TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rays are at it again. In their typical bad faith, poor communications, closed-door, taxpayer-money-grabbing ways, the Rays are once again playing municipal musical chairs pitting one city against another in order to get the highest bidder to build a publicly financed stadium for the team and its majority-owner and billionaire, Stuart Sternberg.
There are countless reasons why the Tampa Bay community should say “see ya’ Stu,” and allow the taxpayer-dollar hunting billionaire to move the team.
Those reasons include:
Sternberg doesn’t play fair with local leaders. The Rays majority owner has repeatedly shown the team doesn’t deal in good faith with local leaders – just ask St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman or former mayor Bill Foster.
Taxpayers should not be funding a billionaire. Sternberg is a billionaire businessman who is looking to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers to build him a stadium subsidized by the hard-working people of Florida. Stadium proposals have been estimated at a cost of over $700 million and up to $892 million (the anticipated cost of the most recent formal proposal).
Not committed to Tampa. The Rays were recently exposed as reportedly having been in discussions with local leaders in Nashville about moving the team to the city. This follows efforts in 2014 when Sternberg was negotiating to move the team to Montreal and possibly splitting games between Tampa and the Canadian city until the Rays’ lease to play at Tropicana Field expires in 2027. Furthermore, Sternberg is a resident of New York, and couldn’t care less about the Tampa Bay area or its residents and the taxes they pay – for his benefit.
The Rays have internal turmoil. Sternberg (who is the majority owner of the team) was recently sued by some of the minority owners of the team who allege he tried to snatch the team away from them by changing the corporate ownership structure and compelling them to sell their minority stake to him. The team has denied the allegations.
Economic value of pro sports teams is misrepresented. Every time a professional sports team wants a new stadium, they talk of the economic impact the team will have on the local community. And sure, teams do have some positive value to a community’s local economy.
But what the stadium supporters never tell you is the money people spend at ball games will be spent elsewhere in the community if the stadium doesn’t exist. The studies also never mention the sweetheart management deals teams get, including a cut of revenue for everything from parking, concessions, and a cut of revenue for ticket sales from concerts, monster truck rallies, and other events held at the stadium. Nor do those studies calculate the cost to taxpayers who foot a huge (if not entire) part of the bill to build the stadium in the first place.
Ybor City location is terrible. Talks have started again with Tampa and Hillsborough elected officials about building the taxpayer-funded stadium in Tampa in the Ybor City area. While no details about a specific stadium site within Ybor has been released, there is nowhere in Ybor that is suitable or capable of adequately handling 28,000 fans (the average MLB attendance in 2019) and their cars.
Ybor City is a stone’s throw away from the worst daily traffic jamming location in the Tampa Bay area. Now imagine those 28,000 fans (most of them in cars) driving to a weekday game at the height of rush hour for a 6:00 p.m. game. Thanks. But no thanks. Any Tampa elected official who thinks this is a good idea needs their head extracted from their rear-end, as they clearly are not paying attention to traffic problems. While the Rays may be fun to watch, no baseball team is worth the lower quality of life being stuck in traffic adds to the typical resident of the Tampa Bay area. A stadium in Ybor will mean you are stuck in a lot more traffic tie-ups at Tampa’s infamous malfunction junction – and beyond.
We have more important areas deserving of taxpayer dollars. Nearly a billion dollars for a stadium largely funded by taxpayers located in an area with poor ingress and egress is not a good idea in a community that has some of the worst traffic planning and poorly maintained roads (think of all the potholes and bumps in the road the city of Tampa refuses to fix) in the state.
Not to mention more important priorities exist and should be on the list of our elected officials. These include increased teacher pay, better parks and better maintenance of our youth sports fields, more public boat ramps, stormwater run-off improvements, and building more fire stations in rural and newly developed areas, to name a few.
I don’t know about you, but spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars (whether they are collected and distributed by the local, state, or federal government) for the benefit of a for-profit corporation owned largely by a billionaire businessman who doesn’t care about the Tampa Bay area, and who is just looking to make a quick buck is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard of since those ridiculous “one way” arrows on the floor at the grocery store in the middle of the pandemic.
Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out the door Stu Sternberg. Tampa Bay can do much better with hundreds of millions of dollars than subsidizing your for-profit business.
Chris Ingram is a communication, political, and media consultant in Tampa. Follow him on Twitter at @IrreverentView or send him an e-mail to email@example.com.
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