with this polling data, with the recognition that we may lose the Rays to some other jurisdiction, I’m hopeful that there will be some movement.

Q — If the mayor’s office doesn’t change, then what do you think will happen?

Buckhorn — I think we could lose the Rays.

Q — And if the mayor’s office does change, you think the prospects are better?

Buckhorn — Just based on what I have witnessed so far it can’t be any worse.

Q — So who you do you want to see win over there?

Buckhorn — (Laughs.) I’m not getting involved. All I care about is having a good partner over there for the region.
It's a non-endorsement endorsement.  Even though we don't know where the Rays could possibly go (not Nashville, Montreal, Orlando, or Portland) and Kriseman and Foster basically have the same approach to the Stadium Saga.
Q — So if Foster wins, what do you do on this issue?

Buckhorn — I think we continue to encourage some resolution. I think we continue to do whatever we can to help him live up to what he said he was going to do which is to allow them to look elsewhere, and to encourage those negotiations to take place and to push and to prod and to do whatever we have to do to try to make that happen. The more time we waste, the more challenging it becomes, the more frustrated Major League Baseball gets. Ticket sales aren’t seemingly improving. We can’t continue to coexist like this because it’s going to fail.

Q — And if Kriseman wins what do you do on this?

Buckhorn — I will reach out to him to help him in any way I can. This is a regional issue. This is not a St. Pete-specific issue, and the success of our region depends on mayors willing to put aside parochial interests for the greater good. And I think Rick will approach this with an open mind. He recognizes, because he’s been on the campaign trail for eight months now, that folks want to find a conclusion. The patient’s sick, and we’ve got to fix it.

Q — In past interviews we’ve done, I’ve heard you say you also recognize the spot that Foster’s in. He’s got to be made whole (if the Rays leave the Trop before the end of their lease).

Buckhorn — Yeah, but until they start those discussions, we don’t know. You can’t even get to the made whole part of the equation until they figure out whether coming over here would make sense. Until they’re allowed to do that, you can’t even really have any further discussions. I think that the redevelopment potential of that site is tremendous. And I think the sooner they move on it the better because of the way the market is.

Q — The Trop?

Buckhorn — The Trop site. I think you could create an entire live work and play on that site. You look at Jabil. Jabil’s looking for a new headquarters. You look at the demand for residential living. You look at the fact that St. Pete’s downtown is doing well. I think you could take that site and produce significantly more income for the city of St. Pete than what they currently reap as a result of the stadium being there.

750 posts!

Another great milestone for this blog - 750 posts.  It was just this past January that Shadow of the Stadium hit No. 500, which means 2013 has averaged close to a post a day.

Not all posts are important, nor are they all intelligent (insert joke here)...but the body of work aims to provide perspective on the big Florida-based sports/business stories.

Here are some of the more memorable moments from the last 4.5 years...and 750 posts:

Are St. Pete Residents Really Ready to Let Rays Look?

The Tampa Bay Times reported this morning {link to Times' site} a poll they recently conducted shows more St. Pete residents (48%) are willing to let the Rays look at Tampa stadium sites than ever before.  This shouldn't be surprising, since even Mayor Foster has changed his stance on the subject, but there are some key takeaways from today's story:
 (Sheila Thorne) doesn't want the team moving to a new stadium in Hillsborough County. But more than anything, she hates discord between her city and her team.

"The Rays did sign a contract,'' to play at the Trop through 2027, Thorne said, "but I sure as blazes am not going to hold them back from going to Tampa. I am proud to have the Rays be our team in the Tampa Bay area. Why did we come to this conflict of everybody being unhappy? It's defeating the purpose."
If Thorne's attitude is similar to that of other St. Pete residents, its a sign Bud Selig's public relations war on Tampa Bay really is working.
The Rays have declined to comment, but Rick Kriseman, Foster's opponent in Tuesday's mayoral election, accused the mayor of not being candid.

"I have talked to (Rays president) Matt Silverman and I was told that the allegation is not true — that the Rays weren't offering anything,'' Kriseman said. "They expressed concerns about how forthright the mayor is being with them and the community on this issue.''
There really don't appear to be any big differences between what Kriseman says he'll do if elected and what Foster has done - except perhaps temperment.   Both men are lawyers; both say they'll try to boost attendance at the Trop; and both insist the Rays need to pay the city to break/amend their contract (although the Trib reports at least one council member thinks Kriseman's price might be lower than Foster's).

But either way, a Kriseman victory on Nov. 5 might not change the dynamic of the Stadium Saga very much at all.
In the poll, 38 percent of respondents would let the team look in Hillsborough — but only after the Rays and city negotiate some financial compensation. Ten percent of respondents would allow a Hillsborough search without preconditions.

Almost 4 in 10 said the Rays should stay at the Trop, period. African-American residents, in particular, felt this way, opposing any Tampa forays 52-35 percent.
The fact that African-Americans oppose a move could be attributed to any number of factors, but there's a good chance some of the opposition stems from all the failed promises (better jobs, urban renewal, etc) the city made the black community in the 1980s when the stadium displaced so many from their homes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Orlando Soccer Supporters Want Another $30 Million

A week after Orlando approved an $84 million soccer stadium - paid mostly by taxpayers - the Orlando Sentinel is reporting stadium supporters are now asking the state to kick in another $30 million so they can have a "Lexus" of a stadium instead of a "Camry."

Read more here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Report: Tampa Yankees Ready to Move to Ocala

It's been nearly a year since the rumor first started, but the Ocala Star-Banner is reporting the Yankees are ready to move their High-A minor league team from Tampa to Ocala in 2016.  The team will get a new stadium/entertainment complex if city council eventually agrees to the deal city staff negotiated:
City Council President Mary Rich said she thinks having a minor league team would be good for Ocala.

"They did a poll," Rich said about the staff. "The poll said the majority of people would like it. I think that's why we went on with it (negotiations)."

Asked about the expense, she said it would not be expensive, but then added, "You know, to build a stadium, it's going to be expensive. But I don't know exactly what they are asking of us ... I do know the county has to own the property. That is state law. So they have to be involved, too."
The stadium price tag (which would host the minor-league team only - Yankees spring training would remain in Tampa) is projected at somewhere around $45 million.  The city proposes the county would pay for it using its bed tax revenues if commissioners - and then voters - approve.

Ocala may be hungry for a team, but attendance for Florida State League games is routinely the worst of all the big minor leagues.    Last year, only two teams in the entire league broke 2,000 fans per game.  Hot and humid Florida summer nights don't draw many folks to the ballpark.

Just don't tell that to Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn:
Guinn said having the Yankees would bring jobs, not only for baseball itself, but he said he believes other companies will locate in Ocala.

And it could attract people driving by who could see the stadium from Interstate 75. He said a site being considered is behind the Heath Brook development.
And don't tell councilman John McCloud that 2,000 fans per game don't create 1,000 new jobs:
As far as jobs go, he said there would be about 700 temporary jobs and 300 permanent ones, not including service jobs.
"These players will be living in the community while they are here. Other teams come into town," he said.

The visiting teams, he said, likely would stay overnight in hotels and eat in restaurants and shop in local stores.
Single-A players make about $7,000 a year.  They get $25/day in per diem while on the road, but typically just eat the PB&J sandwiches provided in the clubhouse.  They won't exactly be dropping big dough on steak dinners or in Ocala's antique shops.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Yankees were fourth in the Florida State League last year with 1,827 fans per game.  And it stands to reason the move from a big city (with lost of entertainment options) to a small city might actually boost that number.  But as we saw in Port Charlotte with the Rays' Stone Crabs franchise, the novelty can wear off quickly and heat/humidity win out over the cool new team in town.  It may also not suit the FSL to move a team from one of its competitive cores (Tampa Bay) all the way up to Ocala, where long road trips could quickly negate any revenue gain from attendance.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Of Payrolls and World Series

The 2013 World Series appears to be yet another matchup between two MLB powerhouses, leaving the league's "poor" once again battling over tee times.  According to, its now been 10 years since a the Marlins became the last World Series-winner with a payroll under $70 million.

And while St. Louis sports a $117 million payroll this year, you can't call the Cards a large-market team.  In fact, St. Louis is only the 21st-largest media market in the country. For comparison's sake: New York is No. 1; Boston is No. 7; Tampa Bay is No. 14.

BusinessWeek writes:
The St. Louis Cardinals, meanwhile, are the definition of mid-market. At $805 million, they are the 15th-most-valuable franchise out of 30. They have the league’s second-best attendance, but sit near the bottom in revenue from TV rights.
It's clear revenues help a team buy depth and afford mistakes. Oakland and Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh made phenomenal runs this year...but petered out when it mattered most.  St. Louis gets exceptional revenues from its die-hard fan base filling the stadium.

But money doesn't always buy happiness.  The Yankees stunk despite spending more than the Athletics, Rays, and Pirates combined.  Somewhere, George Steinbrenner is cursing...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bloomberg: Rays Worth $530 Million

The latest MLB franchise valuations are out, courtesy of Bloomberg, and they peg the Rays at $530 million - triple the value of when Stuart Sternberg assumed principal ownership in 2005.  That's a 15% increase every single year, even during the Great Recession.

And Bloomberg's estimate may not be an apples-to-apples comparison to Forbes' most recent rankings that estimate the Rays' value at $451 million, but it is another sign that MLB owners continue to get richer and richer.  Bloomberg estimates the team alone is worth $421 million, plus another $110 million from MLB's advanced media rights.

While the Rays come in 30th out of 30 teams in the overall rankings, there's clear evidence the opportunity for them to jump will come in a few years when they can re-negotiate their television contract.  The Rays are just about dead-last in the media rights rankings, despite some of the best ratings in the bigs.

The Yankees, by the way, are worth an estimated $3.3 billion, according to Bloomberg. Their revenues alone are $570 million a year.

And once again, it's worth pointing out my three theories on MLB valuations:
  1. You can profit drawing 19,000 fans per game even without a playoff appearance....just not as much as MLB and its owners may like.
  2. Stu Sternberg is likely to be an even richer man if - and when - he ever decides to sell the Rays.
  3. Tampa Bay doesn't have an attendance or a revenue problem; it has a problem with MLB not sharing enough with small-market teams.
Neil deMause, from Field of Schemes, adds one more:
  1. Franchise values are soaring all over sports because of the "sports is the only thing people will watch live on TV so advertisers love it so cable companies have to pay through the nose for it" effect.

Rays to Portland? Fat Chance

You've heard why the Rays won't be moving to Nashville, and you've heard why they won't be moving to Montreal.

But a pair of Portland businessmen are making headlines with their attempt to lure MLB to Oregon.  And even though an MLB source tells The Oregonian the league hasn't considered Portland since 2005, if it helps put pressure on Tampa Bay, why not?

However, there are plenty of reasons the Rays won't be moving West anytime soon.

Oh, let us count the ways:
And finally, The Oregonian explains it best in its very first graf:
They don't own the land, they don't have the cash, and they don't have a prospective team. But a Portland duo is attempting to drum up interest in bringing Major League Baseball to the Rose Quarter.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sports Memorabilia and Autographs Industries Saturated with Fraud

An important story for sports fans and memorabilia collectors - from my reporting over on WTSP:
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - The world's largest privately-held autograph collection is now open to the public, the newest addition to the St. Pete Museum of History. But the 10 News Investigators found numerous indications some of the most prized autographs may not be authentic.

"Schrader's Little Cooperstown," named after its owner, Dennis Schrader of Oldsmar, is on loan to the museum for the next 20 years. The exhibit took about a year and $300,000 to construct.

"I think I have more balls than (the Hall of Fame)," Schrader told 10 News. "It's the big one, Guinness Book of Records, certified by them: biggest in the world."

Schrader's collection is 57 years in the making: from the majority of baseball's Hall of Famers to survivors of the Holocaust and Titanic; from Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe to Elvis and Priscilla Presley. More than 4,600 autographed baseballs now cross multiple celebrity genres. Many of the balls were collected over the last 15 years from his regular seats at Tropicana Field.

However, many of the collection's most impressive autographs were not obtained in-person, but purchased online or at auctions.  And Schrader admits memorabilia fraud has been a problem for the industry over the last few decades.

Schrader also admits his collection may very well have some fake autographs. Yet he adamantly rebuffed 10 News questions about specific items' authenticity.

"It's gotten really bad," Schrader said of memorabilia fraud. "I'm glad I built this collection before it got really bad. But there's a lot of fraud out there."

Schrader says his collection is valued somewhere in the $2.5 million range, with the most expensive ball bearing the autographs of both Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. He says he got "a steal" about 25 years ago when he bought the ball for $25,000.

But in 2006, the St. Petersburg Times reported "Schrader would love to find a baseball autographed by the pair of (Monroe and DiMaggio)." Only one was known to exist at the time, and it sold at auction for $191,200.
Read the rest of the story here.

Orlando Approves MLS Stadium

Cross-posted from Neil deMause's Field of Schemes:
As expected, the Orange County Commission voted 5-2 in favor of spending tourist tax money on a new MLS soccer stadium yesterday, with former project foe Pete Clarke casting the deciding vote. Clarke didn’t get the promise he was seeking that the Orlando City Soccer Club would share profits with the county in exchange for $20 million in subsidies, but instead settled for the team kicking in $200,000 a year for 15 years to the county parks budget, though even that reportedly hasn’t been finalized.

With the city of Orlando having already approved the plan, this pretty much cements it in stone: The Orlando City Lions will likely become MLS’s 21st team either in 2015 or 2016, under league commissioner Don Garber’s “let a thousand soccer teams bloom” program. The new $94 million stadium — to be built near the Magic‘s Amway Center in the mostly poor, mostly African-American downtown neighborhood of Parramore — would be paid for roughly half by the team and half by the public: OCSC has committed to $30 million up front plus rent payments to cover $10 million in bonds, Orange County and the city of Orlando have each approved $20 million in tax money, and the other $14 million will apparently be paid off by everyone throwing their money on the table and leaving before the waiter has a chance to add up the bill.

The benefits of the stadium will be anything but halfsies, though: The team will get all revenues from soccer games (which will be the main use of the place, since it’s a soccer stadium), plus half of advertising board fees for non-soccer events; the county, despite owning the building, will be left with whatever it can get from renting the place out for concerts and the like. It all makes you wish that somebody had suggested a larger cut of the proceeds for the public in exchange for kicking in half the funding … oh, right.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Is Local TV Revenue Mini-Bubble Bursting?

I'm a little late getting around to this post, but while some teams continue to rake it in from recently-negotiated television deals, there's more evidence the bubble may have burst for mid-market teams negotiating monster cable deals.

Following the involuntary bankruptcy of Comcast SportsNet Houston, The Biz of Baseball wrote:
The Houston Astros, who are the majority stakeholders in the fledgling RSN appeared to be caught off-guard by the action saying that Comcast “improperly filed” the petition “in an attempt to prevent the Astros from terminating the Media Rights Agreement between the Astros and Houston Regional Sports Network.”

The Astros added in their statement that CSN Houston “failed to pay the Astros media rights fees in July, August and September”, adding that they had “invested additional money in order to keep the network viable through our season.”
The Astros were reportedly making somewhere in the $80M/yr range this year, but apparently that's not the case. It seems the early years of a monster TV contract doesn't pay as well as the latter years:
One of the Astros' biggest problems appears that their cable channel, CSN Houston, is only seen on about 40 percent of households in the Houston region. That makes the news of their recently-signed cable deal even more impressive, but maybe the reports weren't accurate....and maybe the money won't be there if the Rays decide to wait until 2017 to renegotiate their contract.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rays to Montreal? Fat Chance

It's been a few years since debunking the Rays-to-Nashville hype, so why not tackle the Montreal baseball hype that Stu Sternberg, Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo, ESPN's Steve Wulf, and plenty of others have fueled?

This weekend, it was Cafardo again calling Montreal a "viable option" for Rays relocation if Tampa Bay doesn't build the team a new stadium:
[T]he Montreal business community is much different than it was in the past. There are large telecom companies and financial institutions with big money. The city would need a new stadium, but Montreal baseball has a very strong grass-roots movement to explore the possibility.

As one AL executive pointed out recently, “Other cities — Washington D.C. and Seattle — have received second chances for franchises. It appears that Montreal would be a viable second-chance city given the financial opportunity there now."
(Ask Peter Gammons why MLB would want Montreal to be a viable option again)
"There have always been great baseball fans there. They never had a venue that was desirable for baseball and the economics never allowed them to keep the great talent they developed over the years.”
There's may be a great appetite for baseball in Montreal, but what baseball economics does this AL executive think have changed in the last decade?  Revenue sharing may have increased, but the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" hasn't really changed, meaning the Expos may not be able to hang on to top talent any better than they did before.

Let's not also forget the fact that the Rays are locked into their current contract until 2027, barring negotiations to amend that contract.

Montreal has strong population numbers going for it (3.8 million in the metro vs 2.8 million in Tampa Bay).  But when you include surrounding regions where the Rays have grown roots and draw TV audience (Sarasota, Lakeland, Ft. Myers, Orlando), West/Central Florida actually has the same number of people as all of Quebec, which is much bigger.

Finally, Montreal sympathizer Jonah Keri puts its best - Montreal is only viable if someone is going to pay for a stadium themselves:
It echoes what the Biz of Baseball's Maury Brown wrote three years ago, "If big league baseball returns to Montreal it will be a labor of love from an owner with very deep pockets committed to making it work this time."

MLB's not returning to Montreal unless someone decides to commit - and lose - an enormous amount of money to make it happen.

Friday, October 18, 2013

ESPN vs. WFTV Twitter War over Orlando MLS Stadium

A real straight-forward, simple re-direct to Field of Schemes' recap of a Twitter war between ESPN's Billy Corben and sports anchor Christian Bruey from Orlando's WFTV.

It comes after the local anchor criticized a county commissioner for insisting upon legit return on public stadium subsidy dollars:
It's also a lesson in how local news (including sports) reporters should not approach stadium stories.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stadium Saga & Mayoral Politics

While the Stadium Saga is a big deal to the local newspapers, it may not be such a big deal to St. Pete voters.  A Bay News 9 poll indicates 60 percent of voters who could cast ballots in the mayoral election don't care about candidates' stances on the Rays' contract & stadium debate.

Of the 40% of St. Pete voters who appear to care, you've got to think they "lean Foster" since the mayor has held a hard line on the team honoring its contract...and residents of St. Pete generally don't want the team to move to Tampa.

Nevertheless, the stalemate is a big reason the Tampa Bay Times' editorial board has decided Rick Kriseman should replace Bill Foster in city hall (it may also have to do with Kriseman being a Democrat, despite the supposed non-partisan nature of the race).

This weekend, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens opined, "St. Petersburg needs a real mayor," listing the reasons why Foster should be replaced.  However, there's no evidence that Foster was the one responsible for "breaking off talks," as Nickens indicated.

And while the Rays may be "four years closer to leaving", as Nickens criticized, Foster also secured four more years of MLB in St. Pete - exactly what his job as mayor entails (as affirmed by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn).

Meanwhile, the right-leaning Tampa Tribune, which has also been outspoken about the Rays need for a new Downtown Tampa stadium, endorsed Foster, a Republican, nonetheless.  Ironically, the outlet that sells the majority of its papers in Hillsborough County gave Foster more credit for doing the hazardous parts of his job:
It’s a tricky line to walk for Foster, who must protect the city’s financial interests while acknowledging the team wants to look for a new stadium in Tampa, a move that could benefit the region at his city’s expense. He is right to fiercely protect the city, but he should have signaled a willingness to let the team look in Tampa much earlier than he did.
Election Day in St. Pete is November 5.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

MLB Dodges Anti-Trust Challenge

In case you don’t follow Marine Layer’s, the blog dedicated to that other Bay-area Stadium Saga, it’s worth spending a few minutes to read about how San Jose’s anti-trust lawsuit against MLB is now an “anti-competitive” lawsuit.

Field of Schemes also breaks it down, indicating it’s a “win” for MLB since the anti-trust threat was dismissed and tortuous interference isn’t nearly as scary.

However, the league may still have to choose between two evils: allowing the lawsuit to continue to the discovery phase, or find a way to make the Giants allow the A’s to move.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

October "Pink-Washing"

Before you think pink this October, know where your money is going.

It seems every large corporation does some sort of pink/breast cancer awareness tie-in now. But are the companies really dedicated to raising money for breast cancer research or are they just using the disease to sell merchandise?

The NFL promotes breast cancer awareness during October: you see players with pink cleats and gloves; water boys run out with pink towels; and the league tries to sell a boatload of pink merchandise. But there has been plenty of coverage about the relatively small amount of proceeds that actually go toward breast cancer charities, reportedly 3.5%.

And now, my WTSP colleague Charles Billi reports a former Buccaneers cheerleader is fighting against “pink-washing.”   She wants the NFL and other corporations to stop what she considers exploiting breast cancer for profit.

It’s not hard to find companies trying to capitalize on cancer – I see it in grocery stores, convenience stores, and at road races. The phrase “a portion of proceeds go to benefit” should raise red flags if the company doesn’t disclose how much they’re donating.
Last week, I saw a very large ad from a very large Florida corporation touting its commitment to breast cancer. When I called its corporate headquarters to find out how much the company was actually donating to breast cancer charities, I was told the donation was secret. But indications were it wasn’t much.

The lesson, as the Better Business Bureau also advises, is don’t buy a product or sign up for an event just because it associates itself with a pink ribbon.

If you want to support a charity - whether it fights cancer or heart disease or domestic violence - the best way is to donate directly to the charity or participate directly in one of their events.  Because otherwise, a majority of your money could just be going to a third-party or some corporate bottom-line.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Another ESPN Commentary on Trop Attendance kept on beating the dead horse that is Rays' attendance this week, with a commentary titled, "Trop is a home-field disadvantage."  It's actually a relatively fair assessment of the situation in Tampa Bay, but of course, the national audience could draw some false conclusions.

These were a few of the hits and misses:
  • MISS: "The Rays couldn't even sell out their two American League Division Series games against the always-popular Red Sox."  (Not true.)
  • HIT: "As the locals say, 'It's a much larger body of water than you think.'" (Yes, Tampanians refuse to cross the bridge.)
  • MISS: "Most of the population base is on the other side of the bay in Tampa." (This doesn't tell the whole story - population between Tampa & South Pinellas is very similar; the refusal to drive 30-40 minutes is the real problem.)
  • HIT: "Any plans to build a new stadium closer to the population nucleus are moot until someone buys out the lease. Even if that happened, taxpayers would still have to be convinced to help underwrite a $550 million stadium."
  • MISS: "lease" (It's a use agreement, not a lease - which makes a difference when you try to break it.)
  • HIT: "There is this nagging feeling that major league baseball will never work in Florida....The summers can be enervating, what with high temperatures and afternoon showers. Why not sit at home in the air conditioning and watch the Rays on TV?"
  • MISS: Tampa-St. Pete is the 13th largest TV market in the country. (It's been the 14th for a few years.)
  • HIT: "The Rays have tried nearly everything. Free parking on certain days and for cars with four people. Food is permitted to be brought into the park. And they've made The Trop a great place to watch the game..." (It's one of the best values in the bigs.)
Writer Steve Wulf isn't far from spot-on when handicapping the situation, but his constant reminder that the Rays could move (Memphis? Indianapolis? Carolina? Montreal?) doesn't do the national audience any good.

Not to mention, he fails to mention that the team's poor attendance hasn't prevented it from turning a profit year after year...and strong TV ratings give the team plenty of hope they can remain that way for decades to come.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

David Price Indicates He's Expecting Trade...and its MLB's Fault

David Price may have two years left before he can file as a free agent, but the realities of baseball economics have the Cy Young Award-winner expecting a trade this offseason.  The Tampa Tribune's Roger Mooney reports:
“If you go with what’s been done in the past, I guess you’re going to have to think you’re going to get traded,” Price said Wednesday night on a conference call.

Price said he has not discussed his future with executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. And Friedman, when asked earlier in the day about Price’s future with the club, declined to get into specifics.
The choices facing Friedman are these: Trade Price this offseason, sign him to a one-year deal and move him at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline if the Rays are not in contention, or sign him to a one-year deal and trade him after the 2014 season, hoping he stays healthy in 2014, returns to his 2012 form and his value increases.
Of course, the Rays could keep Price at his new $13 million (?) price tag, but then it starts to cut into owners' profits, and that's just not going to happen.

As I've said before, this isn't a problem Tampa Bay fans's a problem MLB, the Yankees, and Red Sox created...and increased revenue sharing (a la the NFL) is the only way to fix it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Early Effects of Gov. Scott's Spring Training Handouts

Just a few months after Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida legislature guaranteed state funds for spring training stadiums, the Minnesota Twins were the first team to take advantage, getting a $48.5 million refurbishment in Ft. Myers.

It looks like the team will pay $6 million, the state will pick up $15 million of the tab, which would leave $27+ million for Lee County.  In exchange for the $42 million in subsidies, the Twins agreed to extend their lease for another 30 years.

Meanwhile, it looks like the Blue Jays will be the next to take advantage, using the state dollars to leave Dunedin in favor of Palm Beach Gardens, even though their lease in Pinellas County runs through 2017.

One has to wonder if the state is making it too easy for teams to leverage cities against each other...and if taxpayers are paying for stadium upgrades that the teams could have ultimately just paid for themselves.  That is, unless you're the legislature and governor, who get a regular earful from pro teams' lobbyists.

Next News in the Stadium Saga...

While the Rays' season may have ended last night in the ALDS at the hands of the Red Sox, we can now fire-up the off-season hot stove chatter.

And for the team's front office, the next major news won't come in the form of a free agent signing or a David Price contract will come in the form of the St. Pete mayoral election.

The campaigns are in high swing, and yesterday on the 10 News at noon, Mayor Bill Foster and challenger Rick Kriseman fielded questions on the Stadium Saga

My 10 News colleague Allison Kropff asked Kriseman if he'd let the Rays look in Tampa if they don't agree to short-term compensation:
Then she asked Foster if there was anything St. Pete could do to stop the downward attendance trend at the Trop - and if so, why he hadn't done it yet:
Foster pointed the finger back on the Rays a bit, suggesting a St. Pete/Rays collaborative could sell more tickets.  But the skeptic in me believes the damage may be done and Tropicana Field attendance may never reach 20,000 again over the course of a season.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tampa, Miami Eliminated from 2018 Super Bowl Bidding

The NFL made it clear Tuesday that if you want to host a Super Bowl these days, it's going to cost you money.

Miami heard that message loud and clear, blaming a failed renovation effort (largely subsidized by tax dollars) for its elimination from 2018 Super Bowl contention.  The finalists were announced as: New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis.

Tampa was also shut out of the finalist bidding, something I speculated might happen with the league "owing" Super Bowls to a number of cities with recently-built stadiums.

"The state of Florida really got the shaft here," Rodney Barreto, chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Committee told the Sun-Sentinel.

The Dolphins' billionare owner, Steve Ross, said it goes to show how important public funds are to the equation, and while he's willing to put a little more of his own cash into stadium renovations, he won't do it without public contributions.  Although now, without an imminent Super Bowl, some in South Florida may be hard-pressed to validate the stadium subsidies.

Peter Gammons on Tropicana Field

In stark contrast to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, former Globe scribe Peter Gammons had this to say last night about Tropicana Field:
It was re-tweeted 1,096 times (and counting).

Gammons has long been critical of MLB in Florida, even indicating the real reason the league talked so much about baseball here was so it could "blackmail" other cities into building new stadiums.

"Extortion" might be a better term, but Gammons is right - once Florida got a team (or two), it reduced other owners' ability to leverage their cities for new ballparks.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Nick Cafardo on Tropicana Field

After a few days of the Rays' frustrated Fenway-bashing - and the ensuing fallout - the ALDS comes to Tampa Bay, where the Rays will try to dig out of an 0-2 hole.

The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo describes the transition from Fenway Park to Tropicana Field:
It might be the most nondescript dome in the major leagues. The ball doesn’t necessarily fly out of the park. There’s no secret to the ceiling, as there used to be at the old Kingdome in Seattle, or the Metrodome in Minnesota.

You never hear anyone say, “Oh my God, I have to pitch at Tropicana.” Really, there’s nothing to it. They have fake grass, but it’s not the slick turf that the cookie-cutter stadiums had in the 1970s. So it’s not fast, per se. It just feels different.
Unlike some other writers with a national following, Cafardo has often been very objective in his assessment of the Stadium Saga.  Even when he name-checked the Rays as possible Montreal relocation candidates, he admitted it was a "longshot" at best.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Maddon: "We Got Out-Fenwayed"

It was not a fun weekend in Boston for the Rays, as a series of ballpark-aided miscues led to the team falling down 0-2 in their best-of-five series with the Red Sox.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said the team "got out-Fenwayed."  And David Price indicated the ballpark was one of the reasons the team struggled.  No doubt.

The Times' Tom Jones summarizes: (link to
I don't ever want to hear anyone whining about the catwalks at the Trop. Those things come into play a handful of times a season. But how many fly balls that should be outs clank off the Green Monster? The Red Sox hit two of those Saturday and both led to runs. Having said that, the Rays, through two games, acted like they had never seen Fenway, let alone played there.
Jones echoed my sentiment earlier this week after an old colleague of mine, Eric Wilbur, now writing for, likened Tropicana Field's ground rules to those of wiffleball:
I love Fenway.  I used to work for the Sox.  But if you have a problem with the Trop's catwalks, you surely must take issue with the fact that balls would clang off a ladder in the middle of the Green Monster for decades. Or that its foul poles sit just some-300' away, shorter than MLB rules permit.   Or that its centerfield triangle has just as many ground rules as the Trop's catwalks. 

Look, MLB fans love their quirks. They love them so much, when the Astros opened their new ballpark back in 2000, they included a hill (and flagpole) in centerfield.  It was a tribute to the dangerous "quirk," called "Duffy's Cliff," that was removed from Fenway's centerfield eons ago.

Finally, realize that Fenway Park and Tropicana Field aren't nearly as different as you may think.

Everything That's Wrong About Stadium Saga Coverage

I sympthaize with news producers, since its not easy filling a newscast on a Saturday night.  But last night, Tampa Bay's WFLA-TV last night did the cliche "what would a new stadium mean for the Rays" story again.
There was no link to the story available online, but the gist of the story: Rays fans would go to more games if the stadium were closer to them:
  • "I feel like I'd go to a lot more games if it was closer to where I live," said one fan.
  • "It'd be a lot better if it was more in our home area," said another.
The Tampa Bay media landscape is littered with unscientific polling about where the next MLB stadium should be built.  And not surprisingly, fans almost always answer, "closer to me."  It's worth pointing out there are 1.1 million residents of Hillsborough County compared to just 900,000 in Pinellas.

But the WFLA story also included a few intelligent thoughts: one fan said the Rays just need some more time to build its young fan base, while another said Tampa Bay fans are just too lazy to drive to a baseball game (an idea explored here before).

And the problem with much of the media coverage of the Stadium Saga is that the questions have been limited to the mindless, "where should a stadium be built?"  Then, these largely-uneducated opinions ("a new stadium closer to me would be better!") dominate the conversaion.

Instead, we should be asking fans questions that matter:
  • Would you go to more games if the stadium were in Tampa, but tickets were more expensive?
  • Should the Rays have to open their books before they receive any public subsidies?
  • How much of a half-billion dollar stadium should the public pay for, versus the team?
  • How much of a new stadium's revenue should the public get, versus the team?
  • Would we be better just writing the team a $100 million check so it can "remain compeitive?"

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jags' Owner Spending Even More to Curry Favor

Just as I was defending Jacksonville Jaguars billionare owner Shad Khan for accepting $43 million in public subsidies because he spent $10,000 out of his own pocket for Tallahassee lobbying, we find out he's spending even more of his hard-earned money on the team! (note: my tongue is firmly-planted-in-cheek)

Campaign filings reveal Khan donated $250,000 to Governor Rick Scott's “Let’s Get to Work” committee.  It'll be interesting to see how many times his name also turns up in legislators' filings.

Trib Digs Into "Build It Downtown Tampa" Group

The Tampa Tribune's Michael Sasso has a story this weekend that wonders out loud if Ryan Neubauer and his "Build it Downtown Tampa" are for real:
Does BuilditDowntownTampa have money behind it, or is it just a young, prematurely balding guy with a laptop who hangs out at an Ybor City coffee shop?

Now, the group is trying to raise its stature, raise money and tighten its focus. Its new roles could be running a marketing campaign to support a new ballpark. It’s not pushing for a stadium tax, but admits it might be necessary, its leaders say.

Executive Director Ryan Neubauer said former Devil Rays slugger Fred McGriff has agreed to serve as the group’s ceremonial spokesman, but the Tribune could not reach McGriff to confirm that.
Four years after forming, the group is trying to become a bigger player. It sees itself as a facilitator that could bring together the private sector, the government and the Rays. That’s a role that some people wish a more established group such as the Tampa Bay Partnership could fill, but Neubauer said he doesn’t think the partnership has shown an ability to do it.
I've known Neubauer for more than three years, ever since he launched his grass-roots effort, and I'll attest - he's one of the people that "gets it."  He understands you can't have a stadium discussion without talking finances first.  He understands all the moving pieces of the modern-day stadium deal.

And, potentially most productive, Sasso points out that Neubauer understands a third-party may ultimately have to broker a deal that breaks the stadium stalemate.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Buckhorn Tells Crowd He's Rays' Hometown Mayor

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn seems to make Rays headlines even when he's not trying (or was he?).

The Tampa Bay Times' Tia Mitchell reports Buckhorn told a crowd in Tallahassee that he was "lucky enough to be mayor of the 55th largest city in the country and more, importantly, home to the Tampa Bay Rays" (link to
Buckhorn later clarified his comments, which came during a speech to the Economic Club of Florida.

"We're all Rays fans at this point," he said. "They may physically reside in St. Petersburg, at least for a little while, but we all share in their success and I consider myself to be their mayor just as Bill Foster considers himself to be their mayor."
Buckhorn says he doesn't want to be the boyfriend in the divorce between St. Petersburg and the Rays. But he also is waiting to talk.

"We can't talk until the city of St. Pete and the Rays come to some agreement," he said. "I'm frustrated, and I'm sure a lot of people are frustrated that there has been no movement on that. We are no different a position than we were six months ago. That has to take place. As good as the Rays are, as much as the bay area loves the Rays, it's not going to work in St. Petersburg."
Several columnists and bloggers have referred to Buckhorn as the unofficial "Mayor of Tampa Bay" (link to, so maybe that's what he was referring to?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

City of Jacksonville to Hand $43M over to Jags...Just Because

Field of Schemes reports that the city - not billionare owner Shad Khan - will pay the majority of a $63 million upgrade to the Jacksonville Jaguars' stadium, which will include two new video scoreboards and an indoor pool.  The money was recently "found" in the Sports Complex Capital Maintenance Fund:
Only one problem: As the Florida Times-Union previously reported, using the maintenance fund for capital improvements means it’s not there for maintenance, and there’s already “a long list of stadium maintenance upgrades” that need to be done. None of the press coverage of yesterday’s announcement bothered to mention that, but then, when you have a media universe where ESPN runs the headline “Khan kicks in $20M to help stadium” when the Jaguars owner already promised that months ago — and it’s less than half what the public will be kicking in — we’re not exactly talking prize-winning journalism here.
Then again, why should Khan be expected to pay for all those upgrades to improve his bottom line?  The poor guy just forked over $10,000 for Tallahassee lobbyists to try and ram a stadium subsidy bill through the legislature - and didn't even get the bill passed!

Rays Will Re-Open Tropicana Field to Face Boston in ALDS

Dust off the rays tank and the catwalks (actually, I learned they've never dusted the catwalks) - the Rays are re-opening the Trop for at least one more game, as they advance to the ALDS against Boston.

A few days ago, my WTSP colleague Grayson Kamm explored if the Rays will sell out their playoff game(s), and history has shown they probably will.  Except one variable he didn't mention was the high price of MLB playoff tickets.  Looks like the Rays did their best to keep things affordable, with bleacher seat prices between $30-$40 each and some other grandstand seats in the $48-$78 range.

Still, I've always maintained the Trop's biggest problem is a lack of a "cool" - a factor that shouldn't be much of a problem with Tampa Bay jumping on the playoff bandwagon.  Playing the Red Sox in primetime slots shouldn't hurt either.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Indians Sold a Lot Fewer Tickets in 2013, Yet Made a Lot More Money

Hat tip to Neil deMause and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who explain how the Cleveland Indians sold fewer tickets in 2013 (the third-worst in the league), but made 20% more money:
It’s believed the Indians could have drawn more fans this year, but the organization reduced the number of free tickets available through promotions. This way the tickets they did sell generated more actual revenue because they weren’t discounted.
So by charging more for tickets, the team sold fewer tickets...but made more money.  It's a concept discussed on this blog back in January 2011:
After all, teams have long raised ticket prices to whatever the market can bear. The Rays make more money selling 20,000 tickets at $25 a piece than they would selling 30,000 at $10 a piece.
Back to 2013, deMause concludes:
[I]t’s also a valuable reminder that you can’t just look at attendance figures as a sign of a team’s financial health, because that’s just about how many tickets were issued, not what fans paid for them. Not to say that the Tampa Bay Rays are secretly rolling in dough — not until they can cash in on a new TV deal, anyway — but there are numbers more important than turnstile count.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Marlins Attendance: 2013 Post-Mortem

It was back in February the Biz of Baseball's Maury Brown made a few bold predictions on the Marlins' 2013 attendance:
Brown didn't disappoint.  The Marlins failed to sell out a single game and their 19,584 per-game average represented a more than 30% drop in attendance from their ballpark's 2012 debut, surpassing even the Devil Rays' 30% drop in 1999 (1.7 million total fans, down from 2.5 million fans in 1998).

I'll also take some credit here, predicting the Marlins could meet Brown's benchmarks "and still draw more fans than the Rays."  As discussed on this blog last week, the Rays were the only team to average fewer fans per game than the Marlins in 2013 (although the wild card-winning Indians came close).

Finally, just to add some insult to injury, Brown pointed out it looked like the Marlins were about to sell souvernir tickets following Henderson Alvarez' no-hitter...AND COUNT THEM AFTER-THE-FACT AS PAID ATTENDANCE:
Brown reports that the team did this in 2010 as well when Roy Halladay no-hit the Marlins, but it seems like MLB made sure history would not repeat itself again in this case:
Now, if it can only make sure history doesn't repeat itself again at the ticket office in 2014...