Sunday, July 5, 2015

Hillsborough Stadium Deal for Rays Could Mirror Cobb Co's Secret, Not-So-Great, Potentially-Illegal Deal for Braves

The Tampa Tribune splashed another stadium story across its front page today, this time focusing on how a next-generation Rays stadium could be built in conjunction with other retail, residential, and entertainment options, just as the Braves are doing in Metro Atlanta. 

It's really not a new idea - the Blue Jays incorporated some of those ideas into the SkyDome, and the Red Sox realized a decade ago there was a ton of money to be made by building new bars on the streets outside Fenway.

But it's interesting to hear Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan, Tampa's single-biggest stadium proponent, suggest the process for a Rays stadium could mirror that of the Braves' new deal in Cobb County:
Hagan said the speed with which the deal between the Braves and Cobb County was approved — commissioners signed off on it just eight weeks after it was announced — shows that it need not take up to two years to get a deal done once the Rays get permission to look.
“The Atlanta model was very different,” he said. “That is encouraging to me, that with all the due diligence we’re doing on the front end, once we’re given the opportunity to sit down with the team, it will not take as long as it historically has to determine a location and a fundraising package.”
Let's remember the expedited timeline for moving the Braves to Cobb Co. was due to secret dealings behind closed-doors that caught taxpayers off-guard.  It also prohibited any real public input, prevented taxpayers from getting a better deal (they're forking over $300M+), and negatively impacted other essential county budget items, like parks.

Oh, and as a kicker, the Braves' new stadium deal will also lead to 45% higher ticket prices!   But that would never happen in Tampa, right???

UPDATE: Good synopsis from Field of Schemes on other flaws with development assumptions:
If development around a stadium were profitable enough to pay off a stadium, teams would be able to pursue this strategy without public subsidies. Not to mention that if stadium-related development is profitable it could be pursued without the money suck of a new stadium could just end up displacing development that otherwise would have taken place somewhere else in town...development around stadiums has typically appeared years late when it shows up at all, etc., etc.


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  1. It's a great idea no doubt. The major problem still lies in the fact that the Rays just don't draw... it's not a recent thing - it's a historical thing - they have never drawn the numbers to the ball park in their entire history...

    When ticket prices go up by x% does anyone think they will draw more people? Has anyone eaten at restaurants as part of a stadium development - have you seen the prices? Whenever things like that are combined, the cost of entertainment sky-rockets. What could have been affordable dining now becomes something only those corporate ticket-holders can afford on expenses - and that includes fast-food joints too.

    The public needs to look at the constant low attendance figures at the Trop as well as those across the state in Miami to see that even if they build it, Floridians are just not in to attending MLB games.

    1. That's a good point, Carl. Like most markets, I always assumed that Tampa Bay's attendance woes would end when they started winning. After all, it has happened most recently in Pittsburgh, Seattle (last year) and KC. The fact that it didn't could indicate that either the market was doomed by the first decade of futility, or that it was never going to make it as an MLB market. While I really don't believe the latter, it is hard to argue the steady decline that attendance has seen even as the team remains competative (last season aside).

      As it comes to entertainment districts, sure they aren't for everyone, but it is true that people like to be where the action is before and after a game, as is shown in most cities having their stadiums downtown. However, a few restaurants or bars isn't going to ease the current transportation woes that many point to as to why folks are staying home.

      I read on another page about San Francisco having some sort of Ferry service that would bring people to AT&T Park. Would something like that work, bringing people from Tampa to the game, but not adding to the bridge congestion?

    2. Matt, the transportation woes are just one of many things that will doom the stadium for the Rays no matter where they are located in the Tampa Bay area. As far as ferries go, yes, that would ease the burden a little assuming people want to add at least an extra 30 mins each way to their commute. And who would absorb the cost? The Rays? Or would that be baked into the park and ferry option? And where would parking be built? So, for a family of four, they’d be expected to give up at least 4 hours for each ball game – 3 hour games plus ferry time. Not to mention the time they would be expected to eat at the new restaurants at said new complex and their commute time back home. Say eating is an hour and commute is about 45 mins each way and let’s say the game is fast at 2.5 hours… that’s a total of at least 5 hours. And let’s not even talk about cost… with the new development – how much will the average ticket go for? And the new park and ferry option – how much will that cost?

      At this point, given the attendance woes at Marlin Stadium plus the continuous decline in an already bad attendance record for the Rays, I cannot help think that Fla is NOT an MLB receptive state – not for the majors anyway. Spring training is a huge hit and it gets a lot of visitors from all over – especially Canada and from within Fla – they come to enjoy baseball at a far more relaxed and far less expensive option than the majors. It’s an “event” for them where they can spend several days. I honestly think that’s the way to go for Tampa.

    3. I would presume that any type of ferry, or even water taxi would be set up by independent businesses, assuming there was demand on the Tampa side.

      Personally speaking, I go to an average of a game a month in the various parks within my driving distance. Not counting the drive, I'm usually there for about 5 hours, taking in pre-game events, exploring the ballpark and the game. But that is probably not for everyone, and that 5 hour time would probably be less if I was a season ticket holder.

      MInd you, in this economy, the family of four is best suited for Minor league baseball on a regular basis, with MLB as a treat from time to time.

    4. And that's exactly why it won't work Matt... An independent operator will only do it if they can make money - how much do you pay for parking today? Add another $10/person for the ferry ride...

      And 5 hours is fine for a Sunday afternoon - can you imagine that for a weeknight game - especially when a game starts at 7pm... people won't get home 11pm/midnight at the earliest. So that rules at families and people who have work the next morning requiring a commute.

      So basically, the Rays would have to rely on all the corporates and those with disposable time and income to boost attendance at the new stadium. How is that sustainable?

      You and I are on the same page re Minor league baseball and families.

    5. Check your facts Carl. 1st year Devil Rays: Avg. attendance: 30,942. Total attendance year: 2,506,023.

      They even had 1.5M 2nd year - 21K per game.

    6. I guess I differ on whether the Rays can draw. I believe they can and downtown is the target. Most new development in Tampa, as of now, is North. Downtown will pull those people. Will they draw 2.5M fans? No. But they easily can reach 1.5M. Their TV market tells you the fan base is there - now what does it take to get them to the park?

      Corporate sponsorship will be tough to pull in because I believe many Co's will stay away until they draw. Catch 22 if you will.

    7. Yawn.. Okay, they drew 2.5 Million once... when they first came into existence....Will they do it again? NOPE

      And without corporate sponsorship, the Rays will NOT get a new stadium.

      Not rocket science

    8. Even the corporate sponsorship are watching the game on TV!

      How come 11 000 ticket sold and only 5 000 (max) in the stands?

      They probably gave their tickets and people/fans are not going anyway.

  2. Hagan: I read half of one headline of an article about the Braves, so we should do what they did.

  3. They Rays will get a new stadium in the Tampa area. Attendance doesn't matter anymore. The key revenue driver is t.v. revenue. The Rays won't be leaving the area. Count on it. You can take that to the bank.

    1. But playing in front of empty seats or in front of fans of the other team in your own stadium IS a problem, especially when the game is broadcasted on TV.

      If attendance doesn't matter, why MLB is reporting it? Because revenue sharing use attendances to distribute money. SO IT DOES MATTER.

      "It's because of revenue sharing," Levin said. "That's what we use in our official count." (Teams contribute 34% of the revenue they generate, including most ticket and concession revenue, into a pool to be redistributed among teams that generate the fewest dollars.)

    2. And what do you think other MLB owners are saying to Sternberg when they see such poor attendances numbers at the time they cut a cheque for revenue sharing, years after years after years?

      Even players of the Rays and the other teams are complaining about that (just ask Scott Boras what his clients (players) think about the attendance in TB).

    3. Poor attendance is bad for the brand, and rarely gets better if it is brought up in the media. Take Montreal in the late 90s. Attendance was bad, they couldn't keep their best players. People stopped showing up. Reports are made about how nobody was showing up, and things only got worse. Sound familiar? The only difference is that the Rays remain competitive through much of the recent slide.

      If I'm a prospective season ticket holder, why would I spend my hard earned dollars on seats to a perceived "lousy" stadium, when I could spend my entertainment dollars on a host of other things? If I'm an advertiser, why would I want my brand associated with a stadium that apparently nobody likes? People are waiting to see what happens with this stadium saga, but holding onto their dollars in the meantime. Perception is reality, so if Tampa Bay is consistently dead last in attendance regardless of what happens on the field, MLB and others are going to question the long term fitness of this franchise, thinking locals don't care. After all, most other MLB teams do fine with their local TV ratings too, but still sell more seats every night.

    4. You nailed it Matt.

      In Montreal, we have the excuse (if I can say that) that the best players were traded, the team was not as competitive as the Rays and the ownership was a complete mess.

      And when it was time to build a stadium, the ownership and the private sector was not behind the project so the governments backtracked.

      Montreal is, to some extend, a very good example of how a vicious circle never stop until the team is gone.

      The only way to stop such spiral is to insure that all stakeholders (fans/community, private sector, ownership, local/state governments, medias) are involved and work together.

      Back in 2000, most of those stakeholders were not involved and behind a project/vision and this is why the Expos left.

    5. Reminds me of...
      "A large part of why Montreal didn't work before was because after the '94 strike, complaints about attendance became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually, only 4,000 fans a game were trickling through the turnstiles. Maybe the Rays are going down the same road toward that self-fulfilling prophecy?"

  4. That makes zero sense - stadium funding depends on attendance. There won't be any public funding without revenue coming in. The Rays have zero money to build it outright themselves!

    Plus, if attendance is NOT required, why bother with building a new stadium in the first place? You are such an idiot.

    And what bank is that? The one in Greece?

    Again, idiot.

    1. In fact, if attendance does not matter but a new stadium is important, why not buy/use an existing MiLB stadium with 5 000-10 000 seats. At least, it will be full at every game!