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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  1. I do agree that this is something missing (give a little love) and it will help. But this is only one part of the equation.

    In Montreal, we have three major teams. Two of them are own by local people (Habs and Impact in MLS) and they are deeply involved at all levels (Jeff Molson and Joey Saputo). Has are doing more than great and Impact have their ups and downs. It's a work in progress and their are going in the right direction in terms of attendances.

    A third one (Alouettes in CFL) are very popular and owner/general manager are not even living in the city and not deeply active in the community. Yes the team is involved but bottom line, Alouettes situation is similar to the Rays. And both teams are good teams, competitive and winning.

    So why the Alouettes are popular with very good attendances (average is higher than the Rays for Canadian football) and Rays are popular but with very weak attendances?

    There are other reasons (economical, location, transportation, ...) that are directly linked to the problem. Just a little (or a lot) of love will not resolve the issue.

    Use Agreement (constraints to look at other location and opening the debate about financing) is at the center of this problem with mass transportation (that is not under the Rays control, this is a community long term project/vision). This is the two elements that affect the Rays attendances IMOHO.

    I understand that Sternberg must live with the UA (it was negotiated buy the previous owner in good faith and he was aware of it when he bought the team) but such contract with the fact that each cities in the region are fighting to get the team (and the economical impacts) means that all the ingredients to get a very bad meal are there.

  2. I sent the following comments to Peter Golenbock:

    Item #1:
    You state:
    "The Bucs are a lousy football team, and its owners are the hated Glazer boys."

    I heartily agree. Please see "The Glazers fleeced us. Will Stu Sternberg do the same?" posted at 10/7/2014.

    Item #2:
    You state:
    "There is yet another less obvious reason for our poor attendance: When George Steinbrenner was drummed out of Cleveland for closing down his American Shipbuilding operation, he moved his offices to the city of Tampa and took over the city. He built Steinbrenner Field, the spring training home of the New York Yankees, attracting swarms of diehard Yankee fans each spring. Tampa has thus become a Yankees stronghold. Tampans would rather watch the YES network than come to Rays games."

    According to , taxpayers paid for 100% of Legends Field, which later was renamed George M. Steinbrenner Field.
    "The ballpark and the surrounding training complex cost approximately $30 million to build and was financed entirely with public funds, mostly from Hillsborough County.[13][14][15] It hosted its first spring training game on March 1, 1996 when the Yankees opened spring training by hosting the Cleveland Indians.[11]
    In 2006, Hillsborough County paid for a $7.5 million expansion to add more seats and amenities behind right field.[16]The addition opened in 2008."

    Did George Steinbrenner pay a dime for the stadium? Of course if he did, that would be a dime more than the Glazers paid for RayJay

    Item #3:
    Stu Sternberg lives in Rye, NY, not Scarsdale.

    Item #4:
    You state:
    "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."

    Vinik has spent $40 million on Amalie Arena, which is significantly more than Sternberg has spent on the Trop.

    Item #5:
    Stu Sternberg's moving to St. Pete would be a nice gesture, but would make no significant difference in attendance, IMHO.

  3. I know Peter Golenbock and respect his work but absolutely disagree with his thoughts on Rays owner Stuart Sternberg needing to live in the Tampa Bay area to improve attendance at Tropicana Field. The drop in attendance this year can be attributed to many things but not having a resident owner is likely at the bottom of the list.

    1. I doubt having Stu spending more time here would help one bit. Did you check the attendance of the Rays vs. that joke sport of arena football last night? The Storm almost outdrew them on the same night. And they didn't even have The Jacksons playing!

  4. "This isn't just a pump-and-dump, because I've met Stu."

    Welp, that's settled. I am convinced.

    Golenbock reminds me of that great scene in Moneyball when all of the old-timers are sitting around debating whether a prospect "looks like a ballplayer." I wish I could give any weight to what Golenbock feels in his heart, but I cannot.