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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  1. An interesting point that I never knew or understood is the fact that St-Pete benefits from Pinellas Bed Tax and now, they want to monetized a possible departure ... to Pinellas (outside of St-Pete).

    "Pinellas has been a partner with St. Petersburg since the Trop was built, contributing millions in bed taxes to the Trop over the years.

    The council, however, continues to insist the Rays belong solely to St. Pete. That’s no way to treat a partner who helped pay for the stadium."

    Now I better understand why this whole multi-layers political battle between the different entities.

    Regarding the timeline, there are still time to get a deal (few years). However, how long the commission will wait to allocate the bed tax if there are no deal with the Rays?

    Of course, the commission could reserve the money for such project (new stadium) and move on to other topics that need their attention while the parties agree on a MOU.

    By not knowing the price tag of a new stadium, it's tough to determine how much money is required at this stage and what are the other investments required to facilitate people transports.

    The more people question how other cities draw more fans, the more I'm starting to understand that Tampa Bay region does not have a mass transit with public transportation culture. From my point-of-view, mass transit is a no brainer.

    When I go to San Francisco, NY, Chicago, ... I use mass transit. The same as when I go to downtown Montreal for events, I always use mass transit.

    And from where I live, 1H drive or transportation time is not an issue for me and for a lot of fans that attend Impact, Habs and Aloutettes games as well as major events at the Bell Center and the Big O.

    So I'm starting to think that if the transportation time MUST be under 1H or even 45 minutes, location may not be the issue finally. Because no matter where the stadium will be located, a group of fans will be alienated by the transportation time and the net gain of fans will always be zero at the end.

  2. "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."

    This is EXACTLY what I also said repeatedly.... fans will not endure weeknight traffic mess to attend a game and NONE of the mentioned sites in Pinellas or Tampa address this.....

    Add to that the fact that Tampa Bay residents/visitors are more inclined to attend MiLB or ST games rather than the Rays makes for a very difficult case for the Rays to stick around in the area....

  3. "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?"

    Neither will benefit from the other being a douchebag partner here. Both have benfitted from the other tremendously. And both stand to lose tremendously if they do not reach a viable and fair compromise.

    St Pete is being a bully for not releasing the Rays and will lose even more than just the Rays (Trop development) if they don't resolve this soon.

    In the meantime, the Rays lose all credibility of being a major league team and with very few fans to care by the time this is resolved...

    Sometimes partners make bad deals when going in to a partnership that only looks out for themselves.. it's time to think collectively of how both can benefit in trying to resolve this.

    1. An assumption underlying your point is that St. Petersburg will lose something with the Rays leaving. Besides a significant fiscal burden, what will St. Petersburg lose? Serious question.

  4. Very good article tweeted by TBBaseballStadium about the TB Lightning.

    A sport team is a brand. And the stadium is part of the brand as well as players, fans, ...

    All the components need to be aligned to have a successful brand. Just a new stadium even if it's paid 100% with public money does not guarantee the brand will be a success.

    Back to square one. What are the requirements to make the Rays a successful brand that contribute significantly to the community?

    And based on those requirements, what investments must be done (no matter who will invest).

    That's what need to be address here. Yes the stadium is a big part of the equation. As well as the fans, the players, the owner, the management, the media, ...

    A stadium just to have a stadium will not resolve the situation. All stakeholders must be involved and working with the "brand".

    Just look at the Montreal Canadien. Huge brand with high impact on the community, players are involved (Subban just donated $10M), owners are role model, management is open with the fans, fans are part of the team, ... and Geoff Molson don't need/ask any public money to renovate the Bell Center ($100M over 3 years).

    So what's the partnership plan including all the stakeholders to develop the brand over 5-10-15 years?

    1. "So what's the partnership plan including all the stakeholders to develop the brand over 5-10-15 years?"

      A change of scenery will help... across the border... to Montreal.

    2. This is a very good point about branding. When I think about the Rays, I think about people asking for my money over and over again for 3 decades, combined primarily with a poor product on the field. I think of bad decisions from local "leaders" to build a stadium without a firm commitment that a team will be here. I mean, who builds a spec baseball stadium? This isn't a single family home (well, there was a neighborhood of homes plowed over to build the spec stadium). But the brand from start to finish has been a collection of really poorly analyzed decisions on the government side and on the team side. St. Petersburg has succeeded, *in spite of* the Rays, *not because of* the Rays.

  5. The location isn't ideal and the stadium is not a welcoming arena for baseball. There are many of northern transplants in the area. The stadiums that they grew up going to, were not domes. Therefore, it's a hard draw to get them to come to the games. Change the aesthetics of the stadium and the location, it will be a different story.

    1. Milwaukee's Miller Park is far from downtown, with a smaller fanbase, and two historic franchises an hour down the road. Yet they pack the place regardless of how the team is doing? Is it all because of the park?

      Also, if Northerners are used to watching the game outdoors, are they used to the Florida heat too? I know I was glad there was a dome when I went to the Trop. Not that I'd want that all the time.

      It was mentioned on here a few days ago about a new dome only having 25,000 seats. Would that even work, or make it worth it? They have already greatly reduced the capacity at the Trop, but as we all know, they still struggle at the gate, which does only further hurts their brand.