Business of Baseball Reportby Brian Borawski
September 14, 2005
Twins’ Stadium Deal Reaching Critical Juncture
Minnesota Twins’ owner Carl Pohlad was so close. Things were rolling through the state legislature when he ran out of time. A special session was called by the legislature, but once again, the stadium debate took second stage to Minnesota’s budget problems. Now it appears likely that a second special session, which was initially delayed by Governor Tim Pawlenty until after Labor Day, may never happen.
It also appears that the stadium issue might not be on the 2006 agenda. It’s an election year, and giving handouts to billionaires isn’t a great way to get votes in your district. In the meantime, the Minnesota Vikings' new owner Zygi Wilf has called for new homes for the Vikings, Twins and Gophers, saying they're necessary projects to move the local community forward.
Bud Selig Rules Out Athletics’ Move to San Jose
Bud Selig was the keynote speaker for San Jose’s Commonwealth Club, and he explained to local fans why the Oakland Athletics will not be allowed to move to their area. In the early 1990s, the rights to the San Jose area were given to then San Francisco Giants’ owner Bob Lurie in response to his threat of moving the team to Santa Clara County. Selig went on to say that the current Giants ownership bought the team and spent money to build a stadium knowing that San Jose was part of their territory, and to move another team there wouldn’t be fair.
Selig also met with San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, and they discussed the same thing. In Selig's speech, he also talked about the game’s record attendance, and he once again brought up the letter he sent to union head Donald Fehr regarding the tougher penalties for positive steroid tests.
Washington, D.C. Land Offers Too Low
The BOB report wouldn’t be complete without some kind of update on either the Washington Nationals' sale or their prospective stadium. Last week, DC officials began making offers for the land for the Washington National’s new stadium. Land owners received letters in the mail stating what the District is willing to pay for the land, and several landowners are saying the prices are too low.
The city needs to have control of the 20-acre site by the end of the year in order to begin construction of the stadium next spring. If the landowners can't settle up with the city, then the money gets put into a trust, and D.C. will try to take the land through eminent domain. At that point, the owner could take the case to court, but they’ll only be arguing the ultimate sale price. That’s the city's hammer, and they’re going to be more then willing to use it.
I don’t see this slowing the construction of the $535 million stadium. In addition, several attorneys will make money off of this, because they’re the only ones who will be able to help the landowners get fair value.
Kansas City Sales Tax Proposal on Ballot Next April
Both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals are looking for funds for stadium improvements, and the public will get a chance to decide in April whether or not to give them the money. Neil DeMause, author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit, says that the decision could ultimately come down to whether the teams are successful on the field or not.
Both stadiums opened 32 years ago, and since that time they’ve been treated equally. If the Chiefs were given money for Arrowhead Stadium, then the Royals received an equal amount of money for Kauffman Stadium. This provision is actually written into both teams' current leases, and some are calling for the teams' treatment to be separated. That would mean the marginally successful Chiefs would probably have a better chance of securing funds than the last-place Royals would.
The vote actually takes place the day after the Royals' season opener, and if Royals owner David Glass follows through on his plans to add to the team’s payroll, it could go a long way towards getting the fans' vote.
Seattle Continues to Draw Fans Despite Second Straight Last-Place Finish
For the second straight year, the Seattle Mariners will finish with a losing record. In addition, unless they have a strong September run, they’ll finish last in the AL West for the second straight year. Despite all of this, they’re fourth in the American League in attendance. Only the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have been better draws.
Attendance is down 10% from last year and 20% from 2003, yet the Mariners continue to be near the top of the list. On top of that, they’re also among the highest television draws in all of baseball. While some of this year's solid numbers can be attributed to the nice run rookie pitcher Felix Hernandez has had, a lot of the numbers have to be attributed to a loyal fan base.
Brian Borawski is a member of SABR's Business of Baseball Committee and writes about the Detroit Tigers at his own website, TigerBlog. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail.
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