Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How Will Kriseman Balance City's Interests and Newspaper's Pressure?

There's great confidence the Rays Stadium Saga will shift once Mayor-Elect Rick Kriseman takes office on Jan. 2.  But as this blog has pointed out before, not much may change at all.

And one of those reasons is St. Pete's lead negotiator, city attorney John Wolfe, remains city hall's most-experienced stadium expert.  He helped write the "ironclad" use agreement nearly two decades ago; he advised Mayor Bill Foster on MLB's leverage "tricks," and he continues to advise against certain contract amendments that could one day make it easy for the Rays to leave Tampa Bay.

Nevertheless, the Tampa Bay Times' editorial board penned its second post-election piece aimed at shaping Kriseman's Rays approach {link to Times' site}:
Concerns about weakening the city's long-term agreement with the Rays by letting the team look at other sites apparently were resolved, but there was no agreement on how much money the Rays would pay in any deal.

As Tampa Bay Times staff writer Stephen Nohlgren reported Sunday, the ground is finally shifting. Kriseman will bring an open mind to the negotiations and a better understanding that keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay is the long-term goal. The business community understands the importance of approaching the issue on a regional level, and more St. Petersburg City Council members are considering ways to move forward instead of hiding behind the long-term lease as a short-term political play.
Be sure of one thing: the Times has no interests in preserving St. Petersburg's equity in its contract (ironic, given its insistance of financial return on so many other economic issues).  By assuming Mayor Foster (and thus, John Wolfe) were 100% to blame for the stalemate is either naive or disingenuous.

If Foster and Wolfe got hung-up over how much the Rays would ultimately pay to leave the Trop, as Nohlgren indicated, it would contradict the Times' "short-term political play" argument.  Foster paid a short-term political price for looking out for the long-term interests of the city.
What is clear is that there should be a new sense of urgency to moving forward on the stadium discussions and reaching a reasonable agreement between St. Petersburg and the Rays. Four years have been wasted, and neither the city nor the region can waste another four years watching the calendar.
First of all, four years have not necessarily been wasted.  The Rays have provided great baseball, great memories, and a few playoff runs to Tampa Bay.  Heck, they may have even provided great financial return to St. Petersburg.

So yes, they are now just 14 years from the end of their contract, instead of 18 years.  But again, to say those years were wasted is either naive or disingenuous.

That said, the case for keeping baseball in Tampa Bay is getting harder to make every year.  And while there's no telling if a Tampa stadium would make that case any better, Kriseman has indicated he'll be willing to try.

The mayor-elect, an attorney by trade, said earlier this year that two attorneys can look at the same document and have two different opinions.  For all we know, he could replace Wolfe (who has been critical of the Times' legal assumptions) after the new year.

But like Foster, Kriseman will face a tough challenge in office: deciding how much he's willing to compromise on the city's future leverage in order to advance the Tampa stadium discussion now...and appease the region's largest newspaper.


  1. Reading "keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay is the long-term goal" reminded me of a few things in the Braves statement yesterday that struck me. They stated that a move to Cobb County would ensure the Braves remain in the area only "for another generation" and went on to say that the new stadium would fit their needs "for the next 30 years." So implicit in their statement was, in thirty years time, they'll be looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

    Apparently, this is baseball's new playbook, get twenty or thirty years out of a stadium (if that) and then extort the local communities for something bigger and shinier.

    Kudos to the city of Atlanta for recognizing that and choosing not to play their game. Let's hope "Tampa Bay" (whatever the hell that is) shows the same backbone.

  2. This isn't really true. This Atlanta thing came out of no where. But I don't think MLB looks at stadiums as a 20-30 year proposals (except when they get it wrong). The only stadiums I've heard any rumblings about is Anaheim (besides the Rays and A's), which is pretty old.

    This Atlanta thing is really strange. From the sounds of things parking is an issue, I don't know how serious. And it sounds like there's somewhat of an issue with the area, partly related to transit. This just sounds like an area that's flush with cash and has no qualms paying for stadiums.

    FYI, when the city gets it right I have little doubt the team will be there for the long haul 50+ years. I can't imagine the Pirates, Giants, Orioles, Rockies, Padres, looking for a new after 20-30 years. It will not happen.

  3. "So implicit in their statement was, in thirty years time, they'll be looking for greener pastures elsewhere.", "extort the local communities for something bigger and shinier.", stay classy Brendan, stay classy...

    1. He's not wrong, to be fair.

    2. "He's not wrong" is only 1 persons opinion!