Thursday, November 20, 2008

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, How did you like the play?

People in favor of a new ballpark for the Rays are in the process of trying to find a place to put it. One of the ideas being floated is a beautiful, heavily-trafficked waterfront site. Only problem is that it's an airport:

People are bringing up Albert Whitted Airport again, and this time they're talking about a baseball stadium. It's owned by the city. It's losing money. It's on the water. It won't be confused as a park. In fact, at 110 acres, Albert Whitted has everything Al Lang Field lacked as a prospective new home of the Tampa Bay Rays. There could even be room for parking garages.
That somewhat hopeful paragraph is followed by a couple of dozen paragraphs which explain why it would be a bad idea. For example, 80,000 planes takeoff and land from the joint each year. And there's a brand new, multimillion dollar terminal and a new control tower set to open. And that the FAA has poured tens of millions into the place in exchange for the promise that it would be operated as a friggin' airport. And that voters very recently amended the city charter mandating that the land continue to be used as, you guessed it, an airport.

Despite all of that, the article talks about the logistics of the thing as though it were anything but a non-starter, going so far as to speculate whether the airport can remain open even with a stadium on the property:

A stadium, if the FAA would sign off, would be bordered by Tampa Bay to the east, the airport to the north and west, and a city sewage treatment facility to the south. Removing the sewage treatment plant would cost $55- to $65-million, according to a 2002 city study.
Forgot about the sewage plant! For further evidence of how silly this is, simply click through to the article where there is a great overhead picture of the site. Then ask yourself how this can even be talked about. Oh wait, this quote from an astute resident explains how it can be talked about:

"It's always the politicians and their friends who happen to be real estate
people who want the property"


Pete Toms said...

In October Forbes listed the Rays as one of "The Top 10 Sports Franchises most likely to move".

"Major League Baseball, a world of local TV deals and 81 annual games that make market size much more important, has had just one franchise move since 1970--that being the excursion of the struggling Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C., three years ago.

If any club is going to break that spell, expect it to come from Florida, a seemingly natural baseball market that hasn't lived up to expectations. Both the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays have been at or near the bottom of the league in attendance for a decade, thanks in part to the dreary stadiums they call home. Sports marketing experts call the Marlins' Dolphin Stadium and the Rays' Tropicana Field "major impediments" to success. Even a Rays World Series title this year, which is entirely possible, is unlikely to keep the franchise from bolting if voters don't approve the team's public-private offer for a new waterfront home in St. Petersburg."

Maury, can you dust off your PSL figures for a Portland franchise?

Anonymous said...

I would direct the author to the situation in my hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Orioles are forced to abandon their spring training home for Vero in 2010 because the FAA will not let the city and county improve the existing stadium.

The FAA will never sign off on this.

Leo said...

Pete, that's enough already. The moving card has been played out. There are no major league ready markets. Major league ready means an area has a stadium plan, a ready owner, and the wherewithal and political capital to give truckloads of cash to the new owner (in the form of public works, tax breaks, etc.) This is fact. No team is moving.

Especially in this economy, no municipality will create the incentives to attract a major league team.

I think they are more likely to contract than move.

Pete Toms said...

Leo, I think contraction is possible also, in fact I've left that comment chez Shyster at least a few times.

I cut n pasted the Forbes quote as an example of how potentially bad ( if they don't get a new stadium )the situation is in TB.

As for potential new markets - and I agree, none have a suitable ballpark - I see Portland, Vegas, Orange County, Austin ( I'm probably missing some ) mentioned often. I also occassionally see talk of a team in NJ, who if not for the anti trust exemption would have had a team long ago.

I think you would agree that the current climate ( economically & politically ) is as bad as it ever has been for those hopeful of building new stadiums - well if they want the always requisite public $$$. Having said that, we've all learned never to count Bud out. Many of these deals take many years to complete, Minnesota & Miami as two recent, who knows?

But yes, I think contraction is more of a possibility than it has ever been.

rob said...

Contract a team that just played in the World Series?


Peter said...

Pete, you really think that the owners will get it together to buy another owner out? Are they losing that much money in revenue sharing?

Pete Toms said...

Yes I do. Again, I've said it here before but the WSJ reported during the WS that the Rays rec'd $60 million in central fund / rev sharing this season. So, if TB doesn't get a new stadium those #s are unlikely to change in any significant way. So, if I'm a big market team ( ie Boston or the New Yorks ) I have 2 choices. Continue to subsidize TB to the tune of $60 mill per or buy them out...

And I do see rumblings and actions from the Red Sox ( funny, John Henry was a big advocate of rev sharing when he owned the Marlins ) which indicate that they ain't happy with subsidizing their parnters. 1. They didn't participate in the MLB / StubHub partnership last season - which was a lot more about rev sharing than "secondary ticketing" ( I prefer scalping ). 2. They were public in their dissatisfaction with BAM controlling local digital rights - subsequently MLB has given the clubs more control over those local rights. And BAM is really about rev sharing also.

Leo said...

Pete, I agree about the current climate being as bad as its ever been for teams seeking new ballparks.

By extension, this means that the current climate is as bad as its ever been for markets looking to attract teams. That's all I'm saying. It sounds like we agree with one another.

I think contraction would not be raised for another couple of years and it would depend on the state of the economy. Putting aside your politics, most people have high hopes for the Obama administration but most people seem to predict that (unless you're old enough to have lived through the Great Depression) this downturn will last longer than anything in our lifetime.

So as it drags for the next two, three, five years, contraction could possibly be put back on the table.

(I actually think the NHL will be the first league to contract...see ya, Panthers, Predators and one or more
California teams...the NBA will be next)

Pete Toms said...

Leo, yes we are on the same page me thinks.

As for the when of contraction, 2012 would be the absolute earliest because it has to be negotiated with the PA and IIRC the current CBA expires in Dec. 2011.

And yes other sports are hurting. LPGA has cancelled some tournaments, NASCAR is hurting, the NHL players are expected to have to fork over all their escrow money due to a shortfall in anticipated league revenues....the sinking Cdn dollar sure isn't helping that and I read somebody today saying that there are a LOT of empty seats in some NBA markets.

There are many indicators recently that pro sports isn't recession proof. MLB has to suffer, and I think it had peaked anyway, but I think it will fare better than most industries.