Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Romano Adds Fuel to St. Pete's Stadium Saga Fire

As has become custom over the years, Times columnist John Romano has again penned his semi-annual piece advocating for St. Pete to let the Rays look at possible stadium sites in Hillsborough County.

It reads a lot like his similar column from March. And 2014.  And 2013.  And Nov. 2012. And April 2012.  And the Summer of 2011.  And the Spring of 2011, when he suggested MLB could simply fold up the Rays in 2017 if no deal had been struck yet.

Anyway, this time around, Romano lays out another case why St. Pete should just accept the Rays' damn deal and move on.  An excerpt:
Money matters: A deal worked out by the mayor and the Rays would allow the team to explore stadium sites in both Hillsborough and Pinellas for three years. Should the Rays actually leave for Hillsborough, they would pay St. Pete between $2 million and $3 million for every unused season on the Tropicana Field contract.
Except the last year, 2027, where the city gets nothing. But I digress...
Cost of remorse: In the middle of acrimonious stadium negotiations, cities often say good riddance to football and baseball owners. And then, several years later, they spend hundreds of millions to get back in the game. Milwaukee, Kansas City, Seattle and Washington all lost baseball teams in the 1960s and '70s. Houston, St. Louis, Baltimore and Oakland lost NFL teams in the 1980s and '90s. All eventually paid dearly for replacement franchises.  The only city to lose a baseball team in the last 40 years was Montreal — which is now desperately lobbying MLB officials for a second chance.
But since the Rays are driving such a hard bargain, maybe St. Pete could too and still keep the team in Tampa Bay long-term?  Nahhh......

Romano continues:
Here's what's crazy about all of this: We haven't even reached the hard part.

Any new stadium will likely require $300-$400 million in public funds, and there are legitimate arguments about whether baseball is worth that type of investment in either county.

But we can't even begin that debate — nor debates about transit, downtown redevelopment or a host of other issues — until the Rays issue is resolved.

It's time for St. Pete to step up to the plate.
There's a chance a new fixed-roof stadium might only cost in the $425-450 million range...which would mean either a smaller contribution from the public...or most likely, a smaller contribution from the Rays than the $150-$200 million many folks expect them to contribute. 

Of course, the team won't talk about money right now.  So which side exactly needs to step up?

FOLLOW: Shadow of the Stadium on Twitter
FOLLOW: Shadow of the Stadium on Facebook


  1. Noah, tough for Sternberg to step up when he's not allowed to talk based on the UA.

    The only thing Sternberg can do is negotiate (or re-negotiate) a MOU to be able to talk, one day.

    The last thing Stu want to do is laying out his plan/view (no matter if it's a good one or a bad one) when by doing so, he may get involve in a legal litigation process or worse than that, a political war between all parties.

    For years, he said he want to talk, and for years, the process is frozen. So I will give him the benefit of the doubt, until he can speak openly.

    Then and only then, I may reconsider everything.

    1. To clarify, Sternberg has said he will only negotiate if he gets to negotiate with the whole region. He can negotiate with St. Petersburg over the terms of a new stadium whenever he wants to. But *he* has said he has to be able to talk to the whole region, a position that runs directly counter to the city's interest. There is an important distinction here that appears to have confused you. He is a big boy and a sophisticated businessman, so he does not need your charitable benefit of the doubt.

    2. Anonymous, I'm not confused.

      Stu can't TALK about a stadium other than to the St-Pete council members. He can't ask publicly the simple question: Where we can build a new stadium outside of St-Pete? Even if he's paying 100% of the cost! (which will never happen, I know).

      I do agree that Stu want to negotiate with the whole region but before starting any negotiations, Stu need to TALK to decision makers outside St-Pete about options. So that's why I used the word TALK. Don't confuse the word TALK with NEGOTIATE. This is two different concepts.

    3. Pat, Sternberg has been offered the opportunity to look at sites in Pinellas. He has refused to do so, trying to leverage the city to allow him out of the current contract. If he wants to amend the contract, he needs to present the city a deal a majority of council finds amenable.

      Meanwhile, the profits continue to pour into team & league coffers. There is no crisis.

  2. Between inflation and escalating demands/standards of a "modern" ballpark, it's impossible to imagine any new ballpark being built for less than $500 million.

    As a frame of reference, the Braves new ballpark is slated to cost $622 million, before the inevitable overrun comes into play.

    The longer this drags on (and it'll keep doing exactly that), the more cost-prohibitive this "project" will become for all parties involved.

    1. Now the inflation argument is a real Hail Mary! Spend $500M now, so it isn't $600M later! Here's the biggest takeaway: if the economics are not favorable, then don't talk about the economics. The inflation argument is really scraping the bottom of the sad barrel of economic arguments. You have to find some other winning argument that will persuade people. The jobs/economic development nonsense no longer convinces people, because the flowery projections have not panned out here or anywhere. If I'm a woman wearing white gloves and buying ketchup from you, don't focus your pitch on how red the ketchup is. "Our ketchup is the reddest!" Find something more persuasive to make the sale. Ultimately, if there is no other more persuasive argument, then you may just have to conclude that you are selling a sh*tty product/deal. Orrr lower your price/terms to make your crap product more appealing to potential buyers. This is all intuitive. But most intuitive would be to stop pretending stadium subsidies have any economic effects at all.

    2. Kei, small fixed roof stadiums don't have to cost $500M.

    3. Noah,
      How small is small? What would be the seating capacity? Have any small fixed roof stadiums recently been built?

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. There's a new one that is opening this Fall in Seoul. Will probably help them secure a spot in hosting some WBC games. I think it holds around 25,000, which is average for KBO games. It took years to get done and cost more than expected. Even then, I was surprised when the announced it, as Domes are currently out of favor, even though this will be Korea's first one. Hope to get back there to see some more KBO games. Now there is a great atmosphere for baseball. As for stateside, the last fixed roof was the Trop...so there's that...

  3. So Romano's analysis overstated the benefit to the City by one full season? $2M to 3M? So it was a misstatement of the compensation and off by a full 10%? We should expect to see a correction issued in the next day or so.

  4. John Romano states:
    "Any new stadium will likely require $300 million to $400 million in public funds, and there are legitimate arguments about whether baseball is worth that type of investment in either county."

    Indeed there are legitimate arguments!

    When the Rays come crying for public funds from whichever county is unlucky enough to become the home of the new stadium, assuming that happens, of course, hopefully our spineless elected officials will point out that the Tampa Bay area is the 14th largest TV market in the country, TV revenues for MLB teams are escalating (Rays due for a new contract in 2017) and if the Rays want to vacate Tampa Bay for a smaller TV market or another country, please don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

    A recent trend in the MLB is that the percent of total revenues being paid to players is declining, even with the many incredibly stupid long term contracts being signed and with the average yearly player salary now at $4.25 million. In 2001 player payroll as % of total MLB revenues was 56%. For 2014 it was 38% per Maury Brown - http://thefieldsofgreen.com/2015/08/05/how-mlbs-massive-revenues-are-seeing-less-going-to-players-and-most-to-owners/ . What are the owners doing with all this extra money as MLB revenues grow through the roof year after year? Hopefully our spineless elected officials will ask this question and demand that the Rays open their books. Of course that is very unlikely to happen, as no MLB team has ever opened their books. During the Bud STEALig era, 21 new stadiums were built, 20 of them requiring substantial public funding, and not one team opened their books. I wonder if any were even ask!

    If a team were to open its books, probably facts such as these would be revealed:
    - Phil Wrigley would tell his accountant on September 1st of each year to provide an estimate of team profits at the end of the season, and he would then decide executive bonuses and other expenditures or frills to make sure that team profits were not positive.
    - George Steinbrenner used to use the cash flow from the Yankees to buy hotels in order to keep the profits manageable.

    It is obscene that an ever more profitable industry - MLB - who doesn't even try to manage player salaries sanely - can continue to get public funding for alleged needed new stadia. Why don't we provide public funded scholarships for Warren Buffet's and Bill Gates' kids, while we are at it?

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.