Business of Baseball Report

Tampa Bay Gets Approval to Move Spring Training to Charlotte County in 2009

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are now planning on moving their Spring Training facilities to Charlotte County after the county received a $15 million grant that it will use as part of a $47 million remodeling of Charlotte Sports Park. The Rays expect to being playing in their new digs the spring of 2009.

Four other locations were also given grants for ballpark improvements. Sarasota (Cincinnati Reds), Bradenton (Pittsburgh Pirates), Fort Lauderdale (Baltimore Orioles) and St. Lucie County (New York Mets) will all benefit from grants that are being given by the state to entice teams to remain in Florida for Spring Training. The Cleveland Indians are making plans to move to Arizona; they’ll be the fourth defection in the past 10 years.

Dodgers Hope to Cut Down on Waits at Dodger Stadium

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt recently discussed plans to improve traffic flow into and out of the parking lot that services Dodger Stadium as well as converting merchandise stands for concession stands. Fans have complained for years that they miss portions of the game because of congested traffic and long lines for hot dogs, and while McCourt hasn’t offered any specifics, he has vowed to help alleviate the problem.

Marlins, MLB Making Progress on Stadium Deal

MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy has recently been optimistic about the chances of keeping the Florida Marlins in Miami. With their lease at Dolphins Stadium expiring at the end of the 2010 season, the Marlins have been pressing for a new stadium deal. Their usual arch-nemesis has been the state of Florida, who has been unwilling to pony up sales tax money to help pay for the stadium.

Now, it looks like the Marlins, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County are close to putting together a deal that would consist of a 60/40 split between public and private funding. The public money would come from a hotel-motel, facility and redevelopment district tax. Most importantly, the whole issue won’t require a public referendum. It will require approval from both the Miami City Council and the Miami-Dade County Board of Supervisors, but if it reached the floor of either government body, there will probably already be some kind of agreement that makes approval a formality.

In other Marlins news, the team has announced that it won’t be raising the price of tickets on 41- and 81- game plans, but it will be for single tickets. And for those who wait for game day, the price will be even higher. An infield box seat that cost $33 last year will be $35 this year and if purchased on game day, the price goes up to $40.

The Marlins also plan on pressing for Saturday crowds. A party tent will be put up and there will be postgame concerts and fireworks on those nights.

Braves Sale Drags On

Tim Tucker at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution provided an update on the status of Time Warner’s sale of the Atlanta Braves to Liberty Media. Both sides have until May 16 to get the deal done because a law change will make the entire structure less advantageous and would further limit the amount of cash that Liberty would get in the deal. Until the sale goes through, the Braves payroll will remain locked in at right around $80 million; this has probably hindered the Braves from going out and filling in some holes because of the inflated prices that players are getting this year.

Gene Budig Becomes Part Owner of Yankees Affiliate

Former American League president Gene Budig recently became one of three primary owners of the Class-A Charleston RiverDogs, a minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees. Budig was the president of the American League from 1994 through 2000 and while he had his share of run-ins with Yankee’s owner George Steinbrenner, he’ll now be working to help improve the Yankee’s franchise.

MLB Negotiating With DirecTV Over Extra Innings

According to Maury Brown’s latest Ledger Domain, MLB is in negotiations with DirecTV over the exclusivity of the Extra Innings package, which allows viewers to watch just about any game not subject to the blackout rules. It was originally offered exclusively by DirecTV in 1996 but since then, Dish Network and cable television have hopped on board. Now it looks like MLB is looking to make DirecTV the exclusive provider of Extra Innings.

Maury goes over the implications of this and even touches on how the whole Braves sale to Liberty Media falls into the mix. Good stuff.

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