Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bucs Want More Tax Breaks Because Raising Ticket Prices is Good for Economy

After analyzing the Bucs' 700-plus-page application (DOWNLOAD) for state stadium subsidies, I broke the news over on today of how the Bucs expect another large jump in ticket prices next year: a 15% increase, on average, across all events at Raymond James Stadium.

While some increases will be in suite and club seats that have seen the most improvements, it's safe to say just about every event at the stadium is going to get more expensive when the team's two-year construction project is completed. The expected increase is on top of the 24% increase the Bucs instituted on their own season tickets this year, their first in eight seasons.

Previously, we've exposed how pro teams and leagues were seeking tax dollars for renovations that ultimately reduced stadium capacities and increased ticket prices. The Buccaneers haven't reduced capacity at Raymond James Stadium much, but are apparently trying to capitalize on an improved fan experience to increase their revenues.

The Buccaneers are paying for the majority of their $125 million renovation project, with Hillsborough County sales taxes covering $28.8 million of the two-year construction project. Now, the Bucs are asking for another $1 million each year, through at least 2027, from the state, on top of a $2 million per year incentive it's been receiving since 1998.

The new request is far from guaranteed, however, since Florida's legislature has denied all stadium subsidy requests in recent years. Bucs' COO Brian Ford said the team just wants "a seat at the table" if the state decides to award subsidies this year.

The Bucs hopes to lure another Super Bowl to Tampa before their stadium contract expires at the end of 2027, and many of the improvements were considered necessary to land the 2017 college football championship. Chief Operating Office Brian Ford said the team hopes to land other world-class events once renovations are complete.

However, the state money hinges on the team's ability to prove that it "serves a public purpose" and return on investment from the state.

The Bucs' application indicates the team will see an increase in revenues of nearly a million dollars this year, "driven primarily by premium area revenues and certain pricing changes" at games and concerts. The team, which splits profits from non-football events with the Tampa Sports Authority, estimated the average ticket price across all events is approximately $63.

Then, in the fiscal year of 2017, the team projects a 15% average increase in tickets across all events - a jump of nearly $10 per ticket. However, the hikes may hit areas harder with the most improvements, such as suite and club seats.

The team's application also projects a steady increase in attendance at the stadium due to renovations such as its new scoreboards, even though Bucs attendance is down approximately 5% through two regular season home games so far.

In addition to several hundred construction jobs over the project's two-year duration, the Bucs say the renovations will create seven new full-time jobs, including several in concessions and merchandising. The team says the project will also create a full-time job related to non-event catering, and two new maintenance jobs, one of which will be paid by the taxpayer-funded Tampa Sports Authority.

The application also revealed ambitious economic impact goals associated with the January 2017 college football championship game, including more than 55,000 out-of-state visitors spending an average of four nights each in Florida.

The projection, done by the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, estimates each out-of-state visitor will spend an average of $410 per day in the region - plus hundreds more for four nights of hotel stays - accounting for more than $5.5 million in extra sales tax revenues the week of the championship. However, recent studies of tax receipts during Tampa's most recent Super Bowl as well as the 2012 Republican National Convention have shown no evidence of any bump in tax receipts during the events.

The Bucs estimate the stadium generated approximately $6.4 million in state taxes in each of the last three years, with the first $2 million annually forgiven by the state as part of its previous stadium incentive program.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bucs to Apply for More Tax Dollars on RayJay Renovations

This blog was the first to report on the Bucs' bid for state tax dollars last year - a bid that ended in an embarrassing rejection - and history repeats itself again today.

The Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) meets this afternoon, expected to approve a resolution declaring that the Bucs' renovations of Raymond James Stadium "serves a public purpose," so the team and TSA can apply for millions of dollars in new subsidies.  The state money would essentially reimburse the Bucs for costs they've already sunk in.

Taxpayers already footed the entire original bill for the stadium, plus more than $28 million of the 2016 renovations...despite the fact that the team wouldn't agree to extend its lease past 2027 (presumably, so it can threatmonger its way to more tax dollars).

But the team will try its luck again anyway with a legislature, likely pitting two powerful forces against each other: stadium advocate Jack Latvala, the Senate Appropriations Chair, and stadium subsidy critic Richard Corcoran, the Speaker of the House.

The Bucs have also increased the size of the renovation package (see below), to a proposed $125 million - with another $16 million in possible additions - by the time all is said and done. It will be interesting to see what happens to that number if the team doesn't get the state money.

The TSA is also expected today to approve its agreement to use state money to help pay for the Yankees' Spring Training improvements...because the Yankees need your financial help.

Hopefully the Yanks will put those new revenues to good use and buy a real economic impact report next time. 

Buccaneers' prospective $141 million renovation list

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

How November's Elections Could Sway Rays Stadium Saga

As long as Hillsborough and Pinellas commissioners are going to continue to wage a bidding war over the Rays, we may as well take another look at the candidates vying to get onto the board of county commissioners.

In Pinellas, I recently profiled the high-stakes race for chairman Charlie Justice's about the direction Justice - and his challenger Mike Mikurak - want to take the stadium discussions.

And in a hotly-contested race for an open seat in Hillsborough, Tim Schock, who favors more regional collaboration, takes on Pat Kemp, who favors more regional transit.

Election Day is November 8.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Lightning Named No. 1 in ESPN Ultimate Standings

TAMPA, Florida – The Tampa Bay Lightning franchise is the best. In all of sports. At least, according to the just-announced 2016 ESPN Ultimate Standings, which rank all 122 NHL, MLB, NFL, and NBA franchises “in categories that matter most to fans.”

For the first time in its 14-year history, the Ultimate Standings honor a Tampa-area team, after ranking the Lightning No. 3 in all of pro sports last year. The standings consider 25 criteria, including as ticket prices, recent on-field successes, and how owners & players show appreciation to their fans, a factor in which the Lightning ranked No. 1 out of 122 franchises.

“When Jeff Vinik bought the team in 2010, his No. 1 goal was to make this a world-class franchise (and) to serve our fans as well as we possibly could,” said Tampa Bay Lightning Executive Vice President of Communication Bill Wickett. “We feel that the ESPN Ultimate Standings are validation of that.”

ESPN The Magazine, which publishes its rankings in print this Saturday, also heralded the Lighting’s huge crowds at Fan Fest (11,000-plus), Vinik’s charitable efforts, and how the team has turned Tampa into “a hockey town.”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed 73rd out of 122 franchises, while ESPN ranked the Tampa Bay Rays 90th. The San Francisco 49ers ranked last, thanks to high ticket prices, poor on-field performance, and cold owner/player relations with fans.

The entire rankings will be published on later this week.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Weekend Reading: USF Football, Rays Stadium Funds in Hillsborough

A few sports business articles worth checking out from recent weeks:
  1. USF Football Attendance is in Crisis: With the Big 12 on the verge of announcing its expansion plans Monday, USF's last chance to make a good impression - and last chance to save its big-football dreams - has been less-than-impressive.
  2. Hillsborough Appears Ready to Raise Bed Tax: Even though the money could be used for a variety of non-stadium-related expenses too, stadium cheerleaders in Tampa are excited the bed tax could be raised a penny to potentially help fund (a small portion of) a new home for the Rays.  But Hillsborough still has a LONG way to go on financing.
  3. Dunedin's Economic Impact Claims are Worthless: This post furthers the points I've made regarding the city's campaign for public subsidies for an $81M Blue Jays spring training rehab.  It's a traveshamockery.
  4. Nobody's watching sports on TV anymore: Double-digit drops in NFL ratings, coupled with similar trends in other sports has some executives concerned...just not publicly.
  5. Everybody's still watching sports on TV: PricewaterhouseCoopers says television rights will officially surpass ticket gate revenues by 2018.  For teams like the Rays, where the cable numbers are stronger than the attendance numbers, that fateful day could come a lot sooner.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tampa Bay Left Out By Forbes 400 List

Forbes's annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans includes a record 44 sports team owners.

The Glazer family has not made the cut since patriarch Malcolm passed away in 2014.  Nor has the Steinbrenner family.

But Clippers owner Steve Ballmer ($27.5B) made the list, as did Seahawks/Trail Blazers owner Steve Allen ($18.9B).  Kings owner Philip Anschutz ($10.9B), Rams owner Stan Kroenke, and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ($7.4B) round out the top five, according to Forbes.

Ross, of course, has been asking the state of Florida for three years to help pay for his Dolphins Stadium renovations (to no avail...yet).

Other Florida subsidy-seekers making the billionaire's list include the Miami Heat's Mickey Arison ($7.2B), Jags owner Shahid Khan ($6.9B), and the Magic's Richard DeVos ($5.9B).

Neither the Rays' Stu Sternberg nor the Lightning's Jeff Vinik made the Forbes 400 list...yet.

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