Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Will St. Pete Deal Strengthen or Weaken Hopes of Keeping Rays?

A subtle clause – requested by the team, according to St. Petersburg officials – could potentially allow the Rays to play up to 10 “home” games in a market outside of Tampa Bay once they left Tropicana Field {READ SECTION 6, ARTICLE vi OF THE CONTRACT HERE}. The 10 games are not a guarantee and could include international trips to Japan or Cuba; but the permission might also apply to other markets in North America.

The Rays’ Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with St. Petersburg sets a price for damages if the team chooses to end its Tropicana Field contract before 2027 in favor of a stadium elsewhere in Pinellas or Hillsborough Counties. However, the stadium does not need to be new and the Rays only need to sign a promise of some sort to play there through 2027.

"There's no assurances after 2027," said former Mayor Bill Foster, who could not come to terms with the Rays regarding a possible Tampa stadium search in his four years as mayor (2010-2013). "(The MOU) weakens the original agreement so much that you're setting a measure of damages allowing them to leave the region prior to 2027."

Foster said the failure to require a long-term commitment from the Rays might open the door for the team to use the 10 “home” games to test the waters of other potential MLB markets while still playing the majority of their games in a temporary location elsewhere in Hillsborough or Pinellas County.

Tampa Bay baseball fans became familiar with MLB relocation threats in the 1990s, as the Mariners, Rangers, and White Sox all used the threat of a Florida relocation to score taxpayer-funded stadiums in their home markets.

The Rays chose not to comment on the story Tuesday.

A representative from Mayor Rick Kriseman's office said Tuesday the administration didn't question the Rays' motives, and proponents of a regional stadium search have backed the Rays' claims that the MOU is the only way to ensure long-term success in Tampa Bay and they have no interest in looking outside the region for their next home.

Foster speculates that for only $24 million, the Rays could tear up their existing contract after the 2017 season and start playing 71 home games in an existing Tampa Bay minor-league stadium – potentially with additional, temporary seats – and play 10 games a year in markets like Montreal, New Jersey, or Mexico City. They would then only need to deal with the unknown legal repercussions of their new lease(s) if they wanted to leave before 2027, rather than the seemingly-ironclad contract the team is currently locked into with St. Petersburg.

"This weakens Tampa Bay's (hold on the Rays)," Foster said of the MOU, set to be voted on Thursday. "This amendment is by far the biggest weakening of the (original) agreement that we've ever seen in the past 15 or 20 years."

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently drew public scorn after they requested the freedom to play a second home game away from Raymond James Stadium. The team ultimately compromised with the Tampa Sports Authority and secured the right to play both home preseason games in another market.

The Rays have had a more difficult time renegotiating their contract with St. Petersburg, which has been complimented by legal experts for its crafting of the stadium use agreement. In 1998, the Rays guaranteed 30 full MLB seasons at Tropicana Field, without many of the loopholes that have allowed other pro teams to escape their respective leases early.

And when the Rays asked for permission to play three games at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in 2007, a cautious city council negotiated a one-time exception with the team, as well as a contract amendment that stipulated no “home” games could be played away from Tropicana Field without city council’s permission. Council allowed the Rays to repeat the series again in 2008.

In exchange for permission to play games in Orlando, then-mayor Rick Baker and council negotiated additional compensation for the city, as well as the promise from the Rays they would not play any out-of-market games against their best-drawing opponents, such as the Red Sox, Yankees, or Tigers.

Foster was city council chairman when the Rays first asked about Orlando in 2006.

“I remember how contentious that was (in 2006/2007),” said Foster, who could not come to terms with the Rays regarding a possible Tampa stadium search in his four years as mayor (2010-2013).

But any new contract deciding how many "home" games the Rays can play away from home in 2018 and beyond would be up to whatever governmental agency owns the facility they're playing in at the time, whether it be a brand-new stadium or a temporary arrangement.

City council is expected to approve the new MOU Thursday, after previous councils rejected similar deals by 5-3 and 4-4 margins.
   



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19 comments:

  1. Law is clever like that, so it is important to speak the language or know someone who knows the language.

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  2. It's unlikely that the Rays would play regular season games in Montreal unless there were firm plans to relocate up here, or at the very least, shovels have hit the dirt and construction for a new downtown baseball stadium is under way.

    I supported all the Grapefruit League games played here in the last three years. However, I would not attend a Rays game in Montreal knowing we are being used as leverage, non merci! I trust that many Montrealers feel the same way.

    The more likely scenario would be for the Rays to play regular season games in Mexico, Japan or Europe, under the guise of "International Exposure".



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    1. I recall the Rays playing an "opener" or two in Tokyo in years past, as well. That might be what they're looking at here.

      Playing regular season games in Montreal, regardless of how far along the city and local investors are as far as their plans go, seems like PR suicide at this point.

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    2. Having the Rays playing home games in Montreal means lots of $$$ for the Rays. For 3 games, you are looking for attendances of 120 000 to 160 000. Based on 2015 results, that's 10% to 13% of the overall attendance in only 3 games.

      With 3 series of 3 games, that's easily 33% of the year attendance in TB.

      What we heard from Mayor Coderre is that Montreal almost got a series of 3-4 games in 2016 (we don't know the teams). He said it was very close to be a done deal.

      However, Mayor Codere said that major(s) announcement(s) are coming before the 2016 pre-season games in Montreal. Maybe the Red Sox will play one or more than one regular games in Montreal in 2016.

      Stay Tuned!

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    3. It would be interesting to see where these "home" games would be played. I agree games in Montreal would be a terrible image for the Rays for everyone in the Tampa Bay area. But I feel sold out regular season games, in a city that is serious about getting a team, involving a team that has always been talked about to go there, would scare decision makers into building a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area.

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    4. I'd be happy to drive the 5 hours to get to Montreal to watch some Rays home games this summer. But I certainly wouldn't blame Rays fans for staying home the other 78 home games at the Trop. So unless they want to effectively kill their local brand, I'd assume any non Trop home games would be special attraction games, like the Pirates and marlins in Puerto Rico this year.

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  3. Aren't we supposed to play an exhibition game in Cuba? I could see them attempting to play more games there as relations open up between our countries.

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  4. Unfortunately, most of all are trying to figure out if the boy is crying wolf again, or if this latest "sky is falling" blog post has merit. A year ago, I'd have taken it seriously and asked questions, now...who knows what the f to think.

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    1. That's all this post aims to do - ask the question so those in power can decide.

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    2. Funny how you missed it in 2014!

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  5. To answer your question, the Rays will get to walk away for $2M per year. Pocket change.

    Elsewhere in scams:
    http://deadspin.com/gary-bettman-gets-huffy-while-defending-stadium-financi-1752554428

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    1. I hadn't seen that - thanks for sharing.

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  6. THIS Noah is partly why cities rather own stadiumsin their city, for control of teams so they don't try this, the other is for additional revenue...
    All and all, a home series in Cuba and/or Orlando would be good...

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    1. Just like Tampa owns the Trop?

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  7. Like the NFL, MLB knows that their stadium extortion game is coming to an end. The international angle (professional sports owners hope) will allow for these greedy entities to extort money from cities abroad.

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  8. Let them leave. Do not negotiate to keep them. Do not play their bullshit game. Let them go.

    http://deadspin.com/a-special-message-from-rams-and-chargers-fans-1752701018

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  9. Why on Earth would the Rays want to play in an outdoor minor league stadium just to play 10 games in another market? That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. First, half the games would either be rained out or it would be too hot for anyone to go. None of those stadiums have even close to enough capacity (even with low attendance) to make it plausible for that to happen unless MAJOR construction is done. Second, why are you so quick to assume they want to use the ten games to go to another market? Why cant you give the Rays the benefit of the doubt that maybe they want to play a few games in Australia, Japan, Cuba to increase their brand. Maybe they play a few games in Orlando and Jacksonville to help grow fan bases in those areas. Come on Noah, stick to the facts and stop trying to make the Rays into the villains they are not. The Rays could be doing WAY worst things to try and get a stadium but it seems like they are actually trying to do things the right way. Give the team a chance before you automatically try and throw them under the bus ever chance you get.

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    1. Conspiracy theorists say it's the only way to get out of Tampa Bay in the next 5yrs.

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  10. I would think for it may also be MLB protection if god-forbid, a brutal late season hurricane closing the stadium/area for a 72 hour+ period. This happened with the Cubs and Astros many years ago. They ended up having to play in Miller Park. Also other teams that have had rainouts sometimes have to play the makeup game on the road as part of a double header. This is usually the case when its an out of division opponent who only comes to town once. And in Aug/Sep they are really limited in their make up date options. The language could just be about protection and flexibility for the owners in these instances.

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