The question was asked, and I’m answering it. It’s worth a whole lot to keep the Rays

tropicana field
Tangible benefits might be hard to nail down, but the intangible benefits are often priceless.

Graham Brink, the Editor of Editorials for the Tampa Bay Times, asked a pertinent question in a column published Thursday.

“What’s it worth to keep the Rays in St. Petersburg?”

The question is salient. It comes as St. Pete City Council members and Pinellas County Commissioners are faced with approving a deal that would keep the team in town, but one that collectively would cost taxpayers somewhere in the ballpark of $1-2 billion, depending on whom you ask and how they figured the math. 

As with any argument, there are pros and cons on both sides. For critics of a stadium subsidy, helping the Tampa Bay Rays fund a billion dollar stadium amounts to corporate welfare. Why help rich people get richer when so many at home are suffering under the weight of an affordable housing crisis compounded by the state’s ongoing insurance woes?

It’s fair critique, to be sure, but it’s overly narrow and riddled with flawed ideology. 

And among those in favor, there are plenty of flawed arguments bandied about, too. For starters, all this talk about economic revitalization and activating the Trop site is kind of moot. Brink rightly points out in his column that all of the stadium deal benefits — affordable housing units, park space, hotel space, retail, new office space, a new, expanded home for the Woodson African American History Museum, and so on — are achievable on the site with or without a stadium.

But if it were so easy to pull a project together without an anchor with the resources to leverage investment, how come no one really stepped up to the plate? Perhaps it’s because that amount of capital isn’t as easy as a dinner table epiphany. 

These juxtaposed positions combine to make Brink’s question one of the most important to answer in at least a generation, probably more. 

The answer is super simple. It’s totally worth it. And I’ll give you the honest reason why.

It’s not about the money, necessarily.

More and more, economists are pointing to stadium deals with public subsidies and buy-ins as a poor investment, strictly from a raw numbers, return on investment standpoint. A 2015 report from Marketplace, a radio program aired on NPR stations nationwide, points to “a consensus in economics,” as Temple University Sports Economist Michael Leeds explained it to the author. 

“If every sports team in Chicago were to suddenly disappear, the impact on the Chicago economy would be a fraction of 1%. A baseball team has about the same impact on a community as a midsize department store,” he told Marketplace. 

And a Journal of Economic Surveys analysis by John Charles Bradbury, Dennis Coates and Brad R. Humphreys in 2022 largely agrees, pointing to a lack of tangible evidence that stadium subsidies pay off. But it goes into great detail about the intangible benefits, many of which likely have plenty of economic benefit that is too difficult to measure. 

“Even if sports teams and venues do not generate tangible local economic benefits, public subsidies could be justified if local residents receive sufficient intangible social benefits from their presence. Teams and venues may produce local public good benefits, such as promoting social cohesion and civic pride, and enhance the host’s image as a ‘big-league city,’” the analysis reads.

“Sporting events may also generate spillover amenities like pedestrian-friendly areas and entertainment districts that improve the quality of life for nearby residents. These social benefits are not captured in transactions in sports markets. The presence of a professional team or new stadium may increase local social welfare sufficiently to warrant public subsidies to remedy a market failure generated by the presence of these externalities.”

Let’s go back to the Chicago example in Marketplace. Can anyone imagine Chicago without the Cubs or the White Sox? Chant it with me: “Da Bears!” How about without the Bulls? Sure, we’re a long way from the days of Michael Jordan, but sports are as iconic to Chicago as Chicago Dogs and deep dish pizza, probably more so. No, definitely more so. 

And for all the fans who cheer on Chicago teams, whether on a baseball diamond, basketball court, ice rink or football field, there are pieces of merchandise that get worn around not just the city and surrounding suburbs, but in other states and countries while people are on vacation or on business trips or visiting loved ones. That team swag is a walking advertisement for the city. 

St. Petersburg isn’t as well known as a bigger city like Chicago. And it’s kind of overshadowed by its larger neighbor to the east and across the Bay.

Granted, the Rays are not called the St. Pete Rays, so there’s not much of an argument to be made as it relates to the name bringing free attention to the burg in that regard, but what do people see when they watch a Rays game on television? It’s not next door Tampa, it’s downtown St. Pete with its sparkling waterfront, pristine parks and thriving nightlife. You really can’t put a dollar figure on that kind of exposure to a city where tourism is already a draw. 

Let’s also look at a city which, like St. Pete, lives in its neighbor’s shadow. Oakland has lost all but one of its professional sports teams, and it’s about to lose its last remaining one: the Oakland A’s baseball team, which is following the Raiders to Las Vegas. Oakland residents — Oakland sports fans in particular — are devastated. 

The city lost its NBA team to neighboring San Francisco, its football team to Las Vegas, and now is watching its beloved baseball team get ready to ship off to Sin City, too. 

With that loss, Oakland is also losing a chance for relationship building, an amenity that breeds a sense of community and a camaraderie that defies socioeconomic, racial, age or political divides. 

“There is just not another easy outing that is available on that many Spring and Summer weekend days that can replace A’s games with my son,” Oakland A’s fan Jeremy Owens recently told Aljazeera. “The loss would be incalculable.”

And sometimes establishing value relies not just on what would be lost, but what has already been gained. While it’s not a direct comparison to the Rays who are a comparatively young team, Oakland’s sports teams defined the city for the better, dating back decades. 

As The Ringer reported in an in-depth analysis of how Oakland is losing its last team and what that means for the city, Oakland was a mess in the 1960s before it became a major league sports town. 

“In the years following World War II, the Town had been abandoned by industry, gutted by suburbanization, segregated into geographic silos by racist, state-sanctioned real-estate practices, and marred by shortsighted infrastructure projects executed in service of the suburbs and at the direct expense of locals,” the report reads.

Highways bifurcated neighborhoods creating a sort of segregation that didn’t do any favors to the city’s overall economic health. 

“In the eyes of not just the nation but the rest of the Bay Area, Oakland was increasingly seen as a city to either fear or, worse, not think much of at all,” the report continued before noting that “sports changed that.” 

With the success of championship-winning teams in the ’70s, Oakland went from being the slum of the Bay area to a mecca for what The Ringer described as a desirable version of its “grit and funk.”

And just like in Oakland where the pain of infrastructure choices was at least in part alleviated by the emergence of pro sports, St. Pete has its own struggle with the highway version of “the wrong side of the tracks.”

Interstate-175 infamously divided communities in a bifurcation that still remains a stark reminder of what happens when you wall off communities. To the south of the highway are some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. To the north are some of its most thriving, not to mention the booming downtown economy that grows by the day.

So back to Brink’s question about whether the public investment is worth it. He correctly points out that many of the tangible benefits in the proposed stadium deal could be achieved without the Rays.

But without the Rays, the city would lose a sense of identity in this world of sports fandom that it has only just begun to create. Its emergence as an economic equal to Tampa, rather than the annoying little brother to the west, would likely halt. And without a centralized anchor to a larger district, the city runs the chance of having a disjointed project that fails to reconnect the communities that need it the most. 

So maybe it’s a lot of money to shell out from public coffers. And maybe the black never meets the red on paper. But how can you put a price on ensuring the viability of a still growing city?

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Dont Say FLA

    April 5, 2024 at 9:10 am

    “Overly narrow and riddled with flawed ideology” also maintains there’s no alternative that provides the same benefits as would this business keeping its operations in Tampa, but maybe somebody else brings something “better” and/or “else” to Tampa’s table.

    Pro Ray arguments are for memories lost, but memories are never lost unless you forget them. Whatever happens next brings the new memories with it. If it isn’t the Rays, nobody remembering in 20 years will care that it wasn’t the Trays.

  • Michael Paplin

    April 5, 2024 at 12:15 pm

    I would think a better analysis of the value of a sports team would be to look at the real estate around a stadium over time. Baltimore’s inner harbor was blighted and reclaimed. The area around the Trop has improved in the last 25 years. These changes may have happened without a sports team, however the stadium being built is usually the kick starter to get others excited and engaged, as businesses who can cater to the fans pop up first and grow from there.

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    April 5, 2024 at 2:52 pm

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  • Earl Pitts "THE NEW MAYOR OF REALVILLE" American

    April 5, 2024 at 6:52 pm

    Good evening Sage Patriots,
    Relax Your Sphincters, as Earl and Ron, ate already heading up a Sage Forensic Audit on where this “KEEP THE RAYS” money came from and how it was spent/allocated.
    This is necessary because 99% of all govornment officials in the Tampa/St. Pete area are “Dook 4 Brains Leftists” and “Laundrying Public Funds for their own “Nefarious Purposes” is ….. well ….. just what “Dook 4 Brains Lefty Politicions Do”.
    Dont worry, Florida, these Dooks will all be punished,
    Earl Pitts American

    • Rick Whitaker

      April 5, 2024 at 10:05 pm

      caution erroneous troll comment by earl shits.

      • Earl Pitts "THE NEW MAYOR OF REALVILLE" American

        April 6, 2024 at 9:38 am

        Thanks Rick,
        Your wacky Lefty followups to my Golden Nuggets of Sage Wisdom always elevate ME, Earl Pitts American, in the eyes of our gentel and beloved readership.
        Together the Earl/Rick Team Rules and is bringing in new readership on the “Hundreds Daily” who just want to see what Earl & Rick are up to today.
        Say, for example, we are bringing 300 new readers per day – well my man that’s 1,095,000 additional New Readers with Pockets Full of Money each and every year.
        Thanks again Rick,
        Earl Pitts American

        • Earl Pitts "THE NEW MAYOR OF REALVILLE" American

          April 6, 2024 at 9:50 am

          ….. and further more, Rick, of course ME, Earl Pitts American, and Ron “The Ronald” DeSantis will track down all of the nefarious evil villian “George Soro’s” donations because thats how he “Purchases Our Politicans and State Attorneys” also any “Chink, Ruskie, Muzzy, Serria Club, PETA, ….. ect ….. ect …… ect contributions will be throughly scrutinazed under “The Sage Micro-Scope Of Freedom” by ME, Earl Pitts American.
          *this was a good catch and we will put Duval’s Stadium Deal under the Sage Micro – Scope of TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE AMERICAN WAY*

        • Rick Whitaker

          April 6, 2024 at 10:11 am


  • Monday news

    April 6, 2024 at 11:47 am

    The first analysis is location location location and the advertising comes second to none.
    The second to take into account what are the injuries caused by the bullying into the neighborhood.

  • Andrew Finn

    April 6, 2024 at 6:36 pm

    The costs of this “keep the Rays” venture of 1 to 2 billion dollars makes no difference to the people who will be spending it. It does, however, make a difference to the taxpayers who will (as usual) be paying the bill. People do not need yet another tax burden to finance when they ae struggling to afford rent, food, medicine, gas, and nearly everything else. Those of us who were here prior to 1998 got along just fine without the Rays and extra tourists, and will somehow manage to survive if they were to find a new home.

    • Earl Pitts "THE NEW MAYOR OF REALVILLE" American

      April 6, 2024 at 8:38 pm

      So true Andrew,
      Everything you said is true and when we add the fact the entire local govornment is 90%+ total leftist who as a group are 93% more likely to cheat and steal than conservative govornments we got a serious situation which needs a full FDLE AUDIT.
      Just because the citizens elected the leftists does not mean Florida’s Govornor and The FDLE should not get involved in what is 98% wrong.

      • Rick Whitaker

        April 6, 2024 at 8:59 pm


Comments are closed.


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