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News Flash: the Rays need a new home

Jan 26, 2010, 10:28 AM EDT

Tropicana Field.jpgThat’s not really news, but it’s now an Official Finding of a committee put together by a coalition of St. Petersburg business and community leaders.  One would think that such a conclusion could be reached upon one or two visits to Tropicana Field, but these guys have been studying the matter for eighteen months.  Though to be fair, that’s a blink of an eye in committee-years.

And it’s actually a handful of related findings, which include the following:

  • The Rays are “an economic driver” of the community and enhance quality of life for Tampa Bay area residents;
  • To stay competitive, the Rays need the higher
    revenues that a modern, retractable roof stadium with lots of amenities
    can generate. It’s not a question of “if” the Rays need a new stadium, it’s “when” and “how.”;
  • Such a stadium would probably cost at least $550 million;
  • Tropicana Field is “nearing the end of its economically useful life,” and renovation would be too costly;
  • To draw more fan and corporate
    support, a new stadium should be closer to the Tampa Bay area’s
    demographic and business centers. The Pinellas Gateway, downtown Tampa
    and west Tampa meet that criteria, but downtown St. Petersburg does not.

I don’t take issue with any of these except the assumptions regarding the team’s economic impact on the community.  The report says the Rays pump $200 million into the local economy.  As economists like J.C. Bradbury and others have repeatedly shown, however, such estimates are typically overblown, and often comically so

I think the Rays need a new ballpark because, generally speaking, their current one is a total drag. But let’s make a deal: unlike we did with the other two dozen or so new ballparks that got built over the past 20 years, why don’t we spend some time making sure that in this case the taxpayers aren’t royally boned and the billionaires that run baseball aren’t given yet another gratuitous bit of corporate welfare.

The linked story in the St. Petersburg Times provides a good start in the form of a chart which provides some critical context to the committee’s findings. Here’s hoping it doesn’t stop there, and that the reporters who spend so much time complaining about how steroid users have stolen from history spend at least a little bit of time preventing baseball owners and allied business interests from stealing from the public.

And if the people of St. Petereburg do balk? Hey, it’s not like the Rays don’t have options.

  1. lessick - Jan 26, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    I so, so agree wholeheartedly. The uber-wealthy owners should kick in most, if not all of the financing for any new stadium. Then let the owner sell the naming rights for the park. As much as I hate corporate stadium names, I have no problem with corporate names for stadiums paid for by owners.

    This is a much bigger issue, in my opinion, than steroids.

  2. robert - Jan 26, 2010 at 11:06 AM

    The one good thing about a taxpayer funded park is they can use it as leverage to keep the team in town. I think the brewers have a clause in their deal with the city that require the team to pay an ungodly sum of money if they wish to move.

  3. TF in Tampa - Jan 26, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    Considering my handle [TF in Tampa], u’all know where I’m from I hope, Duh!
    Well, the good people of St. Petersburg voted against the planned downtown-waterfront stadium project that was put forth by the current Rays ownership & endorsed by our own Gov. Charlie Crist because the cost was going to be paid this way:
    Total estimate to build $450 Mil. [18 mos ago]
    Ownership investment $150 Mil.
    Taxpayer’s remaining involvement $300 Mil. to be covered by an increase in local taxes and/or issuing a bond auction.
    So, if I lived in St. Pete, knowing that a new stadium is needed [just ask my friend Old Gator in Miami to expand on that issue, he has a much better command of the English language than I] to keep up with current trends in order to bring in more fans, I say let the owners pay. They stand to reap the most out of this new home wherever in the Tampa area it’s built. God knows the local Tampa economy desperately could use the eventual numerous construction jobs and additional tax reveune this project would create.
    But first things first, We need a 1st class team placing first!

  4. Omega in Colorado - Jan 26, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    Wow, working on a job for 18 months just to come to an obvious conclusion? Where do I apply for jobs like this?
    I think the time of taxpayer funded stadiums needs to go the way of the dinosaurs, and let the billionaire dinosaurs who run the teams pool their monies for any new stadiums.
    TF, don’t be so tough on your team, they are a heck of an organization that can hold their own in a very tough AL East.

  5. Alan - Jan 26, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    Actually the city never had a chance to vote on the waterfront ballpark; the proposal was pulled before it got to the ballot. Also, the financing was a bit more complicated than that — a good chunk of the money was going to come from the sale of the land that the Trop currently sits on. I don’t think there were any tax HIKES in the proposal, but there was definitely an extension of an existing tax. Anyway there’s a good chance funding of a new ballpark would involve a lot of the same stuff, all of which is obviously worthy of debate. (The land the Trop sits on is city-owned, so claiming that as part of the team’s contribution is a little sketchy.)

  6. Old Gator - Jan 26, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    From the sale of lands upon which that repulsive konkrete kurgan squats? Damn, that aerial view was not really necessary, Craig. It looks like a cross between a Morlock dome and the containment sarcophagus at Chernobyl. That roof reminds me of one of those wrteched balsa wood and stained paper Chinese parasols that the bartenders on Carnival serve in their Mai Tais to the trailer trash on a weekend cruise to Grand Bahama. That thing is so ugly that the pile of Triceratops poop in Jurassic Park looks like a Frank Lloyd Wright design from Oak Park by comparison. Gack! The people of St. Petersburg should have taken the first step of a bond issue to raze the thing if they really want to sell the land. I wouldn’t want that piece of property as long as that giant inverted planter’s wart is sitting on it. They’d need to find some oil-rich cannibal chieftain from Borneo with a strong enough stomach to admit to owning it before he would buy the land.
    If you held a synchronized demolition spectacular, folks would have to bring airsick bags to use until it was finished imploding. I’m going to hide in the Dali museum until TF lets me know that it’s all over.

  7. Alan - Jan 26, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    You know what’s amusing: Opponents of the waterfront ballpark kept hurting their credibility by arguing that the Rays should be HAPPY with the Trop — that it’s some kind of damned air-conditioned paradise. Suggesting a) they’d never been to the Trop or b) they’d never been to any ballpark BUT the Trop. There was at least one excellent argument in favor of that downtown stadium: It would’ve looked amazing. I’m hoping the next proposal looks even half as snazzy.

  8. TF in Tampa - Jan 26, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    Next time please don’t hold back. Tell us what you REALLY think!!!
    @ Omega: Your right about one thing, they are in a tough division. Last year they fell faster and harder than a helium deflated Zepplin. My Yankees ARE the team to beat.
    @ Alan: The architects rendition was quite a spectable, although I still had my doubts about how that design was going to handle the the unpredictable weather patterns.

  9. Old Gator - Jan 26, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    “Last year they fell faster and harder than a helium deflated Zepplin.”
    I suppose you must be referring to that stupid miniature camera blimp that keeps getting stuck in the rafters at the “Trop” (which, come to think of it, would have been a good name for one of the mammoth hunters in a Far Side cartoon). Once during a Citrus Series game the damned thing came right at us in a lateral nosedive and wound up pranging its propeller against the railing. A couple of security guys came and pushed it back out over the field, where it flew sideways for a while before coming to rest in the alcove to one of the sevice walkways up along the top of the thin air seats. Whoever thought that thing up must be a frustrated radio control model airplane hobbyist whose toy Warhawk kept getting stuck in the trees.
    My suggestion: replace it with a scale model radio controlled predator drone, and ith a couple of miniature missiles powered by leftover Estes rocket engines you can pick off anyone with a kaffiyeh the moment they enter the stadium.

  10. Jim C - Jan 26, 2010 at 9:43 PM

    Actually, the weather in Tampa/St. Pete is quite predictable. Lots of late afternoon/early evening thunderstorms all summer. Has any study been done by any local architectural firm about the feasibility of just removing the permanent roof and replacing it with a retractable? That would be a decent fix until the economy rebounds sufficiently for a new ballpark to be economically practical.

  11. Alan - Jan 26, 2010 at 10:19 PM

    There was a study done on redesigning the entire ballpark; apparently replacing the dome with a retractable fabric roof would cost around $220 million. I think that’s a bit like the time I had to choose between fixing my crappy old car for $5,000 or buying a nice new one for $20,000.

  12. Remedios Rokos - Jan 27, 2010 at 1:29 PM

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