Cheap Seats

Brother, can you spare a hundred million dimes?

January 03, 2009

Brother, can you spare a hundred million dimes?

The day has finally come. Bill DeWitt has finally said out loud that paying for the new Busch Stadium is a big reason that the Cardinals have more payroll constraints than other teams who draw less fans than the Redbirds do.

He mentioned it in a radio interview Friday in which he defended the Cardinals against fans' claims that they are being cheap this off season by refusing to invest more money in improving the team.

Wait a minute... Wasn't the new stadium built to help the Cardinals INCREASE their revenue so they could remain competitive with the top teams in baseball? Now it is an albatross that holds down what the Redbirds can afford to spend for players?

I would prefer the Cardinals put a top quality team on the field and played in a cow pasture than put a fourth place team on the field and played in a palace. And Busch Stadium III is no palace. As hard as I have tried to embrace it, I still liked Busch Stadium II better. It's okay. But not worth sacrificing the ability to put a good team field.

But the whole "it's not us, it's the cost of the ballpark" excuse is very thin.

While the Cardinals claim they are footing the bill for the $388 million new ballpark almost entirely out of the operational revenue of the club, it is actually being completely paid for by the taxpayers -- and then some.

Back in 2005, the city of St. Louis eliminated a five percent amusement tax on Cardinals tickets to help get the stadium built. According to St. Louis Journalism review, the elimination of that tax will put $350 million in the pockets of DeWitt and company over the first 30 years Busch Stadium III is in business.

The SLJR reported in June 2007 that the Cardinals will get far more than just to pocket the five percent they were paying to the cash-strapped city. According to the publication, the Birds get:

* $20 million from property tax abatement on the new stadium over 25 years by the city of St. Louis. The Cardinals paid $604,000 in property taxes in 2005.

* $108 million, what it will cost St. Louis County taxpayers to retire the $45 million of bonds sold for the stadium.

* $42.7 million from the state of Missouri for tax credits and highway ramp construction.

* $100 million over 30 years from the naming rights for the new stadium. It has been estimated it would be worth $3 to $5 million dollars annually. The actual amount isn't known because the Cardinals have refused to divulge the information.

* $40 million from the Ballpark Founders Program, which charged season ticket holders an additional $2,000 to $7,500 for the better seats in the new ballpark.

* $10 million from selling memorabilia from the old Busch Stadium: 11,000 to 14,000 pairs of seats at $600 a pair, signs, urinals, etc.

The cost of subsidies from taxpayers for the new ballpark comes to around $520 million. Other sources of revenue are about $150 million. This does not include the considerable amount of increased revenue the Cardinals will take in from other sources at the new ballpark--higher ticket prices, premium seats, luxury suites, increased advertising, etc.

The ballpark deal will also considerably increase the value of the team. When it is sold, the Cardinals' owners can expect to make a profit of at least $600 to $700 million. This assumes they will hold on to the team until 2013. They would incur penalties if they cash out before then.

The Cardinals' owners bought the team in 1995 for $150 million. This included the stadium, adjacent parking garages and various parcels of land. The parking garages and some of the land were sold for $101 million, giving them a baseball team at a net cost of $49 million.

According to Forbes magazine, the Cardinals are worth nearly 10 times that amount in 2008.

So, enough of the crying poor. Let's get some freaking players. The Cardinals can easily afford a $125 million payroll like the poorer drawing Mariners and Tigers while still making a reasonable profit. And anything less is just the team lining its pockets.