Pittsburgh Pirates Feed at the Public Trough in Florida

Bucs Tap the Florida Tourist to Pay for Its Ballfield Enhancements

As a Pittsburgh Pirates season ticket holder and subscriber to its email notices, I received a message from the club titled, “Bucs Unveil Major Renovations at McKechnie Field" (the Bradenton, Florida spring training site). We learn of new fan amenities and additional seating, and are told by Pirates President Frank Coonelly, that, “We're always trying to make sure everyone has a great experience at the ballpark. We can now provide fans with additional options and opportunities to have a good time while catching a game and enjoying the outstanding weather we have in Bradenton." On its face, this is good news.

The only thing we are not told, it appears, is the cost of the goodies and how they were financed.  The answer is troubling.

The tariff for the renovations/enhancements is $10 million, but the Pirates are footing only $3 million of the bill, the rest of it to come from a Tourist Development Tax assessed on all lodgings of less than six months per year, including hotels, thus the middle class visitor to the Bradenton/Sarasota area will subsidize the cost of tickets, relieving the wealthy team owners of their obligation.

In an era in which government services considered vital are being cut out of necessity, funding can always be found not for a cause which is “extremely compelling”, but to further feather the nests of the rich.

Obviously, I enjoy baseball as much as anyone, but no one should be forced to subsidize the cost of my or anyone else’s tickets to a game!

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Ed M February 25, 2013 at 03:33 AM
Jeesh Oren! This effects you! NOT! You are not paying for any of this! My gosh! Get a life!
Duke February 26, 2013 at 03:29 AM
Who subsidized the building of Heinz Field, PNC Park and Consol Energy Center? The taxpayers did! Talk about corporate welfare! It is alive and doing well in Western Pennsylvania!
Ed M February 26, 2013 at 12:59 PM
I also think Heinz, PNC and Consol tossed money into that pot, Duke.
Roger February 26, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Ed, you are right. I think it was the Penquins who contributed money to the ice rink, Consol later was giving naming rights. But, the point remains that all three of these had some participation from the teams involved. However, none of these would have happened apart from major taxpayer involvement. Plan A (remember that?) made the significant statement regarding the football and baseball stadiums. Plan A went down in flames, voted down by the citizens as being bad public involvement. It was only after Mayor Murphy went through the back door was the money from Harrisburg provided for these two projects. This move was an "in your face" move that continues to taint the finish on these two stadiums. Some of us will never set foot in them because of Plan A. As for the ice rink, the slot gambling money was intended to minimize property taxes. In fact, Gov Rendell even went so far as to suggest elimination of property taxes. I think we knew that was a stretch, but we bought the reduction concept. Again, the taxpayers were stabbed. The miniscule reduction of property taxes is measured in pennies, not even dollars. Much of the cost to build the ice rink came from slot money. Yea, yea, yea, ... I hear those who contend that "a certain amount of the money was to be used for public projects ...." To that assertion: Hogwash! The ice rink is another venue that shall never see my feet. All three sports venues were conceived, developed and built under a cloud.
Oren Spiegler February 27, 2013 at 10:02 AM
These are good points as usual, Roger. I remember “Plan A” and “Plan B” well. I did what was within my power as a private citizen at the time to express my disgust that either measure was being considered, that harnessing the police powers of government to compel “contributions” to defray the costs to be incurred by the greedy and shameless multi-millionaire Rooney and McClatchy families (soon to be followed be the equally shameless Mario Lemieux) was grossly inappropriate. In the David versus Goliath struggle against Plan A, David miraculously prevailed against all odds and millions of dollars invested by the pro-tax forces, but the people ultimately lost when the money was found through other means, the taxed given no choice in the matter. One of the most prominent advocates of the tax grab was Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce President Barbara McNees. The outrageous nature of this taking of public money is more evident today as government coffers formerly used to provide services many deem critical, are empty. How comforting to know that our money is in the pockets of the caviar and yacht set. I recall Governor Rendell promising at least 30% property tax reduction for all during his 2002 campaign, “…and if the Legislature does not act, I will”. Neither it nor he acted. The property tax reduction promise and its proponent turned out to be frauds. The promises made in exchange for entering the casino era in Pennsylvania are unfulfilled.
Ed M February 27, 2013 at 12:09 PM
Correct me if I'm wrong but aren't the taxpayers the ones who attend events at these venues? I see nothing wrong with using public funds (taxes) to assist in paying for things like this. What are taxes for in the 1st place?
Roger February 27, 2013 at 12:40 PM
Yes, ha, ha, .. with Plan A. One of the most notable happenings during the promotion of Plan A was all the Patty Burns look-alikes speaking about the importance of infrastructure in adjoining counties. If I recall, Plan A was a five county effort. Seeing Stan Savaran, and other sports announcers on TV telling us about why putting utilities in industrial parks in Washington County, Westmoreland County, etc was critical. Oh, what a joke! I guess these people who had so much recognition for their sports genre suddenly found water and sewer lines, electrical grids, and roads in remote areas had no shame. After doing those TV and radio pieces, they must have gone to the shower to wash off the gunk of their facade. For all the great work Patty Burns did in the media, her legacy was tainted by associating herself with this effort. She sold out, and that is a shame. Did they really think they were convincing in their argument?
Roger February 27, 2013 at 12:41 PM
Ed, since when is providing sports venues part of the job of the state government? Taxes are for supporting a government that provides protection, governing authorities for legal structures for societal order, infrastructure, and education. Sports venues are outside any of these domains.
Oren Spiegler February 28, 2013 at 12:21 AM
Thank you, Roger, for reminding all of us of the basic and legitimate functions of government, which are limited. As you know, the sports teams that come hat in hand to elected officials count on having a sufficient number of individuals that believe that it is appropriate for the working poor to fund the state of the art stadiums of the rich, and the team owners have never been disappointed. I wonder if former Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato has any regrets about what was perhaps the most ridiculous and offensive statement he ever made as our leader, that securing public funding for Consol Energy center was his “highest priority”. Governor Edward “Spendell” had no concern about the pension crisis that was metastasizing on his watch, but he sprung into action to aid the greedy and shameless Mario Lemieux to fleece the public, precluding Lemieux from having to dig deep into his gold-filled pockets to pay for his way. I suppose Rendell and Onorato foresaw the possibility that hockey fanatics would riot if money was not funneled to Lemieux.
Ed M February 28, 2013 at 11:41 AM
You are correct Roger. What chaps my shorts is those who whine and complain about this issue yet still attend events at these venues. To me, that is talking out of both side of your mouth.


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