Here’s an interesting idea for the Rays: Tie stadium money to performance

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Here’s an interesting suggestion how to help pay for a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays: tie some portion of any money from taxpayers to performance on the field.

Rays owners may not be too receptive of this idea while the team is in the midst of a ten game losing streak, but such a plan is what Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald is suggesting his community do to with money earmarked for upkeep on Cleveland’s three pro sports stadiums.

Last year, voters in Cuyahoga County approved a 20-year extension of a sin tax to pay for upkeep on Cleveland’s three pro sports stadiums, Deadspin reports. Yesterday, Fitzgerald presented a proposal to tie part of that payout to the teams’ performance.

The tax on cigarettes and alcohol is expected to raise at least $260 million over the next two decades, with the money earmarked for improvements and repairs to FirstEnergy Stadium, Progressive Field, and Quicken Loans Arena. The measure passed, but it hasn’t yet been agreed how to distribute the money. Fitzgerald wants 20 percent of that annual payout to be contingent on where the Browns, Indians, and Cavs appear in the standings each year.

Fitzgerald calls it, a little obviously, a “win tax,”

FitzGerald, a Democrat who is running for governor, has proposed forming a “fan advisory council” to develop the criteria used to judge success. He suggested the 20 percent of the sin tax would not be awarded on a “winner takes all basis,” and also suggested that criteria besides winning might play a factor in how the money is awarded.

“We love these teams, we’re loyal to these teams and we’re committed to maintaining these facilities,” said FitzGerald. “But we can also try to demand to get something a little bit better than we’ve gotten over the past 50 years.”

Cleveland fans have suffered much longer than Tampa Bay fans, who have enjoyed a Super Bowl win, a Stanley Cup win, and a World Series appearance during the last two decades. The Rays have been one of the winningest clubs in all of baseball during the Joe Maddon era.

But what if the Rays return to the losing form they displayed during the first several years of their inception? The public is already hesitant about investing its tax dollars in a sports stadium; it certainly doesn’t want to invest money into a home for a perpetually losing team.

Tying funding to performance, while intriguing as a concept, has a number of things against it, notes Barry Petchesky. For one, there are often times when it’s good to lose, like when tanking for a draft pick; You don’t want to provide incentives for any team to strive for middle-of-the-pack.

For another, winning can’t be correlated to public economic benefit; No matter how well a team does, it’s still getting basically getting money for nothing.

Material from the Cleveland Plain Dealer was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.