Friday roundup: Spending on training facilities is a bad idea, Portland seeks MLB team, Jays game postponed after roof hit by falling ice

I can’t believe none of you wrote in to ask why I hadn’t reported on a Toronto Blue Jays game getting postponed due to falling ice puncturing a hole in the stadium roof, but I guess you’re all acclimated to waiting for the Friday roundup now for that sort of thing. But wait no longer! (Well, wait a few bullet points for that one in particular.)

NYCFC Bronx stadium plan could hit $422m in subsidies, isn’t even a formal proposal yet

I spent a good chunk of yesterday researching that report of a new NYC F.C. stadium to be built in the South Bronx for this Village Voice article, and uncovered a few more things:

  • Not only did developer Keith Rubinstein (who’s actually part of the development group behind the new plan, along with NYC F.C. and Stephen Ross) pay $58 million for five acres of adjacent land just three years ago, but he sold it again for $165 million earlier this month. At that price per acre, then, the 12.8-acre site being targeted for the soccer stadium should be worth $432 million — and yet the development proposal offers New York state a mere $10 million (in present value) worth of future lease payments.
  • And that’s not even counting any tax breaks the project would get from not paying property taxes, thanks to being built on state land. The state could always demand payments in lieu of taxes as part of any deal, but there’s no guarantee that would bring in as much revenue as if the land were delivered to private hands and put on the property-tax rolls.
  • Though the New York YIMBY article that leaked the stadium plan made it sound like all but a done deal, it’s far from that: The state Empire State Development agency has only issued a Request for Expressions of Interest, which is what it does while trolling for potential bidders for a formal Request for Proposals, and it doesn’t even have a timetable yet for issuing an RFP. So the Ross/Rubinstein/NYC F.C. proposal isn’t even really a proposal yet, more like a brightly colored press packet with delusions of grandeur.

And speaking of that press packet, I got it last night from ESD, and oh man, is it over the top. Some highlights:

  • The soccer stadium “is an essential element of our transformation plan, bringing an iconic, facility – unique in the City –that will give this too-often under-appreciated community a distinctive identity and widespread recognition.” (All weird-ass grammar and punctuation in the original.) I thought giving Port Morris/Mott Haven a “distinctive identity” was what the Piano District fiasco was supposed to be all about, but I guess you can’t have too many distinctive identities, or something.
  • Under “Stadium Benefits,” the proposal includes: “Stadium cost is estimated to be $75m more expensive than a stadium built on a development site without rail tracks to build over.” They’re building an extra-spendy stadium just so freight trains can keep passing through like they already do now! It’s like money in your pocket!
  • KidZania, a “miniature kids’ size city that combines inspiration, fun and learning through realistic role play for children 4-14.” And in case you don’t give a crap about kids, it would also “generate economic activity in all seasons, and local job opportunities.”
  • There will be no dedicated parking, thanks to all the subway stations within a few blocks; instead, fans who insist on driving “will be directed to park at the nearby Yankee Stadium and arrive via a dedicated stadium shuttle network, which could include rail, bus, ferry and bicycle.” Yankee Stadium is almost two miles from the proposed soccer stadium site.
  • This, whatever this is:

And there is so much more — the damn thing goes on for 159 pages, though many of them are just such things as photos of kids holding astronaut helmets. (See for yourself at the links to the full proposal below.)

It looks like ESD has only received one other proposal for the rail yards so far — from a housing developer that is interested in building there, but doesn’t give a proposed sale price for the land — but that’s not unexpected at this stage of the game, especially when the two biggest Bronx developers (plus NYC F.C., which is part-owned by the Yankees, who are the big dogs in the South Bronx) are already in cahoots on a single plan. Real estate monoculture is bad for taxpayers and other living things.

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Cincinnati’s new stadium doesn’t actually win it MLS franchise, at least not yet

MLS owners met yesterday, one day after Cincinnati approved $64 million in subsidies for a new F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium, and … didn’t actually approve F.C. Cincinnati as an expansion franchise as boosters had hoped:

There are a couple of ways to read this: Either the Cincinnati stadium approval was too unexpected for MLS owners to get all their voting ducks in a row; or they really are intent on keeping this bidding war going, and seeing if maybe Cincinnati upping the ante convinces Sacramento to throw in a few more million dollars. (Sacramento the ownership group, Sacramento the city, it almost doesn’t matter.) Regardless, MLS has to be thrilled with how this expansion shakedown is going — it wasn’t that long ago that the league was at most looking at one subsidy-rich option to choose from — so holding off a little longer can’t hurt. I mean, it’s not like Cincinnati can revoke its stadium subsidy approval now just because it’s been told it has to wait 4-6 weeks for shipping, right?

NYC F.C. could get its own nine-figure state land gift, for a Bronx stadium

And then there’s this, via the real estate blog New York YIMBY:

YIMBY has the first look at an enormous project coming to the South Bronx waterfront, dubbed Harlem River Yards, submitted to the city by a Related-led partnership. The plans would rise adjacent to Somerset Partners’s assortment of new towers already in the works, adding another major affordable housing building, as well as the City’s first dedicated soccer stadium, with 26,000 seats, designed by Rafael Viñoly. The total cost is projected at $700 million.

The partnership is comprised of Related, Somerset Partners, and the New York City Football Club, which would be the occupying team for the new stadium.

The railyard RFP actually was open for expressions of interest more than a year ago, so if NYC F.C. and its partners — Related is the realty giant run by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross — have been secretly planning this, they’ve been secretly planning it for a while. The YIMBY report doesn’t say anything about any public money being involved, though it does say Related and Somerset would pay $500,000 a year on a ground lease for 12.8 acres of state land; developer Keith Rubinstein (of “Piano District” fame, and also the principal of Somerset Partners) spent $58 million for five acres just one bridge over a couple of years back, so if that’s any gauge, the state should be getting more like $10 million a year in rent, which would a total state subsidy of about $130 million in present value.

There’s also the question of whether an MLS stadium can even fit on the site without some major reworking of the Harlem River waterfront. Here’s the rendering of the site provided by YIMBY:

And here’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, pasted over the site by me via Google Maps and Photoshop:

I mean, maybe, if the architects are super-creative and trim the corners just right? But soccer pitches only come in one size, and Red Bull Arena is pretty compact already, so I’d like to see something with actual measurements before saying for sure that this wouldn’t require closing streets or moving navigable shipping lanes.

Plus, keep in mind this is only a proposal — the state Empire State Development agency still would need to approve it as the winner. In any case, expect lots more on this tomorrow once the rest of the New York media gets hold of it…

Cincinnati council approves MLS stadium, West End residents remain pissed

Sure enough, the Cincinnati city council voted 5-4 to approve spending $34.8 million on a new MLS stadium in the West End (it will also get $15 million in county money plus around $14 million in discounted property-tax payments), clearing the way for F.C. Cincinnati‘s expansion bid. If that’s approved today, as expected — and it’s hard to see MLS turning down all this stadium cash for a team that has been wildly successful in attendance in the USL — Cincinnati will become the 517th MLS franchise (more or less, I’ve stopped counting) and Sacramento and Detroit will have to wait until the next round of expansion in a few hours (estimated).

That’s a whole bunch of money from a city that’s already poured even more than that into poorly received stadium deals for the Reds and Bengals — the latter of which famously required selling a public hospital to pay off — and it only took place after team owners arm-twisted a final vote by hashing out a last-second community benefits agreement to provide $100,000 a year for local organizations and provide some community oversight of elements like lighting, parking, and traffic. But at least West End residents got some say in what they’d get out of having their local high school football stadium torn down and rebuilt to make way for an MLS stadium, right?

The fight over the benefits agreement will continue on Tuesday, when the West End Community Council meets. Some members are calling for council president Keith Blake, who signed the agreement on Monday, to be impeached.

Ah, democracy.

Cincinnati could approve $63m stadium subsidy today, get MLS team tomorrow

The Cincinnati city council is set to vote on approval for an F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium in the West End today at 4 p.m., which could lead to the city being awarded an MLS franchise as soon as tomorrow:

The vote would come just ahead of Tuesday’s Major League Soccer board of governors meeting in New York City. MLS has twice delayed awarding the next round of franchises, although Nashville did get one in late December. FC Cincinnati is in competition with Sacramento and Detroit.

Five votes are needed to pass the stadium plan, which would involve $63 million in public subsidies, and right now there are four sure votes, with councilmember Jeff Pastor reportedly holding out for a written community benefits agreement before signing off on the funds. Team president Jeff Berding, though, says he’s confident Pastor will vote yes:

“We’ve had great leadership at City Hall. I expect that tomorrow the ordinances that provide the public infrastructure to support our privately funded stadium will be approved,” Berding said Sunday after three days of last-ditch meetings in hopes of sealing the deal…

Berding said he worked through the weekend to meet Pastor’s demand to put the CBA in writing in time for council to review it before it votes at a 4 p.m. special session.

Um, that’s not really a community benefits agreement if you don’t negotiate it with the community, only with one councilmember in secret? [CLARIFICATION: Berding did say he’s been meeting with the West End Community Council to discuss the CBA, or at least with its executive board.] But you know, never mind, far worse deals have been cut for votes in other cities.

If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that the Cincinnati police department has not been leafletting the West End with flyers calling the neighborhood a “high violent crime area” just so that the soccer team owners can buy up land on the cheap. Probably.

Beckham’s Miami MLS team has yet another stadium site frontrunner

If it seems like David Beckham’s would-be MLS franchise — which, let’s not forget, only exists because he was promised one at a cut-rate price in exchange for gifting the league with his then-aging-but-still-good-for-MLS talents — has been wandering the Miami wilderness in search of a stadium site forever, it’s really only been less than five years, which is still pretty long. But after announcing last month that it would be looking at “five or so sites,” Beckham’s ownership group may be settling on a new frontrunner, the site of a Pepsi distribution center in suburban Doral west of Miami — at least, according to the mayor of Doral:

“In this transaction, It seems like it would be a cleaner process,” said Doral Vice Mayor Ana Maria Rodriguez , who supports a stadium in the growing suburban city. “And no public money would be expended on it.”

Unlike the last frontrunner, a publicly owned (but privately operated) golf course in Melreese, the Doral site wouldn’t have issues with getting in the way of flights landing at the airport, which could allow for taller hotels and such that Beckham and his partners the Mas brothers want to build adjacent to the stadium.

If you’re scoring at home, this would be something like the fifth stadium site to be anointed as the likely stadium site (Miami waterfront, adjacent to Marlins stadium, Overtown, Melreese … are we counting the Marlins site twice since it keeps cropping up?). Doral certainly sounds like it would involve less red tape and has a willing mayor, but until there are more specifics, it’s hard to take any of this too seriously. Wake me when you can actually buy Miami MLS souvenir jerseys.

Friday roundup: Marlins claim British residency, video football with real humans, and the White Sox stadium that never was

Busy (minor) news week! And away we go…

  • Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins ownership group, facing a lawsuit by the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County over the team stiffing the public on the share of sale proceeds they were promised, are trying to stave it off by claiming that (deep breath) because one of the owners of an umbrella company of an umbrella company of the umbrella company that owns the Marlins is a business incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, the case should be arbitrated by a federal judge who handles international trade issues. Maybe the Marlins should quit trying to sell tickets to baseball games and sell tickets to the court proceedings instead.
  • Tampa Bay Rays chief development officer Melanie Lenz, in response to concerns that a big-ass baseball stadium wouldn’t fit into the Ybor City historic district that it would be on the border of, said that “we expect to build a next-generation, neighborhood ballpark that fits within the fabric of the Ybor City community,” though she didn’t give any details. That’s vague enough to be reassuring without actually promising anything concrete, but it’s worth making a note of just in case the historic district ends up becoming a stumbling block in stadium talks, which, stranger things have happened.
  • A guy wants to start a football league where fans vote on what plays to run via Twitch, and build an arena in Las Vegas for people to watch … the players? The voting? The Las Vegas Review-Journal article about it was a bit unclear, though it did say that the organizers want to “create the experience of playing a football video game with real people,” which isn’t creepy at all. It also reports that the league plans to use blockchain technology, which is how you know it’s probably a sham.
  • Something called the Badger Herald, which I assume is a University of Wisconsin student paper but which I really hope is a newspaper targeted entirely at badgers, ran an article by a junior economics major arguing that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena will be a boon to the city because during the first few years “many will come from across the state to watch the Bucks play in this impressive new facility” and after that it will “continue giving the people of Milwaukee a reason to be optimistic.” The author also says that the arena was built after “the NBA gave the Bucks an ultimatum — either obtain a new arena, or the NBA would buy the Bucks and sell the franchise to another city,” which, uh, no, that’s not what happened at all.
  • Here’s a really nice article for CBS Sports by my old Baseball Prospectus colleague Dayn Perry on the Chicago White Sox ballpark proposed by architect Philip Bess that never got built. Come for the cool pictures of spiders, stay for the extended explanation of why supporting columns that obstruct some views are a design feature that stadium architects never should have abandoned!
  • The Los Angeles Rams are trying to pull a San Francisco 49ers, according to Deadspin, by making a run at a Super Bowl in the same year they’re selling personal seat licenses for their new stadium. More power to ’em, but prospective Rams PSL buyers, check how that worked out for 49ers fans before you hand over your credit card numbers, okay?
  • The state of Connecticut has cut $100 million for Hartford arena renovations from the state budget, at least for now, so that it can use the money toward a $550 million bailout of the city of Hartford itself. Is that what they call a “no win-win situation“?
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the New York Islanders need to move back to Long Island because Brooklyn’s Barclays Center “wasn’t built for hockey,” which he actually pointed out at the time they moved there, but did anybody listen?
  • Alameda County is moving to sell its share of the Oakland Coliseum complex to the city of Oakland, which should make negotiations over what to do with the site slightly simpler, anyway.
  • That Missouri governor who killed a proposed St. Louis MLS stadium subsidy, calling it “welfare for millionaires,” is now under pressure to resign after his former hairdresser claimed he groped her, slapped her, and coerced her into sex acts. Maybe we should just stop electing men to public office? Just a thought.

Oakland A’s think they can get fans to a Howard Terminal stadium by gondola, are probably wrong

I have a bad cold and had been hoping to just leave everything for tomorrow’s news roundup, but then Village Voice transit reporter Aaron Gordon sent me this:

The Oakland A’s are exploring using a gondola ski lift to transport fans from downtown to the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, where the team is thinking of building a new ballpark…

And though it would hardly top direct BART service to the ballpark, a gondola system could carry anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 passengers an hour — delivering them to and from either the 12th Street BART Station or from a couple blocks to the south, near Oakland’s City Center and Housewives Market.

Okay, so, several things. First off, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross seem to have confused trams and gondolas, which are different technologies, something we’ll return to in a minute.

The bigger issue I have is with that “4,000 to 6,000 passengers an hour” figure. First off, that sounds really ambitious. There are two urban aerial trams in the U.S.: the Roosevelt Island tram in New York City (which you’ll remember as the thing Spider-Man saved people from while the Green Goblin talked like Gilbert Gottfried for some reason) and the Portland Aerial Tram in Oregon. The Portland tram holds 78 passengers per car, and runs every six minutes; that’s 780 people per hour, which not anywhere near 4,000 to 6,000.

But! As this guy who cares a whole lot about gondolas notes, you could run smaller ski-lift type gondola cars that hold six to ten passengers around every ten seconds. That gets you a somewhat more respectable 2,160 to 3,600 passengers an hour.

Which is still nowhere near enough to get people to an A’s game. You’re going to need to transport at minimum ten times that many passengers — and they’re not going to arrive conveniently spread out over an hour, but will all queue up right around game time, see the long lines for the gondola, and then say “Screw this, I’m walking across the train tracks.”

Or as Gordon summed it up to me, “It is arguably the dumbest plan I’ve ever heard.” It honestly makes more sense as leverage to try to keep the Howard Terminal site on the table while negotiating for a better deal for the Oakland Coliseum site, though given that the A’s owners are negotiating with the same city and county in both places, it’s not really that much of a threat. For now, let’s file it under Sports Team Owners Propose the Craziest Things — if it ever becomes more real, there’ll be plenty of time to make fun of it later.

Long Island may get yet another arena for the Islanders not to play in

Suffolk County, New York, otherwise known as “the part of Long Island you can only get to by starting in New York City and driving more than an hour east,” yesterday approved a $1 billion development project in Ronkonkoma that will include a 17,500-seat sports arena. Or maybe an 8,000-seat sports arena. Apparently it’s all still up in the air, except that whatever it is, it’ll be great for the local economy, because economies:

“This is entirely tax positive. There is no residential here,” [lead engineer John] Cameron said. “This is an economic engine. A catalyst for growth.”

And if you can’t trust a construction engineer to make economic impact predictions, who can you trust?

Cameron said his company had been contacted by a sports league about using the arena, which could mean anything. (Note that he didn’t even say “pro” sports league, at least not as ABC7 reported it.) The Islanders, for their part, immediately dismissed any interest in playing in eastern Long Island. I suppose it’s conceivable that a Suffolk County arena could survive just on selling concert tickets to Long Islanders who don’t want to make the shlep into the city, or drive an hour in Long Island traffic to Nassau Coliseum — though lots of them work in the city anyway, so Nassau Coliseum would just be a stop on the way home. Building a sports arena makes more sense with a sports team to play in it, is all I’m saying, unless the developers plan to ditch or massively downsize the arena aspect down the road after using it to get Suffolk County’s attention, which is entirely possible.

Anyway, what the hell the developers’ business plan is should matter less to Long Island taxpayers if they’re not on the hook for any costs, and no subsidies have been reported thus far — though Long Island Business News does note that “it has yet to be determined whether the property and the additional 40 acres of compost site will be sold or ground-leased for the redevelopment effort.” But surely they’ve at least agreed on a price for the land, right? Right? Tune back in for any further reports that filter in from the far-flung province of eastern Long Island.