Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sticker Shock! New Rays Stadium Will Be Expensive; Region Still Has No Clue How to Pay for It

FINALLY!  The Tampa Tribune stopped speculating about possible new Rays stadium locations long enough to have a legitimate discussion about the region's seemingly-impossible challenge of paying for it.

Chris O'Donnell writes surging subcontractor costs, land acquisition costs, and other amenities aimed at maximizing MLB profits could send stadium costs surging past $600 million.  The story also gives a great breakdown of retractable roof pros/cons and costs.

But in his limited column-inches, O'Donnell doesn't address the public revenue streams the Rays may look to tap to pay for the stadium.  Sure, there's plenty of time for that, but the real sticker shock is what the hundreds of millions of expected tax dollars could pay for instead of a baseball stadium:
  • Fixing Tampa's immense flooding problems ($250M)
  • Relocating the ConAgra eyesore from the middle of Tampa's growing downtown ($70M)
  • Extending the Selmon Xway to the Gandy Bridge ($100M)
  • The needed replacement of the Howard-Frankland Bridge ($367M)
Of course, counties can't use bed tax money to directly pay for road projects, but the general revenue (TIF/CRA) dollars that would be required for a new Rays stadium could absolutely go toward any of the above priorities...if funding community priorities wasn't so damn political.

In the broader conversation, I wonder if the focus on the expected stadium sticker shock and possible $600M+ price tag is doing the region a disservice. 

That's because the local media is already doing such a good job setting expectations for the public contribution at $300M+ on a retractable roof stadium, while the Rays - and MLB commish Rob Manfred - are simply kicking back and simply enjoying the show.  Yes, I know they are neither kicking back, nor enjoying the years of inaction...but the fact remains the team has refused to talk money.

This way, the Rays are now perfectly set up to "settle" sometime down the road for a fixed-roof stadium at a much lower overall cost...once the public has committed its chunk of the cash.

We should end the conversation about a retractable roof right now.  The Marlins' don't use theirs, the region can't afford one, and the technology has come a long way since the Rays' last stadium foray in 2008.

As for the conversation about how many tax dollars the region should spend building the Rays a new could always ask five economists what they think?

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  1. So, Noah - do you have any financing thoughts as in who would pay for the stadium in Tampa? And don't just say the Rays should pay all of it. Its not a matter of who "should" but in practical terms in today's reality...

  2. Yeah,this $600 million stuff is way overblown. Gotta think more like Target Field, which was $400 million without infrastructure, but smaller and with a glass roof. $200 million from the Rays (they pledged $150 back in '07), hopefully something from MLB, and there's a chance it could happen.

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  4. It was a " limited column" for the average folks, and is ashame a lot of the positives weren't pointed out like the influx of charities & paid taxes by millionaires for the city a pro team brings...
    Also, if it's fair to (speculate) that Tampa will try to get 100's of millions from taxpayers, it would only be fair to give them the benefit in assuming they have a good financial plan that wouldn't place such a burden on the city. Again, they have shown they are smart businessmen when it comes to winning on a tight budget...

  5. What taxes by millionaires? Florida has no income tax. Stu Sternberg pays NY taxes. And the team gets exempted from much of the taxes they collect too.

    1. "What taxes by millionaires?", ??? "Millionaires" pays taxes like you & me, though they spend more, meaning Tampa will benefit from at least 30 more "millionaires" in it's community buying & leasing real estate, spending money, investing in businesses (ie Duckys & Ava), etc...

    2. Take an economy class. The economic impact is minimal.

  6. Comparing economic impact baseball and football stadiums is apples and oranges. Football stadiums are used maybe 20 days a year and as such are a net negative. Baseball stadiums are used 80-100 days a year, which can work out economically, if the team doesn't rip off the city