Friday roundup: MLB billionaire owners cry poor, Rangers stadium reviews get worse and worse

What a week! I know I say that every week, but: What. A. Week. In addition to the World Series insanity, I spent some time this week writing an article about other ways that giant monopolistic cartels screw over regular folks, but it’s not up yet* so you’ll just have to find out about it next week (or keep refreshing my personal website, or follow me on Twitter or something).

In the meantime, there’s lots of sports stadium and arena news to keep you occupied:

  • NYC F.C. may have announced progress on its new soccer stadium this week while providing no indication of actual progress, but the Washington Football Team one-upped them when team president Jason Wright earned an entire NBC Sports article about their stadium plans by saying he didn’t even have a timeline for the process. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Republic likewise issued a statement on their new stadium construction plans that amounted to nothing (“I do have a hard hat in my trunk!” said team president Ben Gumpert, by way of news). At this rate, team owners will be able to get reporting on their stadium campaigns after denying they even want one — oh wait, we’ve gone there already.
  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says the league now has $8.3 billion in debt, $3 billion of it accrued during 2020’s pandemic season, which doesn’t actually tell you how well baseball is doing — presumably some of it was borrowed against future revenues from TV contracts and naming-rights deals and the like — but sounds impressive when you’re about to go into union contract talks. Also, notes Marc Normandin, that’s really only a $100 million loss per team, which isn’t an unfathomably huge sum for the billionaires who own most teams; plus we have to take Manfred’s word on that debt figure, and it already doesn’t include things like teams’ ownership of regional sports networks. MLB owners, he writes, are “hoping, as they so often do, that you have no idea how anything works, and will just take them at their word. So that they can do things like, oh, I don’t know, decline the 2021 option on basically everyone with one in order to flood the free agent market with additional players they can then underbid on and underpay, claiming that this is all financially necessary because of all the debt, you see.” Or as we may start calling it soon, getting Brad Handed.
  • Philadelphia public schools lost $112 million in property tax revenues in 2019 that were siphoned off to tax breaks for developers, according to a new Good Jobs First study, nearly double their losses from just two years earlier. Good thing the 76ers‘ plan for an arena funded by siphoned-off property taxes was rejected, though there are more plans where that came from, so Philly schools should probably still hold onto their wallets.
  • One more review of the Texas Rangers‘ new stadium that team owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson got $500 million to help build because the old one lacked air-conditioning, this one from a fan who’s visited every stadium and arena in North America: “This would probably end up probably down near the bottom.” He added that the upper decks are too far from the field, the place is too dark, the scale is “ridiculous,” and on top of that fans were taking off their masks as soon as security is out of sight, which, yup.
  • Las Vegas has extended its negotiating window again for a new soccer stadium to lure an MLS team, which makes you wonder why they even bothered to set a window in the first place instead of just hanging out a shingle saying, “Have Stadium $$$, Inquire Within.”
  • Sports team owners make tons of “dark money” to political campaigns to try to get elected officials to support their interests, according to ESPN, though disappointingly their only real source is an unnamed NBA owner. But that source did say, “There’s no question,” in italics and everything, so you know they’re serious.
  • Maybe the NHL should just play games outdoors so they can allow in fans? There are dumber ideas, but they might want to figure out how to get fans to keep their damn masks on first.
  • There are some new renderings of the New York Islanders‘ luxury suites at their new arena, and I can’t stop puzzling over what that weird counter-like thing is in this one, or why the women are all wearing stiletto heels to an NHL game. I’ll never understand hockey!

*UPDATE: Now it’s up.

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More on Justin Turner’s maskless World Series celebration, which has nothing directly to do with stadiums but bear with me

It’s a bad day to be Justin Turner. The Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman, who received a positive coronavirus test result during Tuesday’s Game 6 of the World Series, was pulled from the game, then returned to the field to take part in postgame celebrations after the Dodgers won the championship, has been savaged across the sports world, getting called “selfish” by Yahoo! Sports, “galling” by USA Today, and I’m not even going to check Twitter. Even Dodgers president Andrew Friedman, who semi-defended Turner’s presence on the field by saying that he technically became a free agent as soon as the game ended and “I don’t think there was anyone that was going to stop him,” acknowledged that it was “not good optics” to have him sitting for a photo, maskless, next to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, a cancer survivor.

And then on the other hand there was Defector’s Albert Burneko, who beneath the superficially contrarian headline “It’s Not Justing Turner’s Fault” made the point that focusing the blame on individual behavior during an institutional crisis is completely the wrong way to go about things:

The bleak lesson of 2020—really, the bleak lesson of so much of the history of this society, but one the year 2020 seems hell-bent on teaching—is about the futility of individual responses amid institutional failure. This is how the real bad actors, the ones with the power to actually make significant changes, want things: with responsibility for containing the pandemic, or arresting climate change, or addressing systemic inequality and social injustice, litigated in society as matters of scattered individual choice. If baseball failed to contain the pandemic, well then it was because no individual person made the individual choice to thwart Justin Turner’s deeply human desire to celebrate the happiest moment of his life with the teammates who’d shared the journey with him, and not because Major League Baseball had a duty to provide and adhere to clearer and firmer protocols from the beginning. If a campaign rally doubles as a superspreader event, well, heck, we passed out masks, but it’s not like the literal president of the United States can just insist people wear them at an affair he’s hosting. If your preferred party loses an election, it’s because individuals selfishly withheld their vote, not because the party had, and fell short of, any responsibility to reach those people and earn their support. If the natural world swelters to death, well then it’s because not enough people bought electric cars or metal straws, not because neoliberal governments deferred to the corporate world for meaningful changes it wouldn’t make until forced by market imperatives, if then, if ever.

As several people raised down in the Defector comments, Justin Turner’s maskless run onto the field was a lot like college students’ maskless partying in the wake of reopening campuses — yes, it’s incredibly dumb, but when under the influence of alcohol/hormones/having just won the World Series, you kind of have to expect some people to do incredibly dumb things. Which is why we have rules against doing dumb things, and league officials and college administrators and U.S. presidents who are supposed to enforce those rules. It’s not Andrew Friedman’s job, in other words, to be as confused as Nigel.

And even as MLB has been frantically issuing statements that, hey, they told Turner to stay off the field and he wouldn’t listen, there are frankly more concerning things about the league’s actions here than how many security guards they assigned to the Covid isolation room. (Presumably if a fan had tried to run onto the field they would have done more than just ask them nicely to stop, right? But I digress.) Even if Turner had sat placidly and watched the celebration on TV, he’d been in close proximity to the rest of his team, often indoors in the clubhouse, for weeks prior to this, which according to both CDC and MLB rules meant everyone else on the team should be immediately quarantined. USA Today initially reported that “the team will have multiple rounds of testing before leaving Texas.” Instead, this happened:

Yes, indeed, Some Guy Named G, you’re not likely to start testing positive until at least four days after you yourself are infected, but you can be infectious that whole time. So Mookie Betts testing negative yesterday is no guarantee that Mookie Betts isn’t silently transmitting coronavirus to everyone else on that team plane, or wherever else he goes back in Los Angeles once he gets off it. Justin Turner risking infecting his teammates for the sake of a photo op with the championship trophy was reckless and impulsive; the Dodgers and MLB risking infecting even more teammates by sticking a whole bunch of potentially infectious people on a plane together was an institutional failure of responsibility.

Getting back to Burneko’s point: There’s a common defense by people in power who want to deny responsibility for their actions that they’re just giving the people what they want, whether that thing that they want is carbon-spewing cars or cigarettes or guns or the freedom to decide whether to wear masks or, yes, billion-dollar sports stadiums to buy tickets to. (This is an especially common gambit by the people who stand to make money from the questionable items being sold.) But the whole point of being in power is that you have power, and by your actions, you set the stage for what behavior by other people is not just acceptable, but possible. So while it might be fun to blame Justin Turner for being a lunkhead, or people in Maine for holding that deadly wedding, a public health crisis like this one only highlights how vital it is to have some mechanism for authority — whether it’s an elected government, an unelected league management, or an anarcho-syndicalist executive officer of the week — who can and will establish and enforce rules about not being a lunkhead. All else, as we’ve so recently been reminded, ends in bears.

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Consultants predict people will flock to conventions again in search of human contact, Cleveland convention center seeks $30m to accommodate them

Hotel consulting firm CBRE issued a paper on Friday on “When Will Convention and Group Demand Come Back?”, and its answer, unsurprisingly, isn’t “never, we should all find a different line of work.” The report acknowledges that the U.S. hotel industry is “facing its largest decline in demand in history,” with revenue per room in top U.S. markets down more than 80% compared to last year. But it then goes on to argue that the hotel business “may be out of the hole in a matter of three years.”

The reason for the optimism? No, it’s not the imminent arrival of Covid vaccines, nor a new hotel partnership with Lysol or Clorox, nor a sudden burst of public enthusiasm for hotel restaurant meals served in sealed plastic containers. “Once the pandemic ends, and it will end, these employees will need to come back and visit the office to collaborate with co-workers and build culture,” says the report, arguing that business and their employees will get so fed up with Zoom meetings, the wonders of Microsoft Teams, and Cisco WebEx that they will “demand more opportunities to connect in person … and conferences and conventions are ripe to benefit from the increased demand.”

After a lengthy review of the calamity the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on hotels — particularly the large, big city downtown hotels that rely on group and convention business — the CBRE report then pivots to insisting that more people working at home will in fact stimulate more business travel. Remote workers, it notes, often feel isolated and miss non-verbal cues from coworkers, things that presumably can be cured with a quick weekend trip to a convention hotel.

The report then goes on to assert that “major conferences have already seen unbelievable growth over the past decade.” The evidence for that assertion? Exactly two cases: Salesforce’s annual “Dreamforce” conference South By Southwest in Austin, Texas.

The Dreamforce event, reports CBRE, has grown from 20,000 to 170,000 attendees in just seven years, in parallel with the success of Salesforce’s software and services. That’s been great news for San Francisco hotels and the Moscone Convention Center. But the actual story is a little more complicated. You see, Salesforce reported 171,000 attendees at the 2019 event. And 171,000 at the 2018 version. And for 2017, yes, it reported attendance of 171,000. Which was exactly the same number of attendees that the Salesforce blog said were there in 2016. It turns out that Salesforce reported 150,000 attendees in 2015.

So rather than booming growth over seven years, the Dreamforce conference has actually stalled out at the magical 171,000 for a bit. That’s still a whole lot of people, right? Yes — but not all of those people are visiting from out of town and filling San Francisco hotel rooms. The San Francisco Business Journal reported that the 2019 conference generated a total of 132,595 hotel room nights. That’s less than one room night per attendee — not what we’d see if most attendees were booking multi-night stays. In fact, a great many of the Dreamforce attendees are from Silicon Valley to the south, and the greater San Francisco metro area. They can drive, or train, or BART to the conference, and go home at night. And in 2020, they didn’t have to do even that — the 2020 conference was fully virtual.

Still, Austin’s annual South by Southwest event makes the case that people want to get together, doesn’t it?  SXSW’s “Event Statistics” for the 2019 two-week collection of conferences, events, and live music performances do show a total attendance of 417,400, although that may double-count some who attended more than one of the main conference, the music showcase, the film festival, the gaming event, the Wellness Expo, and SXSW EDU. But that same SXSW statistics summary shows a total of 55,339 hotel room nights booked. Again, lots of the attendees at SXSW are locals and daytrippers, not distant overnight visitors.

Indeed, the larger stories of Dreamforce and SXSW make precisely the opposite point from what the CBRE authors had intended. Americans do like to get together, for a variety of events and experiences. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into hotel demand. And the single best-attended portion of the whole SXSW enterprise is the music festival — accounting for 232,258 attendees in 2019, or 56 percent of the total — making it a better indicator not of business travel demand, but rather a measure of the demand for live music.

All this matters because even amid a pandemic that has turned a slow decline in convention demand into a total collapse, the convention industry is still seeking more public money to fund expansions. Just look to Cleveland, where the local convention bureau is arguing that Cuyahoga County should spend $30 million to refit its failed “Global Center for Health Innovation” to work as part of the adjacent convention center. Chicago-based Merchandise Mart Properties had promised some 300,000 medical meeting attendees annually and $990 million a year in “economic impact”; when that didn’t transpire, MMPI bailed on the project, and Cuyahoga County renamed the mart building the “Global Center” and added a $230 million Hilton-branded hotel fully owned by the county to promote conventions.

Now, the infamous Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL) — the same consultants who once projected that Montreal would be an excellent baseball market without bothering to account for Canada and the U.S. using different dollars — have forecast that turning the failed showroom building into more meeting space for the Huntington Convention Center would bring $110 million in annual economic impact to the area. And all from an investment of just $30 million in county money, which would come from … somewhere. Because if one thing is a given in the convention industry, it’s that if at first you don’t succeed, just keep doubling down in hopes that doing the same thing and expecting different results will surely work eventually.

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World Series ends with Covid-positive Justin Turner celebrating on field without mask, sportswriters sum up Rangers’ $1B stadium as “unnecessary,” all is as it should be

The baseball postseason that would never end has finally ended, fittingly enough with a late-inning Covid controversy as Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner had to be removed from the final game of the World Series in the 7th inning after receiving a positive test result, went back on the field without a mask to celebrate with his teammates, then complained that he “couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys.” Truly, the only way this could be more cringey would be if MLB chose this moment to bring back the ad slogan “Baseball Fever: Catch It!

But even as we wonder how Turner contracted the coronavirus while supposedly in a bubble and why he then sat next to a cancer survivor with no mask on, let’s not allow this bizarro World Series to pass into history without enjoying the glimpse that it gave us of the Texas Rangers‘ new $1 billion stadium, about half a billion dollars of which came from Arlington residents so that the team would no longer have to suffer the indignity of playing in a stadium without air conditioning. We’ve already heard the few fans in attendance extremely inappropriately calling the place “breathtaking”; now ESPN has polled its reporters on the scene of what they think of the place, and the reviews (edited for length and maximum hilarity) are decidedly meh:

Alden Gonzalez: It’s a modern, bigger, more comfortable, yet less charming — and in my opinion, unnecessary — version of the old place.

Jeff Passan: It’s fine. … Aesthetically, there’s nothing particularly inspiring about it.

Jesse Rogers: It feels cozy, especially if you’re in the lower bowl, but the tradeoff was going straight up. If you have a fear of heights, this is not the park for you.

Gonzalez: My least favorite part is that it doesn’t feel intimate.

Passan: From above, the place looks like what would happen if a Costco and a barn had a baby.

Gonzalez: What’s better is that it has a roof.

Rogers: OK, it’s cool when it opens and closes, but this is Texas. Besides the occasional storm, what’s the need for a dome?

Okay, I left out a few nice things the ESPN trio had to say about Globe Life Field — apparently the fence height is “perfect,” according to Gonzalez, which is totally a reason to spend $1 billion to build an entirely new stadium — but the upshot is that they think this is a “middle-tier” stadium, not the best or the worst, with a “corporate” feel but some nice brick columns. That’s something that could be said of lots of modern stadiums, including the one it replaced, but I guess they had to come up with something to say beyond “it would have been more impressive if they’d kept the old stadium and set a billion dollars on fire in center field.”

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NYCFC exec reports “a ton of progress” on stadium, cites no actual specific progress

One of the more thankless tasks of being a CEO of any kind has to be trying to spin bad news or no news into a pretense that you have inevitable forward momentum for whatever project you’re desperately scrabbling to make work. This is obviously easier if you’re a natural scammer who even changes her voice to sound more authoritative, but it’s part of the job for everyone, even if you’re just a longtime sports exec who was hired to lead an MLS club that has been insisting for years that it’s about to build a new stadium, just as soon as it figures out the pesky financing details.

And so, we present NYC F.C. Brad Sims, telling YES Network (the sports cable network owned by his team co-owners the New York Yankees) how despite two years having passed since it first leaked news of a possible South Bronx stadium, and despite reports that the plan still faces numerous obstacles including decommissioning an entire highway ramp, things are going really super well:

“I think that’s something that remains a huge, huge priority of the club, something that’s extremely important to us. I know, I feel the fans’ pain. I know how badly they want it. I know how badly they want news on confirmation of it and I can assure all of our fans that there is no stronger sense of urgency possible than what we have right now to be able to deliver that to our fans. And we have a team that’s working on it full-time, 100 percent of the time.

“And we’ve made a ton of progress. We really have,” Sims continued. “And we’re very optimistic, as optimistic as we’ve ever been. Having said that, it’s a long process and for us arguably the most important part of that process is the community, the community input, working with community leaders and making sure that this project is something that reflects what they want and what’s important for their community. We feel that this is something — not just the stadium, but the overall project that we’re going to be working on — that’s going to be transformational for the South Bronx and we need to make sure that everyone is aligned with that vision.

“But we’re making progress, we’re feeling good about it and we’ve never been as optimistic as we are right now. And hopefully we’ll have some good news to share with our fans as soon as we can.”

That is an awful lot of words to expend on “nothing new to report,” but again, it’s not the content of the words that’s important but the tone: Progress! Optimism! Transformational! Those aren’t the words of a CEO overseeing a death ride to nowhere, but rather someone hard at work on a plan that takes time, you know these things do, but it’ll all work out in the end. I mean, look at David Beckham’s Inter Miami stadium, which took years but now … okay, maybe that’s a bad example. But anyway: Optimism! You gotta believe!

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49ers owner spends $3m to unseat Santa Clara politicians who crossed him, says he’s promoting “diversity”

San Francisco 49ers owners the York family successfully won approval in 2012 to build a $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara with the city taking on much of the risk, but ever since then has butted heads continually with local government, clashing over insufficient team financial reports and how much taxes the team would pay and whether the Rolling Stones could set off fireworks and who gets to manage the stadium and whether the team could withhold rent when two exhibition games were canceled thanks to Covid. What’s a poor sports billionaire family to do? Buy a new local government, of course!

[Jed] York has contributed $3 million to Citizens for Efficient Government and Full Voting Rights, a PAC whose stated mission is to bring diversity to the city council​…

”It would be unusual for a sports franchise owner or let’s just say any corporation or business to spend this kind of money even in a mayor’s race,” John Pelissero, the senior scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, said​ Thursday​. “Instead this has all the appearance of attempting to buy four city council seats just to improve the private interests of the 49ers.”

While the PAC is organized to promote diversity, the candidates it’s supporting this year go extremely white guy, Indian-American guy, Indian-American woman, Korean-American guy; they’re looking to unseat a white woman and a woman so white she has a Celtic knot in her campaign page banner design, plus capture two open seats. So that’s either a plus or a minus depending on whether you’re looking at racial or gender diversity, and of course assuming by “diversity” you mean “access to just enough power for non-white-guys to not make white guys uncomfortable,” but that’s a battle that was lost decades ago.

Anyway, the issue here is less whether York is backing diverse (or good) candidates than whether he’s trying to unseat elected officials who are a pain in his butt by throwing money around. Three million dollars may not be a lot to an NFL owner, but it’s a fortune in small-city political circles: SFist notes that one of the incumbents (it links to a dead campaign finance page, so we can’t tell which one) has only raised a total of $6,234 this year. And whether or not York is successful — and whether or not the challengers he’s supporting would necessarily be beholden to his interests — he’s certainly making a public statement that anyone who clashes with him will be firmly in the crosshairs of his wealth come election time. If that’s enough to get current or future local pols antsy enough to get them looking to cut deals with him rather than taking a hard line, that should prove money well spent.

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Friday roundup: World still on fire, let’s remember 1989 when the greatest sports horror imaginable was Alan Thicke in a tuxedo

Very busy week here at FoS HQ, so let’s dispense with any introductory chitchat and get right to the news we didn’t already get to this week:

That’s all for now, see you all Monday!

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Columbus has no clue how Crew is spending $98m in city stadium money, can’t be bothered to check

I missed this news story from earlier this week about the Columbus Crew‘s new stadium spending until an eagle-eyed reader pointed it out to me, but unless you’re a regular reader of the Columbus Dispatch already, it’ll likely make your jaw drop as it did mine. I mean, the first line alone:

During the past year, tens of millions of public dollars have flowed toward construction of the Columbus Crew SC’s new Downtown stadium and its Mapfre training facility, but the local officials who approved the payments haven’t requested or received any details about how the team spends that money.

The Crew stadium project has never exactly been known for its transparency: Last year at this time, it was revealed that the city of Columbus had hidden $48 million in stadium costs in its “Other Projects” budget, effectively doubling the amount of city money being devoted to the stadium. (There’s at least another $65 million in county and state money as well, plus the value of public land being provided for the project.) Not even asking how taxpayer money is being spent, though, that’s pretty hardcore. And local officials are adamant that it’s not their job to pay attention to this stuff:

Asked how the public is to know what percentage of the total project cost it will pay, Ty Marsh, executive director of the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio and chairman of the Confluence Community Authority board, said: “I think the public would have to ask them,” referring to the team….

In fact, the Confluence Authority hasn’t met in more than 10 months, has reviewed no financials on the construction of the stadium it will lease back to the team, and has no immediate plans to meet in the future, Marsh said.

Okay, so the authority handing out the city’s money can’t be bothered to check on it, or even to meet. What about the city itself?

Asked if the city knows what had been spent to date by all parties involved, including the team, Robin Davis, spokeswoman for Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, replied in an email: “You would have to reach out to the Haslams for that.”

This is great reporting by the Dispatch, and since we’re coming to it late, we have the opportunity to see all of the fallout that’s already coming from the paper’s bombshell. And the answer is … a Dispatch columnist wrote a long allegory about a crooked magician? Other than that, it doesn’t appear that the story has had any consequences: Pretty much all the reporting on the Crew this week was limited to reporting on how they had rescheduled last week’s game that was postponed after two staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.

So I guess it’s up to me to shout about this: Hey everybody, the city of Columbus is writing $98 million in checks to the owners of its pro soccer team without bothering to keep track of how they’re spending it! Did that do the trick? SHOULD IT TYPE IT IN ALL CAPS? This entire website, not to mention the book that inspired it, not to mention my entire life’s work as a journalist, is dependent on the idea that if you expose bad behavior, someone will notice it and call attention to it and maybe, eventually, things will start to change. If instead we’re just laughing and pointing to keep from crying, I guess that’s valuable too, but someone please tell me so that I can recalibrate my already-low expectations.

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Saints lobbied to pack fans into Superdome less than six feet apart, say #1 priority is “safety”

Sometimes when I write a post here assuming the worst intentions of sports team owners, I feel slightly bad. Sure, sports barons may have a long history of using everything possible in the pursuit of personal profit, but does that mean it’s always the case? Maybe when the New Orleans Saints owners say they’re thinking of temporarily relocating to Baton Rouge so they can have fans in the seats, they’re genuinely trying to make the best of a bad situation and not just trying to pressure the city of New Orleans into opening up the Superdome to paid attendance?

Turns out: Naaaaaaaaah.

In August, before the season began, the Saints made a pitch to Gov. John Bel Edwards for a bolder idea: 35% capacity — a plan that would put almost 24,000 fans in the stadium for games…

The plan featured a detailed “seating manifest methodology” that showed how patrons would be spaced from several angles. In all, 23,875 people would have been allowed in the stadium under the proposal, to which Edwards did not agree.

That “seating manifest technology,” NOLA.com goes on to report, was mostly based on advanced fudging the numbers, as fans would have been seated less than six feet apart, the minimum distance recommended by the CDC, even though it’s also noted that the virus can spread across greater distances “under special circumstances.” Whether those special circumstances may include football fans taking off masks to eat and cheer in an indoor stadium is not specifically mentioned in any CDC reports, but it’s certainly a concern.

Also, luxury suites would have been filled to 100% capacity, because everyone in a luxury suite can clearly be trusted to stay six feet apart and masked within their extremely indoor space, which is then only a problem if you spend several hours together there uh-oh. (An official from Louisiana’s Ochsner hospital, who argued on behalf of the Saints’ plan, said that suite denizens would be assumed to be “cohorted group,” which given that Superdome suites hold up to 24 people would require some pretty huge households.)

The 35% plan was rejected by Gov. Edwards, who later approved attendance of up to 25% at Louisiana sporting events. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell later rejected any in-person attendance, though, saying her approval would depend on whether she got more state money to help deal with the pandemic, which doesn’t actually seem like great epidemiology either. And the Saints are keeping up the lobbying just in case:

The Saints met with Cantrell, medical professionals at Ochsner and Cantrell’s medical advisors on Monday about potentially phasing in fans for this weekend’s game and beyond, [Saints spokesperson Greg] Bensel said Monday evening.

“The city continues to see COVID positivity rates remain stable,” Bensel said in a statement. “The city currently has one of the lowest rates in the nation. We all agree that the priority is to make sure our city’s residents and our fans are safe and not to regress from the progress that has been made. We look forward to providing our fans more information shortly.”

Cantrell’s office declined to comment on the matter Monday.

Keeping people safe: When has the NFL ever made anything else its priority?

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Minnesota convention centers offering sale prices to check out state’s famed takeout food and ventilation systems

Things look grim for convention centers in Minnesota, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The management of the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center is now resorting to promotion of its ventilation system rather than the “facility’s proximity to Lake Superior.” And in Minneapolis, Melvin Tennant, CEO of Meet Minneapolis, estimated that the city’s almost entirely empty convention venue will see a revenue drop of 75 percent this year. Terming the Minneapolis Convention Center “a catalyst for our hospitality industry,” Tennant joined his colleagues in seeking both federal government aid and some word on when state guidelines limiting the size of indoor gatherings would be eased.

In the interim, Meet Minneapolis is doing what convention centers and destination marketing organizations typically do — having a sale. With the bold headline “Get More for Less in Minneapolis,” Meet Minneapolis has been offering a host of incentives for groups meeting in Minneapolis next year. The convention center is offering a 20 percent discount on both rent and AV equipment, a $3.00 per room night rebate to the group for every hotel room used, a three percent rebate on hotel bills, and even a free round-trip Delta airline voucher — just to check out the city.

Whether the promise of sale prices and the boast that “Minnesota currently ranks #1 in takeout, curbside and delivery dining” are enough to get folks to Minneapolis appears seriously open to question as the coronavirus surges through the upper Midwest. But the city’s hotel business has been incredibly hard-hit so far this year between George Floyd’s death and the pandemic. Overall hotel revenue is down by 62 percent compared to last year — a drop just like destination cities in Hawaii. Maybe a half price sale next?

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