Sunday, December 1, 2013

Times Starts Cranking Up Pressure on Kriseman

St. Petersburg Mayor-Elect Rick Kriseman hasn't even assumed office yet but the editorial board for the Tampa Bay Times is making sure he knows a new Rays stadium is high on their priorities for his first 100 days.

A Sunday editorial titled, "On Rays, no time to waste," makes some decent points about how transit plans, bed tax contributions, and future development are all impacted by whether a new stadium is built (and where).

But in its attempts to direct Kriseman's handling of the delicate issue, the editorial board makes a few bold assumptions:
Every year that ticks off the Tampa Bay Rays' lease to play at Tropicana Field reduces leverage for St. Petersburg and makes it more likely the team could leave the region.
Yes, every year that goes by means fewer damages the Rays would presumably owe St. Pete for breaking its contract early.  But every year that goes by also means one extra guaranteed year of Rays baseball in St. Pete and Tampa Bay.  Is that a bad thing?

Furthermore, if the editorial board assumes all teams want to leave their stadiums when their contracts expire (actually, a decent hypothesis), shouldn't it be just as concerned about the Lightning possibly leaving in 2026?  Or the Bucs possibly leaving in 2028 for Los Angeles, London, or who knows where else?

(Not to mention, for the hundreth time, the Rays have a use agreement, not a lease)

The editorial also had this puzzling paragraph:
The economic rebound could stall, making it harder to allocate public money for a stadium and for the Rays to attract more fans. Deals for new stadiums across the country could be difficult for Tampa Bay to match. A new baseball commissioner could change the conversation in a way that hurts this region's effort to keep major-league baseball.
In one fell swoop, the Times makes the case that:
  1. Tampa Bay should consider public subsidies for a stadium now in case the economy sputters and we can't afford them later.
  2. Other cities that want baseball wouldn't be affected by the same sputtering economy.
  3. A new baseball commissioner could be even more "frustrated," "disappointed," and "concerned" than Bud Selig over the team's contract through 2027 and its inability to negotiate out of it.
In the previous paragraph, the Times also acknowledged that - given a choice - voters would likely object to stadium subsidies.  Yet, it has staked a clear position now that public subsidies should be on the table for a Downtown Tampa stadium.

The Times has also backed off any pressure on the Rays to compensate St. Pete for breaking its contract early, as well as for the Rays to "open their books" to actually demonstrate a financial need.

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