Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Rays' Unorthodox Ticket Manipulation

A tip of the cap to Times columnist John Romano, who turned a reader's tip into a really nice mini-investigation on questionable ticket-selling strategies by the Rays.  In short, Romano found the team wasn't releasing many tickets until the day of the game, potentially to create a false sense of demand.
Team officials declined to talk about ticket policies, but industry experts say it could be part of a strategy to spur more sales by making fans think available tickets are scarce.

In other words, the team that sells fewer tickets than any other in Major League Baseball might be artificially creating demand by not making all their seats available in advance.

"It sure seems like it could be a manipulation of the market to create the illusion of a scarcity of tickets that doesn't actually exist," said Gary Adler, executive director and general counsel for the National Association of Ticket Brokers. "No matter how you slice it, it seems like an anti-consumer policy to withhold tickets from the public."
Ticket manipulation was in the headlines recently in Nashville, where WTVF rockstar Phil Williams exposed the Titans were moving unsold tickets via a scalper.  Not only did they keep their sellout streak alive, but the team used the false demand to justify more expensive tickets for everyone else.

In the Rays' case, Romano suggested things may not be nearly as sinister - the big number of tickets released on game day may be a result of the Rays' attempts to sell more multi-game flex packs up until the last minute.  But withholding tickets until game day creates another frustration for fans who really want to sit in specific seats behind the dugouts:
Complicating this policy is the Rays' practice of adding a $3 surcharge to any ticket purchased less than five hours before the start of a game. The surcharge is designed, ironically, to encourage people to buy tickets in advance. 
On Memorial Day, the additional tickets did not become available until after 2 p.m., so they automatically went on sale with the surcharge. 
I guess, since the Rays aren't exactly a tough ticket these days, their ticket strategy isn't terribly consequential to most fans.  But I've also written recently how the team has struggled to preserve the perceived value of its tickets.

Fans want to feel like they are getting a good deal when they spend disposable income, and they want to feel like they are getting a product that is in demand.  But if there's no demand for Rays tickets and the tickets can be had for as low as $7, the team will feel real repercussions from its numerous discount options.

A better question - are the Rays doing more harm than good by charging a $3 walk-up fee?!?

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Romano, who has written numerous times about his many stadium frustrations with Tampa Bay leaders, finishes his column but openly questioning the Rays:
The Rays are trying to convince the people of Tampa Bay to join them in a partnership to build a new stadium and ensure MLB's success in the market for years to come.
Playing a cat-and-mouse game with tickets doesn't seem like the smartest way to grow that relationship.
Last fall, Rays president Bryan Auld promised more transparency on issues regarding the stadium campaign;  maybe being a little more forthcoming on the team's ticket policies would help fill some seats too.

Times Cranks Up Pressure on Opponents of Rays Compromise

No love lost between the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board and the St. Pete councilmembers concerned the Rays aren't offering enough for the right to adjust their ironclad contract.  After a five-hour council workshop Thursday, of course we knew another critical editorial was coming:
The rambling conversation revealed the lack of vision and sophistication of half of the council members to grasp what is at stake, and it underscored the importance of this fall's elections to add more thoughtful voices.
The Times is right on one thing - this fall's city election is the Rays' best chance at getting permission to look at stadium sites in Hillsborough County.  I've even suggested the team has political tools at its disposal if it chooses to use them.

But again, I maintain the Times is too critical of councilmembers who truly believe their constituents deserve better...and agree with the legal opinion of many that the MOU would ultimately make it easier for the Rays to leave Tampa Bay.  After all, not all attorneys will see an identical contract identically:
ALSO READ: Newspapers Histoically Drive New Stadium Campaigns

The Times editorial continues:
The Rays' understandable desire to search for a new stadium site in either Pinellas or Hillsborough counties offers an opportunity to preserve Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay for a new generation. It also would allow St. Petersburg to proceed with a master-planned development of the Trop's 85 acres, with or without a new stadium. That would increase property values throughout surrounding neighborhoods, create jobs and generate millions of dollars in new tax revenue.
This is all probably true.  But it could get very costly.  And more importantly, if St. Petersburg would be better-off giving a big plot of land to a developer instead of a baseball team...why wouldn't Tampa?  File that one under "questions nobody wants to answer."
[I]t will be the outcome of the City Council elections that ultimately will determine whether St. Petersburg moves forward or continues to squander an opportunity to transform the city.
One of the four "no" votes on council, Jim Kennedy, doesn't have to run.  Another, Bill Dudley, will likely be replaced by like-minded Ed Montanari.  A third "no" vote, liberal-minded Steve Kornell, will continue to face some pressure from the Times, but remains a favorite to keep his seat on November 3.

Which puts all the eggs in the basket of whomever replaces Wengay Newton in St. Pete's minority-heavy District 7.  It's pretty much guaranteed the first candidate to support the mayor's deal with the Rays (when Newton would not) would a shoo-in for both the endorsement of the Times and potential political muscle of the Rays.

That may explain why Lisa Wheeler Brown, the only candidate in District 7 who has filed a campaign report so far, said she would likely support the mayor's lead on the issue. She has already received campaign checks from prominent stadium-search supporters, including ABC Coalition & Kriseman Transition Team member Craig Sher, as well as three St. Pete councilmembers: Darden Rice, Amy Foster, and Karl Nurse - all of whom voted "yes" on Thursday to the deal that would have let the Rays explore Tampa.

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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

Friday, May 29, 2015

GASP! Orlando City Soccer Didn't Get Expected State Funds and Will Now...Just Pay for It Themselves

Remember January's post, "Teams Prove the Scary Repercussion of Not Publicly-Financing They Have to Pay for it Themselves," my post that showed teams seldom follow through on their threats about potentially not getting tax dollars?

Well, add Orlando City Soccer to the list:
Orlando City Soccer Club and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer today announced due to the overwhelming market response to Lions’ matches at home, Orlando City will increase capacity in the new stadium to accommodate between 25,000 and 28,000 fans, and will provide additional enhanced amenities for a premium fan experience.

In addition, the Club announced it will privately fund the entire downtown stadium construction, allowing the project to move forward immediately with an expected completion date of summer 2016. The City of Orlando has agreed to sell the property in Parramore designated as the site for the downtown soccer stadium to Orlando City Soccer Club, and the Club has agreed to develop the stadium. Orlando City SC will become the sole owners and operators of the venue.
So even though Orlando City was the least-bad stadium investment pitched to state lawmakers this year, Florida taxpayers will be spared the possibility of having to foot an additional bill for another stadium.

ALSO READ: Florida's "New" Stadium Process is Same Process with Just More Tax Dollars

Let's just remember a month ago, when the team and supporters said additional public financing was "integral" and indicated they'd have to scale down construction without the state cash.

And in January, the rhetoric was:
Latvala and Galvano both said the City of Orlando and Orlando City Soccer, specifically, would not have moved forward with stadium construction had the prospect of state subsidies not been in place. Latvala also pointed to convincing support from both legislative chambers for the final version of his bill.
So to the three pro teams & leagues still seeking state cash - Miami Dolphins, Daytona Int'l Speedway, and Jacksonville Jaguars - who will be next??

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Florida's Deep Connections to the FIFA Indictments

Did you notice a name with Florida ties among the list of soccer executives indicted in the federal crackdown on FIFA corruption?  How about North American Soccer League (NASL) Board of Governors Chair Aaron Davidson?

That's the same NASL that the Tampa Bay Rowdies play in!  And the same NASL that State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) added to a list of eligible leagues for state stadium subsidies

The league took quick action to distance itself from Davidson, a Miami resident, but soccer insiders know it won't be easy.  World Soccer Talk explains how deep the relationship runs:
NASL Commissioner Peterson has tried to publicly keep the league distant from (Davidson's company Traffic Sports USA), though public perception fueled by the realities of the early days of the league have made this effort difficult. Peterson last month told a group of assembled reporters that Traffic had no stake in the league beyond ownership of Carolina. This might in fact be the case in the present day, but few can dispute that without Traffic and Aaron Davidson, NASL probably does not exist in its current form, if at all.
Davidson/Traffic also used to own the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, among other teams.

The Rowdies deferred me to a NASL statement on the investigation that read:
"In light of the ongoing investigation announced by the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday, the North American Soccer League's Board of Governors has suspended Chairperson Aaron Davidson, along with all business activities between the league and Traffic Sports, effective immediately. Commissioner Bill Peterson will serve as acting Chairperson.

The Carolina RailHawks, the sole NASL club owned by Traffic Sports, will continue to operate in the ordinary course of business. The club's management team will continue to manage the day-to-day operations. 
No word on how the investigation could affect a Tampa Bay bid for the 2016 Copa America.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Montreal's Mayor Takes His MLB Road Show to Big Apple

So this happened...
We know Montreal wants the Expos back.  We knew the mayor's meeting would send shockwaves across Twitter.  But Twitter doesn't award MLB teams.

If an autographed baseball falls in a town that already lost MLB...does it make a sound?
Patrice Derome says reports out of Quebec are that the money won't be an issue - the private commitment is already there and the public money will follow.  He summarizes:

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BREAKING: St. Pete Council Swing Vote Names His Price on Rays Deal

For the first time, the St. Pete councilman perceived as the swing vote on the Rays stadium issue indicated what it would take to win his blessing for a multi-county stadium search.  But it's not going to happen anytime soon.

Councilmember Steve Kornell, who voted against December's proposal that would let the Tampa Bay rays explore new stadium sites in both Pinellas and Hillsborough County's without paying a fee - and only about $2 million a year for every year they left prior to the 2027 expiration of the current contract - said during a Thursday workshop that he would want a $55 million guarantee from the Rays to tear up the current agreement.

Kornell told me he expects significant pushback in the court of public opinion, but his asking price is steeped in precedent.

In 2008, when the Supersonics left Seattle two years prior to the end of their arena lease, the team agreed to pay the city $45 million, with other stipulations that could have potentially raised the total.  Kornell said the city won by refusing to short-sell its contract with the team.

"The owner came to the city and said, 'I'll give you $26.5 million for two years," Kornell said of the Sonics' initial offer to Seattle.  "They said, 'no, we're going to stand up for our taxpayers - we're just going to go to court."

The Sonics later increased their offer prior to a judge's decision.

A frustrated Mayor Rick Kriseman told Kornell during Thursday's workshop that the Rays' situation was different than Seattle's because they weren't asking to leave the region.  He also said Rays President Bryan Auld indicated there would be no better offer than what has already been presented.

For what it's worth, a judge in Minnesota also blocked MLB from contracting the Twins when the team had just one year left on its contract, which would explain why the Rays' hands are tied without getting council's blessing:

Currently, the team is locked into a seemingly-ironclad agreement with St. Petersburg, which has  threatened legal action against any party that interferes with its current contract, which binds the raise to Tropicana Field through the 2027 season.

However, dwindling attendance numbers have added to the urgency of many Rays supporters to break the deadlock and expedite the process of launching a Hillsborough County-based stadium search site.

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Kornell also told me he felt the need to publicize his thoughts with fans, sportstalk hosts, and newspaper editorial boards calling St. Pete councilmembers "greedy" and "obstructionist" for voting down the Rays' recent proposal to look at stadium sites in Tampa.

Thursday's workshop lasted more than four hours, with contentious debate over the future of both the Rays and the Tropicana Field site filling the majority of the time.  After all, what's five more hours of indecision after seven years of stalemate?

Even though there were lots of attorneys present at the workshop, including councilmembers Charlie Gerdes and Jim Kennedy, Mayor Rick Kriseman, and several members of the city's legal staff, many of the attorneys came to different legal opinions at different times.  It helps explain the divide that exists on council:
Council voted on the mayor's recently-renegotiated MOU, but by a 4-4 vote (Amy Foster changed from a previous "no" vote to "yes,") the deal again died.

They then debated requesting a ULI study in partnership with the Rays to look at redevelopment opportunities of the Trop site - but council never voted on it because of a lack of clear path forward.  So in the end, there was no real progress today - mostly just a wider line in the sand.

Here were some other notable takeaways:
The Rays wouldn't comment on specifics, but sent this one-line statement to me a couple of minutes after the nearly five-hour workshop was adjourned:
“We appreciate the time and attention that Mayor Kriseman, Chairman Gerdes and the rest of the City Council have dedicated to this issue.” – Brian Auld

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Times Ed. Board: Beating a Dead Horse or Just Beating Council Into Submission?

Averaging nearly one critical editorial a month on the Stadium Saga, the Tampa Bay Times editorial board dropped another heavy-handed piece on St. Pete's city council today, ahead of the group's afternoon workshop on Trop redevelopment and other stadium-related issues.

First reaction?  Even the caption on the photo (taken from the editorial's first paragraph) is questionable.
One person's "blocking a regional search" is another person's "protecting its city's contract."  And one person's "harm(ing) taxpayers" is another person's "maximizing opportunities."

But of course, the Times Ed Board doesn't see it that way - it is anxious for St. Pete to short sell its Rays contract for the benefit of Tampa and Greater Tampa Bay.

ALSO READ: What Surprises Should We Expect at Thursday's St. Pete Stadium Workshop?

The piece continues:
After seven years of stalemate, St. Petersburg's leverage with the Rays continues to decrease with every passing day. The earliest the Rays could leave the Trop would be about 2020, because evaluating sites, arranging financing and constructing a stadium take time. And by 2023 or so, any city in North America could start building the Rays a new ballpark. If the stalemate continues much longer, the council will have lost an opportunity to keep Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay.
So is the Times acknowledging there are probably at least three more years before anything drastic happens with relocation?  And that seven years of stalemate have also meant seven extra years of extra MLB in the region without having to build a new park?

Yes they are:
An expensive, wide-open bidding war with Montreal or other cities would still be a few years away. Council members who aren't interested in paying for a stadium should recognize that letting the Rays look for a new home increases the odds of keeping the team in the region for another generation, while allowing the city to create hundreds of jobs and add millions of dollars to tax rolls by redeveloping the Trop site. The recent $57 million sale of Fusion 1560, the apartment complex just across First Avenue S from the Trop, demonstrates the lost opportunity cost of continuing to preserve a huge parking lot for a little-used stadium with no long-term viability.
Well, there may be some truth here - this debate for St. Pete isn't about the chump change the Rays offered them to break the contract, but the opportunity cost of not redeveloping the Trop.

Oh, and the debate could also be about who would pay for a new stadium...but that's clearly a can Tampa Bay is hoping to kick down the road as long as possible.

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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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What Surprises Should We Expect at Thursday's St. Pete Stadium Workshop?

Ahead of Thursday's St. Petersburg city council workshop on Tropicana Field redevelopment, the Times' Charlie Frago reports some of the folks in city hall are toying with a proposal that would tie the site's future to helping blighted neighborhoods on the south side of town:
Rays officials won't be there. But Mayor Rick Kriseman will attend the workshop, looking to "move the issue forward," in the words of his chief of staff Kevin King.

One new possible wrinkle in the saga? Somehow tying the potentially lucrative future of the Tropicana Field property to the economically distressed poor neighborhoods to its south.
No telling if the proposal has any legs, but it may have to do with the political deal-making I suggested could help break the deadlock.  The key target: Councilman Steve Kornell, whose district also lays on the South side of St. Pete.

ALSO READ: Times' Ed. Board continues heavy pressure on council

Thursday's workshop starts at 2:30 p.m., but don't expect too many significant developments.

Frago continues:
The mayor is open to a study, King said, especially if the Rays are willing to shoulder some of the cost. Rays officials have said they would be willing to do that.

Kriseman sent council members a memo last week outlining existing research on the economic impact of baseball for cities. The findings range in a spectrum from significant to almost none. Council member Jim Kennedy had requested the city do its own study, but Kriseman declined, saying the city would likely arrive at similar conclusions to the existing research.

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Just How Much of Your Kid's College Fees Go Toward Varsity Athletics??

Here's a good story from USA TODAY on how mid-major college sports programs (and many large programs too) tax students heavily for varsity sports that can't balance their budgets.
The so-called Power Five conferences are different from the American Athletic and Mountain West conferences. They have lots more money.
That puts Old Dominion in a double-bind: Trying to increase its football profile while trying to decrease its dependence on a primary source of revenue. Others in the AAC, Mountain West and C-USA face different challenges, but similar pressures: They are schools in lesser leagues with designs on keeping up with Power Five programs, but typically without the means to underwrite their dreams.
If you've enjoyed our stories on how USF has had to lean more and more on its students to balance its athletic department budget - plus a 2014 loan from the university - then you'll enjoy the USA TODAY piece.

If you haven't enjoyed those stories - and/or if you work for USF - probably no need to read further.

LOOKUPPublic subsidies for all public NCAA programs

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Monday, May 25, 2015

The Rays Stadium Saga News You May Have Missed on Memorial Day Weekend

Rays reducing ticket prices during Lightning playoffs               

This blog has long-documented how Rays' attendance struggles when the Lightning are in the playoffs (as well as in the fall, once football season starts).  The sad truth is the Tampa Bay market is stretched a bit thin, especially given the region's lukewarm interest in pro sports.

So just how bad are the Lightning playoffs hurting the Rays?
Now, those numbers for the most recent playoff round have rebounded a little bit for the Rays since the original tweet Saturday morning, but the team is trying to stop the bleeding with $7 party deck tickets through the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

However, there's been little-to-no promotion of the discount, causing sportstalk hosts and bloggers alike to question whether the Rays care if attendance continues to plummet, as long as folks keep watching on TV.

The theory may be a bit far-fetched, as the lack of promotion may have to do more with concerns about de-valuing their product, especially after three $15 general admission games when the Orioles had relocated their series to the Trop on short-notice.

Rays not the cool kids on the block

The bottom line is Rays games just aren't the kind of event fans want to cut out of work early for.  The Trop isn't the kind of venue fans want to brag about with photos on social media.  And Stu Sternberg hasn't made his team very "cool."

In comparison, Jeff Vinik made the Lightning and Amalie Arena "cool."  It's more about PR and social media than it is infrastructure.  It's why Vinik has a rubber stamp in Tampa and Sternberg is seen as the enemy in many parts of St. Petersburg. 

My friends are sick of me repeating this mantra, so I'll just direct you to a Tom Jones piece in this weekend's Times. He writes, "Tampa Bay is not considered a great sports market...We become a good sports market when one of our teams gets really good and following that team becomes the cool thing to do.  Right now that team is the Lightning."

The Rays' self-fulfilling prophecy?

The Rays are now drawing an average of 15,215 fans per game, about 3,000 off their mark from the same time last year.  Across the state, the Marlins aren't doing much better, posting 20,126 per game, 28th in Major League Baseball.

Across the board, MLB attendance is actually up about 2% this year - almost entirely due to huge crowds in Kansas City.  There are also some big gains in Cleveland, Seattle, San Diego, Kansas City, and Oakland.  There are big drops in Anaheim, Philly, Texas, Atlanta, and of course, Tampa Bay.

The Trib's Chris O'Donnell wrote this weekend that there are lots of reasons the Rays are struggling, but it was nice to see my self-fulfilling prophecy theory in print:

The Rays were drawing 23,000 fans per game when I first suggested things would start to get ugly...but I'm not sure any of us knew just how ugly it would get in just a few years.

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Rick Scott and Jeff Vinik: BFFs?

In case you missed Steve Bosquet's story, "The perpetual campaign of Gov. Rick Scott" in the Tampa Bay Times this weekend, he detailed how the governor will be term-limited out in a few years...but is still operating his political action committee, the Let's Get to Work PAC, as if he's still on the campaign trail.

Among the big-time donors who recently gave to Scott: the Lightning's Jeff Vinik.  According to state records, he donated $100,000 to the governor's PAC in early April.

Maybe that's why Scott tweeted congrats to Vinik & the Bolts four times through two-and-a-half playoff series!
To be fair, it's not uncommon for Gov. Scott to congratulate Florida teams and Floridians who win championships.  But not even the Seminoles during their BCS Championship run got the kind of love (four tweets and a video) the Bolts are getting...and the Stanley Cup playoffs aren't done yet, either!

LOOKUP: Political donations by athletes & owners

Vinik's been a long-time GOP supporter, cutting campaign checks in recent years to the likes of Mitt Romney, Pam Bondi, and the Republican National Committee. 

But maybe another $100k from Vinik could get Scott to grow a playoff beard?

ALSO READ: Gov. Scott still mum on state stadium spending

Don't forget, gubernatorial sports tweets are all in good fun...but they're also in good politicking!

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Author Suggests Sternberg is "Absentee Landlord"

Well-known St. Pete author Peter Golenbock, who wrote a George Steinbrenner autobiography, penned a piece for Creative Loafing this week that basically summarizes the Stadium Saga: a bunch of logical reasons fans aren't coming to the game, and St. Pete's logical refusal to just let the Rays walk for cheap.

But Golenbock goes where few have gone before - suggesting Rays owner Stu Sternberg could turn things around simply by moving (at least part-time) to St. Pete.  An excerpt:
Stu is rightly viewed as a haughty absentee landlord, unlike Jeff Vinik and Bill Edwards, the owners of the Lightning and the Rowdies, who have invested heavily in their communities, not only with money but with their hearts and souls. Vinik is building a multi-million-dollar complex near Amalie Arena. Edwards has rented Al Lang Stadium and has spent millions fixing it up for soccer. He has even bought a sports bar up the street from Al Lang where Rowdies fans can congregate before and after the games. Compared to the millions Sternberg has spent to fix up the once-dingy Trop, it’s small potatoes, but Vinik and Edwards have spent their money on making their customers happy, and their customers are buying tickets and supporting their teams.

To my mind, Stu Sternberg can make baseball successful in Tampa Bay all by himself, but he has to show his fans that he cares about us.

Rent an apartment in St. Pete. Come to games at the Trop, shake hands with the fans and tell them how much you love them. (For almost ten years all we’ve heard is that you’re unhappy with us and the attendance. How’s that working out for you?)

Yes, we know you're pissed because St. Pete didn’t buy the new open-air stadium at the old Al Lang Stadium. Get over it.

Show us a little love, Stu. That’s all you have to do, and if you can do that as this team of talented youngsters develops and grows, so will the attendance. By leaps and bounds. We’ll buy your beer, park in your parking lot, and even build a statue of you near the rotunda.

What do you say, Stu? Give us a little love, big guy.

Do that, and I promise we’ll love you back big time.
Interesting piece.  But didn't he mean, "long time" instead of "big time?"

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Rays Will Help St. Pete Study Trop Redevelopment

The Tampa Tribune's Chris O'Donnell has a good scoop out of St. Pete:
In another attempt to end the deadlock over Tropicana Field, city leaders and the Tampa Bay Rays want to partner in a study on how the Trop site could be redeveloped without a baseball stadium.

The study would be conducted by the Urban Land Institute, a non-profit group regarded as a center of excellence in planning and land-use. Councilman Karl Nurse, one of those pushing the proposal, said it would highlight how redevelopment of the 85-acre site could dovetail with downtown’s expansion. Mayor Rick Kriseman and Alan DeLisle, city development administrator, have also been involved in the discussions, Nurse said. Rays officials have indicated the team would pay part of the cost.

“The intent is to show people this really could be a dramatic redevelopment project for the city but either way you’ve got to start the conversation,” Nurse said. “You can put virtually a billion dollars of redevelopment on there.”
Continue reading here.

St. Pete's council is scheduled to hold a workshop on the stadium saga this coming Thursday - no word yet if the Rays will attend.

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Flashback Friday: To The Days Where the Rays Only Dreamed of First Place

Since there's no decent Rays stadium news to talk about, how about a flashback, to seven years ago, when I was looking for a job in Tampa and the Rays were looking for their first winning season?

It worked out well for both of us later that year.

Hey, if you need another reason to watch, how about a Boof Bonser cameo?

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hillsborough Officials Promise No More "Sweetheart" Stadium Deals, Then Negotiate to Make Existing Deal Sweeter

Remember when I wrote how the NFL dangles Super Bowls in front of communities to convince them to spend tens - if not hundreds - of millions of dollars to subsidize their now-for-profit business?
[W]ith Atlanta getting a new stadium soon, as well as eventual Miami renovations down the road, Tampa may be playing an awfully long waiting that might even lead to the league "suggesting" the region rehab RayJay if it wants another Super Bowl?
We already knew there would be some taxpayer-funded improvements at Raymond James as part of the bid to land the 2017 BCS championship, but with Tampa Bay named a finalist for the 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls, the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman says it could get more expensive:
How much would Raymond James' overall face lift cost? That's still being negotiated, with the county, the TSA and the Bucs willing to share in the investment.

"The uncertainty lies in the level and degree of improvement. To use an example, is it Rooms to Go or is it Ethan Allen?" Hagan said.
Everyone in Hillsborough County talks about "never giving out another sweetheart deal" like the one the Bucs got in the late 90s.  Yet apparently, the county is negotiating with the team to sweeten the pot even more.

ALSO READ: Tampa Sports Authority Exploring State Stadium Funding for Bucs and/or Rays

Part of it for Hillsborough County is contractual: it's obligated to keep Raymond James up-to-date with other NFL venues of similar age.  And because a bunch of other teams have similar language in their stadium deals, municipalities across the country are stuck forking over money to a bunch of billionaires (see: The Stupid Sports Stadium Clause That's Screwing You Over).

The other part of it for Hillsborough County is the Glazers: worth a Forbes-estimated $4.4 billion, they just want taxpayers to help their business model more.

But don't be fooled into thinking this will help you land the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowls, Hillsborough County - the next two awards are going to Atlanta and Miami, two cities with new (or newly-rehabbed) stadiums.  Those cities, along with Tampa Bay and New Orleans, make up the four finalists for the 2019 and 2020 games.

So the county should ask itself if the prospect of a 2021 or 2022 Super Bowl is worth tens of millions of dollars in stadium enhancements now.  Hillsborough is still paying off the bonds for the stadium's construction, and the Bucs are free to walk after the 2027 season.

Would this new, negotiated renovation agreement include a contract extension to lock the Bucs in past 2027?  If it did, do teams actually honor contracts anymore anyway?

It'd be nice for Tampa to win another Super Bowl bid, and the effort is in the very capable hands of Rob Higgins at the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.  But are big-time renovations worth the price?  Not like there aren't millions of dollars in other hidden taxpayer-funded incentives cities can handout to the NFL instead!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

MUST-READ: Baseball Isn't Dying, It's Simply Growing Out of the Ballpark

You've got to take three minutes to read Maury Brown's latest over on Forbes.  The short, but interesting article details how more and more fans - in all baseball cities - are choosing to watch the games on TV.

An excerpt:
Wednesday was a playoff bevy for sports fans with playoffs in both the NBA and NHL, and a great baseball game nationally, but in 14 of 24 markets, it was not hockey or basketball or even that Mets-Cubs that people were watching, but Major League Baseball on their local regional sports networks.

In a sign that baseball continues to be a regional phenomenon, from Cincinnati to Seattle, Boston to Tampa Bay, Baltimore to St. Louis, and more, it was regular season baseball games that crushed all comers in their respective markets over the NBA and NHL playoffs, as well as the nationally televised MLB game on ESPN.
Remember, baseball isn’t dying. It’s simply becoming more of a regional draw.
Maybe the most amazing discovery in the article is that a higher percentage of Tampa Bay households were watching sports last Wednesday than households in Boston...and the Rays game drew a higher rating than the Red Sox (and many other MLB teams in their home markets).
CLARIFICATION: The Sox played at 3:05pm that day, which explains their lower-than-normal viewership.

No matter what, Brown's post is an encouraging read for a Rays fan...certainly more than Dick Vitale's sad interview on Trop attendance or all the rumormongering that will stem from next week's meeting between MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.

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