Florida Pilot

A compendium of random thoughts from a former Washington Beltway insider who is now having a lot more fun flying small airplanes in Central Florida.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

selling the sizzle

The Tampa Bay Rays have spent the last week or so attempting to sell their plan for a lavish new taxpayer-financed stadium while leaving out the most important details; how and how much will be extracted from local taxpayers. While working out the numbers will apparently take even more time, the Rays wasted no time in sending various customized uniform items to selected state legislators who presumably would be the ones voting on a requested $60 million state subsidy to the team.

Based on some back-of-the-envelope calculations, the projected taxpayer subsidy for the Rays at Tropicana Field over the entire lifetime of the stadium agreement (to 2027) is estimated to be about $8.00 for every person who attends a game. The average ticket price is currently about $17.00 so the tax subsidy is almost 1/3. This is with a stadium with a nominal initial investment of $138 million.

If the Trop is razed, the taxpayers will still be responsible for the repayment of the $130 million or so still owed and the subsidy per attendee will end up being more than the $17 that the typical attendee pays to go to the game.

The new stadium will nominally cost $450 million but the $150 million to be contributed by the Rays ownership will probably turn out to be something a lot less and the $450 million total cost will likely end up being much higher.

Perhaps the most telling statement is that made by Rays primary owner Stuart Sternberg who indicated that he started to plan for a new stadium [to be paid for by the taxpayers] on his second day on the job. Evidently, he did not consider the terrible performance of his team to be an important issue for management.


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