A League of Her Own

Reinsdorf's Beef with Ricketts Marinated in Tasty Irony

MLB 2009: Cubs Spring Training in AZ
Why must this Cubs fan in Mesa resort to tree-limb malfeasance to get his hands on a souvenir? Maybe it's the looming surcharge awaiting all ticket-buyers in this year's Cactus League festivities.

Paul Sullivan has been reporting on the simmering feud between White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and Cubs owner Tom Ricketts (along with the Arizona legislators behind the deal in question) over a proposed surcharge on all Cactus League spring training games this preseason, a tax that would help fund Mesa's new super-fun spring break party center featuring Kevin Millar and the Clubhouse Gang. Reinsdorf isn't the only team bigwig who is not a fan of the league-wide surcharge, as the Phoenix Business Journal reports:

D-backs President Derrick Hall also doesn't like the idea of leaguewide ticket surcharges to benefit the Cubs. 

"We want the Cubs to stay here badly, but not at the expense of our fans," Hall said. "I've heard the argument that the other teams should be willing to because of the visiting crowds that the Cubs bring to their games. They do draw well, as do we, yet we were creative in our search for a new site to identify a partner willing to finance the entire project without public dollars."

Tom Ricketts and the good-time Cubbie bunch aren't commenting on the issue, but that hasn't stopped the mayor of Mesa from calling Reinsdorf a two-faced party pooper:

Smith said the proposed surcharge -- the "Cubs tax" -- would not affect "current revenue streams" for the other 13 teams that train in the Cactus League. He then noted that Reinsdorf's Sox left Tucson for a publicly funded spring training complex in Glendale, Ariz.

"Is this the same Jerry Reinsdorf that skipped out on Pima County taxpayers who had spent tens of millions of dollars to provide him with a taxpayer-funded stadium, to come to Glendale, where Maricopa County taxpayers provided him a Taj Mahal spring-training facility?" Smith said.

Smith also said Reinsdorf's White Sox play in a publicly funded ballpark in Chicago, and that Reinsdorf looked into buying the Phoenix Coyotoes, who play in a publicly funded facility in Glendale. 

"The irony is delicious," Smith said.

I can see the arguments from both sides. I just happened to have read the section on ticket prices and new stadiums in Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong (a great read from a couple of years ago by the people at Baseball Prospectus) on Friday night. (Do I know how to party or what?) 

One of the excellent points they make in that section is that baseball owners, like any good business people, set a price point that maximizes their revenue. They don't raise ticket prices when expenses like player's salaries go up. They raise ticket prices as demand goes up. They gauge the market to determine that perfect price that brings in the greatest revenue. Set it any lower, and they're leaving money on the table. Any higher, and they will sell fewer tickets and pocket less revenue.

Tacking on an extra surcharge (especially on games that don't take place in the magical land of Cubbiness) could definitely curb the enthusiasm of other teams' snowbird fan base and bring down those teams' profits.

On the other hand, all those teams will profit from the influx of stadium-hopping Cub fans, a stream of revenue replenishment made possible by the Cubs' decision to stay in Mesa. 

In the end, I fully expect the advantage of having the Cubbie faithful showering the desert with discretionary income will far outweigh any dip in ticket sales brought on by the surcharge. The Sox and D-Backs will be just fine, but I would be disappointed in Reinsdorf if he didn't look steadfastly grumpy about the situation.


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31 Comments

itsjenjen said:

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Like you, I can see both sides. In the end, I think the league altogether would benefit from the surcharge, as it seems the Cubs are already supporting the other teams by fan draw as it is. Good post.

secdelahc said:

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Why oh why did you have to bring up price elasticity? Although it is amazing that all the crap I'm learning about in school can be brought into baseball discussion...

AndCounting said:

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On the bright side, I don't foresee it coming up again.

secdelahc said:

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And then it becomes yet another useless fact in my brain. Story of my life!

Doc said:

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The cubs should just move to Florida...that will show those jerks.

FrankS said:

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Yeah, screw Reinsdorf. Too bad the Cubs can't get out of the six games they play each year with the White Sox. How much extra does Reinsdorf make on the surcharges for the three home games? Or when he tried to sell the tickets to the Cubs games to only people with certain ticket packages?

AndCounting said:

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I didn't go into it in the post, but that book also goes into how publicly financed stadiums really screw over the taxpayers in most cases. One of the points is that the revenue from the stadiums a) really just takes money away from other recreational spots in the city where people would otherwise spend money, and b) funnel that money to the owners of the teams. The south side of Chicago hasn't exactly been revitalized by the $150 million they paid for that stadium (although it was the least expensive of the new generation of stadiums...but also the only one 100% publicly financed).

It's a completely different story for the spring training facilities, though, because the revenue is coming from outside of Mesa, for the most part. The people who go to the Cell are people who would be in Chicago or the Chicago area anyway. People going to see Cactus League games are coming from all over, which makes a public investment much more sensible.

FrankS said:

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Perhaps the people who go to the Cell would be in Chicago anyway, but don't they still have busloads of people coming from Iowa to see Cubs games?

melissa said:

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The stadium doesn't only draw people to the city it provides jobs for people that live in the city. I think the city also collects an amusement tax on the tickets. The benefits of the team staying in Chicago outweigh the cost to the tax payers.

FrankS said:

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People who went to school for a great many years beg to differ with your opinion. That money could have been invested into other projects or industries that would have a greater return for the city than a sports team.

melissa said:

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Frank, Do you honestly believe the money would have been diverted to schools had the stadium not been built? As a tax payer in Illinois and Cook County, I highly doubt it. I would love to see a study that could actually calculate the value of keeping the Sox in Chicago as opposed to having let them leave. Front office and players also live in the area and contribute to community service projects as well the local economy. I would also add that their games do draw people into the city that wouldn't otherwise be coming into Chicago. There are visiting teams that do have a higher draw than normal Sox games like Cubs, Twins, Red Sox, Yankees and Indians. I also think it was good for the image of Chicago when the Sox won the WS and the celebration showed how incredible the city looked. There is value in positive press that isn't necessarily able to show direct financial gain.

AndCounting said:

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The book does a much better job than I would of describing the situation. It's (mostly) available online through Google Books. But I think the most telling point is that the jobs a stadium generates are rather small compared to the space, especially considering the place is open for business for about 5 hours at a time, 81 days a year. They can tax the tickets, you're right. But the studies they've done on cities that have built new stadiums essentially show no change for the most part, and in a few cases a negative change.

Not sure if the link I gave will send you right there, but this issue is tackled on page 215 ff.

Doc said:

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The cubs should just move to Florida...that will show those jerks.

Doc said:

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Posting from my phone results in duplicate posts. Yuckers.

Teebob2000 said:

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Who's the "Smith" that's quoted?

FrankS said:

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The mayor of Mesa, AZ. His first name is Scott.

Teebob2000 said:

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Ah, got it.

berselius said:

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Reinsdorf is one to talk. Aside from the publicly-funded stadium the Sox have in AZ, he also threatened to move the Sox to Tampa in the early 80s before he and his goverment pals strongarmed the IL legislature to pay for a rebuild of Comiskey park

AndCounting said:

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I wish I could remember where I read this (maybe it was the Baseball b/w the #'s book) but I just saw something about how that threat to move the Sox to Tampa was entirely fabricated. There wasn't an ounce of interest from anyone in Tampa in hosting the White Sox at that time. Just a completely empty threat from Reinsdorf. More than anything, I think this is just posturing to temper the outrage of any Sox fans that have to pay extra money. It probably doesn't really bother him one bit other than the jealousy that he hadn't thought of that idea when he moved the team's ST site.

AndCounting said:

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Yeah, it was in the book. They actually pinned the threat on the IL governor's office. /mocksurprise

FrankS said:

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I can understand that Carl is preoccupied with the Colts today. Did Julie take a trip down I-65 to party with Carl? Hey, at least the Hawks and the Bulls both won last night.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Busy sports day for Julie: Chelsea v. Arsenal this morning,f IU v. Northwestern this afternoon, shopping for Superbowl party, and now on to Superbowl party. Sorry!

Just think, there will be ever MORE headlines for Monday morning!

Doc said:

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I'm rather disappointed by the lack of a Super Bowl game thread here. boo.

JulieDiCaro said:

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You want one?

I'm heading out to a party, but I'll put one up if people want one.

Carl Heartscubs Gierhan said:

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I can do a quickie

Carl Heartscubs Gierhan said:

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I had a little time before work this morning and found a couple headlines, but thought
1. Adam's post deserved to be left up, because it's so good.
2. I wanted something to post Monday morning, because seriously, are any of the Cubs beat writers going to work on anything tonight?
3. I'm lazy.

gravedigger said:

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Being unable to drink during the Super Bowl -- when one of your fav teams is playing -- is one of the lamest things I can think of.

Carl Heartscubs Gierhan said:

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You should make Shirley Temples!

Steve Dale said:

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When I first saw the headline - I thought Reinsdorf (a nice man, by the way) had the ricketts. An illness people once frequently got - decades and decades ago - from not getting enough vitamin c.

FergieJ said:

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Headline: White Sox Oppose "Cubs Tax"

Let’s look at the White Sox’ scorecard, shall we?

Shook down Illinois for a new stadium built by taxpayers after stringing along Tampa;
Shook down Sarasota, Florida a new stadium in Tucson built in part by taxpayers
LEFT the Sarasota stadium for a new stadium in Tucson, Arizona built in part by taxpayers
LEFT the Tucson stadium with a meager buyout for a new stadium in Glendale, Arizona built in part by taxpayers

Not so much ironic as obnoxiously hypocritical!

Gene-Paul Kelly said:

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Camelback Ranch lured the Los Angeles Dodgers as well as the White Sox.

Reinsdorf pulled off a coup, considering the Dodgers trained in DODGERTOWN. As a result, Camelback Ranch had the largest attendance of any Cactus League facility in 2009, incuding mesa.

The Cubs are just upset that they play in an aging, outdated facilty that they cant extract more revenue off of.

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