Do Chargers have secret deal with Goldman Sachs to build L.A. stadium? (SPOILER: no)

So on a podcast on Friday, a St. Louis radio reporter who covers the Blues said this about a San Diego Chargers stadium, for some reason:

“Spanos from the Chargers has a deal in place with Goldman-Sachs to build a new stadium and the NFL has asked him to hold off from accouncing those plans,” Strickland said, citing St. Louis officials.

Whoa, that’s news! Strickland also said he thought the stadium deal was in L.A., not San Diego, and you know what, let’s stop right there, because though the Strickland report was soon all over the news, immediately thereafter this was:

[Chargers general counsel Mark] Fabiani told 10News Friday night, “The story is untrue. Nothing to it, except that we have worked for years with Goldman Sachs. But the rest of the story is incorrect.”

Now, team execs can lie, of course, but usually they temper their words a bit more when they do so. And the idea that the Chargers have a secret stadium deal in place that has gone unnoticed by everyone except a St. Louis hockey reporter is … let’s just say I’ll believe it when I see it.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, U-T San Diego actually does some reporting today that could be construed as critical of the Chargers’ stadium plans, or at least skeptical that the team can get them funded: Fabiani has talked of raising hotel taxes to help pay for a stadium, but the hotel owners hate the idea, it would take a two-thirds vote to approve it, and the last time a referendum was attempted on hiking hotel taxes, it only got 41.6% of the vote. And that was to hike hotel taxes to fund police and firefighters, not a stadium. I guess it’s pretty hard to find a “cheerleader” spin on facts like that.

 

Buffalo poll finds voters want new downtown Bills stadium, neglects to ask about paying for it

The Buffalo News has conducted a poll of county voters on a new Bills stadium, and they asked — oh, come on, what do you think they asked?

55 percent of all the people surveyed said the new stadium should be located downtown, while 40 percent favor Orchard Park, the poll found.

Apparently having run out of ways to send reporters out to cover where are we gonna build a new stadium oh boy oh boy, the News is now crowdsourcing this story.

Okay, the News did also ask Erie County voters whether they think the Bills should get a new stadium, and respondents supported that as well, 54-36%. And that’s all that anyone could want to know about public opinion on the project, right?

The survey of 505 Erie County registered voters offered a far different take on the stadium issue than some of the public dialogue about it, which has centered on concerns about financing the facility and the potential loss of the Bills’ tailgating tradition if the team were to move downtown.

Right, these people didn’t express concerns about how to finance construction of a new stadium, because … hey, did we forget to ask them if they thought the public should help the Bills pay for a new stadium? Aw, crap. Well, it probably wasn’t important anyway.

Wisconsin governor to propose “jock tax” for Bucks arena, but do so when he hopes no one is listening

Rich Kirchen of the Milwaukee Business Journal, one of the two reliable press mouthpieces for the Bucks arena campaign, reports that according to “sources close to the situation,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will announce plans for a “jock tax” to provide state subsidies for an arena project. He’ll reportedly do so in the next week, because next Tuesday he presents his state budget, and he wouldn’t want to create a “distraction” by, um, talking about things he wants to spend state money on?

Anyway, remember that a “jock tax” isn’t actually a tax: It’d just be the state taking all the income taxes it collects from Bucks players (and executives, and hot dog sales people) and writing a check to the Bucks owners in that amount every year. The theory, I suppose, is that without the Bucks, the state wouldn’t collect any of that money — except that 1) if people weren’t buying hot dogs at Bucks games they’d still have to eat somewhere, and employees there would be paying taxes, and 2) really anyone working or running a business in the state of Wisconsin could make a similar claim, and they all did so at once the state wouldn’t have any money to run a government at all. Though Walker might not actually mind that.

Meanwhile, the other reliable pro-Bucks local writer, Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, wrote an article yesterday about how Detroit is hoping to pin its redevelopment hopes on a new arena (hint, hint). Sources cited in Walker’s article: the developer behind Detroit’s project, a pro-development (if “cautiously” so) Detroit councilmember and community activist, a real estate consultant, and the Detroit mayor’s office. It’s not quite Walker’s most impressive work, but in terms of one-sided reporting, it still gets the job done.

Florida economic panel rules everybody should get tax money for stadiums they already agreed to build

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has issued its long-awaited (well, for a couple of months, anyway) ruling on which of the four finalists for state sales-tax subsidies are to get priority, and the answer is: all of them!

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity advised Jacksonville, Orlando, Daytona International Speedway and Sun Life Stadium that their applications met all “statutory criteria.” In a letter, the department also recommended that lawmakers could approve all four.

Daytona International Speedway and Sun Life Stadium are each seeking $3 million a year for 30 years for ongoing improvements to those facilities. Orlando has requested $2 million a year for three decades to help pay for a planned $110 million soccer stadium. Jacksonville, with its application supported by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has asked for $1 million a year for three decades.

This is jaw-droppingly dumb, since the whole point of this process of having teams seeking state subsidies to submit standardized forms to a state agency was to come up with a ranking for who’d get first dibs on the money; instead, the state legislature will now have to decide who gets what, which is exactly as it would have been anyway. It’s also dumb because, as an analysis of past state sports subsidies found, Florida has only received 30 cents of return on each dollar spent on stadium and arena projects. And finally, it’s dumb because all four of these projects — renovations to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins stadiums and to the Daytona Speedway, plus a new stadium for Orlando City S.C. — are already underway, meaning whatever economic benefit the state would get from them, it’ll happen regardless of whether the state decides to divert public money their way after the fact.
If there’s a bright side, it’s that the four sports entities have demanded $9 million a year in funding, and there’s only $7 million in the state’s available sales-tax fund, so the Joint Legislative Budget Commission will have to figure out somehow who’s going to see their subsidy demands trimmed. This is a bright side, however, only in the sense of “The bank just got robbed, but they ran out of money before the robbers’ bags were full.” Also, there’s nothing stopping the state from approving more money later, which means if these teams (and more) don’t get what they want this round, they can just come back for more. Congratulations, Florida — you appear to have just invented the first self-replenishing cat feeder of sports subsidies.

Las Vegas tells soccer stadium referendum petitioners deadline actually today, oopsie

Las Vegas city councilmember Bob Beers is not having a very good couple of months. First one of his fellow councilmembers flipped to cast the deciding vote on a $122 million soccer stadium subsidy after Beers and his colleagues gave the stadium developers extra time to eliminate the need for public subsidies. (Instead they spent the time lobbying the swing vote, because duh.) Then when Beers proposed a referendum campaign to overturn the council vote, this happened:

The opposition group was told it had until Jan. 24 to gather 2,308 signatures to put an initiative on the June ballot seeking to block taxpayer funding for the project.

Then, on Jan. 14, the city clerk informed the group that there was a miscalculation and that it would need 8,258 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Today, Las Vegas City Attorney Brad Jerbic ruled that the signatures were due a day earlier than expected. The petition must be turned in 130 days before the election, but Jerbic said Election Day shouldn’t have been included in calculating the due date.

Today, then, will be a race to file the rest of the petitions, and then possibly a race to file a lawsuit against the city for changing the rules midstream. Isn’t democracy fun?

Wrigley rooftop owners say Cubs execs punishing them for refusing to enter into price-fixing scheme

The Wrigley Field rooftop owners have filed yet another lawsuit against the Chicago Cubs, adding to their previous suits over landmarking violations and violating the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by placing signs to block views of rooftop owners they didn’t like. The new charge: price-fixing!

On May 8, 2012, at least nine owners met with Ricketts and Cubs executives. They said that demand for tickets inside Wrigley was declining because the rooftop businesses’ offered discounted tickets, sometimes through Groupon, and game-day tickets. The team asked them to “agree with the Cubs on setting coordinated, minimum ticket prices.”

Ricketts later threatened to block the views unless they agreed to a “price-fixing scheme, stating, ‘whatever you give us is in return for not being blocked.’ ”

The suit also includes charges of fraud and defamation, and probably puppy-kicking for good measure. All of which could conceivably be true, but it’s clear that the rooftop owners’ legal strategy has gone in record time from “threatening to sue but not ever actually doing so” to “throw everything at the wall at once and see what sticks.”

Boston’s “no public money” Olympic stadium pledge may not count public money for land

The Boston papers are off to an excellent start asking the questions that need to be asked about Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid: First the Boston Globe asked architects whether a temporary stadium would really be any cheaper than a permanent one (answer: nope); now the Boston Herald is questioning why, if the Olympic stadium won’t require any public money as promised, it needs a quasi-public authority to build it?

The city, the state and the MBTA would hand over public land in Boston’s Seaport District to the newly created agency or an existing quasi-public with “expanded authority,” which would purchase surrounding private land, as well as railway air rights, to build the 80-acre stadium and surrounding development, according to the bid submitted to the U.S. Olympic Committee last month.

Quasi-publics are typically financed at least in part by taxpayer funds or public resources. The backers behind the Boston Olympics have repeatedly denied taxpayers would foot the bill for the creation of a public authority…

The bid doesn’t address how the city or state could cede public land and relocate current public facilities without taxpayer money.

All excellent questions! Boston 2024 executive vice president Erin Murphy Rafferty replied in a statement to the Herald that the pledge not to use “any tax dollars for Olympic-related construction” is “non-negotiable and is one we will keep” — but, of course, “land acquisition” isn’t “construction,” now, is it? This is one to keep an eye on, so hopefully the Boston newspapers will continue to do so.

Warriors: We need a new $1B arena because we don’t like the restaurant manager at the old one

The San Francisco Business Times has a report out on the pressing matter of “Why the Raiders, A’s and Warriors want new homes” (verbatim headline), and the answer is: They all need to tear down their old venues and build entirely new ones at a cost of billions of dollars because they don’t like the concessionaires, duh!

Consider the recently opened BMW Club at Oracle Arena. BMW is a Warriors sponsor, but the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority contracts arena operations to Anschutz Entertainment Group. AEG, in turn, contracts arena restaurant management to Levy Restaurants.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge” to make customer service part of the overall game experience when food service and stadium operations aren’t in the Warriors’ control, team President and COO Rick Welts said.

Here’s a crazy idea: If your main complaint is the guys the county hired to run the arena operations, why don’t you offer to buy the arena operations rights from the county, and then pick your own operator? Sure, it might cost you something, but less than the billion dollars it will cost for a whole new building.

The real answer, of course, is that this is about the 74th most important reason for these teams wanting out of their old stadiums, but it’s what the Warriors president told the Business Times, so it’s what they’re going to report, dammit. Remember, kids: Friends don’t let friends read news stories that only include sports team execs and stadium developers as sources!

Live chat with Neil deMause and Heywood Sanders today, 1pm ET, submit questions starting … now!

More news after I run some errands [UPDATE: More news is now posted below on the main page!], but in the meantime, all the news you really need for today is that FoS convention center correspondent (and University of Texas professor, and book author in his own right) Heywood Sanders and I will be holding a live chat in the comments section of this very item starting at 1 pm today. Anyone can attend, anyone can ask questions, and anyone can ask questions starting now, though Heywood and I won’t be answering them until 1.

Fire away!

Super Bowls are a money suck, says mayor of city about to host Super Bowl

The Super Bowl will be held in Glendale, Arizona this year, which means it’s time for local officials to proclaim how much their city will benefit from having a bunch of NFL fans descend upon them for a week:

Jerry Weiers, the mayor of Glendale, Arizona, recently told me he doesn’t expect a windfall when his city hosts the big game in February. In fact, he says, “I totally believe we will lose money on this.”

Well, that’s different. Of course, Weiers is a different sort of mayor on the subject of sports spending: He fought to overturn the sweetheart deal that Glendale gave the Arizona Coyotes to stay in town, and Glendale won this Super Bowl before he won election, so he doesn’t have any stake in talking up the benefits.

It’s also not the first time Weiers has griped about the cost of hosting the Super Bowl. Last summer he said that the city had lost money hosting the 2008 Super Bowl as well, a claim that Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwell called “a bunch of malarkey.” ESPN The Magazine, though, reports that Weiers can back up that charge with numbers:

A study funded by Arizona’s Super Bowl committee found that visitors spent $218 million around the 2008 game, but some economists say the actual profits were much lower because football fans crowded out other tourists. Little of that money aids the city directly. Glendale said it 
spent $3.4 million in 2008, mostly on public safety, and earned only $1.2 million in taxes from direct spending at places like hotels and restaurants. (Tickets are not taxed.) One former councilwoman, Joyce Clark, who voted against hosting the 2015 game after witnessing the city’s losses seven years ago, scoffs at the idea that the publicity was worth it. “There has not been any corporation that moved to Glendale because the CEO came to the Super Bowl,” she says.

Prior independent estimates have shown that cities might be able to turn a profit of a few million dollars on a Super Bowl, even after paying for all the free police and billboards and cellphone towers and ATMs — though that’s probably more the case in a bigger city where a greater share of the money being spent stays local. (If Super Bowl attendees spend money in Phoenix, that doesn’t help Glendale one whit.) Anyway, if the public debate around this becomes a matter of whether the Super Bowl doesn’t mean squat for cities or might leave a handful of change scattered on the coffee table, that’s still a welcome step forward from where it’s been.