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Florida lawmaker looking to soak teams which accepted public stadium money

Jan 25, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT

The stadium the Miami Marlins will be using begining with  the upcoming baseball season, is seen in this undated handout photograph provided by the team.

I don’t know enough about Florida politics to know if this has any chance of going anywhere, but I am heartened to see that someone in the Florida legislature is trying — either through actual legislation or just by virtue of sheer grandstanding — to illustrate just how crappy a deal it is for taxpayers to be paying for professional sports facilities:

A Senate panel on Monday backed [Senator Mike] Bennett when it voted unanimously in favor of his bill which would require the teams to refund the state all the money they have received by the end of the year if they can’t prove the stadium has been used as a homeless shelter.

The basis of the bill is an older Florida law which said that sports stadiums and arenas are supposed to be utilized by local governments for homeless shelters. I’m assuming that the homeless have never been housed in Tropicana Field, for example, either because it wasn’t needed or because someone figured it would be unkind to do such an awful thing to the homeless.

Like I said: probably not going anywhere because this sort of thing never seems to go anywhere, but it’s all kinds of fun when you can mess with people like this for a good cause.

  1. Rockie D Bull - Jan 25, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    I would love for this legislation to pass – or for a wealthy tax payer to file a lawsuit putting the owner, commissioner and MLB on the hook for this bad stadium deal (like that will happen) and relieving the taxpayers of this bad stadium deal burden.

    The new Miami Blow Fish stadium should be named the “Blow Hole” in honor of all that smoke Grandpa Bud and the old Expos owner blew up the Miami-Dade taxpayers collective a$$es to get this deal done. Now that they have built it – I predict that still, no one will be going to the games by high July. That retractable roof may be open twice per season – Opening Day and Closing Day (just to make sure it will open). This season’s opening of this albatross and its subsequent failure is the crown jewel example Bill Foster in St Pete will be using as another reason “why not to build a new stadium for the Rays”.

    The Trop is the perfect stadium for the Rays – because of its location (right down the street from my house) and accessibility. Not to mention – it has Air Conditioning. The ID-10-t Rays owner complains about attendance now, if he moves the team outside in this environment, attendance would fall even further not to mention they would lead the league in rain outs like the Blow Fish have done their entire existence. Tampa fans won’t drive across a bridge to see the Rays but St Pete fans of the Bucs and Lightening have been doing it for years. Sternburg should have bought the Mets instead of the Rays – they have everything he wants including a giant toilet (Citi Field) to flush his money down while paying for a team that consistently sux or collapses).

    If Stu wants a new stadium – he is free to buy out the current Trop lease and build it himself or move the team. Meanwhile, there is still baseball to be played there for years to come no matter how much bitching he does or how much ESPN hates the place.

    Speaking of ESPN since they like to hammer on the perfectly good Trop – why are they still in Bristol after all these years of success? A new and reasonably accessible place is long over due for them – like NYC, Chicago or better yet – Memphis (following the FedEx centralization logic).

    As for the homeless angle regarding the Trop, Rick, after every home game, they flock there in large groups and wait outside the center field exit ready to come in an clean the place up while they bask in the AC.

    • APBA Guy - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      The rationale for praise of the Trop is that it is right down the street from your house and has A/C.

      For everybody else, it is a dark, poor sight-lined structure with too little parking and remote from most of the population. It actually makes the Mausoleum look good, which is something most readers of this site can’t possibly imagine, but having been to both stadia several times, is absolutely true.

      My brother, all his friends and acquaintances in Orlando, and my other friends scattered throughout Florida don’t drive to the Trop, and they all love baseball. If you have to drive more than 20 minutes, you need to have something to look forward to, a Destination, not a Dump.The Trop’s a dump, pure and simple.

      The Rays are stuck with their hideous lease. And in FL, it may be the last state where another publicly financed stadium can be approved, only because so many voters are, shall we say, easily swayed.

    • ireportyoudecide - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:48 PM

      “The Trop is the perfect stadium for the Rays” Really?, I have been lucky to see 27 of the current 30 MLB stadiums, The Trop is ranked #27 in my book. Dark, ugly, feels like a basketball arena, nothing around the stadium. It’s terrible, ESPN is right on in that one.

      • foreverchipper10 - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:48 PM

        Jealous. I have only been to a handful of stadiums.

    • 78mu - Jan 25, 2012 at 4:49 PM

      Is there really an issue for people in Tampa driving over to St. Pete? When I’ve been to Tampa it’s a 15 minute drive from the airport to Safety Harbor and another 10 minutes to Clearwater. I’ve not driven down to the Trop from the airport but is it really that bad? The drive from the airport to Clearwater is always pleasant and easy.

      I guess it could be a hassle for those living in Tampa further from the water but we’re not talking about the traffic jam you see at the beginning of Office Space.

      • Old Gator - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:00 PM

        You obviously haven’t driven those causeways at rush hour, have you?

  2. royalsfaninfargo - Jan 25, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Soak teams? How about make them own up to their contract terms? The homeless clause was in each of their contracts when they signed, and none of the Florida teams have done anything about it.

  3. cshearing - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    They wanted the money, they signed this deal. No sympathies.

  4. watchfullhose - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    I’m sure if the rays have to pay back their public $, they’ll be gone in no time.

    • paperlions - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:58 PM

      Just because they leave doesn’t mean they won’t still be liable for the amount owed for breach of contract….and seriously, where are they going to? Not like there are all kinds of fancy new empty stadiums laying around…or rich local governments willing to give billionaires hundreds of millions of dollars.

  5. Old Gator - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    Craig, you were out marinating yourself at some distillery or other when I posted notice of this lovely situation last week on the “Jerry Reinsdorf Says Nice Things about Slobbering Ozzie” thread: http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/01/23/white-sox-chairman-jerry-reinsdorf-says-ozzie-guillen-didnt-quit-on-team/

    The bill is actually very popular here, and there’s been some rumbling that there’ll be either a legal challenge or a referendum put on the ballot to enforce the law if our elected representatives and their corporate pimps in Tallahassee don’t meet their responsibilities and enforce it themselves. Since Macondo showed beyond a doubt that it was fed up with its sellout politicians with its lopsided double-recall election that threw out Mayor Alvarez and an imperious bovine blowhard of a county commissioner named Natacha Seijas last year, the powers-that-be had better pay attention. If you listen carefully, you can hear Norman Braman sharpening his scalpels even as I write this….

  6. mojosmagic - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    Knowing Luria he would turn it into a homeless shelter on off days rather then take a dime out of his own pocket.

    • Old Gator - Jan 25, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      The law only requires that the facility be used as a shelter when nothing else is going on there.

      • sdelmonte - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:22 PM

        And then you kick all the homeless out on game day? Something about this seems absurd.

      • Old Gator - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:03 PM

        Welcome to Macondo, sdelmonte. But yes, that is indeed how the law works. You want absurd? You have no idea. If you look up “absurd” in the dictionary, there’ll be a small map of the Macondo area as an illustration. I’m even amazed that the Coriolis Effect works like it ought to here.

    • bigxrob - Jan 25, 2012 at 4:50 PM

      Actually, knowing Loria, he would charge the homeless rent

  7. ireportyoudecide - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    I don’t know what is worse, the Gov’t paying for a stadium or the Gov’t demanding lazy drug abusers get free handouts. I think the handouts are worse, McDonalds is always hiring, 2 of you get a job there pool your money and get an apt.

    • Old Gator - Jan 25, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      “Lazy drug abusers.” If not for apocryphal stereotypes, would you be capable of thinking in any terms at all? Doesn’t sound like it.

  8. kalinedrive - Jan 25, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    (Quoting Rockie D Bull): “The ID-10-t Rays owner complains about attendance now, if he moves the team outside in this environment, attendance would fall even further not to mention they would lead the league in rain outs like the Blow Fish have done their entire existence.”

    You write in an angry and know-it-all tone, but you are not right. A quick search reveals that over the last decade, there are 14 teams that have had more rainouts than the Marlins.

    From The Biz of Baseball:

    In terms of which clubs get hit the hardest each year with the weather bug, 3 of the top 5 come from the Northeast. Leading the way is the Boston Red Sox with 31 rainouts over the last decade, followed by the Mets (28), Pirates (25), Yankees (24), and Indians (23), and Phillies (21) account for rainouts in the twenties (with the R. Sox being the only one in the thirties).

    Rainouts Over Last Decade
    Red Sox 31
    Mets 28
    Pirates 25
    Yankees 24
    Indians 23
    Phillies 21
    Royals 19
    Orioles 18
    Cubs 18
    White Sox 18
    Rockies 16
    Tigers 16
    Braves 15
    Rangers 12
    Marlins 10
    Cardinals 9
    Nationals 7
    Reds 5
    Twins ^ 3
    Giants 3
    Rays * 3
    Astros ** 2
    Angels ^^ 1
    Expos *** 1
    Padres 1

    ^ 1 game postponed due to I35W Bridge collapse
    ^^ Postponed due to the death of Nick Adenhart
    * Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne
    ** Hurricane Ike
    *** Roof malfunction

    • bigxrob - Jan 25, 2012 at 4:54 PM

      I think it is rain delays that are the issue in Miami, not rainouts

      • kalinedrive - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:49 PM

        Well of course, we should always allow for a changing of the story once it’s proven false. Now how about someone offering any proof that the Marlins have had more (or longer) rain delays than any other team? I live in the area, and I don’t think it has been that big of a problem. The rain tends to come in the late afternoon more than at night. But if you want to just buy this guy’s claim and pretend it’s pristine logic, go ahead.

  9. gl2006 - Jan 25, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    Not that this has any chance of being enforced, but the Marlins Ballpark is not funded with any State money. The financing is from tourist taxes collected in the city of Miami and Miami-Dade county. The Marlins tried for many years to get State funding before giving up and funding the ballpark locally. That is the main reason the deal called for them to drop the name “Florida” and are now the MIAMI Marlins.

    • Old Gator - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:06 PM

      If I’m not mistaken there were other public funds involved in infrastructural improvements in and around Macondo Banana Massacre Field – electrical, sewer, roadworks and so forth. The new stadium is still in the Tallahassee crosshairs.

      • gl2006 - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:11 PM

        None of the money is State money. It’s all City and County.

      • Old Gator - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:40 PM

        Interestin’ angle. Now, if only the Macondo Herald weren’t so completely useless, maybe I could find a copy of the provision in the law and see exactly what it does say. Buddha forbid the Herald should actually identify the law or provision so we could look it up and read the damned thing.

      • umrguy42 - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:52 AM

        PFT had a story on this on Monday (http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/01/22/floridas-football-stadiums-fail-to-comply-with-important-public-law/). One of the comments there pointed out that apparently the bill is worded:

        “Professional Sports Facilities; Requiring the county commission in a county in which a professional sports facility is located to establish a local homeless coalition if a local homeless program does not exist in that county;”

        So that if there’s a local homeless program *already*, the stadia are in good shape.

  10. George Brew - Jan 26, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    Why do I feel the original law was meant to be “house the homeless after a natural disaster”. Like how the Superdome was in New Orleans post Katrina. Thinking that the stadia would have generators, food, water. Just my 2 cents

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