LAFC launches as Chivas replacement, new owners crowdsource stadium plans

The new Los Angeles MLS team that will replace the now-disbanded Chivas USA in 2017 now officially has owners (Vietnamese venture capitalist Henry Nguyen, 21 other guys) and a name (Los Angeles F.C., though that’s subject to change if and when everyone decides it sucks). Now all they need is a place to play:

Nguyen said the group intends to scour the greater Los Angeles area for the perfect stadium site, with that search beginning immediately.

“Really, that home, that stadium, is going to be a critical part of our early work,” Nguyen told reporters…

According to Penn, the group has an early budget of $150 million for the stadium plan and is seeking development sites of between 15 and 100 acres.

L.A. already has a soccer stadium, of course — the StubHub Center in Carson, where Chivas played and the Los Angeles Galaxy still do — but Nguyen and his partners say they’re going to fund a new stadium on their own, so hey, it’s their money. Assuming it really is their money, of course: Plenty of sports team owners have said they won’t ask for public subsidies and then do anyway, so we’ll just have to wait and see on this one.

Meanwhile, Nguyen and friends have broken new ground in at least one way, becoming probably the first team owners ever to crowdsource their stadium plans:

The club has set up a website (www.lafc.com) and a Twitter account (http://twitter.com/lafc) where fans are encouraged to weigh in with site recommendations.

It’s probably mostly a gimmick to build interest in their as-yet-nonexistent team — “Hey look, our fans are telling us where to build a stadium, this must mean we have fans!” — but sure, why not? Random fans can’t do worse than whoever is running NYC F.C.‘s stadium planning process.

Vikings owner fighting Twins and Timberwolves owners for right to nonexistent MLS expansion team

You probably haven’t been closely following the epic battle over Minneapolis’s proposed MLS expansion team, so let’s break it down in easy-to-digest bullet points:

  • Minneapolis does not have an MLS team.
  • Minneapolis does have two groups looking to own one: Zygi Wilf, owner of the Vikings; and a group that includes Twins owners the Pohlad family, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, and Minnesota United FC NASL team owner Bill McGuire.
  • They’re not both going to get a team.
  • Minneapolis city council president Barb Johnson doesn’t want to help the Twins/Wolves/United group build a stadium for a team, because “we are relying on this revenue” to help pay off the mammoth bill on the Vikings’ new stadium, which is where Wilf’s team would play, if he got one.
  • The revenue from a soccer team would come to a whopping $340,000 a year, enough to pay off maybe $5 million of the stadium’s $1 billion cost.
  • Minneapolis shouldn’t be counting on that money anyway, since there’s no guarantee either ownership group will get a team, given that MLS has only one more expansion franchise to hand out (two if David Beckham’s proposed Miami franchise decides to seek a different home) and umpteen candidates vying to land it.

I think that’s about it. Unless you want to note that, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “One potential plan would even combine a small outdoor soccer stadium near Target Field with an anaerobic digester, a facility that would convert organic material into fuel.” Make your own jokes, please.

 

Bucks owner: I know where I want arena to go, and you don’t

Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry made Don Walker‘s heart go pitter-pat yesterday at a press conference by dropping hints that he knows where he wants to build a new arena:

“As soon as I know — well, I know, but I can’t say it so I apologize — but as soon as I can tell you, I certainly will,” Lasry said. “I think within the next 30 to 60 days we’ll know where the new arena is.”

Ooh, a tease! Time for everybody to hack into Lasry’s phone and see where it’s been the last month or so. Though it might be more useful to hack into his phone logs and see which bankers, or which city officials, he’s been talking to about where to get the money for this thing.

Lasry went on to talk about a bunch of other things, including a recent preseason game where he accidentally interrupted coach Jason Kidd’s postgame address, then decided, hell with it, I’m the owner, and went ahead and talked over Kidd anyway. This guy is fitting in already.

Georgia Supreme Court to hear appeals of Falcons, Braves bond sales

The Georgia Supreme Court has set oral argument dates for the lawsuits against the stadium deals for the Atlanta Falcons (Monday) and Braves (next February). And … that’s about all I can tell you, because the Atlanta Journal Constitution story is behind a paywall, but if you’re an AJC subscriber, you can no doubt read more.

Okay, I can give you a little background: The two suits are actually appeals of the bond issuance for the stadiums, which means the bonds can’t be sold until they’ve been cleared.

None of this appears to have stopped construction from moving ahead — check out the Falcons’ construction photos, with all those, um, whatever they are already having been built — presumably because the teams have enough cash on hand to start things off with the bond money. But if either appeal is successful, then we’re entering uncharted waters, to say the least.

MLS commissioner says without “the right stadium” in Miami, Beckham will take ball and go home

MLS commissioner Don Garber has for the first time stated openly that David Beckham’s Miami expansion franchise depends on getting a new stadium built:

“If we can’t get the right stadium, we can’t go to Miami. We have been challenged to find a site that we believe will be successful,” Garber told Reuters at the SoccerEx Americas Forum in Barbados last week.

“I’m neither optimistic [nor] pessimistic.”

That’s the kind of thing commissioners are expected to do for their owners, of course, and with Beckham’s troubles getting Miami officials (or even Broward County officials) to hand over the waterfront land that he desires, he no doubt appreciates all the leverage that he can get. And anyway, his option to pick up an MLS franchise on the cheap, negotiated as part of his agreement to join MLS as a player years back, doesn’t limit him to Miami, so presumably if his and Garber’s threats don’t shake loose a Miami stadium, he can go to Detroit or Juneau or some other city that has a waterfront and try again there.

Meanwhile, for anyone trying to discern a coherent policy here from Garber on when new soccer-only stadiums are needed, and when sharing with a football team is okay, and when sharing with a baseball team is okay, the answer is: coherent, schmoherent, it’s all about who wants it badly enough and how much money they’re putting up. If Beckham decides tomorrow that he’d be happy to share digs with the Dolphins, I’m sure Garber will declare that this is totally acceptable. It’s actually nice to see MLS growing up and joining the other big leagues that understand there’s only one principle worth standing on: money.

D.C. council ducks United stadium hearing until after election

D.C. council president Phil Mendelson yesterday abruptly delayed the release of a planned city report on the proposed D.C. United soccer stadium until a week from Wednesday. That’s the day after election day, which means that none of the people running for office will need to take a position on it before the vote.

The move puts the stadium plan on life support, according to one councilmember:

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who has forcefully opposed a key element of the plan — swapping the city’s Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW for land for the stadium near Nationals Park— said he reads the delay as probably meaning one thing: The stadium project is “dead.”

“There is no question that the political environment will be different. No question, the pressure will be off when everyone is reelected for four more years,” Graham said.

Also, it increases the chances that it will be approved, according to some human beings (I’m assuming they’re human beings, the article doesn’t say) that the Washington Post talked to:

But others said the controversial decision to dispose of the Reeves Center might be easier for lawmakers to make after the election. Several council staffers also speculated that it could simply be a first step toward mothballing serious consideration until January so that the next mayor could take credit for completing the deal.

If I’m allowed to do my own tea-leaf reading, it seems likely that everyone realized that there was no upside to holding stadium hearings before finding out who will be mayor and who will be on the council next year; this way, everyone can settle into the lame-duck period between election day and inauguration day and decide whether to rush through approval of a plan before the new folks take over, or just punt and let it be someone else’s problem. The only reason December is a deadline at all is because current mayor Vincent Gray (who didn’t make it through the primary process) has been the plan’s main proponent, so the assumption has been it needs to get done on his watch or not at all, but in D.C. time and electoral success has a funny way of turning opponents into proponents, so we’ll see.

Western NY voters oppose subsidies for Bills stadium by more than 3-to-1 margin

After much asking of where a new Buffalo Bills stadium should be built, somebody finally asked local residents if they think their tax dollars should help pay for one. And the answer was resoundingly negative:

The poll found 71 percent of all respondents were opposed, 21 percent in favor and 5 percent undecided. That likely comes as little surprise, given the challenges facing western New York, and a national economy emerging from recession with a disgruntled electorate.

“When we’re having the problems that we’re having, that (a new football stadium) is kind of ridiculous,” said poll respondent Carol Saj, 74, of Penfield. “We just put a ton of money into the one that’s up there.”

This wasn’t the Buffalo News doing the poll, of course, because the Buffalo News doesn’t admit that whether to build a new stadium is even a question that should be asked in polite company. Rather, it was the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, which hired a polling firm to do a telephone poll of 500 Monroe County registered voters.

[EDIT: As should have been obvious to me when I wrote this, the D&C not only isn't in Buffalo, but didn't even poll Buffalo voters — Buffalo is in Erie County, not Monroe. (Rochester is in Monroe.) That makes this telephone poll even more feeble, though it's still marginally relevant in that it's all New York state taxpayers who are expected to foot at least part of the bill for a new stadium, just as they did with the renovations to the current one.]

The D&C blames the recent NFL domestic violence and brain injury scandals for the stadium’s poor showing, but really, it should come as no surprise, as New York taxpayers just paid a bundle for renovations to the Bills’ old stadium, and even that was pretty unpopular. You’d almost think that voters are generally opposed to public subsidies for private sports venues — but nah, nobody around the newsroom thinks like that, so that can’t be right.

Bucks’ arena plans exactly where they always were, reports breathless Milwaukee newspaper article

Let’s see, what’s up with the Milwaukee Bucks these days, according to our old pal Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel?

With deadline looming, shortlist emerges for new Milwaukee Bucks arena

Oh my gawrsh, there’s a deadline looming! Circle the wagons! Scramble the jets! It’s only a matter of time before—

With a self-imposed year-end deadline, the Milwaukee Bucks and others involved in the search for a proposed new downtown arena are zeroing in on a few specific locations.

…before the Bucks owners have to give themselves more time. Okay, leave the wagons where they were.

The rest of the article is just rehashed stuff that’s been previously reported, about how the Bucks owners are trying to zero in on a site first, then figure out how to pay to build an arena, which still seems a little backwards to me, but then, I’m not a mega-rich sports owner. (Also, it’s the kind of backwards that can work to their advantage, if they can pull off the “We know where we’re going to build it, now we just need to figure out how this inevitability will be paid for!” trick.) The best part, though, is this quote from an unnamed source about the site selection process:

“There is no sexiness north of the Bradley Center.”

You want context? You really don’t want context. This is the best thing you’re going to read in a Journal-Sentinel article about the Bucks arena plans for years, so just savor the moment.

Rays-to-Montréal rumors heat up after some guy says Sternberg said something about it once

Here we go again: After longtime Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon abruptly quit on Friday, New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden dropped this into the tail end of an item about Maddon’s future and his former team’s:

After last year’s disappointing 77-85 fourth-place finish, they both realized they’d done all they could do in Tampa, and despite consistent 90-win seasons with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, the Rays played to a half-empty (or worse) stadium night after night. That, more than anything, wore on Maddon and his players, the manager told confidants. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has been frustrated in his efforts to get out of Tropicana Field in St. Pete and move to a new stadium in Tampa, but there is growing belief that the economically depressed Tampa Bay area won’t support the Rays no matter where they play. And according to sources, Sternberg has had discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal, which has been without a major-league franchise since the Expos were transferred to Washington in 2005. As one major-league official put it to me Friday: “Say what you will about Montreal, but the Expos drew well over two million fans four times there in their heyday, while the Rays did that only once, their first year.

We’ve heard this rumor before, though this is the first time I’ve seen claims that Sternberg has actually had discussions about Montréal as an option. And Montréal is by far the biggest North American market without a team, ever since the Expos left in 2005. Still, it has a big problem in that its only major-league-ready stadium is even less loved than the Rays’ Tropicana Field, and there are no immediate plans for a new one. And you have to consider the source — Bill Madden loves to predict things, many of which turn out not to be true — and that the phrasing could mean just about anything: “discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates” could just mean that while shooting pheasants over sherry at the club, Sternberg sighed forlornly, “Some days I think I’d be better off in Montréal. I hear they have really good bagels there.”

Anyway, everybody and their sister has now been reporting on this unsourced rumor, and Sternberg is sure to try to use it as leverage for a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, even though it’s pretty weak leverage when your lease says you can’t move for another 13 years. And Bud Selig, in his final week as MLB commissioner, is eager to help, saying he’s never heard from Sternberg about a Montréal move threat, but adding:

“The team has to have a ballpark that makes them competitive,” Selig said before Game 4 of the World Series. “It doesn’t produce the kind of revenue they need.”

Does Selig consider Tampa Bay a viable major league market?

He paused — a long pause — then declined to answer. He said he prefers to leave that judgment to the owner in each market.

We’re going to miss you, Bud. Nobody does passive-aggressive threatmongering like you.

Falcons owner to Beckham: Sharing digs with an NFL team can be fun and rewarding!

And finally, Atlanta Falcons and as-yet-unnamed Atlanta MLS expansion team owner Arthur Blank thinks that David Beckham’s MLS expansion team should share a stadium with the Miami Dolphins:

Here’s what Blank had to say when asked if Beckham’s team should stadium share with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami’s American Football team.

“Yes,” Blank told reporters. “It’s a challenge Beckham has to overcome. It’s important he finds a balance between the commercial side and the special, emotional atmosphere you want for a soccer stadium.”

Is Blank actually telling Beckham that he should throw in the towel on a new stadium and move into the Dolphins’ old place once it’s finished being renovated? Does he think maybe the Dolphins still want to build a new stadium, and could share with soccer? Has he completely forgotten that the Dolphins are doing renovations, and just assumes that every NFL owner is in the middle of building a new stadium, or will be soon? This is the guy who runs an organization that thinks London is in Spain, so anything is possible.

pirmind.com