The Bucs Won’t Be Relocating

The Bucs are still struggling to sell tickets.
The Bucs are still struggling to sell tickets. /
The Bucs aren't relocating.
The Bucs aren't relocating. /

Contrary to a sentiment posed yesterday by Jayson Braddock on Opposing Views, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not be moving anytime soon. As was pointed out by Tom Jones of the Times, Braddock opines the Bucs could be headed out of Tampa in the next few years.

"I wouldn’t be surprised to see two of their franchises move out of state. At face value it appears that the young Buccaneers are finally turning it around, but then you realize that they play in the same division as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. Josh Freeman could very well be a top 10 quarterback in the NFL but Drew Brees and Matt Ryan are ranked higher than him on that list. The owner, Malcolm Glazer, seems more interested in spending money on his Manchester United Futbol team (I just threw up a little bit after calling soccer football), then his Bucs team. Then there are the character concerns we’ve talked about here on the site."

I’ll skip quoting the rest because it fails to be even vaguely relevant to why a team would move. Braddock seems to be applying football thinking to a relocation strategy which doesn’t make much sense in that context. Here’s where the possibility the Bucs could leave Tampa does hold some water, the Bucs attendance has been abysmal and looks to continue in that direction, and Tampa is never going to be a major market like an LA could potentially be.

Here’s where it falls apart, there’s a lot of legal maneuvering and non-football related details that need to be considered before you can move a franchise in the NFL. For starters the Bucs have a relatively new stadium that is still Super Bowl-worthy by NFL standards (something that apparently Sun Life Stadium in Miami is not). They also have a fairly airtight lease and the city of Tampa has done them many favors along the way, well-documented favors that would make it rather difficult for the Buccaneers if a court battle ensued.

Now before getting into all the boring legal mumbo-jumbo, let’s look at a more superficial reason that the relocation argument Braddock is making is bunk, no football team has ever moved itself because one player might be stymied in a tough division, nor do character concerns have anything to do with relocation either (as he extrapolates in the next paragraph). Those types of concerns are temporary and they don’t dictate whether or not you change cities. And despite the relatively poor state of attendance in Tampa, the Bucs are still one of the more valuable NFL franchises. They’re not failing in Tampa.

But back to the legal reasons, the Bucs lease at Raymond James is nearly a gift. The county of Hillsborough and the city of Tampa have done everything from the initial levying of the half-cent sales tax to build the place, to writing the lease and making the deal in such a way that the Buccaneers incurred almost no cost in its construction and retain virtually all of the profits. The Bucs pay no taxes on the stadium as the county legally ruled the stadium was a condominium so they could rent the Buccaneers portions of the stadium and not get the themselves caught up in all kinds of tax jeopardy (the Bucs technically make tax payments that the county then refunds annually). This is why you can choose to rent the field at Raymond James for an event, its akin to renting a condo for a weekend the way Hillsborough county looks at it.

The point is the Bucs have a sweet gig, they basically get all the perks of stadium ownership without the massive tax penalty that comes with actually owning a stadium (that Hillsborough County is skipping out on too). This means both that a.) it would make very little financial sense to move the team without a guarantee of a better stadium (so a new stadium) with a comparable, if not better, lease. And b.) it means if the Bucs try to break their lease a judge is going to have a hard time not siding with the county.

I honestly doubt it gets that, far I think that was purely speculative on Braddock’s part, it’s possible, but I don’t see a high likelihood that the Bucs are headed anywhere anytime soon.