St. Pete Council proposes an "Exploration Fee", and other news

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Wrapping up the latest stadium news, including the biggest from the St. Pete Council.

One of the city council members for St. Petersburg has an interesting proposal for the Rays: allow the front office to explore stadium locations outside of Pinellas County for an annual fee. The council member is Charlie Gerdes, who was not notably vocal during the Rays' presentation last week to the city, but he has reportedly been considering the idea for months. His proposal of a $1.42M "exploration fee" could move stadium talks in a positive direction.

The Tampa Bay Times interviewed Hillsborough Commission Chairman Ken Hagan, who said said he was "ecstatic," and eager to support the idea. "The Rays should compensate St. Pete for the right to consider other locations,'' Hagan said, "and I would encourage the Rays to seriously consider this."

The Rays VP leading the stadium negotiation front is Michael Kalt, who issued a statement in response to the proposed fee:

"We are pleased that the council is taking up this issue, and we appreciate that Councilman Gerdes has brought it up for discussion. It is going to take a number of conversations to help move this along, and we look forward to greater collaboration with St. Petersburg."

It's important to note that the Rays' contract with St. Pete is not with Mayor Bill Foster (a lawyer by trade sure to argue against the compromise) or with the city itself, but with the City Council - who would be able to amend the contract to include this fee.

The front office received the amendment in writing last week.

City council chariman Karl Nurse was another member who talked to the Times, putting his support behind the amendment as well:

"One of our dilemmas is that the lawyers are always encouraging us to do nothing and say nothing,'' Nurse said. The Rays "are our partners and we need to talk to them. And we need to look down the road. Even if you started that conversation today, it would be five years before you walked into a new stadium.''

The amendment includes language to encourage the Rays to consider the recent Carillon/Gateway region's proposal before moving on to the rest of the Bay area, something the Rays had already consented to in the past.

For the full story, visit the Times.

***

Painting stadium developments in a bad light, the Marlins Stadium situation continues to look worse for the tax payers of Miami. Recent developments show that the stadium may have come in under budget, but instead of that money going back to the city who financed the stadium, it will be reinvested by Jerrery Loria, owner of the Marlins.

The tens of millions of dollars would reportedly be reinvested to cover future stadium repairs and costs, something the Marlins would have had to pay themselves. The team had been previously required to finance $131M into the stadium budget of $515M, but had thus far invested only $102M. The difference they will no longer have to pay is worth a little over two years of Jose Reyes.

The Miami Herald:

While the $29 million the Marlins could save represents a small portion of the stadium's $515 million construction budget, a lower tab could have made a big difference long-term for Miami-Dade taxpayers. A combination of a horrible credit market and Miami-Dade's strained finances left the county to create a borrowing package that brought sky-high interest costs when commissioners approved the deal in the grim summer of 2009.

"The market was a hard market in 2009,'' said Frank Hinton, head of Miami-Dade's bond division.

One bond package in particular illustrates how shaving millions off the construction cost could have amounted to enormous savings.

When Miami-Dade sold a series of bonds to raise $91 million for the stadium construction in 2009, Wall Street financiers exacted repayment terms will have Miami-Dade paying more than $1 billion in interest on the bonds through 2048.

The story goes on to detail how other stadium proposals have come in under budget in recent history, a glimmer of hope in the Miami stadium saga, and discusses team strategies for funding the upkeep of their balparks.

***

Widely respected Lightning owner Jeff Vinik recently cast his vision on the Tampa Bay region. He's known for supporting the revamp of Channelside since purchasing the Bolts in 2010. He is an investment banker from Boston that has fallen in love with the Tampa area. Now he and his family are focused on giving back to the people of Tampa Bay and have infused charity into the DNA of the Lightning.

His attempts to purchase Chanelside fell through last year, but he hasn't lost hope. As downtown Tampa could be a location for the Rays, his vision for the area is important to consider; however, on the Stadium struggle that could transform the region that he has become so invested in, he had little to say:

"It's not something I think about for even a second. We have a lot on our plate here with the Tampa Bay Lightning and building it into a world class organization. I have the utmost respect for Stu (Sternberg) and Matt (Silverman) over there and I think they do a great job but... I have too much respect for them to really get involved in their business."

Should Vinik choose to leverage his opinion, I would be quick to lend an open mind. Beyond his investments in Hockey and Tampa Bay, Vinik sits on the board of directors for Liverpool FC, a part of Fenway Sports Group, of which he is a minority owner. He knows the industry, and he's easily become a big player in downtown Tampa.

You can find the whole story here.

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