Thursday, October 1, 2015

What the Front-Page Bucs Stadium Stories Didn't Tell You

It was somewhat curious timing that after this investigative reporter spent weeks negotiating - and paying - for hundreds of emails regarding the Bucs' stadium negotiations with county officials, the same documents wound up in the hands of the Bucs beatwriters at the two major newspapers in town.

UPDATE: Tampa Sports Authority says Bucs leaked story

The result?  Positive articles about $100 million in scoreboard, sound, and club seat renovations and a day's worth of "yay! Super Bowl!" reactions.
Of course, this investigative reporter might have scrutinized the deal a little more than the Trib's Ira Kauffman did.  #DamageControl!

If you haven't read "The Glazers' Sweetheart Deal Keeps Getting Sweeter" yet, do yourself a favor and dedicate three minutes to it.  I spelled out how the Bucs would dangle the "Super Bowl" carrot over taxpayers, hoping nobody would ask questions about what's being negotiated.

Amazingly enough, there were some questions asked in Rick Stroud's Times story, as Hillsborough Co. Commissioner & Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) board member Ken Hagan was quoted: "Unfortunately, negotiating with the Buccaneers has been extremely challenging...whenever it appears that we are close to an agreement, they always change the terms.

"The reality is, based on the terms of the original lease agreement, what is in the best interest of the fan is not always in the best interest of the taxpayer."

READ: Sept 22 proposed contract from Bucs

That said, I've reviewed dozens of TSA negotiating emails now and can say the rather-small  seems to be doing the best it can against the super-power that is the NFL.  Hillsborough Co. voters agreed to upgrade Raymond James Stadium back in 1996, so those $26 million in sales tax dollars are as good as gone.

Yet, the haggling by a league that brings in $10 billion a year and a team that's worth the better part of $2 billion seems unfair to taxpayers.  They want a second regular season game - and potentially a preseason game too - away from home?

That seems to defeat much of the benefit from this "community asset."  What kind of economy does a team bring that can play 30% of its home games overseas?

What the Front-Page Bucs Stories Didn't Tell You
  1. The Bucs may get the public to pay most of the bill.  The team agrees to improving Raymond James Stadium's value by $100 million...but they aren't required to put in $100 million of construction.  In addition to the county's $26 million or so, the Bucs are only obligated to contribute $51.6 million.  And the aren't required to document it all.  And they plan on asking for $30 million in state funds to reduce their obligation.
  2. The Bucs' excuse for refusing to commit to a Manchester United game in Tampa.  The county wants a guaranteed ManU game from the Glazers if they're going to agree to a second regular season game overseas. But the Bucs' COO says the two franchises are "operated independently" and he can't make it happen.  That's funny, a similar relationship didn't stop Red Sox owner John Henry from bringing Liverpool over to Fenway Park for a match.
  3. The Bucs want the county to buy materials for them and take out the bonds for them so they don’t have to pay taxes on any of it. This has become standard practice across pro sports in America, but there's no reason a private corporation like the Buccaneers shouldn't pay local, state, or federal taxes on the business it conducts.
  4. Seating capacity may shrink. Given the team's on-again/off-again attendance woes, it isn't a huge deal.  But 10 Investigates has covered at-length how teams pitch stadium renovations as economic game-changers...while reducing the number of fans who could potentially come in from out of town to enjoy events.
  5. The team still keeps the overwhelming majority of all stadium revenues. But you knew, especially after reading "The Glazers' Sweetheart Deal Keeps Getting Sweeter," that the Bucs don't just get all the money from football games...but from non-football games too.
  6. The team recently-added a "shall meet or exceed current industry standards" clause into a construction clause.  Maybe it's nothing, since it only has to do with construction materials and craftsmanship. Or maybe it's a fatal "state of the art"-type of clause that always costs taxpayers a ton of money.
So lots to give fans and taxpayers pause, but props to the TSA for digging their heels far.

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1 comment:

  1. It is shameful that the TSA is negotiating at all. OK, we taxpayers are obligated to pay $25 million. That's it. The Glazers can add to it or not, anyway they see fit. Why does the TSA waste another second negotiating with these greedy owners?