Wrigley Field celebrates 100th anniversary as Cubs owner mulls how to make it look less like Wrigley Field

Today is the 100th anniversary of the first game at Wrigley Field, and I hope everyone is tuning in, because those 1914 Federal League uniforms are pretty cool, even if the uniform numbers are an anachronism:

fed-uniNot pictured, of course, is the not-at-all-1914-throwback scoreboard that Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is champing at the bit to build, but holding off on for now because of the thicket of lawsuits he must navigate first. The Associated Press tackles this subject today, coming to the conclusion that video screens make it easier to see replays, fans don’t all like them regardless, Wrigley Field had a moving walkway in the 1950s, young people love to take selfies, wait, what were we talking about again?

A’s nix 10-year lease after asking for one, Raiders skip stadium interest letter after avowing stadium interest

So when Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff announced that he wanted a ten-year lease at the Oakland Coliseum, and then the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority yesterday offered a ten-year lease, it might have seemed like rapprochement was at hand, or at least the start of some serious talks. But no!

The A’s on Tuesday night shot down a deal to play at O.co Coliseum for the foreseeable future, saying the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority‘s 10-year lease proposal doesn’t meet all their requirements.

“We cannot accept the terms of the offer,” A’s director of public relations Bob Rose said in a statement. “We have tried to negotiate in good faith for the past several months. As the authority knows, it is still our preference not to negotiate this agreement through the media.”

As for what terms were so unacceptable that Wolff chose to reject them outright within 24 hours via a press statement (a press statement about not wanting to negotiate through the press, even), Rose didn’t say. Apparently the A’s p.r. department tweeted a link to this article as representative of Wolff’s feelings about the lease, which would imply that he rejected the ten-year lease extension because he’s upset about Oakland Mayor Jean Quan not wanting to offer a long-term lease extension, um, wha?

Here, let’s leave it to San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami, who first reported Wolff’s desire for a long term lease last month, to sum things up:

Meanwhile, the Raiders missed a Monday deadline to submit a “letter of interest” in working on a new stadium at the Coliseum site, with Coliseum board member and Oakland city councilperson Larry Reid saying, “I’m very concerned about it.” Maybe everybody is just hedging their bets like crazy now that the Warriors are on their way to San Francisco, but either way, yup, it’s a mess.

FIFA says Brazil stadiums will be ready for World Cup, because alternative is unthinkable

Hey, how’re things going with Brazil’s $3.3 billion in death-plagued World Cup stadium projects, with the opening game just seven weeks away? Very, very poorly, though World Cup officials are still putting up a brave front:

“There is not a single minute we can waste because there is still a lot of work to do to,” [FIFA Secretary General Jerome] Valcke said after checking the construction work at the Itaquerao. “We are running against time. But, yes, the stadium will host the opening game and, yes, we will organize the opening game and all the other games in this stadium.”

Valcke also noted “potential issues” with two other stadiums in Curitiba and Porto Alegre, but insists that everything will be fine in time for the opening, because, well, it has to be? And there’s no way any more workers are going to fall to their deaths and delay construction, because that already just happened last month, and anyway, death always comes in sevens.

Yanks’ Levine says NYCFC could consider “other sites” outside NYC

It’s been a busy morning on the stadium news front, so the first I saw of this latest NYC F.C. news came via Twitter:

It’s not quite that bald-faced, but, yeah, New York Yankees president Randy Levine, he of the volcanic temper and purple face, has kind of threatened to move the team out of New York City before it’s even arrived:

“This is here, until there’s another venue,” Levine said. “The Yankees are the primary tenant. The schedule revolves around the Yankees. There’s no timetable. There’s been dialogue, we’re looking at sites. If not New York City, then other sites. I never rule out anything. But I’m one voice.”

New York Daily News sports reporter Filip Bondy goes on to assert that “Yonkers is waiting with open arms for a possible stadium deal,” which is news to pretty much everyone, though there was some speculation about NYC F.C. seeking a temporary stadium in Westchester before they announced their plan to start play at the Yankees’ stadium.

Building outside the city limits would certainly be easier in some respects — there’s a hell of a lot more available land there, and there are numerous mayors and city councils that could be appealed to, instead of the not-all-that-enthused officials currently in charge in New York City. Still, Westchester isn’t that easy for much of the New York area to get to, and you have to figure that Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan isn’t plunking down $200 million for an MLS expansion team just so he can play in the suburbs. For now, consider this somewhere between “we’re keeping all our options open” and “crap, we have to have the Yankees and the soccer team share a stadium for three-plus years, let’s throw everything we can think of out there and see if something sticks.”

Revised Kings arena deal would cut Sacramento’s losses to $173 million

The Sacramento Kings have announced that they’ve revised their arena deal with the city of Sacramento, and there are more new details than you can shake a stick at:

  • The total construction cost has gone up from $447 million to $477 million, thanks mostly to the increased costs of developing the area around the arena site.
  • The city’s share of the costs will actually go down slightly, from $258 million to $255 million (though with the value of free parking spaces, billboards, and other infrastructure, the actual public cost is probably more like $331 million).
  • Instead of the Kings paying $4.7 million in annual rent (mostly from ticket tax money), the team will now be committing to a rent starting at $6.5 million a year, and rising over time.

Sacramento assistant city manager John Dangberg calls this a “significant enhancement to our financing package,” and it certainly looks like a better deal for the city, even if it still won’t come close to repaying the $9 million a year (and rising over time) in future parking revenues that the city will be siphoning off towards arena cost, let alone the city’s $13-14 million a year total bond cost for the arena. (Figure on the high side of that estimate, since interest rates have gone up, and the city has acknowledged the Kings will be putting in too much money to allow for the use of tax-exempt bonds.)

There’s a new city council report that spells out the latest agreement — I haven’t made my way through all of it yet, but it does estimate the present value of the Kings’ future rent payments at $157,555,183, which if you take the total public cost as $331 million, would mean that Sacramento taxpayers would only be taking a $173 million bath on this project. That’s better than the old deal, and possibly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, though I’d want to read all the fine print before saying for sure. Not to mention test the sharpness of the stick.

NBA steps in to play role of Bad Cop in Bucks arena drama

As I noted in last week’s coverage of the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks to new owners, there’s been a weird disconnect in the team’s demands for a new arena, which is that both the new and old owners have been trying to spin their promises to pay for less than half the cost of an arena into a commitment to keep the team in town — even while threatening that without a new arena, they’ll leave. It’s a not uncommon dance in these matters, but it’s a far easier one to navigate if you have someone else (a mayor, say) who can be waving the move-threat saber in your stead.

Fortunately for the Bucks owners, somebody has emerged to play the role of Bad Cop, and it’s our old friends, the NBA:

The NBA has the right to buy back the Milwaukee Bucks from incoming owners Wesley Edens and Mark Lasry if a deal to a bring a new arena to the city is not in place by November 2017, according to sources briefed on the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com that the sale agreement announced last week to transfer the Bucks from longtime owner Herb Kohl to Edens and Lasry for a purchase price of $550 million includes a provision that allows the league to buy back the team for $575 million if construction on a new building in Milwaukee is not underway by the deadline.

Although one source said Monday that the league would likely only take that step if it didn’t see “significant progress” toward a new arena in Milwaukee by then, this provision ensures that the NBA would control the fate of the franchise from that point as opposed to Edens and Lasry.

This is, frankly, totally brilliant, in an evil genius sort of way. The NBA would never forcibly seize a franchise without its owners’ consent, so rest assured that this whole buyback clause was arrived at with the full cooperation (if not at the behest of) Edens, Lasry, and Kohl. Now, though, Edens and Lasry are in a perfect position to play Good Cop: We want to stay in Milwaukee, but that mean old NBA will take our team and move it somewhere else if we don’t get a new arena, so you’d better make that happen or else Adam Silver will nail your head to the floor.

This isn’t a totally new gambit — the Toledo Mud Hens, as just one example, used the threat of the league forcing a move as a way to win a public vote for subsidies for a new stadium even though the team was owned by a local non-profit corporation — but it’s an especially well-played one. The trick will be to see whether Edens and Lasry can keep up their plausible deniability long enough to pull this off, or if local reporters look into whether they were co-conspirators with the NBA on this plan — though given the state of local reporting, they probably don’t have much to worry about.

Chargers ready to put stadium on ballot … in two and a half years

The San Diego Chargers ownership has been plotting a new stadium approximately forever, and now plans on waiting a bit longer still: Chargers stadium czar Mark Fabiani has said he hopes to put a new stadium on the county ballot in November 2016, in time for the next presidential election.

And how would that new stadium be paid for, exactly?

The Spanos family and investment partners would put up roughly $400 million and seek a $200 million loan from the NFL. The rub comes in how the remaining roughly $400 million would be financed.

That’s indeed a rub. As is the fact that the Chargers don’t know where they want to build a stadium yet. (Or as U-T San Diego puts it, “they are open to ideas.”) Maybe another two and a half years will give them a chance to throw some more funding ideas at the wall and see which ones stick — though at a certain point, given the success of their neighbors to the north, you have to wonder if they wouldn’t want to consider “build it our own damn selves” as a less time-consuming option.

Warriors buy land in Mission Bay, now plan all-privately-funded arena

It’s been rumored for a while now that the Golden State Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber were looking for a Plan B now that his proposed Piers 30-32 arena site was running into stiff opposition, but that still didn’t make yesterday’s news any less of a bombshell: The team owners have bought 12 acres of land in Mission Bay, south of the Giants‘ AT&T Park, and plans to build a new arena there by the 2018-19 season. And Lacob and Guber say the project will be entirely privately financed, including the price paid for the land.

This makes a lot of sense on many levels: The main opposition to the old waterfront site was from locals concerned about the arena and its accompanying condo towers blocking views of the bay, less of an issue in Mission Bay, which (for the moment, anyway) is mostly occupied by a hospital, office space, and old industrial sites. There’s a new Muni Metro underground streetcar line set to lead to Mission Bay by 2019. And by ditching the old site, the Warriors owners will avoid paying an estimated $200 million on shoring up the piers there.

Still, with the condo development now off the table — the 12-acre site will be barely enough for an arena — Lacob and Guber are now looking at building a roughly $1 billion arena entirely on their own dime, something remarkable enough that the San Francisco Chronicle felt it necessary to note it as “a rare instance of a modern sports venue that would use no taxpayer funds or public land.” The Warriors organization didn’t reveal how much it paid for the new site, but given it’s part of a 14-acre site that the land’s previous owners paid $250 million for four years ago, you have to figure the NBA team paid something close to that. So we’re talking $1.2 billion that needs to be repaid entirely from profits on running an arena — meaning the building will need to run something like $100 million a year in the black just for Lacob and Guber to break even.

That seems crazy, given that most arenas have trouble turning an operating profit at all. San Francisco, though, is a special market: Not only is it chock-full of wealthy people who can buy top-priced tickets (and whose eyeballs advertisers will pay a pretty penny for), but it’s the only major city in the nation that I can think of that lacks anything like a modern sports and concert arena: The Cow Palace is undersized and across the city line in Daly City, leaving Oakland’s Oracle Arena as the only real option for touring acts requiring a 20,000-seat indoor space. This means a Mission Bay arena stands a good chance of being full for the 200+ days a year needed to run a successful business — and also may avoid the fate of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which thanks to the presence of Madison Square Garden across town has had to offer cut-rate deals to artists to woo them away from Manhattan. And, of course, the Warriors stand to appreciate in value significantly from a move across the bay to a more fashionable address.

It still sounds like an awfully risky gamble to me, but fortunately it’s not my money at stake. And — at least if the Warriors owners live up to their promises, which isn’t always the case — it won’t be San Francisco residents’ money either, since a privately owned arena on privately owned land should even pay its fair share of property taxes. There are a lot of details still to be divulged — actually, pretty much all the details are still to be divulged — but so far, knock wood, this may actually be the rare case of a new sports facility that’s a win-win for both the team owners and the city. Maybe San Francisco’s penchant for voting down development projects that it doesn’t like isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Milwaukee pols have opinions on Bucks arena, even if they don’t all know what they are

Milwaukee politicians are starting to take sides in the Bucks arena debate, at least if standing with one foot firmly on each side counts as taking sides. See, for example Mary Burke, the bicycle corporation heir and former Wisconsin secretary of commerce who is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, and who told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday that she’s firmly in favor of knowing what her options are:

“First and foremost, I think we’d get people at the table to figure out what all the options are,” Burke said during an hourlong interview with editors and reporters of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel…

“Certainly having $200 million [from the Bucks' current and former owners] is a really good start,” Burke said. “But are there other ways of bringing private investment into this, private financing that could over time be paid off? I think all of those should be investigated and supported and pushed. And that public funding of it should be one of the last options that’s looked at.”

That’s all eminently reasonable, if completely noncommittal: Treating public funding as a “last option” could mean that she’s going to hold a hard line on demanding private funding, or it could mean “Nobody else willing to pay for this? Okay, guess it’s on us, then.” It also treats the need for a new arena as a fait accompli, with the only question being how to pay for it — somehow it’s only the private side in these matters that is allowed to walk away from deals if they’re too rich for their blood.

If we want someone who’s really taking sides, fortunately, we have Milwaukee alderman Nic Kovac, who didn’t mince words in a Thursday interview with BizTimes:

“The NBA has been printing free money for 20 years. I’m not asking them not to make money. I’m just asking them to cover the capital investment that allows them to make money. I’m an old-fashioned guy; I still like capitalism,” said Kovac, who represents Milwaukee Third District. “I don’t believe in Vladimir Putin-style corporate socialism, which is what the NBA believes in. And you can quote me on that.”

Kovac added, “The talk of contribution to me should be off the table – any public contribution that does not involve a direct return on investment. I will loan them money, I will bond them money, but in my opinion, we shouldn’t be giving them a dime. It’s a private business.”

And then we have the Journal Sentinel editorial board, which continues its series of “Just build something already!” editorials on the Bucks situation. In the latest, the board argues that “the community shouldn’t lose sight of the need to find a sustainable funding source for all of its cultural amenities,” not just an arena, then goes on to argue that playgrounds and roads are “a different conversation” that could “mean the effort collapses under its own weight.” Call this the Editorial Corollary to the Hunt Doctrine: Additional projects that add support to an arena campaign are good, but those that could lose support for it are bad. American journalism, people.

Elephants fight over proposed Miami MLS stadium, grass not heard from

Awright! We have a full-fledged stadium controversy underway in Miami, which in daily news media terms is defined as one where there’s a corporate titan on each side:

John Alschuler, the New York-based real-estate adviser for David Beckham, the retired English player who wants to build a home for his new franchise at the seaport, squabbled on local television with John Fox, a former Royal Caribbean Cruises vice president who is leading the opposition against the waterfront site.

Royal Caribbean is currently the main landholder at the seaport, and Alschuler charged that the cruise ship company pays below-market rent for its port properties — though Beckham officials have also “pushed back against” estimates by a port consultant that fair-market rent on the property they want would be $3 million a year, according to the Miami Herald. The dispute between the two sides mostly comes down to whether both could happily coexist without getting in each other’s way, which led to the unusual sight of a would-be stadium developer promising that its building would be great because it would be empty 340 days a year.
As for actually paying for it, Beckham insists that, despite a price tag that is now up to $250 million thanks to the need to raise it above flood levels, he’ll pay the costs himself. Except for the $2 million a year in state sales tax kickbacks he wants, of course. And rent breaks, if that $3 million figure turns out to be accurate and Beckham wants to pay less. And a full exemption from paying property taxes. Most of the total cost would probably still land on Beckham, but there’s enough fine print here that it’d be nice to see a full financing plan before passing judgment on what kind of deal this would be for Miami taxpayers, let alone cruise ship operators.