As the Tampa Bay Rays ponder naming rights, they might want to look west to Oakland

Tropicana Field has been the home of the Rays since the beginning. [Times files (2010)]
Tropicana Field has been the home of the Rays since the beginning. [Times files (2010)]
Published June 25 2018

As the Tampa Bay Rays and their supporters ponder naming rights for a proposed Ybor City ballpark, it might be worthwhile to look at the Oakland A's experience.

After all, the A's played in a stadium with a name on it—they just didn't get a cut of the cash.

Before Overstock.com pulled out of its $1.375 million a year deal in 2016, the revenue derived from the company's naming rights at Oakland Coliseum was split between the Oakland Raiders– the only NFL team still sharing a facility with a major league club— and the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority.

A new search, launched about three months ago, has its challenges, said Scott McKibben, the authority's president and CEO.

The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas in two or three years. So any deal would have to take into account that uncertainty. And the A's are currently searching for a new ballpark site. Their current home at the Coliseum is a frontrunner, but there aren't guarantees. The A's should have a deal made by early 2019, McKibben said.

"With uncertainty like this it is hard," McKibben said."It certainly narrows down the field of prospects. They get double bang for their buck, but with the Raiders leaving, we'll price it accordingly. But, at $2 million, they're getting a heal of a deal."

At this point, the authority is pursuing regional and statewide sponsors asking for $2 million a year to sync with the length of the Raiders stay with the hope that it could be extended if the A's pick the Coliseum to be their new home, he said.

Meanwhile, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan is adamant about one element present in many naming ballpark financing deal: the team should be responsible for any upgrades or fixes after the stadium is built.

The Rays use agreement with St. Petersburg, for instance, has provisions for portions of naming rights revenue to be used for capital improvements.

In Hagan's view, the taxpayer shouldn't be on the hook for a penny after initial construction costs.

The issue of MLB teams coming back with a big bill for renovations or repairs isn't something out of left field.

In Phoenix, the Diamondbacks recently resolved a dispute with Maricopa County allowing them to leave Chase Field as early as 2022 in exchange for dropping a demand the county pay for $187 in stadium upgrades.

"I will tell you that it will be critically important that any additional capital improvement will be the responsibility of the team, not taxpayers. The taxpayer is paramount," Hagan said.

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