Did I forget to mention MLB teams shake down cities for spring training money? Oh, do they ever

Nice piece last night by Deadspin wunderkind Jack Dickey on the never-ending shakedown of Florida and Arizona cities for baseball spring training facilities. Key section:

About the Nationals’ current home: It’s Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., which was built in 1994 to keep the Marlins’ spring games in-state. It remained the Marlins’ home until Jeffrey Loria swapped the Expos for the Marlins in 2002, when Loria decided he’d keep Montreal’s newer spring digs at Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium, which opened in 1998. Loria happily forced the older stadium on Montreal’s new owners, MLB. Love that guy. In any event, the Nationals’ home isn’t yet 20 years old. But they’re still itching for a new one. For spring freaking training.

So why is it that Lee County won’t give in to the Nats? Have they finally gotten some sense about the economic ineffectiveness of publicly subsidized stadiums? Are they going to invest in infrastructure? Or schools?

Lee County, however, can’t afford anything close to that amount after taking on about $234 million in baseball-related debt over the past several years—borrowing $143 million to build a new stadium for the Red Sox and agreeing to take on another $91 million loan for improvements the Minnesota Twins want.

Oh, great.

This is nothing new, of course — though I don’t write about it here that often because I’m kept busy enough with major-league stadium news, spring-training subsidies have been a thriving business for years, if only because there’s effectively an unlimited number of Florida and Arizona towns who are able to host spring training, so the hosting merry-go-round is an endless bidding war. But it’s nice to see it all in one place. And by “nice” I mean of course teeth-gnashingly enraging.


4 comments on “Did I forget to mention MLB teams shake down cities for spring training money? Oh, do they ever

  1. It’s a Springfield/Shelbyville thing, isn’t it?

    I imagine it’s a lot easier to get neighbouring Florida communities to battle each other for the right to lose money on baseball than it is to get cities in different states to do it.

    The one (small) benefit I see to spring training facilities is that they might actually draw people who would otherwise be on the fence about going to Fla or Ariz in February or March. I’m not sure that is a significant number of people, or that the “extra” spending they might do because they can watch A, AA, or even AAA players shag flies amounts to any real return on investment… but it might be a better investment than in an actual major league stadium. Maybe.

    But then again, Spring training facilities used to cost $10m or so… now they are in the $80-$120m range…

    Just say no to extortion. If the Cubs want to move their spring training facilities to “Anarene”, let ’em go.

  2. Here is a link to an Arizona Republic article that goes into great details of publicly-funded Cactus League follies:

    http://www.azcentral.com/sports/showusat.php?id=WuPnqp

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