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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  1. Is it the song "Under Pressure" (Mercury, May, Taylor, Deacon, Bowie) that I'm hearing in the background?

  2. That's cute, all these people that think they can influence the Rays to do something other then what they're going to do, and have been planning to do for a while now.
    Let's just say, if your plans don't include putting up $$$ for their move to Channelside, then don't waste your time.

  3. Question for the Rays fans that currently go to games at the Trop, but live in St Pete (or anywhere on that side of the bridge). Let's assume that something actually happens with this never ending saga, and the Rays end up in a new park in Tampa. Would you go to games more often, less often, or about the same?

    1. "Question for the Rays fans that currently go to games at the Trop,"....

      Matt - that's asking 5 fans who probably don't even have a computer

    2. Haha, I suppose I left that wide open.

      I'm just thinking that if there are fans on the Tampa side that currently stay home due to the bridge traffic (not that I believe that is a legitimate reason), is it not safe to assume that it would go both ways, and a park in Tampa would keep St Pete folks from coming over? It's not like we're talking about a huge population in which to draw from either. On top of the fact that there are bound to be some St Pete fans that will feel alienated by the move. And that's not even getting into the fact that regardless of where it is built, the taxpayers will be on the hook.

      My point is, do any local Rays fans actually see this situation working well for them in 2020 or 2027 and beyond? And if so, how do they think it will happen?

    3. Matt - I don't live in Tampa but visit often for work. The traffic on both sides of the bridge (and including the bridge) is horrendous. The several proposed sites for a Tampa stadium location are not really central either. No matter where the Rays build a stadium, the attendance will be piss-poor.

      Take a look at this article- which discusses all the possible Tampa sites. Not one of them is conducive to success at the gates....

    4. Good article, thanks!

      Which brings us back to square one. MLB and the Rays want a new park. Nobody comes to the Trop. Nobody wants to pay for a new park, and there's no spot that guarantees a higher attendance.

      Hard to get excited about this market. If they weren't in the top 10 for attendance in both the NFL and NHL, it would be easier to write them off. Not that there isn't a huge difference in the number of home games, but still.

    5. There's no spot in Montreal either that guarantees higher attendance long-term :)

    6. Noah, anywhere in the world, there are only two guarantees:

      1. We will die

      2. We will pay taxes when we die

      Beside that, any point of view on any topics will not offer any guarantees.

      So this is not adding any value to the debate of the discussion.

    7. Noah, regarding Montreal, you need to better understand the city, the region, the political environment before commenting.

      Maybe you need to come one day, to see that the Montreal Canadien and the Montreal Impact did with their arena/stadium.

      One thing is sure, traffic is really bad. So many road construction and new Champlain Bridge that will be build.

      But we have mass transit system in place. We have a subway (covering the island, north and south shore), busses, trains (north, east, south, west). There are plans for Light Train System too.

      Regarding density, it's higher than TB region. And the critical mass of corporations downtown Montreal is higher than TB.

      This is not guarantees, this is just favorable factors that worth billions of dollars that TB as a region does not have.

      Finally, the mindset behind sports venues in Montreal is this one:

      Bell Center was financed 100% by private investments et will have an additional $100M for renovations, all private.

      Saputo Stadium was build by the Saputo family and government invested in the expansion of the stadium.

      Baseball stadium (to be announced but not built until MLB give a guarantee, stay tuned) will also be a private investment first. We'll see if any contribution, direct or indirect will be required, asked by the investors. That's a topic that we can't wait to debate, and the private investors are fully aware of it.

      So regarding attendance, the only thing I can say is that the Montreal community (fans, enterprises, investors, medias) are involved, are participating to the debate and the project.

      That's a way closer to a guarantee of attracting fans than few council members, few commissions members, few fans (I must be polite here) trying to play a ping pong game without any vision, plan, desire to make it work, ...

      From a political game point-of-view (and content for journalists), this is heaven. Plenty of topics, games of power, debate, negotiations, bold statements, ...

      From a community project and a baseball perspective, this is sad. And this is why there are probably more articles, clips, blog on the TB/stadium/attendance situation than the Rays results, vision, future.

    8. Finally, let's see how many baseball fans from Montreal and the province of Quebec watched the Rangers-Blue Jays game yesterday.

      I've been told that everywhere in Montreal, people were looking for TVs everywhere (city pools, arenas, restaurants, offices, ...).

      Again that's no guarantees over time of better attendances but results like that from a city far way from Toronto (with nothing in common, we are two solitudes) is at least a very good indicator.

      I suspect that there will be more fans from Montreal looking at the Jays games in series than TB fans watching the Rays when they were in series a while ago!

    9. And yet when the Expos were playing great baseball in 1979-83, they were higher than the NL average for attendance in each of those years. The market supported consistent winning baseball. On the other hand, the Rays have only ever had a higher than AL average attendance ONCE, and that was in 1998. While they won some AL East titles, some Wild Cards, and a World Series appearance between 2008-2013, they actually LOST 4000 people per game, and were well under the AL average.

      Tampa Bay is the only market in game today where winning actually plays little role in getting people to actually show up to the game.

      Is there a guarantee that Montreal would have better attendance long term? Who knows. But I'd feel a lot more secure about the Rays' future if their attendance numbers weren't dropping each year. Nobody comes to games, nobody will pay for a new ballpark, there's no ideal location, and the core problems (Spread out population, lack of corporate support, no mass transit solutions) are still not being addressed.

      Either way, contract or not, the Rays won't be playing in front of 11,000 fans a night at the Trop in 2023, dying a slow death like it currently feels like. Assuming anyone even cares. MLB won't ignore the issue forever, and for a league that is set to make 9 or 10 Billion this year, I think they can afford to pay St Pete their pittance.

  4. This is the new MOU .... I doubt the Rays will agree to it.

    1. Sternberg said he will not re-re-re-re-negotiate.

      "♦ Confident?

      “It’s not our area to try to figure out how people are going to view this and vote. Clearly, in the past, with different councils, things get a little funky at times, but I’m certain and I feel confident that I know each of the people on the council individually have the best interest of the citizens of St. Petersburg at heart, and I, as a baseball guy, I believe that having baseball in the citizens of St. Petersburg’s midst for generations to come and the city getting its land to use, a lot of acreage to try to really develop and help the city take off, look it remains very possible that we can still be in St. Petersburg.”

      ♦ What if it gets defeated?

      “I don’t know. There’s nothing for me to do at that point. I can’t even speculate. They’re going to walk in and negotiate again? Re-renegotiate? I don’t know? It depends, I guess, what comes out of it. If it does, I’d like to think people have a reason for not voting for it, and if they do I don’t know what we can do at that point to satisfy that. We’re full at this point. I don’t see us changing things even in a much more than minor way if at all.”

      ♦ Do you try to renegotiate the lease? Try to get permission to look at other cities?

      “No, I don’t think so. I think we go back to where we are. Unfortunately, although it’s tough to speculate, we go back to where we were 2010, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14 and it will be 2015,..."

      If Sternberg accept the terms (or negotiate them with more latitude for the Rays), then he was bluffing and St-Pete Council members will go back to the table and ask more and more.

      So it will be interesting IF the city council can adopt a revised MOU and then, IF Sternberg will accept the conditions (change his mind).

    2. And these interesting comments from Mayor Kriseman confirm what Sternberg said earlier this year.

      "However, Mayor Rick Kriseman spoke of caution with the amount of money the council members requested and the number of voices speaking to the team.

      “The Rays have made it very clear that in any proposal they receive, if the terms are better (for St. Petersburg) than what was on the table last time, they’re not going to even consider it,” Kriseman told the Times. “That said that last deal was as good as it was going to get. They also have indicated that they don’t want to negotiate with eight people. That’s typically what the job of mayor is.”"

    3. Don't worry, they'll renegotiate when it makes sense to give an inch of leverage:
      Right now, it just doesn't yet.

    4. The only reason I see Sternberg renegotiate (paying more and doing the opposite at what he said publicly) is because he knows exactly where he want to go OR because he knows that no sites make sense and a move elsewhere (outside TB) is inevitable.

      I still think that Sternberg and MLB wants the Rays in TB and they will do everything they can to keep the team over there.

      However, this process to try to keep the team in TB will not take 5 more years. It's already been almost 5 years, so 1-2 more years, maybe 3 at max.

    5. Noah -referencing your own blog rather than actual quotes is less than credible...

    6. 1) Sternberg will of course re-negotiate.

      2) This blog offers real journalism with real references, unlike many others out there. You can choose to believe what you'd like, however.

  5. This cracks me up:

    "But Kennedy told reporter Charlie Frago he had hoped those conversations would be confidential."

    Talking to a reporter then expecting things to be "confidential"... haha