Friday roundup: Why Pistons fans can’t bear to watch, Broncos land grab move, Donald Trump could win Morocco the World Cup, and more!

All evidence to the contrary, spring (and the spring end-of-legislative-session season) must be getting nearer, because the stack of weekly roundup news items in my Instapaper is getting longer and longer each week. Better get down to it:

Beckham group now has no idea at all where exactly it wants to build a Miami soccer stadium

Having already hinted at looking at other sites in Miami for a new soccer stadium than the long-considered Overtown site, David Beckham’s new ownership partner Jorge Mas completely blew up the not-yet-actually-existing team’s stadium plans yesterday by declaring that he’s looking at “five or so” sites, including some not actually in Miami:

“We’re actively looking at five or so sites,” said Jorge Mas, the Miami executive who became the public face of Beckham’s stadium hunt after he and brother José joined the partnership late last year. “There are a handful of sites that are interesting.”…

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Mas said Overtown remains a possibility. But he gave his strongest indication yet that the partnership, which includes Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure and “American Idol” creator Simon Fuller, is starting fresh with a new list of stadium sites.

Mas described a winnowing process under way among the partners that will settle on two finalists within the next two months.

The Miami Herald proceeds to list the frontrunners as: land on the Hialeah Park and Casino site; land near Jackson Memorial Hospital; the Melreese golf course site that has been previously discussed; Overtown; and a Pepsi distribution center in Doral.

Is this a sign that the Beckham-Mas group is casting its net as wide as possible in desperation for land the owners can get ahold of? That they’re looking to play different municipalities against each other in some kind of bidding war? (Mas did tout the stadium as “a job creator.”) That the new guy in the room, notwithstanding the years that have already been spent looking at stadium sites, figured, hey, I bet I can find a better stadium site than this one if I put my mind to it? Your guess is as good as mine, and it looks like we’re going to have plenty of time to speculate while waiting to see if Miami can get an MLS team before it needs to switch to water polo.

Koch Brothers-funded group decries “corporate welfare” for Rays, keeps straight face whole time

Say “the Koch brothers” and most people just think “rich dudes trying to help other rich dudes get richer,” and there’s a lot of truth to that. But Charles and David Koch are also diehard libertarians (of the “get government off the backs of the owning man” vein), and sometimes that ideology bumps up against the interests of the expensive-thing-owning classes.

That’s been the case around sports stadium subsidies, where the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity have lobbied against Wisconsin funding the Milwaukee Bucks‘ new arena, against tax kickbacks for Utah Jazz arena renovations, and for state bills to ban spending public money on sports facilities. And it’s now the case in Tampa Bay, where Americans for Prosperity is waging a full-scale war against any public money being spent on a new Rays stadium, at least if video ads on your Twitter feed counts as full-scale war:

Starting today, residents of the Tampa Bay area may start to see a new video ad on their social media feeds assailing the idea that public money could be used to build a new baseball stadium — complete with an animated “taxpayer” being bowled over by a player sliding into a base…

“When it comes to the big game of corporate welfare, the taxpayers are always the losers,” the video says…

The group will also include a form letter for residents to sign… “Dear Commissioner: I am contacting you to urge you to oppose taxpayer funding for professional sports facilities,” the letter reads. “Families and hard-working Floridians deserve to either keep their tax money or have it spent on essential services.”

That’s a little hokey, but I guess you’ve got to fight magic basketballs with taxpayers getting Ruben Tejada’d.

And this kind of ad spending does matter — as I’m fond of citing, the best predictor of whether a sports subsidy referendum will pass is to look at the ratio of campaign money spent by supporters to opponents: more than 100:1 and it usually passes, less than that and it’s usually defeated. (Not that the Rays stadium is expected to go before a public vote, but a similar effect can sometimes work on local legislators, too.) And if cheering on Americans for Prosperity in this instance requires overlooking the more than $400 million in corporate welfare that the Kochs themselves have raked in, well, any bedfellow in a storm, I guess.

Nashville councilmember proposes rescinding MLS stadium funding, is immediately shouted down

I didn’t even get a chance to post about yesterday’s proposal by Nashville councilmember Steve Glover to rescind the city’s approval of $75 million in funds for a new MLS stadium before it was immediately voted down by the full council:

The council voted 16-8, with seven abstentions, to strike down a plan to scrap funding for one of former Mayor Megan Barry’s defining projects. It would have revoked the council’s 31-6 vote in November to approve $225 million in revenue bonds for the future stadium.

Glover’s intent, it sounds like, was to put the funding on hold because of concerns that money was being spent on stadium prep before the bonds had even been sold:

Glover’s push was inspired by recent reports from WSMV-TV scrutinizing preliminary work for the stadium. That included one story that found Metro Chief Operating Officer Rich Riebeling authorized $135,000 in predevelopment work overseen by Commonwealth Development Group that came from Bridgestone Arena’s financial account. The Metro Sports Authority, which operates the arena, was unaware of the spending.

“We have spent money that we never authorized,” Glover said. “And until we get our act together, until we as a council fully understand what the expenses are, then I’m asking us to rescind it.”

Stadium backer Councilmember Colby Sledge, though, retorted that funding had to be approved so that negotiations could begin with the owners of Nashville S.C. over a community benefits plan:

“If we’re going to go ahead and have this action to rescind then what’s the point?” Sledge said. “Why are we asking community members to come out and spend their time?

“To me, I think it’s disingenuous to say we would potentially do this and have this hang over our heads.”

Uhhh, maybe actually the team owners might have more incentive to negotiate a community benefits agreement if they didn’t already have their money in hand? Just a thought. Now that the funding is back on track, we’ll see how well Sledge’s “hand over the cash now, negotiate terms later” plan ends up working.

Alabama house overwhelmingly approves taxing rental cars to fund college football stadium, because revitalization!

Birmingham’s $174 million college football stadium (I’m guessing you’ll be able to tell which Birmingham I mean by the rest of that noun clause) took another step forward yesterday, after the Alabama state house approved a 3% car rental tax hike by a 14-3 vote:

The tax has been on the books since 2001, when it was proposed to help build a domed stadium, but has never been collected. The bill would start collection of the tax when the BJCC Authority contractually commits to building the stadium…

The bill, which has passed the Senate, now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey, who could sign it into law.

As a reminder, local taxpayers will be contributing $15.7 million a year — about $250 million in present value — toward a stadium that will mostly serve to allow the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s football team to move from one part of town to another. Or, as Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin put it:

“The action the Alabama House took today puts us one step closer to Birmingham having state-of-the art facilities to better compete for tourism, sporting and entertainment business. In addition, expanding and renovating the BJCC will generate millions of dollars over the next decade for the city that will go to neighborhood revitalization.”

Out of his goddamn mind.

A’s may prefer Coliseum site if it’s less likely to be underwater in a few decades

Ever since the Oakland A’s owners’ plans for a new stadium at the Laney College/Peralta Community College site were rejected by the college’s governing board, team execs have been saying it’s back to the drawing board, with that site, the Oakland Coliseum site, and Howard Terminal all still in the running. And team president Dave Kaval, who’s spearheading the stadium plans, said it again over the weekend, though he kinda sorta hinted that the Coliseum site might be the least problematic:

Team President Dave Kaval spoke in more positive terms about the Coliseum on Saturday than he has previously, and he said Howard Terminal is still getting a strong look. The team hasn’t totally given up on the Peralta/Laney College site, but with the talks over that location called off in December, the other two possibilities are clearly at the forefront.

“We have the three sites in Oakland we deem as viable,” Kaval said. “Peralta was obviously our preferred site. … We’ve kind of taken stock and we’re really spending a lot of time on the other two sites to determine their feasibility. And that includes: technically, can you build it there, especially on the waterfront?”

Kaval mentioned twice that the Howard Terminal site would have to take into account sea-level rise and transportation concerns.

Congratulations, Oakland A’s, on being the first pro sports team that I’ve noticed acknowledging that building on a waterfront might not be the smartest long-term plan when the waterfront is moving at a historically rapid pace. From what I can tell from this map, the elevation of Howard Terminal is between 3 and 7 feet, and it’s somewhat protected from storm surges by the island of Alameda and the San Francisco Bay itself, so sea-level rise probably isn’t as urgent an issue as it for, say, the Miami waterfront. (Also, the Coliseum itself is only 7 feet above sea level, so hmm.) Still, that Kaval thought to mention elevation with regard to Howard Terminal is at least a hint that the team is taking the Coliseum site seriously, which, as noted many times before here, isn’t a bad idea at all for all concerned.

We’re still a ways away from hearing about funding plans — the A’s owners say they’ll pay to build the stadium, but there’s still lease terms and land prices to be discussed — but as (almost) always, these kinds of conversations start on more reasonable terms when they take place in California. The place is almost like Canada or something!

Community group wants Inglewood investigated for flouting open meetings laws in Clippers arena deal

An Inglewood citizen group with the best name ever — Inglewood Residents Against Taking and Eviction, or IRATE — is asking the Los Angeles D.A.’s office to investigate the Inglewood city council for violating open meeting laws in approving a new Clippers arena:

Residents learned about the project on June 15, 2017, at a special meeting of the city council. The documents suggest that backers of the arena may have purposely used a special meeting because it required just 24 hours public notice, while a regular meeting requires 72 hours notice. The meeting agenda didn’t mention the arena or the Clippers, but gave an obscure name of a related company negotiating the deal…

Residents would see only that the meeting involved Murphy’s Bowl LLC, an entity formed in January 2017 in Delaware. It has one member, Steven Ballmer, the owner of the Clippers, according to court records.

The Inglewood City Council’s regular meetings are held on alternate Tuesdays, but there wasn’t one on Tuesday, June 13. Instead, there was a special meeting on Thursday, which only required the agenda to be posted 24 hours in advance.

That is pretty bad, though still not quite as bad as Cobb County officials hiding in hallways to evade open meetings laws while negotiating an Atlanta Braves stadium deal.

The KCET reporting on the IRATE suit doesn’t make clear what the group hopes to accomplish by getting the D.A. to investigate — I mean, clearly it wants to block the arena, but would this be by forcing a re-vote by the city council or what? It all makes Mayor James Butts’ contention that no California residents are upset about the arena that much more laughable, though, and since the internet is driven pretty much entirely by outrage and schadenfreude, please, go ahead and laugh!


MSG evicts Liberty, local official threatens to respond by pulling arena’s tax break

Back when Madison Square Garden announced it was putting the New York Liberty up for sale last fall, I wondered where the team would play once offloaded, noting that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is pretty booked up with concerts, and Newark’s Prudential Center was pretty much an attendance disaster when the Liberty played there during MSG renovations a few years back. But even I didn’t count on MSG giving the Liberty the boot as soon as this season — while it still owns the team — and relegating games to a tiny community gym in suburban Westchester County:

For the upcoming season, the team will be downgraded to the Westchester Community Center, a dinky, 5,000 seat arena in White Plains, New York. The New York Liberty often had 10,000 attendees during their 2017 season home games.

The Liberty will actually play two home games at the Garden this year, but both will start at 11 am, presumably so that the arena can be cleared out in time to hold yet another Billy Joel concert or whatever in the evening. The rest will be in White Plains, in a space where I have been once in my lifetime as a New Yorker, for a White Plains Golden Apples USBL game in the 1980s of which I have precisely two memories: seeing Spud Webb pass to Manute Bol, which was extremely similar to watching someone hand things up to a man on a ladder; and the daunting challenge of getting a Metro-North commuter train to White Plains, then walking to the arena, and that was when I still lived in Manhattan, where the trains at least leave from.

Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer, who also lives in Manhattan, is nonetheless hopping mad about New York City’s only pro women’s sports team (no, Sky Blue F.C. doesn’t count as in New York City, and roller derby doesn’t count as a pro sport) getting exiled to the ‘burbs. Brewer is mad enough, in fact, that she’s threatening to hit MSG where it hurts, by repealing their eternal tax exemption on the Garden that is now saving them (and costing the city) $42 million a year:

“I and many of my colleagues in the City Council and State Legislature have never been convinced that this abatement constitutes good policy,” Brewer wrote.

“Shameful actions like this one, banishing a popular women’s professional sports team where its fan base cannot reach it, do not help your case.”

That’s a fine enough point, but, uh, Gale, you’re not actually on the city council or in the state legislature. And it’s actually the latter of those that has jurisdiction over the tax break, which was extended in 1982 in exchange for the Knicks and Rangers promising not to move for at least ten years, and which never expired because then-mayor Ed Koch forgot to have someone write in an expiration date.

A more viable threat by city officials, if Brewer wants to go that route, would be responding to MSG evicting the Liberty by in turn evicting MSG: The World’s Most Famous Arena only has the right to sit atop the entombed remnants of Penn Station thanks to a special zoning permit from the city, and that is set to expire in 2023. I’ve been skeptical that the city would give an entire arena and three (now two) pro sports teams the heave-ho, even in order to build a new Penn Station entrance, but maybe angry WNBA fans will be the catalyst? Okay, probably not, but at least it’d be a more realistic thing for Brewer to grandstand on.

Friday roundup: Coyotes seek investors, Detroit MLS stadium deal maybe not dead after all, and new stadium fireworks renderings!

So much news! Let’s get right to it:

Chicago, Minneapolis, Vancouver drop out of World Cup bid rather than grant FIFA a decade-long tax exemption

The leading candidate to host the 2026 World Cup has been a joint U.S./Canada/Mexico bid that would see the tournament take place across a long list of cities. And I put that in the present perfect progressive tense because what seemed a shoo-in looks a bit shakier now that Chicago, Minneapolis, and Vancouver have all removed themselves from the bid, on the grounds that FIFA’s demands for tax breaks and other concessions were just too much:

theBreaker has obtained a copy of FIFA’s requirements for governments bidding for 2026. The Swiss-based organization, still reeling from the FBI’s 2015 crackdown on FIFA’s massive bribery and kickbacks, requires host governments agree to grant it huge tax breaks for an entire decade and allow it to import and export unlimited amounts of foreign currency. FIFA also requires host taxpayers pick up the full bill for safety and security and assume liability should there be any security incident of any size…

For its workforce, FIFA wants a visa-free environment where work permits are issued “unconditionally and without any restriction or discrimination of any kind.”

“It is also requested to grant exemptions from labour law and other legislation for companies and personnel directly involved with the competition, provided that these exemptions do not undermine or compromise the government’s commitment to respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights.”

That is a lot! And it was apparently a take-it-or-leave-it deal: British Columbia tourism minister Lisa Beare explained that her government withdrew from the bid because “there was no interest by FIFA to negotiate or address our concerns, and that the costs still remain unknown”; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that “FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk”; and the Minneapolis bid committee issued a statement that “the inability to negotiate the terms of the various bid agreements did not provide our partners and our community with sufficient protections from future liability and unforeseen changes in commitments.”

The North American bid is still moving ahead with 23 locations — Edmonton, Montreal, and Toronto in Canada; Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Monterrey in Mexico; and Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle. and Washington in the U.S. — all of which apparently agreed to FIFA’s terms. But it’s still an unexpected hiccup in FIFA’s plans, and shows that at least some governments are willing to turn down a major sporting event if it requires handing over tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues and untold security costs along the way.