Let’s End Stadium Stamps for the Rich

by Gary Shelton on April 8, 2015 · 7 comments

in general

Wednesday, 6:03 p.m.

 Guest Column

By Scott Myers

Scott Myers is a sports fan who has lived in Tampa Bay for the last 24 years. He is married with four children and recently retired from a 44 year IT career. Email him at: ascott.myers@gmail.com

Incredible volumes of conversation, dialogue, and arguments have been going on for months in the Tampa Bay area via newspapers and blogs regarding the Tampa Bay Rays’ quest for a new stadium.  Very little, if anything, has been resolved, clarified or honestly discussed.

A recent example of woefully incomplete information came during an interview with Stu Sternberg at Tropicana Field on opening day (4/6/2015) of the Rays 2015 season.  Here is an excerpt from Gary Shelton’s blog at http://www.saintpetersblog.com/archives/224860 :

***

“I get exasperated because it makes it more difficult to get done on the field what we I’d like to get done. And what  I think the franchise has earned, the employees have earned and the fans have earned.  Not just scrimp and save and trade guys off. To spend a little money willy nilly, which we don’t get to do ever. We probably have the lowest,  or the second-lowest, payroll in baseball. At 70 million, that’s a level that’s uncomfortable. It puts us squarely in the red again.’’

Sternberg maintains that if his team could get to a stadium where the attendance would rise to, say, the middle of the pack, then the payroll would do the same.

***

How refreshing it would have been for Stu Sternberg to have explicitly said how many dollars in additional profit the new stadium would bring, after deducting for cost of the new stadium and how many dollars he would then add to payroll.  He shares none of that, and regrettably no one ask him for that information.

So let’s start with the basics:

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick April 9, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Why in the world does Sternberg refuse to negotiate the stadium deal during the season? What’s so sacred about that time period. He has a GM who provides for play moves. He should have ample staff to continue the dialogue. This is no time to put it on the back burner as he says.

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Rick Martin April 10, 2015 at 2:51 pm

On 6 April, Matt Baker Tampa Times said no negotiation during the season. Cant link the article, but it’s there. Focus will be on baseball. Again, Sternberg don’t waste months away if this is such an important deal to make with the city and the life of the Rays being in TB is on the line.

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Gary Shelton April 10, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Don’t know what someone else reported. I stood in front of him and he said he’d listen.

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Cecil DeBald April 9, 2015 at 9:11 am

Ah, I could go on and on – as long as the article – but I won’t. I’ll just pick a few things:

A business model isn’t “broke” when it gets someone else to pick up the tab – it’s successful…

Less pay for players doesn’t mean more money to build stadiums – it means more profit for the owners who will continue to use the “broken” business model…

There is a positive economic impact for a community for having an MLB team. Florida communities currently pay millions of dollars every year for profit-making companies to open an office or relocate to their area because of their expected economic impact. You can debate the size of the impact in any situation, but you can’t ignore the existence of it, and if it exists, it has some value to the community that is worth some investment.

The fact that MLB can afford to pay for a new stadium for the Rays is moot. It isn’t a question of what MLB can afford, it’s a question of how much the Tampa Bay area wants to keep the Rays as compared to how much another community wants them. Mr. Myers obviously doesn’t want them at any cost to the community. That’s his perogative, but the end result of that position is not a Rays/MLB-funded stadium, but the loss of the Rays. Just so you know.

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scott myers April 10, 2015 at 6:06 am

Hi Cecil,

You make a good point about the business model not being broken. In any case, it currently works because the spineless politicians are happy to provide taxpayer money to the wealthy team owners.

The owners will continue to use the ‘broken’ business model as long as politicians let them. When the subsidies stop, the owners will have to adjust by reducing payroll so that they can continue to enjoy the profits.

An MLB team has ‘some value’ to the community. It is not hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes that otherwise are not needed, or could be used for other much more worthy purposes.

Agreed, that until the politicians grow some spine,we will not see a Rays/MLB funded stadium. But the Rays are stuck here until 2027 – maybe during that time other communities will find some politicians with spine who will set stadium funding in the right direction.

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Paul April 8, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Agree with Scott wholeheartedly in regards to the economics; and in evaluating this type of investment, it’s also important to consider the long-term viability/growth potential of the industry.

Like other majors sports leagues, MLB has been savvy in the ways they’ve been able to capitalize the sport with merchandizing, globalization, and hugely profitable broadcast rights. I would argue that MLB’s growing profitability over the past several decades has less to do with growing interest in the sport and more to do with the rapid development of the sports economy. There are just so many ways to make money with the expanse of TV, the internet, and globalization that started in the 1970’s.

What concerns me most about MLB’s future is the aging demographics of their fanbase. Kids aren’t watching. Half of MLB’s viewers are 55 or older. Only 6% are under 18 (Bloomberg). As many other sports are picking up the pace of games to keep the younger viewers interested, baseball has and continues to be slowing down.

There have been several articles on the topic that are worth the read. A few of them are here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/baseballs-trouble-with-the-youth-curve–and-what-that-means-for-the-game/2015/04/05/2da36dca-d7e8-11e4-8103-fa84725dbf9d_story.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/baseballs-trouble-with-the-youth-curve–and-what-that-means-for-the-game/2015/04/05/2da36dca-d7e8-11e4-8103-fa84725dbf9d_story.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-04-01/fixing-baseballs-old-people-problem-with-merchandise-highlights

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Jim Willson April 8, 2015 at 6:51 pm

I love the Rays and want them here too…..but this makes excellent points.

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