Tuesday, January 21, 2014

No Amount of Fans Could Stop the Rays From Subsidy-Chasing

John Romano's Tuesday column {link to Times' site} looked at the new campaign to keep the Rays in St. Pete by increasing attendance.  I agree with Romano that there's probably no way to convince the team Tropicana Field is a suitable long-term option...but my reasoning is different.

This serves as a warning to Rick Kriseman, Bob Buckhorn, Ken Hagan, and any other elected official who may weigh in on the Rays Stadium Saga: even if Tropicana Field sold out every single night, it wouldn't matter.

Because a new stadium will always represent more revenue than a team's current stadium, the Rays will never stop chasing stadium subsidies.  Just go ahead and ask the Atlanta Braves - selling a lot of tickets and making a lot of money is never enough when there is more to be made.

Rays President Matt Silverman told Romano, "I know we've talked about being league average, but if we could get to 25,000 a game we'd be drawing 2 million a year and that would be close to acceptable. I'd take it."

So the team would drop its pleas for a new stadium if it drew 25,000 a game?  Hardly.

This has never been about simply turning a profit (the Rays are already doing that).  This is not about eliminating the need for revenue sharing in baseball (the league's 10 lowest-revenue teams will always receive payments from the league's 10 highest-revenu teams).

This is all about MLB's business plan of tapping into public subsidies.  The league used to be a $1 billion business...now its a $9 billion business and Bud Selig complains there's not enough profit to go around.

Even if Tropicana Field drew 37,000 a night, a new stadium (built by someone else) would still allow the Rays to sell more expensive tickets and make more profits.

There will never be "enough" fans to end the subsidy-chasing.


  1. Attendance is a mute point. It's no longer about attendance. MLB/NFL, etc., want you to think that though. How come the owners of WNBA teams never complain about attendance?

  2. Noah,

    So how much revenue sharing dollars to the Rays get?

    1. There's no telling, but some estimates peg the number around $35 million a year.