When Will Bud Whip It Out?by John Brattain
January 13, 2006
So many stadiums. So much corporate welfare being asked for by MLB. So many communities saying, “Can‘t do it.”
Wes Shoemyer, a Clarence Democrat in Missouri: “Billionaire owners of professional sports teams don’t need corporate welfare … Gov. Blunt is wrong to bypass the legislature and give away $50 million that would be better spent improving public education and access to health care. Missourians are more concerned with filling their lunch boxes than filling luxury boxes.”
Minnesota Twins lawyer Roger Magnuson asking Hennepin County Judge Charles Porter Jr. about the Metrodome lease: "Give us a certificate of death ... There is no continuing legal agreement for the Twins to play in the Metrodome beyond 2006."
Of course the Twins have been trying to get the region to build wannabe corporate welfare
Oakland A’s owner Lewis Wolff has been trying every conceivable angle to get his hand in the cookie jar. He basically proposed that the city find the land, use eminent domain to acquire it if necessary, then figure out how to pay for a stadium. Wolff has pledged to kick in toward any land purchases needed to make it a reality and suggests the city sell the development rights to developers (who would build the "village" surrounding the new stadium) to finance construction of the stadium. "My suggestion was that either the city or county use their authority to acquire it, and we'd pay at least $25 a square foot toward that acquisition … if we couldn't do the deal, the city could buy it back or we could develop it. That's a simple task proposed weeks ago, but it didn't seem to invoke a lot of interest."
Um, there’s a reason for that. Using public land or using public dollars to buy (or seize via eminent domain) land for new digs and getting developers to pay for its construction is in an entirely different universe than Wolff paying for the stadium himself. Of course his neighbor, the San Francisco Giants, were turned down repeatedly for a publicly financed ballpark and guess what? The Giants are still known as the San Francisco Giants.
Of course my favorite mentally/ethically/vertically challenged psychotic money-grubbing blight has been dressed up as a baseball executive trick-or-treating, going from city to city hoping somebody will fill his goody bag with a free stadium. Suffice it to say, he’s been coming up short.
Of course we speak of the man with the two Biblical names: David Samson (how about Knee-High-mi-ah or Bildad the Shoe-Height instead?) "No" is a smaller word than "yes," and Samson has been hearing the former more than the
“Publicly financed baseball [will] not be coming to Portland on my watch. And that was not a point of discussion today ... I do not want the city of Portland taking out any mortgage on our children's future.”
Jeffrey Loria’s children-in-law are another matter.
Samson said a public-private partnership is essential since the less the Marlins have to contribute, the better. "Governments do make decisions when they attract businesses to the community … baseball is not the only industry, by any stretch, to ask for government help when deciding where to have its corporate headquarters."
So Samson is saying that he doesn’t want a stadium at all. He wants a region to build him an office that seats 40,000 with club seats, luxury suites, etc.
"The way baseball looks at the Marlins, we are the second-largest recipient of revenue sharing, and we've won two World Series—not a great combination. They need the Marlins to get their act together, whatever that may be."
As Neil deMause so eloquently put it on his Field of Schemes website: "So let me get this straight: If low-revenue teams don't win the World Series, that's a sign that they need new stadiums because they can't compete. And if they do win the World Series, it's a sign that they need new stadiums because baseball doesn't want to subsidize winning teams?"
How low can you go? Well, Samson does have a head start …
Of course baseball is saving its best for the nation’s capital. D.C. has pledged over half a billion smackers for MLB so they can sell the Nationals for close to a half-billion dollars. In short, they’re hoping that Loria’s and Samson’s assassination (remember, you can’t spell assassin without two "ass"-es—that’s why both Loria and Samson were needed to do the job properly) of the Expos will translate into folks giving Selig and Co. a billion bucks in exchange for their sabotage, lies, and bad faith toward the city of Montreal.
Of course Bob DuPuy, who clearly has been spending far too much time with Selig, won the new millennium’s award for unintentional comedy in his letter to the Washington Post. Let’s review some of the lowlights, which I like to call "What About [it], Bob?":
Bob: "In baseball and in business, if you run the project, you're responsible for its costs."
Me: You also are the primary economic beneficiary of the project too, Bob.
Bob: "When teams are in charge of design and construction, any savings go to them and any cost overruns are borne by them. That's what was done with new ballparks for the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants."
Me: That's why the Giants and Tigers keep all the revenue the stadium generates, Bob. And the Tiggers got lots of free money for their stadium.
Bob: "On the other hand, when a government agency is in charge of design and construction, the benefits and risks are covered by the city. That's what happened in Baltimore at Camden Yards and in Cleveland and Pittsburgh as well. That's common sense, and it's fair."
Me: What benefits do the city get, Bob? A poor return on investment, a drain on the public coffers, and most the money the project generates doesn't even go to them, Bob. It's like me working 12 hours a day digging ditches, and you get my paycheck, but you say I benefit from the exercise, Bob. Of course the city does get to keep a one-third of the parking revenues on non-game days. Thanks, Bob.
Bob: "It is also what is happening in Washington. Because the Nationals will generate $250 million for the District in sales taxes and rent payments generated at the stadium (large businesses pay the rest of construction costs), baseball has input into the new stadium's design and construction, but government officials make the decisions."
Me: Care to prove this, Bob? Or is this figure covered with Preparation H, Bob? Does MLB ever make up numbers, Bob? This stadium project will likely end up costing close to a billion when all is said and done, and they're doing this to make a quarter of that? Cool. Let's do business; you give me a quarter and I'll give you a dollar, and I'll tell you how you benefit from this arrangement.
Bob: "D.C. planners chose the stadium's architect. The city government, not baseball or the Nationals, decided what the Nationals' new stadium will look like and what material will go into it, from the type of concrete used to the types of seats in the suites. Government workers selected the stadium's construction companies, and these same governmental employees will oversee the construction work."
Me: And the owners get to keep most of the revenues the park generates, Bob. Have you forgotten this tidbit, Bob? And you get two-thirds of the parking money when there's no game going on, Bob.
Bob: "But now, some members of the D.C. Council have asked baseball to pay for any stadium cost overruns, even though city personnel will control the variables that cause the stadium to be built on budget or run over cost. Asking baseball to pay for overruns when D.C. government officials are in charge of the stadium's design and construction is like MasterCard telling you to pay your credit card bill even though MasterCard gets to do all your shopping. No consumer would agree to such a provision, and neither will Major League Baseball."
Me: Yeah, Bob....good analogy, but this project is like MasterCard telling you to pay your credit card bill even though MasterCard gets to do all your shopping and keep the merchandise. At least in your analogy the consumer gets to keep what he paid for. Oh sure, the city owns the stadium, but you get the revenues and the city gets stuck with the bills. Of course when you decide you’ve tired of the place, an old stadium has lots of uses than makes tons of money for the communities, just like RFK (sarcasm … in case your sarcasm detector is broken). Of course if they do make a little money from it, it’ll probably have to go toward the new stadium you’re going to be demanding, Bob.
Of course D.C. councilman Linda Cropp has offered a compromise. The key provision is a guarantee that Washington's costs for the park would be capped at the $535 million that the council approved in 2005, and an extra $54 million in bond financing fees. Additional costs would have to be covered by MLB, the owner of the Washington Nationals or private developers . I’m guessing that Selig is aghast at the idea of a cap.
So ... five cities wanting new digs and the D.C. bargaining chip is gone. That leaves four cities wanting new stadiums, which means they need four different viable relocation threats. Right now they're four short (five, if you count Samson). What kind of threat can MLB possibly use?
Stay tuned and you'll find out.
Our good friend, and THT stalwart, John Brattain passed away on March 24, 2009. John was a prolific writer, whose work can also be read at Sympatico/MSN Sports and Baseball Digest Daily. John's work was also featured at USA Today, MLBtalk, ESPN Insider, Baseball Prospectus, The Baseball Analysts and The Baseball Journals. Never afraid to express himself in any medium, he was also a frequent radio speaker.