Sunday, November 19, 2017

Why 20 is the new 40 (RIP, Georgia Dome)

Tomorrow morning, Atlanta will blow up a perfectly-good stadium because, mostly, it has a roof that doesn't retract.

The stadium, fit to host Super Bowls and decades worth of SEC championships will be imploded after just 25 short years...once again proving that stadiums have pretty much zero equity (or in the case of Atlanta or Montreal's domes, negative equity) once a team decides its done playing there.

Let's flashback to my "20 is the new 40" post:
For a long time, stadiums were considered investments that would pay dividends for 40 or more years. That includes buildings such as Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium, and Dodger Stadium. Like a skyscraper, the facilities were simply built to last.

But the pressure on cities to "keep up with the Joneses" has slashed the perceived lifespan of a stadium in half, often eliminating the net benefits to the communities that spend huge amounts of money to build them.
Few pro teams stay in one place for more than a dozen years now without demanding more taxpayer-subsidized upgrades.  And by the time a stadium turns 20, it's already time to plan its replacement.
New stadiums are more state-of-the-art than ever...which makes it all-the-more ironic that society feels the need to replace the half-billion-dollar buildings every 20 years.
Before you dismiss this as just crazy Georgians being Georgians...check out this 2010 Shadow of the Stadium post that suggests no city in America is safe from the 20-year-old itch:  "Replace the Georgia Dome" Talk Troublesome




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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Stu Sternberg Hits Tampa Bay with Sticker Shock So He Can Deal a Numbed-Down Blow Later

I first thought this Tampa Bay Times article was from 2008:
But then I realized the news of Stu Sternberg estimating the Rays would put only $150 million toward a new stadium in Tampa Bay was published Wednesday night.

That means the team seems to want to fund a smaller portion of a new stadium than they were in 2008, when they offered up the same $150 million for a less-expensive stadium in St. Pete.  Adjusted for inflation, their 2017 opening bid is actually 13% less money than they were willing to spend ten years ago.

Longtime columnist Joe Henderson asked if Sternberg was joking.   And one Pinellas County Commissioner reacted this way:
No matter what you thought, money has always been - and remains - the biggest problem in the Rays' Stadium Saga.  But we can draw a few conclusions from Sternberg's comments:

1) The funding gap is ENORMOUS; and maybe bigger than even this blog thought
Commissioner Ken Hagan has repeatedly said there would "never again be a sweatheart deal" like the one the Glazers got at Raymond James Stadium.  Except, as this video shows, the Rays' stadium is likely to be WAY more expensive, even when adjusting the Buccaneers' 1998 haul for inflation:

There is no way Hillsborough (or even the deeper-pocketed Pinellas) is coming up with $650 million in public cash for a new stadium, so they two sides had better start hawking peanuts to private donors who may have a sweet spot for baseball.

2) Sternberg knows $650 million isn't happening
So why did he hit everyone with the sticker shock of $650 million this week?

Either because it's the next step in Sternberg's exit plan, finally coming clean that not even a new ballpark means significant new revenue unless someone else pays for it (as this blog has written dozens of times)...

And/or he's setting public expectations high - and his initial offering low - so that coughing up $350-400 million in public money later may seem like a deal.  It's a topic this blog covered in 2016:
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.
But Sternberg knows there is no appetite to fund major subsidies for a new stadium in Tampa: not on Hillsborough's county commission, where four of seven commissioners have already spoken out against any tax funding for a stadium;  not in Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's office, where he just had to fight for a controversial tax increase to pay for basic city services and wastewater upgrades; and not in the statehouse, where several bills aim at banning all sorts of stadium subsidies and the biggest proponent of stadium investment, State Sen. Jack Latvala, is sitting on the sidelines as allegations of sexual misconduct play out.

So what does Sternberg do with that?  Well, a savvy negotiator creates leverage.  And he's doing his best.

Sternberg is well-aware there are at least 14 different types of public subsidies the Rays could target to subsidize a new home.

3) Transparency from Rays??
Sternberg said the $150 million figure was based on the team's estimated revenues from a new stadium - something he told me five years ago the Rays don't do.

So, I guess now in 2017, the team all of a sudden knows what kind of ballpark they want to build and generally what kind of revenues it can expect from it?  Does that mean the Rays will finally be a little more forthcoming about financial issues?

Because three years ago...
If Sternberg was serious about only contributing $150 million, at least he's being honest (although I'm not convinced).  Because so far, the only real money talk we've heard from the Rays and MLB is how taxpayers had better start coughing up money.

Transparency has not been a priority here, and little has changed since I said this 12 months ago:



We know from the Marlins' new stadium that a new park, even in the wrong place, will increase a franchise's value by hundreds of millions.  So c'mon Stu, show us the money.






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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Ken Hagan Screwed His Fellow Commissioners - and Almost Rick Kriseman - to Screw Me

Ken Hagan basically confirmed my theory Wednesday that he gave the news of the Ybor City proposed stadium site to a few friendly reporters - before his fellow commissioners, who said they were "embarrassed" by his secretive move - in order to screw "a reporter" who he believed had uncovered the news.
So that was "properly," commissioner?
Actually, he admitted it wasn't Wednesday, promising he "will try to do a better job communicating," and essentially apologizing to Mayor Bob Buckhorn & Hillsborough commissioners for going all lone wolf on announcing his pet project...but he said it had nothing to do with influencing the St. Pete mayor's race, as some had suggested.

I actually believe him.  Hagan wanted to screw me for this story, and make sure I didn't unveil his beautiful baby. 

In fact, here's the exact moment when I told him I had public records he was willfully neglecting to turn over to me, in accordance with state law:
Now granted, Hagan tried to keep his cool and didn't take time examining what exactly I was holding in my hand (it wasn't the land use agreements he feared it was)...but just a week later, he took his victory lap as the architect of the masterful Ybor deal.

Hahahahahaha. Transparency.

Except the masterful deal forgot one thing: financing.  And Hillsborough doesn't have any money for roads, let alone a new stadium.  Oh, and Stu Sternberg said later on Wednesday the team would only be looking at a $150 million contribution to a stadium.

Good luck with that, commissioner. You now own that problem.

Oh, and a potentially bigger problem he also owns? Proof public documents existed that he seemingly refused to turn over - a possible criminal violation of state statutes.





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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

This Week in MLB: Anticipating More Manfred Non-News on the Rays Stadium Saga

The MLB owner/GM meetings are this week in Orlando, and for the first time since Ken Hagan announced the preferred Tampa site for a tug-of-war with St. Petersburg possible new Rays stadium, we will hear from Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Which of the following talking points should we expect Manfred to hit?
  • "We are encouraged by the progress..."
  • "Time is of the essence..."
  • "This issue is on our 'front-burner'..."
  • "Blah blah blah blah Montreal..."
  • "We look forward to hearing more about the offers on the table ($$$)..."
  • "We can't do this without the support of the community ($$$$$)..."
UPDATE: Manfred said Thursday,"There needs to be support from the community in order to be successful in completing it."

One thing's for sure - the next step in this process is MLB and the Rays seeing how much money they can extricate from public coffers. So unless Manfred is willing to shed some new light on how much is expected...or how much the league/team will put up...don't expect any real news to come out of this week's press conference.





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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What Kriseman's Win in St. Pete's Run-Off Election Means for the Rays

Ten weeks after a razor-tight primary, two St. Pete mayors duked it out in a run-off for control over city hall for the next four years.  And it appears Mayor Rick Kriseman will hold off former mayor, Rick Baker, by a two-to-three-point margin.

Of course, a mayor will leave many footprints on a city's legacy, but one significant influence that Kriseman will continue to have pertains to the future of the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Rowdies, both of whom currently play in old St. Pete stadiums.

As I wrote this summer, St. Pete seems to be too small for two top-level teams, and Baker had been a natural ally of the Rowdies after quarterbacking their MLS 2 St. Pete campaign. Meanwhile, Kriseman has been a reliable partner to the Rays and already offered the team significant public dollars that would, at the very least, help them leverage more out of Hillsborough County if they aren't serious about sharing in the redevelopment opportunities at Tropicana Field (also explains why the Rays contributed more than $80,000 to Kriseman's campaign.

Now, with the election in the books, it would seem the next domino to fall in the Stadium Saga would belong to the Rays, who could call a press conference to discuss their next move (seeking money) as soon as this week. But that may not prove to be a pleasant - or brief - chapter in this saga.

What won't help the Rays is Montreal's biggest MLB cheerleader, Mayor Denis Coderre, getting upset by challenger Valérie Plante earlier this week. Plante criticized Coderre on the campaign trail for a willingness to spend large amounts of tax dollars on projects like a new stadium. So that may be one weaker chip for the Rays/MLB to play as leverage.

Also newsworthy on Election Day in St. Pete - Gina Driscoll, who campaigned on an open approach to supporting and funding a new Rays stadium, beat out Justin Bean, who was a consultant on the Tropicana Field redevelopment project and said "no public funds" should be used for the stadium other than infrastructure and surrounding development.

In D2, Brandi Gabbard, who liked the idea of a Derby Lane stadium in North St. Pete, beat Barclay Harless, who promised "not one dime" for the Rays until the city gets its sewer problems under control. And in D4, incumbent Darden Rice, who has supported Kriseman's path on the Stadium Saga, knocked off 21-year-old challenger Jerick Johnson.





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