Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Morning(s) After: Rays/Hillsborough Fallout (Pt. 4)

Because one, two, three extra posts weren't enough to completely recap all of the developments coming from the Rays' Thursday visit to Hillsborough County, here is more perspective on things said this week:

STU STERNBERG: "Transit (is) the real's a foregone conclusion wherever we end up (with a new stadium)...there will be a (transit) stop there."
I was actually surprised the Rays didn't make a bigger deal of their need for transit, but the team may have gotten an indication (perhaps from their private discussions w/commissioners) that now was not the time to touch upon another hot-button tax-dollar issue.

Nevertheless, the Rays' brass, most of whom came from the Northeast, know transit is the easiest way to get folks to a game from 20 miles away.  I always theorized a stadium/transit tax might work here, but we'll likely never know...the transit movement is way ahead of the stadium push right now.

PINELLAS COMMISSIONER SUSAN LATVALA: "All those years of trying to get a team here; I was cheering when they came, but it hasn't worked."
The Rays will meet with Pinellas Commissioners on Tuesday and we can expect a repeat performance from Thursday.

But how can Latvala say the Rays' situation hasn't worked?  The team has been one of the league's best for five years, TV ratings have skyrocketed, the value of the franchise has soared, and Forbes indicates Sternberg & co. have made huge profits.

Sure, the great success probably isn't sustainable forever, but just ask the Red Sox or Phillies or just about any other team in baseball - it's never sustainable.  The fact is, baseball HAS worked in Tampa Bay and the Rays are trying to strike fear in the heart of fans by repeating their attendance numbers...rather than open up their books and actually prove financial struggles.

TBO's JOE HENDERSON: "I wouldn't get too worked up...This isn't the first time baseball's belief system has been tested.  During many years of covering the pursuit of a baseball franchise here, I heard the same thing about the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners and even the San Francisco Giants.
     "The common thread was that each team needed a new owner or stadium, so those cities were told if things didn't get better right away, their team could move to St. Pete.  How did that work out?"
Henderson, who recently moved from the sports page to the metro page, is emerging as one of Tampa Bay's most rational voices on the Stadium Saga.   He's right our region should be familiar with the "stalking horse" game by now (I reported a similar history Thursday for WTSP).  Yet when politicians change a lot faster than league executives, there are sometimes short memories of how thinly-veiled threats of relocation can be.

MIAMI HERALD: How a $91 million loan on the Marlins ballpark will cost Miami-Dade $1.2 billion.
This may not be as bad as the headline sounds since financing a loan always costs more than the principal alone (just take a look at your monthly mortgage bill).  But even $400 million in Rays stadium bonds could cost a billion dollars by the time the loans are paid off.  This article should make elected officials and taxpayers alike scrutinize any long-term capital project.

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