Phoenix residents have a long history of hating sports subsidies, not that democracy matters or anything

The Phoenix city council votes tomorrow on the city’s proposed $168 million Suns arena renovation plan, and the Arizona Republic’s Jessica Boehm took the opportunity for a deep dive into the history of people hating stadium and arena subsidies, and found that yep, people sure do have a history of hating stadium and arena subsidies:

Sports deals have never been wildly popular. In 1997, a disgruntled man shot former County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox in the back and claimed it was justified because of her support of a tax hike to build the Diamondbacks ballpark…

“Slowly, over time, we’ve seen more and more of these deals and more and more economic studies showing that they’re not productive for cities,” said Neil deMause, co-author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit and a companion website that critiques professional sports deals…

With three of the four major sports teams searching for a new opportunity, it’s a lot for a community to handle, [University of Michigan sport management professor Mark] Rosentraub said.

“If they had come at different times it may have been easier to swallow, but it’s difficult to swallow everything at once,” he said.

Also, the Suns are terrible, and sports teams are even more fabulous money-makers than in the past, and you know the drill (and also I don’t to quote Boehm quoting me more). Plus, Boehm confirms that while the public money that would go into the arena project would come from the Phoenix Sports Facilities Fund, not the city’s general fund, the city absolutely could spend that money on other tourism needs, thus saving general fund money, if it told the Suns to go pound sand.

Of course, the one thing that Boehm’s story doesn’t address is that regardless of whether Phoenix residents still hate the deal or have been swayed by city leaders’ incessant repeating that no, no, really it’s a good thing, it doesn’t much matter, because the fate of the bill is going to depend on whether the holdout councilmembers who delayed the plan’s approval back in December now say okay, we talked about it and nobody yelled too loud at the public hearings so fine, go ahead or not. Public opinion isn’t what matters here, it’s public officials’ perception of public opinion, which is a far murkier thing.

Also, late last week Phoenix revealed the breakdown of the planned arena costs, and while the biggest share — $99.58 million for new mechanical, electrical, plumbing and communication systems — genuinely sounds like an upkeep issue, the next-biggest line item — $26.37 million for “furniture, fixtures, and equipment” plus upgrades to food service areas — uh, really does not. It would certainly make the arena nicer and potentially more profitable, which nobody is arguing, but then wouldn’t it make sense for the Suns (or concessionaires) to pay more to use the upgraded facilities? Is anybody on the Phoenix city council going to ask this question? I know the probable answer to this, don’t I?

 

Fulton County court to rule on whether Falcons owe $700m in property tax on grounds their “public” stadium really isn’t

Ever since a New Jersey court ruled that the New York Red Bulls had to pay property taxes on their new stadium even though it was city-owned, because it was a private use, a small subset of people — okay, probably just me and Geoffrey Propheter — have been wondering when some other jurisdiction, or its residents, would try a similar gambit. And some Atlanta residents are doing just that with the Falcons‘ publicly-owned-and-subsidized, privately controlled stadium:

For a year and a half, some residents have argued that the stadium — which has been exempted from property taxes since it was built — should be paying into city, school and county tax funds. A lawsuit the group filed in 2017 estimates its tax bill at $26 million a year under June 2018 tax rates…

Over the life of a 30-year agreement the Falcons have to use the stadium, it might generate more than $700 million in property taxes, according to estimates by attorney Wayne Kendall, who is representing the residents who filed the suit.

This suit has been kicking around since 2017, and already got bounced by Fulton County Superior Court, but was revived by a state appeals court last month and kicked back to county court for reconsideration. The key argument for the Falcons having to pay property taxes is that, unlike in its previous deal at the Georgia Dome where it just rented the place 20 days a year, the new stadium is fully controlled by the team: “The Falcons manage the stadium year-round, and receive the revenue from all events held in the building, not only ticket revenue. Kendall argues that under the new agreement, the Falcons are a long-term leaseholder, and long-term leases are taxable under state law.”

College of the Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson tells the Atlanta Journal Constitution that this would be “a real game changer nationwide” if the Atlanta suit prevails, and while Matheson is almost always right, the Harrison case hasn’t been a game changer yet, so it’s possible this wouldn’t be either. Though for Atlanta residents looking to get back some of the $700 million they’re spending on Megatron’s Butthole, it would be a huge deal indeed.

Anaheim again looking to give Angels owner parking lot land valued at [sorry, no room in article for actual cost figures]

Los Angeles Times sportswriter Bill Shaikin has a track record of generally smart reporting with a major blind spot when it comes to Angels owner Arte Moreno’s stadium demands, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised that he’s written an extremely confused and confusing article about the latest iteration of funding stadium renovations in Anaheim. Let’s start by jumping to his recap of the previous plan:

Six years ago, the city and team cooperated on a study that showed the stadium needed about $150 million in upgrades to remain a viable long-term venue. Anaheim, like most California cities, has realized that it makes little economic sense to spend tax dollars on sports facilities if team owners keep almost all of the revenue.

The city pitched the Angels on this plan: Put up restaurants and shops in the stadium parking lot, and maybe a hotel too. Make lots of money. Use some to pay for the stadium upgrades and keep the rest.

That is, at best, an extremely misleading way of describing what actually happened: Moreno made noise about moving the Angels out of Anaheim, the Anaheim city council offered to give the team owner a huge swath of stadium parking lot land to develop so he could use the proceeds to renovate the stadium, then-mayor Tom Tait did an appraisal (over Moreno’s objections) that determined the land was worth way more ($245 million) than the entire cost of the renovations ($150 million), and then the whole thing fell apart.

Now that Tait is gone, Anaheim officials — or at least Shaikin — are apparently interested in reviving the old plan, though there’s no indication in Shaikin’s article whether the city would get a more reasonable fee for its valuable land than the $1 proposed last time, or at least get a share of revenues from the new development (since, as somebody once wrote, “it makes little economic sense to spend tax dollars on sports facilities if team owners keep almost all of the revenue”). So this could be the same old terrible deal or a revised one that’s better, or a revised one that isn’t better, but hey, Shaikin says it could bring a Trader Joe’s to Anaheim, so why all this focus on money? Can’t we all just come together around our love for dark chocolate sunflower seed butter cups?

(If you’re looking for a much better explanation of what’s going down, check out Norberto Santana Jr.’s article at the Voice of OC last week, which notes, among other things, that the city of Anaheim just authorized another assessment of the stadium land, so it doesn’t make sense to talk about giving development rights to Moreno until those numbers come back.)

Friday roundup: Fact-checking Suns arena impact claims, the hidden cost of hosting the NCAA Final Four, and everybody gets a soccer team!

Thanks to everyone who became a Field of Schemes supporter this week in order to get a pair of my goofy refrigerator magnets! If you want to hop on the magnet train, you can still do so now, or you can first stop and read the rest of the news of a wacky week in stadium and arena developments:

  • The Arizona Republic has been full of both articles and op-eds this week asserting that giving $168 million to the Phoenix Suns for arena renovations is a good thing (sample reasoning: “The arena is old and needs updated. The Suns are young and need direction.”), but then it also ran an excellent fact-check that concluded that claims of the arena having a significant impact on the city’s economy are “mostly false,” citing the umpteen economic studies showing exactly that (sample conclusion, from Temple economist Michael Leeds: “A baseball team has about the same impact on a community as a midsize department store”). On balance, good enough work that I hope the Republic can avoid being bought by an evil hedge fund that is trying to buy up newspapers and strip-mine them for any assets; what would really be nice would be if they can be bought by someone who can afford copy editors (“is old and needs updated”?), but I know it’s 2019 and we can’t have everything.
  • Where the Oakland Raiders are rumored to be playing the 2019 season this week: San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Oakland. These are all disappointingly old ideas — am I going to have to be the one to suggest Rio de Janeiro?
  • And speaking of me, I wrote a long essay for Deadspin this week on how changes in baseball economic structure are incentivizing owners to cut player salaries without illegally colluding to do so. This is at best tangential to the stadium business, except inasmuch as it’s about “how sports team owners make their money and what affects their profits,” so it’s good to know even if you don’t especially care about who signs Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.
  • The president of the USL wants to expand the soccer league’s two tiers to 80 teams total, which is getting awfully close to the ABA’s “bring a check and you can have a team” model.
  • The new Austin F.C. MLS team was approved to start play in 2021, and celebrated by proposing a chant to memorialize the city council vote that approved its stadium funding: “7-Fooour, 7-Fooour/It’s not the score, it was the vote/That got us all our brand new home.” I am not making this up. (If I were making this up, I would at least try to get it to rhyme.)
  • Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno signed a one-year lease extension on the team’s stadium through 2020, which is disappointing in that I really thought the city should have used this leverage to demand a longer-term lease extension (what’s Moreno going to do otherwise, go play in Rio de Janeiro?). But Craig Calcaterra’s summary of the situation (sample description: this will give time to resolve “a long-term solution for what, at least from the Angels’ perspective, is a stadium problem”) is so on point and such a good model for how to report stadium controversies fairly and accurately that I’m not in the mood to complain.
  • Hosting the NCAA Final Four will cost Minnesota $10 million, because there are lots of curtains to be hung and temporary seating to be put in place, and the NCAA sure as hell isn’t going to pay for it. But Minnesota will surely earn it back in new tax revenues, because economic studies show … oh wait.
  • Some billionaire in St. Louis thinks the city should have an NBA team, and some writer for something called the St. Louis American thinks the city should try to steal the New Orleans Pelicans. Now let us never speak of this again.

Indiana bill would give $174m in tax kickbacks to minor-league soccer stadium, oh Indiana

That Indy Eleven soccer-stadium-plus-other-crap development project mentioned on Friday has state legislation to go with it now, and it includes a dollar figure for how much tax money would be kicked back to help pay for the stadium:

A plan to fund a soccer stadium for the Indy Eleven took shape in legislation Tuesday with a proposal that could capture up to $11 million annually in tax revenue to pay off the bonds for the $150 million outdoor arena…

The [Professional Sports Development Area] could capture up to $11 million in tax revenue per year for 32 years—money that would be paid by the businesses, residents and even athletes living or working at Eleven Park. That revenue would be diverted to the Capital Improvement Board—which would own the 20,000-seat stadium, but not the private development surrounding it—for the purpose of paying for the public infrastructure.

And here’s the bill, as introduced by state senators Jack Sandlin and Aaron Freeman. It specifies that the taxes to be redirected are not property taxes — as you’d see under traditional tax increment financing — but rather construction sales taxes and income taxes on anyone living or working within the special tax area, where the special tax area is as yet to be determined. So in essence, Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir wants to build a big development with a stadium in it, draw a line around some portion of it (or all of it, or all of it and then some), then say, “Okay, instead of paying income taxes to the state, everyone within that line pays income taxes to me instead.”

As for how much money this comes to, that’s easy to figure out with the help of our old friend the present value calculator: $11 million a year for 32 years, 5% estimated average interest rate, and we get — or rather Ozdemir gets: $174 million. For a stadium that would only cost $150 million to build. A minor-league stadium at that, unless Indy Eleven gains entry into MLS; and even then, it would still be close to the record set by D.C. United for the largest MLS stadium subsidy ever.

This is crazytown, but then, Indiana has a long track record of being crazytown when it comes to sports subsidies, having offered some of the most generous deals ever to the Colts and Pacers owners. Right now it’s only a state senate bill with two sponsors, but it definitely bears watching — even if you don’t live in Indiana or care about what that state does with its tax money, if this passes it would both raise the bar on what’s considered an acceptable soccer subsidy and open the door to a whole new world of income-tax kickbacks as a public funding scheme for private stadiums.

 

Thanks, FoS readers, for your invaluable support (now please give me money and I will send you cheap trinkets)!

We’ve been through Giving Tuesday and holiday gift-giving and year-end donations, and now it’s time for me to ask: If you have any coin left over, please consider throwing a bit my way to become (or remain) a Field of Schemes supporter! This site takes a considerable amount of time and expense to keep up with, and paid ads don’t pay much of the bills, so I’ve been fortunate enough that you readers have been willing to toss your loose change in the tip jar to help keep this site going into its third decade.

This year, in addition to my undying appreciation (estimated retail value: incalculable), FoS supporters at every level will get a brand-new token of my esteem: a pair of newly designed Field of Schemes refrigerator magnets, featuring some of your favorite stadium scam facts in a design honoring the “Did You Know?”–style cartoons on 1970s sports cards:

In addition, donors at the $50 and $100 level will, as always, get a slot in the rotating ad space in the top right corner of this site (for six months and one year, respectively) to do with as you please. (I can help design ads if you have an idea but no artistic skills, and donating ad space to a favored charity is always welcomed.)

And, of course, you’ll get me continuing to produce this site, for free access to all, for another year. I still have plans for a couple more FoS 20 interviews before this 20th anniversary year is over in April, and some other ideas for special projects in the hopper as well, all of which are much easier to devote time to when I don’t have to scramble for other ways to pay the bills.

And whether you choose to become a Supporter or not, thank you all for helping make this site more than just one person shouting at clouds, but rather a community, with your insightful comments, your emailed news tips, and your Mark Davis quips. In the increasingly lowest-common-denominator world that is the internet, this site manages to continue to have daily conversations that are funny and free-wheeling but also mostly serious and respectful, and that is a rare and valuable thing.

And now, let’s all celebrate another year of observing stadium and arena scams by watching the Milwaukee Bucks‘ old arena get blown up, just 30 years and a few months after it was opened, solely because the team’s owners wanted a new one and pretended the NBA would force the team to move without one. (Form for signing up for or renewing your Supporter status is below the video.)


Options



St. Pete officials argue confusingly about whether to offer Rays owner stadium money before he asks for it

The Tampa Bay Times has a long record of really terrible, boosterish reporting (plus conflicts of interest) on the push for a new Rays stadium, and this article doesn’t exactly help raise the bar. It’s ostensibly about how two St. Petersburg city officials have different thoughts on whether the city should tell Rays owner Stuart Sternberg how much they’re willing to put up toward a new stadium, or wait for Sternberg to figure out how much he wants to ask for:

City Council member Charlie Gerdes wants clarity, and believes it would be prudent for city, county and state officials to come up with the amount of public money that could be available to help fund a new St. Petersburg ballpark.

Gerdes hopes that will make it easier for the Rays to stay — or at least decide their future sooner.

“We need to go to them,” Gerdes said. “I think we all need to be able to look each other in the face and say ‘we did everything we could’’’ in the event the team decides to leave.

Others believe the Rays must make the first move.

“If they aren’t interested in ever pursuing a new stadium, there there’s no need to start convening all the other folks together and saying ‘what do we think we can realistically come up with,’” Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

Now, I know that the Times is just reporting what Gerdes and Kriseman are saying, but reporter Josh Solomon really should be pointing out that neither of these arguments entirely makes sense. Especially Gerdes’s: Offering Sternberg a set stack of dollar bills isn’t going to “make it easier for the Rays to stay,” unless maybe you think you’re going to so massively overbid that it’s an offer he can’t refuse — which presumably isn’t what Gerdes is trying to say? Or not say out loud, at least?

Kriseman’s response, meanwhile, is just a little garbled — clearly Sternberg wants a new stadium — though he is right to point out that it is a little weird to start offering the Rays owner public cash for a plan that he hasn’t even expressed an interest in.

Really, the mistake here is in St. Petersburg officials considering the Rays stadium situation to be the public’s problem at all: The city gave Sternberg an opt-out to go build a stadium elsewhere in the region if he wanted, and he couldn’t find anyone to give him the amount of money that he wanted, so he didn’t do it. Which is all fine, but it doesn’t make it St. Petersburg’s crisis.

The subtext of all this — which, to be fair, Solomon does spell out — is that St. Petersburg would like to redevelop the Tropicana Field site, which it can’t do until the Rays move out, so it can’t start planning until it knows what Sternberg will do. Except, you know, that the Rays’ lease expires in 2027, and they’re almost certainly not getting a stadium built much before that, so if Kriseman really wants to start planning a new development there he can just send Sternberg a “you’re evicted in eight years” notice, and everybody can plan just fine. Except Sternberg, but that’s not St. Petersburg’s problem — unless you think keeping the Rays is more important than redeveloping the stadium site, which seems to be not the point of this article?

Maybe it’s just the editor in me, but reading this suggests an entirely different, better article that would have begun by analyzing the situation the city of St. Pete is in: salivating over the stadium land, but also not wanting to be accused of driving the Rays out of the region. (It kind of heads in that direction, but then veers off and never quite makes it back.) Which is indeed a dilemma! And then you could ask Gerdes and Kriseman and other local officials what they think the city’s priority should be, and how much it would be worth to St. Pete to clear the stadium off of that land, and whether it’s better to build sooner or wait until the Rays have left and are no longer entitled to a cut of redevelopment rights, and suddenly you have a story where readers actually learn something more than just “city officials yell past each other.” I know it’s 2019 and that’s not how most journalism works anymore, but I really don’t think I’m asking that much, am I?

Friday roundup: Long Island residents yell at cloud over Isles arena, Calgary forgets to include arena in arena district plan, plus a reader puzzle!

It’s Friday (again, already) and you know what that means:

  • New York State’s Empire State Development agency held a series of three public hearings on the plan to build an Islanders arena on public land near Belmont Park racetrack (which the team would be getting at as much as a $300 million discount), and the response was decidedly unenthused: Speakers at the first hearing Tuesday “opposed to the project outnumbered those in favor of the plan by about 40 to one,” reports Long Island Business News, with State Sen. Todd Kaminsky joining residents in worrying that the arena will bring waves of new auto traffic to the town of Elmont, that there’s no real plan for train service to the arena, and that there’s no provision for community benefits to neighbors. Also a member of the Floral Park Police Department worried that the need for police staffing and more crowded roads would strain emergency services. Empire State Development, which is not a public agency but a quasi-public corporation run by the state, is expected to take all of this feedback and use it to draft an environmental impact statement for the project, which if history is any guide will just include some clauses saying “yeah, it’ll be bad for traffic” without suggesting any ways to fix it. I still want to see this plan from the Long Island Rail Road for how to extend full-time train service there, since it should involve exciting new ideas about the nature of physical reality.
  • Meanwhile in Phoenix, the final of five public hearings was held on that city’s $168 million Suns renovation plan, and “out of nine public comments, three involved questions, five voiced support and one was against the deal,” according to KJZZ, so clearly public ferment isn’t quite at such a high boil there. One thing I’d missed previously: The city claims that if it doesn’t do the renovations now with some contribution ($70 million) from Suns owner Robert Sarver, an arbitrator could interpret an “obsolescence clause” in the Suns’ lease to force the city to make the renovations on its own dime. I can’t find the Suns’ actual lease, but I think this just means that Sarver can get out of his lease early if an arbitrator determines the arena is obsolete [UPDATE: a helpful reader directed me to the appropriate lease document, and that is indeed exactly what it means], and he can already opt out of his lease in 2022, it’s pretty meaningless, albeit probably more of the “information” that helps convince people this is a good deal when they hear it. (Also important breaking news: A renovated Suns arena will save puppies! Quick, somebody take a new poll.)
  • Speaking of leases, the Los Angeles Angels are expected to sign a one-year extension on theirs with Anaheim, through 2020, while they negotiate a longer-term deal. It’s sort of tempting to wish that new Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu would have played hardball here — sign a long-term deal now or you can go play in the street when your lease runs out, like the Oakland Raiders — but I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt in his negotiating plans. Though if this gives Angels owner Arte Moreno time to drum up some alternate city plans (or even vague threats a la Tustin) just in time to threaten Anaheim with them before the lease extension runs out, I reserve the right to say “I told you so.”
  • The Calgary Planning Commission issued a comprehensive plan for a new entertainment district around the site of the Flames‘ Saddledome, but forgot to include either the Saddledome or a new arena in it. No, really, they forgot, according to city councillor Evan Woolley: “It should’ve been identified in this document. It absolutely should have. Hopefully those amendments and edits will be made as they bring this forward to council.” The 244-page document (it’s not as impressive as it sounds, most of them are just full-page photos of people riding bicycles and the like) also neglects to include any financial details, beyond saying the district would be “substantially” funded by siphoning off new property taxes, “substantially” being one of those favored weasel words that can mean anything from “everything” to “some.” Hopefully that’ll be clarified as this is brought forward to council, too, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.
  • Here is a Raleigh News & Observer article reporting that the Carolina Hurricanes arena has had a $4 billion “economic impact” on the region over 20 years, citing entirely the arena authority that is seeking $200 million to $300 million in public money for upgrades to the place. No attempt to contact any other economists on whether “economic impact” is a bullshit term (it is) or even what they thought of the author of the report, UNC-Charlotte economics professor John Connaughton, who once said he “questions the sincerity” of any economist who doesn’t find a positive impact from sports venues. Actually, even that quote would have been good to include in the N&O article, so readers could have a sense of the bona fides of the guy who came up with this $4 billion figure. But why take time for journalism when you can get just as many clicks for stenography?
  • The San Francisco Giants‘ stadium has another new name, which just happens to be the same as the old new name of the basketball arena the Warriors are leaving across the bay, and I’m officially giving up on trying to keep track of any of this. Hey, Paul Lukas, when are you issuing “I’m Still Calling It Pac Bell” t-shirts?
  • Indy Eleven, the USL team that really really wants somebody to build it a new stadium so it can (maybe) join MLS, still really really wants somebody to build it a new stadium, and hotels, office and retail space, an underground parking structure, and apartments, all paid for via “[Capital Improvement Board president Melina] Kennedy wasn’t available to discuss the proposed financial structure of the project.” It would definitely involve kicking back future property taxes from the development (i.e., tax increment financing), though, so maybe Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir is hoping that by generating more property taxes that his development team then wouldn’t pay but instead use to pay off his own stadium costs, that would look better, somehow? I mean, he did promise to keep asking, so at least he’s a man of his word.
  • “At some point in time, there’s going to have to be a stadium solution,” declared the president of a pro sports team that plays in a stadium that just turned 23 years old. “If we don’t start thinking about it, we’ll wake up one day and have a stadium that’s not meeting the needs of the fans or the community.” Want to try to guess which team? “All of them” is not an acceptable answer! (Click here for this week’s puzzle solution.)

Poll: Phoenix residents think Suns arena subsidy is a good thing once you tell them it’s a good thing

As the Phoenix city council continues its month-long dog and pony show to convince constituents into changing their minds about spending $168 million in public money on Suns arena renovations being a terrible idea, they’re still stuck on the problem that Phoenix residents overwhelmingly think it truly is terrible. So the Greater Phoenix Chamber (of commerce) took matters into its own hands by conducting a new poll that claims to show that residents stop hating the deal so much once you explain to them that, no, really, it’s good:

The poll found that when respondents were given basic information about the deal and how the cost would be divided — $150 million paid by the city and $80 million paid by the Suns — 23 percent supported the deal and 52 percent opposed it, while a quarter had no opinion.

When they were given information about the city’s funding mechanism, arena events, the arena’s economic impact and the use of the arena by youth groups, respondents who supported the deal increased to 49 percent and those opposed shrank to a quarter, while 26 percent had no opinion — a 53-point shift.

That is indeed a large shift! What exactly was this “information about the city’s funding mechanism, arena events, the arena’s economic impact and the use of the arena by youth groups” that caused the scales to fall from their eyes?

So basically, once you tell Phoenix residents that this is existing tax money, not a new tax; that the city of Phoenix currently collects more revenue from the arena than it would spend on the renovation; and that arena renovations will create spinoff economic growth for local businesses, then suddenly it sounds like a great idea!

Except that that “information” ranges from mildly misleading to outright untrue. Yes, the money would come from existing hotel and car rental taxes, but if the city spends it on the Suns, it won’t have that money to spend on something else, so may have to raise other taxes if it wants to pay for that something else. Yes, the city gets revenues from the arena, but that would be true with or without renovations, and indeed even with or without the Suns, since the arena still hosts concerts and other things as well. And as for spinoff growth for local businesses, I have no clue where that claim came from, but it’s exceedingly dubious: Local businesses are already located near an arena, and would continue to be even if it’s renovated, so there’s no net benefit there; if anything, adding more amenities could encourage fans to spend more of their entertainment dollars inside the arena gates, which would be bad for neighboring businesses.

There is nothing wrong with criticizing looking solely at up-front expenses on a sports project and saying that’s insufficient, you need to look at revenues (and, for that matter, annual operations costs) as well — I’ve been harping on that for a long time now, in fact. But obviously, the chamber’s poll isn’t meant to take a more holistic look at arena costs and benefits and see how that influences public opinion. It’s better looked at as a campaign document: Which arguments in favor of a new Suns arena will convince people that this is a good idea? And given that city officials have already started rolling out some of these arguments — “it’s not really a tax!” was the first one last weekend — clearly they’re eager to make use of the new intelligence.

Anyway, I would be tempted to chalk all this up to the workings of democracy (in a world where democracy is controlled by whoever has the money to pay for publicity campaigns, anyway), except then I remember that this entire exercise is only taking place because Suns owner Robert Sarver needs to rush this whole thing through before the March election of a new mayor who is likely to think it’s a terrible idea. Maybe Sarver and the chamber and everybody should cut out the middleman, and instead spend their time and energy on lobbying the mayoral candidates to convince them that tax money isn’t really tax money? The chamber of commerce has a whole bunch of pie charts ready to go!

Raiders still moving everywhere and nowhere for 2019 season

This just in: The Oakland Raiders might move to San Diego for the 2019 season!

The Raiders have reached out and are said to be in discussions with the San Diego mayor’s office about the possibility of calling San Diego home for the 2019 season. This according to Dan Sileo of 97.3 The Fan in San Diego.

“I got this email last night,” said Sileo, noting it was from a somewhat well known San Diego attorney who he would not name. He then read the email aloud. ‘I wanted to let you to know off the record here . . . that I learned tonight (this was last night) that there have been discussions between the Raiders playing next season in San Diego with both the Mayor’s office and management of the Raiders.’”

No, no, wait, this just in: The Oakland Raiders might move to Tucson, Arizona for the 2019 season!

Tucson attorney Ali Farhand hopes to make a pitch to the NFL team to consider playing their 2019 home games at Arizona Stadium…

According to Farhang, he and University of Arizona president, Robert Robbins have reached out to the Raiders to discuss the possibility of relocating the franchise to the Sonoran desert.

Listen, guys: Just because two groups are “discussing” something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It’s like hot stove baseball rumors: Just because your team took a meeting with some free agent doesn’t mean that they’re actually going to sign him — it could mean they’re just kicking the tires. Likewise, it seems pretty likely that Raiders execs are meeting with anyone and everyone who has a stadium for rent this fall, if only to keep their options open.

That said, the Raiders presumably do have to play somewhere in 2019, so it’ll have to be either Oakland or Santa Clara or San Diego or Las Vegas or San Antonio or Tucson or London or any of a dozen other places. They just don’t seem any closer to figuring it out than they were when they declared back in September that they were throwing a hissy fit over Oakland’s antitrust suit and refusing to return there for one more lame-duck season. Maybe instead of trying to guess where the Raiders should play, we should be trying to handicap when they’ll figure out where they’ll play. How does May sound like as an over-under? I think I’ll take May.