San Jose Earthquakes owner Lew Wolff has reached an agreement with city officials to buy 66 acres of city land, at a cost of $132 million, to serve as the site of a new 18,000 soccer stadium that Wolff would build himself.
If this sounds like a breath of fresh air in the stadium world – not only does the team owner pay construction costs, he even pays for the land he’s using! – be sure to read the fine print:
The real estate magnate is counting on the city to rezone 78 acres of commercial and industrial property he owns in Edenvale to allow developers to build as many as 1,500 townhomes there. Wolff plans to pay for the soccer stadium with the profit from selling the Edenvale property as residential land.
This is, you’ll recall, the same scheme – call it a “rezoning subsidy” – that Wolff is proposing to Fremont for a stadium for his Oakland A’s (inasmuch as he’s proposing anything specific at all). Not to mention similar to what was floated in Sacramento for the Kings a while back. California is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the toughest states to get public stadium funding out of, both because of a skeptical electorate and strong voter-referendum requirements; instead, team owners are being forced to look for other ways to build stadiums without, you know, spending any of their own money. Because that would be crazy talk.