Rays deliver stadium wish list: lots of space, ballpark village, oodles of public cash

In advance of their first stadium talks with Tampa officials on Friday — which were held, no joke, in a Rays team store — Tampa Bay Rays execs released their one-page wish list for a new stadium. The highlights:

  • “The site should be approximately 20 acres in size and support the geometry necessary to accommodate a professional baseball playing surface.” Duh, though not wanting to be wedged into a confined space could spell difficulties for Tampa’s plan to build a stadium on the site of a low-income housing project.
  • “Create an authentic sense of place around the facility and develop a come early-stay late culture around home games.” This is way easier said than done, especially since most baseball games take place immediately after work; it probably best translates as “We want one of them ballpark districts like all the other cool teams have.”
  • The stadium “should honor the rich history of baseball in Tampa Bay.” Presumably this means a statue of Evan Longoria, or maybe even Longoria himself, bronzed and placed out in front of the main gate.
  • “The ability to structure a public-private partnership that would support the construction of the Rays next generation ballpark is critical.” This is the big one (hence that “critical”), and translates as “gimme some money.” While Rays owner Stuart Sternberg would probably love lots of acreage and something allowing him to pretend that Tampa Bay has a rich baseball history, this is going to come down to a building where he can make the biggest profit, and the best way to do that is to spend the least out of his own pocket to begin with. And come on, right now the guy can’t even afford apostrophes, so take pity on him, okay?

As for the meeting itself, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said afterwards that “I’m cautiously optimistic that at the end of the day we’ll be able to find a long-term solution that’s  mutually beneficial for the entire Tampa Bay region,” which means exactly nothing. (Can you envision a scenario, including one where the two sides started grabbing Raymond bobbleheads off the shelves and flinging them at each other, where Hagan would not have said this afterwards?) While it may seem like the Rays stadium war has been going on forever, it’s only just begun in earnest.

Braves bridge design still lacks price tag, land approval, room for many buses

I am so, so sorry that I failed to keep you all abreast of recent developments with the Atlanta Braves‘ pedestrian bridge that no one knows how much it will cost or if they can get the rights to the land for it or if it’ll ever be built. And here when the bridge finally got it’s long-awaited approval:

[Cobb County] commissioners voted Tuesday night on the current proposal for the bridge crossing Interstate 285 to the Atlanta Braves’ new ballpark, which has been a lightning rod for more than a year…

A proposal put the cost for construction of the structure at less than $10 million, largely paid though a federal grant and the Cumberland Community Improvement District.

Okay, $10 million isn’t all that bad, considering what some earlier estimates had been. And at least this means Cobb County must have finally figured out that problem with getting rights to the land where the bridge would be built and

So… they actually haven’t figured any of this out. Last week’s county commission vote, it turns out, just approved the design of the bridge, not the cost or how to acquire the land — all that will get worked out later, and if it costs more than $9.8 million once they put it out to bid from contractors, they’ll (sorry) cross that bridge when they come to it. So this means nothing, basically.

As for that design, there is now an actual video rendering of how the bridge would appear if viewed from a helicopter flying dangerously low over passing traffic:

The first thing I notice here, aside from the fact that Braves fans appear to all be half-materialized cybermen, is that there’s only one lane for shuttle buses, meaning either each bus is going to have to wait while the previous bus heads back to pick up more passengers (which isn’t going to work too well) or there will need to be a huge stack of buses in the parking lot that will bring fans across before the game, then wait on the stadium side to bring them back to the lot afterwards (which also probably isn’t going to work too well). Building two lanes would be way more expensive, though, so this is what Braves fans are going to get — if they get anything at all, that is.

Tiger Stadium field to be torn up this summer, or at least most of it

If you, like me, never made it to the site of Tiger Stadium to play softball with the Navin Field Grounds Crew, it’s too late now: Construction is set to begin on a new Police Athletic League field there this spring, which will keep the old stadium site (which has been a ballfield since the 19th century) in use for baseball as well as other sports, but also install artificial turf, which a lot of people aren’t too happy with.

The last piece of the funding puzzle was the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy — a group first founded to try to save the old stadium when it was still standing — kicking in $3 million from a federal earmark on Monday. The Conservancy is apparently still angling for the PAL to at least keep the infield dirt and grass, with a fake turf outfield — which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for baseball since the outfield gets comparatively little wear, but sort of does if other sports like soccer will be played there, since maintenance costs on soccer grass fields are significantly higher. (Though still not necessarily as high as the cost of turf fields.)

Anyway, chalk this up as a partial-maybe-victory, depending on how much you feel a place is still the same place if all the elements are new. At least we’ll always have the t-shirts. And the flagpole.

Tampa’s plan to raze low-income housing for Rays stadium could doom historic school, too

DRaysBay has more on that plan to build a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium on the site of a low-income housing project, and it’s even worse than it sounded at first:

  • The housing complex is co-owned by a nonprofit originally founded by members of the local African-American community to provide services that were unavailable in the segregated South, which for some reason bears the name the Lily White Security Benefit Association. It barely exists nowadays — no website and a meager $361,327 budget — but is still eager to sell the land under the housing complex for $9 million.
  • Relocating the 372 families currently occupying the apartments would cost from $9.3 million to $27.9 million, assuming somewhere can be found to move them to.
  • The site is too small for a stadium, so to make sufficient room the city of Tampa would also probably have to raze the historic Booker T. Washington Elementary School. Plus maybe a public library and a Catholic church.
  • The highway access isn’t great, so somebody would need to pay for new ramps from I-275 and I-4.

And as a punchline, DRaysBay recounts this troubling list, then notes:

For all these reasons, Mayor Buckhorn has indicated his support for this site.

Florida, man.

Tampa mayor thinks evicting poor African-American families to make way for Rays stadium is great idea

So now that Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg can look elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area for a stadium site, where’s he going to look? How about the site of a low-income housing complex? The mayor of Tampa sure thinks so!

Mayor Bob Buckhorn couldn’t deny he had a favorite site.

It’s the Tampa Park Apartments, a nearly 50-year-old apartment complex for 372 low-income families between downtown and Ybor City.

“I don’t hide my optimism for that particular site,” he said after a City Hall news conference Friday.

This led to one of the most amazingly understated series of words ever to appear in any U.S. newspaper:

The complex also presents a challenge: It’s full of poor, mostly black families, some who have lived there for generations.

So wouldn’t evicting them for a new stadium just repeat what happened in St. Petersburg’s Gas Plant neighborhood before Tropicana Field was built?

“That would be the biggest issue,” Buckhorn conceded.

The Tampa Tribune also provides its own coverage of the proposal, none of which includes the sentence, “Holy crap, the mayor of Tampa really wants to evict a thousand poor people so he can build a new stadium for the local baseball team owner, is he campaigning for the role of supervillain in the next Marvel Cinematic Universe movie or what?” Which is technically a run-on sentence, so that’s probably why it got edited out.

Rays get their St. Pete lease buyout, now just have to figure how to build new stadium elsewhere

Two months and change after picking up a key swing vote in the November elections, the St. Petersburg city council finally voted 5-3 to approve conditions under which the Tampa Bay Rays can seek out new stadiums sites within the Tampa Bay region, but outside of St. Pete itself.

In short, the deal means that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg can start negotiating for other stadium sites immediately (under the Rays’ original lease, this was a thought crime), in exchange for which he’d have to pay a modest fee (starting at $42 million and lessening in later years) if the team moves before its lease is up in 2027. This isn’t a huge payoff considering St. Pete really had him over a barrel, but this gets him to stop whining about his lease and potentially gives St. Pete the chance to redevelop the Tropicana Field site if the Rays leave — the standoff over who’d get the proceeds from development was apparently resolved by letting the Rays split any revenues, but only if they build a new stadium on the Trop site and develop around it — and 2027 isn’t all that far away anyway, and you know, whatever.

The big question now isn’t what buyout fee St. Pete arranged, but what kind of subsidies Sternberg will look for now as he (presumably) plays off the two sides of the bay against each other. If I’m an elected official in Hillsborough or Pinellas, I’d be saying, “We’ll welcome you if you choose to come here, but if it means giving you tax dollars we’ll put up with driving across a bridge to watch Logan Forsythe or whoever is still left on your roster by then.” Yeah, we’ve established that most elected officials don’t think that way, but there’s always hope, right?

[ADDENDUM: Forgot to mention this, but it’s kind of important: SBNation’s Rays blogger Daniel Russell wrote this morning of the lease revision, “This was a necessary vote for the Rays to make any progress toward remaining in Tampa Bay.” Um, no. Under the old lease, Sternberg couldn’t move the Rays anywhere until 2027, at which point he was free to go anywhere. Under the new lease, he move within Tampa Bay starting now, then in 2027 can still move anywhere. This does absolutely squat to keep the team in Tampa Bay, unless you think that a stadium elsewhere in the bay area is easier to negotiate now than in 2027, or that Sternberg is so desperate to get out of the Trop now-now-now that he’ll agree to a bad (for him) stadium deal in Tampa in 2016 even if it means giving up the leverage of being able to move to some other city offering a way better deal (I can’t actually think of what city this would be) in 2027. This is a “fine, pay us some money and go across the bay and don’t bother us anymore” vote, no more, no less, and pretending otherwise is painting it as some kind of boon for Rays fans that it really, really isn’t.]

Oakland sends A’s a list of ten potential stadium sites, half of which don’t totally suck

The city of Oakland has sent A’s owner Lew Wolff a 21-page report outlining ten possible alternative locations for a new stadium, only five of which it considers definitely “feasible”:

  • A USPS facility in West Oakland.
  • Howard Terminal on the Oakland waterfront.
  • Brooklyn Basin on the Oakland watefront.
  • The current site of Laney College’s stadium and playing fields.
  • A site currently occupied by Peralta College administration offices and an adjacent lumberyard.

None of these sites are without their problems — in fact, most of them have been at least considered before — but it does indicate that city officials are trying to find a possible baseball stadium site in case the existing Oakland Coliseum site ends up getting used for a Raiders football stadium (or, possibly, for some non-sports development). It’s not a bad thing as due diligence goes, though as usual the most important hurdle isn’t figuring out where to put a stadium, but figuring out how to pay for one.

Mental patient now holds deed to Padres’ stadium, nobody can figure how to get it back

This:

The highlights, for those who can’t be bothered to click all the way through to the original San Diego Union-Tribune story:

Derris Devon McQuaig took legal title to the downtown ballpark away from the city and the Padres two years ago by walking into the San Diego County Recorder’s Office and submitting a properly filled-out deed transfer.

Seriously.

This is apparently known as a “wild deed,” and county officials are required to file them even when they are, for example, submitted by someone who clearly just wandered into the recorder’s office and painstakingly researched how to claim title to a major city property. The recorder’s office did notify the district attorney’s office, but the DA’s legal action against McQuaig was tossed out after he was ruled mentally incompetent and involuntarily committed to Patton State Hospital.

The actual impact of the deed transfer is expected to be pretty much nothing — one title lawyer worried that “if the report shows that this goofball over here put his name on your property, the bank is not going to lend you money,” but it didn’t cause problems when San Diego recently refinanced the Petco Park bonds — and eventually the city attorney is expected to be able to nullify McQuaig’s deed. So there’s not much here other than the hilarity that the Padres‘ stadium is now officially owned by a mental patient. That’s good enough hilarity for a Monday, though.

Rival exec calls Marlins “a joke” for soaking fellow owners even after soaking Miami taxpayers

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that some (unnamed) MLB owners are griping that Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria keeps getting big revenue-sharing checks from the league — reportedly $50 million a year, the biggest of any MLB franchise — despite getting the new stadium that they said was necessary to get them back on their financial feet. “They’re a joke,” Heyman quoted one rival team exec as saying.

While much of this is no doubt posturing ahead of next year’s labor contract talks — which will include discussions of any new revenue-sharing formula — the interesting part is the seeming assumption that with enough new stadiums, MLB can lift all boats. By now, almost every team has a new stadium, and somebody has to be at the bottom of the revenue scale, by definition. Miami may be a big market in terms of TV households, but for various reasons (too many recent transplants, too many other things to do in the summer) Florida has been an iffy sports market in general, so it really shouldn’t be unexpected that a shiny new stadium with ugly sculpture wouldn’t be enough to get people out to see a lousy team.

If this is more than just some big-market owner griping that Loria is making money by fielding the cheapest team possible and getting a cut of national revenues — something that’s been true for a while, and is either fiendishly brilliant or brilliantly fiendish, depending on your perspective — it seems like some baseball execs are drinking their own Kool-Aid, and thinking that new stadiums really are magic money machines that can make everyone a winner at the same time. This is going to be one entertaining CBA negotiation.

Turner Field to be converted into college football stadium, add housing and retail

The has announced that it’s selling Turner Field, soon-to-be-former home of the Braves, to a consortium made up of

Which, sure, fine enough, though there’s no actual development agreement yet, so it’s tough to say what this all would actually look like. And given that local residents are in the middle of a community planning process and complaining that they want things to hold off until that’s complete anyway, that’s arguably a good thing. But anyway, if you were concerned that your cherished memories of, um, something good that happened at Turner Field (involving Chipper Jones, maybe?) were going to be bulldozed, it looks like that’ll only partly be the case.