Sunday, November 1, 2015

Times Calls on St. Pete to Cough Up More Money for Stadium Outside City Limits

Unsurprisingly, another weekend editorial from the Tampa Bay Times advocating St. Pete's city council lower its demands for what the Rays would have to pay to leave the city before its original agreed-upon date of 2027.

Essentially, the Times (which once suggested St. Pete should get $150 million from the Rays) is calling on St. Petersburg to increase how much it's willing to contribute to a new stadium outside of St. Petersburg:
The Tampa Bay Rays' rejection of the St. Petersburg City Council's stadium offer was all too predictable. The proposed Tropicana Field buyout fee would have added $33 million to the cost of any new stadium built outside St. Petersburg in 2020, jeopardizing the Rays' future in the region.
Pinellas County commissioners face tough decisions on allocating resort tax dollars, a key part of any stadium financing package. As soon as the Rays settle on a next-generation stadium site, Trop redevelopment can dramatically transform St. Petersburg's urban center. Losing even a year of momentum costs the city much more than any buyout dollars can possibly cover.
It's the first time the Times has been transparent about wanting St. Pete to help pay for a stadium in another municipality, something that would help get a new stadium built much faster.

But here's the thing: regardless of what St. Pete and the Rays negotiate, Pinellas Commission should right now be analyzing whether a new MLB stadium is the best use of its limited bed tax dollars. If that stadium is not the best use of those dollars, the county should be going ahead right now with their other projects anyway.

And if a MLB stadium is the best use of limited tax dollars, then it is a project worth waiting a little longer for, if necessary.  Remember, there is no law requiring Pinellas County to spend the bed taxes it collects. A wiser choice might be to save those revenues for a few years (or however long it takes to settle the Stadium Saga) so the county would be in better position to build a stadium if it's so chooses.

Yet the Times continues to advocate for a hurry-up approach to prevent Pinellas County from possibly spending those dollars on a better project.... even though the hurry-up approach may also cost the taxpayers of St. Petersburg more of their earned equity in the team.

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. "even though the hurry-up approach may also cost the taxpayers of St. Petersburg more of their earned equity in the team."

    What earned equity? There is no owed equity. The lease agreement doesn't make it owed equity. It's an artificial construct.

    The reality is the fans and population of the Tampa area essentially turned their backs on the Rays for so long and now that the Rays have had enough and want to leave for not being wanted, the county is taking this opportunity to extort money from the team.

    Notice, there is no concerted effort to increase attendance or popularity or any other kind of support for the team - not by the county or even the "fans" - its all a money grab!

    Where are the local fan groups rallying for the team to stay or increase attendance? No where. It's all politicians talking about money they want if they leave. Nothing about a commitment should the team stay.

  2. Fans haven't turned their backs at all. "Fan" or "Baseball Town"according to MLB, means people or city that is willing to give taxpayer dollars to professional sports team owners without a thought. In this market people are smart, they aren't just willing to be fleeced like the "fans" in other cities. I.e. NY, Boston, Detroit, Seattle, Cincy, ...Etc....Taxpayers are being taken to the cleaners in those cities..

    1. 1. It would help if you actually attached a name to your posts.. It doesn't take much more effort than posting as Anonymous

      2. In general, I would agree that MLB is about taxpayer subsidies. Montreal back in 2004 also refused to get in the swindle and stayed away (politically and fans)

      3. The difference here in Tampa and in the US is that there is a willingness to hand-out money for pro sports stadiums. The Rays aren't asking for more than what everyone else has gotten in Florida.

      4. The fans on the other hand are non-existent except for those 75k who watch on TV... And the Rays have never really drawn since their arrival.. sure they had 3-4 decent attendance numbers but that doesn't make this a viable franchise.

    2. They are not even 20 years old as a franchise. Fan bases take time to develop. It would help to that the locals drop their affiliation to the places where they moved from and join the Rays. However, baseball loyalties are the hardest to break.
      How bout the owners try to actually field a team, or heaven forbid, make a move at the deadline that could inject some life into the fan base.
      And please fire Derek Shelton.

    3. You're very right about needing time, but Derome is right also that a franchise wants to see its fans progressing up the ladder. Are Tampa Bay fans moving up the ladder or are they stalled out on a certain rung?

  3. TBO: "The study found that visitors to the Trop from outside Pinellas County spent $298 million. Roughly $198 million of that was spent by visitors coming to Pinellas expressly for baseball, the study says"
    "his (bar) would lose about $2 million in revenue a year and would have to lay off up to 40 percent of its employees if the Rays packed up and moved"
    FOLLOWED BY SAYING: "some sports economists in recent years have concluded that public investment in stadiums does little to creat spending or attract visitors"
    Haha, sounds contradicting...

    1. The point is that people will spend their "entertainment" dollars regardless of the Rays being there or not. It will just get spent at other venues. So while the bar cited above will "lose" $2Mn in revenue from those attending games, that $2Mn will still get spent - just at different places.

    2. It is contradicting. Nobody puts much stock in that 2008 study....although it could be used against the Rays in court if they try to claim their departure would mean no economic damage to St. Pete.

    3. Another insightful comment from Know-it-all Noah....