Monday, July 16, 2018
News Roundup

Romano: Tampa Bay could learn from Miami's stadium fiasco

They should be counting their blessings, and financial windfalls, in Miami this weekend.

Major League Baseball's All-Star Game will be played at Marlins Park on Tuesday, a precious perk doled out in return for building the $639 million stadium and parking complex that opened in 2012.

Instead, there's a good chance the cheering will be drowned out by grumbling.

Already unhappy with the amount of public money spent on the stadium, plenty of people in South Florida are even angrier now that Marlins owner Jeff Loria is selling the team for as much as $1.2 billion.

The gist of their complaint is that taxpayers footed most of the bill for the stadium, and now Loria stands to make a huge profit after buying the Marlins for $158 million in 2002.

Factoring in the team's $400 million in debt and the normal appreciation of a big league franchise, Loria's profit margin isn't quite that dramatic, but I get it if people aren't in a benefit-of-the-doubt mood.

That's why I have this suggestion for Tampa Bay's stadium pursuit: Make yourself a partner with Rays owner Stu Sternberg.

If there is public money to be spent on a new baseball stadium in Tampa Bay, there should be a provision requiring a percentage of profits be split with local governments if the team is sold.

The idea is somewhat rare, but not exactly radical. The Minnesota Vikings, who opened a new stadium in 2016, would have to forfeit 25 percent of any sale profits if the team is sold before 2022. The percentage decreases in subsequent years before disappearing in 2032.

The Marlins have a similar provision, but it doesn't appear to have much teeth in it. Loria can subtract debt, closing costs and taxes from the equation, and he only owes 5 percent of his profit. The provision also expires in March — six years after the stadium opened — which may explain the sale's slow pace.

Still, I think the idea has merit in Tampa Bay for two reasons.

1. Sternberg has repeatedly said that it is his intention to keep the Rays in his family's control for the foreseeable future. If that's his plan, then this deal costs him nothing. It would obviously require a sunset at some point, but that's a negotiable detail.

2. Despite turning the franchise's fortunes around after taking control of the Rays in 2005, Sternberg is still viewed by many as a Wall Street carpetbagger. This provision would give critics a measure of comfort since Sternberg couldn't cut-and-run without a penalty.

Perhaps you think stadium financing plans are premature considering we haven't even figured out on which side of the bay a new stadium might be built, but I would guess the chances are pretty good that the Rays will have settled on a location in Tampa by the end of December.

And, as protracted as the search for a site has been, the financing of a stadium is bound to be even more contentious. That is why it's important to approach it as a partnership.

Along with the sale clause, there are other ways to ensure both the franchise and the community have a stake in the success of a stadium.

For instance, in return for a larger investment from Sternberg, the community could guarantee the team will be within a certain percentage of Major League Baseball's average attendance. If attendance continues to underperform, then Sternberg would be due a refund on his investment.

Conversely, if the team has too many seasons under MLB's average payroll, then Sternberg could be required to pony up a penalty fee.

And since Sternberg has never expressed much interest in expanding his business interests beyond baseball, it might be possible to negotiate a deal that would give a city or county control of a stadium during the five-month off-season.

The basic idea is that it would be in the best interests of both the Rays and the community for a stadium to succeed. A one-sided deal, or a misplaced location or a contentious relationship will only increase the odds of failure.

And if history has taught us anything, it's that both the stadium and the team need to be operating at peak efficiency for big league baseball to work in this market.

Comments
Bryce Harper wins All-Star home run derby

Bryce Harper wins All-Star home run derby

WASHINGTON — Nationals star Bryce Harper has not had a lot to enjoy in his last season before free agency, struggling — at least by his usual standards — with a .214 average and other deficiencies in his game.Monday turned out to be...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Rays journal: Some warn that pitching strategy comes at a price

Rays journal: Some warn that pitching strategy comes at a price

WASHINGTON — The success the Rays have had during two months of using a game opener followed by a relieving starter seems to have tamed some of the criticism of the unusual plan.Until Arizona ace Zack Greinke, a Cy Young award winner and five-t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays’ Blake Snell now in a starring role

Rays’ Blake Snell now in a starring role

WASHINGTON — Blake Snell first got the feeling after arriving at the All-Star hotel late Sunday night. He'd shared the first-class cabin on the Delta flight from Minneapolis with Rays teammate Wilson Ramos plus manager Kevin Cash and his wife, ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

ORLANDOwoman killed, 2 passengers hurt in crossfireAuthorities said a pregnant woman was fatally shot and two children were wounded Monday as someone fired from a moving vehicle during a chase in Florida. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the shooti...
Updated: 3 hours ago
More than 30 Riverview residents awaken to broken car windows

More than 30 Riverview residents awaken to broken car windows

RIVERVIEW — Residents in more than 30 households woke up Monday morning to find their car windows had been smashed in.The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said it is searching for a pair of males who may be connected to the incident.The vehicles,...
Updated: 3 hours ago
DNA site helps make arrest in 1988 slaying

DNA site helps make arrest in 1988 slaying

The last time 8-year-old April Tinsley was seen alive, a man was dragging her into a beat-up blue pickup truck in Fort Wayne, Indiana.Police and her family fanned out that Friday afternoon in April 1988, searching through the weekend, but there was n...
Updated: 4 hours ago

FHP: Tampa motorcyclist fatally struck by driver who ran red light

TAMPA — A 54-year-old motorcyclist was killed Sunday night after being struck by a driver who ran a red light, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 9 p.m. at the intersection of Bearss Avenue and Interstate 275.Motorc...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Lutz man dies in motorcycle crash on I-275 in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG A 38-year-old man died Sunday night after the Florida Highway Patrol said he lost control of his motorcycle on Interstate 275.The crash took place just before 8 a.m. Michael Coniglio, of Lutz, was traveling in the northbound inside lan...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Gun-rights lobbyist’s TV promo misfires

RICHMOND, Va. — One of Virginia’s top gun-rights lobbyists drew criticism from his own supporters Monday after he was duped into promoting guns for children as young as 3 and hawking toys such as a teddy bear with a concealed pistol on a television s...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Hillsborough deputies locate owner of wandering horse

Hillsborough deputies locate owner of wandering horse

DOVER — Tampa Bay may be one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the nation but, in certain places, it stubbornly remains a little bit country.Proof of that came on last week when the Hillsborough County’s Sheriff’s Office was called to the ...
Updated: 5 hours ago