Tampa proposes $30m subsidy for Yankees’ spring stadium, this passes for getting off cheap these days

The New York Yankees, a team that will be paying $225 million in player payroll this season (just thought I’d mention that, no reason), have agreed to a lease extension with the city of Tampa on their spring-training stadium that will include $30 million in city- and state-financed upgrades. (The Yankees will chip in $4.1 million for improvements to their training complex, and $6.2 million that they’ve already spent on the stadium since 2010, which is a new meaning of “will chip in.”) Planned improvements include new concessions concourses, new sun roofs, and a new “grand entrance” for fans fleeing the watchful gaze of bronze George Steinbrenner.

In exchange, Tampa gets to ensure the presence of the Yankees for another 21 years: The lease currently ends in 2025, and will be extended through 2046. That’s not a horrific tradeoff, though it’s worth noting that entire new minor-league stadiums have recently been built for this price. And the assessment of Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, aka the guy who thinks a single college football game can create 2,000 permanent jobs, remains, um:

[Hagan] said the deal is a good one for taxpayers. The county, which owns Steinbrenner Field, will receive an additional $8.4 million in lease payments for the extra 20 years of the contract. The improvements to the Yankees’ practice complex will raise its taxable value resulting in more property taxes.

And, Hagan said, the continued presence of baseball’s biggest name for spring training will continue to fill local hotels, bars and restaurants with out-of-state visitors.

“When you consider all the additional revenue, this is an extremely attractive return on investment, which makes this deal a no-brainer,” Hagan said.

First off, $8.4 million over the years 2026 through 2046 is never going to make a dent in $30 million in construction costs right now. The property-tax bump is likewise going to be small; as for the throngs of “out-of-state visitors” allegedly drawn to Tampa in March just to see Yankees spring training games, haven’t we killed that urban legend dead yet?

If there are two reasons to care about this, other than just enjoying hating the Steinbrenners for being rich and still being able to get public subsidies whenever they want (assuming the city and county approve the deal, which they haven’t yet), it’s because it’s likely to give another boost to the trend of MLB teams making demands for public upgrades or replacement of not-that-old spring training facilities (Steinbrenner Field was built in 1996), and because it gives us another hint of what Ken Hagan is likely to be like in negotiations for a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s almost certainly going to cost Tampa taxpayers a heck of a lot more than $30 million if it happens, especially if Hagan hauls out rationalizations like these.

15 comments on “Tampa proposes $30m subsidy for Yankees’ spring stadium, this passes for getting off cheap these days

  1. I didn’t realize there was so much cash laying about in Hillsborough County for a baseball stadium… Anything left for the Rays? Can’t wait to see how that one will be financed!

  2. It isn’t just Hagan. Every Hillsborough County Commissioner for the last 30 years has acted the same way. Must be part of their oath.

    I wonder what the actual “economic impact” would be if every single seat for every spring training game were filled by an out of state fan who wouldn’t have come to Tampa otherwise?

    My own experience is that about 40-50% of the fans are retirees, so I’m not sure they are really packing the bars before and after the game.

  3. One of the Big rumors was the Yankees would relocate ( probably to Orlando) when ( and if) the Rays get a New Stadium. Assuming this is agreed to, that goes out the window.
    This is actually not a bad deal for all parties involved. For Hillsborough County, the Yankees are being locked in for the next 30 years ( regardless of what happens with the Rays), and for the Yankees the upgrades are happening regardless if there is another Great Recession or the Obama anti Stadium Bill ( or some variation of it), actually becomes Law.

  4. Is this the same state that that rewrote their sports subsidies rules to avoid giving MLS teams a single cent.

  5. So far as I’m aware, MLS team owners can still apply for Florida state subsidies the same as everyone else. Orlando City’s application got stalled in 2015 (before it was ultimately withdrawn), but by the same legislative indecision that stalled everyone else’s stadium subsidy demands:


  6. If the Rays move close, even in Pinellas Cty, they can bump out the Minor League Yankees – but they will have to pay for lost revenue. This is an incredibly unnecessary deal. Brilliant for the Yankees, but if I was the Rays – the regional Major League team – I would be furious. MLB prevented Pinellas Cty from talking to the Braves, and said no money will be spent on other teams until the Rays stadium situation is figured out. The Yankees deal wasn’t set to expire until 2026. I wonder if MLB will step in on this one. Or maybe the Rays say “screw it, if you don’t want us 100%, we don’t want you”.

  7. @TampaBayBaseballMarket.com

    Or is more likely the case, the Rays will likely look at these developments and say, “It’s nice that you’re doing this for the Yankees. So how much money do ya guys have left for us?”

  8. It doesn’t matter if Yankees fans come from out of state or out of the county, they still stimulate the local economy during spring training.

    You People are all complaining about this, yet you have no idea how much the Yanks help the local tourism economy in February and March. Yet, when a person with deep, local knowledge asserts that Yankees fans fill up bars, restaurants and hotels, you practically ignore it.

    • Can’t I have “deep, local knowledge”? Or is that reserved for politicans with a history of flip-flopping?

  9. We have an excellent idea how much the Yankees help the local tourism economy in February and March, thanks to multiple studies of exactly that. It’s why I included the link to my previous post on this, which in turn links to a long Vocativ article showing that all evidence is that the answer is “not at all.”

    Props for being the first person ever anywhere to refer to Ken Hagan as “a person with deep, local knowledge,” though.

  10. The other issue, Ben Miller, is that the Yankees did already have a spring training site, so that tourism was already coming. And they were in a lease until 2025. And they did have a tradition of being in that area, so I don’t know if they would have liked to move after 2025. But perhaps that last factor is not a big deal.

  11. Ben,

    If you really want to reinforce the local economy, Tampa would be better off giving plane tickets to Canadians to come and stay in February and March.

  12. It looks like math is not Ken Hagan’s strong suit. Per http://web.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/yankees-will-stay-in-tampa-through-2046-if-taxpayers-chip-in-26-million-to/2272799
    “The Yankees will also pay $11.4 million to the TSA over the life of the lease, though after 2035, the payment drops from about $500,000 a year to $186,000.”
    Thus, the 10 years 2026-2035 will yield $5 million and the 11 years of 2036-2046 will yield $2,046,000 for a total of $7,046,000 for the 21 year extension, not the $8.4 million that Hagan stated in the Tampa Tribune story posted at http://www.fieldofschemes.com/2016/04/12/10901/tampa-proposes-30m-subsidy-for-yankees-spring-stadium-this-passes-for-getting-off-cheap-these-days/ .

    It is not just the city of Tampa that is involved here. The Tampa Sports Authority board of directors, the Hillsborough County Commission, the Tampa City Council, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, and the Hillsborough Community College board of directors are all involved in this potentially tragic transfer of public funds to the Steinbrenner family.

    Also, per http://web.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/yankees-will-stay-in-tampa-through-2046-if-taxpayers-chip-in-26-million-to/2272799

    “Under the existing agreement with the Yankees, the New York ball club must pay for “reasonably necessary capital improvements.
    So why would the TSA agree to use tourism tax dollars to help renovate Steinbrenner Field?’”

    Why indeed!

    How about the TSA board of directors, the Hillsborough County Commission, the Tampa City Council, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, and the Hillsborough Community College board of directors just say “NO” to the Yankees request for additional investment of public money into Steinbrenner field?

    Let’s start with the simple fact that if the Yankees leave Tampa, they have to get a facility somewhere else. The replacement cost for Steinbrenner Field (seating capacity of 11,000) is about $100 million plus the cost of the land. Note that it cost $78 million in 2012 to build jetBlue Park for the Red Sox, and it cost $100 million in 2012 to build Salt River Field at Stalking Point for Arizona/Colorado – both stadiums with 11,000 seating capacity. So if the Yankees choose to bolt now, 10 years from now, or whenever they will have to extort major dollars from the municipality unlucky enough to accept them, unless of course, in a rare moment of decency, the Yankee owners decide that they should pay for their new spring training facility themselves.

    Or, the Yankees, in a less costly moment of decency can simply abide by the existing agreement and pay for any improvements they deem necessary. $40 million spread over 30 years is truly chump change to the Yankees. Consider that the 2016 Yankees payroll includes 9 players with a yearly salary of $13 million or more, and 5 of those over $20 million. If the Yankee owners and management could become even marginally better at negotiating sensible player contracts (e.g. less money and less years), they could find the funds almost immediately to pay for any and all improvements to Steinbrenner Field into the very distant future.

    Let’s hope that Tampa/Hillsborough County elected and appointed officials that have to approve these proposed new public funds for Steinbrenner Field show backbone, brains, and sanity and simply say NO!

  13. If you just can’t resist throwing money at a baseball team, wouldn’t you at least put money first towards the “hometown” team.

    I can’t see the Rays staying in St. Pete much longer, even in a new park. More people live on the Tampa side and here in St. Louis people don’t like to cross a river to go places. I imagine you can multiply that psychological block by ten when it comes to crossing a bay.

  14. I didn’t realize that visitors drive hundreds or thousands of miles to attend meaningless exhibition games. Must not be much else to do in Sunny Florida in the winter.