6 times people got it wrong on the Rays stadium deal in letters to the editor
Image via Rays/Hines

Rays Hines rendering
While some of the points made are fair, or even salient, the responses from Tampa Bay area residents presumably with little institutional knowledge on such deals, are overly broad and ignore important nuance.

In a recent roundup in the Tampa Bay Times of letters to the editor, all but one pertained to the Tampa Bay Rays and the ongoing stadium deal debate that is, for the foreseeable future, the talk of the town.

The letters come after Graham Brink, the Editor of Editorials for the Times, asked a pertinent question, “What’s it worth to keep the Rays in St. Petersburg?

The published letters almost exclusively offer critiques of the propsed deal between the city and the Rays and Hines development team, making arguments about the public cost, location, and other various points. While some of the points made are fair, or even salient, the responses from Tampa Bay area residents presumably with little institutional knowledge on such deals, are overly broad and ignore important nuance.

With the St. Petersburg City Council expected to take up the issue on May 9 and May 23, it’s important to shed more light on the matter.

Here are six times these readers either got it wrong, or overly simplified.

— “The shockingly bad economics of the deal have now been exposed,” write Tom Mullins, a former investment banker with Raymond James, a former candidate for City Council, and founder of the website NoHomeRun.com, which opposes the current redevelopment proposal.

Mullins points to, among other things, a poll from the League of Women Voters (LWV) showing, in Mullins’ words, that “St. Pete voters oppose the deal by a landslide.” That’s true, with 80% of respondents indicating they agreed the city and county should negotiate a better deal. That includes 69% of respondents who said they strongly agreed.

It also found broad opposition to the corporate welfare component and to spending public dollars on something other than clean water and needed wastewater improvements.

The problem is twofold. First, the survey questions were horribly leading. By using an agree/disagree format, the survey was worded by providing respondents with a simple statement.

For example, the first question offered the statement: “The City and the County should negotiate a better deal than the current term sheet that costs taxpayers $1.9 billion.” Who in their right mind would answer that they disagree with that statement?

How many of those 80% who answered agree or strongly agree do you think understand the nuance of negotiating a deal of this magnitude? It’s not buying a house where you offer and counteroffer over and over again. It’s not a car dealership where everyone knows you have to walk away at least once to get a better deal. Ask yourself, on that note, how many times has the city walked away from the Rays?

On the second part of this rebuttal, I offer the concept of public education. The city has undertaken a robust, yearslong process of getting community input on what the redevelopment should look like, leading to a project that includes community wants such as affordable housing, park space and a new African American history museum.

Even if the LWV poll had been phrased in a less leading manner, it’s possible that results still would have skewed negative on the proposal. That’s why the city must not stop at gathering public input, but also add to it public outreach and education.

Now that a deal is on the table, Mayor Ken Welch and his administration should ensure that the community knows what benefits to expect and understands how the financing plan will work. They should try to debunk any notions that it would affect the city’s ability to respond to natural disasters (that was a question in the LWV poll) and assure residents that the city will be holding the Rays/Hines team accountable on fulfilling its promises.

— “If the deal for a new stadium is rejected, St. Petersburg would have a chance to sell the property at greater prices that would allow a real redevelopment of the area that includes the creation of a lot more affordable homes and retail spaces,” wrote Riverview resident Tom Craig, who argued it’s too much of a hassle to drive to games and expects attendance will not increase with a new stadium.

I’m not an urban planner, so I don’t want to get too far into whether this statement is feasible or not. On the surface, it certainly seems like maybe there could be more affordable housing and other amenities without a baseball stadium — certainly there would be more space for it.

But again, nuance. What this statement lacks is an understanding that a project of that magnitude is a difficult undertaking and requires a developer with access to massive capital. Under the Rick Kriseman administration, the city created a master plan for redevelopment both with and without a stadium, back when it looked like the Rays had soured on St. Pete. Even still, developers’ submissions included stadiums. That is no coincidence.

Without a stadium on the site, it is more likely that the city would need to parcel the land out to create a series of smaller projects. While the city would have some control over ensuring a cohesive overall district, it would be far more difficult to create a destination that combined complementary elements in the same way the current plan imagines.

— “When asked the question, voters in Kansas City overwhelmingly opposed a new baseball stadium for the Royals and an upgrade for the Chiefs NFL stadium,” writes Tarpon Springs resident Richard Thompson.

They sure did, and after the Chiefs won the Super Bowl again, to boot. But apples and oranges here, Mr. Thompson. Unlike the Rays, the Royals aren’t threatening to leave the Kansas City area. That means voters didn’t have a whole lot of motivation to pony up.

— “Let the Rays buy land in a more accessible location in the Tampa Bay region and build their own stadium like any other business,” writes St. Pete resident Peter Kent.

They tried that. See: Waterfront stadium, Ybor stadium, Carillon stadium, etc. etc. etc.

— “As a 78-year-old from New England who moved to Florida in 2001 and has spendable income to attend games, I’d like to speak for us retired transplants: We do not like to drive at night,” wrote Spring Hill resident R. Dave Mulholland.

Mulholland uses 18,881 as a number cited in the Times for attendance at a mid-week game at 1:10 p.m. and argues that justifies more day games.

Well, that’s only slightly higher than the Rays’ overall attendance average for the 2023 season. People who aren’t retired, which is a lot of people, can’t necessarily just leave work to go catch a baseball game. This would do nothing to boost attendance and it has very little to do with the stadium deal anyway.

— “All the talk of building a new stadium yet the St. Petersburg main library has been closed for renovations since 2021,” wrote Michele Maro of St. Pete.

Again with the apples and oranges. Funding for library renovations comes from a different pot and has an entirely different process, one that is arguably less onerous.

It is also solely a city project. The stadium deal represents a public-private partnership in which the private side of that equation is largely responsible for the construction timeline (though the city certainly can negotiate parameters). Some would argue the library project may not be experiencing such delays had a private partner been driving the ship. Just sayin’.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, 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.


  • Mike

    April 10, 2024 at 2:14 pm

    “Six times people got it wrong”… Does not list a single instance of people getting it wrong.

  • Bill Parker

    April 10, 2024 at 4:56 pm

    Also, notice we’re not talking about ANY aid the fabricated BS numbers and “promises” from the team and developers? That’s because every thing is either being kept tightly under wraps so people to see what a “good deal” the mayor and the other crooked officials are trying to shove through.
    If this were such a win-win and not crony welfare, then details would be shared openly and open to vote on.
    It’s not a coincidence . This project is a ripoff for everyone not in the scam.

  • rbruce

    April 10, 2024 at 4:58 pm

    What partnership? Will the taxpayer get an equity share of the Rays?

  • Dont Say FLA

    April 11, 2024 at 10:09 am

    Has this business threatening to leave provided any verifiable information about any proposed greener pasture(s)? ‘Cause when negotiations are all about “if we don’t get what we demand, you lose this you and you lose that and it’s terrible for you,” that’s just scare tactics like MAGA uses for getting voters.

    What else coudl be done with potentiall lower overall impact, but more impact for more people? Enriching some rich ball handlers sounds great on paper, but it doesn’t help anybody else. The other jobs are all minimum wage. assuming local transit is typically tiresome, stadiums are boons for DUI tickets, but that also means theyre boons for DUIs and relatively few DUIs get DUI arrests without harm, so is it worth it?

    What are the opportunity costs for the innuerable schlubs sitting on the couch at home swilling gas station beer 5 nights a week watching and yelling at the TV for 3 hours because they’re “fans”. What might they be doing productive for their own lives and for society rather than habitually watching evening male oriented soap operas?

    End all “major league” sports today and the world would soon be a better place.

Comments are closed.


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