The story points out how Seattle ultimately got a $45 million settlement when the Sonics left their less-ironclad lease just two years early. But this week's deal has been considered "fair" because St. Pete seems ready to move past baseball and the Rays weren't going to budge:
The amount of compensation is a compromise, Kriseman said — less than the city asked for but more than the Rays wanted to pay. Sports economists say the Rays bargained well.
“We have immense challenges ahead of us,” said Rays President Brian Auld. “Had these payments been significantly higher, they would prohibit us from being able to do a new deal; they could be crippling to whatever business needs we had going into a new ballpark.”Indeed, the more the Rays ultimately pay to taxpayers, the less money they make...and they more they'll need to ask of taxpayers in a new deal. But "crippling" is poor descriptor given that MLB just hit $9 billion in revenue this year.
Judging from previous reports of what the Rays and former mayor Bill Foster were negotiating, it would seem the team's hardball tactics worked well. The current mayor, Rick Kriseman, acknowledged at Tuesday's press conference that he would have loved to have gotten more, but he didn't feel like he had the leverage. He couldn't even get the team to pay for the right to look at stadium sites in Tampa, one of his original campaign promises.
Reaction has been mixed: the Times' John Romano said the money stinks, but the deal was necessary. SaintPetersblog's Peter Schorsch wrote St. Pete is basically getting screwed.
Of course, the revelation that the Rays won't consider a single change to the negotiated deal only bolsters the idea that they're going to keep playing hardball. They're basically giving an ultimatum that they won't re-negotiate anymore and if council rejects this deal, they won't keep trying to make a new stadium happen over the course of the next 13 years?!?
That's silly. Which is why the city may not realize it, but it still holds all the cards in this negotiation.
I've written ad nauseum about Kriseman's tough challenge of satisfying both his taxpayers and a team that doesn't want to compensate them. He could have waited the team out until they caved to better terms...but the team played its public relations cards well and forced the city to bend.
How should council vote this Thursday? I cannot say. It's a big decision.
But this may be the last time a municipality has the upper-hand in negotiating with the Rays. Even Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn acknowledged what's coming next:
Mayor @BobBuckhorn on #Rays: "They'll use every opportunity...to extract - some would say extort - the most money from the public."You have to wonder if the Rays' setting their price, playing hardball, then letting public opinion turn in their favor will repeat itself in Hillsborough County too.
— Shadow of Stadium (@StadiumShadow) December 14, 2014
If the team/league finds a piece of land they like in Tampa, will they threatmonger and fearmonger because the city and county aren't immediately willing to hand over hunderds of millions of dollars?
It wouldn't be MLB's first time.