Wrigley Field still complete wreck nine days before opener, Cubs considering Banks “tribute” to hide it

Apologies for not posting any recent photos of the mess that is Wrigley Field as opening day approaches. Fortunately, Deadspin has us covered, with a full gallery of Wrigley bleachers destruct-o-porn courtesy of their readers. This is probably the wrecked-est looking one:

Of course, fans on opening day (just nine days away, people! on national TV!) won’t see all this mess, because Cubs management has a great idea to take care of that:

The Cubs are considering covering the incomplete bleachers with a tribute to late Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, Ricketts said, but nothing has been finalized.

The Ernie Banks Memorial Tarp — I can hardly wait.

MLS commissioner says no new Minnesota stadium, no new Minnesota team, see?

Remember way back on Wednesday when MLS announced that it would give Minneapolis an expansion franchise if it built a new soccer-only stadium, and commissioner Don Garber didn’t specify what would happen if the stadium wasn’t built? Apparently Garber couldn’t stand the suspense, because yesterday he said this:

“We would then, as an ownership group, take a step back and decide whether we wanted to come to Minnesota,” Garber said.

“We have other options around the country, some of which with very detailed soccer-stadium plans, and we would have to make that decision at that time.”

In other words, this.

Garber may have decided he needed to drive home the message because Gov. Mark Dayton has been busily insisting that he has no intention of approving using any public money to help build a new stadium just for Minnesota United, even going so far as to say that “stadium fatigue” has set in after the public had to build new homes for the Twins and Vikings. You know, that Vikings stadium that got built in large part because Dayton made it a personal crusade to get it done, even if it meant promising to pay for it with a wacky gambling scheme that ended up generating zero revenue and having to be supplemented from the general fund. I suppose coming up with ideas like that can be tiring.

If nothing else, this is a message to MLS that while Garber may think it’s the next big player in the U.S. sports world, local elected officials aren’t quite going to jump to attention like they do when the NFL makes demands. Though if your business model is “give a team to any city with an ownership group willing to pay our expansion fee and which will give us a stadium,” I suppose there are always more fish in the sea. Hello, Albuquerque?


Bucks owners say “exploring” added development, so why make fuss over them only funding third of arena?

Great news, everybody! The owners of the Milwaukee Bucks may only want to put in less than a third of the construction cost of a new arena, and nobody may have any ideas how to pay for the rest, but as soon as they get gifted with that, they’re willing to build some for-profit development next to it on their own dime!

“Not only have our owners committed a sizable investment for the new arena, they’re exploring investments in potential ancillary development,” team spokesman Jake Suski said Thursday. “They want to be actively involved with the city, county and state in the planning and help assemble a world-class development team to see this bold vision realized.”

You know, we really should take a moment to stop and appreciate the rhetorical artistry here: Not only are we willing to pay for part of an arena that will entirely benefit only us, but we’re also thinking of maybe paying for some other development that will also benefit us! Aren’t we generous? It’s almost worthy of a prize of some sort.

L.A. unions get some jobs thrown at them, decide they love Inglewood stadium plan after all

Yeah, that didn’t take long. Not even two weeks after the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor launched a petition drive to block St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s planned Inglewood stadium, the petition drive is off, because the two sides have cut a deal:

“We now have certainty that the project will be an economic engine for the entire region and help turn the tide against poverty-level jobs in Los Angeles,” said Rusty Hicks, executive secretary of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Neither side is saying what Kroenke agreed to in order to buy off the labor group — and it’s just a private agreement, not a publicly negotiated community benefits agreement, so we may never know — but now it’s an “economic engine” all of a sudden, so surely it’s more than just agreeing to a certain percentage of union jobs! Either that, or union leaders are more concerned about the narrow interests of their members than about the community as a whole. Nah, that could never happen.

Wrigley renovation could take extra year, everyone finding new reason to laugh at Cubs

Lots of things can go wrong with construction projects, I know, so delays really shouldn’t be a surprise. Still, the Chicago Cubs‘ renovations of Wrigley Field are turning into a p.r. nightmare: Now, not only won’t the rebuilt bleachers (which were mostly rebuilt to support some humongous video boards) open until mid-year, but the entire project could take a year more than previously expected:

Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for [Cubs owner Tom] Ricketts, confirmed Wednesday evening that the project could very well bleed into a fifth offseason, one more than the original plan.

“That could still be the way it works out,” Culloton said of the original four-phase plan. “But it could take longer. Just take this winter for example, and we have found not only the problem with the weather but the water pipes that we had no control over. It could be four years, it could be five. It’s hard to say.”

On the bright side, the other renovations involve more off-the-field stuff — new bullpens, clubhouses, and luxury suites, and a new hotel next to the ballpark — so there’s at least hope that the games themselves won’t take place in a construction site in future seasons. And it looks like Wrigley will be playable for opening day this year, if you have a generous definition of playable. Still, for a team that’s openly trying to emulate the Boston Red Sox, this isn’t going like the phased renovation of Fenway Park did at all.

Goodell on new St. Louis stadium for Rams: Sounds good, now hurry up about it already

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken on the subject of a new Rams stadium in St. Louis! He has said nice things:

“They have a great site. They have a site that I think is important for St. Louis to redevelop. I think it’s a perfect stadium site, as the governor told me. And I think they’re working towards making it a reality.

“And that’s a positive. The efforts that are going on there are very positive.”

And he has said vaguely threatening things:

Goodell said Wednesday that the league has had discussions on the committee level about moving up the timetable for relocation following the 2015 season.

“We’ve had some discussions within our (Los Angeles opportunity) committee,” Goodell said. “Whether that time frame — if there was a relocation — whether that’s the appropriate time frame to do so. There’s a lot to do when you relocate a franchise.”

All of this, of course, is part of the job description of a commissioner, who is expected to play both good cop and bad cop for team owners’ stadium demands. The only real news here, such as it is, seems to be that the NFL might consider moving up the decision time for announcing that a team or teams will or won’t move to L.A. for 2016. Also, that the league is apparently calling the group of owners in charge of this the “Los Angeles opportunity committee,” which you have to hope at least makes them feel better about their job.

Pro-Chargers stadium newspaper lashes out at Chargers for not being pro-stadium enough

Well, this is interesting. U-T San Diego, the newspaper run by a crazed millionaire who thinks journalists should be “cheerleaders” for stadiums, published an editorial yesterday afternoon that tears into the Chargers ownership for its position on a stadium. It tears into them for not being eager enough to commit to one in San Diego, mind you, but still, that’s definitely breaking with the program:

Mark Fabiani, the team’s special counsel for stadium issues … has continued to undermine the task force effort by pushing for a downtown stadium that would be more costly, would require two-thirds voter approval of a tax increase, would take much longer to develop and which includes a bus company yard that would definitely require significant environmental cleanup. And meanwhile, of course, the team has continued to push forward with a fly-by-night joint proposal with the Oakland Raiders to win approval for a new stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson.

Clearly, something has shifted here, whether it’s Fabiani pissing off the U-T editorial board somehow, or the board being tighter with San Diego city officials than with Chargers execs, or just annoyance that they’ve carried water for a San Diego stadium for this long and now Chargers owner Dean Spanos seems more interested in playing footsie with Carson. But this stuff matters, and it’s certainly significant that for whatever reason, the Chargers ownership seems to have alienated one of its most powerful friends. It’s a reminder that in playing cities off against each other, sports team owners risk burning bridges — though I guarantee that if the Chargers do choose to remain in San Diego, all will be forgiven, and the U-T editorial page will be full of talk about how Spanos needs to be rewarded for his loyalty.

MLS grants expansion franchise to Minneapolis, if stadium demands are met

Minnesota United FC was officially announced as the next MLS expansion franchise yesterday, to start play in 2018 — assuming a plan for a soccer-only stadium is in place by then.

And if not? MLS commissioner Don Garber made sure not to address that yesterday, saying only that “we believe our league is going to be built, and ultimately be more successful, if we can play in stadiums that are our own.” But it’s certainly a possibility that, if a stadium doesn’t happen promptly, the franchise could be held up, a la David Beckham’s Miami morass.

United owner Bill McGuire is still hedging about what he’ll ask for in terms of public subsidies for a stadium, telling Minnesota Public Radio that “we haven’t asked anybody or laid anything out yet and it’s premature to talk about any of that stuff.” Gov. Mark Dayton, for his part, said, “They need to fully realize that it is something they are going to have to pay for out of their own private resources,” but also said he might be willing to help build roads and infrastructure to support a stadium. It certainly smells like a “team pays for construction, state pays for everything else” scenario, which especially if you get into things like tax breaks can start to add up to some real money, but with a formal stadium proposal not expected until July 1, it could be a while yet before we know exactly what he United owners are asking for, and what MLS is willing to do to ensure that they get it.

Minnesota legislators want to give more tax breaks to Super Bowl, because NFL asked nicely

Minneapolis was awarded the 2018 Super Bowl last May, after agreeing to a completely crazy list of NFL demands that includes everything from league exemption from local taxes to putting up more cellphone towers if the NFL isn’t happy with reception. But that apparently isn’t enough:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Tuesday that he and House Speaker Kurt Daudt will push for $2.8 million in additional tax relief sought by Super Bowl organizers for the 2018 game in Minneapolis…

Minnesota already exempts sales tax on tickets to the game itself, a law dating from the 1992 Super Bowl in Minneapolis. That’s worth about $9.5 million in forgone revenue, state officials have said.

The new request would extend that exemption to cover events related to the game at the new Vikings stadium, such as an interactive zone for fans or certain tailgating events.

Apparently the NFL thought it was getting this tax break, but nobody in state government ever signed off on it, and Gov. Mark Dayton is now invoking the “no backsies” rule to tell the league that if they wanted it that bad, they should have made it part of the agreement. Daudt, though, has no problem with handing over an additional $2.8 million after the fact:

“I wish that they didn’t ask for all of these sorts of tax breaks, but it is an economic benefit to the community. It’s kind of a ‘but for’ — it doesn’t happen if we don’t have the Super Bowl here,” Daudt said.

We could argue that “economic benefit” notion all day, but more to the point: Dude, you already got the Super Bowl! The NFL is capable of a lot of things, but even it wouldn’t threaten to change the location of a Super Bowl that’s already been announced over a matter of a couple million dollars. At worst, the league might grumble about not approving future Minneapolis Super Bowl bids (though by the time Minneapolis comes around again on the Super Bowl rotation, none of these people are likely to still be in office), or leave Minneapolis a scathing Yelp review or something.

Anyway, it sounds like legislative leaders want to try to push this through, but Dayton has no intention of signing it, so maybe it’s just a way for the top legislators to tell the NFL, “Hey, we tried. Can we still sit in your luxury box?” And hey, look, at least Bakk and Daudt draw the line somewhere:

State leaders made it clear their largesse wouldn’t extend to waiving player income taxes for the time they’re in Minnesota. Those costs will be covered by private fund-raising, officials with the host committee said.

I really, really want to see the fundraising letter for that one. For 70 cents a day, you can free an NFL player from the tyranny of state income taxes! Though come to think of it, that might be a decent selling point with some funders.

Bucks arena finance cost grows, supporters turn pockets inside-out to see who has $250m in loose change

Oh, yeah, we’ve definitely reached the racino phase of Milwaukee Bucks arena funding plans, where everybody notices how big the funding gap is and scrambles for ways to fill it, crazy or not. As the first sign, we have another negativish arena article from the usually upbeat Don Walker, this one reporting that the state Legislative Fiscal Bureau has determined that Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to sell $220 million in bonds for an arena would result in between $323 million and $488 million in state costs.

This is just an updated version of the state report that Rich Kirchen of the Milwaukee Business Journal reported on last month, and just like then it’s still not entirely clear whether this is nominal state costs (i.e., adding up all the bond payments over time) or present value (how much money you’d need to have on hand now to make all the future payments). (Hey, Don and Rich, can you start indicating the difference, please? Bloggers everywhere without a budget to make calls to the LFB thank you in advance.) Usually inflated figures like this result from taking the nominal value, which isn’t the best way of looking at things — but given that the repayment plan would involve backloading payments until NBA salaries rose enough for enough of players’ state income taxes to be kicked back to pay off the bonds, we could be looking at a Miami Marlins-like scenario.

Meanwhile, the local commercial realtors group gathered last night to come up with ways to help support an arena plan, by … okay, let’s watch the video … “Where the rest of the money comes, that is still a matter of discussion — some say it will come from the city, some from the county, some from the state. Stay tuned.” Hey, that’s not “Realtors group makes pitch to support, fund new arena for Milwaukee Bucks”! I call headline fraud!