Tampa Bay chambers of commerce: We can build Rays stadium if we just spend a buttload of public money!

So the Tampa and St. Petersburg chambers of commerce were set to announce the results of their study into building a new Rays stadium today, and yes, I like to make leetle joke. But what did the chambers’ report actually say?

Not a whole hell of a lot, it looks like. For starters, it assumes that the Rays owners would pay between 20 and 40% of a $500 million stadium, and then concludes that the public would have to pay $350 million, which at least shows a grasp of basic arithmetic. (Though it also estimates between $30 million and $150 million in land and infrastructure costs, which be paid for by Not Included In Box.) As for where that money would come from, the chambers float such ideas as an existing downtown Tampa TIF district, Hillsborough County car rental or hotel taxes, existing Pinellas County taxes currently going to pay off Tropicana Field, redirecting St. Pete’s share of state sales taxes, or these guys who came to their door and totally said they were from FEMA.

In essence, then, this was an exercise in throwing funding ideas against the wall and seeing which stick. (And the corollary goal, which is to get people arguing about how to pay for a stadium with public funds, rather than whether to do so.) Though the chambers did compile a list of funding ideas that would let them issue a statement saying these sources all avoided “imposing new taxes on local residents,” which is sort of true depending on what you mean by “new,” “local,” and “residents.”

One big question, meanwhile, which seems to be unasked by any of the media coverage thus far, is why exactly it’s assumed that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg would only be able to kick in around $150 million. Is it because that’s what Sternberg has said he’s willing to pay? Is it because somebody’s actually figured out how much a new stadium would be worth to the Rays? Doesn’t anybody in Tampa Bay know how to haggle?

8 comments on “Tampa Bay chambers of commerce: We can build Rays stadium if we just spend a buttload of public money!

  1. Well, if he’s got $150M for a stadium, he should just build himself a nice little $150M stadium. When you only need 10,000 seats, $150M can get you something pretty nice.

  2. No self respecting owner could sign good players with a lowly $150M stadium. Heck, half that is probably them selling the naming rights and charging $30 per car to park at the publicly funded parking structure.

  3. The Python reference is great, you earlier mention of overly optimistic shot-in-the-dark “report” about funding is reminiscent of another Python gag. A new high rise will stand as long as the occupants maintained a positive mentality about it, otherwise look out!
    All the scurrying around by locals looking to
    make Sternberg & co. happy (not to mention possibly enriching themselves) makes the phrase “tail wagging the dog” come to mind.
    He buys a pig in a poke franchise and sits back while the munchkins run around in circles on his behalf while ignoring the basic economic shortcomings of the market for an mlb franchise.

  4. “No self respecting owner could sign good players with a lowly $150M stadium.”

    You may have missed the point of my half-joking comment. There’s no reason to believe that any stadium is going to increase this team’s attendance to the point where he’s going to be able to sign many high-priced free agents. And they’ve done a very good job of keeping home-grown talent around long enough to have success on the field – while playing in their lamented dome. So why not build something appropriate for the crowds you know you can draw?

  5. To be fair, the Rays have been averaging about 20,000 fans per game, so they would need something slightly larger than a Triple-A stadium. Though I’ve wondered for a long time whether in a sane world, teams could follow the model of early 20th-century stadiums (or if you prefer, modern European soccer stadiums): Build something small that you can afford, then add on to it as your fan base grows.

    Of course, I know one way the Rays can have a 40,000-seat stadium for absolutely nothing…

  6. The Amazing El Mystico & Janet notwithstanding, I keep having to repeat these questions:

    Why is it that an owner who buys an encumbered franchise (be it in Mtl, Tampa, Oakland, Florida etc) feels he deserves to own a revenue producer similar to the Cardinals, Tigers or other second-tier franchises? Those of us who buy second hand cars at second hand prices don’t expect (or receive) taxpayer funded upgrades to Ferraris, BMWs or Mercedes.

    And more importantly, why is it that the thoroughly abused taxpayer tends to accept paying extra to satisfy the demand for this kind of “upgrade”?

  7. To your question John, taxpayers pay for these things because the loudest and most obnoxious voices drown out their opponents. In this day and age of teams owning their media outlets or at least having them in their pocket ensures a strong pro voice.

    The biggest problem for these cities is there is no end to rival cities that see a quick path to “first class” city status. Realistically MLB should shed two to four teams but short of that they should admit there are no untapped markets left. This is it. Unfortunately there will always be a Kansas who builds a world class arena to see it host a whole lot of concerts and sports exhibitions and realize none of the profit.

  8. Neil, a suggestion. Never, EVER, link to a Monty Python clip! I just spent the last thirty minutes watching various clips and laughing my behind off. I almost forgot I was reading your site!

    And Andrew T, it was Missouri that built the new arena, not kansas. They never build anything, just live off us (Arrowhead, Kauffman, Sprint Center, etc). And yes, I know they have the Nascar track but that’s used twice a year