Massachusetts governor on Dorchester stadium for Revolution: “Think of the children!”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker says he’d consider a proposal by New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft to build a soccer stadium in Dorchester in southern Boston, which, you know, that’s what governors say, so it’s to be expected. But then Baker went and said this:

“A facility like that could be used by kids and by UMass Boston and by the community at large,” he said. “If the rest of it could get worked out, I think it could be a plus.”

Um, what? The stadium, if built, would be on land owned by UMass-Boston, so they could certainly try to work out a deal by which their soccer team could use the stadium when the Revolution isn’t home. But “kids” and “the community at large”? Has Baker ever seen a pro soccer stadium? Unless it’s going to be surrounded by practice pitches (it won’t), no local kids are going to get to play on its field except maybe as halftime entertainment. While a Dorchester stadium wouldn’t necessarily be a terrible idea — it all depends on how much Kraft would pay for the site and who’d pay for construction, something that at last report was still being left to the magic funding fairy — building it under the pretense that it will benefit youth soccer is just daft.

Not to be left out, Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung added: “Some may say I have never met a stadium I didn’t like. But I really like this one. What’s most exciting is the opportunity to build something different in a part of the city that could use an economic jolt. It’s not another strip mall, big-box retailer, or luxury condo tower — and that’s a good thing.” Except that at least strip malls are open 365 days a year, whereas soccer stadiums are big dark boxes 90% of the time. Maybe Dorchester should just build a strip mall with a youth soccer field in the parking lot?

Angels owner okays development next to stadium, doesn’t even have to sue anybody first

After complaining about the new development project proposed for next door and threatening to sue to stop it, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno gave his blessing to LT Global’s mixed-use project this week. This happened because they were … bought off? I’m going with bought off:

“We are pleased that LT Global worked with us in a timely and collaborative effort to address the impacts of their development on our fan experience,” Angels President John Carpino said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the city to finalize details on important transportation improvements for the Platinum Triangle in the coming weeks.”

LT Global spokesman Steve Greyshock wouldn’t elaborate on how the company and the Angels were able to amicably resolve their differences but did say the company looks forward to working with the team.

“We spoke. It was neighbors talking with neighbors,” Greyshock said. “They had some operational concerns, but overall the goal is to have a long, constructive relationship with the Angels.”

That’s playing it extremely close to the vest in terms of what the price was for the Angels ownership’s cooperation — it could have been anything from cash to a parking-sharing agreement to promising to buy the Angels’ stock of leftover Josh Hamilton jerseys — but the point is, they worked it out. And without Moreno being able to demand that Anaheim give him a huge swath of development rights for cheap, as was his original plan.

In all, Moreno seems to be following a new tactic of playing good cop, backing away from threats to opt out of his lease early and reopening lease extension talks with Anaheim. This is what you can make happen when you have a mayor who is a tough negotiator, a team that reaps huge benefits from playing in a major metro area, and city officials in other nearby locales also not willing to throw money at a stadium. Not saying it’ll work every time, but it is a little glimpse into a happier world where move threats are met with “Ha, yeah, that’s a good one” rather than “How many zeroes should we put on the check, Mr. Moreno?”

Mark Davis: Oakland doesn’t love me, I’m gonna go eat $750m in worms

When you’re a sports team owner trying to get your fellow owners to okay your move to a new city that’s waving a $750 million check in your face, it’s not so bad a strategy to try to burn your bridges with your old city, just in case. And Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is clearly a man who knows his way around a can of lighter fluid:

“Oakland was in the driver’s seat if they could’ve put together anything,” Davis said Wednesday at the NFL’s fall meetings, after updating his fellow owners on his desire to relocate to the gambling capital. “They came up with nothing.

“Las Vegas has already done what it is supposed to do and we have to bring it up to the National Football League and get permission to move to Las Vegas.”

Yeah, screw you, Oakland! You didn’t offer Mark Davis a $750 million check, instead only saying you’d pay for maybe $200 million worth of infrastructure! Who wants a measly $200 million, amirite, guys?

(For her part, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf issued a statement following Davis’s press conference: “If Oakland is going to be successful in offering the Raiders and the NFL a viable alternative to moving to Las Vegas, I have to stay clearheaded. I cannot afford for us to be thrown off our game because Nevada lawmakers have deemed it appropriate to put $750M in public money towards a private sports facility. While I’m committed to keeping the Raiders, I will not enter into a bidding war with Nevada using public funds.”)

Anyhoo, no NFL owners tipped their hand following the meeting on how they plan to vote — Houston Texans owner Robert McNair said, “These things are still so fluid until they nail everything down we don’t know what we’re looking at. We’ll wait until we have a full package,” which is a really long way of saying “Reply cloudy, ask again later” — so we may well be waiting a few months while everyone hashes out their positions here. (Plus what everyone can agree on as a relocation fee.) Davis has said he plans to have the Raiders play in Oakland the next two seasons anyway, which is going to go oh so well after he just announced he’s moving the team and gave the middle finger to his old city. How is Sports Twitter responding to this?

Wait, what? Mark Davis made his presentation to his fellow owners in a long-sleeved white t-shirt? Maybe how he’s perceived by Oakland fans isn’t this guy’s biggest worry.

Arlington evenly split on $500m Rangers stadium subsidy, Trump meltdown could sway vote

There’s a new poll out on the Texas Rangers‘ stadium subsidy vote in Arlington, and it implies that the vote could be defeated by, of all things, Donald Trump.

Bear with me here: The polling is evenly split, with 42% of Arlington voters saying they support the plan, an equal number saying they oppose it, and 16% not sure. But there’s a significant demographic skew to the results: Democrats oppose the plan 50-31%, people of color 52-32%, women 41-36%, and young voters 48-39%. Aside from young voters, who are more likely to stay home on election day because they’re disgusted by the available options, those are exactly the voters who are more likely to show up to the polls on November 8, since they won’t be at home trying to ignore the fact that their preferred party’s nominee is this guy.

Also interestingly, the WFAA poll finds that voters overwhelmingly don’t think that the Rangers need a new stadium (57-36%) and also largely don’t believe that the Rangers would move to Dallas if Arlington didn’t build them one (51-33%). So at least 10-15% of Arlington voters think that the Rangers don’t need a new stadium and don’t have leverage to demand one, but that Arlington taxpayers should give them half a billion dollars anyway because … maybe like their mayor, they can’t think of anything else to spend it on? The poll didn’t ask, so your guess is as good as mine.

Meanwhile, WFAA has another report out on hidden public costs of a Rangers stadium, and just like their last report, it’s well-researched but inflates its numbers way more than is really warranted:

The actual cost and lost revenues to the city of Arlington may be closer to $1.675 billion over 30 years — at least three times more than the $500 million price tag that city officials have told citizens.

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll have no doubt already noted one problem with the sentence quoted above: “$1.675 billion over 30 years” isn’t actually three times more than $500 million right now, any more than making $1.675 million in mortgage payments over the course of three decades would be three times as expensive as paying $500,000 for a house right now. (Money in the future costs less because you can invest present money now and earn interest on it to make future payments.) To compare apples to apples, economists will use present value, which depending on how you calculate interest rates would come to around $700-800 million in actual costs today.

Why is that more than the $500 million the Rangers owners are claiming this will cost taxpayers? In part because WFAA is including an anticipated $10 million a year in naming-rights fees that the team owners would keep (about $150 million in present value) and $2.5 million a year in personal seat license sales (about $37.5 million in present value). It’s legit to look at naming rights, at least, as money that Arlington is giving away to the team despite owning the stadium — PSLs are more dicey, since they’re really a function of ticket sales, which are part of the team’s usual revenue stream — but it’s more fairly looked at as an unequal share of revenues from the new stadium, not an additional cost.

For now, I’ll still stick with “more than $500 million” as the taxpayers cost, which has the advantage of being unassailably true which still being one of the largest MLB subsidy requests in history, all to replace a 22-year-old stadium because it doesn’t have air-conditioning. Which is no doubt why this vote is looking to be much closer than past stadium subsidy measures in Arlington, regardless of how much Trump continues to implode between now and election day.

NFL decision expected sometime on Raiders, team to play somewhere in interim

Journalism can be a big game of telephone, especially in the social media age, and that’s what appears to be happening with NBC Sports’ Mike Florio’s report yesterday on the NFL’s voting timetable on an Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas, in which he wrote:

As one source with knowledge of the inner workings of the process told PFT on Sunday, a decision is expected within the next six to nine months.

Okay, that doesn’t tell us much. Except that since Las Vegas officials were counting on a relocation vote at the league owners’ meetings in January, there is now much freaking out:

Yeah, that’s not actually what Florio said at all. The league owners could delay a vote until mid-2017, or they could vote sooner than that. They could demand a sky-high relocation fee, or they could not. All we know right now is that some NFL guy Mike Florio knows doesn’t know what’s going to happen or when, which puts him in the same boat as the rest of us.

In other news, Raiders owner Mark Davis has said he intends to keep the team in Oakland for two more seasons, but also is reportedly looking at playing temporarily at Sam Boyd Stadium in Vegas, and given that he has options to play at the Coliseum the next two seasons but also can opt out of them, this also tells us absolutely nothing. Except that everyone involved seems to be intent on keeping their options — and leverage — open, all of which is to be expected. Except for that “purple monkey dishwasher” remark.

Columbus Crew looking into new stadium, not saying who’d pay for it

Looks like the owners of the Columbus Crew are moving ahead with plans to replace their 17-year-old soccer stadium, hiring Barrett Sports Group LLC (who worked for Sacramento on a new arena for the Kings, among other projects) to “evaluate the potential demand for a new multipurpose soccer stadium in Columbus,” surveying fans as to what they’d like in a new stadium.

All of which is fine: If the Crew owners think they’ve outgrown their 20,000-seat stadium, then sure, look into building a bigger one. (Not they’ve completely been selling out the old place, but maybe they think more fans would turn out if the stadium had more steak bars or something.) The bigger question, obviously, is who would pay for a new or upgraded stadium, and nobody’s breathing a word about that. Or about when Barrett will complete its survey. Count on this one dragging out a bit longer — Crew execs have already been talking about this for more than three years, after all — but don’t be surprised to see stadium talk heat up in the next year or so.

Nevada assembly loses mind, okays $750m to move Raiders to Vegas, bring imaginary tourists

On Friday morning, after a 17-hour session the previous day followed by a morning of behind-the-scenes haggling, the Nevada state assembly voted 28-13 to approve a $750-million-plus package of subsidies for a new Oakland Raiders stadium in Las Vegas. The bill now goes to Gov. Brian Sandoval, who will sign it into law today.

If you can do math, you’ve already noted that that 28-13 margin is the barest margin needed for a two-thirds majority, which is what was required for the state legislature to raise hotel taxes 0.88% to fund the stadium. So what did those swing voters get in exchange for their flip-flop?

The amendment to the bill passed by the Assembly expanded the Stadium Authority Board to nine members from seven, adding another representative from Clark County and one from UNLV. The amendment also defines the rent to be charged to the university to use the stadium to “actual operational or pass-through costs” excluding any fixed costs on game or event days. UNLV also gets three additional event days, for graduations or other events.

So basically, legislators’ price for approving $750 million (at least — more on that in a moment) in taxpayer subsidies for Raiders owner Mark Davis and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was to give UNLV a marginally better lease and another seat on the stadium board. We’ll likely never know exactly what went on in negotiations — as soon as the assembly session reopened on Friday morning, the question was called and a vote was held with no public debate at all — but it was clearly some of the worst haggling ever: Michelle Spence-Jones, the Miami county commissioner who got more than $100 million in community development money in exchange for approving the Marlins‘ stadium subsidy in 2009, has to be laughing and laughing at her pathetic Nevada counterparts.

The deal was immediately savaged by both the 13 “no” voters (“What you saw today is why people are so cynical about government because the big power players got their way and the real losers are the Nevada taxpayers,” said Republican Ira Hansen; “This deal as presented, SB1, is structured in ways that all other sports subsidies have been structured and they just have not come out in the wash,” added his Democratic colleague Teresa Benitez-Thompson) and sports economists, who universally shook their heads in dismay that Nevada was even considering this level of subsidy. Stanford economist Roger Noll called it the worst deal he’s ever seen, noting that Adelson and Davis are projecting 33% of tickets going to tourists when no other NFL team even manages 10%: “The idea that the thing is going to pay for itself based on a huge inflow of tourists is crazy.” And Smith College economist Andy Zimbalist, who I’ve criticized in the past for changing his opinions depending on who’s paying his fees but who at least knows how math works, gave a cogent explanation of why increased taxes on hotel visitors count as public money:

“The first thing that could happen is because hotel prices go up, individuals and businesses will decided it’s priced itself out of the market and they’ll do their conventions or meetings somewhere else,” he said. “In that case, you actually reduce tourism.”

“The other possibility is tourists don’t care,” Zimbalist continued. “If they’re going to pay $200, they’ll also pay $205 or $210 a night and they’ll come anyway. If that’s true, then you can raise your hotel taxes and raise revenue either to provide additional social services – put it into the schools, put it into the roads, put it into the police – or you could use it to lower taxes. Either way, the hotel tax is a real tax and it taxes people in Las Vegas.”

And, as we’ve been over before, the $750 million in bonds to be repaid out of hotel tax money are not the only public gift being provided to Davis and Adelson. They’ll also be getting the benefit of $899 million in highway improvements that will be fast-tracked because of the stadium — whether they’re all directly stadium-related and not just state transportation department wishlist material is questionable, but it’s been made clear that other Vegas highway projects will be delayed as a result, since the newly sped-up projects will drain the state’s fund of gas tax money — plus possibly future public money for maintenance and operating expenses on the stadium: From what I can tell from the text of the bill, who’ll pay ongoing costs is punted to a lease that hasn’t been written yet, and given that Adelson’s Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported (no source cited) that the public will be on the hook for those items, this could easily add hundreds of millions of dollars more to the final taxpayer bill.

The only people who can save Nevada from this expense now are the other 31 NFL owners, who need to decide whether to turn down the richest subsidy offer in league history, or whether to allow a franchise to move from the nation’s 6th largest TV market to its 40th largest. Or they also have the option of approving the move, but attaching an exorbitant relocation fee to try to get a cut of the boodle for themselves. There are many, many options, and given past evidence that NFL owners make these decisions exactly like you’d expect a bunch of cliquey billionaires to make them, anything is possible, really.

Nevadans shouldn’t get their hopes up too far, though, as even if they don’t end up afflicted with the presence of the Raiders and that $750-million-plus bill, the legislation passed on Friday allows the state to spend $380 million on a new stadium just for UNLV. Because you just know that once fans of rival Mountain West Conference teams hear that UNLV has a new stadium, they’ll decide that it’s finally time to give that Vegas place a try as a vacation spot. It’ll be a win-win!

Vegas stadium could cost public $1.65B with highway upgrades, assembly postpones vote

The Nevada state assembly met yesterday as planned to discuss a $750 million stadium subsidy to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas — but, not as planned, adjourned for the night after 1 am, following a 17-hour marathon session that didn’t result in the required two-thirds majority for the measure. The unexpected holdup: the emergence of a report by the state transportation department that it would need at least $899 million in highway upgrades to accommodate a new NFL stadium.

After the hearing ended just after 1 a.m., Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, said late news of the report made passage of the stadium proposal more difficult….

Assistant Majority Floor Leader Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, said after 9 p.m. that the bill was just short of the support needed for passage. There were 17 solid yes votes for the plan in the 25-member Republican Assembly caucus, and an estimated 10 votes in the 17-member Democratic caucus, Hansen said. The bill needs 28 votes, a two-thirds supermajority, to pass and advance to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s desk.

Whether the additional $899 million — which would go for adding lanes to I-15 and building new carpool ramps — should be counted as a cost of the stadium project is an issue that the Nevada DOT report attempted to finesse, writing that “since the development of the transportation projects in this area of Las Vegas was already planned, there is no fiscal impact above and beyond what NDOT assumed it would deliver in southern Nevada.” However, the report also noted that the improvements weren’t otherwise scheduled to be completed until between 2020 and 2035, and haven’t yet been funded — and moving them up would require delaying other highway projects.

The assembly is set to meet again this morning, and Anderson, at least, said he was confident he could cobble together enough votes to pass the stadium bill. (If he can’t, the legislature would likely kick the proposal to the Clark County Commission to see if they could approve it instead.) The highway cost revelations seem to have thrown at least a small wrench in the works, though, as they should given the mammoth scale of the costs — another reminder that it’s really important to have a transportation plan in place before you start voting on a stadium deal, okay, people?

Rangers owners outspending stadium opponents 264-to-1, with $500m at stake it’s chicken feed

The Dallas Morning News reports that proponents of a $500-million-plus subsidy for a new Texas Rangers stadium so they can have air-conditioning have raised 264 times as much money as opponents, largely by cashing checks from the Rangers owners:

Vote Yes! Keep the Rangers raised $617,707 and spent $564,479 in this latest campaign reporting period.  Of that amount, the Rangers donated $550,000, accounting for 89 percent of the campaign’s income in this latest reporting period. That was slightly more than the team paid this year for either closer Sam Dyson and second baseman and playoff scapegoat Rougned Odor. …

Stadium opponents Citizens for a Better Arlington reported $7,687.50 in donations and spent $2,264.04, according to the new campaign filing.

This is important not for what it says about levels of support for either side — it’s a lot easier to raise money when you can get $550,000 with one phone call — but because past experience has led to a rough rule that stadium referendums only pass when proponents outspend opponents by 100-to-1 or more. This doesn’t guarantee that Rangers owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson will be able to buy themselves an election — and generate a 1,000% return on their campaign spending in the process — but they’ve certainly given themselves a nice head start.

Nevada senate passes $750m (or more) Raiders stadium subsidy, ball could move to NFL’s court

That didn’t take long: After a whole one day of testimony, the Nevada state senate voted 16-5 to approve raising hotel taxes to give Sands casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis $750 million (at least) for building a new stadium in Las Vegas and moving the Raiders there. The measure now goes to the state assembly, which could vote as soon as tomorrow.

The debate, such as it was, went along predictable lines: Major local power brokers, including other casino owners, lined up in favor of the subsidy deal on the grounds that it would be an economic boon; opponents said, wait, are you serious — Stanford economist Roger Noll testifying that the proposed deal was the “worst I’ve ever seen” and called the Raiders’ economic study “deeply flawed” for assuming that one-third of ticket buyers would be tourists who’d spend more than three nights in Las Vegas just to see football, which has never happened anywhere ever; and then the senate went ahead and voted for the bill, because JOBS!!!!1!!.

Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, said he could not face a laborer in need of work knowing “I had a chance to give you a job and I voted no.”

If that’s the bar, then no government expense for anything ever would be rejected, since it’s hard to spend money on anything without creating at least some jobs. Apparently Ford can sleep perfectly well when he considers facing laborers who could be employed by doing something else with that $750 million that might have a better bang for its buck than a football stadium — as the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Jon Ralston notes, Nevada is about to face a $400 million budget deficit that could lead to cuts in mental health, education, and other services. Even if you limited the use of hotel tax dollars to tourism spending (which the legislature doesn’t have to), it would be easy enough to use that to free up other money to spend on education — but then, you wouldn’t have a football stadium, just more schoolteachers, and those aren’t shiny.

Barring an unexpected outbreak of iconoclasm in the assembly, this stadium plan looks likely to pass, which leaves us only to consider exactly how costly it would be to Nevada, and whether it will gain NFL approval. On the first, I still haven’t been able to find any lease details for the Raiders stadium, which would help determine that “at least” way back in the opening sentence: There was one report that “the stadium authority would be responsible for day-to-day operations, including maintenance”; if that means fiscally responsible, that could easily drive the public cost up past $1 billion, taking it from “most expensive NFL subsidy ever” to “holy crap that blows any previous NFL subsidy out of the water.”

As for the NFL, who knows what the other 31 owners, who seem to have no love for Mark Davis, but who have to be excited about someone upping the ante for stadium subsidies, are going to do. Much will likely depend on whether Oakland officials make a counteroffer, or NFL owners think they can be induced to. But as we’ve seen before, the league tends to make these decisions less by weighing hard economic data than by weighing perceived ball size, so your guess is as good as mine.