My apologies for not keeping you all updated before now on the Atlanta Braves spring training controversy in Tampa Bay, which has now managed to draw the Rays stadium mess into its orbit:
- The Braves owners, a Tampa Bay developer, and former MLB star and Tampa native Gary Sheffield (best known these days as “that guy with the ridiculous beard who sits next to Pedro Martinez on TBS”) revealed plans to build a $662 million spring training and sports complex on the former Toytown landfill, in Pinellas County just north of St. Pete. The group would be seeking $6.5 million a year in county subsidies (about $100 million in present value), or $10.5 million a year if a second team joined the Braves there, presumably because having an extra couple dozen spring training games every March is such a huge economic boon. (Spoiler: It’s not.)
- The Toytown site, you may recall, is one of the sites that the Rays owners might be looking at for a new major-league stadium, if they ever get permission to look at sites outside of St. Petersburg, which don’t hold your breath. Also, any Rays stadium developers would likely have their eyes on the same county subsidies as the Braves project.
- MLB issued a statement telling the Braves to get offa the Rays’ lawn: “Major League Baseball appreciates the support that it has received for the construction of Spring Training facilities throughout the State of Florida. The most pressing need, however, is the construction of a Major League-quality facility for the Rays.”
- The Tampa Tribune used this as an opportunity not just to flip about about the Braves demanding public money that should rightfully go to the local sports team owner instead, but to say that this should be a “wakeup call” to St. Petersburg to let the Rays move to the suburbs, because otherwise they … might not move to the suburbs?
Tempest in a teacup, most likely, but a pretty darn entertaining one, if only for MLB having to come up with a way to say, “Thanks for throwing money at our spring training facilities, but please throw money at our big-league teams first.”