Emanuel rejects Cubs’ request to work nights on Wrigley bleachers, which will now be ready pretty much never

The Wrigley Field bleachers are not going to be ready by May, either:

On Monday, the Cubs said the cold weather meant bleacher construction remains behind schedule, as work could not be done when temperatures dropped below 10 degrees. The left field bleachers are expected to be open by May 11, with the right field bleachers to be open in June, [Crane] Kenney said.

“We were hopeful for a warm winter. We did not get that,” Kenney said. “I think over the last nine days, we lost five days on the bleachers. We’d love to pick that time up by extending our work hours.”

By “extending our work hours,” Chicago Cubs president Kenney meant working outside the legal times of 8 am through 8 pm, which would require special permission from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. That being Mayor Rahm Emanuel who’s suddenly in the middle of an unexpectedly tight runoff election, and doesn’t want to piss off any voters unnecessarily by keeping them awake with late-night construction, so he said hell nah.

The Wrigley Field bleachers are not going to be ready for a while yet. But then, neither are the Cubs.

AEG issues another report on how Inglewood stadium would be a menace to planes

Apparently AEG’s plan to block Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium plan is to pay anyone in sight to issue reports about how it’s too near the airport. Following on last week’s report claiming that it would be a terrorist missile pad, AEG has now commissioned a former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board to show that planes could crash into it, or fly real low over it and scare people, or something:

According to the [Mark] Rosenker report, approaching aircraft could be as little as 300 feet above the Inglewood stadium, potentially dangerously close for the safety of the plane as well as fans in the stadium.

“The (safety) margins are not there,” Rosenker told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday. “You lose an engine. Something bad has happened for whatever reason, and you have got to come down quickly. This is not a place that you want to be having to dodge around to guarantee that you get in there safely and not collide with anything before you touch that touchdown zone.

“It’s a bad idea, just in general. … Why put something that could be a catastrophic result in a place, where if you put it anyplace else, you take all of those problems off the table?”

Now, I am not a former NTSB chair, but I am a Mets fan, which means that I’ve been overflown by hundreds if not thousands of planes while at games, both at Shea Stadium and at Citi Field, which was allowed to be built six years ago in the flight path of LaGuardia Airport without anyone raising any alarms. Also, FAA regulations do try to account for this, saying no buildings in a flight path within three miles of an airport can be more than 200 feet tall — the stadium would be about 150 feet tall, so what’s the problem, exactly?

(I could also point out that the only stadium ever to be hit by a plane wasn’t anywhere near a flight path.)

I guess Rosenker’s point, such as he has one beyond “Can I have my check now?”, is that if you’re going to have a football stadium, you might as well do it somewhere that’s not near an airport, just to be better safe than sorry. In which case, you know what’s nowhere near LAX? The Edward Jones Dome. I bet the Rams could keep playing there for years and nobody would crash into it.

St. Louis stadium plan for Rams nears $1B, would only require tearing down most of everything in sight

The state of Missouri has released some new renderings of its proposed St. Louis Rams stadium, featuring lights that won’t shine in the eyes of passing boat captains and some local buildings not being demolished. It still looks like it would wipe out the newly renovated, nationally historic Hammond Apartments, though, in addition to most of the remaining old warehouses by the river:

That’s a lot of riverfront land dedicated to parking lots, as well as a reminder that the Jones Dome would still be there, serving as a very-occasional plenary hall for conventions, I guess? There would also be crazy geometric shaped video boards, and room for additional seating for Super Bowls, and a $985 million price tag that nobody has much of a clue how to pay for. But it’ll bring more tourists and huge profits around each event, so what’s to complain about?

TV station lands interview with Indy Eleven exec, forgets what “interview” is supposed to mean

Is this WRTV6 report on the proposed Indy Eleven stadium perfectly inept? Let’s count the ways:

  • Parrots the team owner’s claims about how much money will come from stadium ticket taxes, even though the team’s own projections contradict that? Check!
  • Talks to only one source, a team exec wearing a team scarf? Check!
  • Video of a stadium rendering flyover, plus video of exciting soccer footage? Check!
  • Softball questions about “Should we trust you?” followed by the interviewer himself opining that any claims that the team isn’t trustworthy “are just not true”? Check!
  • Interview subject claims that unlike other projects, this one has assurances in place that it “will not fall on the public’s shoulders,” and the interviewer then ends the segment without even asking what those assurances are? Check!

That, my friends, is some bad alleged journalism. Indy Eleven president Peter Wilt must have gotten lots of high fives on returning to the office, for putting across the team’s media message perfectly without having been challenged at all. Not that any of it will likely sway the state senate, but free televised PR time is never something to turn up your nose at.

AEG says Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium no good because terrorists could shoot down airplanes from it

In what the Los Angeles Times calls “a bold move to undercut an NFL stadium at Hollywood Park” — “bold” being an adjective usually reserved by journalists for the sort of things done by, say, Vladimir Putin — AEG has attempted to throw a roadblock in the path of St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s proposed Inglewood stadium by getting former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge to write a report that it would be too tempting a terrorist target and should not be built:

In a 14-page report, Ridge suggests that because the Inglewood stadium proposed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke would lie within three to four miles of Los Angeles International Airport and beneath the flight path of airliners, terrorists might try to shoot down a plane or crash one into the stadium, scenarios Ridge described as “a terrorist event ‘twofer.’ “

Because when terrorists want to shoot down an airplane, the first thing they do is look for an NFL stadium to launch surface-to-air missiles from. It’s easy to bring those in, so long as you put them in a clear plastic bag.

The Times reports that “it is not known how widely AEG distributed the report,” which the paper got from Ridge’s PR firm. NFL vice-president Eric Grubman effectively dismissed its findings, saying, “We feel that the best approach is to look at these things with an independent eye.”

In addition to giving everyone a good laugh, the AEG report should show what we have to look forward to as three different developers and three different NFL owners all circle around the L.A. market, which is full corporate titan smackdown action. Recall that when the owners of Madison Square Garden faced off with the New York Jets owners over a proposed Manhattan stadium, it culminated in a giant ad war, so one can only hope that this will have as entertaining a denouement.

Back nearer to planet Earth, meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders are reportedly looking for a smaller, 55,000-seat stadium in Oakland, which would be more in line with the NFL’s new marketing reality, not to mention with what Raiders owner Mark Davis said two years ago, than an 80,000-seat behemoth in Carson. Not that anybody, including Davis, is proposing how to build such a thing, but it’s a way to get another Raiders stadium story into the paper, so hey, do what you gotta do.

And speaking of getting stadium stories into the paper, consummate NFL insider Peter King has an article at SI.com theorizing that since Kroenke seems to be “the most determined owner to want to move to Los Angeles” (though he hasn’t actually said anything about moving, and has only partnered with a development company in Inglewood on a stadium with unspecified funding) and St. Louis has the most advanced stadium plan (though it has its own problems with mystery funding), maybe the Rams will move to L.A. and then the San Diego Chargers will move in with them and the Raiders will move to a new stadium in St. Louis?

Even King calls this “a virtual sports-talk-show bit of guesswork by me,” but that doesn’t stop him from putting it in print. (And in a pull quote.) Nor does it stop him from writing his entire column with only two people quoted: Grubman and St. Louis stadium plan chief David Peacock, neither of whom say anything other than what you’d expect them to say. (Grubman talks about L.A. having “real momentum,” Peacock says “if we do our job, I can’t imagine 24 votes to approve the Rams moving.”) And now I just wrote almost two paragraphs about this piece of wild speculation, so maybe I’m no better than the rest of them — though at least I reserved the headline for the far more entertaining piece of wild speculation. That’s the defense I’m going with, anyway.

A’s owner wants control of Coliseum site for development, just without so much development

With the Oakland Raiders sorta kinda maybe thinking about moving to Los Angeles, it would seem that A’s owner Lew Wolff is sitting pretty to finally seize control of the Oakland Coliseum property so that he can build a lucrative mixed-use development to help pay for the costs of a new stadium. So, naturally, Wolff thoroughly confused everyone by announcing that what he really wants to see built around an A’s stadium is a giant parking lot:

Wolff said there is not enough land readily available at the Coliseum complex to build a stadium and satisfy the city’s desire for additional development, such as homes, shops, offices and a hotel.
The only way it could work, Wolff said, would be to build multilevel parking garages, but that would leave fans waiting in long lines to exit the garages and begin their drives home.
“Parking is a key issue for us,” Wolff said. “We want surface parking surrounding the ballpark wherever we build it unless we’re in the heart of a downtown.”

Now, no argument from me that A’s fans are going to want to park somewhere, and that multilevel parking structures are kind of a mess. (I still have nightmares about the New Haven Coliseum parking ramp.) But given that, as an astute Twitterer noted, back in 2010 Wolff went on and on about how an Oakland stadium would only work if it were surrounded by “residential entitlements” (i.e., the right for Wolff to build condos), it’s a bit odd to see the guy suddenly saying screw condos, parking lots are where it’s at!

The most likely interpretations, it seems, are that Wolff’s latest gambit is an attempt to tell Oakland 1) there’s not enough room for two stadiums plus other development, so get the Raiders offa our lawn, 2) you’re not giving us enough land, go back to the plan where 800 acres would be in play, 3) we don’t like those Coliseum City guys, let us plan our own development or it’s no deal, or 4) some combination of the above. Still, it makes for a bit of a muddled public message from Wolff — but then, muddled messages are kind of his specialty.

Crunching the Inglewood numbers: Rams stadium would bring new revenues, but getting to $1.86B is tough

The Los Angeles Times’ Tim Logan, who has been doing excellent work on St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium plan (and I don’t just say that because he usually seems to interview me), had a long story yesterday headlined “Stadium economics: How building a venue in Inglewood makes financial sense.” So how does it make sense, exactly?

  • Sports economist Rod Fort says it’s a good deal for Kroenke if he can make enough money on the associated non-stadium development: “It’s more like a real estate development than a stadium.”
  • Sports economist John Vrooman says the Rams could bring in an extra $100 million a year in “sponsorships, marketing and premium seating” in L.A. as compared to St. Louis, calling a move “an economic no-brainer.”
  • Sports economist Victor Matheson says Kroenke could rent out and Inglewood stadium for concerts and the like, but “there’s just not that many 60,000-plus person events.”
  • I call spending $1.86 billion just to get uncertain revenues “a huge, huge risk.”

Fort’s and Vrooman’s points are the most viable arguments for a privately funded Inglewood stadium making sense for Kroenke, so let’s take them one at a time. First off, the real estate development at Hollywood Park might well bring in enough revenue to make a stadium-plus-development deal turn a profit — but then, why saddle it with a potentially money-losing stadium when the rest of the development was already approved and ready to go? Kroenke had to pay his development partners (no one knows how much) to buy into the bigger plan, and it doesn’t make sense that they’d voluntarily give him a lot more in revenues than he’s paying them to buy in, since a stadium doesn’t especially help them any.

As for the extra $100 million a year from being in Los Angeles, that is the big question: Precisely how much value does the L.A. market have to an NFL owner? We’ve heard that number before, on the San Francisco 49ers‘ move to Santa Clara, but we’ll have to wait till the new Forbes numbers come out this summer to see if they agree. We can use the Forbes numbers another way, though, to see how reasonable this is: What are the Rams revenues right now, and what would adding $100 million a year mean?

According to Forbes, the Rams were dead last in the NFL in revenue in 2013, at $250 million. (Being dead last in the NFL in revenue is still a pretty lucrative gig.) Adding $100 million would mean they’d have to jump to 5th in the league in revenue, behind only the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Washington Unmentionables, and New York Giants. That’s conceivable, I suppose, but I’d still call it a huge risk, even if maybe the Forbes figures might make me willing to lop off one “huge.”

And then, would even $100 million a year be enough to make a $1.86 billion stadium a good investment? Kroenke could presumably knock off some of that price tag with PSL sales (figure $300-400 million), naming rights (about $200 million in present value), and possibly NFL G-4 money ($200 million max). That leaves only a little over a billion dollars to pay off, which $100 million a year would cover, but without much left over for a return on investment. At best, then, Kroenke would be putting up more than a billion dollars out of pocket, plus whatever he’s spending on stadium land and a share of the associated development, for a return that he could get by putting his money in a decent stock index fund. (Okay, and increasing the value of his asset, which admittedly could come to a bunch — the Giants are worth about a billion dollars more than the Rams right now, according to Forbes, though the Giants also aren’t saddled with $1.86 billion in stadium debt.) And if there’s any significant relocation fee required by the NFL, then forget it.

Add it all up, and I would just suggest that the Times’ headline writers should have made one tense change: “How building a stadium in Inglewood could make economic sense.” We’re talking hypotheticals here, and everything would have to go Kroenke’s way for a $1.86 billion stadium to pay off for him. Or to put it another way: It’s a huge, huge risk.

San Diego officials propose bold new Chargers funding plan: Borrow money, pay it back somehow

San Diego county supervisors testified before Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Chargers stadium task force yesterday on ideas for funding a stadium, and man, are they terrible. (The ideas, I mean. Not the supervisors, necessarily.)

  • Supervisor Ron Roberts suggested that the county provide a “bridge loan” that could later be paid back by property and sales taxes on new development around a stadium — tax money that would normally go to the general fund to pay for schools and other public costs associated with new development, but would be instead diverted to repaying stadium loans … somehow. Also, Roberts didn’t indicate how the loan would be repaid if the development didn’t pan out as expected.
  • Another idea, from supervisors chair Bill Horn, was for the county to sell a revenue bond that would be repaid by revenues on … something. (In the inimitable words of U-T San Diego, “no payback source was suggested — though he said there would need to be one.”)

No offense, guys, but it’s not much of a challenge to come up with ways of paying for a stadium that just amount to “Borrow the money, then pay it back somehow.” The not-so-fancy footwork is apparently being inspired by a California law that requires a two-thirds public vote before adding new taxes, a voter threshold that is never going to be cleared for a San Diego stadium, no way, no how. So instead we have local officials trying desperately to think of ways to fund a stadium with existing taxes, which would then need to be made up somehow, and backstopped if they don’t come in sufficiently, and oh it all just makes your head hurt, doesn’t it? I’m starting to understand why Sacramento used an arena financing plan that involved using city parking revenues and then filling in the resulting gap with more city parking revenues and then filling in that resulting gap by shrugging a lot and changing the subject.

Indiana senate president says “funding our priorities” takes precedence over Indy Eleven stadium

So apparently the amendment to require that Indiana can only lose half its shirt on an $82 million Indy Eleven soccer stadium isn’t the only thing up in the air in the state senate: After the stadium funding bill passed the state house yesterday, senate leaders now say they might not even bring it up for a vote this year:

At a news conference before the House vote, Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said there are other priorities before the soccer stadium.

“I don’t get too excited over it, but at the same time, I haven’t delved into it too deeply this year,” Long said of the stadium. “We’re really focused on funding our priorities. Those have to come first. If the soccer stadium makes fiscal sense, we’ll certainly consider it. … That’s an additional issue that might have to wait … and even then, I don’t know where it would go.”

This is pretty much the exact same thing that happened last year, which is why the stadium bill is being considered now instead. Long hinted he might be willing to consider the stadium once the state gets updated revenue forecasts in April, but it’s impossible to know whether that’s “I want to be sure we have the money” or “I want to wait until I can point to all the other things we need the money for.” In any case, a bill to give $82 million in public money to the owner of a minor-league soccer team so long as he promises to stiff the state on paying back no more than half of it is now dependent on the whims of one state politician, which is a pretty good microcosm of democracy in America today.

Cobb County admits it doesn’t know what Braves bridge will cost, that taxpayers will fund it

Hey, what’s up with that Atlanta Braves double-decker bridge that no one knows how much it’ll cost or how to pay for it, you ask? (You really need to work on your grammar.) Well, the Cobb County commission has hired an engineer to design it, but still can’t give any answer on the cost part:

When asked how much the bridge would cost, [] DiMassimo said the county is sticking by its $9 million estimate — a figure they came up with more than a year ago — before officials decided that building a bridge to support the circulator bus would be too expensive.

Asked if the bridge construction cost could be higher, DiMassimo said, “potentially.”

The rest of the article, by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s great Dan Klepal, is equally sad-hilarious and worth reading before it disappears behind the AJC’s paywall. My favorite two bits:

And:

This “build the stadium now and figure out how to get people to it later” plan just gets better and better, don’t it?