Tottenham Hotspur proposes retractable field for NFL, London still isn’t getting NFL anytime soon

Tottenham Hotspur‘s owners have another idea for luring an NFL team to London, which involves a retractable fake-turf field and is only probably going to lead to London even further becoming L.A.’s eventual successor as idle relocation threat target for NFL teams, as I discuss in my debut for the Washington Post’s PostEverything op-ed site:

Without L.A. in play, NFL team owners would need to find a new bogeyman. Enter London. If the league plays its cards right, it can spend the next two decades dangling London as a threat to silence any U.S. stadium naysayers — while still using the distant promise of a team to plump up British interest in the NFL, in a kind of “watch us and we will come” strategy aimed at the 64 million bereft souls who have never known the joy of buying a $10 foam finger.

The rest of the essay explains why I don’t think London is an alluring target for NFL owners, and includes all the digs at American football culture and links to comedy routines that you’ve come to expect from posts here, only I actually get paid for it. So go read it already!

Minneapolis council could try to override mayor’s veto of $45m United soccer tax break

The Minneapolis city council could try to override a presumed veto from Mayor Betsy Hodges on granting a full property tax exemption to a new Minnesota United soccer stadium, reports Minnesota Public Radio:

With support for the stadium growing on the 13-member council, Blong Yang, who represents the north side, said he might be able to marshal nine votes needed to override a mayoral veto.

“That’s within the realm of possibility,” he said.

The city would still “likely” need the state legislature’s permission to waive property taxes as well, reports MPR. That’s a hurdle that the Twins managed to clear (narrowly) for their own stadium nine years ago, so you can bet that United’s owners are going to use the “hey, it’s not your money at stake” argument as well.

Meanwhile, MPR didn’t provide a figure for how much the property tax break would be worth, so I’m sticking with my $45 million guesstimate until further notice. If anyone has a more precise number, feel free to shout it out in comments below.

Carson stadium may not have funding, but does have 20-story lightning bolts and Al Davis flame

New Carson stadium porn! And man, is it porny — check this out:

A signature element of the design is a 115- to 120-foot tower that rises through and extends above the main concourse. It would serve as a pedestal for a cauldron that would change depending on the team. When the Chargers play, simulated lightning bolts would swirl behind glass encasing the tower and, if the team were to score a touchdown, a bolt would shoot out of the top. For Raiders games, a flame would burn in the cauldron in honor of legendary team owner Al Davis.

Having trouble picturing this? Well, wonder no more:

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/553a597ff92ea14738002859/CHARGERS%20-%2002.jpg

The architect who designed this craziness also said he “wanted the building to be iconic and sleek, like a luxury sports car,” then showed it by releasing a rendering of the new stadium with a Porsche sitting in front of it. Presumably because when people picture sparks shooting out of their car, they don’t usually think of it as a good thing?

Anyway, NFL commissioner called the Carson project (and the St. Louis Rams‘ proposed Inglewood project) “viable” with a “great deal of potential to be successful” on Friday, and then his paid employee Dan Hanzus of NFL.com said this gave the L.A. plans “momentum,” so job well done, crazy lightning renderers! Another day that the media doesn’t spend discussing how exactly anyone is going to pay for these buildings is a happy day for Goodell.

Wisconsin rep concocts excuse for backing $120m in Bucks arena subsidies, forgets to use actual math

If Rob Manfred didn’t learn his stadium shakedown lesson from the NFL’s Eric Grubman, he can look to another newbie commissioner, the NBA’s Adam Silver, who already has this stuff down:

For both fans and detractors of the Milwaukee Bucks wondering whether the team might still relocate to Seattle, NBA commissioner Adam Silver reiterated Thursday that he is confident the Bucks will remain in Milwaukee and get a new arena…

“We have complete confidence they’re going to get the deal done in Milwaukee,’’ Silver said, according to the Seattle Times.

See? Not “I have confidence the Bucks are going to stay in Milwaukee,” because that would take the heat off local elected officials to get an arena subsidy deal done. Not “in the context of relocation, it’s important to have viable alternatives.” Just short and sweet: We’re confident they’ll come up with the ransom money, with the “or else” hanging there unstated but clear as day.

And are Wisconsin legislators listening? You betcha they are, as witness state rep. Mary Czaja, who is from way up in the north of the state where residents oppose funding a Bucks arena almost 9-to-1, yet she’s still come up with a rationale for supporting $120 million in state subsidies to the Bucks. How, you ask?

Czaja’s logic: The state of Wisconsin still owes $20 million on the BMO Harris Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee, which needs an additional $100 million in maintenance.

“We’re on the hook for it,” Czaja said.

Whether or not a new Bucks home is built, she added, “We will still be in the arena business. If we don’t do this, we’re going to lose the revenue on the Bucks and the trickle-down effect of that revenue into Milwaukee. We need a healthy Milwaukee to have a healthy state. That’s reality.”…

“When you explain it to constituents that way, they’re like, ‘Well, I would rather have the new arena, and the Bucks stay in the revenue, than a $120 million Bradley Center that has no major tenant in it.’”

I’m somewhat doubtful that Szaja has had this conversation with actual constituents as opposed to imaginary straw constituents in her head, but let’s think through the logic here. First off, if Wisconsin still owes $20 million on building the Bradley Center (which it does), it’s going to owe that whether the building is there or not. So that’s not money that can simply get repurposed for a new arena.

And what about that $100 million in needed “maintenance”? That’s based on an estimate last year from the Bradley Center’s state-run non-profit operator, and would include money for HVAC improvements, replacing seats, and “challenges with our parking structure.” It’s also an estimate of expenses over the next decade, so knock that figure down some to get to present value of the future costs.

Most of all, though, the state arena authority would own any new arena — and would be on the hook for maintenance costs there, too. So in exchange for putting up $120 million in state cash for a new Bucks arena, the state would get out from under, let’s say, maybe $70 million in maintenance on the old one — and add maintenance costs for a new, more expensive one, with pricier things to fix when they break.

This would no doubt sound like less of a good deal to Szaja’s imaginary constituents, which is why she doesn’t explain it that way. Either that, or she’s really bad at math. Or both! Sometimes incompetence and duplicity can go hand in hand.

Missouri senate fails to ban Rams stadium funds, threatens to refuse to make bond payments instead

The question of who can authorize taking tax revenue currently going to pay off the Edward Jones Dome and using it to fund a new St. Louis Rams stadium has gotten ultra-crazy, with these latest developments in the state legislature:

  • The state senate passed a bill banning using the money to pay for a new stadium.
  • House leaders got the funding ban stricken from the bill in conference committee.
  • Senate leaders said the governor would go ahead with selling bonds based on the Jones Dome money at his own risk, because “we’re not technically obligated to pay” and could just refuse to appropriate funds to pay off the bonds, and bondholders wouldn’t like that much, now would they?

The plan to use the Jones Dome payments for a new stadium is in plenty of trouble as it is, because then somebody would still have to pay off the Jones Dome, and in the governor’s current plan that somebody is the city of St. Louis — which has a law prohibiting new stadium funding without a public vote, and lawyers willing to sue to enforce that provision. But state senators threatening not to pay the governor’s IOUs are a nice added touch. At this point, Nixon might want to just hold a referendum already, and pull out all the stops trying to win it — though it’d undoubtedly help if Rams owner Stan Kroenke were showing any interest in helping to do so, since he’s the guy with the money for a big-bucks ad campaign. What’s the world coming to when you can’t even count on the local billionaire to buy votes?

Shed a tear for Milwaukee journalists, for this is their job

Milwaukee and Wisconsin leaders met for a second straight day yesterday to discuss funding plans for a Bucks arena, and how’d that go?

“We are continuing to talk about a solution,” Bucks President Peter Feigin said.

Yup, yup, I expect you are. And are you getting anywhere?

“Another productive working session. Everyone is continuing to operate in good faith and there’s a lot of issues that need to be worked out, but I think I think that people want to work these issues out. So, there’s no announcement whatsoever. We’re going to continue to meet. Staff are going to be exchanging numbers and we’re just going to continue to work,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

If printing that sort of PR pablum — along with a summary of all the different arena funding proposals floated so far, to fill out space — seems like a thin excuse for an article, such is the lot of the daily journalists now covering the Bucks arena closed-door meeting beat. In fact, it gets worse than that: Check out the reporting that’s gone on before each of the meetings, when elected officials didn’t even have anything new to refuse to comment on. From yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website:

Shortly before attending another meeting to discuss cost-sharing for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, Mayor Tom Barrett was circumspect about where the talks stand…

“We had a good working session yesterday in Madison and we’re going to continue the discussions today (in Milwaukee). I think it’s fair to say that there are a lot of moving pieces right now. I think that everyone who is involved in this is operating with goodwill. And it’s a challenging issue,” Barrett said.

Now there’s a nothingburger of a quote, but the mayor said it, so it’s news, right? And it’s still better than the report that poor Rich Kirchen of the Milwaukee Business Journal filed on Wednesday, as all the politicians filed into a room at the governor’s office and shut the door behind them:

The key players arrived Wednesday afternoon for a closed-door summit on possible public funding of a new arena in downtown Milwaukee but nearly all of them declined to comment as they entered the Governor’s Conference Room at the state Capitol in Madison….

“I’d be thrilled if something was (agreed to),” [Milwaukee County Executive Chris] Abele said. “We’ll do whatever we can to get there. We have a number of parties so I don’t speak for anybody else.”

It’s hard to say who’s to blame for this kind of on-the-scenes information-free reporting — the journalists involved no doubt figure it’s what their editors want, editors figure it’s what readers want, and readers probably click on it eagerly, even if there’s no metric in Google Analytics for “disappointment at finding nothing of interest after clicking on a promising headline.” (Man, can you imagine if there was? BuzzFeed would go out of business overnight.) But it has to stop, because, well, it’s hurting America.

What else could Milwaukee’s assembled journalistic corps be doing instead of chasing elected officials around for non-quotes, you ask? Well, they could be analyzing the likely funding options left on the table, like Milwaukee Magazine did the other day. Or read Gov. Scott Walker’s actual arena proposal to find that if the Bucks owners were to break their lease, they’d have to repay the state’s costs, but not the city’s or county’s, as reported by Urban Milwaukee’s Bruce Murphy yesterday. Or, really, pretty much anything that requires actually researching facts and reporting them to readers, rather than just being a quote-harvesting service for people with fancy titles.

Not that the daily journalists never do this — they do, every once in a while. But it’s way too infrequent an occurrence, especially when they have yards of column inches (or column pixels) to fill each month. There’s an incredible story unfolding in Milwaukee right now, about how two rich guys bought the local NBA team and are, with the help of a move threat deadline set by the league, trying to extract $250 million in public money to replace a 27-year-old arena from a state that may soon have trouble paying for its schools and highways. Instead, we get this:

“We understand the importance of it. We understand the impact on the state of Wisconsin, on the community here, on the region here, and I understand that all of us have an obligation to our taxpayers. So, it’s very much a work in progress, but I’m glad that we’re working.”

Is it any wonder that people think this stuff can be done equally well by robots?

Wisconsin officials meet to talk Bucks arena, fun time is had by all

Representatives of the Milwaukee Bucks, aides to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, top state legislative leaders, and Milwaukee city and county leaders all got together yesterday to talk about how the heck to pay for a new $500 million arena that none of them actually want to pay for, and … well, it was a closed-door meeting, so nobody knows what was discussed. But according to all who were there, they had a great old time filling out the forms and playing with the pencils:

“It was a good give and take,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. “We’re pleased.”…

Barrett, [Milwaukee County Executive Chris] Abele, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Bucks President Peter Feigin all described Wednesday’s talks as positive. …

“I look for as many ways to get to yes and rule out as few options as possible,” Abele told reporters after the meeting. “I want all the parties to be as happy as they can be. I want to get the Bucks here. And as everybody said, we want to be responsible to the tax dollars.”

“I think everyone in that room is operating in good faith,” Barrett said. “They all recognize that we have a responsibility to the taxpayers…and we all share the same goal, which is to make sure that we have the Bucks stay.”

Reading between the lines, then, everyone agreed that funding a Bucks arena was why they were in the room together, and managed not to accuse each other of promoting gun violence or anything. And will meet again today to see if anyone actually has any bright ideas for how to pay for the Bucks owners’ new toy. Whether you take that as a sign of progress or of back-room collusion probably depends on how happy you would be to see them adopt some Rube Goldberg financing device that would spend now, figure out how to pay for it later, because that sure seems like where this thing is headed.

Orlando mayor says soccer stadium approved two years ago won’t happen unless state kicks in $30m more

Back when the city of Orlando and Orange County approved $40 million in subsidies for Orlando City S.C. in 2013, it was supposed to be enough to cover the cost of an $85 million soccer stadium, with plans to add more bells and whistles — more luxury seating, a second “executive club,” and more advertising boards — if $30 million in additional state tax breaks came through. Now, though, with site prep for the stadium still in the early stages, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is suddenly saying the state sales tax rebate is “integral” to the project, and without it … something. Something bad.

You can’t really blame Dyer, since it’s not his money that’s at stake here — I mean, it is his citizens’ money, since they’re Florida taxpayers, but it doesn’t come out of his budget — so it makes sense for him to pull out all the stops to lean on the state legislature to approve the cash. One would hope that state legislators would instead look at the facts that past state sports subsidies have only returned 30 cents on the dollar and that the Orlando project is only promising to create 60 jobs and politely decline Dyer’s demands, but this is Florida, so probably not.

Oakland stadium honcho gets mad at NFL for Raiders move threats, must be new at this game

On Tuesday, NFL VP for stadium extortion Eric Grubman called in to an L.A. radio show and talked smack about Oakland’s stadium plans for the Raiders, because that’s what he does. In particular, Grubman said that over the past three years, “I visited with public officials, and I feel like we’ve gone backwards. So I feel like we’ve lost years and gone backwards. And that usually doesn’t bode well.”

Floyd Kephart, the financier trying to put together an Oakland stadium deal, however, apparently failed to read Grubman’s resume, and so yesterday freaked the hell out at the NFL capo:

“Every time he comes, there is a backward step,” Kephart said of NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman, who was in Oakland last week. “And if he would just stay the hell out of here, we might actually get a deal done.”…

Kephart peppered his remarks before the Airport Area Business Association with one-liners Wednesday but said afterward that he took umbrage with Grubman’s tone at last week’s meeting. “You don’t come to a city and threaten it with ‘I’m going to take your team away. We’ll move to Carson if you guys don’t do something,'” he said.

Floyd, Floyd, Floyd. When you’re the NFL, that’s exactly what you do. It’s not something you need to take umbrage over, it’s something to shake your head sadly at, and try to defuse by talking about all the great progress you’re making, blah blah blah. Sure, I guess that can be tough when you’re not really making much progress, but then just point out how the folks in Carson don’t know how they’re going to pay for their stadium, either. But resorting to petty name-calling is … way more entertaining, actually, so by all means, keep it up!

Carson council approves NFL stadium rezoning without public vote, because it can

Yeah, the Carson city council went and done did it:

A local City Council on Tuesday night unanimously voted to clear the path for a proposed $1.7 billion stadium near Los Angeles that could become the shared home to the NFL’s San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders…

Council members could have opted to put the issue before Carson voters, but instead chose to approve it outright themselves as state law allows.

As covered here yesterday, most of the project details still fall into the “reply hazy, ask again later” category; what the Carson council approved yesterday was the ballot language approved earlier in a petition drive, which voters now won’tget to  vote on because the council did it on their behalf. From the looks of it — it’s 309 pages, which makes you wonder how many petitioners actually read the whole thing, let alone city council members — it mostly approves a bunch of rezoning of land targeted for the stadium, plus some “stadiums are cool” language to make clear the intent of the initiative. Everything else will get worked out later, though it’s been promised that the city will only be on the hook for police and traffic costs, which the teams (the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, under the current plan) would reimburse them for.

There is one cost that isn’t being mentioned, and that’s foregone property taxes: Under the plan, the entire 157-acre site that would be home to the stadium — and parking, and presumably some other development, since a stadium don’t need no 157 acres — would be transferred to a public authority, which pretty much always means exempting it from property taxes. As we’ve seen before, property tax exemptions can add up to a whole lot of money, so it’s worth asking questions about how much this would amount to for Carson — in fact, that would have been a good question to ask before voting to move ahead with this deal, but meh, there’s always time to figure stuff out later, right?