Revived USFL pitches “mid-sized” stadiums as economic boost

Sending out a press release saying you’re going to start (or restart) a sports league is cheap, so hey, why not the USFL? Only this press release has a novel twist:

San Diego, Calif. (February 11, 2013) – The United States Football League (USFL) announced today that it has signed a confidential agreement with an established real estate development company to build multiple commercial developments throughout the United States, with the centerpiece of each development to be a mid-sized stadium to host a USFL team…

Each development will contain a USFL football stadium, a sports and entertainment complex, residential and retail space. The USFL and its development partner plan to build the new developments across the spectrum of small, mid-size and large markets, with the goal of bringing economic development to underserved areas and creating jobs and a sustainable economy for these selected cities.

There’s nothing in there about asking for subsidies for these projects, but the bit about “economic development to underserved areas and creating jobs and a sustainable economy” certainly sounds pitched for mayors of small towns with medium-town dreams. (The press release also claims that the development company would benefit “by securing an anchor tenant for developments,” but if there are really development companies out there that think a USFL team would be a solid anchor tenant, I have some pointing and laughing I want to do.) More info as it’s available, I guess, but this is one to keep half an eye on, anyway.

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17 comments on “Revived USFL pitches “mid-sized” stadiums as economic boost

  1. “economic development to underserved areas and creating jobs and a sustainable economy”

    The buzzword density in that sentence makes me think there will be lots of pols jumping on this idea. Who’s against any of the words/phrases in that sentence?

  2. The real dream of the original USFL owners was to have at least some of the teams absorbed into the NFL. Because the league was never a serious rival to the NFL that never came close to happening.

    I went to a few games and the quality of play was quite good most of the time. But there was never any real excitement in the stands.

    I regret not getting some Oakland Invader gear and coffee mugs when I had the chance though.

  3. There is already a very popular minor-league in our country, and it is called the NCAA. Anything else, is like going to a AA baseball game. Maybe a few thouands of the good people of Jackson, MS (or whereever) would show up because they don’t feel like going to the movies again. But, actually building a fanbase that lives and dies for “their” team is unlikely, considering most people are already Saints fans (again using the Jackson example), and either Miss St or Ole Piss fans. I don’t understand how these people were intelligent enough to become millionaires, or billionaires, but still be ignorant enough to blow a huge wad on a football league that is destined for failure. The old USFL, WFL, NFL-Europe, XFL, UFL surely plenty others that I am leaving out. Star Football League? They are either all defucnt, or close to it. None are popular, and no one will care when the UFL and Star(?) go away. No one likes minor-league football, outside of NCAA, and no one ever will. What a money-pit.

  4. Are these guys aware that Major League Soccer has already built mid sized stadiums around the country? A dozen of them. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just use those stadiums instead of building a dozen more? I guess they haven’t thought of that.

  5. Considering the article talks about building 20,000-seat stadiums, it’s not too unreasonable that this could actually be a good thing (assuming they don’t fleece the public too much). 20,000-seaters could also be used for soccer, rugby, concerts, high school events, college events, etc.

  6. “There is already a very popular minor-league in our country, and it is called the NCAA.” Yeah, that line has NEVER been used before.

    As to why not use MLS stadiums, one, MLS will NEVER allow it (they don’t even want to share Citi Field despite the Mets OFFERING the field to them!), two, the USFL claims to only want to be in markets with no NFL teams.

    The USFL had already played games with deadlines last season. Now they’re claiming they can build five stadiums in a year with developments. Uh-huh. The MLS stadium in Chester shows that one, they never get the other sports and concerts they claims and two, developments do not pan out.


  7. SCJ:

    That was certainly the dream of the Donald… but most of the original USFL owners wanted to own football teams… some even understood that it would take 5-10 years to build a following.

    Were it not for the wild & reckless spending of the owners and the decision to move to a fall schedule (which was the Donald all over), the USFL might still be with us in some form.

    While some teams certainly had little support, teams in Oakland, Tampa Bay and Memphis were well supported – as were a couple of others.

    The original AFL & MLS (founded in part by the same guy, of course) have shown that if you have enough rich guys backing a new league (or even a new sport) that it can survive for a decade, it can become self sustaining. If all you have is a dream, well….

  8. Not everyone can be as original as you, Dennis. It gives me something to strive for in the future. Why don’t you go spread some more of your genius in the Carolina thread…

  9. “Were it not for the wild & reckless spending of the owners and the decision to move to a fall schedule (which was the Donald all over), the USFL might still be with us in some form.”

    It was the Donald plus a majority of owners. People like to scapegoat him (with good reason, the perfect word to describe him is seven letters long), but there was plenty of greed to go around.

    All the big contracts they threw out weren’t matched at the gate or with TV, and the next few years would have seen some very tough choices being made when they had to renew them: To either let the big names go and lose most of the built up fans, or keep paying them and hoping the fans come around (wouldn’t have worked).

  10. Ty;

    Trump was behind the fall sked idea, the others didn’t have the gumption to go against the alleged business genius. And each one of them lost their entire investment because of that. It is true that many of them knew they couldn’t keep paying their (self inflicted) bills for another 5 years while the USFL consolidated it’s following (and several of it’s franchises), but the decision to follow Trump was the end.

    The “splash” contracts the owners offered were never going to be supported by gate revenues. We will never know what the 1988 or 1990 USFL tv contract might have generated in terms of revenue because they didn’t get there. Had they stuck to their original plans (as regards both spending and sked), it could well have been different.

    I’m not so sure they needed to keep “the stars” to keep the fan base they had. Signing those guys was all about getting in the newspapers and getting on tv. Those contracts were loss leaders, IMO. They were meant to do nothing but get people’s attention (Walker, Steve Young and others didn’t exactly excel in the new league either…). I suspect we would have seen them quietly bought out over the next few years.

    While the big names brought media coverage, some of the stars that came out of the USFL weren’t gigantic names going in… Hebert, White, AC etc. Those were the guys the fans rallied around in many markets… not the multimillionaire signees (who may or may not have been able to cash the checks…)

  11. Dennis:

    MLS already shares/rents it’s stadia in many markets for college football (not soccer). If you watch fall MLS games from LA, Houston, Columbus – even NY – you will see the faint outline of NCAA or high school football field markings on the surface.

    Odd, since one of the main reasons MLS clubs needed taxpayer help to build these facilities is because sharing with football “ruined the fan experience”.

    As for Citi field, if the Wilpons were offering the stadium and all concession/parking revenues to MLS, the answer would be different. That was an offer designed to make the Wilpons some (needed) cash, not to “help MLS” in any way.

    As I think you know, the stadium game isn’t just about having somewhere to play… that’s easy to accomplish. It’s about controlling the building and all revenues, preferably while having someone else pay all costs associated.

  12. John:

    These were big shot owners who wouldn’t take no from just anyone , and Trump isn’t seen as a business genius in most circles. I may be wrong, but I just really doubt the pressing that it was all Trump’s fault, these were the guys who added 50% more teams after one decent year.

    Really, if we play the hypothetical game, and the USFL tried to stay where it was, the NFL would probably have done what the NHL did to the WHA: Make an offer to take X franchises that obviously wouldn’t work, leak them to the media and collapse the value of the teams not named, and pick up anything that’s worthwhile.

    I think a lot of the problem with a new football league is walking the tight rope between having those owners who really try creative things to market their team that ends up letting greed kill itself (USFL) and centralized marketing, that keeps costs semi-reasonable but that makes the league seem boring to fans (XFL, UFL).

  13. @Ty:

    The problem with a new football leage is that there is not enough pro-talent to go around.

    Marketing? If that was the only issue, He Hate Me would be in the midst of his retirement season right now.

  14. You’ll notice I said “a lot of” the problem was choosing an approach, not the only one.

    And the XFL’s preseason and first week marketing was excellent. After that, it was terrible.

  15. It’s possible Ty. But I would also point out that both the WHA and USFL put themselves in position to be exploited/damaged by choosing to expand (and relocate franchises) ‘feverishly’ for reasons of immediate revenue need rather than long term stability.

    In it’s first season, the USFL actually beat it’s own projections for avg attendance and Neilson share on ABC. Granted, they were modest numbers compared to the NFL at the time (though not miniscule by any means). However there were a few franchises that could potentially have become the backbone of a rival league like the original AFL had.

    Developing a new sports league is really about having wealthy enough owners to absorb the inevitable short term (5-8 year) losses while a brand and identity is being built amongst the fans. If the USFL (or XFL, had McMahon not turned it into a clown show) had stuck to it’s original plan and it’s original schedule, it might have earned a very tidy TV contract by 1990, let’s say.
    But USFL didn’t really have any owner willing to absorb those kinds of losses (which really should have been a prerequisite for membership – a guarantee of 5 years of funding to the team). It did have one who thought he could force a merger and gain 1/3rd of the NY/NJ pro football market. But then, we all know how that worked out…

  16. Jason:

    Each year NCAA Div I schools turn out 5-600 student athletes from their football programs. Some of those have even graduated.

    There are 1600 players, give or take, in the NFL. Have you ever noticed how when a player (other than their starting QB) gets hurt unexpectedly or retires, the teams don’t seem to have any trouble picking up players off the street who fit in?

    Think Victor Cruz, Kurt Warner, and countless others.

    There are guys working as personal trainers, on the loading dock at Wal-Mart, driving truck etc who could step into an NFL lineup tomorrow and not look out of place. Would any of them be the next Tom Brady? Probably not. But could you put 400 of them together, create 8-10 teams and – one year on – have them look like real football team in a real pro league?


    The problem with “replacement players” used in sports in the past it twofold. First, yes, they obviously aren’t going to be quite as good as the guys you’ve got. Second, they’ve never played in your team’s system, are probably not in true ‘game shape’ and have just 3-4 weeks to get it together before playing on tv. The deck is always stacked against them.

    If you listen to any FB coach or baseball manager, they’ll tell you that their last few cuts from preseason are pretty much like flipping a coin. One guy might be better than the next in one area, but not in every area.

    The bottom 1400 guys in the NFL aren’t as good as the top 200, either. But that doesn’t make them “not pro quality”.

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