Raiders execs throw dart at map, pick San Antonio as place to visit for move threat

With their rivals in the development rights land rush the Oakland A’s already having played the move threat card, it was only a matter of time before the Raiders did the same. The only question was which city owner Mark Davis would play footsie with, and it looks like the winner is … San Antonio? Sure, San Antonio.

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and two top lieutenants met recently with several San Antonio officials to discuss the potential of moving his NFL team from the Bay Area to the Alamo City, local leaders involved in the talks confirmed Tuesday…

Late Tuesday, after the Express-News published a version of this story on its websites, [city manager Sheryl] Sculley issued a memo to the City Council.

“I was asked to meet two weeks ago with the owner of the Oakland Raiders, Mark Davis, and members of his staff. Mr. Davis has expressed interest in a possible relocation of his NFL team to San Antonio and we are engaged in preliminary due diligence,” she wrote. “The agenda for this visit included a tour of the Alamodome and meetings with local business leaders.”

This is, of course, what sports team owners do when they’re seeking a new stadium — in the words of Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, “go, and have a nice dinner and come back.” San Antonio’s even been through this before in the recentish past with the Florida Marlins in 2006, though then local officials had the good sense to tell the Marlins to quit using them just to make Miami jealous.

Savvy leverage notwithstanding, would moving the Raiders to San Antonio make any sense? San Antonio is a relatively tiny TV market (36th overall) compared to the Bay Area, but, of course, TV market size doesn’t mean nearly as much in the NFL as it does in other sports where local cable deals are in play. The bigger problem is San Antonio’s stadium: The Alamodome is 21 years old, and while it’s no doubt a fine enough place to watch a football game (assuming anyone really likes watching football games from anywhere other than their own couch), NFL teams have made it quite clear that any building over two decades old is considered a dump.

Is there a possibility that these Raiders-San Antonio talks will get serious, and San Antonio will dangle a sweetheart lease and maybe some new scoreboards in an attempt to lure an NFL team? Sure. Is it something Oakland fans and elected officials should be losing sleep over at the moment? Probably not. As my Sports on Earth colleague Mike Tanier writes:

Remember that NFL owners will do anything to make you pay for stadium improvements. If all it takes is a leaked story about driving around the Alamodome and having drinks with city council representatives, we are making things too easy for them. They should at least be subjected to used-car salesman humiliations. A couple from San Antonio were looking at this team just yesterday, and that’s them on the phone right now, so give me a yes, fast! Let me bring that to my sales manager.

UNLV scales back stadium plans, hopes casinos will let it have half a billion dollars now

It looks like the University of Nevada-Las Vegas is giving up on building a domed football stadium — at least the domed part. UNLV acting president Don Snyder announced yesterday that the school would be scaling back its plans to only a 45,000-seat stadium with “sun shades.”

The reason? The casinos didn’t want the competition:

[University regents Cedric] Crear and [James Dean] Leavitt have drawn push-back from resort industry representatives such as MGM’s [Rick] Arpin, who said at a recent meeting that a domed stadium could “cannibalize” events from other Las Vegas venues. MGM and Anschutz Entertainment Group are building a 20,000-seat, $375 million arena near New York-New York, scheduled to open in 2016.

At the same meeting, Paul Chakmak of Boyd Gaming Corp. noted, “The resort industry is not asking for a stadium to be built.”

Whatever the reason, a non-domed stadium would cost an estimated $523 million instead of $833 million, so that’s got to be a plus. (It also couldn’t host indoor events, which is what Crear and Leavitt are griping about, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine what indoor events would be worth spending an extra $310 million for.) Snyder says about $100 million could be raised via naming-rights and luxury suite sales, which only leaves $423 million via sales tax hikes or, you know, something. One hurdle at a time.

Poll on whether Red Wings arena will create jobs finds that journalists are addicted to stupid polls

Let’s talk about polls. Polls can be very useful things when you want to know what people want, whether it’s who they want to vote for in the next election, or what policies they want to pursue, or whether they hate where they live. They are not so useful when you’re asking about statements of fact: Trying to determine whether the Higgs boson exists by polling people on the street, I think we can all agree, would be pretty pointless.

This, then, is a very, very bad poll:

Poll: Are job projections for new Detroit Red Wings arena development accurate?

Right now “no” is handily beating “yes,” with “I have no idea” a close third. Sadly, there’s no option for “Wait, you’re asking me?”

Milwaukee paper still fixated on where to build Bucks arena no one knows how to pay for

Oh, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sportswriter Don Walker, what have you written now about the Bucks arena debate?

Stakeholders involved in the discussion of whether to build a new arena are in general agreement the building should be downtown.

In related news, the task force on whether we can afford a new car is in agreement that it should be red.

Vegas MLS stadium plan includes $28.6m shortfall, another $60m in dubious revenue projections

The developers hoping to build a soccer stadium in Las Vegas have released a two-page term sheet outlining how the finances would work. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the split would be 74% public, 26% private, but city officials say once negotiations are finished it would be closer to 50/50.

It’s good that Vegas city officials are admitting that negotiations aren’t done, because man, is that one mess of a term sheet. As I noted in the Sun article, the stadium operating agreement gets just one line — “further legal review is needed” — which means that there’s no way to tell who will get revenues from naming rights and other stadium revenue streams, nor who will pay annual operating costs of the arena. As I also noted to the Sun’s reporter, but it didn’t make the published story, the plan includes $4.3 million a year in proceeds from “non-MLS events” — a figure that even the term sheet acknowledges is “on the aggressive (high) side” and which is probably downright crazy given the number of 20,000-seat venues already scattered around Las Vegas or in the works. And there’s no backup plan for what would fill that gap — which would cover about a third of the costs of the $200 million stadium — if the non-MLS profits don’t materialize.

Add in that there’s already a $28.6 million funding gap that needs to be filled, and this is not the most ironclad stadium financing plan ever seen. Hopefully there will be more actual numbers before the city council is set to take its first vote on the plan on August 20.

NYCFC stadium news: There is no NYCFC stadium news

Hey, NYC F.C. Chief Business Officer Tim Pernetti, what’s new on your plans for a soccer-only stadium in New York City, or maybe outside New York City?

Pernetti said there was “nothing new to report” on their search for a permanent stadium deal. “Same boring answer I gave you guys a while back,” he said. “It’s taking some time but at the same time we want to get it right. We want to take the time necessary to make sure we get it right.”

And what about a training facility, now that Manhattanville College has rejected the club’s overtures to train there?

“We are still looking at a couple of different options on a training facility,” Pernetti said. “We are not ready to talk about where we are going to go yet. We are trying to get some things ironed out but we expect to have an answer on that pretty soon.”

Probably best to get used to the weird soccer seating chart for Yankee Stadium, since it looks like the team will be there for a while. Apparently New York is going to be the poster child for teams willing to put up with bizarro seating charts in order to play in the city — which probably makes sense, given the size of the market, but is still an interesting turn of events. And kind of makes you wonder why New York needed to spend so much money on new stadiums for the Mets and Yankees when you can apparently play in a studio apartment and still rake in the dough.

UNLV stadium board member: Big ol’ sales tax hike would foot stadium bill nicely

When the University of Nevada-Las Vegas proposed building a $900 million football stadium back in February, school president Don Snyder said he would “look creatively” for ways to fund it. “Creatively,” it now appears, means asking for county-wide sales and hotel tax hikes:

A UNLV stadium board member, Regent James Dean Leavitt, proposed Wednesday that the Clark County sales tax and the lodging room tax be increased slightly to help pay for an on-campus domed stadium of 50,000-55,000 seats.

Leavitt said University of Nevada, Las Vegas students should also pay a suggested $100 toward a “perpetual fund” for major university projects such as a stadium or medical school.

Raising the county sales tax by 0.25% would generate an estimated $79 million a year in new revenues, while a room tax surcharge of 1% would generate $44 million a year; since $900 million in bonds would cost something like $60 million a year to pay off, this would certainly cover the bill. As to why Clark County would want to do such a thing, presumably Leavitt believes that stadium consultant’s nonsense about $500 million a year in economic impact from a new stadium, even though the actual operating profit is estimated to be just $13.9 million a year — or way, way less than the stadium bonds would cost to pay off.

Anyway, plenty of other members of the stadium board are opposed to one or the other of the tax hikes, so this will probably now enter the haggling stage for the time being. But with the board set to make recommendations to the state legislature by the end of September, it’s fair to say that we can see what direction this thing is heading in.

Wolff, Oakland agree on A’s lease; let the new stadium battles begin

Yeah, there’s no way Lew Wolff was going to let a few wording quibbles stand in the way of a lease extension he pretty much wrote himself. On Tuesday night, the Oakland A’s owner announced that he’d reached agreement with the city of Oakland on a new 10-year lease extension; while the Alameda County Board of Supervisors still needs to sign off on the plan, they were in favor of it all along, so it’s fair to say that this deal is done.

With that out of the way, Wolff can now move on to fighting with Raiders owner Mark Davis over who’ll get the rights to develop the Oakland Coliseum property, which increasingly looks like the prize that both team owners are looking to win in order to make new stadium deals happen. This looks set to be yet another multi-sided battle, in that not only are Wolff and Davis effectively bidding against each other, but each is no doubt going to try to extract the best deal out of Oakland and Alameda County, in terms of land price, tax breaks, and direct stadium subsidies. None of that has advanced much beyond the spitballing stage in either case, so we have lots and lots more fun battles to look forward to before there’s any kind of resolution here — assuming “resolution” is something you can ever really talk about in a sports industry where stadiums can be considered obsolete after only 14 years.

Glendale mayor seeks to overturn Coyotes lease after email shows councilmembers talked in secret

It’s baaaaaaaaaaack!

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers on Monday asked the state attorney general to investigate a previously undisclosed meeting of City Council members and an Arizona Coyotes attorney last June, days before the council approved a $225 million agreement with the team…

Violations of the Open Meeting Law can rescind actions taken by elected officials, which could potentially void Glendale’s deal with the team, which was then called the Phoenix Coyotes.

It’s been just slightly over a year since the Arizona Coyotes signed a new 15-year lease where the city of Glendale will pay them $15 million a year to play hockey in the arena that Glendale built for them. (They were the Phoenix Coyotes then, but as part of the lease the team owners agreed to change its name. But not to “Glendale Coyotes,” that’d be crazy.) It was one of the most generous sports deals in history, and only passed after councilmember Sammy Chavira made a last-second switch, so if it turns out that the whole thing was illegal, that’d be kind of a big deal.

Now, Mayor Weiers opposed the lease deal, so it’s not entirely unsurprising that he’s looking into trying to undo it. But according to emails obtained by the Arizona Republic, the evidence is kind of damning: Councilmember Gary Sherwood emailed councilmember Manny Martinez that he and councilmember Yvonne Knaack “spent over an hour with [incoming Coyotes attorney] Nick Wood last night,” and that “Sammy [Chavira] is already on board as he was with us last night.” Adding self-incrimincation to injury, Sherwood added, “Manny, please delete this email after you’ve read it.”

(Asked about this by the Republic, Sherwood defended holding secret discussions outside of public view by saying that he and Knaack only spoke with Wood over the phone, then spoke with Martinez and Chavira later. Which would still likely be a violation of the state Open Meeting Law, but hey, it worked for Cobb County.)

We’re still a long way from the Coyotes deal coming close to being overturned — among other things, even if last year’s vote turns out to be illegal, the council could just vote to reaffirm the new lease, this time without any hanky-panky. But if nothing else, this means we have more Glendale craziness to look forward to, which is always fun.

NFL could build L.A. stadium itself, charge team owner fees, and wait, how does this solve anything?

Sunday’s L.A. Times had a completely unsourced (unless you count a single quote from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft) article speculating that the NFL could break the football logjam in Los Angeles by just building a stadium with its own money, then renting it to an NFL team. This could work, writes the Times’ Sam Farmer, in either of two ways:

  • The NFL pays for building the stadium, then earns its money back via a hefty “relocation fee” for whichever team moves in.
  • The NFL pays for building the stadium, then reimburses itself by selling naming rights, PSLs, and other goodies associated with the new building.

I’m sure you see the problem here: In the first case, any owner wishing to move to L.A. would effectively end up paying the cost of the new stadium, just funneled through the NFL. In the second, the owner would get a new stadium more or less free — but without the big revenues associated with a new stadium, which is the whole point of wanting one.

Now, paying for new NFL stadiums with PSL and naming rights revenue can work in certain situations — we’ve seen that with the San Francisco 49ers‘ Santa Clara stadium. But the 49ers had a strong incentive to remain in the Bay Area (since it’s where their fans already are), and the South Bay is an exceptionally lucrative market, and the 49ers are an exceptionally popular team, all of which makes for exceptionally big money from PSL sales. For other team owners, giving up either wads of cash or piles of future revenue streams to move to L.A. isn’t likely to seem too enticing when there’s still a chance of getting significant stadium subsidies out of their current home markets.

Really, NFL financing has the same problem as the developer-led stadium plans: Somebody has to pay the cost of a $1 billion stadium, and there’s only so much money to go around to pay construction costs and boost an owners’ profits. The only way this would be a game-changing option would be if the NFL decided it so wants to have a team in L.A. that it’s willing to take a loss on a stadium in order to get it done — but given that market size doesn’t matter much in football, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

The other possibility, of course, is that somebody leaked this “hey, we could build a stadium!” line to Farmer in an attempt to drum up articles making an L.A. stadium seem more feasible, thus putting perceived teeth into NFL teams’ move threats in order to get stadium cash out of their own cities. But naaaaah. The NFL would never be that Machiavellian, right?