Friday, December 12, 2014

A Brief History of Sternberg's Threats to Tampa Bay

There's been a lot of concern over the last few days about Stu Sternberg's latest non-threat threat:
So how much stock should we put in Sternberg's claim that he'll sell the team if council rejects next week's vote? First of all, refusing to re-negotiate sounds like "I'm taking my ball and going home."

What good does that do Stu, even if he decides to sell the team? The franchise's resale value is a lot higher if they re-negotiate and make any progress whatsoever on a new stadium.  Stu's too smart to sell low.
Furthermore, why start believing the threats now?

  • January 2013 - Sternberg, mentioning contraction, says MLB wants out of Tampa Bay
  • October 2011 - Sternberg says MLB could "vaporize" the Rays
  • February 2011 - Sternberg suggests relocation is a real possibility with no new stadium
  • June 2010 - Sternberg says "five markets" are better than Tampa Bay
If we are to learn anything from Jerry Reinsdorf, we should believe none of them.

No matter how you slice it, this isn't a good situation.  The franchise's owner is taking an adversarial approach with the city his team plays in.

Even worse: the stadium complaints have put the Rays on a downward attendance spiral that is unlikely to reverse itself as long as they play at the Trop. 

This isn't the fault of fans - it's the fault of MLB.  And the league should step up and fix it, not threatmonger the region into action.


  1. Noah has slipped into idiot mode.
    A. None of these are threats. If Sternberg sincerely means what he says, and there's no evidence he does not, he is being honest and upfront. Noah seems to want something else, but all the reliable available information indicates Sternberg means what he says.
    B. Sternberg is not taking an adversarial approach with the city. They just spent 6 years waiting patiently to hammer out a deal in good faith. A deal the Mayor likes. Nothing even remotely adversarial in that. He has even said he will not move the team. Noah wants very, very badly to pretend that Sternberg is acting in bad faith. But he is not.
    C. There is ZERO credible evidence that any issues having to do with the lack of negotiation had anything to do with declining attendance at the Trop. Again, Noah wants to pretend. He presents an alternate reality, instead of reporting facts.
    D. Declining attendance has very little to do with the desire for a new stadium. Noah knows this, while he pretends otherwise. In 2007-2008, when the ownership spent upwards of 10 million dollars planning for a new stadium in downtown St Pete, the reasons they wanted a new stadium, had little to do with expectations that a new stadium, by itself, would stimulate sustained significant increased attendance.
    E. Major League Baseball cannot be held responsible for declining attendance at the Trop, or for any other deficiencies of the structure and location, as they were not involved in the site selection and building design.

    Noah thinks his niche' in the world of real journalism is to stake out a fantasy position and repeatedly misrepresent, distort, and pretend. Rays ownership has been honest and honorable throughout the now seven year quest to replace the Trop before 2027. They haven't lied, tricked, or pretended even once. They aren't threatening now. Sternberg said that the team and league believe the team needs a new stadium sooner. If the City Council decidea to heed the advice of the disgraced former mayor who advises delay delay delay, Sternberg has said he will walk. Honest. Honorable. We can't really ask for more than that.

    1. Attendance doesn't mean a damn thing. Even if the Marlins were to average 3k a game for the next 10 years, it wouldn't matter. Whjy? Because they have a new stadium. Once a team obtains a new stadium, there is zero concern regarding attendance.

  2. Note to troll:
    What little cred you have flies right out the window when you refer to a Wall Street banker as honest and honorable.

  3. Glen and Razz must be from St.Pete. The Rays owe St.Pete nothing. This is sour grapes. The majority of sea son tickets don't even belong to people from St.Pete. MLB even told St.Pete not to build the stadium before they got the team. St. Petersburg, Florida a minor league city in a major league world!!!!!

    1. The team's claim about how many season-ticket holders were from St. Pete was propaganda. They refused to share numbers about other areas. They wouldn't even say how many were from Pinellas Co.

  4. You are missing one important element in your history/analysis. Rays met the Montreal investors group not twice, but four times! Yes, 4 times.

    And by the way, Rodgers Brulotte is one of the most credible source in the MLB/Expos situation.

    By not reading and listening french newspapers and radio/TV shows (and yes, La Presse is a very very credible source of information to answer your question), you are missing 50% of the information/story.

    I respect all your comments and your work, but you have only one side of the medal/story. The other side is as important as the first one. And you don't seems to understand what is going on, on the other side.

    Stay Tuned, the next step is a revised business plan for a MLB team in Montreal and more details on the preferred stadium site in Montreal (yes, we have at least 4 sites considered to build a new stadium).

    1. Everyone has a site for a stadium. What Montreal doesn't have is the money to make it happen.

    2. Here is the money to make it happen!

      The Montreal stadium can be paid in just 3 years. Yes, 3 years. And it could start as soon as in 2015 or 2016. This is the full report on the proposed strategy. And no public funds are required.

      Financing the Construction of a $500 million Major League Baseball Stadium in Montreal Without Using Public Funds and Without any Investment by the Owners of a Future Team

      Discussion paper prepared by: Dominic Therrien

      March 31, 2014

      Not too bad? What do you think?

      Remember (if you are aware), the Mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre was the Immigration Minister in Canada not so long ago. He have all the contacts to make it happen. And he did say that such creative idea will be reviewed in details and considered in the process of getting a MLB team. There is a complete interview with him on this topic last summer (in French).

      Several articles in the press as well as on radio/TV show did cover this proposal/approach. So this is publicly well known in Montreal. And the beauty of it, nobody in Montreal/Quebec can say "no" to such approach. It's the smartest proposal I've read so far.

      This is exactly what I was saying Noah Pransky. You have no clue of what is going on on the other side of the medal. I strongly suggest that you start looking at the biggest picture like I'm doing by reading everything on the Rays, A's, Cleveland, ... situation (and I really like your work) and also what is going on in my own town.

      Never underestimate what is going on in a major city like Montreal. You'll be surprised big time.

      If you need more facts, I'm ready to slowly, but surely, give you some. This is only the tip of the iceberg!

    3. 1) Tampa Bay is the same size as metro-Montreal, although Montreal proper is admittedly bigger than Tampa proper.

      2) Sure, Montreal could just build a new stadium if the government kicks in $367 million....but so could any city in North America :)

    4. 1) Montreal offer a very good mass transit system (Metro, Bus, Train) which is a strategic advantage over may other cities (including Tampa Bay). So attendance will not be an issue in 2018-2020 with a downtown stadium (and for the years to come, unless the team is a complete desaster). Montreal Canadiens games are sold out (41 games), plus every pre-seasons games and every post-season games. That's 21 273 seats per game. They could easily have more than 40 000 fans per game with a bigger arena and be sold out every nights!

      2) Again, the plan is no public money (or very little) based on the proposal by Dominic Therrien. I don't understand why you wrote IF the government will kick in $367M. Based on the proposal, immigrants investors will pay the new stadium in only 3 years. Of course, other cities or states cas use such approach (Brooklyn Nets used a similar program for their arena).

      Once that said, Governments in Quebec and Canada just financed ($400M) the new Arena in Quebec city without an NHL team. So I don't see any problem having public funding for a Baseball Stadium in Montreal (up to a certain level) considering the investment made in Quebec city. Of course, the new Arena in Quebec city will also be used for entertainment/shows, so it's not only sports stadium.

      So far, $200M is committed by some local investors for a new baseball team and Bell Media did not got the Hockey TV Broadcast rights in Canada for the next 12 years, which means that they technically have ~$5B ready to invest in TV sports content in Canada like the Expos.

      In the last 18 months, the Montreal market changed drastically and now, lots of observers changed their minds and opinions. With the spring baseball games (Jays vs Reds), with Russell Martin, a Montreal player in our backyard and with MBP (Montreal Baseball Project) getting ready for the next round with Manfred and a revised business plan, all the planets are almost aligned.

    5. Noah missed a couple of key points in Tampa compared to Montreal. Montreal has a huge advantage in available corporate support for luxury boxes/season tickets, and Tampa's population is transient in nature, and has less disposable income.

    6. 1) "Montreal hockey sells out so its baseball team will too," is not really a convincing argument. Yes, it has superior transit...but why didn't that help in the 80s and 90s?

      2) Getting immigrant investors to pay for the stadium is essentially public money since those dollars could go to other public projects. Furthmore, if you read up on the US' EB-5 immingrant investment program, you know its not easy to come up with 50 of these investors, let alone hundreds and hundreds of them.

      3) Don't discount the fact that the Blue Jays probably don't want the Expos back and could present financial and political problems...

      PS - David, I didn't forget those, but you are right, those are Montreal's only two real advantages over Tampa Bay.

    7. Noah.

      1) 80s and 90s, Expos were having very good crowds compared to the average of the MLB NL. The problem started after 1994. Don't know your age Noah, but I was attending games at the Big "O" back in the 70s/80s (and even at the Jarry park when I was really young). Such comment is not your best one so far. You can find better one, right?

      See the total attendance per year and the average of the AL for all those years.

      Some of those numbers are even better than the Rays in the 2000+ years!

      2) You did not read the document I refer too, again. There are thousands of immigrants that are refused every years.

      "In 2013, the Government of Quebec opened the Immigrant-Investor Program for only 16 days (August1st to August 16th) and allowed 1,750 applications to be processed (French-speaking applicants were/are allowed to apply at any time before March 31 2014 even after the quota of 1,750 applications was reached). Despite the limited time period, the Quebec Immigrant-Investor Program authorities received 5,389 immigration applications. Under the supervision of external auditors, a lottery was conducted to choose which 1,750 applications would be processed. Important to note, more than 5,300 potential immigrants were willing to invest a substantial amount of money to immigrate to Quebec."

      So having few hundreds of them to fund a stadium, there are no issue. Piece of cake.

      "For discussion’s sake, the author proposes that 1,860 applications will be accepted under the Immigrant-Investor Stadium Program over a three year period (620 applications in each of 2015 to 2017)"

      So 620 over 5,300, it's less than 12% of the ones not selected. And 5000+ not selected, that was in just 16 days! And Dominic Therrien confirmed that the number is always 5000+ every year. By the way, Dominic Therrien is a lawyer that is specialized in immigration. So I trust him on those numbers.

      You are not getting the big picture here and you may need to listen (in french, sorry) what Dominic Therrien presented last summer.

      And regarding funding other public infrastructure, nothing prohibit that too! So considering this is brand new money not coming from taxes, depending of your point of view, it could be or not considered public money. In fact. it have no effects on the governments budgets/ expenditures. And it can be applicable to other projects after 3 years (like hospitals, infrastructures, …)

      3) Again Noah, you need to read more what is going on in Montreal/Toronto/Canada, my friend.

      The Jays want a team in Montreal, that can’t wait.

      (Listen the Paul Beeston interview in English at 1:55, 2:50 up to the end).

      Jays want the baseball back in Montreal. Especially in the AL. The rivalry will generate tons of $$$$ on both sides and beef up the TV Broadcasting rights. FYI, the rivalry with Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL is a very very big one (almost as big as the one with the Bruins in Boston). So they can’t wait to see the Expos back in baseball.

      So this third comment is a very weak one and demonstrate that you know really really well your Tampa Bay stuff, but you have no clue what is going on in Montreal, Toronto and Canada.

      I told you so, this is the tip of the iceberg.

      Stay Tuned!

    8. Let's give you more facts here (I know it's a study, but a very detailed study regarding attendances, revenues, costs, ...):

      "Léger Marketing has forecast as their realistic scenario an average attendance ranging from approximately 27,600 to 31,600 people per game (including corporate suites)"

      A revised study/business plan is coming (probably in 2015). But hey, this is why I think Montreal can expect a very good crowd game after game an why 80s and 90s numbers are not a good reference/argument.

      So such numbers raise the bar very high and is probably a fact that any team owners must consider when thinking of having a new stadium (with or without public money). Because if your expected average attendance is way lower than that, then why not move the team?

      And this is exactly what Sternberg is evaluating right now (and was evaluation in the last few years when he meet, let’s say, 4 or 5 times the Montreal Group). Getting a new stadium with tons of conditions/expectations is viable only if you can have enough people in it. Because high TV ratings with an empty stadium is not viable. MLB don’t want empty stadiums. NHL don’t want empty arena. Same thing for the NFL, NBA, … And going from 17,800 to 22,000 or even 24,000, well, does that worth the investment, the trouble, the risk, …?

      This is the $500M or $600M question that all the parties in Tampa Bay need to answer before the end of 2016.

      So, what is the plan?

      Oh sorry, the city council still need to vote on the agreement to let the Rays start looking at options. We are far from detailed studies, public debate on the studies, political debate, financing (and political/public debate again on financing) and the construction (in order to play the first game before 2020, I think).

  5. @Anon, I agree with most of what you are saying. But you must realize that it is not Noah's intention cover the Rays quest for a stadium, he very much takes a fieldofschemes slant of reporting on public funding for stadiums in the Tampa area, and that's pretty much it. He rails at the unfairness of public funds being committed to private enterprises and his main points are often related to Sternberg's rich anyway, so he should be perfectly happy with the status quo, and the Rays financials are right in line with opposing teams from the 1980's, so no changes are needed.

    I do find it frustrating how he and others have hung their hat on there's no where for the team to go, there's no need to look at a new stadium in the Tampa area, because the Trop is fine. He basically thinks we're immune to the fate of the Expos, Supersonics, and Thrashers.

    He should be paying closer attention to what is going on in Montreal, because that is a huge threat to Tampa Bay in luring away the Rays.

  6. Thanks David for your comments and clarifications. Greatly appreciated.

  7. @Noah I don't know how metro Tampa and metro Montreal are the same size... Montreal: 3.8 million in 2011 census vs Tampa: 2.8 million in 2010 census.

    With a larger population, larger corporate base, possibility for 2x broadcast money (2 languages, french and english), Montreal looks a lot more attractive an option than Tampa.

    Not to mention you could market to a fan base of 17 million (half of Canada's population).

    Also the group of Montreal investors that were mentioned in a LaPresse article a month ago are some wealthy people/companies. While they may not have $600M to spend on a team today, they apparently have $200M ready to go now. If Stu decides to sell, I believe these investors will have enough to purchase the Rays by the time Stu decides.

    Noah seems to disregard the Montreal developments...