David Beckham says he’s really building two Florida soccer stadiums, it’s not just leverage to play cities against each other

The Fort Lauderdale city commission gave approval yesterday to David Beckham’s Inter Miami to build a new 18,000-seat soccer stadium at the site of 60-year-old Lockhart Stadium — or at least, approval to enter into exclusive negotiations to do so. That makes this a good time for me to expand on my brief mention on Friday of how and why Beckham is going ahead with this seemingly crazy scheme to build two stadiums in adjacent cities for one team.

As you may recall, back in November Miami voters approved giving Inter Miami the rights to build a new stadium at Melreese golf course, the third or fourth (I’ve lost track by now) proposed stadium site for the MLS expansion team. Or rather, approved giving Inter’s owners the right to negotiate a stadium with the Miami city commission; nothing substantive has happened with those negotiations since then, and last week Miami commissioners voted to set a September deadline for Beckham’s group to figure things out, or else it will reopen the site to other bidders.

At the same time, Inter is set to begin play next year, and when both the Marlins and Dolphins owners turned down a chance to play host to Inter Miami games in 2020 because of scheduling concerns, it left the team with a home field of ¯_(ツ)_/¯. So Beckham and co-owner Jorge Mas turned to Lockhart Stadium, where the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL previously played, as the site of a new 18,000-seat stadium that they said they would build with $60 million in private money, use for two seasons as Inter Miami’s home, then turn into a training ground and youth team stadium, with construction to begin in August and be completed by next March. This on top of spending $1 billion for a permanent soccer stadium plus a whole lot of other stuff like hotels and office space, and paying rent on the site to boot, back in Miami.

If that sounds a little crazy to you, you’re not alone. Sure, they’re doing amazing things with pop-up stadiums these days, but seven months is still an extremely tight construction timeline, and then a no-frills stadium is likely to age poorly, even as just the home of an under-21 team. And building two stadiums for one team with private money, though certainly welcome in an age when most owners won’t even build one stadium with private money, seems like an extremely odd business plan, even if you have a pile of cash left over from getting your franchise for a discount $25 million expansion fee instead of $150 million in exchange for agreeing to play your declining years in the U.S.

The obvious suspicion here, especially given Inter’s foot-dragging on stadium negotiations in Miami, is that this is part interim solution and part leverage play — if the talks over Melreese go poorly, Beckham and Mas have a backup site ready to go. And while they’re saying that’s not the case, Mas issued a pretty non-denial denial about it:

“We don’t know what the future holds,” he said. “I’m planning on playing at Miami Freedom Park in 2022 but if for some reason that option isn’t available, we’ll adjust accordingly.”

My personal theory is that Beckham and Mas are less interested in actual stadiums than in collecting enough stadium renderings to paper their living room walls with. They’re well on their way!

Hartford Yard Goats stadium failing so far as urban catalyst, surprise, surprise

Last week I was interviewed by Greg Seay of the Hartford Business Journal about stadiums as development catalysts (my sound bite: “If there is a positive impact, it is so small that it’s not going to be measurable in the data”), and today his article is up on how the Yard Goats‘ new stadium is doing at reinventing Hartford. If you had “not so hot” in the betting pool, you’re a winner:

While the stadium has brought new energy and fans to the city during the spring and summer months, it has so far largely struck out in delivering on its promise to spur development in Hartford’s Downtown North (DoNo) quadrant, a linchpin of the city’s plan to pay for the stadium.

The addition of taxable DoNo development was supposed to help the city pay the approximate $4.6 million annual debt on the ballpark’s bonds. Currently, the city only draws about $1 million from its ballpark lease and a share of the team’s non-baseball revenue, leaving city taxpayers to foot the more than $3 million annual deficit.

There is planned development for the future — this thing — but even if it eventually happens, we’re still left with questions about the “spur” part of the equation: Would development have happened anyway in DoNo without a minor-league baseball stadium next to it? Would it have happened elsewhere in Hartford, if not in DoNo? It’s kind of tough to imagine that developer Randy Salvatore thinks the success of his mixed-use development is contingent on there being a 6,000-seat ballpark nearby, especially one that’s only in use during Double-A baseball season. While I. Charles Mathews, former chair of the Hartford Stadium Authority, asked Seay, “You know what happens when you build a big mall?” — meaning other stores open nearby to get spillover foot traffic — 6,000 fans 70 nights a year is pathetic compared to the number of people who pass through even a small mall. (Also, what mostly happens when you build a big mall these days is you end up with an empty mall.)

Anyway, Hartford’s baseball stadium is already built and paid for by the people of Connecticut, so we may as well hope that the surrounding development gets built, so at least there’s a nice neighborhood to walk through on the way to way to Yard Goats games. And that Hartford has learned its lesson and realized that spending on sports venues isn’t a punched ticket to urban revitalization

“The XL Center is at a crossroads, not next year, not five years from now, but right now,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said. “This tournament, which will put Hartford and Connecticut on TVs across the nation is only possible because of the XL Center. I fear this may be one of the last significant events held there if the state chooses not to invest in the future of a facility that does so much, not just for the Capital City but the state.”

Sigh.

Friday roundup: Cobb County still losing money on Braves, Beckham now wants two new stadiums, A’s reveal latest crazy rendering

It’s yet another morning to wake up and read the news and want to immediately go back to bed, or maybe get out of bed and protest something or just hug somebody. There’s a full week of additional stadium and arena news to recap, though, and that still matters, even if maybe not quite as much as man’s inhumanity to other humans, so:

  • Cobb County is still losing money on the new Atlanta Braves stadium, but it was at least down to $5.8 million last year from $8 million the year before. That’s mostly thanks to increased property tax payments from the development around the stadium, though, and as I’ve covered before, property taxes aren’t free money, they’re revenues that are supposed to pay for all the social costs of new development, so please everybody stop pretending that’s how fiscal math works.
  • David Beckham’s Inter Miami (do I have to keep identifying them that way? you bet I do!) now wants to play its first two MLS seasons, 2020 and 2021, at a new stadium in Fort Lauderdale while waiting for its Miami stadium to be ready. I admit to being somewhat confused as to how an 18,000-seat stadium can be built in Fort Lauderdale in less than a year (even if it’s just a temporary facility that will eventually be converted to host the franchise’s youth team) when it’ll take two years at least to build one in Miami, but mostly I’m just excited for Beckham to have two different stadium ideas that can run into inevitable obstacles because he’s Beckham.
  • The Oakland A’s dropped another new rendering of their proposed Howard Terminal stadium as part of their latest site plan, and mostly it’s notable for apparently being the only building left with its own electrical power after the apocalypse wipes out the rest of humanity, which should help ticket sales. Vaportecture fans will also be pleased to see that the gratuitous shipping cranes for unloading containers to nowhere have been moved to a different corner of the site, possibly for logistical reasons but more likely because the renderers thought they framed the image better there.
  • Tottenham Hotspur stadium update: Finally looks on target to open in early April, except for the small problem that players trying to take corner kicks will tumble backwards down a slope if they stand more than one foot from the ball.
  • Milwaukee-area residents will finally get to stop paying a sales-tax surcharge to pay off the Brewers‘ Miller Park next year, after 24 years of the 0.1% tax being in place. (The public will keep on paying for repairs to the stadium, but it’s already built up a reserve fund from sales tax payments for that purpose.) That’s certainly good news for Wisconsin residents who want to see their spending dollars go 0.1% farther, though even more so it will make it harder for anyone to try to use that tax stream to fund a replacement stadium for Miller Park, which the Brewers haven’t talked about but you know it’s just a matter of time.
  • The Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority is set to vote today on a new short-term lease for the Raiders, who would pay $7.4 million in rent for 2019 and $10.4 millon in rent for 2020 if necessary, plus $525,000 a year in rent for the team’s practice facility for up to three years after moving to Las Vegas. Plus, Oakland still gets to continue with its antitrust suit against the Raiders for leaving in the first place. I love happy endings!
  • Calgary city councillor Evan Woolly says instead of giving tax kickbacks to a new Flames arena, he wants to give tax breaks to all businesses across the city in an attempt to keep more of them in town. I’d definitely want to see his projected economic impact numbers before deciding if that would be worth it, but it certainly makes as much economic sense as giving money solely to a pro hockey team on the same logic.
  • “Planning experts” told the city of Saskatoon that it should kick off downtown revitalization efforts by building a new arena, because that’s the “biggest piece,” and, and, sorry, I’m looking for any actual reasons these experts gave, but not finding any. Though given that one is described as a “real estate sales specialist,” maybe their reasoning is not so mysterious after all.
  • The New York Islanders management emailed season ticket holders to ask them to sign a change.org “Support New York Islanders New Home at Belmont” petition, which leads me to think that maybe they’re taking this whole local elected official opposition thing more seriously than they’re pretending when they keep saying don’t worry, they’re totally going to have the place open by 2021.
  • The Carolina Panthers are talking about moving to South Carolina, but only their offices and practice field, not their actual home stadium. Not that that’s stopping them from trying to get out of paying their stadium property tax bill.
  • The government is Sydney is rushing to demolish a 31-year-old Australian football rugby (sorry, read too quickly and can’t tell all the Australian ball sports apart really anyway) stadium nine days before a new government might come in that would have preserved the building, and while I don’t fully understand the whole history here, you can read about it here while we wait for FoS’s Aussie sports correspondent David Dyte to chime in.
  • Emails obtained by the Los Angeles Times reveal that Irving Azoff tried to talk the Los Angeles Lakers into moving out of the Staples Center and into the MSG-owned Forum, but talks didn’t go anywhere. This honestly doesn’t seem like much since it was just an emailed offer that was rebuffed, but it is interesting in that it shows how the arena management wars are playing into sports team decisions. (And also in that it reveals that Lakers owner Jeanie Buss refers to Clippers owner Steve Ballmer as “Ballz.”)

MLS commissioner doubles down on giving teams to whichever cities cough up stadiums

MLS commissioner Don Garber has issued his latest missive on the league’s never-ending campaign to create an endless carpet of soccer teams across the United States (and an endless carpet of expansion fees), and it has several points:

  • St. Louis and Sacramento are the frontrunners to become the league’s 28th team, with a verdict to be handed down by the end of this year. And the price of admission is clear: While a stadium subsidy package got preliminary approval from St. Louis in December, “It would really help their bid if they had stadium naming rights and a jersey sponsor in place,” Garber told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “So there is a specific level of financial corporate support.”
  • Other cities, of which the commissioner specifically named Charlotte, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, will have to await the next round of expansion, which league officials have previously indicated could be completed by 2026.
  • Detroit is apparently out of the running for now, with Garber saying, “I’ve been in regular conversations with them. And we still struggle with their stadium plan. … We think that in order for us to be successful in that city, we need a soccer-specific stadium. And the options that we’re presented with today are only at Ford Field.”

This is all in keeping with MLS’s long-established business model: Keep handing out new teams every year or two, at a pace geared to ensure a steady flow of expansion fees while still keeping enough cities interested that the league can levy demands — namely, for new publicly subsidized soccer-only stadiums — in exchange for granting franchises. (Lucrative naming rights deals, apparently, will be the new tiebreaker.) At least, except when it’s presented with owners it craves enough to be worth waiving that rule, which was the case with NYC F.C. and Atlanta United but not with Detroit for some reason.

If anything, the main advance made by Garber is that he pretty much just straight-up admits the game he’s playing now:

Garber called the competition good for the league.

“Life is good when you have options,” he said. “I believe that there are many cities in our country today that can support an MLS team. We’ve got to get this last one over the finish line and then sit down and figure out what happens to those cities that were not part of the 28 that we set out to finalize a couple of years ago.”

“Life is good when you have options.” That one really needs to go alongside Jerry Reinsdorf’s “A savvy negotiator creates leverage” in the sports shakedown Hall of Fame.

Islanders fans pretty worried about this whole Belmont arena traffic and transit situation

New York Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky again stressed this weekend that his team’s arena is totally on track to open in 2021 as scheduled, so it’s good timing that I had an article run at Deadspin yesterday pointing out that yeah, it really isn’t, at least not if the elected officials threatening to block it if it doesn’t come with a full-service train station are serious, because there’s no easy way to build a full-service train station there.

And even if they do approve it anyway, it will likely result in an arena that is once again hard to get to by both car and public transit, which has a bunch of Islanders fans slightly worried they’d be getting out of the Brooklyn frying pan and into the fire. My favorite bit:

James Francis Fess, a lifelong Islanders fan—he claims that his father literally placed an Islanders hat on his head the day he was born—and a leader of the Blue and Orange Army fan group, worries that the traffic on the nearby Cross Island Parkway on game days “is going to be insanity. The traffic around the Coliseum is nothing like around Belmont. You can look up any single day on a traffic map, and I guarantee you that it’s going to be black on the Cross Island.”

Fess says he got to ride to the Belmont arena announcement last season with the team’s entourage, which included both Ledecky and longtime broadcaster Stan Fischler, who moonlights as a transit expert. The resulting conversation, he says, was both enlightening and worrisome.

“I mentioned to [Ledecky], ‘It’s not true that people will have to transfer at Jamaica still, right? Like how they do for the Barclays Center.’ And he’s like, ‘No, we want the train to go directly there. Stan’ll know about this, because Stan knows everything about trains.’”

Fischler, recalls Fess, began rattling off a list of changes that would be needed to make full service to Belmont a reality. “Ledecky’s sitting there like, ‘Wait a second.’ I see the look on his face, and I think ‘Oh no, they didn’t even think about this.’”

All the Islanders fans I spoke to wished that the team had just stayed put at the Nassau Coliseum site, and while there’s no doubt some sentimentality behind that, it’s also true that getting to an arena on the Queens/Nassau border on a weeknight during rush hour with limited train service is not going to be pretty. It may be the best option now after what the current team owners stumbled into following Charles Wang’s impulsive flight to Brooklyn — I spend much of the end of the article discussing the increasing evidence that rich sports people are no better at planning and decision making than the rest of us — but it’s still pretty remarkable that Islanders owners keep picking places to play and saying, “We’ll figure out how to get fans there later.”

Suns owner rewards councilmember’s arena vote flip with $50,000 campaign donation

When I’m asked, as I often am, why city mayors and other elected officials continue to eagerly throw money at pro sports subsidies even as all evidence shows that it’s a massive waste of public funds, I generally point questioners to this article I wrote for The Nation eight years ago, helpfully titled “Why Do Mayors Love Sports Stadiums?” Among the myriad causes of pols’ decades-long crush on sports spending — bogus economic impact studies, the “edifice complex” that gives precedence to shiny new construction projects that mayors can install an “I built this” plaque on — is the spending on lobbyists and campaign donations that team owners can throw around to encourage local officials to vote their way. It’s usually not a direct quid pro quo, I wrote, but more a way for team owners to gain access to policymakers, allowing the sports barons to supply talking points that will provide cover for anyone who votes their way.

Usually, that is. And then we have cases of campaign spending that doesn’t even pretend to be anything but an outright cash payoff, like that from Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver:

Nine days after the Phoenix City Council approved a controversial deal to renovate the Phoenix Suns home arena, Suns owner Robert Sarver donated $50,000 to a campaign PAC supporting a councilwoman who cast a crucial vote.

That donation to Councilwoman Vania Guevara last month came after she flipped her “no” vote to a “yes,” with Sarver’s pledge to spend $2.6 million on Head Start programs in her district.

Sarver followed up his donation to Guevara with a $100,000 contribution to a firefighter PAC backing the mayoral campaign of Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, also a supporter of the arena deal.

Okay, you’re saying, “outright cash payoff” is a bit strong — maybe Sarver just really liked the cut of Guevara’s and Valenzuela’s respective jibs, and the timing of the donations was just coincidental? (You’re probably not saying that, but it’s possible someone out there might be.) But then check out Sarver’s press statement explaining the donations:

“I care deeply about the future of the city of Phoenix. I am proud to support candidates who have the best interests of the city at heart, particularly those who are committed to job creation and improving education. I gave openly, not behind a veil, and I look forward to the exciting days ahead for our community.”

That’s about as close to “They voted for my project, so I gave them a briefcase full of unmarked twenties” as you’re going to get in the American political process. (“Job creation” is a typical euphemism for “spending money on private development projects”; “improving education,” if that one puzzles you, is likely a reference to Guevara’s acquiescence on the arena project in exchange for $10 million for preschool programs and other goodies.)

There isn’t a whole that can be done about the influence of money in local politics — other than publicly shaming officials who take cash from deep-pocketed interests whose projects they just voted for, which, to its credit, the Arizona Republic did nicely here. And maybe repealing the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that opened the door to massive corporate and dark-money election spending. Or, you know, a massive redistribution of wealth such that self-interested individuals can’t pour so much money into electoral races that they swamp the influence of public opinion and small-money citizen donations. Okay, so actually there’s a lot that can be done, but some expressions of concern about “corruption” notwithstanding, most of our elected officials don’t seem all that eager to do much of it — which surely has nothing to do with who’s funding their campaigns, and paying for the lobbyists they hobnob with. It all makes one long for the day when “Oooh, shiny!” is the only political impulse that campaigns to rein in sports subsidies have to overcome.

Friday roundup: Flames arena questions, Braves funny math, and more vaportecture renderings and videos of suite chairs than you can shake a stick at

I swear they keep making these Fridays closer and closer together:

  • Canadian economists have lots of questions about who’s going to pay for a new Calgary Flames arena, which is as should be because the city council won’t say yet how it will be paid for. And we apparently won’t know more for a while, because first the council needs to figure out who’ll be on the negotiating committee with the Flames, and it’s not even scheduled to meet until next month. I can’t be the only one thinking, “Excellent, lots of time for somebody to leak the details to the press before everything gets negotiated,” can I? Deadspin has a tips line, just saying!
  • The Atlanta Braves brought in $442 million in revenue last year, for a profit of $92 million, but blamed the team’s debt payments on their new stadium in Cobb County for not leaving enough left over to spend big on free agents. After public subsidies, the Braves owners are on the hook for less than $20 million a year in construction debt payments, plus $6 million a year in rent, so, um, yeah.
  • The latest Texas Rangers stadium renderings make the seats in the top decks look just as crappy as in the previous renderings, there are still clip-art fans with translucent heads, and the roof is open in all of them even though the whole point of the new stadium is to have air-conditioning, which won’t work if the roof is open. At least we finally get to see how fans will get to that deck suspended in midair in left field — via a brick-colonnaded walkway, of course — so we no longer have to worry about Rangers fans having to purchase jetpacks to get to their terrible seats.
  • And still more renderings, these of a USL stadium a would-be team owner wants to build in Fort Lauderdale on the site of Lockhart Stadium, the same site David Beckham has targeted as a training site for his Inter Miami MLS team. Are there spotlights pointing pointlessly into the sky? You bet! Is this, regardless of whether the USL stadium stands a chance of getting built, yet another reason to laugh at Beckham over how he can’t catch a break? Don’t you know it!
  • Here’s a video of what the chairs and shelving will look like at the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium. And here’s a picture of what the place settings will look like in the luxury suites at the new Golden State Warriors arena, but it’s just a still photo — come on, Ben Golliver, it’s 2019, don’t you know people want to see furniture in video form?
  • New York Islanders owner Jon Ledecky insists that the team’s proposed Belmont Park arena is still “on track for the 2021-22 season,” but what else is he gonna say?
  • Winnipeg will provide a total of $16.6 million in tax breaks and other operating subsidies this year to the Jets, Blue Bombers, Goldeyes, and Manitoba Moose, and bonus points to any non-Canadian who can name what sport each of those teams play. Economic Development Winnipeg CEO Dayna Spiring claimed that the public will make its money back — no, not through the taxes the teams won’t get breaks on, that’s a Wichita thing to say. Rather, Spiring said the public will earn its money back on exposure, via the value of Winnipeg’s name appearing on hockey broadcasts. Somebody please alert this Twitter account.
  • Tottenham Hotspur stadium opening update: still maybe early April! Also, it may be called Nike Stadium, or maybe not.
  • Wichita announced it planned to double down on its $75 million expense for a new minor-league baseball stadium for the relocated New Orleans Baby Cakes Triple-A franchise by also selling land around the stadium to the team owners for $1 an acre, with the mayor saying the city would make money on the $38.5 million in taxes the new development would pay over the next 20 years. This is still not how taxes work, but Wichita has since said it was putting off the land sale after Wichitans griped about the stealth subsidy, so I won’t belabor the point. For now.
  • And finally, NBA commissioner Adam Silver want to make watching basketball at home more like being at the game, via “technology.” Wait, isn’t one main problem pro sports is facing that fewer and fewer people want to go to games because it’s just as pleasant and cheaper to watch games at home on their giant hi-def TVs? I mean, no complaints here if Silver really wants to replicate the smell of Madison Square Garden in my living room, but it seems a bit, I dunno, against their business model? Unless maybe this will be some kind of premium feature you only get by subscribing to their streaming service that will be described as “Netflix for basketball,” yeah, that’s probably it.

Raiders’ deal to play in Oakland hits major “snag,” unleashing torrent of terrible football metaphors

If you were on Team Go Play In The Street in the saga of where the Oakland Raiders will make their home for the 2019 season, great news! The deal for the team to return to Oakland for at least once more season has hit what the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Phil Matier is varyingly calling a “snag” or a “glitch”:

“We have one significant open issue that needs to be resolved,” Coliseum Authority executive director Scott McKibben said Wednesday.

McKibben declined to say what the snag was. However, sources say it involves the finances and taxes of the Raiders’ headquarters and training facility in Alameda. The team pays $525,000 annual rent for the training facility.

Okay, so Raiders execs are just balking at paying half a million dollars in rent on their training facility, on top of $7.5 million in rent for the Oakland Coliseum? That seems like a resolvable—

“Hopefully, we will be able to settle it,” McKibben said. “This could very likely put us in a position where there is not a deal.”

Okay, maybe not.

That’s all we know for now, but if you prefer your information presented in video form with Matier employing lots of terrible football metaphors (“what was supposed to be a simple play — a handoff to put the lease deal over the goal line — wound up as a fumble”), here you go!

Nationals cite “security” to force fans to pay for bag checks and lockers

The Washington Nationals have become one of the few MLB teams to ban bringing backpacks in their stadium, apparently because D.C. has special dangers that require special security theater measures, and also because they can’t figure out how to do a bag search like every other stadium everywhere. But never fear! The Nats will also be offering storage lockers for your verboten bags, at the low, low price of $2 an hour:

Medium lockers (10-by-15-by-22 inches) will be available for $2 per hour, charged in six-minute increments. Large lockers (15-by-15-by-22) will be available for $3 an hour. Binbox’s rental fees will be capped at $10 and $15, respectively, each game. The Nationals will not make money off the locker rentals…

Lockers will be available two hours before the scheduled first pitch until 90 minutes after the game. Reserving lockers is not an option, and every bag will be inspected by a third-party security staffer before being placed in a locker.

Okay, so apparently they can figure out how to do a bag search — so long as it’s by a third-party security officer who is paid by your bag fees.

This is stupid on a great many levels: briefcases and other items capable of carrying contraband are still allowed; security experts point out that creating long security lines outside just creates easier targets for any potential terrorists; the Nats will be giving out drawstring bags, so if you’re really in a pinch it should be straightforward enough to empty the contents of your backpack into one of those, then roll up your backpack and put it in as well. But it’s not stupid on the level of making fans pay the cost of something — bag searches — that normally the team would cover, which is indeed a remarkable innovation. I can’t wait for the first team to announce that all fans who aren’t season ticket holders need to visit the privately run ticket scanning security check station, or that if you want to throw out your garbage at the game, you need to buy access to the waste disposal lounge. The possibilities are endless!

Anyway, Nats fans are really mad, and my guess is it will eventually quietly go away when mass chaos results and nobody can get to their seats (and more important, begin buying hot dogs) until the third inning. Or maybe the Nats will offer fans a way to subscribe to a service that lets them bring in backpacks without being checked based on their fingerprints proving that they’re good people. The possibilities are endless!

Calgary council approves $1.5b in spending on Flames arena and other stuff, will explain later where money will come from

It took a break in the day-long closed-door session for an open-door session on the rules for talking behind closed doors, but the Calgary city council finally approved a Flames arena financing plan last night, as part of $1.5 billion in spending that will also fund expansion of the city’s convention center and arts center, and construction of a new field house for such sports as track, basketball, and indoor soccer. And how will all this be paid for, and will the tenants — such as the Flames — be repaying any of the capital expense through rent or revenue sharing?

The city will be able to pursue all four projects, said Nenshi, through a combination of cash reserves — including drawing from the city’s flush rainy day fund — as well as government grants and the community revitalization levy…

The city says it will release further details about the financial strategy to pay for all four projects at the Mar. 18 meeting of council.

Okay, that partially answers the first half of the question: The city will use cash on hand (which otherwise could be used for other projects, or reducing taxes, or rainy-day needs like the rainy day fund is meant for); plus a CRL, which is the Canadian version of a TIF that kicks back future increases in property tax receipts; plus grants from the provincial and/or federal governments that may or may not exist. All of this enables the council to say “no new taxes,” which is apparently what they really wanted to do, even though any government spending ultimately comes from taxes.

As for the other piece — will Calgary recoup any of this money on the back end — we apparently will have to wait for the next council meeting in two weeks. Or maybe not even then, since there still needs to be negotiation with the Flames owners? They decided all this in closed session, so who can tell!

Needless to say, not knowing any of the financial details beyond the vaguest generalities makes it really hard to evaluate how good or bad this deal would be for Calgary taxpayers, which is presumably exactly why the council is keeping the details a secret for now. All we know is that four councillors — Evan Woolley, Peter Demong, Jeromy Farkas, and Druh Farrell — out of 15 opposed the measure, though interestingly not Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who called out the last Flames arena plan as too expensive for the public. So maybe this indicates that this is a better deal; or maybe it indicates that Nenshi has caved; or maybe something else entirely; tune in March 18 to find out, or not!

Also unknown for the moment: Whether the arena design will still include its very own Stargate:

This is gonna be a long two weeks.