Friday, February 20, 2015

More Fallout From Thursday's St. Pete Rays Stadium Workshop

Yesterday, St. Pete's city council decided yesterday to research building a new Rays stadium downtown {instant reaction here}.  And while the workshop seemed to be largely a waste of time, there were some good discussions brought up about financing a stadium (finally!).

As this blog has long contended, elected leaders have been ignoring the elephant in the room and avoiding discussions about the tax dollars needed for a stadium.  But now, we have almost every St. Pete councilmember on the record saying they don't want to commit any additional tax revenues above what they're already paying for the Trop.

Of course, we've learned the "no tax" promise isn't nearly as ironclad as the team's contract with the Rays.

Nevertheless, there was a lot of attention in this morning's papers about council's believe that they can keep the Rays in St. Pete long-term.

Tampa Tribune columnist Joe Henderson writes it's a foolish belief, comes back to the "location, location, location" problem this blog first delved into back in 2009.  Henderson writes:
For the life of me, I can’t fathom that council members are kicking around an idea to build a new stadium adjacent to the current Trop. They would then develop the property around it with other enticing stuff, like what was supposed to happen nearly 30 years ago when the Trop was just a cataract in an architect’s eye.

I want to scream when I hear that. I want to laugh. But mostly, I want these people to stop wasting time. Building anywhere near the Trop would just extend the Rays’ location problem for another 30 years.
For what it's worth, I also wrote in 2009 that North St. Pete is the most likely landing spot for a new Rays stadium because of the available financing there.

What does Hillsborough Commissioner/stadium supporter Ken Hagan think about it?

“To seriously consider a new stadium at their current location is a recipe for disaster,” he told the Trib.

Over in the pages of the Times, Councilwoman Darden Rice was quoted as saying, "Allowing the Rays the flexibility to look within Tampa Bay is the main way we have of keeping them here beyond 2027...We have got to stop treating the Rays like our prisoner.''

And last, but not least...the Times editorial board got in another shot on St. Pete's council, mocking it for lack of leadership and hesitation to pay more than $6 million/yr for a potential new stadium.

For those of you keeping score at home, that's $180 million over 30 years on top of healthy contributions from the county, state, and presumably the Rays too.

The editorial brings up good points about one city's limited resources in funding a new stadium...but why does the editorial board never bring up the same issue to Tampa taxpayers, who have fewer available dollars to fund a stadium than their counterparts in St. Pete?

Finally, there's this baffling graf from the editorial:
Their lease to play at Tropicana Field expires in 2027, and there will come a time well before then that the team will let the lease expire rather than pay the city to leave a few years early for a new home in Tampa Bay.
If the worst-case scenario is the Rays fulfilling the terms of their use agreement (not a lease) until 2027, doesn't that mean this region has another 5-10 years to figure out a new stadium?

A brief history of Times editorials on the Stadium Saga:
The history goes further back than that, but for a good synopsis, watch my 2010 piece on newspapers cheerleading for new stadium projects.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for all the reporting you are doing on this. It would be great if we could just fast forward three years to a time when there won't be a Tampa Bay Times anymore. Then the Rays situation could be navigated without the daily broadcasting of nonsensical log-rolling. If they can't even log-roll effectively anymore, what purpose do they still serve? The City Council simply acknowledged the reality that everyone wants the Rays but no one wants to pay more for them. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Well, unless the City buys the Times sports section a new toy. That is a free lunch. And that is why the paper is trying so hard here. This is a self-preservation issue for the newspaper. 90% of public policy discussions in this country are now simply pigs arguing about how this or that decision will affect their place at the trough. In that way, the sports-industrial complex is no different than the military-industrial complex. So much ink is spilled by people justifying the hell out of their paychecks. We need these new F-35 jets to be built, because patriotism. We need these new MLB/NFL/MLS stadiums to be built, because leadership. If we don't purchase what the self-serving viruses think we need, then the terrorists/Montreal/Los Angeles will win. An arm's length contract between sophisticated counterparties is a contract. It is not a prison. The Times editors must have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, because they are vomiting all forms of unqualified opinion. The Internet has provided a means of competition in the marketplace of ideas. The Times is slowly learning that unsupported conjecture ("Rays' value as a regional asset... anyone staying overnight in Pinellas and driving to a baseball game in Hillsborough...") cannot compete. Damn, the economists, here's what a group of journalists thinks. They are dinosaurs, trolling for clicks and relevance.