Saturday, June 25, 2016

Teams Will Say Anything to Keep Subsidy Spigot Running

I haven't had much time to blog lately - partially due to speaking at the annual IRE (Investigative Reporters & Editors) convention about the importance of watchdog journalism in sports business.

I pushed journalists around the county to go investigate their own local stadium subsidies; to scrutinize economic impact claims; and to hold elected officials accountable.

We also talked about how the real value of new stadiums is not in more seats or luxury boxes anymore - in fact, Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan recently said a new Rays park may have zero suites. But instead, the real value of new stadiums lies in 1) increasing demand for teams' product and 2) other real estate/ancillary deals around the park.

I've always said teams are much better at this subsidy game than cities...and elected officials of Tampa should give a real long, hard look at this invaluable 1998 article (page 68) on the Bucs' $600 million "sweetheart" deal....that wound up costing taxpayers at least $26 million more this year.

Also worth reading this weekend - the Tampa Bay Times' synopsis of how stadiums "aren't built the way they used to." Kidding, they're built better. But as I wrote a few years ago, 20 is the new 40 for stadiums and teams seem to have little interest in honoring the spirit of their original 30-year leases:
What's worrisome is that baseball teams seem to be accelerating their demands for new stadiums, effectively shortening the lifespans of pricey stadiums to mere decades. Consider this a sports version of the old Space Race when the United States and Russia went wild with checkbooks trying to establish dominance above Planet Earth.
It's beyond worrisome. And an important question worth asking of Ken Hagan, Bob Buckhorn, Rick Kriseman, and other politicians talking to the Rays: how do you expect to ensure the Rays would return 30 years of investment to the people who pay hundreds of millions of dollars for their new home?


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Friday, June 10, 2016

Another Blow to Baseball in Tampa

Last night, Hillsborough Co. commissioners voted again to keep a potential transportation tax referendum off this fall's ballot, not only dealing a blow to the Rays' hopes for better transit in Tampa Bay, but also the hope that residents in Hillsborough County might be willing to spend new money on infrastructure improvements.

Of course, the case to spend money on baseball - at a time the county has a multi-billion-dollar transportation funding shortfall - gets even harder here. But as the Times' Steve Contorno reports, citizens are starting to mock commissioners for their seeming willingness to spend on sports and not roads:
One speaker, Yvette Maldonado, sarcastically suggested that commissioners may discover the will to pave roads if they were named after baseball stadiums.
"Wow," she said, "I think I found the solution folks."
Making things even harder on stadium advocates, the commission ultimately voted to look into whether tax-increment financing (TIF) could be used to earmark property taxes for transportation...which might make hopes of a stadium TIF even harder to accomoplish.

ALSO READ: Hillsborough has no idea how to pay for a stadium
ALSO READ: Land isn't Problem in Stadium Saga; Funding is.

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