Saturday, October 31, 2015

Are Rays Failing to Turn Fans Into Fanatics?

Rays fans, need your thoughts regarding a quick tweet from one of this blog's loyal Canadian readers, Patrice Derome.  To his credit, he hasn't sought to screw Tampa Bay fans, but he has challenged whether the Tampa Bay market can realistically sustain MLB long-term.

Derome poses a good question for Rays fans, citing the "psychological continuum model" that ultimately affects how often fans attend games and how much of their income they're willing to spend on a team:

Have Rays fans moved up through the stages of the continuum over the past 15 years?  Derome says if not, the risks of eventual relocation are high:
So Rays fans, what do you think?

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Buckhorn Thinks Tampa Stadium Likely, as Long as He Doesn't Have to Figure Out Financing

Mayor Bob Buckhorn addresses the inevitable baseball question in a Q&A segment for Creative Loafing:
The chances of a downtown stadium in that spot coming to pass? “60-40. But don’t ask me how we pay for it. The lingering bad taste about [financing for the] Bucs stadium will affect this; we won’t ever be able to go to a referendum to pay for it. This deal would end up being done by multiple financing sources: tourist development taxes, rent car surcharge, private equity, city/county. It’ll be smaller — look more like Pittsburgh’s than New York’s — though a dome is a hundred million [dollars] more. MLB doesn’t want suburban stadiums, they want them in the downtown core, where people empty out of these towers for a 4 p.m. game [so there’d be] 18,000-25,000 people downtown for a game.”
The problem for Hillsborough stadium sites, however, is rental car taxes were just raised to pay for airport expansion. 

And that passing "city/county" reference Buckhorn made?  Well, that means property/general revenue taxes, which neither councilmembers nor commissioners support at this point.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

BREAKING: Rays Reject St. Pete's Counteroffer

Here's the quick statement from Rays President Brian Auld following a meeting with St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman this afternoon:
"Although we appreciate the time and attention that Mayor Kriseman and the City Council have dedicated to this issue, we do not agree to this proposal. We remain open to pursuing a cooperative path forward.”
It was such a quick statement...think it could have been pre-planned?!?

And although the Rays want out of the Trop badly, it can't be that badly...the counteroffer would have only cost the Rays approx. $4.2 million for every year they left early from a Tropicana Field contract that runs through 2027.  It's $2.2 million/season more than they wanted to pay and they weren't expected to accept...but it's also the bargain of the century, depending on whom you ask.

My colleague, Grayson Kamm spoke with Kriseman immediately after the meeting:
So now, we'll all wait until Tuesday's city election to see which candidates are elected to council.  If the candidate the Times is hoping will break the deadlock, Lisa Wheeler-Brown, doesn't win, the team may be forced to negotiate with less leverage than it's ever had before

But Wheeler-Brown defeats Will Newton, then St. Pete council will get yet another "last chance" to save the ballclub that's locked into a stadium contract for 12 more years.

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St. Pete Taxpayers to Pay for Second Baseball Stadium?

Mayor Rick Kriseman meets with the Rays today to present city council's latest offer: basically a $4.2 million/yr termination fee for leaving St. Pete before 2027.  That's double what the Rays and Kriseman previously negotiated, but a fraction of the $19 million/yr the Tampa Bay Times once suggested the Rays pay.

Of course, if the team stays, the price is zero.

In fact, Kriseman has been steadfast in his city's ability to put together the best package for a new stadium right on the current Tropicana Field site.

But even if St. Pete redevelops the Trop into a 15-acre stadium with 70 acres of residential, retail, and commercial space, it's not quite sure where the funding would come from.  Did Kriseman support new city taxes going toward a new stadium when taxpayers have already paid for another decade's worth of baseball in St. Pete?

The mayor said it wouldn't have to be "new" taxes since bed taxes and private money from redeveloping the Trop could be enough.   But that's quite a tall task...and some serious speculation.

Yes, the single-biggest pot of potential stadium money in all of Tampa Bay is Pinellas County's tourist tax.  Even if the county's tourism industry would allow two full cents of sales tax to go toward a new MLB stadium, we're only looking at approximately $12 million per year of revenue, which might bond approx. $150 million in construction. 

Even if the Rays, who refuse to talk about their contributions, are willing to pay $150-200 million, we're still a looooong way from paying for a new fixed-roof stadium, even if it only costs $450 million. 

That'd mean at least $50-100 million in local tax dollars - comparable to what St. Pete was paying for 30 years on Tropicana Field - but also money that could go toward the city's countless other needs.

It may all be a moot point if you believe the Rays should be in Tampa anyway.  Of course, that city doesn't have any cash to pay for a stadium either...but I digress.

As for today's meeting, don't expect the Rays to offer much in response.  Why show your cards now when you don't even know the hand you're holding?  New councilmembers will be elected next Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Quickies!

Some quick links for your Sunday reading pleasure:
  1. Tampa Tribune editorial board : "Another shortsighted vote by St. Pete City Council" hammers city council for asking appox. $4M/yr if the Rays want to terminate their contract at the Trop early.  But it's really just another shortsighted editorial for the same reasons the Times' nearly-identical editorial was the day before.
  2. Rob Neyer - Fox Sports' lead baseball writer contends that if the Rays/MLB want out of Tropicana Field, all they have to do (and all they've had to do) is write a damn check.
  3. Gary Shelton - Writing for Saint Petersblog, the former Times scribe writes it would be wise for Sternberg to return to the negotiating table.
  4. Maury Brown - Writing for Forbes, Brown shows that the Rays had the top cable ratings of all programming in Tampa Bay this year.  Their 75,000 viewers per night were better than the Nats, Braves, and Dodgers!  They had nearly twice as many viewers as the Reds, Rockies, or Brewers!!  And on an average night, the Rays had almost as many fans watching them than the A's, White Sox, and Marlins combined.
That last fact brings up a good reminder that next year - even with the explosive growth of sports television contracts possibly plateauing - the Rays stand to make enormous financial gains when their local TV deal comes up for renewal.

The tens of millions of new dollars each season the Rays can expect will dwarf the $2M/yr they're currently haggling over with St. Pete's council

And let's not forget, just a few years ago, the Times printed a story contending that St. Pete could expect the Rays to pay $19M/yr to break their contract at the Trop. 

So with the Rays looking at an offer from St. Pete of only $4M/yr to explore new stadium sites in Hillsborough County...what say you, Stu?

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Times Once Wrote Rays Payoff to St. Pete Should Be $150 Million

A very interesting read from the Times' Stephen Nohlgren: "Keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay: Why time is running short."

It appeared in the editorial pages of the Tampa Bay Times.  Actually, it was the St. Petersburg Times.  Because the article about how time was running short on a deal was printed on April 2, 2010:
In the best of worlds, with few glitches, a new stadium would take six or seven years to complete. Nine or 10 years is more likely...A 10-year project that needs to be completed by 2022 must start in 2012. A nine-year project that needs to be completed by 2020 must start by 2011.  
Freeing the Rays to move to either Tampa or another city within the next six or seven years could net St. Petersburg hundreds of millions of dollars.

But imagine, too, how the city could benefit from say, a $150 million buyout, $60 million from selling the Trop's 86 acres, $80 million in savings from not building a new stadium, $100 million from bonding out new tax revenue from a developed Trop?  
The 10-year timeline seems does the "hundreds of millions of dollars" claim, given the Times' recent contentions that even $4 million per season (around $37 million total) is too much for the Rays to pay for the right to terminate their contract early.

Nohlgren wrote $150 million would be a good price for the Rays to cough up if it wanted out of its contract by 2020, with the offer diminishing every year closer we got to 2027.

Except we know Mayor Bill Foster offered the team out of the Trop for $5 million/yr.  In 2013, it would have cost the team for just $75 million.  According to Foster, the team wouldn't even consider the offer.

So either the Times editorial board is right and Nohlgren is way wrong regarding how much the Rays should pay to escape the deal they signed in 1998...or the team is on the verge of scoring the bargain of the century.

Nohlgren also pointed out a judge might award St. Pete more than $100 million if the Rays decided to break their contract and leave.  But to his credit, he recognized the value of "damages" would diminish as years ticked away on the contract:
No matter what course the city ultimately takes, each successive year without concrete progress drains St. Petersburg of legal and financial leverage. It damages the entire region's chances for baseball.
Often lost in the talk of diminishing leverage is the fact that every year that ticks away on the contract is also an additional year St. Pete benefits from having the team (without any remaining bond payments on the stadium!). 

ALSO READ: Not clear if St. Pete has any less leverage in the negotiations than it did in 2010

Following Nohlgren's 2010 column, I wrote how the Rays' lack of real urgency was a sign they were just trying to scare the region and lower the price of a buyout:
Why aren’t they at the table if they want a new stadium so badly?

It seems that - because although they’re counting on public money for a stadium - there’s not much public support for one. So the Rays continue to wait.
In the five years since, the Rays haven't done much more than wait....while public support for a stadium has only grown...and the appetite for a legit payoff to St. Pete for agreeing to tear up the Trop contract has only shrunk.

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Times Ed. Board: Council Missed "Last Chance"...Now We Have to Wait Two Weeks Until Next "Last Chance"

Just hours after St. Pete councilmembers approved a counteroffer that would allow the Rays to explore stadium sites in Hillsborough County, the Tampa Bay Times editorial board wasted no time in panning the vote and calling for voters to replace some of the councilmembers:
Once again, the St. Petersburg City Council has sent exactly the wrong signal and further jeopardized the future of Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay. It voted Thursday for the most expensive proposal to let the Rays look for a new stadium site in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, virtually ensuring the Rays will reject it and prolonging the stalemate.
If nothing else, the Times is jeopardizing MLB's future in Tampa Bay by continue to give Rays a free pass on transparency, as well as doing the team's public bidding against a local municipality trying to secure the best deal for its taxpayers against a major corporation.

As a firm believer in the power of the Fourth Estate, I recognize editorial pages can be used to hold the powerful accountable, as the Times did in 2012 when it pushed two Pinellas County commissioners out of office over the removal of fluoride from the water system.

But it's irresponsible for the Times to give the powerful (the Rays) a free pass on this one. Although the Rays won't share season-ticket data, revenue data, or anything to dispute the monstrous profits Forbes estimates they've made in Stu Sternberg's 10 years as owner…the Times is essentially shaking down a local government over a $15 million difference in opinions when it's the Rays who have asked for the financial concessions in the first place.

I digress...and the editorial continues:
Voting for an unrealistic plan is no better than voting against a reasonable one that adequately protected taxpayers and that the Rays already had accepted.
The Times has never provided any numbers or data to support its "unrealistic" claim.  Its only evidence: the Rays have said they don't want to pay very much and they'd like to please get out of their contract for a much smaller price. 
Here is the reality: Another year has ticked off the Rays' lease to play in outdated Tropicana Field until 2027. Another year has passed where the Rays were last in attendance. Another year has been lost where outside forces, such as development plans for downtown Tampa and the Pinellas County-owned Toytown landfill, have changed the tenor of the Rays discussion. St. Petersburg is losing negotiating leverage, yet the City Council upped the price for letting the Rays look throughout their core market for a stadium site.
Actually, maybe St. Pete isn't losing negotiating leverage since the Rays seem to have fewer options - and a more pressing need - than they did five years ago.

The Times issues a mild compliment of Kennedy for at least showing the slightest notion of compromise, but it was not as complimentary of his counterparts who voted for the plan...especially popular councilman Steve Kornell, who is up for re-election in two weeks:
Voters can resolve this issue in the Nov. 3 elections. Two City Council candidates, Lisa Wheeler-Brown and Philip Garrett, have pledged to support Kriseman's agreement with the Rays. If even one of them is elected, that would break the stadium deadlock. The quickest path forward is to elect new council members rather than wait for enough incumbents to see the light.
The Times is right that the election remains the Rays' best chance at getting out of the Trop cheaply...but it's not a good use of ink for the paper to advocate the voters of St. Pete (many of whom might actually be happy their elected officials want the Rays to pay more of a penalty for skipping town 7-9 years early) cast their Nov. ballots with just one issue on their minds - the Rays - despite a multitude of issues facing their city.

The Stadium Saga is a long, drawn-out game...and we're only in the fifth inning.

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.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

City Council Approves Rays Counteroffer - Most Important Takeaways

If the Rays want out of St. Pete, they now have a counteroffer from city council. 

Proposed by councilman Jim Kennedy, a majority of city council signed off on a compromise that would allow the Rays to explore stadium sites across Pinellas & Hillsborough Counties if they agreed to pay St. Pete $4 million a year for every year they leave before the 2027 expiration of their current deal, plus a one-time $5 million redevelopment fee.  If they moved out of the city, but remained in Pinellas County, those numbers would be reduced to $2.5 million and $2.5 million, respectively.

If the Rays threw out a first pitch in Tampa in 2019, they'd owe $41 million.

Here are some of the top takeaways from today's meeting:

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Miami Dolphins Re-Apply for State Stadium Cash

The Miami Dolphins were the first pro team to apply for state stadium funds this year - a controversial revenue stream that this blog has scrutinized at-length (see bevy of links below).

After countless blog posts and several WTSP investigations on the poor ROI from the state's stadium subsidies, lawmakers ultimately decided this year to just return the earmarked money back to the state's general revenue funds so they can be used for the kind of things Floridians use every day, like schools and roads.

Of course, the four applicants last year proved my point that the scary repercussion of not publicly-subsidizing stadiums is teams just pay for them themselves.  Daytona International Speedway, the Miami Dolphins, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Orlando City Soccer all continued their construction anyway without the public funds, with the soccer club ultimately pulling their application in May, saying they didn't need the money after all.

No word on if the Jags and Daytona Int'l Speedway will re-apply for the funds this year, but the Dolphins are, using their exact same application.  Read the Dolphins application here.

In the application, the Dolphins aren't claiming the subsidies would create any new jobs or economy...just that renovations would allow them to rip out seats and charge fans more for tickets.

So who else is expected to apply this year?  As first reported on WTSP-TV and this blog...the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!

The big questions now - how many seats to the Glazers want to rip out, and how much more do they plan on charging fans post-renovation?

5/29/15 - GASP! Orlando City Soccer Didn't Get Expected State Funds & Will Now...Just Pay for It Themselves
4/11/15 - Pro Teams Want Tax Money So They Can Rip Out Seats (and Charge You More)
2/19/15 - Lawmakers Kick Can Down the Road...Again...on State Stadium Subsidies
2/12/15 - Conservative group launches anti-stadium subsidy radio ad
2/11/15 - Lobbying ramps up after rankings come in

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Has Foot-Dragging Really Cost St. Pete Leverage in Rays Stadium Saga? Or Created Leverage?

Not to be outdone by the Tampa Tribune's latest presumptive "last chance" editorial a day earlier, the Times editorial board published another "last chance" editorial of its own this morning.

Shall we start picking it apart?
(Councilman Jim Kennedy) has proposed terms clearly unacceptable to the Rays, suggesting the team pay the city $33 million if it moved to Tampa by 2020
This myopic preoccupation with forcing the Rays to pay a premium for looking for stadium sites in both counties ignores reality.
Well, that's certainly firm.  But the Times misses the legal strategy of Kennedy (an attorney by trade), former city attorney John Wolfe (retired) and former mayor Bill Foster (run out of office by the Times).

These men don't see the MOU as a simple document allowing the Rays to look for a new stadium; they see it as the city's only chance to put a dollar figure on the unspecified damages St. Pete is entitled to if the Rays violate their contract.

So if the team decides it doesn't have a "pitch-perfect location" with ample financing in either Tampa or St. Pete....this may be the only chance council has to set a steep enough exit price for the team that they think twice about leaving Florida altogether.  It's insurance...and the Rays are fighting it.

Of course, if you happen to think a sports team owner (any owner) the benefit of the doubt when he says he has no intentions of leaving the region, you need to go back and read a few history books.  Even the best franchise owners have brought up mild threats of relocation in campaigns for stadium cash in recent decades.

The Times editorial continues:
A higher buyout likely reduces how much the Rays would contribute toward a new stadium outside St. Petersburg.
While this is true, the Times continues to give the Rays a free pass on how much they'd be willing to contribute to a new stadium, as well as if they have a real financial need for more tax dollars.

This does a disservice to taxpayers, as Tampa Bay's municipalities are basically just negotiating against themselves.
The bottom line remains the same. The council should approve the reasonable deal Kriseman negotiated — if the Rays still would accept it after another year has ticked off the Trop lease and another year has produced the league's lowest attendance.
I get the paper's support for the Kriseman deal, but it's crazy to think the Rays wouldn't accept the offer.  It's a sweetheart deal that even the Glazers would be proud of.
The clock is ticking, and the city is losing more leverage.
The Times has been writing this since 2010...but does the city really have less leverage than it did five years ago?  Can anyone provide one concrete piece of proof? 

One could argue they have more leverage, given the Rays' diminishing options and impatience.
Pinellas needs to decide how best to spend the resort tax. St. Petersburg needs to focus on exploring redevelopment opportunities at the Trop site that could bring in thousands of new jobs, millions of tax dollars and billions of dollars of new spending. And Tampa Bay needs to secure the future of its Major League franchise by partnering with the Rays to build a new stadium in the best location.
Translation: forget all this talk about charging the Rays $22 million here or $33 million there....we need to get to more important issues, like how many hundreds of millions of tax dollars the citizens of Tampa Bay can throw at a new stadium!

St. Pete council talks about the latest Rays proposals today at 2 p.m. and I'll be posting live updates on @StadiumShadow.

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.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Trib: Last Chance for a Rays Agreement...Or Else! (Once Again)

Double-trouble from the Tampa Trib today on the Rays' Stadium Saga!

A day ahead of St. Pete city council's latest foray into contract amendment negotiations, both the Trib's editorial board and it's lead metro columnist, Joe Henderson, penned pieces regarding the big rush for a Rays deal in 2015, a full 12 years before the end of its use agreement with the team.

An excerpt from the editorial board, which claims any alteration to Mayor Rick Kriseman's negotiated deal runs the risk of losing the Rays:
We hope the council considers instead a way to reverse last spring’s dreadful decision to reject Mayor Rick Kriseman’s reasonable and fair proposal to let the team look in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties for new stadium sites.
Then, a factual error:
Under Kriseman’s deal, the Rays would pay the city from $4 million to $2 million a year as compensation for leaving Tropicana Field before the contract to play there through 2027 expires.
Actually, it's between $4 million and $0 because the Rays refused to compensate St. Pete for breaking the final year of the deal, 2027.  And since the team won't leave before 2018, it'll never have to pay $4 million for any single season under the Kriseman plan, either.

The Trib continues:
The council is running out of chances to get this right. If a majority can’t get behind a viable plan like the one the mayor negotiated, whether now or after the election, it could be game over.
For those of you keeping score at home, the Trib editorial board told us last off-season it was the "last chance" for a compromise too. In 2012, the board wrote contraction was a possibility without a new stadium soon.  And in 2010, the paper was unabashedly driving the campaign train to get the Rays out of the Trop.

Sigh.  This was my reaction after the last "last chance" stories in 2014:
FLASHBACK 2014: Rays Continue to (Mostly) Get a Free Pass from Local Press

Meanwhile, Henderson's column was more thoughtful and less least of city council.  He actually took a critical approach to the region's inability to pack the stands, adding the Rays won't pay much more than they've already agreed to and council should essentially stop asking them to:
So let’s just skip the theatrics. We’ve waited this long for consensus on a stadium solution. Everyone can wait a couple of weeks until after the elections so we will know who is on the council and what the chances are of actual serious negotiations.
When that hour comes, hopefully the city is finally prepared to accept an uncomfortable truth. Major League Baseball doesn’t work in downtown St. Petersburg, and it never will.
...Fans have shown time and again they won’t drive an hour or more each way through our choking traffic to the extreme west side of the market to watch a weeknight baseball game. Neither of these latest proposals appears to acknowledge that.
I first wrote in 2009 that all the talk about the Trop's inadequate structure was silly; its location was the real problem.  I must've been convincing; new stadium advocates have adopted the talking point ever since.

To Henderson's credit, he's written about the remote location of Tropicana Field for a long time too, and he's right that fans in Florida generally aren't willing to drive 60 minutes for a baseball game. 

But fans are in other MLB markets.  Who is responsible for that miscalculation?

Let's ask ourselves - is it the city of St. Pete, being asked to make financial concessions to the corporations (MLB & Rays) that made a bad business decision?  Or is it the corporations that put the baseball team in the remote stadium in the first place and have profited generously from its existence for the last three decades?

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Romano Now Calls on Rays to Step Up to Plate on Stadium Negotiations

This morning, we read the Times' John Romano is happy there may be a little bit of progress in the Rays' Stadium Saga, with numerous St. Pete councilmembers now naming their prices to allow the Rays to take off for Tampa.

Romano even calls on the Rays and owner Stu Sternberg to come back to the table and re-re-re-re-negotiate if they truly want out of the contract they have with the city (which allowed Sternberg to buy the team at a steep discount & ultimately turn tidy profits).
Although, Romano acknowledges, "the Rays cannot be happy about this."  He continues:
We have been chiding council members about making a potentially historic blunder because they couldn't see the bigger picture.

Well, now council is offering its own version of a deal. And it's up to the Rays to consider a new version of the bigger picture.

A compromise exists. It's time to find it.
It's a nice column from Romano, who wrote a year ago that Mayor Rick Kriseman likely couldn't have negotiated any better of a compromise than the roughly $2 million/year in departure fees.  But now, it seems Romano is more optimistic St. Pete councilmembers may be able to drive a better deal.
Of course, Romano isn't the first one to call on the Rays to sweeten the pot enough so St. Pete councilmembers could continue to show their faces in the city...
In 2010, I pointed out how the Supersonics' departure from Seattle wasn't a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, but when timing was of the essence, they had to cough up $45 million for leaving two years early.  That figure helped councilman Steve Kornell suggest the Rays pay $55 million earlier this year.
UPDATE: Some folks dismiss the Seattle payoff figure because bonds were still owed on the arena.  Well, an interesting side note to the Rays talks is that the state is still paying $2M/yr. in Trop bonds and the Rays may have to eat those payments too.
And when I wrote, "How the Rays Are Playing Hardball...and Winning," I detailed how St. Pete may not even realize it has the upper-hand in the negotiations....and may not ever again.
So will the Rays balk at the idea of re-re-re-negotiating again?  Or will they step up to the plate to secure the deal they supposedly desperately need?

One thing's for shouldn't expect any editorial boards to echo Romano's call for further compromise.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Is Gerdes' Rays Stadium Proposal Dead on Arrival?

There's the Kriseman/Rays planthe Gerdes planthe Kornell plan;  and now we have the Kennedy plan as another St. Pete city councilmember proposes specific terms in which he would allow the Rays to explore new stadium sites in Hillsborough Co.

According to the Trib's Chris O'Donnell, Councilman Jim Kennedy (potentially with the influence of his ally and former mayor Bill Foster?) proposes the Rays compensate the city of St. Pete $4 million a year for every year they play in Hillsborough County until 2027; or $2.5 million a year for every year they play in Pinellas County, outside of St. Pete city limits (like Toytown, Carillon, Derby Lane, etc).

Additionally, Kennedy is proposing the Rays pay a one-time fee to help redevelop the Trop: $5 million if they move to Hillsborough, and $2.5 million if they leave St. Pete but stay in Pinellas County.

The Rays wouldn't pay anything if they come to an agreement on a new St. Pete stadium, and O'Donnell reports all offers are off the table if Pinellas Commissioners dedicate their available bed taxes elsewhere, although the specifics on that weren't terribly clear.

Of course, the Rays had no comment on news of the proposal, and Kennedy told the Trib the team gave him an initial indication they would not go above their previous offer.

Kennedy's plan vs. the others

If the Rays announced next fall that they had settled on a new stadium in Hillsborough County to be opened in April 2019, here is how much each of the proposals would require the team to pay St. Pete for an early departure from the Trop:
  • The original Kriseman plan, agreed upon by the Rays: $20 million
  • Gerdes' newest proposal, announced last week: $25.5 million
  • Kennedy's new plan: $41 million
Even though Kriseman and the Rays both say the team won't go any higher than its original offer, city hall insiders indicate some councilmembers may be convalescing around Kennedy's plan.  Which could kill Gerdes' much-less-lucrative plan even before it hits city hall photocopiers.

Of course, Kennedy' plan had yet to be shared publicly prior to Friday, so some councilmembers' intimacy of the details - through contact with county commissioners - raises an eyebrow or two about Florida's Meeting-in-the-Sunshine laws.  But I digress....

Kennedy's numbers are very similar to what Bill Foster was proposing while he was in office ($5M/yr), which the Rays reportedly rejected outright, leading to years of inaction.

What's next?

We'll see Thursday where each of the eight councilmembers stands on the issue; but don't expect much reaction from the Rays.  They, unlike municipalities, know not to negotiate against themselves in the court of public opinion.

Meanwhile, negotiator-in-chief Kriseman is out of town, spending time in Canada on trade mission (don't get your panties in a wad; he's in Toronto, not Montreal).  His first day back in the office?  It just so happens to be Thursday.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Vinik Once-and-For-All Says No to Baseball Stadium

For those still holding out hope for a Downtown Tampa baseball stadium built under Jeff Vinik's watchful eye - despite my repeated warnings and silly things called facts - can we finally put the issue to bed?

Vinik told my WTSP-TV counterpart Allison Kropff yesterday - definitively - there will not be baseball on his 40 acres of downtown development.

Vinik doesn't want more competition for the downtown business dollar; his Lightning are already the best-in-the-business according to ESPN's "Ultimate" team standings, and there's probably even still room to grow the team's young fan base.

(You can also read about the 45th-ranked Rays, the 91st-ranked Bucs, or the 122nd - and last - ranked Maple Leafs here.)

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Columnist Fails to Read MOU; Says St. Pete Should Give Up on Negotiations with Rays Anyway

Tomorrow morning, the Tampa Bay Times will print this Dan Ruth column, calling on St Petersburg's city council to "grow up."  The Pulitzer Prize-winner contends the city should just concede and "make official" the talks he assumes Stu Sternberg & Rays executives are having anyway with officials in Tampa/Hillsborough County.
Personally, I'm not sure the Rays are doing anything right now besides kicking back and watching the region negotiate against itself...but here was my reaction to Ruth's column:
Ruth also pens this paragraph, which I'll be pinning to my imaginary billboard for the next time he advocates a taxpayer-funded stadium in Tampa:
Earlier this year, council members Steve Kornell, Wengay Newton, Jim Kennedy and Bill Dudley all voted against allowing the Rays to search for a new stadium site. What this quartet of court jesters simply cannot grasp is the 85-acre Tropicana Field site is worth far more to the city in terms of jobs, economic impact and property taxes without the Rays taking up all the open space that sits relatively unused for most of the year.
If Downtown St. Pete land is better-utilized as something other than a baseball stadium...wouldn't the same apply for urban land in Tampa?

Then, Ruth caps it off with a factual error:
In the end, St. Petersburg would greatly benefit from a redeveloped Trop site. And in the process of being allowed to look around, Gerdes' plan would require the Rays to pay a $1.4 million yearly fee to conduct the search.
As I wrote yesterday, Gerdes' newest plan did not charge the Rays $1.4 million a year to look at possible new stadium sites...only a $1.4 million a year transition fee from the point they announced new stadium plans elsewhere to the time they vacated the Trop.

So, feel free to do with this column the same thing you do with all your stadium-cheering editorials.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Times: Longtime foes of Tampa Bay Rays stadium deal mulling options

Just as I was posting about St. Pete Council Chair Charlie Gerdes' latest proposed Rays stadium compromise and why it might swing the vote...the Times' Charlie Frago was reporting two other council members were reconsidering their "no" votes for other reasons.

Frago writes Jim Kennedy and Steve Kornell have been meeting with county commissioners , but nobody is spilling the beans about any of the details yet.

READ: Some commissioners sang different stadium tune on campaign trail

Frago writes of the timing of the talks:
Welch credited a recent proposal to use county tourist tax dollars on a spring training facility for the Atlanta Braves for spurring Kornell's and Kennedy's receptiveness to a new deal with the Rays.

"I believe Jim (Kennedy) understands now that the bed tax dollars from the commission are at risk now," Welch said. "I hope he gets it."

The Braves have asked for up to $10.5 million in annual bed tax money if they build on the 240-acre former "Toytown" landfill.

So far, only Gerdes' plan is on the agenda for next Thursday's meeting.
Meanwhile, don't ignore a subtler-yet-potentially-more-consequential headline: Hillsborough County bed tax receipts broke another record in FY15.  The $26.8 million in tourist tax revenues - up 13% from FY14 - are inching close to the $30 million mark necessary to unlock the sixth cent of  collections.

Whenever Hillsborough County cracks the $30 million annual revenue barrier, it will be able to bond somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 million more in construction bonds that could go toward a new stadium.  Of course, it could also go toward other important things in the community, but what Tampanian wants to hear that??

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