Project: Sports stadiums
Tampa/St. Pete hasn't had a whole lot of luck building stadiums for its teams, existent and nonexistent. Its woes date back to 1986, when the city decided to build a domed stadium in an attempt to lure a major league baseball team. It spent $130 million on what is now known as Tropicana ( PEP) Field without so much as a batboy willing to grace its cozy confines. The city tried luring the Chicago White Sox in the late 1980s, but succeeded only in getting the Sox a new stadium. They then tried to lure the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants. Nothing came of the former attempt, while the latter was blocked by National League owners. When Major League Baseball expanded in 1993, the area was passed over for Denver and fellow Floridians in Miami. It would sit empty until 1998, when the expansion team the league promised the city in 1995 finally materialized. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays -- now just the Rays -- made it to the World Series in 2008, but the stadium never quite hit the big time. Its capacity has dropped from 45,369 in 1998 to little more than 34,000 last year as the team tarped off sections to deal with flagging attendance. Even with those cutbacks, average home attendance was still just above 55% at 18,900 in 2011 -- a playoff year for the Rays. Though average attendance was higher during the World Series year in 2008 at nearly 22,300, that was only 52% of maximum capacity at the time. The peak average was just above 23,000 in 2009, but half-full is just about the status quo at the Trop. Raymond James ( RJF) Stadium in Tampa looks like a steal by comparison. Opened in 1998 at a public-borne cost of $168.5 million, the stadium has served as home to the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and to Super Bowls in 2001 and 2009. That sounds great until you take into account that Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer is a billionaire businessman who likely could have paid for the whole facility himself. That may not have occurred to fans while the team was doing well in the late '90s and certainly not when it won the Super Bowl in 2002, but it's becoming a lot more clear now. Since Glazer started buying up shares of iconic English Premier League soccer club Manchester United between 2003 and 2005, the Buccaneers fortunes have taken an unfortunate turn for the worse. By the time the economic crisis hit in 2009, fans were making it abundantly clear how they felt about the quality of the product at their stadium and the state of the team's management. The team didn't sell out a single game on its home schedule in 2010. Instead of exploiting an NFL loophole that allows the team to buy back tickets at a third of their price and give them to charity to prevent television blackouts, Buccaneers management passed and kept the whole home slate off the air. The blackouts continued into last year, when five of the team's seven games at Raymond James were blacked out.