Sunday, August 27, 2017

Rays, Hagan Continue to Sweep Funding Conversations Under Rug, Make Mockery of Transparency Promises

For seven years, the Rays been able to distract from the Stadium Saga's biggest challenge (funding) by focusing the conversation about their future on location.  This weekend's latest Times' editorial, "An intriguing site for new Rays stadium" - and to a somewhat lesser degree, John Romano's in-depth examination of an Ybor City site - were the latest pieces to gloss over the extreme public price tag that seems to come along with Hillsborough's super-secret plan.

But a stark contrast to that editorial was Joe Henderson's excellent Times column, focusing on Commissioner Ken Hagan's love of Cobb County's super-secret, not-so-great, potentially-illegal deal with the Braves, a deal called "the worst sports stadium deal ever," which includes county subsidies to the tune of $82 per passenger to get fans and employees to the stadium.

Henderson examined how much "infrastructure" Hagan might be willing to commit Hillsborough County to.  And he wrote about how little the Braves contributed to all of their privately-controlled development, while property taxes (in a county that can't afford its public parks) largely help fund that stadium:
They did this without a voter referendum.

Hillsborough County is studying this?

Study away guys, and then do just the opposite.
Henderson is a former sports columnist, by the way.  He continues to ask rhetoricals about stadium financing:
You'll probably hear a lot of talk about creating a special-taxing district in and around a new stadium, to help with financing. That's fine, even though it won't generate nearly enough money. Tourist taxes? The fight for that money will be bloody if backers try to divert millions more to a stadium.

Every time I pull at these threads, it keeps coming back to fact Major League Baseball generated about $10 billion in 2016 and the cash keeps coming in.

What that means is we can dream about an Ybor stadium all we want, but until we see what the Rays are willing to pay, a dream is all it will be.
The lack of transparency is a common theme in stadium talks across the country, and the Rays' Stadium Saga is no exception.  The team promised to be different than the Marlins and be open about funding years ago...but executives have done nothing but deflect questions about how much they're willing to pay for their new home for nine years.

And, as the Times' editorial board wrote in 2014, "transparency isn't Hagan's strong suit," either.  The links below and this 2016 commentary should help make that abundantly clear.   He improperly deleted text messages during a 2015 investigation into his back-room dealings and his office routinely struggles to comply with the state's law on producing public records in a timely fashion.
Hagan also promised to provide more details on funding last fall but has yet to utter a single peep on what it will cost the public in nearly 12 months since then.

In fact, the growing expectation for public subsidies for the Rays is something I examined a week ago, as is Ken Hagan's shift from "no public dollars" on a Rays stadium to a plan that will likely include more public money than Raymond James Stadium.

Hagan has repeatedly said, "There will never be another Raymond James/sweetheart deal in this county," but its looking more and more like the public cost of a Rays stadium will be hundreds of millions of dollars, compared to the "just" $168 million it took to build Raymond James Stadium ($253 million in 2017 dollars).

A Hagan history on Shadow of the Stadium:
I'll be writing more on the extreme public price tag of a new Rays stadium in the upcoming when the county tries to sneak this plan through claiming, "your tax dollars won't be used," you have all the real information at your fingertips.

Meanwhile, in other news, the Rays' TV ratings have basically held steady from a year ago, pulling in a 2.9 avg nightly rating, good enough for first among all Tampa Bay cable programming.  And even though the same numbers that ranked the Rays 13th in MLB last year has them at 20th this year, they still stand to make more money the next time their TV contract comes around for negotiations.

Of course, they won't disclose when that is.

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  1. Regarding:
    'Hagan has repeatedly said, "There will never be another Raymond James/sweetheart deal in this county,"'
    In Hagan's mind, that does not mean there can't be a sweeterheart deal for the Rays.

  2. Why is it never reported that the math does not work for getting a new stadium?

    Let’s assume the new stadium yields an increase of 10,000 fans per game, which is what Brian Auld said about 2 years ago, was needed for the Rays to be viable. Brian also said that would translate into about $20 million per year in additional revenue. Per , the Rays opening day payroll for the 2017 MLB season was $70 million, and MLB average team salary is $138 million. So the Rays are $68 million below the MLB average. Adding $20 million revenue is not going to make the Rays more competitive, especially when you consider that it will cost $34 million per year (30 years/4%) to build the $600 million stadium.

    The only way the Rays can get near an average team payroll is for MLB to be much more aggressive in revenue sharing. So the premise that a new stadium will make the Rays more competitive is fallacious. And for the Rays to average 25,000 year after year is by no means a slam dunk, IMHO

    1. Never say never, Scott: