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Can San Antonio Afford A Franchise Worth $206M Plus The Spurs?
Sports franchises aren’t just toys anymore however. If you are an owner of a sports franchise that is a member of what I call the Big 4, then you are definitely a deal maker. But to try and have another professional sports franchise in which the average player’s salary may very well be $2.3 million is unheard of in this market. Despite how hard many have been trying to sell the public on the vision, many are not following that logic because they simply cannot comprehend the costs that are involved. Or are they simply smarter than the politicians give them credit for? I think it may be a combination of the two but for argument’s sake, I want to put out some facts that many in this city are simply not telling the public.
IT COSTS TO SING ‘AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL’ IN THE SEVENTH INNING Whether you want to hear it or not, the fact is that city and county leaders are seriously looking at luring the Florida Marlins to the Alamo City. My first question is why would you want the Marlins? Surely the city’s hierarchy of leadership realizes that this town isn’t supporting minor league baseball so why would they even assume that there is enough sponsorship, err disposable income, to support the Marlins? I am beginning to feel another migraine headache come my way with this topic. What I am seeing is a repeat performance on the diatribe that city leaders were trying to use in luring the New Orleans Saints to San Antonio on a permanent basis and they are using the same sales pitches and by golly the same sales staff.
I’ll get back to the pitch in a minute because I want to throw some numbers out at you on the costs for singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch. The first number I want to throw out at you is $206 million. That is the 2005 value that Forbes magazine placed on the Marlins in their “lists” section of their website (www.forbes.com). The next number I want to throw out at you is this: $280 million. What is that number you ask? How about the magic number for which current owner Jeffrey Loria may want to vanquish the Marlins from his portfolio. The last number I want to give you is a stadium cost. How about $440 million. The complete total for costs to have the Marlins could possibly be a whopping $700 million.
That is not some imaginary number coming out of my head folks. The $440 million figure comes from what the city of Washington, D.C. will be shelling out roughly for their new stadium project for the Washington Nationals. As a matter of fact I implore you to follow this link, http://www.dcfpi.org/10-26-04tax.htm, and get an understanding of just what that city is about to get themselves into. What San Antonio doesn’t have in their whole equation are two things: land for a stadium and more importantly, a team. What is also very apparent is the fact that there are not many places to put a baseball stadium that meets MLB specifications in this city either. You can forget about the downtown area cause the land doesn’t exist. South and West sides of town are eliminated because there are no economic retail vehicles. In other words, eateries. The only logical spot that I know of is somewhere near Retama Park.
Okay so now that I have your head spinning, what do you think is the average cost for even going to the ballpark these days? How about on average you are probably looking at $50 a person, including concessions. Again this isn’t some magical number out of the air. You can get a baseball ticket for around $25 in many parks and by the time you buy a hotdog, soda, popcorn, program and the like, that’s easily $25. Those who have gone to other professional sporting events will tell you that $25 is cheap. If you’re a beer, wine or margarita person, you are looking at anywhere from $5.50 to $12 for drinks in some markets. Oh and I forgot, parking may run you $15 to $20 as well.
I hope you were also keeping something in mind as you read those numbers about the estimated costs for going to a MLB game because if that entity comes to San Antonio, it will be competing with some other sports entertainment venues. With eighty-one home games, the supposed MLB franchise will be competing with the Spurs during April, May and June. If the Missions are still in town, then both it and big brother will be vying for attention during almost the same calendar times. Hockey will be competing for the weekend as will the WNBA when it is in play. That doesn’t even take into account that you may have college baseball/softball, high school softball/baseball, and your kids who are in Little League. The fact of the matter is that sports entertainment is truly about supply and demand and know one can tell you if the demand for another sports franchise actually meets the demand for it.
GETTING DOWN TO THE BRASS TAX OF THE MATTER Now all of that may sound really good until you figure out who has to foot the initial bill to bring the Marlins in. That’s where those other two figures come into play. Loria bought the Marlins for $158 million in 2002. Now of course many would say that my $280 million selling price is steep but see in a capitalist society, which is not unrealistic in the sports world. Consider this. The Spurs are worth $350 million right about now. If the team is ever sold to an interested party, you don’t think that $480 million to even $500 million wouldn’t be asked for? Call me in about four years when this team grabs two to four more titles and then we’ll see if you’re right. As far as the Marlins goes, that $280 million price is a bargain considering that it’s $74 million above the value of a team that hasn’t won much in recent years.
Now who pays for that team is a whole different animal. I’ve heard and read that Red McCombs would want to be a part of the local ownership group. Remember when I mentioned that this sales pitch sounded similar? Well it seems that whenever serious interest into a pro sports team is mentioned, everyone wants to run to McCombs for his input. It’s like he’s the godfather of the sports world or something. I’m gong to be perfectly frank; Red isn’t that important to me on a deal like this. In all honesty, Red is a former owner and I want to emphasize the word ‘former’. He sold the Minnesota Vikings for $600 million and he has said that he wants no part of being the top dog in such a project. Well if that’s the case, why do county and city leaders constantly run to him for his support? Because they figure that’s the easiest way to get the public to buy into the deal.
Let me break down some more numbers that Red and others refuse to tell the people of San Antonio. Whether you want to hear this or not, there will be a taxing mechanism of some sort if this city is fortunate enough to lure Major League Baseball to South Texas. You can start preparing for a cents tax coming forth. Of course the leadership isn’t completely off their rockers. The way the money could be raised is by raising a sales tax base a smidgen over here and the hotel/motel tax a percentage over there. Mass transit authorities can raise fairs a whole penny and take 3/8 of it as their share of the contribution. In other words taxes will be raised to make this happen should that come to pass.
If all of these sounds like a pipe dream, don’t bet on it. What you can bet on is the fact that as long as city and county leaders firmly believe that big business is what will drive us to having another sports franchise, you will continue to read and hear about such grandiose ideals. What I suggest is that maybe it is time for the sports fan in San Antonio to start doing their homework on these issues.
I don’t think there is room in this one horse town for a thoroughbred and a mule; especially a $206 million mule that may cost as much as $700 million to stay on the farm. Questions need to be asked folks as to whether your pocketbook can handle another sports team here. From this vantage point, Major League Baseball in this town could be a giant size disaster.