Everybody and former pitcher Dave Stewart wants to buy Oakland Coliseum for some reason

The Oakland A’s stadium plans seem to be moving at a glacial pace, but in recent months things of a sort have actually started happening: Team owner John Fisher bought Alameda County’s 50% share of the Oakland Coliseum site for $85 million, and entered negotiations to buy the city’s half as well. This would allow them to tear down the Coliseum, build new development on the site, and use the proceeds to help pay for a new stadium at Howard Terminal (probably not in that order, since the A’s would need somewhere to play in the interim); or else build a new stadium there maybe; or anyway at least have some options.

The Bay Area real estate market being what it is, though — even if it’s not quite what it was pre-pandemic — lots of other people are offering to buy the city’s share of the land, too:

  • We’ve already covered the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, headed by San Francisco nightclub owner Ray Bobbitt, which has offered $92 million to buy the city’s share of the Coliseum land, then hopes to buy the A’s share as well, then build a new NFL stadium, then get an NFL team, then be the first African-American-owned football franchise. That is, let’s just say, a lot of steps, but they’re still in the mix.
  • Former ace A’s pitcher and terrible Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart has bid $115 million for the city’s haf of the site, saying he wants to build affordable housing and “nice restaurants and shops” and “employment opportunities” and maybe a baseball stadium, he hasn’t decided yet, in the place where he grew up. (He didn’t actually grow up in the Coliseum — that’d be M.C. Hammer — but nearby.) Stewart says he still needs to “turn in the vision,” which presumably means some renderings, and “at some point I need to prove the financials, but that’s not a problem.”
  • Justin Berton, a spokesperson for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, says there are “several offers” on the table for the property. (Does two count as “several”? Merriam-Webster says “several” can mean “more than one” or “more than two but fewer than many,” which doesn’t narrow it down at all.) “Any proposed sale or disposition will go through an extensive, transparent and public review process,” adds Berton.

Having multiple bidders, let’s be clear, is a good thing: Given how almost impossible it is to calculate fair market value for a uniquely huge parcel of land, having lots of bidders is a great way to be sure you’re getting the highest possible price. (Ideally you would have wanted the city and county to market the entire ownership of the land together, since Fisher holding half the property could hold the bids for the city’s half down somewhat, but it’s better than nothing.) So if nothing else, having Dave Stewart offering $115 million means maybe the city can demand that Fisher offer $116 million, which would be a better deal than the county rushed into.

As for what this all means for the A’s building a new stadium, though, either at the Coliseum site or Howard Terminal, who the hell knows. There are still questions about how that plan would be financed, and whether it will require hundreds of millions of city spending on “transportation infrastructure,” and what’s up with all those cranes. Presumably if asked, Fisher would say that at some point he needs to prove that he can pull this off, but that’s not a problem; for the rest of us, it’s probably best to believe it when we see it.

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Friday roundup: OKC Thunder want their subsidies sooner, Indy Eleven want theirs later, let me repeat back your orders to make sure I have it right

I’ve already thanked everyone individually, but I’d like to give a collective shoutout to all the readers who signed up as FoS Supporters this membership cycle. The money you send translates directly into time I can spend covering stadium and arena news for you, and I remain extremely heartened by your support. If you sent me your mailing address, your magnets should be en route; if you didn’t, send me your mailing address already, these magnets aren’t going to ship themselves!

And speaking of covering stadium and arena news, let’s cover some stadium and arena news, why don’t we:

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Could an indy league revive Hagerstown’s stadium after MLB consigned the Suns to oblivion?

Reporting on plans for what to do with stadiums in the 18 cities that were completely jettisoned from minor-league baseball (separate from the 25 additional cities that are having their paid players replaced by college interns) has been sadly lacking since last months’ hit list announcement, likely because most news media in 2021 has the attention span of a gnat and the budget of one as well. But yesterday there was some news from Hagerstown, where the Suns have been dematerialized after 40 years, leaving behind a stadium that has hosted pro ball on and off since 1930, with several renovations along the way.

The Hagerstown city council held a work session on Tuesday to explore the options, and they are, in order of appearance in the Herald-Mail, the newspaper of the Maryland-Pennsylvania-West Virginia conjunction:

  • Host some “cost-neutral local events, such as high school baseball games” or concerts.
  • Build an indoor turf facility there (likely looking something like this), so locals don’t have to travel elsewhere for sports like youth soccer.
  • Bring in a baseball team in an independent league, two of which have contacted city officials already about using its existing stadium.

All these are reasonable ideas, as is surveying local residents about their preference before moving ahead with any of them. Mayor Emily Keller said that she doesn’t want to cost local residents more money, which also sounds good; there’s also the issue of who would staff games or concerts, since the city doesn’t have staff available. (Hopefully event organizers could either bring their own staff or pay enough of a fee for the city to hire some workers.)

The indy-league baseball option is especially interesting, not so much because it’s necessarily the best one, but because there’s been so much speculation that running unaffiliated minor-league teams wouldn’t be sustainable; one exec of an eliminated minor-league team told me his organization’s research showed it would take a guaranteed 3,000 tickets sold per game just to break even. If two independent leagues are at least sniffing around — the Atlantic League has to be one, thanks to its geography and the fact that it only has six teams currently including the newly created Gastonia Honey Hunters — that’s a good sign that maybe indy leagues will fill some of the vacuum left by the contraction of the affiliated minors.

All this would be significantly easier if North American baseball ran more like European soccer, with promotion and relegation, so that Hagerstown could just find some local willing to sponsor a semi-pro team and then watch it try to win its way back up to the professional ranks. That still wouldn’t be perfect, though — somebody has to buy enough tickets to pay the ticket takers and pay for turning the lights on — so if indy leagues can fill a similar role, that’s better than nothing. It will be very interesting to see how this unfolds as the season approaches, depending on when and if coronavirus levels decline enough for that to even happen.

 

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Jacksonville kills $200m Jaguars Lot J subsidy, Khan says he’ll ask for money for some other project instead

So! Last Thursday the Jacksonville city council’s committee of the whole voted 15-4 in favor of granting more than $200 million in subsidies to Jaguars owner Shad Khan for his Lot J development project, making it a fait accompli that the plan would get the needed 13 votes for approval when the full council (the exact same people as the committee of the whole) voted on it last night. And then this happened:

The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday rejected a $233 million development deal with Jaguars owner Shad Khan to build his proposed Lot J development next to TIAA Bank Field, as the deal was unable to overcome a barrage of criticism that it required too much of taxpayers and offered too little in return

Supporters of the bill defeated an attempt made Tuesday by Council President Tommy Hazouri to strip a controversial $65.5 million interest free “breadbox” loan from the deal, which Khan’s development team said was a necessary condition for them to build the development.

However, their efforts were a pyrrhic victory. Without the removal of the loan, the deal lost supporters and died in a 12-7 vote, one shy of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

Wha’ happened? In last night’s vote, councilmembers Randy DeFoor, Garrett Dennis, and Joyce Morgan switched sides to join Al Ferraro, Matt Carlucci, Danny Becton, and Tommy Hazouri in opposing the deal. Media reports aren’t entirely clear on what caused the defections — the Jacksonville Daily Record cited concerns about “an expected low return on investment for the city, lack of hard construction costs and a financial viability gap analysis being withheld by Cordish and what the public perceived as a lack of transparency in the deal,” but all that was as true last week as this one. (A financial analysis of the deal by the city auditor way back in November projected that the city would only get back 44 cents in revenue for each dollar it spent on subsidies.) It surely didn’t help when Dennis and Mayor Lenny Curry had a Twitter war last week accusing each other of cheating on their wives, but that still doesn’t quite explain why all three members voted one way last week and the other way yesterday.

Anyway, since the council still approved more than $155 million in Lot J subsidies (the $65.5 million interest-free loan would have only been worth maybe $30-40 million in value to Khan), what normally happens next is that the team will go back to the drawing board to see if it can rework the deal, maybe splitting the difference to, wait, what’s that now?

“We’ve pulled the plug on Lot J. It’s dead, but it doesn’t change the way we started this,” [Jaguars president Mark] Lamping said…

Lamping said Khan now will shift his focus to negotiation with the Downtown Investment Authority for his proposed Four Seasons hotel and medical, residential and retail development on the St. Johns riverfront at Metropolitan Park and the Shipyards.

There are a couple of things that could be going on here. The first, and less likely, one is that Khan is trying to grease the skids for a move out of Jacksonville by making a series of crazy demands and then throwing up his hands when the council rejects them, saying, hey, I tried. Or, the Lot J scheme was genuinely such a money-loser that Khan really only was into it if he could get a huge pile of city cash to do so; and now that the city has only offered a chintzy $155 million, he’ll move on to his next project and see if that raises less of a stink with the council. (And/or helps him revive interest in his Shipyards plan, which was fading as of last summer.) And, of course, the as-yet-unspecified amount of money he’s seeking for renovations to his stadium, which was just renovated in 2014 and again in 2017. Shad Khan is determined to have his publicly supported payday someday, somewhere, it’s just a matter of figuring out where to squeak his wheel.

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Worcester stadium hits $157m, is now the most expensive minor-league park of all time

The city of Worcester issued an update on Friday (actually dated tomorrow, but whatever) on its new Red Sox Triple-A stadium, which is full of small-type charts and lists and generally pretty dry. But Grant Welker of the Worcester Business Journal got out his abacus and went to work on the numbers, and was able to report this:

The cost of building Polar Park, the new home of the minor league Worcester Red Sox, has risen to $157 million, Worcester officials said Friday afternoon, reflecting cost increases stemming largely from the coronavirus pandemic.

With the increase, the public facility will become the most expensive minor league baseball stadium ever built, surpassing the inflation adjusted $153-million home of the Las Vegas Aviators.

May I be the first to say: Yikes!

The WooSox owners are paying for the latest $17.3 million in cost overruns, so at least this won’t cost Worcester more than the $100 million or so in subsidies that were approved back in 2018. Still, how on earth did this project’s costs balloon so rapidly?

The last time the stadium ran into overruns, it was $30 million in added costs that, according to Welker, mostly stemmed from “unexpected costs borne by the city for obtaining adjacent parcels, moving businesses and knocking down buildings to make way for the ballpark.” (Also because Worcester officials forgot how hills work. Let us never forget that.) This time it’s undefined pandemic-related costs: Some this appears to be “we had to stop work for seven weeks and still need to finish by spring 2021 (assuming there’s baseball in spring 2021)” and some of it something about supply chains mumble mumble, but still, $17.3 million seems like a lot for that.

The WooSox also have agreed to a lease, which is good because nobody remembered to do that before approving the subsidies and starting construction; I haven’t read through it fully yet, but it looks unremarkable. And the update also includes a whole bunch of new renderings, so let’s enjoy some of those now:

That’s unremarkable enough, though it’s amusing that some ad sponsors have been specified (Shaw’s grocery store) while others still just say “SPONSOR.” (Where the first-base coaching box should be. I’m not sure that’s allowable under baseball rules.) Also the team logo appears to be a smiley face with arms and legs. And Red Sox two-time All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts appears to have been demoted to the minors, or maybe is there on a rehab assignment. Otherwise, nothing too alarming.

Now it’s getting alarming. Why are there giant statues of Red Sox championship rings, and what does that small child and his mom find so fascinating about them? Other than that, looks like a pleasant enough plaza, though I’m not sure it’s advisable for the couple at the far right to walk through it barefoot.

What the hell? As a parent, I know something about what kids want in a baseball-themed playground, and it would either be 1) a miniature ballpark where you can play wiffle ball or 2) a big-ass slide. Baseball-themed boulders and a basepath covered in giant golf tees seem like odd design choices, and that’s even before we get to the smiley-face mascot (which must be inhabited by either a person with an abnormally short torso or with no head) playing keepaway with a baseball bat with a small child. We are well on our way to Boschian hellscape here.

This image, of a grassy hill outside the ballpark called Home Plate Hill because it’s kind of adjacent to the home plate grandstand, I guess, is unremarkable except for the woman at left who appears to be taking a photo of her dog using a large cinnamon roll as a camera.

Big Blue Bug Solutions is, as you might expect, a pest control service. It has apparently contracted to show off its solutions for pest removal by sponsoring an area where a select few fans can enjoy close-up views of the game without any protective netting, the better to be squashed like bugs by any foul balls.

Okay, it turns out Xander Bogaerts hasn’t been demoted — or rather, he’s been demoted to an unearthly realm where various Red Sox players of the last 50 years are all consigned to play out their declining years in a minor-league ballpark. Also Jim Rice has to play first base which he never once did in real life, even though Carl Yastrzemski, who did play lots of first base, could easily be moved there from Rice’s preferred position of left field. Clearly whoever constructed this image really has it in for Jim Rice — look, he’s even batting 9th, while the unheralded Jarrod Saltalamacchia bats cleanup — which is fair, Jim Rice was one of the most overrated players in baseball history.

Finally, we have the Ecotarium, Museum of Science and Nature, which seems to consist entirely of an exhibit on pitch speed, which you would think would at least include a radar gun and a place where kids could try out their feeble throwing arms and learn something about how radar works or something. But no! It’s just a cardboard cutout of a kid throwing a ball, at a distance of maybe ten feet from a photograph of a catcher. I’m almost willing to believe that this is supposed to be a real kid but the colorist screwed up, but if so why is he being forced to deliver his pitch over a counter? And won’t errant throws grievously injure those two older kids nearby admiring the ceiling? Oh wait, I get it — the science here is medical science, and kids will be able to see it in action up close and personal when EMTs have to rush to the aid of someone who’s just been concussed by a baseball delivered to their noggin at close range! I take it back, these people totally know what will entertain a small child — can’t wait to make my first visit!

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WTF is up with that “vote” on a new Madison Square Garden: an investigation

Checking back in on a Friday afternoon because I have a bit more information about that new Madison Square Garden proposal that, according to a very bad website, “the City Council voted [on] this week in a Community Board Five meeting,” which is not a sentence that makes any sense.

Turns out the vote had nothing to do with the New York City council, but rather was of the Land Use, Housing & Zoning Committee of Manhattan’s Community Board 5, which is a just slightly less significant body. (Community board consideration is a required piece of the city’s land use process, but their votes are just advisory.) The meeting took place on Wednesday on Zoom, and can be watched in its entirety here.

The board’s unanimous vote was actually on several things, including endorsing including this project in the environmental impact study for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Penn Station expansion project, and also allowing for a shorter extension of MSG’s operating permit — you know what, let me just quote myself here by way of explaining what that is:

Madison Square Garden itself is privately owned, but an obscure section of city zoning law (Section 74-41, if you’re playing along at home) requires any arena of more than 2,500 seats to obtain a special permit from the city. MSG’s initial permit was issued in 1963, and for whatever reason was set to expire after 50 years; when that date rolled around in 2013, the city council, bowing to the wishes of Penn renewal advocates, granted only a ten-year extension, ostensibly to give the Garden’s owners time to make plans to decamp to a new site. (Technically, MSG could stay put, but only if it reduced its capacity to 2,500 seats—the arena can currently pack in over 20,000 spectators, depending on the event.)
Since 2023 is right around the corner, and it would almost certainly take years to get this mammoth project approved and built, CB5 has now formally endorsed the idea of a short-term extension to let the Knicks and Rangers hang out for a few more years at the current MSG in the meantime.

What happens next is not much, at least immediately. Committee member E.J. Kalafarski said during the meeting that a draft scope of the project, which is the very first step in the land use process, was “published on the internet this last week”; I haven’t been able to find it yet, but will keep digging. In any case, after that it needs to have a draft environmental impact statement done, and then it goes back to the community board for consideration, then to the borough president, then the city planning commission, and finally the city council. (If the state takes over the property, it would go through a different approval process — as the Brooklyn Nets arena did — but would still take a while.) So, nothing final for a year or two at least, but this is the beginning of the beginning.

As far as how much this would cost or who would pay for it, none of that is even remotely sketched out yet. And the design documents published by New York Yimby are just some sketches done by former Manhattan city planning director and current local resident and architect Vishaan Chakrabarti, which may or may not be adopted by whatever developer may or may not be interested in building this monster.

So, this is still very early days, but it does seem like there’s at least a little momentum for “clear out the current MSG space to make for better Penn Station access by building a new MSG a block away something something something.” This is very much worth keeping an eye on, but it’s also very likely that nothing much will be happening immediately, especially what with no one knowing whether big urban office buildings have a future anymore or not. More news as events warrant.

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Friday roundup: Jacksonville doubles down on $200m+ Jaguars subsidy, MSG replacement vaportectured, Norfolk arena sabers rattled

So, yeah, some stuff happened this week, and is continuing to happen now. But let’s not let rampaging Viking cosplayers distract us from the fact that the new year has also brought a resurgence in sports subsidy activity, with a whole lot of news that normally I might write individual posts about if I hadn’t been up too late refreshing Google News, so instead you’ll have to bear with me through some long bullet points:

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Jacksonville councilmember: We can’t demand Jaguars lease extension for Lot J approval, or how will they hold us up for more subsidies later?

NOPE NOT MUCH NEWS TO REPORT YESTERDAY, NUH UH

Let’s take a break from trying to make sense of whatever the hell is going on here and instead look forward to the future. Namely, to later today, when the Jacksonville city council gets set to hold its first vote on Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s proposal for a massive development on his team’s stadium’s Lot J. The Lot J plan, you will recall, would require more than $200 million in city cash, interest-free loans, and tax breaks, but never fear! Some council members are proposing amendments!

City Council member Ron Salem said Wednesday he has worked with the Jaguars on an amendment saying that if the team were to leave Jacksonville before 2034 and Khan’s affiliate Gecko Investments sold its stake in the Lot J development, the city would get 50 percent of the proceeds from such a sale.

Salem said the amendment responds to concerns he’s heard that the Lot J deal should come with an extension of the Jaguars lease for TIAA Bank Field, which currently runs through 2030.

Ummmm, that doesn’t actually respond to those concerns at all, does it? The team could still leave Jacksonville, and so long as Khan held on to his stake in the development, the city would be squat out of luck. Not to mention that it would only cover an additional four years past the end of the existing lease. If the issue is wanting Khan to promise to keep the team in town for longer, why not, you know, make that part of the deal?

He said it’s not realistic to link the lease extension to Lot J because the city and the Jaguars will be talking in the coming years about TIAA Bank Field renovations and the lease extension will be tied to stadium improvements.

I mean. This is really quite something. We’ve seen local elected officials carry water for sports team owners before — lord, have we seen that — but I can’t remember a time previously when one has said, we can’t demand concessions from the local sports baron, because then what will he have left to trade with us when he comes back for more cash? Even if you give Councilmember Salem the benefit of the doubt and think what he really meant was Khan won’t agree to a lease extension now because he’s waiting to use it for Round Two, that’s still pretty remarkable, given that the council is totally within its rights to just sit on its hands and not approve anything until it gets what it wants.

There are other amendments on the table as well:

  • Council president Tommy Hazouri has proposed removing the city’s $65.5 million no-interest loan from the financing plan, which the Florida Times-Union reports “would drop the city’s total commitment to $167.5 million,” though if you look at the numbers the subsidy could still be close to $200 million even without the loan.
  • Hazouri and councilmember Randy DeFoor have proposed an amendment requiring that if the Jaguars leave Jacksonville, Khan would have to pay “liquifidated damages” (no, that’s not a word) of up to $152 million, though that figure would decline over time.
  • Councilmember Rory Diamond is seeking to prevent any city officials involved in the Lot J deal from going to work for Khan or his partners for five years after leaving their city jobs; current “revolving door” laws only prohibit jumping to companies you’ve voted to aid for a span of two years.

Today’s vote is just a committee vote to move the proposal to the floor of the full council, but because it’s the “committee of the whole,” everyone on the council will be voting, so it’ll be a good litmus test of how Tuesday’s final vote will go, if it happens. It’s possible that today’s vote could approve a vote Tuesday but that the one then will fail — Tuesday’s vote, unlike today’s, will require a supermajority of 13 out of 19 councilmembers since it requires a change to the city capital budget in the middle of the budget year. You can watch today’s hearing, starting at 10 am ET, via Zoom using the login information here. If, you know, you don’t have anything better to pay attention to today.

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Hartford hopes spending $100m on new restrooms and coffee bars will make arena profitable (it won’t)

A hearing on Connecticut’s planned $100 million renovation of Hartford’s sports arena has been pushed back to February so that the city can hold more talks with the owner of neighboring retail space, which, whatever, unless you’re really so bored under lockdown that you’ve resorted to watching arena renovation hearings. But the Hartford Courant article on the delay does provide an opportunity to see exactly what the state is planning to spend the money on, and why.

The state already spent $35 million on renovations in 2014 and $18 million more in 2017. Initial plans for a $250 million renovation that would have added new concessions concourses on both the upper and lower levels were rejected because $250 million, and also because hardly anybody ever sits in the upper level what with the arena mostly only hosting minor-league hockey and the occasional college basketball game. So instead the state is focusing on redoing just the lower level concourse:

The renovation will include industry standards restrooms, concessions, premium seating and other systems for the average 12,000 seats that events typically draw rather than the arena’s full 16,000-seat capacity.

The premium seating includes bunker suites at center court, a club with seating for 100 or more — both on floor level close to the action. More loge seating would be added elsewhere in the arena.

State officials hope the renovation will increase revenue with more premium seating and amenities; push the venue to make a profit, which it traditionally has not done; and reduce expenses, eliminating costly repairs to outdated equipment for which parts are difficult to find.

So, some math: The arena has previously been reported to be losing about $1 million a year in recent years. Interest rates are low right now, but even if $100 million in renovation bonds can be sold at a low rate like 3%, that’s still going to add $5 million a year in red ink to the arena’s books. So just to get the arena back to break-even, it will take at least $6 million a year in new revenues from the added concessions and luxury seating. I haven’t been able to find current concessions revenue numbers, but this article indicates that premium seating currently only generates $1.4 million a year currently, so this would require Hartford Wolf Pack and UConn basketball fans to be willing to increase their spending a whole lot to be able to sit and go on their laptops while the game plays on a screen somewhere in the background, which seems speculative, to say the least.

About that earlier article, by the way: It’s about a study from last February by everyone’s favorite dysfunctional stadium consultant, Convention Sports & Leisure, which projected that the Hartford arena renovations would indeed increase annual revenues, but would still leave the arena running about a $500,000 annual loss. The study also indicated that the arena is currently running a $2-3 million loss, not the $1 million previously reported, and that the new luxury seating would generate $3.6 million in new gross revenues, and — you know, honestly, trying to do math on CSL reports is hopeless, because they’re just number salad. But “even a consultant who’s paid to make arena renovations seem worthwhile can’t figure out how to make this one look profitable” is a perfectly legit takeaway here, if “people will spend millions of dollars more at the arena if you give them nicer bathrooms and coffee bars” wasn’t doing it for you.

 

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Fort Myers considering spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” to turn one of its four baseball stadiums into a baseball stadium

Hum de dum, what do we have this morning? An article from Fox Southwest Florida headlined “Councilman says stadium plans are rushed,” about a sports complex in Fort Myers? That’s not one that was on my radar, let’s see what it has to say:

Pump the breaks.

Oh man, with an opening like that, this could be great! Let’s see where it goes from there.

Councilman Fred Burson introduced the idea of an amateur sports facility to council on November 16th. It would replace City of Palms Park, where the Red Sox had spring training, which is scheduled to get demolished later this year.

The Boston Red Sox indeed had spring training at City of Palms Park, but not since 2011, when they relocated to a new stadium out by the airport. (City of Palms Park was all of 18 years old at that point.) The old facility has mostly served for college baseball since then; Fort Myers has two other stadiums as well, one that hosts the Minnesota Twins for spring training, one that used to host the Philadelphia Athletics, and so should go without saying it’s a bit old, though it’s also being remodeled and currently heavily used for amateur sports.

Just three weeks later City Manager Saeed Kazemi had already recommended a contractor for the project. A process that could take six months. Burson says he thinks it’s all because the city manager doesn’t want a stadium there at all.

Er? No further explanation of why the city manager recommending a contractor would be a move to scuttle stadium plans, unless maybe Kazemi is trying to push for some alternate development plan that could be moved ahead with more quickly? Anyway, Burson said this, so just put it on the station website, that’s how journalism works, I’m almost definitely sure!

Burson wants the facility because he says it’ll bring more revenue to downtown Fort Myers.

“I’m wanting to make it something that will support the businesses, and the hotel industry in Fort Myers, and Lee County,” he said.

You may recall from past economic studies that spring training games themselves provide no measurable economic impact to Florida cities, likely because the number of people who travel to Florida in March just to see spring training is swamped by the number of people who go there because it’s warm and there are beaches, and maybe take in a baseball game while they’re there. It’s maybe possible that amateur sports, which can take place all year, would have more of an economic spinoff … for hotels? Would that many people really travel to Fort Myers just to have their kids play in amateur baseball tournaments? And that many more than would come for tournaments that could be held at the existing four stadiums? A previous article indicated that Burson said that “during the summer, Perfect Game, an amateur baseball organization, hosted tournaments that brought about 32,000 people to the region,” which even if you believe that number seems like maybe they don’t need a new sports complex to draw tournaments, but anyway:

Another hesitation for some – the cost, which Burson says ultimately could have a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I’m not talking about the city spending money to do it. I’m talking about coming up with a plan – a complete plan, and selling it to a development company,” he said.

Hundreds of millions of dollars. For an amateur sports complex. In a city with four baseball stadiums already. But don’t worry, a development company will surely pay for this, because it’s a can’t-lose proposition!

Councilman Johnny Streets said he supports the stadium, but the timing is off.

“Before we just rush into something, I think we need to take care of some of these other items,” he said.

Streets says the stadium should take a backseat to the pandemic and the city’s housing crisis for now. The city manager has not responded to Fox 4’s requests for comment on these claims as of Monday night.

And that’s the end of the article! Does Streets have any idea how to pay for the complex, if he supports it, just not now? Have any development companies expressed interest? Are there any other ideas for ways to use the old ballpark land, even if maybe they won’t bring throngs of high school travel teams and their families beyond the throngs that are already coming to Fort Myers?

So many questions, so few answers, because if Fox Southwest Florida doesn’t have time for copy editing, it really doesn’t have time for making more than two phone calls before writing an article about a project that would put hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. Sorry, three phone calls, there’s that one to the city manager that wasn’t returned. More news on this developing story as it becomes available, though given the state of reporting in southwest Florida, I wouldn’t exactly hold your breath.

 

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