Tampa Bay Rays owner said on opening day Thursday that he might increase his contribution to a new stadium from $150 million to $400 million — sort of. What Sternberg actually said:
Sternberg reiterated that a new stadium likely would cost around $800 million, but added that the price could go up with each passing year. Last November, Sternberg told the Times that the Rays would be willing to chip in $150 million, but said again Thursday that the number was just an “estimation” and a “signpost.” …
“If somebody wants to walk in with $25 million naming rights tomorrow my number of $150 (million) goes up dramatically,” Sternberg said. “So, yeah, I’ll get you to $400 (million). You get me $25 million a year in stadium naming rights and get me to $400, I’ll go halfsies.”
So what Sternberg really said, to the extent he said anything that should be taken as a commitment, is that the $150 million figure didn’t include naming rights money. This is actually a big deal — the difference between $150 million and $150 million plus naming rights proceeds is, duh, the value of the naming rights money — but is not so much a promise to pay $400 million, given that only six stadiums ever (football stadiums in New Jersey, Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston and baseball stadiums in New York and Atlanta), all in bigger markets than Tampa Bay, have cleared the $250 million mark for naming rights. And even then, that’s $250 million in nominal payments over time, not necessarily enough money to pay off $250 million in stadium expenses right now. And while we’re at it, the New York Mets only got $20 million a year, not the $25 million that Sternberg said they did, though it’s a deal for 20 years so is probably worth $250 million total.
Anyway, all this is no doubt meant to help create momentum for a new stadium, what with local business leaders (and Sternberg) launching a nonprofit this weekend to solicit promises of corporate ticket sales and generally drum up public support for a stadium, preferably without mentioning the at least $400 million in public money that would be required. Presumably Sternberg announced all this on Opening Day to capitalize on excitement about the Rays’ season driving his campaign, which, uh, maybe wasn’t the best plan thus far.