With just 29 days remaining in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) window which allowed the Tampa Bay Rays to search for a new regional stadium site, Charlie Frago (Tampa Bay Times) wrote Saturday that there is no agreement in sight with the New Years Eve deadline looming — something that has been discussed at length both on this site, and by Noah Pransky (WTSP).
— Noah Pransky (@noahpransky) November 30, 2018
While leaders in the effort to nail down a funding mechanism say the outlines of a deal can still be reached before the deadline, questions loom over whether the team will make enough progress in Tampa between now and the end of the year.
A major hurdle to the proposed Ybor City ballpark has long been the funding model. Construction of the proposed stadium has been estimated at $892-million and would be funded by a public-private partnership. Yet specifics from the parties involved — including the Rays, who have said they are willing to contribute $150-million to the project — remain a mystery.
Corporate support is vital to the plan since local officials will likely rely on increased tax revenue from new development to help pay off the stadium.
In terms of naming rights, two-high profile Florida-based companies are said to be interested in the project, although the identities of those companies have not been disclosed. A naming rights deal could gross somewhere in the $5 million to $10 million range.
On November 26, Rays president Matt Silverman issued a statement about the talks, saying
From all accounts, they are working diligently on corporate support and we are very grateful.
Even so, any private funds — by way of ticket purchases, or development in the area surrounding the proposed ballpark site — and naming rights money would be revenue for the team, and likely would be used toward the team’s overall contribution to the project, not in addition to the Rays’ overall contribution.
The Tampa group would like the Rays and any private investors they can persuade to invest in the project to shoulder at least half of the stadium’s cost, or about $450-million, writes Frago.
All this will factor heavily into whether the Rays are able to strike an agreement to construct in Ybor City as the December 31 looms.
With details about a prospective funding model still scant, and the work to build corporate support still unfolding, the Rays will be faced with three choices come 11:59 PM on December 31:
- Ask St. Petersburg city officials for an extension (the team hasn’t approached the city yet, with just 29 days remaining).
- Give formal notice they will move to Tampa without a finance package in place (According to Pransky, the Rays can give St. Pete notice they intend to leave on December 31, and nothing really changes. St Pete will still be held hostage by the inability to finalize a deal in Tampa. The team can give notice they are moving across the bay, without specifying a timeframe.)
- Give formal notice they will stay in St. Petersburg through 2027.
Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman recently expressed doubts in a deal when asked by John Romano (Tampa Bay Times):
I asked Kriseman on Tuesday to put a number on Tampa’s odds of pulling off the Ybor stadium deal before the deadline. Initially, he pegged it at 20 percent. Later, he agreed that sounded too pessimistic.
He upped it to 25 percent.
It’s a huge (dollar) amount that has to be put together, Kriseman said. And they’re doing it right in the middle of an election for a mayor in Tampa. Is the city of Tampa going to come up with money? Will Hillsborough County be expected to do it on their own? There are a lot of obstacles to this deal.
Kriseman later boasted that there is absolutely nothing to worry about related to the Tampa Bay Rays’ upcoming decision:
The idea of incorporating a new ballpark on the Tropicana Field site had been floated previously, although the 86-acre property will be redeveloped with or without the Rays in the mix. The proposal is outstanding until it isn’t. Should the Rays and taxpayers approve of a stadium on the site, the team stands to share 50% of the redevelopment rights with the City of St. Petersburg on the property which has been appraised at $1-billion.
The team also recently shocked the local sports business world with the announcement of the October purchase of the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The Rowdies play at and control the rights to Al Lang Stadium, on St. Petersburg’s waterfront, the former future site of the Rays. However, the team maintains the purchase had “nothing to do with short-term or immediate plans they have for baseball,” rather it was simply investing in the community. They, however, have not ruled out any long-term development.
A cloud also lingers over the future of Derby Lane since voters approved of Amendment 13, which will phase out dog racing in the state of Florida by 2020. Derby Lane is long thought to be one of the more promising potential stadium sites due to its proximity to Hillsborough County.