MLS seeks more Minnesota United stadium offers, says this isn’t extending deadline because it just isn’t

And now we know what the July 1 deadline for a new MLS stadium in Minneapolis really meant: MLS is now going to … look for other cities in Minnesota more amenable to giving a stadium piles of tax breaks!

Mark Abbott, the MLS deputy commissioner, said in comments to a local radio audience that a July 1 deadline for a stadium plan to emerge in Minneapolis had passed and he would now meet with St. Paul officials — who recently expressed interest — before the league decides whether to abandon Minnesota…

While Abbott insisted that MLS was not extending its deadline, he left the door open for Minneapolis to put together an 11th-hour bid to save the proposed downtown soccer stadium that would be near Target Field.

Yeeeeeah, that’d actually be more of a 13th-hour bid, seeing that the deadline was July 1, and it’s now July 2. But we get the picture: MLS wants a bidding war between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and wants everyone to know that the clock is ticking, but not to actually say when it will hit zero because that might limit their chances of getting the best offer. So it’s still “send money or we’ll shoot this soccer team” for now, meaning the league has to hope that Twin Cities residents (or at least politicians) are afraid of losing out on the joy that comes from watching soccer, like … okay, they should probably hope that no one was watching last night’s game.

Obama administration won’t allow Washington NFL stadium on RFK site unless team changes name

We all pretty much knew that the Washington NFL team wasn’t going to get a new stadium in D.C. unless it changed its racist nickname, but now it’s official:

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser this spring that the National Park Service, which owns the land beneath Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, was unlikely to accommodate construction of a new stadium for the Redskins unless the team changes its name.

Of course, President Obama is only going to be in office another year and a half, so it’s entirely possible that a new interior secretary would change the NPS policy on this come 2017. And D.C. officials were unlikely to approve a stadium without a name change anyway. But as far as sending a “Mr. Snyder, tear down that nickname!” message, it’s about as strong as they come.

Seattle lets bank keep naming rights to arena despite not paying for them for last four years

This is just incredible:

Shortly after the Sonics left Seattle, the contract between KeyBank and Seattle Center for naming rights for the sports arena came up for renewal. The price for the rights at that point was $1.3 million a year, but the city-owned Seattle Center offered a new price to reflect the fact that the arena would no longer host an NBA team: about $400,000 a year. But the bank still walked.

The consequence of KeyBank’s miserly ways? So far, nothing. For four years, the Cleveland-based bank’s logo has kept glowing red atop the arena, and its name is still invoked anytime a concert, Storm game, or roller derby takes place within its confines…

“If you take it down, what do you use instead?” asks Deborah Daoust, spokeswoman for Seattle Center. “It’s continuity for us, which is important from a branding aspect.”

Let’s see, you could maybe call it the Seattle Center Coliseum, which is what it was called before KeyBank bought the naming rights in the 1990s. Or the Storm Arena, if they wanted to follow the precedent set by the Miami Dolphins after naming rights sponsor Pro Player went bankrupt and stopped paying its bills. Or just the Arena, following the Philadelphia 76ers‘ lead.

Instead, the city of Seattle seems content to giving a local bank free advertising, just because “Meh, people are going to call it that anyway.” I guess maybe this might help them in marketing the naming rights to another company — you’ll get to keep your name on it even if you stop paying us! — but probably not in the way they’d hope.

Final Milwaukee Bucks arena plan still leaves a lot to be finalized

More news filtering out about the final Milwaukee Bucks arena plan: In exchange for $457 million in public cash and tax breaks, the team owners would buy the Bradley Center (that’s good!) for an undisclosed sum (that’s probably bad!) and pay to demolish it (good!) then get the land that it’s on to develop as they so choose and collect all revenues from the arena and the adjacent entertainment space and have all the property taxes from the nearby development kicked back to help pay for arena costs (bad).

Owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry would also agree to keep the team in Milwaukee for 30 years, though as that’s yet to be negotiated, there’s no guarantee that there won’t be any out clauses snuck in there.

This whole mess with its many TKs is set to go up for a vote next week sometime, with the assembly likely to pass it, and the senate … well, the bill’s Chamber of Commerce backers felt the need to proclaim that it wasn’t necessarily doomed, so that’s probably not a good sign of its chances. You never know how the horse trading will work out, though, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Bucks arena removed from state budget, film at 11

I’m on WiFi made of tin cans and string this morning, but wanted to update you briefly on today’s news:

  • There’s a Wisconsin state budget plan, and the Milwaukee Bucks arena proposal isn’t in it. That doesn’t kill the deal, but it does make passage even dicier, especially in the state senate.
  • The New York Post says there’s a deal to move the Arizona Coyotes to Las Vegas, which the NHL has denied in especially strong language, calling it “garbage.” (Unless they mean the Post itself is garbage, which, well, point.)
  • Minnesota United‘s owners are expected to ask MLS for an extension on their July 1 stadium deadline. Not that anyone ever said what would happen when the deadline was reached, so who knows what an extension would mean, but anyway.

And that’s it for now. Will try to provide further updates later, interweb connectivity willing.

Georgia court rules that baseball stadiums are a public purpose because they just are, duh

The court ruling is in for Cobb County’s use of public bonds for the Atlanta Braves‘ new stadium, and did the judge buy the team’s argument that stadiums are a public purpose because they just are? Did he ever!

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 9.15.03 AMScreen Shot 2015-06-30 at 9.15.31 AMIn other words, sports are a public good, and anything that says it will create economic benefits is a public good, so the government has every right to fund it, so there. That’s pretty sweeping, albeit not unexpected. Anyway, if you were hoping that the Braves funding plan would somehow get tossed out by a court, throwing all of sports finance into disarray, the Georgia supreme court isn’t going to give that to you.

Final Bucks arena plan would still put public on hook for nearly 100% of costs

Wisconsin state assembly leaders released a revised Milwaukee Bucks arena funding plan yesterday, and … it looks pretty much exactly the same as the arena funding plan released by Gov. Scott Walker four weeks ago. Same $55 million in bonds to be repaid out of state funds, same $55 million to be repaid out of currently uncollected county property taxes (assuming those can actually be collected, which is a big question), same $93 million diverted from current Wisconsin Center District funding streams, same $20 million (in two $10 million increments) to pay off the state’s remaining Bradley Center debt. Add in maybe $234 million or so in city funds and tax breaks, and you have a nice total public cost of about $457 million, or more than 90% of the total arena price tag — which could easily be 100% if you add in arena naming rights to the public building, which the Bucks are counting as part of the private side of the ledger.

So, nothing new at all here. Did the legislative leadership at least give a hint whether the arena would be included in the never-ending budget process, or get exiled to its own bill?

Still not clear is whether the arena deal will be included in the budget, or considered as stand alone legislation. Vos said it was important for the public, as well as members of both legislative chambers, to consider the draft, details of which are included in a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
“I look forward to feedback from the members of the Senate and the public as they review the full details of this proposal, and will continue to work with all parties involved to ensure that any deal that keeps the Bucks in Milwaukee is a good deal for Wisconsin,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

You heard the man. Members of the public, provide your feedback.

Newspaper calls Raiders stadium plan “worst ever” because NFL’s paid stadium consultant says so

Matthew Artz of the San Jose Mercury News revealed some of the details of Floyd Kephart’s Oakland Raiders officially secret stadium plan on Saturday (full plan is here), and immediately turned to stadium experts to evaluate how good a deal it is. Well, one stadium expert. Actually, Marc Ganis, a paid consultant for the NFL who immediately declared Kephart’s plan to be “the worst stadium proposal I’ve seen … by far” — because the Raiders owners wouldn’t get many public subsidies:

The proposed $900 million, 55,000-seat facility adjacent to the Coliseum would be financed entirely by the Raiders, the NFL and future stadium revenues. The Raiders would have to dip into sponsorship revenue and naming rights fees to help repay $300 million in loans needed to offset an estimated funding gap.

And, other than parking garages, the stadium would get no subsidy from the surrounding “live-work-play” technology campus Kephart plans to build on the rest of the sprawling Coliseum complex. The plan includes 4,000 homes, a shopping center, 400 hotel rooms and several office buildings.

“I can’t think of any sports team owner that would take a proposal like this even remotely seriously,” Ganis said, noting that San Diego has proposed a major public subsidy for a new Chargers football stadium. “It’s so one-sided and so bad, that it’s almost as if local leaders are saying ‘we can’t really do anything, so go ahead and leave.’ “

Finally, toward the end of the article, Artz gets around to explaining the Kephart proposal, which is this:

  • The Raiders would pay for a $900 million stadium via $200 million from personal seat license sales, $200 million in NFL G-4 funding, $100 million in cash, $300 million borrowed (from somewhere, paid back somehow, possibly from naming rights and other revenues), and $100 million from the sale of 20% of the team to Kephart for $200 million.
  • Kephart would buy 90 acres of the Coliseum site from the city and county for $116 million, then develop it into apartments, shopping, a hotel, and office buildings.
  • The city and county would spend about $80 million of that on new parking garages, while paying off $100 million in remaining Coliseum debt from … somewhere.
  • $100 million in infrastructure improvements would come from “grants.”
  • The A’s would have space (somewhere) reserved to build a new stadium until 2019.

Admittedly, that’s a pretty bad deal for the Raiders, though not an awful lot worse than the team’s one in Carson, which would likewise require the team to pay for the stadium with its own revenues. (The upside of Carson would mostly be that things like naming rights should bring in somewhat more money in the larger L.A. market.) It would also potentially be a bad deal for Oakland, which would sell 90 acres of land for only a little over $1 million an acre, which notes is “ridiculously cheap” given how much other nearby parcels have gone for. In fact, the only clear beneficiary of Kephart’s plan would be, let’s see, who would end up with all the proceeds from development on land that he got a dirt-cheap price … oh, right, Kephart!

The real question here is why Oakland and Alameda County thought that a private developer could somehow come up with a way to turn a project with more than $1 billion in costs and nowhere near that much in potential new revenues into a win-win for all concerned, via elfin magic or something. Mayor Libby Schaaf’s whole “have the Raiders and A’s submit bids for the Coliseum site and take whichever one is more” plan is looking better and better.

If I miss any stadium news, please slip it under my door for when I get home

Almost forgot to mention that I’m heading out of town, um, about twelve hours ago, and will remain on my travels for the rest of this week. I still have internet connectivity (obviously), so I’ll still be chiming in on the most important issues of the day when possible. But if I go a couple of days without reporting on the latest twists and turns in your favorite lawsuit, say, don’t worry, we’ll all catch up when I return.

In the meantime, feel free to consider this an open thread for comments on news that I haven’t gotten to yet. Regular programming will return July 6.

New Atlanta Hawks owner introduces self, immediately complains that 16-year-old arena sucks

The Atlanta Hawks have a new owner, because the old one got caught complaining too many black fans were going to games and had to go. What do you have to say to your new team’s fans, leveraged buyout king Tony Ressler?

Ressler allowed that there were three things the new owners could do about Philips Arena, which opened in 1999: Nothing, remodel or rebuild. And the first, Ressler said, “isn’t an option.”

(Ressler also described Philips as being “not in the upper quartile of arenas.”)

Now, I know we’re in an age where sports venues are declared defunct after only a couple of decades — especially in Atlanta, for some reason — but declaring that your arena is obsolete because it’s 16 years old and there are seven nicer ones elsewhere is pretty ballsy.

And upping the ballsy quotient: For his reported $850 million purchase price, Ressler (and his co-owner, former NBA star Grant Hill) go not just the Hawks, but Philips Arena itself. So he’s not actually in a position to threaten anything if he doesn’t get a new arena, unless he’s prepared to attach his old one to balloons and fly it to Seattle. (Which, come to think of it, would defeat the point.) [CORRECTION: Ressler only bought operating rights to the arena, which is owned by the state stadium authority. So, sadly, no balloons.]

The hope is that Ressler won’t be looking for any public subsidies (ha ha ha!), and if he decides a new arena really is needed, will just spend his own money on building a new one. This time one that won’t start to look obsolete to its owner as soon as the shrink wrap is off, okay?