Sunday, February 11, 2018

What the Hell Just Happened? Rays' Ybor Press Conference News Pt. 2

Even though Friday's Rays-to-Ybor pep rally press conference produced few surprises, there was still too much to unpack in one blogpost.  So, after "What the Hell Just Happened - Pt. 1," here are a few other nuggets worth recapping this weekend :

Sternberg on opening team's books
In the wake of the Miami Marlins boondoggle, there's good reason to want team owners to come clean, be transparent, and open their books to show actual need for public subsidies.  So I asked Stu Sternberg Friday if he would be open to the idea, as teams such as the Cardinals have done in the past.  He politely said, "no thank you":

His reasoning was that the team's books had been "opened" in 2008-09, via leak.  Of course, MLB has grown by the billions since then, especially with the growth of its monstrous digital empire.  And revenue sharing has increased as well.  But it's easy to pretend like those revenues don't exist when you've got a shiny new vision of a ballpark to promote!

Sternberg on new stadium's effects on payroll
I mean, that's why the Rays want a new stadium anyway, right?

Hagan's response to my questions
Then, there's Ken Hagan, who surprised (most of) the room full of journalists Friday with this response to the question of what kind of tax revenues are being discussed behind-closed-doors:

But that isn't an acceptable answer when the commissioner still hasn't talked about what kind of public dollars he's eyeing in his now eight-year-old stadium campaign.  Transparency is key when hundreds of millions of tax dollars are on the table.

So, as is typical in a press conference, we went to Hagan afterward for follow-up questions.  He raced out the back door, and had a consultant restrain me from leaving the building:

I don't see it as the "feud" that Mitch Perry described it as in this weekend story, but at the end of an interview with 620 WDAE-AM Friday, Hagan took an unprovoked shot at the "arrows and haters, one (of whom) was at the press conference today, as a matter of fact."

The hosts of the show, longtime radioman Ron Diaz and former sports journalist JP Peterson, had just finished applauding Hagan, specifically, for disrupting St. Pete's contract with the Rays, when they confirmed that I was the "hater" he was referring to.  Hagan then added it was "TMZ-like misleading and irresponsible reporting."   Still waiting to hear what exactly he found so misleading and irresponsible.

Hagan on Buckhorn's "bush league" comments
In that same WDAE interview, Hagan laughed off Mayor Buckhorn's Thursday comments, where he referred to Hagan as a "minor-league politician" and "bush-league" for leaking the Ybor City news (again) without consulting his long-time partners in the effort.

But the relationship didn't seem warm Friday.  Hagan also said there hadn't yet been "any real discussions on the financing elements," seemingly a contradiction with Buckhorn's Friday comments that "7 or 8" different financing mechanisms are being eyed.  Hagan's comments, after eight years of courting the team, seem either disingenuous or financially reckless.

Finally, Hagan said in the interview that "I’ve said for 8 years repeatedly that we’re not going to raise taxes."  He actually campaigned 7.5 years ago on the promise of "no public dollars" at all for the stadium, but his views have shifted quite a bit since 2010

He seems to be pushing a stadium subsidy package that would cost more public dollars than Raymond James Stadium:

Buckhorn on Rays' "extortions"
Three years ago, Mayor Buckhorn said the Rays will "use every extract - some would say extort - the most money from the public."  I asked him if he still believed that:

Buckhorn has been more forthcoming than Hagan in talking financials...probably because he started pulling back from his once-cheerleader-in-chief role back in 2013.  He said Friday fees and taxes that hit tourists and ticket-holders will be prioritized over those that affect residents.  But the Rays will not be a fan of using things like naming rights and ticket taxes for construction.

That $800 million stadium figure and transparency
I also asked Sternberg if he felt he was living up to the franchise's promise to be transparent through the stadium process.  He said he did.

But, it also feels he has been throwing around $800 million (along with his $150 million suggested team contribution) as nothing more than sticker shock numbers to set an opening bar for public subsidy expectations.  But he knows a stadium isn't happening if the cost doesn't come down and his contributions don't come up.

So let's reset this conversation at $600-650 million, since the team doesn't need a retractable roof. The Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin just reported the Marlins had their roof open for only six games last year, and 50 games in their six years at Marlins Park.

With roof technology advancing (see Falcons and Vikings' stadiums), the Rays will be looking at a fixed, translucent roof to save on the mechanics of expensive retractable technology.

Field of Schemes on the big picture
Neil deMause writes, "This is right out of the standard stadium playbook: Make a big deal of announcing a site, get everyone debating whether it’s the right site and what it would mean for fans...and hope no one notices that you still have at minimum a $400 million funding gap."
In any case, feel free to debate the pros and cons of the Ybor City site, but try not to get distracted from the real issue here: Stuart Sternberg wants a new stadium, and wants somebody to pay for it who isn’t him. Because forgetting about that while staring at a shiny stadium site is exactly what he wants you to do.
It may be working. Every headline this week has been, "who will pay for it," rather than "should we pay for it?"

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  1. Who's Sox jersey were you wearing at the presser Friday?

    You are fake news and you wouldn't know class if you were sitting in a classroom. Good for Hagan for standing up to your nonsense. Go back to Boston and suck some deflated balls.

    WTSP is a fine station and you drag it down.

    1. LOL. Credible criticism it seems.


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  2. Hey Anonymous - how about you identify yourself?

  3. So let me get this straight. Hillsborough County, where citizens do not pay enough taxes to fund promised raises for its public school teachers, is going to give money to Stu Sternberg to build a stadium without him even having to open his books? Do we have the most spineless, morally bankrupt elected officials on the planet, or what?

    1. The SDHC is seperate funding as well as an entirely seperate entity from any money Hillsborough would use for a stadium...idiot. Any funds Hillsborough would use for a stadium is earmarked for large projects such as a stadium.

    2. Please read "If Only Florida’s Ruling Class Loved Public Education as Much as Tourism and Billionaires" posted at

    3. You're a nut dude.

    4. This is a large misnomer - the funds Hillsborough could use for a stadium could go toward LOTS of other things:

  4. And: