Residents of buildings set to be razed for FC Cincinnati walkway demand compensation for losing homes

The controversy over the residents of Cincinnati’s West End who are getting evicted by F.C. Cincinnati because of the team’s new stadium but not technically for the team’s new stadium is heating up, with tenants demanding that the team find them new housing and pay compensation for booting them from their longtime homes:

The letter, from Wade Street & Central Avenue Tenants United, was sent by Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition Executive Director Josh Spring, to the public Monday night.

“We should continue to live in 421 Wade and 1559 Central until this replacement housing is completed and each of us has suitable housing and FCC should pay all moving costs and proper compensation to tenants,” the letter said.

The twelve residents of the two buildings, which are set to be torn down to make way for not the stadium proper but for an entrance to the stadium, have been told they have to vacate the property by May 31, but according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, “team lawyers have publicly said nobody will be kicked out on that date, though people need to find new housing,” which hunnnhh? While lobbying for taxpayer funding for the stadium, team president Jeff Berding had promised that no residents would be displaced, but now says he only meant no residents of the City West development nearby, not no residents at all.

While it looks like the conflict will be resolved by settling on a compensation payout, the tenants made clear that the real issue is that they don’t want to move, and are being forced to just so a soccer team can have a walkway:

The letter said Berding and FC Cincinnati officials “must not understand the gravity of this situation.”

“They are threatening our homes, our stability and our physical and mental health,” the letter said. “We live where we live because we like our neighborhood, we like our streets, we have relationships with our neighbors, our kids go to school and play nearby, we have close family and friends nearby, we can financially afford our current homes, our jobs are close by, we have access to transportation and our medical care can easily reach us.”

Which, yeah, sure, people get forced to move from homes they like all the time for lots of reasons, including just the capitalist housing market. But that doesn’t make it any less tragic when it’s happening to you, especially when you have reason to believe there were other options available.

Is Angels owner Arte Moreno just playing Long Beach for leverage or what?

Yesterday’s Long Beach Post had the most detailed timeline yet of Long Beach’s flirtation with the Los Angeles Angels over a new stadium, and it goes something like this:

  • A Long Beach councilmember emailed an Angels vice-president in 2014, when the team was first talking about leaving Anaheim for someplace else in Orange County or environs, “but the conversation went nowhere.”
  • A Long Beach official had a meeting with an Angels lawyer in 2017, but a followup meeting never happened, city economic development director John Keisler explaining, “We called a bunch of times, but they never responded.”
  • In October 2018, when Angels owner Arte Moreno abruptly decided to opt out of his Anaheim lease, Long Beach started preparing a stadium site plan in earnest, and in January of this year there were high-level meetings between city and team officials, shepherded by local real estate developer Frank Suryan.

So the question now becomes: Did Angels execs finally start returning Long Beach’s phone calls because they were seriously interested in moving there, or because they were seriously interested in Anaheim officials thinking they were seriously interested in moving there? In other words, is this a genuine possibility, or just a savvy negotiator trying to create leverage?

Unfortunately, the two tactics look pretty much the same from the outside, and it could always even be both: There’s no reason Moreno couldn’t have said, “Sure, go talk to Long Beach, either it’ll pan out or at worst it’ll help me play hardball in my talks with Anaheim.” So we have to stare really hard at the tea leaves to try to suss this out:

  • The Long Beach stadium comes with a $1 billion price tag, and no plan yet for how to pay it off. That would take $60-70 million a year in new revenues just to break even on, and it’s hard to see how a Long Beach stadium would be that much more profitable than the one Moreno already has in Anaheim, especially with no room for housing or other development on the site.
  • About that site: It’s still really damn small. The Long Beach Post published its own image of Angel Stadium superimposed onto the site, as provided by “the architecture firm Gensler,” but weirdly made it a narrow banner image that can’t be viewed in its entirety. Viewing the page source reveals it to be this:

    Which would overlap two major roads and the Long Beach arena, plus part of a park and neighboring lagoon. The site isn’t quite unworkably small, but it would at best take some extremely creative design to get it to fit.
  • Angels spokesperson Marie Garvey said in response to queries about Long Beach, “We get approached by cities all the time. This is nothing new.” She then added: “Right now we’re only talking to Long Beach and Anaheim.”

It certainly has all the ingredients of a leverage move, but crazier ideas have happened, so.

Moreno is still reportedly set to make a decision — whatever such a decision would mean, as plenty of other team owners have made stadium decisions then later backed out of them when they proved unworkable — sometime this year. Maybe by then Long Beach will actually have a site plan and financing plan in place; even more likely, by then former Anaheim mayor Tom Tait’s parting gift to the city of a new appraisal of the Angel Stadium parking lot land value will be complete, and Moreno and new mayor Harry Sidhu will have a starting point for figuring out what Moreno should have to pay if he wants to develop the lots and use the proceeds for stadium renovations (or, I guess, just stuff the cash down his pants). Watching slow-motion jockeying like this can be very frustrating not just for fans and interested followers of stadium negotiations but also for journalists, which is why we get long articles about who was talking to whom when, and then long blog posts about the long articles; it’s fine to rubberneck at it all, so long as you keep in your mind that talk is cheap, and steel and concrete are expensive.

Friday roundup: Nashville saves (?) $75m by giving Predators $103m, South Carolina offers to give $125m to Panthers practice facility (?!), Oakland A’s shipping cranes are multiplying (?!?)

Since last week I went off-topic to discuss a review (kindly) poking fun at some of the ridiculousness of Marvel movies, I should note that there’s a TV series that manages to create a fun, exciting superhero universe while simultaneously poking fun at the entire genre in ways that expose not just its ridiculousness but also its fundamentally Manichean politics, and which has now been canceled by Amazon, a company that has been at the forefront of scheming to shake down cities for subsidies in exchange for building its own facilities. Coincidence?!?!?!? Well, okay, yes, almost certainly, but here’s hoping The Tick ends up picked up by a less ethically compromised corporate entertainment giant, if that’s even a thing.

Where was I? Oh right, stadiums, what’s up with those this week that we didn’t get to already?

  • The Nashville Predators have indeed agreed to a 30-year lease extension as first reported last week, and how good or bad a deal it is depends on your perspective: The team’s $8.4 million a year in tax kickbacks and operating subsidies will be reduced to just $4.9 million a year in tax kickbacks, which would be $75 million in taxpayer savings but on the other hand the tax kickbacks will be extended to 2049 now instead of 2028, so that’s $102.9 million in additional taxpayer costs. (Neither figure translated into present value.)
  • A South Carolina legislative conference committee has approved $115 million in tax breaks for a Carolina Panthers practice facility in Rock Hill. Yes, you read that right, a practice facility. State officials say that the 15-year tax kickbacks of all state income taxes will pay for themselves, a conclusion that state senator Dick Harpootlian determined was based on, in the words of the Associated Press, “every Panthers player and coach moving to South Carolina and spending their entire paychecks here and the team buying all the material for the new facility from companies in the state.”
  • Speaking of practice facilities, the Washington Wizards‘ new one is costing $1 million more a year for D.C. to run than anticipated, which is not good after the city already spent $50 million to build the thing for the team’s billionaire owner. D.C. officials recently booked three new concerts for the arena, but expects to lose money on each of them; an Events D.C. board member said they would let “people know that they have a place to go, that this is a fun place,” which I guess is another way of saying they’ll make it up in volume.
  • Omaha is spending $750,000 on hosting an Olympic swim meet, which on the one hand is a lot cheaper than $115 million for an NFL practice facility, and on the other is for a one-time Olympic swim meet.
  • Two unnamed sources tell The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal that New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft is “on the brink of securing a stadium site,” which tells us nothing about the state of the Revolution’s actual stadium plans since this could be a planted rumor to try to gain momentum, but does tell us lots about The Athletic’s poor grasp of the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics policy on use of unnamed sources.
  • I wrote a thing for Gothamist about how the New York Mets banned backpacks because they have too many pockets to easily search, but not other bags with lots of pockets, pretty much on the grounds of “the light’s better over here.” The best argument either of the security experts could come up with for the policy is that fewer bags means faster lines which means less time queued up outside stadiums as a stationary target for any theoretical terrorists, which is frankly mostly an argument for staying home and watching on TV.
  • Journalist Taylor C. Noakes notes in an op-ed for CBC News that bringing back the Expos might be nice for Montreal baseball fans, but probably won’t do much for the Montreal economy since “the economic impact of a professional baseball team on a given city [is] roughly equivalent to that of a mid-sized department store,” which, yup.
  • The latest Oakland A’s renderings show it still oddly glowing amid a darkened rest of the city. Plus now there are shipping cranes on both corners of the site! I am about to start working on a theory that this entire stadium plan is just a dodge for John Fisher to build lots of shipping cranes.

Missouri approves $41m worth of renovations for Blues arena that St. Louis just paid $67m to renovate in 2017

The state of Missouri has approved $70 million in spending over 20 years for renovations to the St. Louis Blues arena — and if you feel like this just happened a couple of years ago, you’re almost right: That was $67 million in city money, and will cover scoreboard, sound system, and seat upgrades; the state money will pay for escalators, roofing and heating, and air conditioning, because apparently that’s what was left to buy on the Blues’ gift registry.

This will be totally worth it, say public officials, because competitiveness!

“Without renovations, and without public-sector support for those renovations, we run the risk of being less competitive in pursuit of national events,” said Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission, a nonprofit organization that attracts and manages sporting events.

Also because hockey is fun!

The fact that the Blues currently are making a run in the NHL postseason was mentioned by more than one state lawmaker during House debate on Wednesday, including by some who eagerly described going to hockey games.

(I’m having trouble finding documents to confirm this 100%, but the Blues owners appear not to have agreed to any sort of lease extension in exchange for the subsidies, presumably because St. Louis and Missouri official are even bigger morons than their neighbors over in Indiana.)

Since the payments are deferred a bit, the state’s $70 million in nominal subsidies is worth more like $41 million in present value, so that reduces the sting a bit. Though the legislature also tacked on approval to pay another 10 years’ worth of $3-million-a-year lease subsidies to the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, which adds to the sting, though at least those are subsidies that were planned for all along, so it’s not really a new waste of cash, just an agreement to keep up with the commitment to an old one? Maybe it’s best just to say Who can put a price on state-of-the-art escalators? and leave it at that.

Long Beach Angels stadium would cost $1B, be paid for by ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The city of Long Beach’s plans for a Los Angeles Angels stadium may be hampered by a cramped site and lousy transit options, but apparently they’re serious enough to have priced out how much it would cost. The answer: a buttload.

A new baseball stadium on a proposed 13-acre site known as the “elephant lot,” just east of the Convention and Entertainment Center downtown, would cost $900 million, according to a report Long Beach staffers drafted on Oct. 25. That report presented officials with different bond options for financing the project — over 20, 30 or 40 years. Each option, the report said, would push the total cost to roughly $1.1 billion after interest.

In addition:

New parking garages would cost about $30,000 for each stall, according to recent estimates – or about $105 million for the 3,500 new spaces at the stadium alone, staff wrote in a report.

The 556 pages of documents turned over by Long Beach this week in response to public records requests also revealed that the Bay Area legal firm Quint & Thimmig LLP noted that the city could potentially avoid voter approval of any stadium deal by using “new financing districts [or[ public-private partnerships,” notes the Long Beach Press-Telegram, or such dedicated revenue streams as naming-rights fees or increased rates for parking at city lots. They also revealed that a Long Beach councilmember had first reached out to Angels execs way back in 2014 during the Great Tustin Footsie Episode, though talks didn’t kick off in earnest until last fall.

It’s not really fair to add in financing costs as if they’re cash being paid out now, but even assuming $900 million in present value for stadium costs, those parking garages (for only 3,500 cars, which is not a lot of cars for a 50,000-ish seat stadium) would push the total cost past $1 billion. And while it’s nice to suggest using naming rights or stadium revenues to pay off part of that cost, that’s all money that Angels owner Arte Moreno would be wanting to boost his own profits — otherwise why else move? Add in that his negotiations with Anaheim have all been about getting free or cheap land to build housing on, and the Long Beach site currently can’t have housing built on it because it’s designated “tideland,” and yeah, this is not looking like a great proposal.

If Moreno is mostly continuing talks with Long Beach to shake loose a sweet deal in Anaheim, though, then it doesn’t really matter how serious the Long Beach proposal is so long as headlines keep showing up about it. (Sorry about perpetuating that.) Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu at least seemed to take the Long Beach report in stride, saying Tuesday that “Anaheim has an incredible advantage as the best stadium site in Southern California, with great freeway access, integrated public transit, easy in-and-out and a proven experience for fans for more than 50 years now,” and snarking that “we certainly understand [Long Beach’s] ambition but do not envy the monumental task presented by financing, government approvals, traffic planning and environmental review.”

Six months after Sidhu’s election, though, we still have no idea what he’s offering to Moreno, something that Councilmember Jose Moreno, the hospitality workers’ union Unite Here Local 11, and the community group Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development this week called for remedying by making the negotiations public. City spokesperson Mike Lyster retorted that the model is the city’s Anaheim Ducks arena deal, which was made public about a month before it was voted on by the council — which is either just enough time to have a comprehensive public debate or just enough time to avoid one, depending on your perspective. It’s going to be very interesting to see what that new land appraisal for the Angel Stadium property comes in at, let’s just leave it at that.

Wisconsin TV station reports “immense” Bucks arena windfall after talking only to guy who cut Bucks arena deal

And now for your periodic reminder in how to read a news article. First, the headline:

‘UPFRONT’ recap: Return on Fiserv Forum will be immense for state taxpayers

Seeing as this appears on the website of the Milwaukee TV station WISN, “UPFRONT” is likely some TV news program. Fiserv Forum is the name of the new Bucks arena. And “immense” means huge, so presumably WISN reporters took an independent look at the return on state spending on the arena and found a lot of money coming back. Or, you know, not:

Fiserv Forum, the new home of the Milwaukee Bucks, will return a “tremendous” amount of money to state taxpayers who helped fund it, said Scott Neitzel, the former administration secretary for Republican Gov. Scott Walker who helped craft the arena deal.

Yes, WISN left out the part where the immense return (actually the quote was “tremendous” but apparently they were trying to cut characters) is entirely according to the guy who negotiated the deal, and who now runs a consulting firm for local businesses, another tidbit that WISN left out. In fact, the entire report was based solely on a single interview with Neitzel, who asserts that the state of Wisconsin will take in $600 million in income taxes for its expenditure of $80 million in tax money. (Plus “the pride of now having a potential championship team here,” because apparently the Bucks owners would have traveled back in time to 2013 and not drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo if they hadn’t received the arena subsidy.)

This is actually something that has already been researched, and Neitzel’s claims, it turns out, are somewhere between overblown and completely fraudulent:

  • The state’s own earlier estimates were for $299 million in new income taxes over the next 20 years, not $600 million. Neitzel gave no explanation for the doubling of his projections.
  • $169 million of that $299 million would come from projected increases in NBA salaries over coming years, something that would only work out if average player salaries rise to $33 million a year.
  • Even that remaining $130 million in state tax receipts assumes that 1) the Bucks would have left without a new arena and 2) people who would have spent money on Bucks games would then take their money and spend it elsewhere. The latter of these has been shown by studies to be categorically untrue, though the presence of an NBA team can move some spending from the suburbs to the city — which benefits Wisconsin state tax coffers, needless to say, not at all, unless you’re luring tons of fans from across the Illinois border.

All of which leaves, well, who knows? But it’s certainly a lot less than a “tremendous” or “immense” windfall, as a call to any independent sports economist, or even a quick googling, would have confirmed. WISN, though, didn’t have time for that, so it was left to viewers to figure out for themselves whether Neitzel was telling the truth or some other thing. And really, isn’t that what journalism is all about?

Red Wings owners to get $74m bonus subsidy for building parking garages for themselves

If you’ve been remotely awake the last couple of weeks, you’ve no doubt heard about the controversy around the Detroit Red Wings arena, which the team’s owners the Ilitch family promised would create tons of new development in the surrounding district and which instead led mostly to lots of parking lots. Injury, get ready to meet insult: The Ilitches are about to pocket $74 million in bonus subsidies from the city because they built, among other things, parking garages:

Ilitch-owned Olympia Development has made at least $200 million in building investments within the arena district, popularly known as District Detroit. That spending fulfills the organization’s minimum legal commitment for so-called “ancillary development” around the new sports venue where the Red Wings and Pistons have played since fall 2017…

The $200 million goal was met by development of two parking decks, the Google office at the south side of the arena and the still-under-construction Little Caesars headquarters on Woodward.

That Google office, which opened last year, employs all of 100 people and is actually in the arena itself, so it’s hard to call it additional development. The parking decks are for the Red Wings (and their tenants, the Pistons), while the Little Caesars headquarters is for the pizza company owned by the Ilitches. (One garage will feature some ground-floor retail stores, at least, if anyone rents the space.) So while that’s all certainly an “investment” by the team owners, it’s an investment in their own business, for which they’ll now be collecting a check from city taxpayers covering 37% of their $200 million cost.

The Detroit Free Press has this as increasing taxpayers’ total arena outlay to $398 million; there are so many moving parts to this deal — stadium construction bonds, demolition costs, free city land, etc. — that I can’t confirm that independently, but it sounds about right. The lesson here, as the lesson pretty much always is, is for god’s sake don’t sign leases allowing team owners to rake in additional subsidies for easily attainable goals that gain local residents pretty much nothing. It would have been easy enough to tie the bonus subsidy to jobs created instead of money spent, or exclude spending on the Ilitch’s own businesses, or any number of other requirements, but the state officials running Detroit when the arena deal was agreed to during the city’s bankruptcy seem not to have been interested in any of that. I would say that I hope at least future elected officials in Michigan and elsewhere would learn from this mistake, but given past experience, really I don’t hope that hard at all.

Friday roundup: Predators sign possibly non-sucky lease extension, NYCFC stadium rumors reach code orange, and why are we laughing at fat Thor, anyway?

Sorry if I’m posting a bit late this morning, but I started checking Deadspin for any last-minute news, and ended up having to read all of Anna Merlan’s best Avengers: Endgame review ever. If you’re tempted to click that and go read it now, please wait until after reading this post because it will make you forget all about wanting to know about soccer stadium zoning regulations or whatever, and anyway this week’s roundup is relatively short and will let you get back to thoughts on Thor fat-shaming in due haste; if you’re not tempted to click that at all and are wondering how this post went off the rails so quickly, just skip ahead to the bullet points already:

Chicago Fire to pay $45m-plus to move from suburban soccer stadium to Soldier Field

The Chicago Fire, who for the past 13 years have played in a soccer-specific stadium in suburban Bridgeview that has been somewhat of a disaster for all concerned — attendance is meh, and the village of Bridgeview has taken a bath on the lease — have agreed to pay $65.5 million as part of a buyout so they can move to the Bears‘ Soldier Field starting next season, according to the Desplaines Valley News, “a household name in the southwest suburbs since 1913”:

The breakup, which had been hinted at for several years, became official Tuesday afternoon when the village board unanimously approved a Memo Of Understanding between the Fire and Bridgeview. The next step is formally amending the lease, which is expected.

Under the terms of the memo, the team would pay the village $60.5 million to escape its lease. That includes a $10 million payment upfront with the balance paid over the next 15 years, the village’s financial advisor Dan Denys told the board…

The Fire would also pay the village $5 million for the next five years for using the Bridgeview facilities for practice, Denys said.

Okay, that’s not really a $65 million buyout: The $5 million is rent on using the stadium as a practice field, and since $50.5 million of the actual buyout would be spread over 15 years, that’s a present value total of more like $45 million. (Which is a lot less than the previous buyout estimate of $125 million, though of course that was just an estimate.) Though the Fire owners have also reportedly promised to “make whole” SeatGeek if the move harms the value of the company’s naming rights deal on the Bridgeview stadium, which could add millions more to their cost. Plus we still don’t know what the Fire will pay the Chicago parks department (who if I’m reading the Bears’ lease right control Soldier Field on non-NFL days) to play in their new home.

All of which is interesting in that it shows how desperate the Fire are to get into a stadium that their fans can actually get to, but more to the point: An MLS team is choosing to move from a soccer-specific stadium to become a renter in somebody else’s NFL stadium did Don Garber just keel over and die or what? It’s been MLS gospel for years now that soccer-specific stadiums are a must, with the only exceptions allowed being for teams that at least play in a multisport stadium that they control; the Fire will apparently now be an exception to that rule. To every would-be expansion city being asked to build a new stadium for soccer when it already has another stadium that could be used — which is to say, all of them — this should set an example that it isn’t actually necessary; it may be nice for a team and its fans, but that doesn’t mean cities should be on the hook for paying for them because they’re told it’s the only possible way to have a successful team.

Bill would let A’s owners use tax money for Howard Terminal infrastructure they said they’d pay for themselves

Oakland A’s owner John Fisher has been trying to build a new stadium forever, and for just as long he’s been insisting he’ll do it entirely with private money. So, ruh-roh:

Legislation that would help the City of Oakland finance infrastructure and transportation projects for a new ballpark at Howard Terminal was approved Monday by the State Senate…

The bill would allow Oakland to create an infrastructure financing district for the roughly 50-acre waterfront property where the Oakland Athletics intend to build a 35,000-seat ballpark, 3,000 units of housing, in addition, to retail and office space.

“Any financing that emanates from the district would not be used for the actual stadium itself. That is going to be privately financed,” [state Sen. Nancy] Skinner said on the state senate floor. “but rather for the other transportation and other infrastructure that may be needed at the site.”

So, okay, if you’re new to this whole development subsidy thing, “transportation and other infrastructure” could mean stuff that genuinely has nothing to do with an A’s stadium, or at least only tangentially benefits it while also benefitting the whole area; or it could mean “everything about the stadium that isn’t actually holding up the seats.” It’s always tough to say until you see the actual funding plan, and we don’t have that for the A’s. The actual bill appears to leave it up to the city of Oakland how big to draw the tax increment financing district, and what to spend the money on, so that’s no help either.

(And if you’re new to tax increment financing, it’s basically kicking back taxes from a new development to help pay for part of the development’s costs. It doesn’t usually work out too good.)

The A’s planned Howard Terminal site will have lots of environmental cleanup costs, but team execs say they’re going to pay for those; in fact, team president Dave Kaval went so far as to say back in February, “There are going to be a lot of infrastructure costs on the site, whether it’s transportation, whether it’s sea level rise, whether it’s environmental mitigation. Those are all things that as part of the project, we’re willing to pay for.” And by “the site” Kaval meant the whole site, including other development, so … beats me, man.

As for how much tax could be redirected to this infrastructure fund, it depends on how big a TIF district Oakland approves. If we wild-ass-guesstimate a $1 billion development, though, and the effective property tax rate in Oakland is a little under 1.5%, then over 30 years, in present value … we could maybe be talking about $200 million or more. Probably less than that given that you’d have to deduct the current value of Howard Terminal land, but still, likely somewhere in the low nine figures. Maybe.

This is all exceeding hand-wavy, obviously, and really you’d want an Oakland City Hall reporter who’s on the scene (or at least in the right time zone) to be asking these questions. All we know for sure is that Zennie Abraham claims he gave Kaval the idea for TIFs last year, though given that 1) the A’s owners were talking about TIF-like structures way back in 2006 and 2) Zennise Abraham has claimed lots of things, probably best to keep several large grains of salt on hand for that one as well.