There were two interesting articles in the last week on baseball in Tampa Bay.
Last Friday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times interviewed new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. When asked about the viability of Tampa Bay to be the long-term home of Major League Baseball, the commissioner replied,
“I think with an appropriate facility that Tampa Bay can be a vibrant major-league market,” Manfred said.
That’s a good thing.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday in an article in the St. Petersburg Tribune, the mayors of Clearwater and Dunedin commented on the need to make sure professional baseball stays in their neighborhoods. The article provided an update on the ongoing secret negotiations between the Blue Jays and the City of Dunedin to keep the Jays in the Tampa Bay suburb.
“Our staff and the entire (city) commission is dedicated to negotiating the best deal for our residents and our region,” (Dunedin Mayor Bujalski) said. “We’re not going to give away the farm. We’re not going to do anything that is not in the best interest of everyone. But that certainly doesn’t negate that we really, really want the Blue Jays to stay here. It’s important to us.”
The Mayor of Clearwater agreed.
Keeping the Phillies and Jays in Pinellas, as well as the Yankees in Tampa and other teams in their respective Florida cities for spring training, is critical, especially as Arizona now hosts half of the 30 major league teams. (Clearwater Mayor George) Cretekos, born and raised in Tarpon Springs, recalled when all but four major league teams trained in Florida – and four in Pinellas alone.
“We need to make sure we keep the teams we have in the area, and hopefully find ways to expand,” he said.
Both locations also intend on increasing their appeal for their minor league teams and other events.
Bujalski said Dunedin, too, will try to broaden the appeal of its stadium, to make it suitable for concerts and other events. Like the Phillies, the Blue Jays have their Class A Florida State League team here all summer.
“It’s not just about six to eight weeks in the spring,” she said.
So which is it? Is Tampa Bay a Major League market or a multi-Minor League market? Does the area have the economic strength to support more baseball per capita than any other region in the US?
According to the article, the Blue Jays and Phillies have an economic impact of $200 million dollars per year. There is some validity that this might not all be a substitution effect, or the shuffling of local dollars from one venue of entertainment to another. In a 2009 study, 70% of polled Phillies spring training attendees and 57% of Blue Jays spring training attendees were from out-of-state. Using the 2009 poll and 2014 attendance, that would mean 85,341 fans came to Clearwater from out-of-state and 38,703 came to Dunedin from out-of-state.
However, in the 2010 ABC Coalition Report on the viability of the Tampa Bay area to retain Major League Baseball, the commission concluded “people across our region must quell patriarchal differences and view this process as a cooperative, regional endeavor”.
Is Tampa Bay a market that can sustain all levels of professional baseball from mid-February to early October?
That seems to be a heavy load.