On November 16, the corporate non-profit, Tampa Bay Rays 2020, which is funded by the Tampa Bay Rays — and designed to build support for corporate and public financing of a new baseball stadium in Ybor City — held a press conference that sowed confusion within the region.
With just attorney Ron Christaldi (Tampa Bay Rays 2020 co-founder, and one of the group’s two key business leaders) in attendance, the group spoke about the financial commitments received to date, with a medley of figures being touted, including a $16-million in commitment from local businesses.
Noticeably absent from the press conference were Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and business magnate Chuck Sykes.
That paltry figure that was later amended by Charlie Frago (Tampa Bay Times) to $16-million per year for the next decade.
Christaldi also indicated that negotiations on naming rights sponsorship, which could net up to $8-10 million per year were ongoing. It should be remembered though that Tampa Bay is the 13th largest media market in the country, behind Atlanta — the ninth largest media market — which allowed the Braves to net a $10-million per year naming rights deal. A $5-8 million per year naming rights deal would be more reasonable.
Ybor City stadium proponents are touting the news as a major step toward breaking ground, claiming that the $160-million figure would cover almost 20% of the estimated $892-million price tag. Not everything that glitters is gold.
It’s nothing more than a press release, with no context, tweeted Noah Pransky (WTSP News, Twitter link). In other words, it is a meaningless number designed to curry favorable headlines.
To put it another way, $16-million over 10-years (sans context, mind you) looks great on paper, yet it does nothing to touch the overall $892-million figure. When viewed over the life of a mortgage, that figure comes out to just $5.33-million per year over the presumed 30-year span.
Even so, all this is based on the presumption that $160-million — plus naming rights — would go toward construction costs, when in all likelihood that money would be revenue for the team. It’s more plausible that it would be used toward the team’s overall contribution to the project, not in addition to the Rays’ overall contribution.
The team wants a new stadium, so it can boost revenues, said Pransky. But they won’t say how much they were expecting or how much they currently get. So, we have no idea if that $160-million is plus or minus the minus they were already expecting when factoring their construction spend.
Or, as Pransky wrote on November 16,
…It’s likely at least some of those dollars – if not all – are what the Rays are already counting on to help fund their yet-to-be-announced portion of stadium construction.
Put bluntly, when all is said and done it really does not change the calculus.
Still, the hour-long presentation was filled with optimism albeit with an admission that Tampa’s window of opportunity won’t last forever.
Timing is of the essence, Christaldi said.
A deadline on the team’s agreement with St. Petersburg to look in Hillsborough expires just before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has played his political cards close to his vest on what he may ask the team to do if they miss the Dec. 31 deadline outlined in an agreement between the Sunshine City and the Rays. The agreement leaves no wiggle room for any missed deadlines, writes Frago.
When all is said and done, after three years of negotiations between the Rays and Hillsborough County, the team will be faced with three choices in just 34 days:
- Ask St. Petersburg city officials for an extension (According to Pransky, the team hasn’t approached the city yet).
- Give formal notice they will move to Tampa without a finance package in place.
- Give formal notice they will stay in St. Petersburg through 2027.
Yet don’t expect news of a formal announcement any time soon. On November 14th we wrote that Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill is telling commissioners not to expect any news on a deal until at least January.
Go ahead and cancel all the sports facility briefings for the remainder of the year, Michelle Sekouri, executive assistant to county administrator Mike Merrill, wrote to all commissioner’s offices last Friday. Mike is not anticipating having anything to share until January or after.
…Lest we also forget the political quagmire that Commissioner Hagan has gotten himself into.