Thursday, August 16, 2018
Opinion

Joe Henderson: Low-attendance Athletics fund own stadium, how about Rays?

I would like to believe what Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said about a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

It sounded good when he told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, "Iím more focused on working with the community to figure out how we can make this work than on whatís going to happen if we fail."

Thatís what someone interested in a serious partnership should say.

But that was followed by the "uh-oh" moment we always knew would be there. Manfred said baseball needs more evidence of community "support" before this stadium stuff gets serious.

It sounded an awful lot like code for "pay up, or the Rays are outta here."

Connect the dots and it sounds like there is a showdown coming.

Communities are planting flags against using millions of taxpayer dollars to enrich billionaires and it would not surprise me a bit to see Tampa join that party. I want the Rays to stay, but there canít be more giveaway deals (see Stadium, Raymond James).

In the National Football League, the cities of St. Louis and San Diego balked at their teamís demands for fancy new digs and saw the franchises move to Los Angeles.

The same thing will happen here if baseball believes this community will divert hundreds of millions of public dollars into a private business.

Oh, well.

Rays owner Stu Sternberg said that if he digs real deep into the couch cushions, he might be able to chip in $150 million toward a ballpark in Ybor City that could cost $800 million.

My advice: Keep digging.

By the way, how did the price jump to $800 million? The Oakland Athletics, the Raysí roommate at the bottom of baseballís attendance list, recently announced plans for a $500 million stadium that, get this, THEY WILL PAY FOR!

Thatís right. A team struggling nearly as much at the ticket counter as the Rays said its new home will be privately financed. Thatís how it should be.

Then, there is this: Sternberg said while some of the expected revenue spike for the club will go toward the stadium, a large share would go into increased payroll.

Stop there for a moment.

Baseballís economics are insane, driven by franchises in huge markets that can spend whatever it takes to achieve their desired result. I understand it takes a lot of skill for a player to make it in the big leagues, but címon.

The New York Yankees had an opening-day payroll of $196 million in the just-completed season. They had nine players making at least $12.5 million.

The Rays were at about $70 million and Sternberg has promised steep payroll cuts for next season. Then, there is this: Even with a new stadium they will never generate enough cash to spend like the Yankees.

Baseball is not going to adopt the revenue sharing and salary cap used by the NFL, so markets like this will always be playing catch up.

That brings us back to the whole community "support" notion.

Corporate ticket sales here lag significantly behind other markets. Local business owners have a bottom line, too, and the entertainment value of those tickets is hurt because people donít want to make the drive to Tropicana Field from Hillsborough.

The Rays and baseball are correct to say that part of the equation must be better, and I believe it would be for a stadium in the right place. No owner in any sport will set up shop in a place where people donít buy tickets.

Commitment goes both ways, though. Do the Rays really want to be here, or do they want Hillsborough County taxpayers to show "commitment" by paying a big bill for another stadium?

If thatís case, baseball shouldnít be surprised to have that bill thrown right back in its face.

Comments
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Updated: 3 minutes ago
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last monthís deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Itís time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the courtís operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County transit referendum that has made the November ballot is significantly stronger than two efforts that failed to reach the end zone in the past decade. The one-cent sales surtax would generate enough money to meaningfully improv...
Published: 08/09/18
Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

The fight for medical marijuana in Florida should have ended with the resounding 2016 vote authorizing it in the state Constitution. Instead, the battle for access drags on, with Attorney General Pam Bondi waging the latest round in a lengthy legal b...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

They reach from South Florida to Tampa, from a high school to a college campus, from troubled kids to troubled parents. But there is a common thread connecting these tragedies: Florida has a mental health crisis. Addressing it would require spending ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

A proposal to use local money to ferry workers to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa always has been a questionable idea. The loss of nearly $5 million in federal money toward the project makes it all the more suspect. Itís time the ferry supporters off...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Blood on the streets of Chicago

Blood on the streets of Chicago

A hot summer weekend, when Chicago should be at its most livable, brings an undercurrent of dread and horror to this city. Summer is block party season, beach season, baseball season. But in some neighborhoods, summer is killing season ó when armed g...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

A well-meaning but poorly designed effort to keep tobacco from children could sink a niche industry and end Tampa’s fabled history as a cigar-making capital. The Food and Drug Administration needs to recognize not all tobacco products are alike...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/13/18