The third day of Spring Training is in the books. RHP Roland Belisario, non-roster INF Juan Francisco and OF Joey Butler arrived at camp Wednesday, bringing the total number of arrivals to 59 out of the 63 players on the spring roster. Alex Colome — who has been delayed by visa issues in the Dominican Republic, Jeff Butler, Boog Powell and Eugenio Velez have yet to arrive, though the first full workout is not until Saturday.
Bulleted highlights from the third day of camp follow:
- Drew Smyly, David Schoenfield’s sleeper candidate for the 2015 Cy Young Award, did not throw a bullpen session Wednesday. However, he and manager Kevin Cash squashed any rumors of injury saying that was by design. Smyly, who prefers a slightly different program than the Rays use, will throw a bullpen session every third day, instead of every other as the other pitchers, and will throw more pitches each time. The lefty prefers “more volume” in his bullpen sessions. As a result, Smyly will make one less exhibition appearance, and won’t debut until March 10th or 11th.
- Closer Jake McGee took the next step in his rehab from arthroscopic elbow surgery, extending his throwing distance to 105 feet. He is on track to a return to game action toward the end of April.
- Belisario is expected to work out with the team Thursday for the first time.
- Marc Topkin writes, “Francisco said he signed with the Rays primarily because of what he saw as a good opportunity to make the team with at-bats as a DH and backup at 1B and 3B. But those chances seem somewhat diminished since the Rays later acquired John Jaso — also a lefty hitter — in trade and see him as their primary DH.”
- RHP Grant Balfour left camp to return to Australia to be with his father who has been battling cancer. Balfour’s departure was not planned, and comes just two days after the announcement that he will temporarily postpone his workouts by a week as a matter of conserving strength. He expected to be gone at least 5-7 days, though he intends he to throw while he is in Australia.
- In other Balfour news, the Rays former closer made his intention known that he wants his high-leverage position back. Unfortunately for Balfour, the competition between he, Kevin Jepsen and Jake McGee promises to be stiff. Balfour told Bill Chastain in an interview with MLB.com,
“Every year I look forward to going out and having a good year. Some years, it works out and some years, it doesn’t. But I try to do everything I can to make it happen. Maybe last year things got to me a little bit when things weren’t going well. I learn from new experiences. I’ve had some really good success in my career. And I can feed off that.”
“As long as everything is in shape and I feel good, then I believe in myself that I can go out there and do what I want to do,” Balfour said. “As long as my body is allowing me each day to go out there and do what I want to do. Hey, I’m going to give everything I got and I totally believe in what I can do.”
Noah Pranksy (Shadow of the Stadium) posed an intriguing question on his blog Tuesday:
If the Rays determined the best place for a future stadium — because of land and financing — was on the Pinellas side of the Howard Frankland Bridge, would Hillsborough County residents be willing to contribute tax dollars toward it?
The question was asked as a hypothetical response to a letter to the editor in the Tampa Tribune, where a Hillsborough County man suggested St. Petersburg’s city council was “selfish” for looking out for its constituents. The gentleman in questioned opined the council members needed to “grow up.”
It got me thinking of a few other hypotheticals surrounding the Stadium Saga. First, if a new stadium was to be included as part of a multi-use facility built on Tropicana Field’s sprawling 85 acres, what might it look like? Also, how feasible — from a financing point of view — might a that scenario be?
A rather ambiguous post by local group Baseball is Good Business appeared in my Facebook feed on February 19th. Captioned “Multi Land Use — Stay Tuned,” a mockup (seen below) of a multi-use facility built on the Trop’s 85 acres showed what the property could look like if it was to be developed. The mockup included mixed use office towers, parking garages, restaurants and stores, residential housing — including after school childcare, and a hotel. It should also be noted that Jabil Circuit is still eying that area as a potential home for its new corporate headquarters.
The mockup certainly isn’t perfect. Tropicana Field is in the thick of things, almost as the crowning jewel of the hypothetical multi-use facility. It goes without saying, the antiquated dome would have to be replaced with a new, next generation, stadium if the 85 acres the Trop currently sits on was to even be considered by the Rays.
It does, however, illustrate an idea that has gained traction of late — the possibility of building a new stadium to keep the team, potentially by redeveloping the 85-acre Tropicana Field property. As several previously touted locations — namely the Channel District in Tampa, which Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is redeveloping, or the Carillon area in northeast St. Petersburg — no longer appear likely, the current site is gaining traction with some. If the chips were to fall in favor of a new stadium in the current location, how feasible — from a financing point of view — might a that scenario be?
A rough estimate of building a new stadium is between $400-$600 million. When you include the cost of property, that total increases.
Tropicana Field will be paid off in 2016, essentially making the property free if it was chosen as the location of a new stadium. According to the Bay Area Baseball Finance Study, Pinellas County would have an easier time (than Hillsborough County) coming up with $400 million in financing since its tourism coffers are more robust, thanks to beach visitors.
Pransky summarized Pinellas County’s revenue streams,
- Existing revenue streams already paying for Tropicana Field. Most Trop bonds will be paid off by 2015, so leaders can either stop collecting the taxes, redirect the collections to other city and county needs, or re-direct them to a new stadium. ($115-$148 million over 30 years)
- Re-direct a portion of the “Penny for Pinellas” local improvement tax to a new stadium. The tax sunsets after 2020, so its bonding capacity would be modest at best without another extension. ($35-$40 million over 30 years)
- A new 6th-cent added to the tourist/bed tax. Pinellas County, unlike Hillsborough, is considered a “high-tourist” county, so the county could increase the tax on hotel stays from 5% to 6%. ($60 million over 30 years)
- Re-directing a large portion of St. Petersburg’s share of state sales tax toward a new stadium. The city currently receives more than $12 million/year from the state, and much of it could be leveraged into new stadium bonds. (tens or hundreds of millions over 30 years )
There is a question if TIF money would be available to the city of St. Petersburg, though the Tropicana Field site would need to be considered a Community Redevelopment Area first. $35 million in state money would also be factored in. Assuming Pinellas County chipped in a total of $400 million, the Rays would be on the hook for $65-$165 million.
This of course is simplifying things. But, it is reasonable to assume that financing may be available for a new stadium/multi-land use facility on the Tropicana Field site.