St. Pete mayor to hire stadium consultant after telling Rays owner to “pick a partner and get married”

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is term-limited out of office this year — man, it seems like only yesterday that Kriseman was supposed to be the new more Tampa Bay Rays–friendly mayor — and he used his final state of the city speech last Friday to, in effect, tell Rays owner Stuart Sternberg to move to Montreal or get off the pot already:

“The Rays,” he said, “have spent more than half their existence trying to figure out where they’d like to play baseball for the long term. They’ve worked with three mayors in St. Pete, two in Tampa and officials in Montreal, yet we are no closer to an answer regarding their future than we were 13 years ago. We love our Rays, but it’s time for them to pick a partner and get married.”

Sternberg, of course, is less being indecisive than waiting for someone to throw money at him for a new stadium, something that is not going all that well either in Montreal, St. Petersburg, or Tampa. (As a reminder, Sternberg’s current plan involves getting both the Tampa Bay area and Montreal to build him new stadiums and then splitting the season between the two, which, uh, good luck with that.) But Kriseman does have a couple of reasons to be impatient: He’s about to leave office, for one thing, but also he’s eager to get moving on redeveloping the current Tropicana Field site, which can’t happen until the Rays move out (unless, you know, it can). And if he’s smart, he would definitely rather negotiate from a position of strength, which would certainly behoove him to move quickly since right now Sternberg’s two best alternatives to cutting a deal with St. Pete appear to be a rock and a hard place.

Kriseman is also looking to hire an independent stadium consultant, one who can “provide substantial evidence of successfully negotiating with a Major League Baseball, or other professional sports [franchise], on behalf of a municipal government.” I’m not sure how he defines “successfully” — is that saved a city big bucks or got a deal signed, any deal? — but it’s certainly a good idea. Let’s recall the sage words of Jim Nagourney, who worked on sports venue deals on behalf of both local governments and teams, and who had this to say about mayors trying to negotiate on their own:

“I went to a meeting in Los Angeles one morning,” recalled Nagourney. “We had a whiteboard, and we’re putting stuff down [to demand from cities]. And some of the stuff, I said, ‘Guys, some of this is crazy.’ And John Shaw, who was president of the Rams at the time — brilliant, brilliant guy — said, ‘They can always say no, let’s ask for it.’”

On the other side of the table, Nagourney explained, the city of St. Louis had to make do with staff attorneys, who weren’t versed in the details of sports finance. “A city attorney is not going to know where the money really is. They’re not going to understand advertising, they’re not going to understand concessions—just a whole range of issues that the team officials intimately understand.”

Plus, Nagourney said, city officials get “stars in their eyes. It’s their first time dealing with celebrities. They’re just so enamored with the fact that ‘I’m dealing with people who get their name on Page Six.’”

If you’re qualified to negotiate on behalf of St. Pete, and/or are Jim Nagourney, you can apply by … you know, I can’t actually find the request for proposals, so just try emailing mayor@stpete.org. But don’t delay, proposals are due March 3, because one week is totally enough time to find the right person to make responsible for negotiating a stadium deal that could involve hundreds of millions of dollars — or at least maybe it is when you’re on a term-limits clock.

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Friday roundup: Miami ripped off again by Loria, Rays roof removal proposed, America’s journalists snookered

I’ll keep this short today, in deference to any Texas readers who may be trying to save battery life thanks to that state’s power outages. Once your bandwidth is back, here’s a good reminder from the New York Times that climate change is expected to cause unseasonable cold snaps and winter storms as well as insane summer heat, so you have lots more of both to look forward to. Or, if you prefer, here’s an article on a similar theme from the Village Voice a few years back that I wrote a much snappier headline for.

Stadiums, right, that’s what you came here to read about! Let’s see what we’ve got:

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Friday roundup: Inglewood to seize land for Clippers arena, half-assed Rays stadium renderings, plus maybe an MLS lockout!

I should probably have something to say about a week in which hedge-fund operators and day traders went to war over who could outgrift each other, but you know, I think let’s just leave that right there. On to the news!

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Rays owner asks St. Pete for 50 acres of free land for part-time stadium

Last Friday was the deadline for developers to submit plans to St. Petersburg for ways to redevelop the site of Tropicana Field if and when the Tampa Bay Rays depart, and there’s lots of interest, with eight different developers submitting plans (which aren’t being made public just yet). But Mayor Rick Kriseman is already saying that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is threatening to undermine the entire project by demanding a bigger cut of revenues for himself:

“I want the Rays to remain in St. Petersburg and I’m willing to work with them to make it happen,” Kriseman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But I’m not giving the city away.”…

“Right now, they’re entitled to 50 percent of the proceeds and that’s with a full-time team in the city,” Kriseman said. “And they’re proposing to take 100 percent of the proceeds for a large part of that land, and 50 percent for the rest of it. And that’s for a part-time team.

At stake here is the Rays’ use agreement with the city, which guarantees the team half of all development fees if the site is redeveloped before the agreement expires in 2028. Sternberg, apparently trying to use the city’s hunger to development site and fatigue over the team’s never-ending stadium saga as leverage, has according to the mayor demanded 50 acres of land all for his own self, which would provide room for both a new stadium and a park and 25 acres of other development, the proceeds from which would help defray stadium costs.

In other words, this is very much the Los Angeles Angels model of “don’t give us cash, just give us land” model, except that Sternberg would almost certainly demand cash as well. Also he would be demanding cash and free land in exchange for a part-time team, since he’s still holding to that insane Tampontreal Ex-Rays split-city plan.

Kriseman said all this right in front of Sternberg, who was at the press conference and immediately retorted that just because he asked for something doesn’t mean he was demanding it:

Sternberg said the “proposal was just that: A proposal. We thought it would be a beginning point to get things moving along. We’ll leave it to private discussions and we look forward to being here for generations to come.”

“Here” at least part of the time, anyway. This seems like an easy one for Kriseman to say hell nah to — at worst, Sternberg doesn’t agree and the city has to wait seven whole years to redevelop the Trop site — but clearly he’s listening, so everyone keep a close eye on those “private discussions.”

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Developer unveils renderings of new Montreal baseball site, fails to include baseball stadium

When last we checked in on the Tampontreal Ex-Rays plans back in March, would-be Tampa Bay Rays co-owner Stephen Bronfman was focused on a new stadium in Peel Basin that would allow the Rays to play half their home games in Montreal. And now the Peel Basin developer has finally unveiled renderings of its proposed project, and it looks like this:

There’s … no baseball stadium. Unless maybe it’s hiding in the unearthly glow from those apartment buildings? Nope, pretty sure no stadium there.

But that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a stadium there, Devimco president Serge Goulet told the Canadian Press. He’s still “discussing” the possibility with Bronfman & Co., while also waiting to see if he can get hold of more public land:

In an article published in November 2019, La Presse reported that Claridge and Devimco had sights on some 440,000 square feet belonging to Loto-Québec in the area.

For Goulet, the lands are not necessary for the development of the district as he understands it, “but if a stadium project were added, it would be good to have more surface area.”

Loto-Québec is the public company that runs the province’s lottery, so Goulet is at least hinting that if local officials want a baseball team, they’ll need to turn over some more public land, presumably at a price he’s happy with. Devimco is also squabbling with the city over “accountability rules” regarding the development, as well as adding a light rail station near Peel Basin. (Goulet has offered to pay $25 million toward one, but his lengthy press release avoids mentioning what the total cost would be.) There is a whole lot still to be negotiated here, in other words, before anyone can even start thinking about how much a baseball stadium would cost or how it would be paid for or whether a team playing home games in two different countries even makes any sense.

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Bombshell Rays stadium plan probably doesn’t exist, also Nelson Mandela didn’t die in jail

I promised you I would report back if anything came of that Tampa Bay Buccaneers podcaster who said he had an inside scoop on a new Rays stadium being about to be announced, and I am here to tell you that somebody asked Tampa Mayor Jane Castor about it in a Facebook Live event. Upon which she said:

“I guess there is a blogger that said that we were getting ready to break ground on the Rays stadium here in Tampa Bay. To which my response was ‘news to me.'”

And then Rays president Brian Auld, who was also on the Facebook Live because of course the mayor of Tampa and the guy she’s sitting across the negotiating table from are hanging out and exchanging long protein strings, added:

“News to me also, and I feel like at least one of us would know about that.”

So that’s that. Unless Castor and Auld are just covering up the real truth! There’s a headline about it on WTSP-TV’s site and people are talking about it on Twitter, so there must be something to it!

WTSP included a video of Castor and Auld saying all this stuff, because they could, but I’m way more interested in what exactly J.C. Cornell said in the podcast he had been teasing the previous week. Let’s see, it’s on Spotify, and oh god, 44 minutes long? Let’s see (44 minutes of my life I’ll never get back later…) — he didn’t even mention it! He talked about how people in Chicago hate him, and Enemies of the Pod (which somehow didn’t include bears), but nothing about a new stadium. Clearly he’s just covering up the real truth!

Seriously, though, when something like this turns into a news story out of literally nothing, I think we’re edging past proportionality bias and into Mandela Effect territory. The idea that Tampa is about to announce a new stadium fits with past claims (even though those turned out to go nowhere) and is no doubt what many people sick of the Rays stadium saga would love to believe to be true. Add in that at this point the rumor has been repeated multiple times (yes, including on this site, it is the curse of media criticism that there’s no way to report on false rumors without also amplifying them) and it starts to feel true, or at least truthy, regardless of whether it ever happened.

In a very similar vein, Ault took the occasion of his Facebook Live appearance that he’s still working on the idea of the Rays splitting time between two new stadiums in Tampa Bay and Montreal:

“We’re excited about it. We’re working on it. Let’s state the obvious in that it’s on the back burner right now. Plenty of stuff occupying our time,” Auld said.

I mean, maybe they are? Or maybe they’re just trying to Mandela-Effect the Tampontreal Ex-Rays plan into existence so that the mayor of Tampa will keep meeting with them in order to avoid losing half the team to Canada? This is where it’s important for the news media to 1) exist beyond just a bunch of people with podcasts and Twitter accounts and 2) report on when things aren’t true, not just rumors of what might be, but they’re not all that great at doing either of those things lately. In the meantime, try to unremember things that you heard a lot but have no basis in reality — either that or decide that you’ve slipped into an alternate plane of existence. Clearly the Berenstain Bears are just covering up the real truth!

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Friday roundup: Jaguars’ billionaire owner wants $232m in tax money, plus guess-the-Angels-rationalization contest!

We made it another week further into the future! Sure, it’s a future that looks too much like the recent past — bad pandemic planning and stadium deals with increasingly more well-disguised subsidies — and we’re all still here discussing the same scams that I really thought were going to be a momentary fad 25 years ago. But the zombie apocalypse hasn’t arrived yet, so that’s something! Also the Star Trek: Lower Decks season finale was really excellent. Gotta stop and smell the flowers before refocusing on the underlying horror of society!

And with that, back to laughing to keep from crying:

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Friday roundup: Deadspin est mort, vive Deadspin (also baseball may be dead again, film at 11)

This was another shitty week in what feels like an endless series of shitty weeks, but with one undeniable bright spot: On Tuesday, the former staffers of Deadspin announced the launch of Defector, a new site that will be everything the old Deadspin was — sports and news reporting and commentary “without access, without favor, without discretion” — but this time funded by subscriptions and staff-owned, so safe from the threat of new private-equity owners decreeing that they stop doing everything that made the site both popular and worthwhile. I’ve already explained why I thought Deadspin desperately mattered for anyone who cares about sports’ role in our greater lives, or just likes great writing that makes you both laugh and think; you can read here my own contributions to the old site before its implosion (not sure why the article search function is listing every article as written by Barry Petchesky, who knows what the private-equity people are up to). Needless to say, launching a DIY journalism site in the middle of the collapse of the entire journalism business model is an inherently risky prospect, so if you want to give the Defector team a bit more of a financial foundation to work from, you can subscribe now. I already have.

But enough good news, let’s get on with the parade of sadness and horror:

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Friday roundup: Rattling sabers for Panthers stadium, leagues large and small seek bailouts, and a very large yacht

So how’s everyone out there, you know, doing? As the pandemic slowly feels less like a momentary crisis to be weathered and more like a new way of living to be learned (I refuse to say “new normal,” as nothing about this will ever feel normal), it’s tempting to occasionally look up and think about what habits and activities from the before times still make sense; I hope that FoS continues to educate and entertain you in ways that feel useful (or at least usefully distracting) — from all accounts the entire world being turned upside down hasn’t been enough to interrupt sports team owners’ important work of stadium shakedowns, so it’s good if we can keep at least half an eye on it, amid our stress-eating and TV bingewatching.

So get your half an eye ready, because a whole bunch of stuff happened again this week:

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Rays declare January 2022 deadline for Tampontreal deal, or else they’ll do “something”

This one snuck in while I was writing Friday’s news roundup: Tampa Bay Rays president Brian Auld declared Thursday that while team execs remain focused on the bonkers plan of playing home games in new stadiums in both Tampa Bay and Montreal, if they can’t work that out by January of 2022, then “we need to figure something [else] out.”

What’s so magic about January of 2022, when the team can’t relocate for even part of a season until 2028, unless given special permission by the city of St. Petersburg? Time for a trip to Chapter 4 of Field of Schemes, “The Art of the Steal”:

Step 5: The Two-Minute Warning

No matter how well you’ve played your cards to this point, there’s always the danger that the proceedings may threaten to drag on indefinitely as pesky voters demand referenda or legislative leaders hit gridlock on deciding on a funding plan. At this point you may want to declare a crisis: Proclaim that the window of opportunity on a new stadium will remain open only for so long, leaving unstated what disaster will befall the city if the window should be allowed to slam shut. [Frank] Rashid [of the Tiger Stadium Fan Club] calls it the “used car salesman” approach: Buy now because this offer won’t be good for long.

The two-minute warning is especially risible in the case of the Rays, because Tampa Bay and Montreal appear to be their only two good options for playing in. I suppose Rays owner Stuart Sternberg could announce in early 2022 that he’s now conducting a nationwide search for a new home for 2028, in the hopes that Portland or Charlotte or someplace can get interested in starting a bidding war if Tampa Bay and Montreal aren’t interested. Or, if only one of Tampa/St. Pete and Montreal seems likely to cough up stadium funds, he can use his preannounced deadline as an excuse to say, Sorry, we thought the two-city thing would work out, but we’ll take the stadium in the hand over two in the bush, thanks — which makes more sense as a strategy anyway than the two-city thing.

If there’s a lesson here, it’s not to believe anything that sports team owners say when talking about moving teams, or setting deadlines, or really anything when money is on the line, because as we should all remember by now, a savvy negotiator creates leverage. The Field of Schemes section on the two-minute warning (and the followup section in Chapter 13, “The Art of the Steal Revisited”) includes stories of Houston Astros execs setting deadlines in 1995 for a move to Virginia, then continually extending them through 1996 until Houston agreed to provide stadium funding; the Florida Marlins owners setting final deadlines year after year after which they would move the team out of state, each year returning hat in hand until they finally got what they wanted out of Miami; and a Dallas Cowboys spokesperson admitting that the team had set a deadline for stadium funding partly “to create a sense of urgency.” If there’s ever an “Art of the Steal Re-Revisited,” I’ll be holding space open for the story of the Rays.

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