Thursday, July 23, 2015

In Trying to Advance Their Interests, Newspapers May Do Opposite on Rays Stadium

Flashback to a May post on this blog:
It's pretty much guaranteed the first candidate to support the mayor's deal with the Rays (when {Wengay} 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

Even though St. Petersburg is a complicated city with nearly a billion-dollar budget, the newspapers have, of course, made the upcoming August city council elections about a single issue: the Rays.

The five-way District 7 race will likely determine if the mayor gets his necessary fifth vote to allow the Rays to explore stadium sites outside of St. Pete, or whether the proposal continues to fail along 4-4 lines.  Chasing endorsements along the campaign trail, four out of the five candidates have now said they'd approve the mayor's compromise.

The Times hasn't released its endorsements yet (Wheeler-Brown is a virtual lock), but the Trib printed one endorsement today:
Lisa Wheeler-Brown, a community activist and past president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations, says she will support a deal like the one Kriseman negotiated. In contrast, Winthrop “Will” Newton, a retired firefighter and brother of Wengay Newton, says the deal Kriseman struck with the Rays wasn’t good enough.
Making the whole endorsement about a single $25 million-or-so dispute between the city and a single business entity kind of undermines the brains and capability of Wheeler-Brown, who is capable of a much more comprehensive undertaking.

But it also may not do her any favors in St. Petersburg, where voters are currently enjoying the services of the Rays and may not want to let them leave.  Remember, most readers of the Tampa Tribune can't vote in city elections.

In fact, a recent poll showed the frontrunner in District 7 is the guy who's raised a paltry $1,250, Will Newton, who happens to be the only candidate opposed to the Rays compromise as currently proposed.
We'll see if the Rays follow the strategy I laid out in March: influencing the election with hard or soft political money
We'll also see if the newspapers ever write an editorial suggesting the Rays simply cough up a few million more dollars a year (the price of a middle reliever) to break the stalemate and move on with their search.

UPDATE: Florida Politics reports councilman Steve Kornell, who also said it would take more money to get a "yes" vote out of him on the stadium deal, issued his endorsement or Will Newton.

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  1. Rays MUST be allowed to explore outside St Pete's and/or outside of Florida!

    1. Why? How much should the Rays pay to do so? And what qualifications do you bring to the discussion?

    2. Everyday that pass, less money the Rays will pay for such privilege.

      It's a question of demand and offer. So far, the demand is not clear and the offer was part of the MOU. There's a big GAP.

      Regarding qualifications, Carl's comments are very valuable, no matter if you approve them or not. That's not the point.

      Maybe you should start and let us know what qualifications you have to post such questions.

  2. This Carl clown continues to talk out of both sides of his mouth. Everybody to him is an idiot when he only needs to look in the mirror. And he also claims to be from Clearwater when its clear to me he is actually from Montreal. This jerk really needs to get a life and stop clogging up one of the best websites out there.

  3. I'm not sure why there is a need for personal attacks and insults on here towards a regular poster who offers a local opinion. By the looks of it, Carl is a frustrated Rays fan, and I don't blame him. If I were a local, or season ticket holder, and could see the writing on the wall, all the while watching fewer people at the games, I'd be frustrated too.

    Either way, the city is holding out for more money, which is their right, but as the years tick by, their take is reduced, not unlike the underwhelming David Price trade last year. Not everyone is going to be happy. And if I'm Stu and Brian, and it looks like this team isn't going anywhere, people aren't coming to games, and I'm stuck at a stadium that ranks as the worst in MLB until city council releases me or the calendar hits 2027, where is my motivation for spending on free agents?

    And finally, even though I've asked it a million times on here, and ironically enough, Carl is the only one who's ever even acknowledged it, can some locals let us know how many games they take in during a regular season, or why they stay away? After all, books have been written about why fans stayed away in Montreal. What would fill the pages of a similar study on Tampa Bay? Is the traffic really any worse than any other city after a big event?

    1. Hi Matt,

      I go to about 4 games a year - I live in Lutz north of Tampa, about 35 miles from the Trop. If the stadium was in downtown Tampa area - about 12 miles from my home - I doubt that I would go any more or any less.

      The further slumping of attendance at the Trop is the result of continued bad-mouthing of the stadium by the Rays owner and others, and now the fact that there are very few if any players on the team that are 'must-see'. The simple reality might be that Tampa Bay will never draw more than 20,000 per game, so MLB has to decide if they want to continue to have a team in this 13th largest TV market (just 8,000 households behind 11th place Phoenix and 12th place Detroit.)

    2. Good point Matt. I'm living in Montreal and I can say that traffic is bad, really bad downtown. Lot's of construction on the roads, especially during the summer. But driving time is almost the same during the winter considering the time to get to the car, start the car, drive in winter conditions without construction.

      To give you an idea, after a Habs game, downtown Montreal, it should take me 1H if I use the train (assuming all trains lines are available at the end of the game).

      If I'm using the metro and I park my car near the station, it will take me 1h15 to 1h30 max.

      If I'm using my car, it takes me at least 1h30.

      And I'm living 35km to 40km (22-25 miles) from downtown, in the radius of the 2.8M-3M population.

      Consider the summer driving time the same, downtown construction is as bad as a snow storm.

      So this is our reality with Mass Transportation, which is what we are used too when a big event (has game or show) happens downtown.

    3. Thank you Matt. Not exactly sure what Jeff's issues are. I've already gone on record here stating which community I live in and how many games I go to - which so far is far more than most of the fans here have stated. I have a HALF-SEASON ticket package paid for by myself - that's 42 games! The commute from Clearwater is horrendous but since I work not too far from the Trop, I can manage it - the weekends is another issue.

      I've been to Montreal many times and even attended Expos games there between in the 90s and 2000s. I've also been up there last year for a conference and @Anon 8:40 is correct that the current road construction is there is bad - all the highways are being redone and now they have begun demolition of a downtown overpass which ironically is a site often talked about for a new stadium. Bu the subway there is fantastic - it took me 20 mins to get from my downtown hotel to the stadium.

      The city's fans there are loud at the games and very enthusiastic and know their baseball.

      It's frustrating for me as a Rays fan here going to an empty stadium that's quiet as a church most times. Home Opener was great - seeing the fans in the stands but overall, FL is showing an apathy to MLB baseball. Having said that Spring Training is a huge hit - maybe that ought to be our focus.

      I'd love to see the Rays get a new home to play in - a beautiful stadium and packed with fans. Realistically, I don't see that happening in FL anymore. It's frustrating indeed. But I'd rather they continue to exist in Montreal in a new home with fans than suffer through the bs here. Also, the redevelopment of the Trop area would be a fantastic opportunity for St Pete.

      So Jeff - go eff yourself.

  4. Combination of several factors:
    1. Florida car culture = sprawl, lack of dense urban commercial/residential cores.

    2. Retirees, transplants, and retiree transplants = not high energy, not high income, lifelong fans of other franchises.

    3. Low education / low wages = the working age population does not do advanced enough work to earn enough to attend more games. 100 years after Florida's first real population boom, jobs are still mostly retail/hospitality (yay, a new restaurant!), with some construction during boom times (yay, another Lakewood Ranch golf course subdivision!). For example, look at that sad quote from the Times article about the new Miami condo boom: "Silicon Valley sells tech, while Miami sells condos!" As if real estate for the sake of real estate is some kind of valuable forward-looking commodity on which to base a region's economy.

    4. Entertainment competition: There's simply other stuff to do. Go to the beach, go fishing, go to a park, watch something different. I am sure the same holds true in Montreal, and there are probably lots of competing diversions there from the spring through fall, but maybe the working age population there is larger/more concentrated/hungrier for baseball? It is easier for some than others to forget the decade-long first impression of MLB here.

    5. Awareness of scarcity: Boomers are not familiar with resource scarcity. They lived most of their lives with rising wages and solid economic growth, and often unquestioning acquiescence to "the way things are done." This explains the common polling of people who consistently want both (1) lower taxes and (2) more services/bigger military/more things. The boomers have given themselves low taxes and have yet gobbled services and thrown it all on someone else's tab. Some of the next generation are beginning to question and re-think "the way things are done" in a way that might lead to some change in the management of everyone's tax dollars--whether it's a superPAC kickback in exchange for a generous Channelside subsidy or a kickback for some help on Al Lang Stadium or an endorsement in order to get a new Rays stadium or a staged "public hearing" in Cobb County, GA. There's a sense that the boomers are victims of their own tremendous wealth generation, which has almost entirely rotted away any ethical compass they started with. That all stands in contrast to the ease with which we can all view reports on the BS of the stadium racket--Atlanta, Miami, Glendale, Milwaukee, St. Petersburg. Something might give, but I would not expect St. Petersburg to lead the way. Despite claims and aspirations to the contrary, St. Petersburg is still much closer to its Green Bench retiree roots than to any alternative. In small towns, corrupt deals are cut and souls are sold in less time than a coastal Florida summer nap.

    1. Very thorough, thank you. I do appreciate seeing the different perspectives on this site. The reasons and frustrations that you share indicate how unique this situation is for the Rays and residents alike.

      We all know a new stadium is the answer, but if no one is willing to pay for it, along with a potentially low ceiling for attendance given the reasons above stalling things, the Rays still have no security in the region. Say what you will about the Marlins, but at the very least, there's no danger of them moving in the next 25 years, regardless of their attendance. Loria still pushes his luck though. Such a jerk.

      The Rays want to pay as little as possible to get out of the MOU, the city wants as much as they get. What a long and boring tug of war it's been. May as well watch the Rays game while I wait. It might take a while...

    2. Why is there no fear of Marlins moving for 25yrs? If their attendance plunges and 15 nicer, newer stadiums are built in other cities....will they not be leveraging to leave early as the Rays have hinted?

    3. Maybe that should read 15-18 years thanks to recent rumblings by the Bucks, Hawks, Braves, and Redskins.

      Loria may be a lousy owner, but he knows that after he swindled Miami that nobody is going to give him a better deal on a stadium. And thanks to him, it sure is going to be difficult for the Rays to make a deal, assuming they are ever able to look outside St Pete.

  5. There's another reason why fans are not showing up at the Trop.