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.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays and the street con

There is a great web site that follows the shenanigans of the superwealthy as they try to get public subsidies for their ever more grandious stadium projects www.fieldofschemes.com -- check it out.

What the Rays are likely looking for is a new venue to have better and more luxurious suite accomodations to market to businesses. They also know that the novelty of a new ball park will permit them to increase ticket prices -- 30% is typical. The luxury suites to be constructed at taxpayer expense, although never discussed in any of the promotional material produced by the Rays, are surely at the heart of their desires. I'm also sure they will be air-conditioned unlike the "regular" seats out under the sail.

I've seen where a lot of people are unhappy that oil companies are making big profits but, by any measure the Rays are much more profitable than any oil company. Would you be willing to pay an extra $4 per gallon of gas to increase Exxon's profits? Probably not but the Rays are already getting a public subsidy that is about the equivalent of their entire gate receipts. And they want more, much more!

If the Rays could put St. Petersburg in a new stadium with no new taxes, would that be okay? Sure, sounds like a good deal. But then the facts start to come out. This is the same marketing strategy used by the guys selling cars in the lots off the Vegas strip. They get you to commit to the car before you even know what it is going to cost you and then they know they have you hooked. The Rays hired the guy who managed to get over $1 billion in public subsidies for the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Now put that kind of hired talent up against the St. Petersburg mayor and city council -- no contest and we know who is going to leave the room with their wallets empty. And guess what -- they have Mayor Rick Baker on record as saying the Rays need a new stadium. And that means that, if Baker stays in office, the taxpayers are going to be stuck paying for a new stadium -- cost and terms to be decided later. It is really no different than a street con but the stakes are a lot higher.

But St. Petersburg is a "major league city", right? But what that seems to mean is pay the man what he asks for and don't put up a fuss. If you have to ask what it really is going to cost you, you're just not "major league" enough or maybe your voters are just too old!