A’s, Oakland clarify positions on lease squabble, if by “clarify” you mean “issue accusatory press releases”

Yesterday’s bizarro news about Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff angrily rejecting a ten-year lease extension on the Oakland Coliseum shortly after demanding a ten-year lease extension on the Oakland Coliseum has come into a bit more focus, though it’s still pretty bizarro. First off, the A’s organization and the Oakland-Alamada County Coliseum Authority (called for short, naturally enough, the “JPA”) issued dueling press releases at the start of yesterday’s A’s game, in which the JPA asserted that Wolff was refusing to pay $5 million a year in back rent and demanding $3.5 million a year in rent subsidies, while A’s president Michael Crowley retorted that the team had paid all its back rent and wasn’t demanding any subsidies.

Thanks to Marine Layer, the proprietor of Newballpark.org who rushed home from changing a flat tire to pore over the actual numbers, we know that the A’s have in fact been paying rent, but deducting maintenance costs on the Coliseum, as they’re allowed to do by their lease; he speculates that the JPA’s gripe may be over back parking revenues that are currently in arbitration. As for the rent subsidy demand — not to mention unsourced rumors that the JPA’s deal would require Wolff to build a new stadium in Oakland if the Coliseum were torn down for a new Raiders stadium — there’s no way to tell the truth, since neither side has released their actual lease proposals.

In fact, Marine Layer argues, none of this is really about actual lease proposals, but rather about trying to lean on MLB to issue a ruling on where the A’s should play, something the league has steadfastly been trying to avoid:

Wolff wants to show MLB that the JPA prefers the Raiders over the A’s by a large margin, and their inaction on the lease extension offer along with previous stalling on previous offers is proof of that. The JPA is also trying to score points with MLB, providing baseball with a copy of their own agreement as a sort of make good. The JPA is already dealing with bad news related to Coliseum City, so there’s a chance for deflection. Meanwhile, MLB’s own track record has been to avoid these two parties like they were lepers, only coming in when talks completely broke down after the 2013 season. You have to wonder what kind of effort is being wasted by both sides, and what effect if any this is all having on MLB’s thoroughly inscrutable decision-making process…

Since nothing actually came out of last night’s revelations other than the two sides pointing fingers yet again, how about a moratorium on interviews, press releases, and any other kinds of dispatches to the public until you actually get a lease extension done? I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I personally don’t mind if I have slightly less to write about, because at least I won’t be writing about nothing. Which is exactly what this 600-word post is about. Nothing. Thanks.

Marine Layer also (in a subsequent post) points out that JPA chair Nate Miley claims that the county is “talking to [Wolff] about a new stadium all on the existing site,” which could involve public money. Which could be a revelation, or it could just be more grandstanding. It’s sure giving us lots of nothing to write about, though.

Akron proposes spending $7m a year on college arena, getting less than nothing in return

Summit County, Ohio is considering raising sales taxes by 0.25% to build a 9,000-seat arena for the University of Akron. That in itself isn’t all that unusual — at least the University of Akron is a public university (unlike, say, Syracuse), though traditionally that would mean the state would be paying for such things, not the county the school happens to be located in.

College sports subsidies are usually outside the scope of this site, but I want to call attention to this one because of the Cleveland Plain Dealer article reporting on the plan. It dutifully reports on the size of the proposed arena, how much luxury suites would cost, how a feasibility study determined that an arena would be “economically viable,” blah blah blah. What’s missing: Does this viability mean that the county would actually get repaid its money over time from arena revenues?

As it turns out, no, it would not. Buried deep in an article from the Akron Beacon Journal:

UA would be financially responsible if the arena lost money “up to a maximum annual amount” that still needs to be set. The university also would receive the profit if the arena made money.

So the county would pay the entire construction cost and be responsible for any major losses, but get none of the operating profits on the building. Sounds fair to me! Or as one university trustee put it:

“It is a win-win for all of the parties,” said Trustee Roland Bauer, who was in the group that put together the arena plan.

Look, I understand that daily newspaper reporters are not economists, and that they’re on deadline, and the first draft of history and all that, but is really shouldn’t be that hard to remember one simple concept: Figure out what each party in a deal is getting, not just what they’re each spending. Actual journalism — try it, you’ll like it!

Heat announce Miami lease deal with mayor, mayor says “Not me!”

It’s not just the Oakland A’s engaging in stupid press release wars this week: Last night, Miami Heat owner Micky Arison sent out an email announcing an agreement with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on a new lease for his team — only to have Gimenez retort an hour later that he’d agreed to no such thing.

The terms of Arison’s proposed lease deal are still pretty much the same as when he first proposed it back in January: The team would stay put for an additional ten years (from 2029 until 2039) in exchange for annual operating subsidies — i.e., the county paying the Heat to play there. (The subsidies would actually start at $12 million and rise over time to $17 million, which is slightly less than had been previously reported, meaning the total present value would be a little over $50 million, not the $66 million I’d previously estimated.) The Heat would also ditch its profit-sharing agreement that never actually generates any profit for the county and instead pay a yearly rent starting at $500,000 and rising over time to $1.5 million; that’s potentially a small value for the county, though since the county would also be giving up other things (like the chance at a share of future naming-rights revenues), it could end up being a wash or worse.

Miami-Dade commissioner Juan Zapata called the proposed deal “horrible” and said he’d “never seen anything so ridiculous”; that seems a bit over the top, given that Miami would effectively be paying the Heat $5 million a year (in 2014 dollars) to promise to stay put for another ten years, and there are certainly worse lease subsidies out there. It still doesn’t make it a good deal — the Heat don’t have a viable threat to leave town right now, though it’s always possible things will have changed by 2029, especially if Miami is a post-apocalyptic hellscape by then — but it’s only ridiculous in, you know, a routine kind of way.

Anyway, from the sound of things Gimenez is only complaining about the scale of the subsidies he’s being asked to provide to the Heat, not the principle of the thing, so expect this to be worked out eventually. Whether the county commission goes along with it will be another story, but in Florida those things can usually be worked out.

Wrigley Field celebrates 100th anniversary as Cubs owner mulls how to make it look less like Wrigley Field

Today is the 100th anniversary of the first game at Wrigley Field, and I hope everyone is tuning in, because those 1914 Federal League uniforms are pretty cool, even if the uniform numbers are an anachronism:

fed-uniNot pictured, of course, is the not-at-all-1914-throwback scoreboard that Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is champing at the bit to build, but holding off on for now because of the thicket of lawsuits he must navigate first. The Associated Press tackles this subject today, coming to the conclusion that video screens make it easier to see replays, fans don’t all like them regardless, Wrigley Field had a moving walkway in the 1950s, young people love to take selfies, wait, what were we talking about again?

A’s nix 10-year lease after asking for one, Raiders skip stadium interest letter after avowing stadium interest

So when Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff announced that he wanted a ten-year lease at the Oakland Coliseum, and then the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority yesterday offered a ten-year lease, it might have seemed like rapprochement was at hand, or at least the start of some serious talks. But no!

The A’s on Tuesday night shot down a deal to play at O.co Coliseum for the foreseeable future, saying the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority‘s 10-year lease proposal doesn’t meet all their requirements.

“We cannot accept the terms of the offer,” A’s director of public relations Bob Rose said in a statement. “We have tried to negotiate in good faith for the past several months. As the authority knows, it is still our preference not to negotiate this agreement through the media.”

As for what terms were so unacceptable that Wolff chose to reject them outright within 24 hours via a press statement (a press statement about not wanting to negotiate through the press, even), Rose didn’t say. Apparently the A’s p.r. department tweeted a link to this article as representative of Wolff’s feelings about the lease, which would imply that he rejected the ten-year lease extension because he’s upset about Oakland Mayor Jean Quan not wanting to offer a long-term lease extension, um, wha?

Here, let’s leave it to San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami, who first reported Wolff’s desire for a long term lease last month, to sum things up:

Meanwhile, the Raiders missed a Monday deadline to submit a “letter of interest” in working on a new stadium at the Coliseum site, with Coliseum board member and Oakland city councilperson Larry Reid saying, “I’m very concerned about it.” Maybe everybody is just hedging their bets like crazy now that the Warriors are on their way to San Francisco, but either way, yup, it’s a mess.

FIFA says Brazil stadiums will be ready for World Cup, because alternative is unthinkable

Hey, how’re things going with Brazil’s $3.3 billion in death-plagued World Cup stadium projects, with the opening game just seven weeks away? Very, very poorly, though World Cup officials are still putting up a brave front:

“There is not a single minute we can waste because there is still a lot of work to do to,” [FIFA Secretary General Jerome] Valcke said after checking the construction work at the Itaquerao. “We are running against time. But, yes, the stadium will host the opening game and, yes, we will organize the opening game and all the other games in this stadium.”

Valcke also noted “potential issues” with two other stadiums in Curitiba and Porto Alegre, but insists that everything will be fine in time for the opening, because, well, it has to be? And there’s no way any more workers are going to fall to their deaths and delay construction, because that already just happened last month, and anyway, death always comes in sevens.

Yanks’ Levine says NYCFC could consider “other sites” outside NYC

It’s been a busy morning on the stadium news front, so the first I saw of this latest NYC F.C. news came via Twitter:

It’s not quite that bald-faced, but, yeah, New York Yankees president Randy Levine, he of the volcanic temper and purple face, has kind of threatened to move the team out of New York City before it’s even arrived:

“This is here, until there’s another venue,” Levine said. “The Yankees are the primary tenant. The schedule revolves around the Yankees. There’s no timetable. There’s been dialogue, we’re looking at sites. If not New York City, then other sites. I never rule out anything. But I’m one voice.”

New York Daily News sports reporter Filip Bondy goes on to assert that “Yonkers is waiting with open arms for a possible stadium deal,” which is news to pretty much everyone, though there was some speculation about NYC F.C. seeking a temporary stadium in Westchester before they announced their plan to start play at the Yankees’ stadium.

Building outside the city limits would certainly be easier in some respects — there’s a hell of a lot more available land there, and there are numerous mayors and city councils that could be appealed to, instead of the not-all-that-enthused officials currently in charge in New York City. Still, Westchester isn’t that easy for much of the New York area to get to, and you have to figure that Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan isn’t plunking down $200 million for an MLS expansion team just so he can play in the suburbs. For now, consider this somewhere between “we’re keeping all our options open” and “crap, we have to have the Yankees and the soccer team share a stadium for three-plus years, let’s throw everything we can think of out there and see if something sticks.”

Revised Kings arena deal would cut Sacramento’s losses to $173 million

The Sacramento Kings have announced that they’ve revised their arena deal with the city of Sacramento, and there are more new details than you can shake a stick at:

  • The total construction cost has gone up from $447 million to $477 million, thanks mostly to the increased costs of developing the area around the arena site.
  • The city’s share of the costs will actually go down slightly, from $258 million to $255 million (though with the value of free parking spaces, billboards, and other infrastructure, the actual public cost is probably more like $331 million).
  • Instead of the Kings paying $4.7 million in annual rent (mostly from ticket tax money), the team will now be committing to a rent starting at $6.5 million a year, and rising over time.

Sacramento assistant city manager John Dangberg calls this a “significant enhancement to our financing package,” and it certainly looks like a better deal for the city, even if it still won’t come close to repaying the $9 million a year (and rising over time) in future parking revenues that the city will be siphoning off towards arena cost, let alone the city’s $13-14 million a year total bond cost for the arena. (Figure on the high side of that estimate, since interest rates have gone up, and the city has acknowledged the Kings will be putting in too much money to allow for the use of tax-exempt bonds.)

There’s a new city council report that spells out the latest agreement — I haven’t made my way through all of it yet, but it does estimate the present value of the Kings’ future rent payments at $157,555,183, which if you take the total public cost as $331 million, would mean that Sacramento taxpayers would only be taking a $173 million bath on this project. That’s better than the old deal, and possibly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, though I’d want to read all the fine print before saying for sure. Not to mention test the sharpness of the stick.

NBA steps in to play role of Bad Cop in Bucks arena drama

As I noted in last week’s coverage of the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks to new owners, there’s been a weird disconnect in the team’s demands for a new arena, which is that both the new and old owners have been trying to spin their promises to pay for less than half the cost of an arena into a commitment to keep the team in town — even while threatening that without a new arena, they’ll leave. It’s a not uncommon dance in these matters, but it’s a far easier one to navigate if you have someone else (a mayor, say) who can be waving the move-threat saber in your stead.

Fortunately for the Bucks owners, somebody has emerged to play the role of Bad Cop, and it’s our old friends, the NBA:

The NBA has the right to buy back the Milwaukee Bucks from incoming owners Wesley Edens and Mark Lasry if a deal to a bring a new arena to the city is not in place by November 2017, according to sources briefed on the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com that the sale agreement announced last week to transfer the Bucks from longtime owner Herb Kohl to Edens and Lasry for a purchase price of $550 million includes a provision that allows the league to buy back the team for $575 million if construction on a new building in Milwaukee is not underway by the deadline.

Although one source said Monday that the league would likely only take that step if it didn’t see “significant progress” toward a new arena in Milwaukee by then, this provision ensures that the NBA would control the fate of the franchise from that point as opposed to Edens and Lasry.

This is, frankly, totally brilliant, in an evil genius sort of way. The NBA would never forcibly seize a franchise without its owners’ consent, so rest assured that this whole buyback clause was arrived at with the full cooperation (if not at the behest of) Edens, Lasry, and Kohl. Now, though, Edens and Lasry are in a perfect position to play Good Cop: We want to stay in Milwaukee, but that mean old NBA will take our team and move it somewhere else if we don’t get a new arena, so you’d better make that happen or else Adam Silver will nail your head to the floor.

This isn’t a totally new gambit — the Toledo Mud Hens, as just one example, used the threat of the league forcing a move as a way to win a public vote for subsidies for a new stadium even though the team was owned by a local non-profit corporation — but it’s an especially well-played one. The trick will be to see whether Edens and Lasry can keep up their plausible deniability long enough to pull this off, or if local reporters look into whether they were co-conspirators with the NBA on this plan — though given the state of local reporting, they probably don’t have much to worry about.

Chargers ready to put stadium on ballot … in two and a half years

The San Diego Chargers ownership has been plotting a new stadium approximately forever, and now plans on waiting a bit longer still: Chargers stadium czar Mark Fabiani has said he hopes to put a new stadium on the county ballot in November 2016, in time for the next presidential election.

And how would that new stadium be paid for, exactly?

The Spanos family and investment partners would put up roughly $400 million and seek a $200 million loan from the NFL. The rub comes in how the remaining roughly $400 million would be financed.

That’s indeed a rub. As is the fact that the Chargers don’t know where they want to build a stadium yet. (Or as U-T San Diego puts it, “they are open to ideas.”) Maybe another two and a half years will give them a chance to throw some more funding ideas at the wall and see which ones stick — though at a certain point, given the success of their neighbors to the north, you have to wonder if they wouldn’t want to consider “build it our own damn selves” as a less time-consuming option.