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August 26, 2010
MLBleakgate Watch: Miami official demands more stadium cash from profitable Marlins
The fish are really hitting the fan in Miami now over those revelations that the Florida Marlins owners weren't really losing money when they sweet-talked local governments into giving them $478 million for a new stadium:
- Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebecca Sosa called for the Marlins to cough up more dough for the stadium, now that the team's profits are revealed. (It was actually a letter to Mayor Carlos Alvarez asking that he "explore alternatives to the possibility of securing a greater financial contribution from the Marlins towards the stadium construction," but I like my wording better.)
- Marlins president David Samson shot back that "a contract is a contract" and insisted no more money would be forthcoming from the team. He also told a local sports radio interview that he "absolutely never" lied about the team's finances (as when he said in 2007 that owner Jeff Loria was "committed to stop losing money"), and that all that annual profit actually went to "pay down debt," save up for the team's own stadium costs, and build up the team's minor-league operations.
Meanwhile, more on yesterday's argument from St. Petersburg Times sports columnist John Romano that the documents show the Tampa Bay Rays are likely losing money, as they were shown making a slim profit in 2008 and their payroll is up since then while revenues are down. Noah Pransky of WTSP-TV writes on his Shadow of the Stadium blog:
In making his argument about the Rays' limited television revenue, Romano ignores the fact that the problem is likely to remedy itself in a few years.
From 2009 to 2010, Rays' television ratings have soared more than 70 percent. And while it doesn't mean a ton of extra money right now, it will in 2017 when they begin a new yet-to-be-negotiated television contract.
As entertaining as all this is, all of this debate about "how much do teams have" is still a bit beside the point: Regardless of whether they're turning a $10 million profit or showing a $10 million loss (and likewise regardless of whether those numbers mean anything real — one Miami accountant notes that the Marlins' financials appear to show $10 million a year in "costs" that are really salary payments to team owner Jeff Loria), anyone rich enough to own a sports franchise can "afford" to buy a stadium the same way you or I afford to buy a house: You go to the bank and borrow the money, then pay it off from your income over the years. That's true whatever the profit-and-loss baseline is that you're starting from.
Or to put it even more simply: If the added revenues the Rays (or the Marlins, or whoever) expect to get from a stadium are enough to pay off the stadium debt, then shouldn't they be paying for it? And if they're not enough, then what's the point in building a new stadium in the first place, other than as an excuse to bail out the team's finances with public dollars?