Cruise ship industry vows to sink Beckham’s Miami port stadium

If there’s one fundamental law in stadium campaigns, it’s that the odds of success go down as the number of high-powered opponents goes up. So this is not at all good news for David Beckham:

Royal Caribbean Cruises and its allies have formed an organization to oppose a Major League Soccer stadium at PortMiami, marking the first coordinated resistance to David Beckham’s waterfront dream.

The Miami Seaport Alliance took out a full-page advertisement in Monday’s Miami Herald, titled “Here We Go Again,” to launch its campaign against the 25,000-seat, open-air stadium that Beckham and his representatives have proposed for the port’s shallow-water southwest corner.

“Here We Go Again” is a not-too-veiled reference to the Miami Marlins stadium fiasco, and is a sign that Loria’s Folly is still having a chilling effect on stadium subsidies in Florida. Not that the cruise ship industry is an unstoppable behemoth or anything, but Beckham might want to start considering some of his other 29 site options.

NYC F.C. finally admits they’ll be playing at Yankees’ stadium already

In news that should surprise absolutely no one, the New York Times is reporting that the MLS expansion team New York City F.C. will announce next week that it will play at the Yankees’ stadium for the 2015, 2016, and 2017 seasons while working on getting a stadium of its own built. This was really the team’s only option: It’s not going to get its $350 million Bronx stadium plan approved and built by next March, there aren’t a whole lot of available soccer-ready stadiums sitting around in New York, and the Yankees are part owners of the team, so it’s the only port in the storm for now. There were (and are) concerns about the impact of soccer usage on the baseball field turf, but apparently those pale in comparison to having to have their soccer team play in the street.

The big question now is how long NYCFC will be stuck in this port. Melissa Mark-Viverito, the new city council speaker who represents the district where the team owners want to build their stadium (with city land and tax subsidies that could amount to more than $250 million), isn’t going anywhere for at least the next four years, and from all accounts she’s just as dead-set against this deal as ever. NYCFC already tried and failed to get a stadium built in Queens, and is rapidly running out of possible sites that are accessible to public transit; I predicted last summer that this could end up as a D.C. United situation, with the team in “temporary” digs for a lot longer than anybody anticipated, and that’s looking even more likely now. Though being stuck in the world’s most lavishly expensive baseball stadium isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world — if NYCFC fans don’t like the view of the pitch, they can always drown their sorrows in $60 steaks.

Milwaukee business leaders propose “super TIF” to pour property, sales, income taxes into Bucks arena

The Milwaukee Milwaukee Association of Commerce (aka “local business leaders) set up its own task force last year to figure out how to pay for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena without having to, you know, ask the Milwaukee Bucks for the money, and the latest they’ve come up with is a “super TIF.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is a bit hazy on the details, but this apparently would involve not just kicking back increased property taxes in an arena district, like in a regular TIF (aka tax increment financing, aka “the financing method most likely to completely blow up in your face if tax receipts go down and not up”), but sales taxes and state income taxes as well, over a large geographical area.

While on the face of it this may seem like a great idea — if we need a lot of money, let’s build a bigger TIF! — this goes against the logic (using that term loosely here) of TIFs, which are designed to capture the increased economic activity from specific projects. Recall that Louisville actually shrunk its TIF district last September in order to bring in money, because it had drawn its circle so broadly that it was having to figure in all the other areas of downtown that were losing spending to the arena district, whereas a smaller TIF area can pretend that any arena spending is new money, and to hell with the effect on the region as a whole.

Looking on the bright side (using that term loosely here), a supersized TIF in Milwaukee involving property, sales, and income taxes is likely to generate a bunch of money, if only because those tax revenues tend to go up over time regardless. (Yes, Milwaukee is growing. Slowly. Plus there’s inflation regardless.) On the less bright side, this would mean crediting the Bucks for economic activity they had nothing to do with, and giving them the proceeds instead of using it to, oh, I dunno, pay for the increased cost of future city services.

MMAC president Timothy Sheehy told the Journal Sentinel that “such TIFs had worked in other markets,” but reporter Don Walker (who you may remember from this fine piece of journalism) apparently didn’t think to ask him for actual examples. Walker did cite developer Hammes Co.’s involvement with a TIF-financed minor-league hockey arena project in Allentown, Pennsylvania, which doesn’t open until September, but is already massively over budget. That’s a funny definition of “worked,” but I guess that’s why Chamber of Commerce presidents get paid the big bucks.

NY mulls building Niagara Falls stadium for Bills owner who doesn’t exist yet

New York state, as you may recall, recently gave $200 million to the Buffalo Bills for stadium renovations to keep them in town, then topped it off by creating a task force to plan how to build a whole new stadium to keep them in town even longer. And that task force is now considering keeping them in town by moving them to Niagara Falls:

Several officials told The Associated Press that a newly formed Bills stadium task force of public and private leaders seeking to bolster the team’s long-term viability is considering sites that would put it closer to the team’s burgeoning Ontario fan base.

“We’re looking at Niagara County,” Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy told the AP this week. “We’re open to looking at a number of venues.”

It makes sense at least to look, I guess: The Bills say about 18% of their season-ticket base comes from Canada (and presumably they’d like to increase that, since there are lot more people on the Ontario side of the border than in western New York), and Niagara County would split the driving distance for those folks. The bigger question is why New York is spending so much time and energy — and eventually money, since there’s almost no way the Bills are going to finance this project themselves — trying to placate the team’s as-yet-undetermined next owner (founding owner Ralph Wilson died last month) when they just got them to agree to a lease extension that—

The Bills are essentially locked into playing at their current home through the 2019 season, because the lease features a $400 million penalty in the event the team broke it. In 2020, the Bills have a one-time opportunity to opt out of the lease for about $28 million.

Really, Gov. Andrew Cuomo? There really needs to be some way of suing elected officials for malpractice in lease negotiations.

Every city with a minor-league baseball stadium thinks it can land the A’s now, basically

If you liked San Jose’s claim that it was trying to lure the Oakland A’s to play temporarily in a 4,200-seat minor-league stadium, you’ll just love this:

[Lynn] Lashbrook, president of Sports Management Worldwide, visited Hillsboro Ballpark and met with the architects who drew up plans for the Class A Hops’ 4,500-seat stadium, which made its debut last June.

The mission was to determine if enough temporary seating could be added to increase the capacity so the stadium could serve as an interim facility for the Oakland A’s, if they would choose to move, while a permanent stadium in Portland is built…

“I think we can get it to a capacity of between 15,000 and 20,000,” Smith says.

I’m trying to picture how this would play out in A’s owner Lew Wolff’s head: Let’s see, I’d be moving from being second fiddle in one of the biggest metro areas in the U.S. to a market that has doesn’t even have a triple-A team — sorry, wait, to a suburb of that market, in a stadium that would hold maybe half the capacity that an MLB franchise requires, if someone can find the money to build the temporary expansion. And then I could either hope that someone builds a full-size stadium in downtown Portland — something Lashbrook has been talking about for a decade but getting nowhere — or start all over again somewhere else. Where do I sign?!?

The only way this really makes sense — okay, there’s no way it makes sense, but the only way it’s even conceivable if you squint really hard and check your disbelief at the door — is if Wolff finds himself backed to the wall by intransigent lease demands by Oakland on the Coliseum, and then doesn’t want to try to rent from the Giants because they’re in the middle of a territorial rights battle with them and doesn’t want to move to the A’s already-14,000-seat-capacity triple-A stadium in Sacramento because, um, he’s afraid of floods, maybe?

My favorite part of this entire Portland Tribune article, meanwhile, is that the single-A Hillsboro Hops would continue to play at their stadium at the same time as the A’s, because what minor-league baseball team doesn’t love having to compete for fans with a major-league team in their same stadium? After all, that’s happened before … I’m pretty sure never, but there’s a first time for everything.

Indianapolis throws yet another $160m at Pacers, because that’s what Indianapolis does

I don’t usually post this late at night, but I just got home from coaching a perfectly enjoyable youth baseball game when BLAMMO!

The Pacers will continue to play basketball in Indianapolis for at least another decade under a $160 million deal the team and the city plan to announce Monday morning…

The Capital Improvement Board will subsidize fieldhouse operating costs to the tune of $3.7 million a year. That will cover things such as liability insurance, security and utilities. The CIB also will pay the fieldhouse’s manager $7.1 million a year, with that amount rising 3 percent each year.

In addition, the CIB will provide $26.5 million to the Pacers for upgrades to seating, new paint, and improvements to locker rooms and concessions. The CIB also will pay for $7 million in improvements directly to replace the floor, upgrade the cooling tower, and improve the facility’s steam pressure control system.

Finally, the CIB will pay $8 million over 10 years for the scoreboard and sound system and will take title of the equipment at the end of the deal…

Subsidies under the new deal amount to an average of $16 million a year. That’s higher than the $11.2 million average annual subsidy under the current three-year deal.

I really shouldn’t be surprised by this, since Indianapolis, as noted, has been paying the Pacers $33 million over the past three years just to keep playing in their taxpayer-provided arena. Stretching out the annual operating subsidy over another ten years, though — and upping the ante in the process — solidifies the city as a rare winner of the sad trifecta of supplying 100% of arena construction costs, collecting no rent or other revenues, and then paying the team to play in its free arena. Indianapolis doesn’t so much host an NBA team as lease one.

For all the stupidity on display here, there’s one person who needs to be singled out: Whoever it was in Mayor Stephen Goldsmith’s administration who, after agreeing to gift the Pacers with a new arena, looked at the team execs’ demand for a clause letting them opt out if they weren’t happy with how things were going and thought, “Yeah, sure, that’s fair!” Behaving like sports teams are hostage takers who need to be placated by any means necessary is a common sight among city officials across the U.S.; this, though, was like paying off the hostage takers and then handing them a gun. And a new hostage. A baby puppy hostage.

Stephen Goldsmith, incidentally, after having to resign as New York City deputy mayor following his arrest for spousal abuse (he was later acquitted), is now back at his previous job as a professor of government at Harvard. It’s gotta be awkward when he runs into Judith Grant Long at the cafeteria, and she just shakes her head sadly at him.

Chargers, mayor meet on stadium, talk mostly about weather

Stop the presses! The San Diego Chargers and members of Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s staff met yesterday to discuss a new stadium plan, and:

In a prepared statement, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office emphasized that the meeting was not the beginning of any formal negotiation on building and financing a new stadium, but more of an information-gathering exercise to learn more about the issue.

“The Mayor’s staff had an introductory meeting today with a Chargers’ representative,” said Matthew Awbrey, chief of communications for Faulconer. “It was an opportunity for both sides to meet each other in person, not the start of any formal negotiation.”

Okay, so actually maybe you don’t have to stop the presses. Except at U-T San Diego, where stopping the presses for the Chargers is already official policy, and which ran this story with the headline “San Diego stadium talks begin” that speculated wildly about where these non-negotiations will end up:

There’s no specific financing proposal, but the most likely plan would include contributions from the team and city with voters having to approve a ballot measure authorizing city resources as part of such a package. Another aspect could involve developing the city-owned sports arena property, where what is now known as the Valley View Casino Center is located, as part of any deal.

It seems pretty likely that Faulconer, despite his repeated insistence that he’s out to “protect taxpayers,” will be more aggressive about pursuing a stadium deal with the Chargers than his predecessors, especially given that U-T publisher and self-proclaimed stadium cheerleader Doug Manchester endorsed his candidacy. But “mayor, Chargers meet, don’t say whether they talked about anything” is an awfully low threshold for news. Let’s check back when something actually happens.

Crain’s Cleveland editors dis ticket taxes, reveal they don’t understand how ticket taxes work

This Cleveland Scene article about the stadium sin tax debate is a week old, but I just noticed something in it that really needs to be commented on:

Crain’s Cleveland Business published an editorial this week officially endorsing the sin tax as well. They insisted their stance had nothing to do with their connections to the business community; nor was the endorsement a snap decision. “It came after thorough consideration of the legal, practical and economic ramifications.”

Crain’s thinks an admissions tax is “not a smart” option because it would “dampen demand, which would defeat the purpose of using the buildings as magnets to attract people downtown.”

Let’s think this one through for a second. The argument that Crain’s is making (here’s the original editorial) is that tacking on an admission tax would raise ticket prices, making it less likely for people to go to games. And because going to games is the raison d’être of sports facilities — and publications like Crain’s pretend that people who don’t go to games just sit on their money and don’t spend it, but we’ll leave that aside for the moment — that would be a bad thing for the city.

Except that’s not how ticket prices work. Because the marginal cost of selling an extra ticket is pretty close to nil (you might have to hire a couple of additional ushers or hot dog vendors if more people are showing up to the game, but that’s a trivial cost per ticket), team owners are pretty much just setting prices based on what the market will bear — in other words, what people are willing to pay to go to a game instead of doing something else that night. So if Cuyahoga County were to apply a $2 per ticket surcharge, say, then the most likely scenario is that the Indians and Browns and Cavs would all cut ticket prices by around $2 to keep maximizing the amount of revenue they get from ticket sales. (Or, more likely, since teams hate to actually cut prices, they’d just hold off on ticket price hikes they otherwise would have implemented.)

It’s this pricing dynamic that is why virtually all economists count ticket taxes as part of a team owner’s contribution to a stadium project, even though it’s technically public tax money: It ultimately comes out of the owner’s pocket. If admission taxes are a legal possibility (some sports leases prohibit them), they’d actually be a great way for Cuyahoga County to live up to its lease commitment to fund upgrades to Cleveland’s sports facilities without hitting up local taxpayers too badly. Yet another important topic we didn’t have time for during the Octoboxathon.

Miami-Dade commissioners: Not so fast, Beckham, on port stadium

It took me a day to unpack this Miami Herald article on MLS expansion franchise owner David Beckham’s plans for a waterfront stadium in Miami, which tells of how the Miami-Dade county commission rejected a proposal by PortMiami to relocate a fuel-spill facility that occupies a site Beckham wants to use for commercial redevelopment. At the same time, PortMiami, which runs Miami’s shipping port, wants to redevelop the site as commercial space, but isn’t so sure it wants to let Beckham have the land, since it would rather keep the income to shore up its own lagging shipping revenues.

The Herald’s Patricia Mazzei speculates in a blog post that Miami-Dade commissioners may just be angling to be courted harder on the project (so far Beckham has focused on lobbying Mayor Carlos Gimenez and taking selfies with the governor), so this could be just a step toward more heated negotiations. Or Beckham might have to look toward one of the other umpteen sites he’s been considering. It’s a good thing for Beckham that he’s not on a timetable yet for starting his franchise, because all signs are that this could take a while.

Bruins to renovate Garden using actual own money their actual own selves

Not every team owner is insisting that they need public money to do renovations for their 1990s-era arenas. The owners of Boston’s TD Garden, who also own the Bruins, just announced $70 million in upgrades that they’ll be paying for out of their own pocket:

Among the ambitious upgrades: a relocation and expansion of the Bruins’ Proshop; an overhaul of the concourses on levels four and seven; and renovations of the Garden’s concessions and the Legends Club, the arena’s largest private hospitality space, which houses the Celtics’ Courtside club and is open to eligible Bruins and Celtics season-ticket holders.

“It’s our goal to really set the industry standard, the high-water mark, for fan experience,” Charlie Jacobs, principal for Delaware North Companies and the Bruins, told the Globe.

You can credit the difference between this and the situation with the Miami Heat et al. to the fact that Massachusetts isn’t as generous with sports subsidies as Florida, to the fact that it’d be laughable for the Bruins to threaten to leave Boston for another market, or just to Charlie Jacobs being a nice guy, if you want. But anyway, sports venue renovations can be done on the team’s dime. If you really needed any more evidence than this.