22 May 2008

Tampa Bay Rays Stadium Review Session

Wow, was that frustrating. Consider this: the Tampa Bay Rays are trying to do much the same thing the A's are doing except for the following:
  • Over half of the stadium will be publicly financed
  • The public part is largely dependent on valuations and revenue streams that are not even close to guaranteed
  • There are contributions from both St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, thus requiring approvals from both parties
  • The Rays are trying to cram the whole approval process into 6-8 months
  • There is a referendum in November
I have to say I appreciate the Rays' positioning of several public sources of revenue (sale of land and development rights, parking revenues) as not public. It's cagey and if the St. Petersburg City Council were born yesterday, they may have bought it. Instead, they're chock full of questions for city staff and team officials that alas, couldn't be answered.

The key part of the deal at this point is the shuffling of parking revenue from some 4,000 parking spaces in and around the downtown St. Pete area, within 3/4 mile of the ballpark site. Follow me on this. The Rays prepay a long-term lease on 2,000+ spaces downtown. The city takes that money and contributes that towards ballpark construction, around $35 million. There are also suggestions that a $1 parking fee be charged during games to create another $20 million for the project. Out of this discussion came concerns that there weren't enough spaces to handle this revenue model, and that the city would be liable if there were a parking revenue shortfall.

I don't understand why this thing is being rushed through like this. I'd like to give Rays' owner Stuart Sternberg the benefit of the doubt, but too often important details are missed when the process is rushed like this. Fremont and the A's are devoting the better part of two years to their project, this one merits a timeframe approaching that.

At least I got one thing out of the three-hour session, courtesy of councilmember Jeff Danner:
A lot of what I hear is "All you have to do is put out the referendum and let the people decide." But that's gonna be two questions, fifty words, and I've got a stack a foot high of what we're deciding. We're expected to do a lot more than that.
I've never heard a more effective argument against ballot box planning.


Jeffrey said...

I watched a part of this and was just underwhelmed with the Rays. For a long time I have heard Oakland Only people say that Schott/Hoffman and now Wolff/Fisher want to move the team out of the area and this is their ploy. I disagree.

It really seems to me that if that is what they wanted they would do exactly what the Rays are doing. It was embarrassing listening to some of the q and a... the Rays "well we thought we have given you everything you would need." It just seemed really unkosher.

ML, did I mishear or did the math seem really fuzzy around the sell of the Trop? It sounded like they were saying they could sell ti for 70 million and use that towards the new stadium, but also to pay off some outstanding debt? Were they saying they could use the "unpbulic money" I think about 135 million in total, for two different things that would cost more than 135 million?

Anonymous said...

Well at least the Tampa Bay has a good transportation plan unlike wolff's lack thereof.

Marine Layer said...

The $70 million would essentially pay for outstanding debt only. That debt goes down the later the sale occurs but it's still meant for debt.

There appears to be a communication problem between the team and the city. If they met regularly for a lengthy period I don't think you'd see what occurred yesterday, when some of the councilmembers felt like they were hashing out the details in a public forum instead of in typical closed discussions as the A's and Fremont are having.

As stated previously, the only transit St. Pete has are buses. Sorry dead-ender.

Anonymous said...

How many more "closed discussions" do the A's and Fremont need to have?! C'mon already, start building the damn park and get out of Oakland!

Jeffrey said...

And what transit plan are you referring too anyway?