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Rays' profits shouldn't come at taxpayer expense

Why replace the Trop? | Sept. 7, story

Rays' profits shouldn't be at taxpayer expense This article makes some good points about why building a new baseball stadium is the right business decision for the Rays. It says nothing whatsoever about why funding such a stadium would be a good decision for taxpayers.

The Rays should have the best stadium that their ticket revenues can support, and local government should not contribute one nickel toward it.

Professional sports are a private, for-profit enterprise, not a civic endeavor, and study after study has shown that communities do not benefit financially in large enough measure to justify the expenditure of public money for new stadiums. This is especially true during the current economic downturn.

If sports fans want a new stadium, then let them pay for it with higher ticket prices, not a government handout.

Jan Allyn, Largo

A benefit for the area

I'm disappointed that the St. Petersburg Times has elected to focus on "money" as the principal reason the Rays desire a new stadium. Why isn't job creation the chief reason, jobs created through the construction efforts and ultimately the jobs that would come with the new businesses that can fill the current dome site?

Major league sports form a symbiotic relationship with the community. For every reason stated why a new stadium may be economically good for the owners, an equal number of factors can be found to justify why it would be good for the city (and its citizens). I'm most concerned that by the newspaper's choice of "money" as the main issue, our fixed-income residents will read your story and rally against the stadium because "it will make the owners rich" (or perhaps more rich).

Instead of building a new world-class stadium, let's throw more money at a failing pier, or invest more in a waterfront airfield used by only a few citizens. Or perhaps we should fund studies of why no one goes to BayWalk anymore or why restaurants in the Tyrone area can't survive. Why change anything? Everything is great in St. Petersburg right now.

Wayne Szczepanski, St. Pete Beach

Build your own stadium

The Rays want to build a new stadium and profit from the business of baseball. They are entitled to the greatest possible profit they can legally make and that the market will support. I will personally buy tickets in the new stadium.

However, they can't expect the taxpayers to finance a new stadium, which will cost at least $500-million, as well as $125-million to pay off the old stadium and $3-million to $4-million a year in operating costs. They can't expect our communities to neglect core, vital government services as government also increases the tax burden. They can't expect the economy to do well as the tax burden remains high.

So yes, Rays, build your stadium. If you want the profit, you take the risk. Find some private investors and make your private profits with your money — not taxpayer money. Don't expect the hard-working middle-class taxpayer to bear the cost of your profit on their backs. Especially not if you expect only the rich to show up and sip wine and eat sushi while the taxpayer stays home and drinks beer with the game on the tube.

David McKalip, chair, Florida Taxpayers Union, St. Petersburg

Community doesn't gain

Aaron Sharockman and Stephen Nohlgren burned up three pages of Sunday's paper telling us how a new stadium is going to benefit the Rays via increased attendance. This story sadly lacked any mention of the reams of documented studies that prove publicly financed stadiums are big-time money losers to the cities that pay for them.

Most all citizens want the Rays to succeed by winning games and having a reasonable venue. Both are now occurring. The Rays have concluded that it would cost $200-million to revamp Tropicana Field to what they define as modern standards. So let them rehab the present stadium.

Is St. Petersburg really ready for the huge increase in ticket prices and concessions that will inevitably result from a new stadium? Recent attendance figures with this winning team indicate a definite no.

Bill Stokes, St. Petersburg

An accounting game

Of course the Rays won't open their books. For years, sports team owners have practiced "creative accounting" in an attempt to legitimize their complaints of poor financial straits. In a form of tax subsidy unique to professional sports, team owners are allowed to deduct a portion of their players' salaries as tax losses. In addition, owners often receive large salaries, which are counted as a business expense that cuts into the team's profits. While the owners skim off profits as tax writeoffs and salary, the public reads that their team is losing money and crying poor. Sound familiar?

As Paul Beeston, former president of the MLB as well as of the Toronto Blue Jays, once said, "Under generally accepted accounting principles, I can turn a $4-million profit into a $2-million loss, and I can get every nation's accounting firm to agree with me."

Obviously the Rays would like a new stadium. As your reporters wrote, "these stadiums represent billions of dollars in new money for baseball." So here's what the Rays would like: We, the taxpayers, buy them a stadium and they make the money. Sound fair to you? Me neither.

Faith Andrews Bedford, St. Petersburg

New location needed

The problem with the Trop is not the stadium, it's the location. It is convenient only to southern Pinellas County. I love baseball. I'm excited the Rays are doing well. I don't go to their games. Why? Location.

The Rays' stadium should be right after the Howard Frankland Bridge. Either that, or build a light rail system to deliver me to the stadium.

Danny Ball, Tampa

Timing is wrong

On a recent Sunday my family and I went "across the bridge" to see a Rays game. It was the best $45 we had spent in a long time. It was a great game and we had pretty good seats. Plus my 9-year-old had the time of his life running the bases at the end of the game.

Here's what I don't get. Why did it take a chance happening (we went with a group) to get me to that stadium and see the magic? I had only been to the very first game when they were still the Devil Rays. Where is the marketing? Where are the ads that make every kid who loves baseball say to his parents: "Hey, how about going to a Rays game?"

And I loved the stadium, until I read the Sept. 7 article. Maybe we need a new stadium — maybe we don't.

My complaint is that this is not the time to be thinking about it. When most of America is cutting back — take it from a Tampa Bay Buccaneer club level season ticket holder that sold our seats this year because we are cutting back — it's the wrong time to be considering this stadium, whether it's better in the long run or not.

Lauren Tobin, Tampa

Fans want a team

I agree with your main idea in the Sept. 10 editorial (Give Rays task force a chance to work) about letting the "task force" work and come up with solutions or valuable advice on the Rays stadium. But I don't understand why Tropicana Field is so bad for baseball. You can count on your fingers the times that the ball has hit the roof, and rules are in place for those cases.

I know far more people who love this stadium than who don't. All I hear about not going to the games is the prices of tickets, hot dogs, beer, etc., and the poor job the team did in the past.

Keep this team working as it is now and invest the money in the existing facilities and surroundings. People don't want to visit a new building. People want a new team, what the Rays are becoming — inspired and spirited.

Oscar Asencio, St. Petersburg

Lottery cashbox runs low | Sept. 10, story

Steeper odds have many players feeling discouraged

Those running the lottery made a major mistake several years ago in raising the numbers when choosing your lottery picks. The odds of winning have always been extremely high, but after raising the numbers from which to pick, they became astronomical.

When sales started falling, those same no-thinking people decided to ask people to pay a higher amount for their numbers to get a larger jackpot if they win. That only added to the stupidity.

Going back to the original numbers will not only give one a better chance at winning even a smaller amount at Lotto or Fantasy Five, but will also give people incentive to buy tickets once again.

Whoever devised the original lottery made it appealing to at least try. Those in charge now lack common sense and have discouraged many people, like myself, who have played since the inception.

Lois Scheff, St. Petersburg

Lottery cashbox runs low | Sept. 10, story

Poor payouts don't inspire

I remember the first Lotto many years ago. I also remember if you picked the correct three of six numbers you won $500. Now if you pick the correct three of six numbers you get $4 on average. I stopped playing when they changed the rules more in favor of the lottery than me.

Why would I now pay $1 for what buys me a quarter of a gallon of gas and when I lose, which happens to most players, all I have is a little piece of paper to toss in the recycling bin. If I pick three of six numbers, all I get is a gallon of gas!

Maybe if the state paid out more money to winners, there would be more cash in the box.

Lynn Friedman, Pinellas Park

Wrecking history

I was very upset to read that yet another of Tampa's few remaining historic buildings came down on Monday by decree of the city's director of growth management.

For the past 20-years there has been a constant struggle for preservation efforts to be taken seriously in our city. I served on the local historic board for many years and continue to support the redevelopment and rehabilitation of our historic fabric, however it seems that the local officials do not understand or take seriously the negative results of losing so many irreplaceable structures. You cannot rebuild history. The loss of Gary Adult School is a blow to all those who remember and believe in the importance of our heritage.

While the city officials stand around wringing their hands over the signing of a demolition order, they continue to do nothing to preserve the few remaining pieces of history in our community. This is not the first building that we have lost through owner neglect in full view of this community, and with no plan yet in place I can't imagine that it will be the last loss of our history.

Sara Romeo, Tampa

Lawmakers failing to save universities Sept. 8, editorial

Higher education battered

This editorial poignantly depicts the continuing damage to the Florida university system as a result of budgetary shortfalls and legislative meddling and micromanagement. And while its Category 5 analogy is accurate, much devastation to academe already has been taking place.

Over the past 37 years as a professor at four universities (at USF-Tampa since 1980), I relished the days when professors taught smaller classes, because that's what was best for ultimate learning; did research, because something needed to be studied; received release time to write books in order to share their knowledge and wisdom with others; gave presentations and talks in the community, freely and openly; and frequently wrote commentaries and letters to the editor, because it was part of their heartfelt service to the community.

Today, however, professors are teaching larger classes, writing on their own time or on weekends, doing research because it is being funded, and rarely writing seminal books and columns and infrequently engaging in community service activities. The "collegial-service ethic model" of the academe has been replaced with the "business-entrepreneurial ethic model" of higher education.

The DNA of academe is rapidly disappearing. Down in the trenches, quality is being replaced by quantity; creative energy is being replaced by apathy; independence is being replaced by compliance; chasing ideas is being replaced by chasing extramural funding; and thriving is being replaced by surviving.

William G. Emener, Ph.D., distinguished research professor, University of South Florida Tampa, St. Pete Beach

Political distraction

As a registered Republican, I am very concerned about certain statements made by the GOP candidates for president and vice president. I have respect for their declarations that they are devout Christians, but I strongly believe religious affiliation should not be a factor in the election.

My greatest concern is the fact that they have both been explicit in their opposition to choice for women in their reproductive life. There have been stated plans for overturning Roe vs. Wade. If this continues to be part of their platform, they will find a great many women and men not voting for them, and will probably not win this election.

It is abhorrent to me and many others that the leaders of this country spend so much time trying to find ways to control women's reproduction. In view of the enormous challenges facing the United States, this time and effort must be used for finding ways to maintain and improve our standing in the international community and restore financial stability here at home.

Betty Upson-Schmitz, Largo

Palin's punch

Gov. Sarah Palin pretty well punched the media in the mouth when she said she was going to Washington to please the people of the United States, not to please the media. How refreshing to hear someone say that.

This lady has what it takes. She will be president after John McCain.

Robert D. Halverson, Largo

Judy Stark's early retirement

Homes feels empty

Every Saturday morning I eagerly look first for the Homes section because of the interesting and intelligent articles by Judy Stark. Many of your columnists have left recently, leaving your paper bereft of its unique personality. With Judy Stark's departure, this seems to be the final nail in the coffin.

Of all the papers I have read as I travel around the country and world, no one created a more thoughtful and stimulating Homes section than Judy Stark.

Many thanks, and best wishes,

Jill M. Rommel, Oldsmar

Rays' profits shouldn't come at taxpayer expense 09/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 3:28pm]
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