Thursday, October 22, 2015

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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  1. Looking forward to the updates Noah... especially given the "we are entitled" to exit money" attitude St Pete is exuding.

    1. Tom, when you sign an agreement and give someone your word and your legally binding commitment to do something, how much do you typically pay to get out of that agreement? I am curious about your personal business experience.

  2. But the damages to St Pete will be ASTRONOMICAL if the Rays leave!!!

    It really comes down to if you believe that sports have any affect on local economies. Several studies have indicated otherwise, and sites like this and Field of Schemes would have you believe they don't. In my own personal experience, when I came to Florida for a wedding, we had a few extra days, so in addition to doing touristy stuff in Orlando, we drove to St Pete for a Rays game. If the Rays weren't there, we would have simply driven to Miami instead. While I doubt the money I spent on a hotel room, food, souvenirs, and a plane ticket out of Tampa were very much in the grand scheme of things, it was money that was being spent in St Pete, and not elsewhere. Do other people base their trips on ballparks? Enough to make a difference on a local level? Who knows?

    Either way, the whole situation is very messy. I just wish we could get a clear message from anyone. For example, if the Rays don't add anything to the local market, and people don't come to games, and the Tropicana site would be better developed for non-baseball projects, then why should the Rays pay to leave the area? Or if the whole Tampa vs. St Pete rivalry is so contentious, and folks from Tampa don't come to games, is it safe to assume that people from St Pete wouldn't come to games if the park was in Tampa?

    1. Anchoring: "the tendency to rely too heavily, or 'anchor,' on a past reference or on one trait or piece of information when making decisions."

      Your anecdote is neat. Your economic survey sample has a population of 1 (You). This is not a good way to set public policy. Here's a helpful list of cognitive biases. It can help you identify when your reasoning may be affected by a distorted way of perceiving the world. We can all identify our own reasoning errors, and then do better the next time.

    2. I don't pretend to speak for anyone other than myself. Hence why I asked questions at the end of my story. Not that I ever get answers as there are barely ever local fans on this site. Obviously tourists are not buying season tickets, not should policy be reflected on their purchases. But in your haste to answer rhetorical questions, with unsolicited nitpicking, you overlooked the main message. Something that happens a lot among our many anonymous readers.

      Nobody ever wants to talk about the elephant in the room. Namely that wins or losses, marketing and giveaways or independent grass-root efforts, have had little to no effect on this market over the last 18 seasons. This is an anomaly. New stadium in St Pete or wherever in Tampa Bay, history indicates that attendance is unlikely to go up. Yes, a shiny new park will "save" the Rays and keep them in Tampa Bay, just like Marlins Park "saved" the Marlins for Miami, and maybe the Rays will be 28th instead of dead last. If nobody thinks a new park will make a difference, and nobody wants to pay for it, and the development could be better used for something else, then why keep the team? The value will go up regardless of what happens on the field, thanks to MLB's strength, but if St Pete isn't benefitting from having them in town, then show them the door. Or just continue to drag this on for another 5 years.

    3. Incorrect Matt. They will play here until 2027. Then they can leave. And everyone will move on. Law stuff. Don't stress about it.

    4. Surely St Pete knows that there's a better use of the Trop site land than the enjoyment of dozens of Rays fans in 2027.

      While I do so enjoy your unsolicited teachings of law and psychology to overshadow the points I raise, perhaps we could stay on topic. I, for one, would love to know where your confident insight on the Rays languishing at the Trop until 2027 comes from. After all, if everything was set in stone, they probably wouldn't be having a meeting today.

  3. Another reliable source... Wiki.... what next, trusting the word of an MLB owner, like Loria?

    1. Does one of those basic definitions appear unreliable to you? Which one?