Sunday, February 18, 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: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18