Tuesday, November 11, 2014

20 is the new 40

This blog has covered in-depth Bud Selig's lasting legacies of stadium subsidy-chasing and competitive imbalance.  But the other sad reality of his tenure as MLB commissioner has been the reduction of perceived lifespan of a stadium.

For a long time, stadiums were considered investments that would pay dividends for 40 or more years.  That includes buildings such as Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium, and Dodger Stadium.  Like a skyscraper, the facilities were simply built to last.

But the pressure on cities to "keep up with the Joneses" has slashed the perceived lifespan of a stadium in half, often eliminating the net benefits to the communities that spend huge amounts of money to build them.

And the attitude has spread across numerous leagues:
  • The Atlanta Falcons were told by the NFL their 18-year-old stadium was inadequate, so Georgia is forking over more than $500 million to build them a new home;
  • The Atlanta Braves will leave their once-"unrivaled" stadium in 2017, after just 19 years of baseball;
  • The Washington Redskins are lamenting their 17-year-old stadium and seeking a new future home;
  • The Miami Heat, owned by one of the world's richest men, Micky Arison, insisted in 2013 - in the middle of LeBron mania - that they needed new subsidies for their 13-year-old facility, which replaced a 12-year-old facility;
  • The Columbus Crew asked for a new soccer-only stadium to replace their 14-year-old soccer-only stadium;
  • The Tampa Bay Rays were already asking for upgrades 25 days after signing a deal to move into what is now Tropicana Field...and of course, haven't stopped since;
  • And of course, spring training ballparks need to be replaced or seriously upgraded every decade, or else players may not be able to properly prepare for the season!
Smart people recognize how silly this is.  But sometimes you have to wonder how many smart people there are in the Florida legislature.

This past spring, not only did the legislature carve out more money for stadium subsidies in Florida, but they also made it easier for teams to leave long-term leases early by reducing the damages they'd have to pay.

New stadiums are more state-of-the-art than ever...which makes it all-the-more ironic that society feels the need to replace the half-billion-dollar buildings every 20 years.


  1. Your negativity is disgusting. Cities with inept leaders and cynical media (i.e., St. Petersburg, FL) will lose their sports teams to cities that have strong leaders with vision. These cities will act progressively and will continually improve their facilities for the enjoyment of their community. It's a shame that local leaders and media don't view the Rays as an asset and a partner to the City. Instead of arguing with and alienating the Rays, we should attempt to partner with them and figure out a way to keep them here forever. Tropicana Field is inadequate for MLB, and that is not only a Rays' problem, but a problem for the City as well. It's embarrassing as a resident, to continually watch the Rays to be treated in the manner that they are. The Rays will not be here in 2027, and probably not even in 2020. It's a shame that a community that worked so hard to secure a MLB team, has now turned their back on them. I've enjoyed attending Rays games since they've been here and will enjoy them until they leave, I just wish I lived in a City where the leaders and media knew what they were doing.

    1. Thanks for writing, Robert. But don't confuse asking important questions, challenging claims that go unchallenged, and watching out for taxpayers' interests as negativity.

      If there was no "other side" of the argument, a deal would have been done years ago...but the Rays are negotiating hard for St. Pete to make concessions that will ultimately come at the expense of taxpayers...as would new stadium construction. So its important to bring these things up (no one else seems anxious to do it).

      This is a blog designed to get these issues into the conversation and to keep perspective on what price would be too much for the public to bear.

      There is no shortage of cities that have ultimately drawn a line in the sand on stadium negotiations and had no regrets afterward. Most of them kept their teams anyway.

      I think most local leaders and media DO view the Rays as an asset, which is why there is so much attention to keeping them. I think St. Pete has long fought to be a partner with them, but the team took a hard line and gave an ultimatum in 2010. They have been unable to agree to terms as "partners" since then. A stalemate is the fault of TWO sides, not one.

      You assume the Rays will be gone in the 2020s, but there is little evidence to think that right now. There is a LOT of time to get things worked out before the team or league has a chance to really explore a move.

    2. Robert is right. Noah, if you cared about looking out for taxpayers start a blog on President Obama robbing us and our children blind.

  2. Robert,

    You cannot get blood from a turnip. Ultimately, the only thing that should matter is how many fans will pay their money and attend the games. The evidence to date (1998-2014) shows that the Tampa Bay area does not have enough baseball fans of means to draw whatever number of fans per game Stu Sternberg deems necessary. The only thing guaranteed if a new stadium is built in the Tampa Bay area is that the value of the Rays franchise will increase, which will be nice for Stu when he sells the franchise to the next jock-sniffing billionaire.

    1. They'd definitely draw better, but the real questions are how much better, and is it worth it?

    2. Good question. Let's keep asking.

    3. The real question is how big a payroll does Stu Sternberg need to perennially field a contender so that fans will show up at the games. Then, one can work backwards to figure out how much PROFIT needs to increase to support that increase above current payroll expenditures. Then, one can figure out, based on the increased ticket prices, etc. how many people need to go to games. Of course all of this is impossible to compute without Stu being 100% transparent about the Rays finances.