The Times has a blurb this morning in the business section about a news Rays ballpark. Apparently, Chuck Sykes has gathered a group of industry leaders that will publish a report evaluating options for raising the estimated $500MM-$600MM needed to build a new yard for our boys, regardless of where that yard is located.
Unfortunately, the committee didn’t ask for my input so, I am certain their report won’t have the following idea.
We need a Ballpark Tax.
Before you cover me in tea, let me explain. We don’t need to tax residents of Tampa Bay. After all, it is only partially our fault that the Trop is hanging around our neck. (Who builds a ballpark without a team? Right? Who elected that County Commission?). We need a Ballpark Tax to be levied on the Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners, and San Francisco Giants. After all, they used us as pawns to get their brand new ballparks without any compensation. Well, the bill has come due.
When I was a kid, the Sox, Mariners, and Giants all broke my heart.
The Sox were moving here in 1988. It was done. Commiskey Park was a dump and the Sox were getting run out of town. Then, at the 13th hour (I remember hearing a story once that the Sox gave the state a midnight deadline and the governor unplugged his clock to give himself an extra hour. But I can’t find any proof of that online. Of course, this being the internet, my 8-year-old memory is good enough proof), the state agreed to build new Commiskey and we were sunk.
Then, in 1993, the Giants were coming. The team was sold to Vince Naimoli. Special editions of newspapers were printed. Aspiring baseball bloggers wore Tampa Bay Giants T-Shirts to Coleman Middle School. And then it was undone. The NL didn’t approve the move so the club was sold to someone in San Fran who built that gem Joe Buck can’t stop raving about night after night.
Then again, in 1995, the Mariners were coming to Tampa. Amidst their run to the AL Wild Card they were flying local government officials to the Kingdome to survey our new club. Then SafeCo was approved. Later that year, Vince was awarded the D-Rays.
In the meantime, as a community, we were the other woman. We were the greatest bargaining chip in the history of professional sports. Every owner tells every municipality ‘if you don’t build me a stadium we’ll leave.’ During my young life, baseball owners were saying ‘if you don’t build me a ballpark, we’ll play in Tampa Bay…Tomorrow Night!’
Our local officials might have been giving the milk away for free in the 80s and 90s but, now it’s time for Chicago, Seattle, and San Fran to buy the cow. I am sure they like their new parks. I am sure they like their revived attendance numbers. Well, that didn’t just happen. Our emotional turmoil made it happen for them.
Since 2000, the Mariners have draw 32,585,556 fans to SafeCo Field. The White Sox have drawn 45,977,250 since 1991 and the Giants have drawn 41,428,121 since 2000. That’s 119,990,927 fans. At $1 per head, we’re 1/3 of the way to a new ballpark in Tampa Bay.
So, pass the tax. $1 per seat at SafeCo, Whatever-New-Commiskey-Is-Called-Now, and AT&T Park.