Stuart SternbergIn a move that was probably inevitable but still surprising, St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster will now allow the Rays to look at new stadium sites in Tampa according to Stephen Nohlgren and Mark Puente of TampaBay.com

“If your goal is keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa Bay until 2050, you have to let them look in Tampa,” Foster said.

Well, that’s great news. But my first thought is, “what did Stuart Sternberg offer Foster and the City of St. Pete?” This change of heart was too sudden and too dramatic to have come without a cost.

The two sides have been negotiating for months and Foster has always been very firm in his stance. So either Foster got an offer or a promise that was too good to pass up.

But Foster is not optimistic that the situation will be any better in Tampa…

“I think there is a big question mark as to whether or not Tampa Bay is a major league region…[the attendance] is a flag to the entire community. Are we a major league community? Are we a major league region? I think people need to decide what we are. We’re either going to be major league and support this team or we risk losing them.”

And he is not sure it can even happen…

“It’s somewhat humorous to watch (County Commission Chairman Ken) Hagan and (Tampa Mayor Bob) Buckhorn kind of backpedaling a little bit because they were all wearing their finest trying to court the Rays to look over there…Now that it might actually happen, you got Ken Hagan saying he’s not going to commit any taxpayer money to it, which is naive…And you have the mayor of Tampa saying he could come up with $100 million. But the private sector and the Rays have to come up with the lion’s share. That’s extremely naive.”

I have said from the beginning, and I’m fairly sure that Hagan has also always suggested, that no matter where the new stadium is built, all sides will have to get creative when it comes to financing it and a big chunk of the cost will have to come from the private sector.

That means tax payers will have to pony up some money. Maybe it won’t be two-thirds or even one-third, but they will have to pay some. And the Rays will have to come up with a chunk. But it is doubtful that those two sides can pay for it all.

That means outside investors, and if there is anybody that knows a thing or two about investing, it is Stuart Sternberg. So financing will need to be creative. But honestly, it is one part that has never worried me.

They will find a way.

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18 Comments

  1. Mr. Smith 1980 says:

    When this news broke I was perplexed too. Why the sudden change? If this were Chicago or New York I would assume a large fella in a red, velour, jogging suit named Vinnie hung Foster over a 20th floor balcony and "suggested" that he change his stance.

    Now the powers that be on the other side of the bay can show if there was any substance to their attempt to adopt the Rays... let's hope!

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  2. Thad says:

    It's all about leverage and timing.

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/localgovernment/romano-foster-smart-to-allow-rays-to-look-elsewhere/2134974

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  3. JV says:

    Isn't it messed up that once a new stadium is built then the owners no longer seem to care about attendance? You don't hear ownership in Houston or Miami complaining, once the heist is complete they lay low and hope nobody notices them.

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    • zach says:

      Houston and Miami aren't battling for a division title in August and September. ESPN doesn't care that their attendance is poor because it's expected.

      My concern is this: do we even know how much attendance will improve with a Tampa stadium? We all use those same old excuses (traffic, distance, venue), but what happens if the problem persists with all thsoe excuses now gone?

      $600 million for a retractable roof stadium that might result in an average attendance of like 27,000. That's a gain of only 9000 people.

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      • s says:

        27K for a new stadium will be considered a complete failure. stu and crew have been screaming mlb avg for a long time. 30K minimum.

        but we all know that there's no way in hell that this area will provide 30k per night after the first few years of a new stadium.

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        • Gus says:

          Gents -- welcome to my way of thinking on this blog for 6 years; the net gain in attendance from moving (if any) is offset by the net loss in profit from the overhead of the stadium:

          2008 Team contribution (probably would need to be more now): $150M of construction costs. They'll finance that piece, which gets you to about $30M a year (just for the Rays portion). Even if you give them the assumption that 9,000 more people a game at $20 ticket net x 81 dates= $14,580,000. It is a complete money loser for the Rays.

          Given Silverman and Friedman raising their families in St. Petersburg, I've come to see the annual kevetching by Stu about the stadium is doing the minimum necessary by MLB to "demand" a new park while operating in the sweet spot of MLB profitability; the Rays are in the black before the season starts. Late season attendance spikes and playoff gate just means more profit for Stu and his partners.

          Tampa has no real chance to finance the stadium until the CITS is renewed (by the voters) for 2024. They'll get a new stadium (eventually), but it is a long ways off unless they want to finance it themselves.

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          • Mike says:

            The Rays have very good accountants who know exactly what the attendance will need to be to offset any new debt servicing. If they didn't think Tampa Bay could handle it, then they wouldn't be pursuing it the way that they are. The team is run as a business and potential investments are heavily analysed before a move is made.

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        • OriginalTom says:

          Do you really think the Rays expect attendance to increase to 30K with a new stadium? I do not think that is realistic, At least not long term.

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          • Cork Gaines says:

            I think there is a range that would be expected. We've shown before there is a minimum and a maximum attendance at The Trop. At the absolute worst, they will average 15,000 per game. When all conditions are perfect, they can average 23,000 per game. Most years will be somewhere in between. My guess is that with increased corporate support, better access to more fans, and some form of mass transit, the range of attendance will be 25,000-32,000 per game in Tampa with most years with a playoff contender falling in the 27,000-30,000 range.

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  4. Dean says:

    Long way to go, but this is start and a reason to be hopeful.

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  5. Michael says:

    Another thing to consider is the primaries for St Pete mayor's race on Aug 27th. As a first-time St Pete voter I was all set to vote for Kriseman, as he seemed to have the most reasonable stance (from my perspective) when it came to the Rays stadium situation. Now that Foster is saying this it certainly causes me to take another look. How many others are like me? Who knows?

    I've always thought that since it was a given that the Rays will absolutely be playing somewhere else after 2027 -- whether in Tampa, a new stadium in Pinellas, or another city/state altogether -- it no longer made sense to hide behind the use agreement, fingers in ears, shouting "LA LA LA LA, I'm not listnening!!" If Foster and others want to keep the Rays in Pinellas, they should come up with a plan and make their case that somewhere in St Pete truly is the best site for all parties. Of course they deserve to be compensated if the Rays get out of the use agreement early, but that hardly seems like the biggest obstacle.

    This is positivie news, and John Romano's column is spot-on for a lot of reasons.

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  6. Sledge says:

    The whole attendance thing sways on corporate buyers of season tickets. There are many more companies in downtown Tampa and the Westshore are that "could" buy season tickets that there are in downtown St. Pete. The theory is that they would be more willing to buy tickets if the stadium is within 10 minutes of the office and could more easily be used last minute. Time will tell if there is anything to that theory.

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    • Lane Meyer says:

      If this is true, why are both stadiums in Tampa named for Pinellas based corporations? The corporations may exist, but they're not stepping up. They could step up for a stadium in Pinellas just as easily as Tampa, but they don't. Is it the quality of the luxury boxes? Is it the cost? Is it that the Rays don't court them on purpose in an effort to get a new stadium? I can't be certain, but I don know that the Rays average 9,000-12,000 less corporate tickets purchase per game than the average MLB team. Add that to the current attendance and everyone is smiling.

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      • Mr. Smith 1980 says:

        We've touched on this before, and my mindset is this: the baseball media/"pundits" have scared away potential corporate sponsorship by convincing everyone with ears that The Trop is the worst stadium on the planet and investing would be an example of throwing good money after bad, so (fingers crossed) hopefully they're just waiting until a shiny new stadium is built before they open their purse strings.

        I, for one, am one of the few that does not detest the Trop at all. Every seat is a good seat, plenty of restrooms, plenty of food, plenty of parking, and the temperature is always a comfy 72. And the best part of all, my favorite beer vendor (usually around sec. 105) who you can hear on every telecast and in-person at every game,
        "beeeer... beer, ...beer,beer,beer!"

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  7. KT says:

    I think the future TV contract deal has a lot of influence as well. From what I understand, and I could be wrong, TV money is going to be more important than actual attendance (if not so already). As silly as it may seem, a shiny new stadium would be far more attractive even if watching from home

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    • Lane Meyer says:

      I hope they keep that in mind when building a stadium. I'd much rather see a roomy, well designed, retractable-roof stadium than a behemoth 40,000 seat open air stadium with tiny seating like the Trop.

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  8. Dave L says:

    Everything Foster said is exactly true.

    He has done a great job protecting the interests of his constituents thats his job as a Mayor. Miami Dade wishes they had one elected official with his integrity

    The Rays have always had to be the ones to make the first offer, which is to buy out the lease based on a contingency stadium being built elsewhere.

    I just dont see any community coming up with the money in Tampa Bay area or any other market in the US right now.

    The common refrain is "it has to be done". No it doesnt.

    Somebody has to be the 30th best market. It is us.

    An ideal new stadium in the perfect Tampa Bay location would vault us past Miami but I doubt many other clubs only the crappy ones having crappy seasons

    This is most exciting team we ever had. Would 3,000 more fans a night in aTampa area stadium really make that much of a difference? We would have to get 10,000 more a night to even crack the top 20 in MLB thats not happening anywhere in Tampa bay

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  9. Zach says:

    He's trying to get reelected, hence the sudden change.

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