Sunday, August 31, 2014

Column: Stadiums Not the Best Way to Fix Baseball

Trib guest columnist Joe Brown, who has contributed some terrific perspective on the Rays' Stadium Saga in the past, penned an op-ed this weekend that advocated MLB first speed up the pace of play, rather than worry about building new stadiums:
If the Rays get a new ballpark before 2027, location will be the key no matter on which side of the bay it’s built. And as trends for new stadiums have shown, attendance doesn’t improve dramatically after the new-car-smell effect wears off, usually in the second year.

The first thing the new commish should tackle is increasing the pace of games. The average nine-inning game now takes 3:08, up from 2:48 in 2004 and 2:25 in 1963. Young people today, many of whom are used to speed and have short attention spans, aren’t going to sit through many three-hour contests. And it wouldn’t hurt to start World Series games a little earlier so kids in the Eastern time zone can watch on a school night.

As for the Rays ballpark issue, we’ll handle that locally — unless the MLB wants to provide the funds for a new one and compensate the city of St. Petersburg for the “ironclad stadium lease” it has with the team.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Royals Endure Their Own Fan Support Scandals

Ned Yost, manager of the first-place Royals, made Evan Longoria-like comments about his team's poor crowd on Tuesday night...
“I mean, what, 13,000 people got to see a great game?” he said in his post-game news conference.
“I know it’s a school night. But I’ve been through this before in Atlanta (when the Braves first made the playoffs) in ‘91, where it didn’t matter what night it was, that place was packed at the end of August and September. The fans really got into it.

“I know there’s different things you can do. You can watch it on the Internet. You can watch it on TV. But there’s a real need for our fans to be a part of this. We had a great crowd last night, and I was kind of hoping we’d have another great crowd tonight, and we really didn’t.
"We’ve been working hard to make our fans happy and make our fans proud for a lot of years, and we’d like them out here to enjoy a night like this with us. Because this was a special night. This was a fun night. I just wish there could’ve been more out here to enjoy it with us.”

Read more here:
The article went on to mention that Yost misremembered the Atlanta days, since the Braves drew some miserable crowds during their 1991 playoff run too.  And, the Royals drew 30,000+ the previous night, a Monday (vs the Yankees).

Nevertheless, its clearly not just the Rays who struggle to draw big crowds during playoff runs.

Meanwhile, the Rays' attendance is off by an additional 360 fans per game (18,120) from the same point last year.  Not so bad, however, when you consider most MLB teams are down this year, averaging 243 fewer fans per game from a year ago.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Odds & Ends for Your Reading List: Glazer Wealth, Transient Fans, & Bad Reporting

A few pieces of required reading from the sports business world:
  1. After indicating Manchester United was worth $3+ billion in 2013, Forbes only estimates the Glazers' breadwinners are only worth $2.8 billion in 2014, an 11% drop.
  2. Following an outstanding New York Times infographic/data project on where Americans grew up vs. where they currently live, the Tampa Bay Baseball Market blog looks at some of the challenges the Rays face in Florida.
  3. Present company excluded, of course, the Columbia Journalism Review's David Uberti finds journalists woefully lacking when it comes to covering stadium reporting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Primary Night Means for the Rays

After exploring where Hillsborough County Commission candidates and Pinellas County Commission candidates stand on the topic of a new Rays stadium, primary night has whittled the field down to just a handful of hopefuls.

Sadly for Rays fans hoping for a drastic change, most of the candidates with radical approaches to the Stadium Saga have been eliminated.  The only incumbent to lose his/her primary was Pinellas County's Norm Roche, a fiscal conservative.

The most interesting result was Dunedin's Dave Eggers emerging from a crowded Republican primary in Pinellas County (he figures to cruise in the general election).  Eggers told me that he'd like to see bed taxes from multiple counties go toward a new stadium in exchange for "economic development rights, cost sharing and return on invested dollars."

This is an approach that combines a multi-county tax with the profit-sharing idea floated in Orlando before Orange County just said, "the hell with it" and handed an expansion MLS team its subsidy for nothing in return.

While both counties will sport new commissions in a matter of months, it's unlikely much will change drastically in the seemingly never-ending Stadium Saga.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Vinik Chooses Office Space Over Baseball...For Now

I've long written about Jeff Vinik's plan for Downtown Tampa and how baseball doesn't seem to fit into it.  Well, according to Richard Danielson and Jamal Thalji, the next priority after his hotel and Channelside Bay Plaza is not another's office space {link to Times' site}:
The latest piece of his plan is a 202,000-square-foot office building that Vinik's companies propose to build north of the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
This news doesn't mean much to Tampa stadium proponents, but expect many more announcements like this over the next few years from Vinik.  Just don't expect him to announce any new stadium plans.

In fact, for the first time, Mayor Bob Buckhorn seems to be acknowledging what this blog has long suggested:
Buckhorn, who has talked to Vinik about the idea, has expressed doubts that a new ballpark would make business sense for Vinik.

For one thing, bringing in the Rays could hurt the Lightning's suite sales, advertising and ticket sales. And while an L.A. Live-style entertainment district could boost the value of Vinik's property, baseball teams in mid-sized markets typically don't pay much rent to the owners of their stadiums.

So while the mayor does not necessarily expect a stadium, he is looking for Vinik to follow up with plans for entertainment uses, residential and possibly more hotels.

"I think this is the first of some pretty exciting developments that will occur as a result of Jeff's ability to acquire that much land down there," he said. "I'm excited by it."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tampa Bay Bucs Donate $25,000 to Greenlight Pinellas Campaign

Following the lead of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers donated $25,000 to the Greenlight Pinellas campaign, dedicated to bringing improved transit and light rail to the St. Pete/Clearwater area.

Back in May, the Rays gave $25,000 as well.

One of the common reasons provided for poor attendance at Rays games (and other local sporting events) has been the lack of public transportation options for fans.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Much Money Can the NFL Make in a Super Bowl Halftime?

Roger Goddell really never fails to impress.  The commissioner of America's richest sports league apparently thought asking the world's top entertainers to perform for free at the Super Bowl wasn't enough.  The Wall Street Journal reports the NFL asked Coldplay, Rihanna, and Katy Perry if they would pay to perform at this year's game:
The pay-to-play suggestion got a chilly reception from the candidates' representatives, these people said.
It is unclear how much money the NFL was seeking, and whether it would likely have amounted to more or less than the extra income the chosen performer might stand to generate from the exposure. No decision has been made yet and it is possible another act could be selected.
The article pointed out performers typically get a concert/CD/download boost following a Super Bowl appearance, but established acts like the trio mentioned have less to gain.  But its not like the NFL doesn't make any money on the halftime show itself - last year, the performance (115M viewers) outdrew most of the game (112M viewers avg).

Just add it to the NFL's list of already-outrageous Super Bowl demands.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why the Rays Stadium Proposal at Carillon Won't Be on Table for Long

Good follow-up today to the ambitious, yet interesting Carillon stadium idea proposed two years ago in North St. Pete, near the Howard Frankland Bridge{link to Times' site}.  An excerpt:
But no one from the Rays ever approached (developer Darryl) LeClair, who is close to giving up on his dream of building a mixed-use stadium, office and residential project on 16 acres he owns south of Ulmerton Road.

"We'd like to keep the window open, but we can't afford to keep it open much longer," LeClair told the Times. "We tried to help facilitate the baseball discussion and it played out the way it played out. We can't sit around and wait for baseball to make a decision. We're moving forward."
Stephen Nolgren and Charlie Frago report that Carillon may not have any land left for a stadium by 2016 as development continues.  The Rays, of course, did not comment on the story, but continue to refuse to look at any individual site without the ability to search "everywhere" (especially Tampa).
For Carillon to remain in the stadium hunt, LeClair said, the Rays would have to start their region-wide search soon and keep it short, say, six months. The Rays have said they need time to conduct traffic and demographic studies on various sites and also gauge corporate support.
"You can only keep an offer on the table for so long," (Councilman Jim) Kennedy said. "The fact that the Rays refuse to even consider it, critique it or take it as a learning experience ... to me, that kind of evidences difficulty to have constructive communication."
Carillon is hardly a perfect location, but given the lack of money in Hillsborough County, it may be one of the best options.  As Nolgren/Frago point out, transit improvements would only make the site more appealing.

But there are also other potential sites in Mid-Pinellas, so should this opportunity come and go as many fear, the long-term prospects of a new Rays stadium may not change all that much.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Weekend Reading: Bucs Blackouts, NCAA Bylaws, Other Stadium Sagas

In case you missed it:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What Manford's Election as MLB Commissioner Means for the Rays

On a second vote of league owners, MLB COO Rob Manford was named Bud Selig's successor.

You could say the league's finances have been pretty good.

We don't know a whole lot about Manford's demeanor, but you can bet it won't mean drastic changes for the direction of either MLB or the Stadium Saga(s).

UPDATE: Tom Jones penned this morning that Manford must "take care of smaller markets," which would absolutely engage small-market fans more {link to Times' site}. However, nobody knows the pros and cons of increased revenue sharing better than Manford would...sooooooo we'll see...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why NCAA Rule Changes Mean Bad Things for USF, UCF

I have been rather busy of late, so I'm glad Tom Jones summed up a thought I had been having for the last week or so - the recent decision to allow NCAA teams to pay athletes small stipends is going put USF Athletics is big, big trouble {link to Times' site}:
While the smaller schools will be able to play under the same rules as the big guys, it just doesn't seem realistic that the little kids of college athletics will be able to compete financially with those in the five major conferences.

The major conferences have their own TV networks. They play in the better bowls. They have the richest boosters. They make the most money.
Consider: It's estimated that the five mid-major conferences will share about $75 million in revenue from college football's new playoff format. That's about $15 million a conference. That's about $35 million less than the Power Five conferences. Now factor in all the TV money that the big conferences get and it would appear that many smaller schools won't be able to offer recruits the same packages as a big school.
When USF AD Mark Harlan took the job this spring, I spoke with him about the high amounts students were already getting taxed to support the growing sports department.  The hope was as contributions grew, expenses would hold fairly steady, so students wouldn't have to keep forking over more and more money.

However, it seems USF has a choice: increase subsidies on students to keep up with the Joneses, or settle for being a second-tier athletics program and nothing more.  There happens to be nothing wrong with the latter, either.

Jones actually suggests a third option potentially: USF could cut other sports to fund the new perks required to compete in football.

Of course, we could avoid these tough decisions if the NCAA would just force the biggest conferences to share more revenue with the "small market" teams...haha, just that would ever happen.

No, in fact, Jones points out what may actually happen is that the Power Five conferences would break away and the mid-majors would have their own football championship.
"I don't believe that will happen,'' Harlan said. "There are good people in those conferences, and I trust that is something they would not want to have happen.''
Still, even Harlan admits that if you're not in one of the major five conferences, there is now uncertainty about the future.

And if you're a USF booster, you're reminded this could have been avoided if president Judy Genshaft and former AD Doug Woolard hadn't nodded off during all the conference realignment.

Friday, August 8, 2014

What If Stu Sternberg Had Been Named MLB Commissioner?

Marc Topkin reports Rays' owner Stu Sternberg was a candidate - but ultimately not one of three finalists - to replace Bud Selig as MLB Commissioner {link to Times' site}.

Could you imagine the scramble to become new owner of the Rays?

Could you imagine the opportunities for MLB to leverage the sale into threats of the team leaving without a new stadium?

Could you imagine how quickly Sternberg would change his tune from "the Rays belong in Tampa Bay" to "there are lots of places we're looking to move the team?"

However, none of that will happen anytime soon...the New York Times reports the job will go to either MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred, MLB top business official Tim Brosnan or Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Where Pinellas Commission Candidates Stand on the Rays Stadium Saga

After exploring where Hillsborough County Commission candidates stand on the topic of a new Rays stadium, here are the opinions from the other side of the bay.

Visit the article, posted on, ahead of the primary elections on Aug. 26 and the general election on Nov. 4.

2014: Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand
2012: Where Pinellas BOCC candidates stand
2012: Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand
2010: Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand

More on Rays, MLB Television Revenues

Why are baseball owners raking it in hand-over-fist these days?  Maury Brown explains:
According to the information from Nielsen, of the 29 U.S.-based clubs in the league, 12 of them are the #1-rated programming in prime time since the start of the season in their home markets, beating both broadcast and cable competition. These teams include the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, and Arizona Diamondbacks.
And why do the Rays stand to rake in so much more money when their current TV deal expires after the 2016 season?
Another 7 teams rank in the top three in local prime time TV ratings on their respective RSNs, including the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, and Colorado Rockies.
Most of the teams that weren't mentioned still beat out networks like ESPN, but were in typically-large television markets with multiple teams (incl. Cubs, White Sox, Angles, Mets, A's).

The Rays ranked second, with 79,000 households on average watching each nightly game.  Not bad for a team mired in last place most of the first half.

Furthermore, Awful Announcing reports the Rays' television revenues alone would almost cover their 2013 payroll.

AND, the league is already collecting $1.34 from every single subscriber in the US for national MLB contracts. 

Lots of money to go around...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Where Hillsborough Commission Candidates Stand on the Rays Stadium Saga

For a third straight election, I tracked down local commission candidates to get their thoughts on a topic that will undoubtedly come up in the next four years: the Rays' Stadium Saga.

Visit the article, posted on, ahead of the primary elections on Aug. 26 and the general election on Nov. 4.

2014: Where Pinellas BOCC candidates stand
2012: Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand
2012: Where Pinellas BOCC candidates stand
2010: Where Hillsborough BOCC candidates stand

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Sole Reason Why Baseball Hasn't Yet Happened in Channelside


That's what Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Business Journal was the biggest challenge to redeveloping Channelside.

He also acknowledged that moving the ConAgra plant in the middle of the area is in the best interests of the city and redevelopment...but Buckhorn also says: “it’s a $50 to $70 million move that someone’s going to have to pay, and it’s probably not going to be them.”

Continue reading here.

Report: Rays to Get $25M Bump in TV Revenue

Haven't independently confirmed this, but WTVT's Chip Carter reports:
This blog has been citing for years the team's impending TV revenue windfall after the 2016 season, but apparently, the dollars could come even sooner.

In addition to exploding cable dollars, a new TV contract could also give the Rays the chance to sell all 162 games, rather than the current 154 they have on local television.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The David Price Trade is the Stadium Saga's Fault

So David Price gets traded.

Joe Maddon and the Rays hint that it's the stadium's fault {link to Times' site}:
"You lose (James) Shields. You lose (Carl) Crawford. You lose B.J. (Upton). A lot of good guys. That's what happens around here.'' Maddon said. "Until we build a new ballpark, it's going to continue to happen.''
Neil deMause from Field of Schemes points out "Crawford and Upton have both pretty much sucked since leaving the Rays" and "Maddon should be counting his blessings that the lack of a new stadium has given ownership the excuse" not to waste money on those type of guys.

Meanwhile, if you're wondering how teams like the Tigers can afford all those expensive's a combination of a lot of things....including $37 million from their friends in Lakeland, Florida.