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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  1. Raise your hand if you made any money off of the previous 4 Super Bowls played in Tampa.

  2. There are only two objectives that matter in this country: the aggregation/concentration of economic power and the aggregation/concentration of political power. When an organization gains enough of these mutually reinforcing forms of power, such an organization can do almost whatever it wants. We see one effect of this power concentration--the privatization of gains and socialization of costs/losses--in many sectors of the economy. We see it in Wall Street bailouts, stadium subsidies, public utility ratemaking, and even defense procurement. The fact that energy prices do not fully price in the social cost of environmental degradation is another example of this dynamic. Gains are privately captured, while costs are diffused across all of society. Some of the private gains then fund politicians to protect the cycle of private gains and public losses. The system, lacking broad, undistorted economic growth, becomes increasingly unequal and increasingly unstable, as it careens from crisis to crisis (financial, fiscal, military, and environmental). The stadium negotiations are a micro form of the perverse incentives of crony capitalism. The answer is not less capitalism, but less cronyism.

    1. Well said! So can I assume that you did not make any money off the previous 4 Super Bowls played in Tampa?