New stadium for Rams, Chargers delayed till 2020 because it rained

And in today’s comedy news, the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers will be delayed a year in moving into their new stadium because it rained:

Historically heavy rainfall in Los Angeles has delayed the highly anticipated, $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, California, by a year.

The new facility, to be shared by the Rams and Chargers, will now open in 2020 instead of 2019, the teams said Thursday. In the meantime, the Rams will play at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for an additional year and the Chargers will have one more season at StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Color me marginally skeptical — stadium manager Dale Koger acknowledged that the original timetable was “very aggressive,” so this could just be a matter of realizing they weren’t going to be done on time and blaming it on the rain. But whatever; anything else hilarious about this? Like, how will this mess with any important plans that the teams will now have to put on hold?

Fourteen months ago, [Rams COO Kevin] Demoff told The Times, “Our focus has always been on introducing new uniforms the year we open a new stadium. That’s the opportune time to shape your brand.”…

But it might not happen until 2020.

“That’s a decision we’ll make in the coming months as we look at the uniforms,” Demoff said during a teleconference with a reporters. “But we will have the option of beginning a rebrand in 2019 or with the stadium in 2020.”

Man, there is nothing as funny as people unironically saying things like “shape your brand.” Still not quite as good as when a masked superhero does it, but I’ll just picture Demoff wearing a purple unitard, and it’s almost as good.

Las Vegas approves Raiders lease that will pay taxpayers $0 in rent for next 30 years

The Las Vegas Stadium Authority unanimously approved a lease with the Oakland Raiders yesterday, and it’s online and everything so we can look at it! Good news first:

  • The Raiders owners have to pay all maintenance and operating costs, as well as putting $2.5 million a year into a Stadium Authority Capital Projects Fund that they can then spend on themselves.
  • There doesn’t appear to be any kind of “state of the art” clause that would allow the team to break its lease if the county doesn’t provide stadium upgrades.

And the not-so-good news:

  • In exchange for its $750 million in construction subsidies, the public gets absolutely zero revenues from anything: ticket sales, naming rights, concessions, ad boards, you name it. The Raiders’ rumored $1 a year rent turns out not to be true; they will actually pay $0 a year.
  • The stadium, despite all of its revenues for the next 30 years being controlled by its private tenant, will pay no property taxes.

This isn’t quite as bad a lease as I’d feared — a state-of-the-art clause would have been a real disaster, since it would have allowed the Raiders owners to demand future upgrades in a decade or two under threat of moving again — but it’s still not very good for taxpayers. It was apparently finalized in a hurry because of the team’s threat to stay in Oakland for another year if a lease wasn’t worked out this week; Mark Davis may be bad at a lot of things, but he seems to have this whole gamesmanship thing worked out pretty well.

RI officials talk a lot about new PawSox stadium plan, don’t say much of anything

In the wake of Rhode Island’s governor saying she might be okay with spending as much as $35 million on a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium, several politicians in the state spent yesterday backing away from any such thing, including the governor herself:

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston, insists any legislative package involving state financing of a new stadium must arrive with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s stamp of approval.

“I have no bill. I have no legislation. No proposals. No nothing,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “I just got their press packet today …. I will look at it in my leisure, which I have none. It’s not my issue.”

And:

Although [Gov. Gina] Raimondo on Tuesday and again on Wednesday afternoon rattled off multiple reasons why she concludes the proposal appears to “pay for itself,” “would be self-supportive,” is a “much better, much more reasonable proposal than last time,” her spokesman Mike Raia insisted Wednesday morning that “The Governor did not endorse the deal or throw her support behind it, as [The Providence Journal] reported.”

Raimondo did say that the latest team proposal (which, as Mattiello noted, isn’t really a formal proposal) is better than the team’s previous one, something that Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio echoed. But for now, this looks like lots of “we want to do something for the team, but we’re not going to make any commitments until we see which way the winds are blowing” posturing, which is about right for this stage of the game. Though “you’re not going to get a dime of public money until you can show clear and unassailable public benefits” works too, maybe somebody might want to try that?

Beckham unveils new Miami stadium design, promises to create a whole 25 living-wage jobs

David Beckham’s gang of stadium negotiators descended yet again on Miami yesterday, to present the latest iteration of his long-delayed MLS stadium plans. He’d gotten raked over the coals of late by a local neighborhood group for proposing a plan that includes no parking, so how’d he do this time?

That’s less crazy than the last rendering, in that it doesn’t have sidewalks sloppily pasted over parked cars, though it still seems to rely on cantilevering some of the seating over the surrounding streets via support beams with all the structural integrity of a toothpick sculpture. But we’ll leave it to the engineers to figure that out — what about that whole parking issue?

“We’re going to be encouraging the use of Metromover, Metrorail, water taxis, ride-sharing,” said Spencer Crowley, a lawyer and lobbyist representing Miami Beckham United in its talks with Miami-Dade to buy a parcel needed for its nine-acre stadium site near the Miami River. “We view this as a paradigm shift for the county as to how people get to large events.”

Sure — when live serves you no-parking lemons, might as well make alternate-transit-ade. And it might even work, though proposing that your fans won’t need to park their cars anywhere because they can take “water taxis” is a bit out-there. (Beckham’s stadium czar Tim Leiweke also promised a “dinner-cruise boat to deliver fans to the Miami River a few blocks away.”)

And speaking of out-there, dear lord, this:

As part of the deal, the Beckham group promised to create 50 permanent jobs at the stadium. Half would be required to pay Miami-Dade’s living wage of about $15 an hour.

That’s right, 50 new jobs! And 25 of them would pay at least $15 an hour! And local Overtown residents should be grateful, said Audrey Edmonson, the Miami-Dade commissioner for the neighborhood:

“I heard some groans when it came to 50 jobs,” Edmonson said. “Guaranteeing 50 permanent jobs, that is a lot of jobs when it comes down to a stadium. … Believe me, I had a difficult time getting that out of them.”

She tried, people. Life is hard.

SDSU drops out of San Diego MLS plan, would rather use stadium land itself

How’s that whole plan going to build a San Diego soccer stadium on the site of the Chargers‘ old stadium that would double as San Diego State University’s football stadium, using no public money except for, oh yeah, about $240 million in public money? Not well at all, if the SDSU part was important to anybody:

San Diego State made their position clear Tuesday afternoon, releasing a statement that announced that they will no longer engage in discussions with FS Investors, whose plans are to build an MLS stadium that would be shared by the SDSU football team…

“While SDSU’s current campus footprint of 238 acres is sufficient to support the University’s aspirations in the short term, we have long-articulated the need for more space for the advancement of the University over the next 50 years. The Mission Valley opportunity is a once-in-a-generation chance for SDSU to expand its research, tech transfer, collaboration space and other future needs, as we continue to ascend toward becoming a top 50 public research institution.

Translated: That’s a nice piece of property you’ve got there, and we’d way rather have it for ourselves rather than having to share with a soccer team. Which, maybe that’s a better use of land, maybe it’s not — we’d need to see, and hopefully the San Diego city council will demand to see, some kind of cost-benefit analysis to determine what’s the best use of the site. This doesn’t necessarily kill the soccer plan by any means, but it’s certainly not going to help the push for a public referendum in favor of it this fall when voters ask, “So this will give SDSU’s football team a place to play, too, right?” and canvassers have to reply, “Um, have we mentioned that soccer is growing in popularity among well-off millennials?”

Cobb County spending $14m on traffic cops because they forgot to ask Braves to pay for them

My sincere apologies for neglecting to inform you last week of this excellent article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in which reporter Dan Klepal revealed that Cobb County is going to be on the hook for $900,000 a year for traffic police around the Atlanta Braves‘ new stadium. And before you say, “But isn’t free policing one of the services that government typically provides to sports teams and others alike?”, nuh-uh:

The Braves paid for traffic control during the team’s last eight seasons at Turner Field. At Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Falcons will reimburse the Georgia World Congress Center an estimated $2.5 million a year for traffic management during football games, soccer matches and other events…

An AJC survey of 11 cities with professional sports stadiums found only two other instances where taxpayers funded all or a portion of traffic control…

“The Falcons outcome is the norm. The Braves outcome is a throwback to the 1990s” when those kinds of subsidies were more common, [Stanford economist Roger Noll] said.

This free-traffic-cops clause apparently wasn’t part of the original Braves deal with Cobb County — traffic control costs weren’t addressed at the time, along with a lot else having to do with transportation — which left the county stuck with the costs by default. (Though it would be kind of fun to think of what would happen if the county said to the Braves, “Go get your players to direct traffic, it’s clear they’re not occupied by actually playing baseball.”) If we figure that the free patrolling is worth around $14 million in present value, adding that to the $355 million in existing public costs gets us to $369 million in subsidies to move the Braves from downtown Atlanta to the suburbs, totally not because any Braves fans think all urban black people are violent criminals. But hey, who can put a price on burgerizzas?

Raiders threaten to delay own stadium in order to get lease concessions from Nevada

It’s two-minute warning time for the Las Vegas Raiders stadium lease, according to Raiders execs:

Raiders President Marc Badain on Thursday said the lease agreement is on the agenda of the NFL league owners’ meetings scheduled to begin later this month. If one is not presented, there is a “distinct possibility” that team’s move to Sin City could be pushed until the 2021 season, Badain said.

“In order to approve a lease, you need full membership, and the league has four meetings a year: one in March, one in May, one in October and one in December,” Badain said after a public meeting of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority board. “So, if you miss the May deadline, you push to October, we would lose a year, and everybody wants to get this project going everybody wants to get these guys to work. So we didn’t want to miss that deadline.”

This is clearly meant to pressure the Nevada Stadium Authority into approving all their lease demands like only paying $1 a year in rent, out of fear the team would otherwise stay in Oakland for another year. Though really, you’d think it’d be the Raiders management that would be feeling pressure, given that they’re facing possible eviction from the Oakland Coliseum in 2019, and presumably wouldn’t want to have to go play in the street for a year. One wouldn’t think that too hard, though, because stadium leverage seldom has to make sense to work.

RI governor says she’d consider spending $35m on new PawSox stadium, let the haggling begin

Ever since then-Pawtucket Red Sox owner James Skeffington demanded a $60 million subsidy for a new stadium and then up and died, his successor Larry Lucchino has been keeping the new-stadium campaign on simmer, saying he still wants some kind of public money, just he’s not sure how much or for a stadium where. Now, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has put a price tag on what the state will offer, or at least a maximum, maybe:

On Friday, Gov. Gina Raimondo told The Providence Journal the state should pay “certainly no more” than $35 million. That’s the first time she has publicly stated any dollar amount under consideration.

Why $35 million? That’s the amount that, the Providence Journal reports, “consultants” say it would cost to “cure structural deficiencies” at McCoy Stadium, the PawSox’ current home. That would appear to be this study, which includes everything from fixing cracked sidewalks to replacing all the seats and player lockers, to the point where it’s tough to tell what should be considered “renovation” and what “maintenance” (i.e., stuff you’d need to do in a new stadium sooner or later anyway), not to mention how much should be “stuff the team that actually plays there and uses it should pay for.”

Note, incidentally, that there’s a perfectly reasonably precedent by which owners of buildings pay for things and charge their tenants for it: It’s called “rent.” And really, that’s what Gov. Raimondo should be thinking about: Not how much the state or city would put in up front, but that if the public is going to help finance a new building, the PawSox should pay it off over time with increased rent.

Right now, though, it looks like nobody’s talking about how a stadium lease would work, only how up-front costs would work, which is dunderheaded but also standard operating procedure in these matters. Anyway, Lucchino wouldn’t comment of Raimondo’s sort-of offer beyond to say that it was “interesting,” so there’s still likely to be plenty of haggling ahead on this one.

KeyArena reno would use $70m in historic tax credits, sparking economist catfight

More details are filtering out about how the two KeyArena renovation plans would be funded, in addition to the $90 million or so in tax kickbacks that each would require. Today, its that Oak View Group would be seeking to get the arena declared a national historical landmark, which would allow them to request $70 million in federal historic tax credits.

This led to a rare occasion where two sports economists disagree on the meaning of the tax credits, though it’s less a matter of economics than of semantics. In this corner, Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson, who tells the Seattle Times:

“I would not consider that a subsidy for the arena. Because I think that’s a subsidy that you would grant to anything you designate as an historical thing. In which case, it’s not the fact that it’s an arena that gets (the federal tax credits), it’s the fact that it’s historical that gets it.’’

In the other, West Virginia University economist Brad Humphreys, who counters:

“Absolutely, it’s a public subsidy. It’s tax dollars. Forgone federal taxes collected is an implicit subsidy. The only difference between this sort of subsidy and something from the state or county is whose pocket is this coming out of? It’s coming out of the pockets of everybody in the country.”

So who’s right? We’ve been through this before, both with Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, each of which got federal historic preservation tax credits for their renovations. Probably the best way to think of it is that historic tax credits aren’t a special subsidy, but they are a general subsidy — much like apartment buyers getting to deduce mortgage interest on their taxes isn’t a special subsidy to condo developers, but it still does help their bottom line. The only questions then are whether you consider historic preservation to be important enough to be worthy of a tax credit, and whether you consider KeyArena to be historic enough to be worthy of preservation — Matheson isn’t even so sure of that, noting, “I think it’s probably a crock that it should be a historical monument. “I mean, for God’s sake, this isn’t Soldier Field, or Ebbets Field or something. It’s KeyArena. I mean, come on.’’ (Matheson gives the best quotes.)

In any case, this probably won’t enter into the question of which of three arena plans (the two Key ones plus Chris Hansen’s SoDo arena) the city of Seattle rates as best, since it’d be money coming out of federal taxpayers’ pockets, not Seattle citizens’ in particular. But it is a good reminder that there are tons of ways for people who build stuff to use other people’s money to pay for the stuff they build.

Cincy mulls convention center redo to lure new visitors, since that worked so well last time

Cincinnati tourism officials are pressing for a major renovation of the city’s Duke Energy Convention Center, and construction of a big new hotel next door, arguing that the city would otherwise see a big drop in visitors. Mike Latsch of the Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau says without the project, the city could lose 100,000 annual hotel room nights by 2022.

But the last time the city expanded the convention center, it literally had to scrape up the $140 million cost, using naming rights from Duke Energy and millions in contributions from local corporations in addition to local hotel tax revenues. The 2006 expansion actually did little to boost the city’s convention business. And in the decade since, Cleveland opened a new center, Columbus expanded its center, and Indianapolis opened a major expansion, increasing competition for scarce convention dollars.

Now, any expansion plans will have to compete for hotel tax dollars against renovations to the US Bank Arena — proposed in order to ready the venue for hosting the NCAA men’s basketball tourney in 2022 — as well as plans for a new Major League Soccer stadium. All this in a city and county that have already managed to pour an immense amount of public money into stadiums.