As Raiders unveil stadium pics, reporters told to ask subsidy questions, keep answers secret

I have a big stack of news items that I’m going to be playing catchup with all week, but I’m still on the road one more day, so that infodump will need to wait till Tuesday at the earliest. Instead, here’s the latest rendering released by the Oakland Raiders ownership of a possible new stadium in Las Vegas: raiders-vegas-stadium-frontAs stadium watchers and journalists alike immediately noticed, this bears a striking resemblance to the stadium that the Raiders and San Diego Chargers were going to build in Carson, California:
raiders-carson-rendering-08-26-16There’s even the return of the giant Al Davis eternal flame that was originally proposed for Carson, then scrapped because it was just so stupid:

raiders-stadium-vegas-flameWhy cut-and-paste old designs into a new site, especially when you don’t even know which Vegas site it might be? Momentum, duh: This enables Raiders owner Mark Davis and his investment partners Sheldon Adelson and Majestic Realty to make it feel like this thing is going to get built, look, we have pictures of it, rather than having the Nevada public’s main image be of a pile of burning money. It’s the same reason why Davis filed for the trademark “Las Vegas Raiders” and released new stadium spending estimates stressing his own share of costs, even if they were misleading (he’s still failing to mention the roughly $250 million in tax increment kickbacks that Majestic has insisted are necessary for the project) and failed basic math (of a now-$1.9 billion total cost, the state would kick in $750 million in hotel-tax revenues and the private developers would put up $1.25 billion, which wait, what?).

If this stadium does happen, those almost certainly won’t be the final spending numbers, and these almost certainly won’t be what the stadium looks like. But it’s a lot easier to make a deal look like a fait accompli when you have hard numbers and actual drawings, even if those are just things you made up knowing you’ll change them later. It’s the clear plastic binder all over again.

And all this is aided and abetted, meanwhile, by having one of the stadium developers own the biggest newspaper in town, which allows for media manipulation like this jaw-dropping one revealed by Ralston Reports:

Reporters for Sheldon Adelson’s newspaper have been told to ask candidates if they support public money for the stadium proposed by the Las Vegas Sands chairman but that the Las Vegas Review-Journal will not actually publish the answers.

This astonishing request was made in a memo two weeks ago from Assistant City Editor Don Ham:

All of you who are handling state Senate, state Assembly and Clark County Commission races for the tab should make sure to ask this very timely question of the candidates. This question is NOT going to be added to the question asked of candidates for the online election package, though. Should public money, in the form of room taxes, be used to build a proposed stadium in Las Vegas. Why or why not? Any questions, see me. Thanks.

The leading theory here is that Adelson, who owns the Review-Journal, is intent on using the paper’s reporters to gather intelligence on where candidates stand on his stadium subsidy proposal, without actually using any of that information to, you know, inform readers. This would be far from the worst abuse of power by Adelson involving his newspaper holdings, but only because he’s set the bar so very high.

Oakland A’s co-owner to visit possible waterfront stadium site, everyone gets all excited

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf may be one of the Gang of Four mayors taking a hard line on stadium subsidies, but that doesn’t mean she can’t try to help the Oakland A’s owners by showing them properties they could buy with their own money. A’s co-owner John Fisher (and possibly co-owner Lew Wolff’s son and stadium point man Keith) will reportedly tour the Howard Terminal site today along with Port of Oakland officials to see if it can be made to work for a new A’s stadium.

This is only one of several sites the A’s owners are looking at, and they still prefer to stay at the Oakland Coliseum site, and really just going to kick the tires isn’t much of a commitment. But since Howard Terminal has been one of the alternate sites that has gotten more attention, this is getting lots of press attention today. Personally, wake me when somebody has a financial plan.

White Sox stadium actually getting even worse name than “U.S. Cellular Field”

Aw, jeez:

U.S. Cellular Field will change its name to Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox announced Wednesday afternoon.

The White Sox and Guaranteed Rate, a national mortgage lender, have signed 13-year naming rights deal, according to the Sox. But the name could last even longer — the Sox have an option of extending the deal past 2030.

There is nothing to say about this other than to make jokes. And the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal has already won that contest:

More seriously: You know, there’s nothing requiring any of us normal people (or even us abnormal people who are journalists) from using the corporate-assigned name for a stadium — we can still call it U.S. Cellular Field, or New Comiskey Park, or my preference, “the White Sox’ stadium” all we want. Which is no doubt why resold naming rights go for discount rates: Business owners know that there are plenty of other options for what to call the place, so they’re willing to pay less to slap their name on it. Which is also why you see so many smaller companies putting their name on used stadiums — American Airlines doesn’t need that kind of attention, but Monster Cables, sure.

Speaking of which, the White Sox and Guaranteed Rate didn’t reveal how much the new naming rights deal was for. I’m going with “not nearly enough to be worth the ridicule.”

Sen. Reid says sure, Las Vegas Raiders would be nice, it’s not my money

Speaking of misleading headlines, the Las Vegas Review-Journal asked soon-to-be-retiring U.S. Sen. Harry Reid what he thought of the possibility of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas, and mumbled something about how sure, that’d be nice:

“I think it would be great if the Raiders came to Las Vegas,” Reid said. “I think it would be great that the most successful convention and visitors authority got the help that they need. So I hope they both get help. We’ll see.”…

As to the public financing being sought for the 65,000-seat stadium — up to $750 million, financed by a proposed increase in Clark County’s hotel room tax — Reid noted that, to his knowledge, no federal money would be requested.

“So I think you leave that to the state Legislature and state and local governments,” he said. “I know it’s in dispute. Would I like to have a professional football team, an NFL team? Of course. That would be great.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, especially for the $950 million in public funds (when you count TIF tax kickbacks) that would be required, but it’s certainly vaguely positive. The Review-Journal’s headline:

Reid declares support for stadium, Raiders’ move to Las Vegas

The Review-Journal, of course, is owned by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate who is asking for the $950 million so he can build the stadium. I’d blame it on that, but as we’ve seen, plenty of newspapers without overt conflicts of interest have done just as crappy a job.

San Diego analyst: Hotel tax should cover Chargers stadium costs, unless it doesn’t

This is a bad headline:

Stadium measure would generate enough money if costs are right

This is the less-bad headline that the San Diego Union-Tribune later changed it to:

Chargers measure fiscally sound — if estimates are accurate

This is the actual story:

San Diego’s independent budget analyst says the Chargers proposed hotel tax hike would generate enough money to cover the team’s projected price tag for a combined stadium and convention center annex, but that the proposal may be underestimating those costs.

And this is what’s downplayed in the actual story: Whether the estimates are correct only determines whether the four-percentage-point hotel tax hike would generate enough money to cover the San Diego Chargers ownership’s requested costs. Either way, the city would be on the hook for $1.15 billion, it’s just a question of whether it would have to find more revenue on top of the hotel tax money.

Kids, always read the articles, not just the Facebook headlines, okay?

D.C. United to critics of stadium design: How about a fountain? You like fountains, right?

Still on the road, but can’t fail to alert you to new stadium renderings from D.C. United that were released yesterday (on Twitter, because 2016). The last round of renderings, you’ll recall, was disparaged as looking like a prison:

dc-united-press dcunited.imrs.phpSo how do the new pictures compare?

https://twitter.com/dcunited/status/767881787670466560

That’s, um, pretty similar. There’s a big glass box sticking out of one corner for some reason, instead of the big grey box, and some kind of fountain with giant lens-flare-bedecked “D.C. UNITED” letters in the middle of it right in the path of fans trying to get to the game, but otherwise the design is largely unchanged. It’s not a bad design, but it’s a bit no-frills compared to the original one floated when United was trying to get citizens of D.C. to pay for it:

At least United is still planning on having lots of featureless ghost fans come to games. Make your own MLS attendance jokes.

If anything important happens next week, just, you know, crowdsource it

I’m going to be on the road the next week and a bit, so posts will likely be more sporadic than usual — if the Arizona Diamondbacks threaten to move to Moncton or something, I’ll be sure to chime in, but less urgent news will need to wait until I get back. Consider this to be your open-thread item to talk amongst yourselves on anything that needs discussing while I’m gone, and try not to break the furniture. Regular programming will resume on August 30.

Old football team launches stadium campaign, yells at cloud

The San Diego Chargers owners yesterday launched their “Vote Yes on C” campaign to try to get two-thirds of San Diego voters to approve spending $1.15 billion on a football stadium/convention center expansion, which, good luck with that. They also unveiled what’s likely to be their main arguments for the plan:

“A yes vote on C will allow for the creation of a new facility that could host world-class events and conventions such as Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours, NCAA title games, professional soccer, concerts, the X Games and a host of other high-profile events.  And no general funds will be used to build this new venue as it will be paid for by the Chargers and the NFL as well as tourists and business travelers staying in San Diego hotels.”

That’s all technically true — the money would all come from a whopping four percentage-point hike in hotel tax rates — but it’s also extremely misleading to make it sound like raising hotel taxes and giving the money to the Chargers doesn’t cost San Diegans anything. First off, as NBC Sports’ Mike Florio notes, “plenty of hotel and motel rooms are surely bought and paid for by San Diego residents.” More to the point, though, raising hotel taxes comes with both an opportunity cost — once you give the money to the Chargers, you can’t then raise hotel taxes for other spending purposes — and an economic cost — tourists may love San Diego, but some could learn to love other cities once they see how expensive their hotel bills are after all the taxes are added in. Think about it: If this weren’t the case, every city on earth should be raising hotel taxes as much as possible, and giving the cash to its citizens, because hey, free money!

The other interesting bit here is that by the happy coincidence of the Chargers stadium vote being Ballot Measure C, team execs get to use the same slogan the Padres owners successfully used back in 1998 to get their own stadium, which maybe will bring back happy memories of Tony Gwynn or something? Again, good luck with that.

Meanwhile, one of the first actions of the Yes on C campaign appears, weirdly, to be trying to get voters not to pull the lever for their ballot measure, but to oppose a city councilmember who’s been critical of the stadium plan but who isn’t even up for re-election for another two years:

The team … has come out swinging against a local political opponent, City Councilman Chris Cate, who says the team’s proposal to build a new stadium is a bad deal for taxpayers.

The team’s campaign committee recently has circulated paid advertisements on Facebook that sic the dogs on him.

“Why does Chris Cate want the Chargers to leave San Diego?” the ad says. “Please call and ask him.”

It then publishes his office phone number.

This is kind of a weird strategy, needless to say. San Diego State political science professor Brian Adams (don’t start) tells USA Today that this could be a warning shot to other elected officials not to oppose the stadium campaign, which is entirely possible. It’s also a way to tell voters “The Chargers will leave San Diego if you don’t vote for this” without actually coming out and saying it, in the hopes that no voters will realize that it’s Chargers owner Dean Spanos himself ultimately making this threat, getting mad at him, and thinking, “Go to West Virginia already.” Good luck with that.

Three sports venues get new corporate names that you’re going to forget immediately

Lots of old sports venues getting new names this week!

The price tags on the Buffalo deal was $40 million for seven years; no money changed hands in Charlotte, obviously, while the Dolphins declined to say how much they got for 18 years of their stadium name. I’m guessing not much, since nobody is going to remember this corporate name any better than the last five or six, but maybe since they just did a renovation, people will think of it as a new building with a new name?

Anyway, the fact that naming rights are worth more for a brand-new, nameless venue continues to be an incentive for teams to demand them. It’s probably not the best thing from an environmental sustainability standpoint that teams and cities are building stadiums partly just to act as giant billboards, but I can’t complain too much so long as it does allow them to fob off some costs on another sucker.

County okays pursuing D-Backs stadium sale, lacks only all details about everything

Going into yesterday’s Maricopa County board meeting on the possible sale of the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ stadium to a private investment firm, two of the big questions were: Could the county craft a deal that the Diamondbacks owners, who have the right to block a sale, would approve? And would any public money be required?

Coming out of the meeting, the Arizona Republic reports:

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to move forward with negotiations to sell Chase Field, the downtown Phoenix home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, to private out-of-state investors…

But the county vote raised several key questions that went unanswered, including whether the team would support a sale and whether a taxpayer subsidy would be included.

Yeah, we’re cooking with gas now!

County supervisors told the Republic that the deal would extend the Diamondbacks’ lease through 2028, which sounds awfully presumptuous given that nobody’s actually talked to the team owners about this. The paper also reports that “the buyer would be required to reach a deal with the team within the first two years of the contract to pay for capital repairs over the life of the stadium,” which seems nuts — if the two sides just stare at each other saying, “You pay for it!” “No, you!”, what happens, do the buyers go back to the county for a refund?

On the subsidy front, supervisor Andy Kunasek, who you’ll remember from his profanity-laced “go to West Virginia” tirade in response to the D-Backs’ subsidy demands, raised the possibility of giving the private investors either a property tax exemption or a kickback of sales taxes, which apparently he doesn’t think would be “parasitic” if it’s someone other than the Diamondbacks owners getting it. (Maybe he’s still pissy over the Shelby Miller trade?)

Of course, all this is still in the very early stages, so it’s probably best not to think of anything as more than a harebrained scheme that somebody threw out there to see if it’ll stick. I mean, listen to this, from the Republic:

New shops, restaurants and hospitality services could spring up at the ballpark, as the buyer seeks to develop the site into a sports and entertainment “destination.” Among the ideas: Add retail and dining to the open plaza outside the stadium and within the stadium by reducing the seating capacity from 48,000 to 30,000.

This is for a stadium with a retractable roof, mind you, so it’s not like you can easily reduce the building’s footprint in order to jam in more steakhouses. I guess you could rip out all the seats down the left-field line and build a giant sushi bar or something, but that doesn’t seem like a much better idea. Besides, do you really want people eating raw fish before having to watch Shelby Miller?