Friday roundup: Trump rescued stadium tax break, Sacramento MLS group needs more cash, more!

Happy interval between Hanukkah and Christmas! If anyone is out there reading this and not getting on a plane from somewhere to somewhere else — or is reading this while waiting for a plane from somewhere to somewhere else — enjoy your lightning-round news of the week:

  • San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Kevin Acee, who never met a stadium or arena deal he didn’t love to bits, says that several people are interested in building a new arena in San Diego, including the owners of the Padres and new Brooklyn Nets minority owner Joe Tsai. Acee adds, “Several people insisted in recent weeks the Nets will remain in Brooklyn long-term and there are no plans to ever move the team to San Diego,” which, given the relative size of the markets, is possibly the least surprising sentence ever written in the English language. Also, Acee includes zero attributed quotes in his story, and says nothing about how such an arena would be paid for, so take it with a large grain of salt for the moment.
  • Donald Trump made retaining the tax-exempt bond subsidy for sports stadiums in the tax bill “a priority,” according to one GOP aide. So when he tweeted in October, “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!”, either he didn’t mean anyone to take him seriously just because he was the president of the United States speaking out on a matter of public policy, or more likely he just forgot to check with his funders before clicking Tweet.
  • “The Miami Open tennis tournament won permission to move to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, with the kickoff planned in 2019,” reports the Associated Press, which seems to be slightly confused about how a tennis match starts.
  • After the NBA used the promise of an All-Star Game for Cleveland in 2020 or 2021 if it approved publicly funded arena renovations for the Cavaliers, and the city approved $70 million worth, the league gave those games to Chicago and Indianapolis. Not that there’s really that much value in hosting an NBA All-Star Game, but still, HA ha, suckers.
  • Apparently the reason why Sacramento didn’t get an MLS expansion team along with Nashville this week is the league is worried the city’s ownership group doesn’t have enough cash for a $150 million expansion fee and a $250 million stadium. All they need is to find someone with deep pockets who thinks the best thing to do with their money is to invest it in a U.S. soccer franchise that will start off $400 million in the hole, and, well, good thing that P.T. Barnum movie is opening this week, that’s all I can say.
  • There’s a “Plan B” stadium proposal for the Pawtucket Red Sox, where instead of helping to fund the stadium directly, the state would instead give the city all income and sales taxes collected at the stadium and let the city use the money on construction costs. Rhode Island state senate president Dominick Ruggerio says he doesn’t “see that as being a viable alternative,” and plans to submit his own stadium-financing bill, which probably won’t pass the state house. This could go on for a while, until somebody remembers where they stored the money generating machine.
  • The Arena Football League is now down to four teams, in part because the Cleveland Gladiators had to suspend operations for the next two seasons thanks to renovations to the Cavaliers’ arena. This was reported in the Albany Times-Union, which has to care because Albany is supposed to be getting an AFL expansion team this year, and man, do I feel sorry for whoever got stuck with being the Times-Union beat reporter on this team, because this is looking like a sad year ahead for them.
  • Deadspin’s Drew Magary weighed in this week on arena and stadium subsidies and concluded that “Arenas Are Important And Football Stadiums Are Not,” according to his headline, but really he meant “if you’re going to waste money on something, at least arenas can be used more days of the year,” which, fair enough. Or as Magary puts it as only he can: “We are entering an age of horrific corruption, and so I have accepted the fact that living in a fraud-free America is a hilarious pipe dream. All I can do is hope for the least of all corruptions, and pray that a bare scrap of public good accidentally comes out of it. If you are some ambitious dickbag city councilman looking to make his name for himself, an arena should be your priority when it comes to getting worked over.”
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke out again about the Calgary Flames arena situation, calling it “very frustrating” and saying that “they’ll hang out and hang on as long as they can and we’ll just have to deal with those things as they come up,” but insisting that “yes, Quebec City has a building, but nobody’s moving right now, we’re not expanding East.” Which either means the Flames owners really don’t want to threaten to move right now (or ever), since making overt move threats is usually Bettman’s job, or it means even Bettman is sick of trying to pretend that the Flames have a viable threat to go anywhere.
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20 comments on “Friday roundup: Trump rescued stadium tax break, Sacramento MLS group needs more cash, more!

  1. Since the Calgary Flames are profitable in their current home, I suppose “hang on as long as they can” means forever.

      1. I’m tired of hearing his rhetoric too… however, it is his job to shill for NHL owners so they don’t have to do it themselves…

        The league is going to keep saying “they can’t hang on forever” and ignoring the fact that the team they are saying this about are a min 2nd quartile revenue producer (and often higher than that) in a good but not excellent market.

        Put another way, if McDonalds marketed it’s franchise health the same way the NHL does, it would be threatening to close 75% of it’s outlets every year unless “someone does something”.

        Expect the NHL to instruct the Flames ownership to take meetings with other cities before this summer is out if the status quo remains. I am hoping Nenshi & council (important to remember that Mayors are just one vote in these things… and in some cases can only vote to break a tie…) continues to hold their current position on this.

        If the city continues to call the team’s bluff, at some point King & Co will have to either actually move or come back to the table with something more taxpayer friendly than they have done.

  2. My biggest fear in Sacramento is that the Council will decide that since the arena deal is working out so incredibly well, a stadium deal will too.

    I haven’t seen anything about the arena’s financial performance, although I have noticed that Golden 1 Center has TWO events planned for April 2018; a single basketball game, and a throwback R&B show. I’d say that’s a trend that absolutely cannot continue. I know they were counting on playoff games, but it’s not like anyone under 18 can actually remember the last time the Kings won a playoff game (this garbage has been going on for nearly a generation now).

    Seriously, though, the Golden 1 Center may have under 100 events in 2018.

      1. So the economic justification for building shared NBA/NHL arenas should be based on ten months operating, given that two months are blocked off for NBA/NHL playoffs every year.

      2. I did a little more research by going to the Golden 1 Center’s events calendar (this wasn’t hard to find) and counting events, just using their calendar. While not 100% accurate, because some event-days had multiple events on a single day (Disney Ice shows, etc), since I stayed consistent on how I counted, I think it’s very close.

        What I’m seeing is that the number of event days at Golden 1 Center is down about 10% month-to-month now. Ten percent may just be noise, but the trend is clear. Business is down by simply counting event days.

        It was about 133 event-days in the first 12 months of operation, and I’d bet they’ll have under 120 in the second 12 month period. Two events scheduled in April is low, even if they think the main tenant will make the playoffs.

        1. Your numbers are very close to mine. I counted 140 event days during the first year and there are 87 scheduled so far for this year. Comparing the first half of each year, there were 94 last year and 82 this year. If the second half of the year matches exactly what they did last year, there would only be 128 total event days. (I don’t count the days when there are tours scheduled. The city and the kings do.)

          Didn’t they promise that the arena would be in use for over 200 days each year?

          1. I definitely noticed that during basketball season, the arena is reasonably busy; but outside the season, it’s not. June last year showed 10 events, with several of those being tour days and a private conference. There were really only about 5 days a member of the public could buy tickets to an event.

            Just compare and contrast that with Brooklyn. We get far fewer events than Brooklyn, because we aren’t Brooklyn.

  3. Which is it, Neil? Do you want sports facilities to have a snowball’s chance in hell of stimulating economic activity, or not?

    If you want sports facilities to be economic drivers, then you have to choose stadiums over arenas. The types of events that happen at stadiums (WrestleMania, Kenny Chesney/Beyonce, major US Men’s Soccer matches, Bowl games, Labor Day college football) are FAR more likely to attract out of town visitors.

    I’m not saying that arenas are worthless economic drivers, but your beloved substitution effect is a much greater factor with arenas than stadiums.

    Also, if we ignore short term economic factors and focus on the role of government, stadiums make more sense than arenas. Stadiums are “infrastructure”. Arenas are increasingly able to operate as “business”.

    1. I’m not sure that’s entirely true — arenas draw some out-of-towners for things like the NCAA tournament, as well as for some concerts — but I do get your point. The problem is that stadiums are dark so many days of the year that they have a huge opportunity-cost hole to dig out of — there are other best uses for the land — and even a Super Bowl or whatever isn’t going to go very far there.

      I don’t get your last point, though: Stadiums should be subsidized because, unlike arenas, they’re such money pits? I can see why this would make teams more likely to demand stadium cash, but it seems like a terrible reason for cities to cough it up.

    2. Re “economic drivers” – 12 stadium events > 100 arena events? Wouldn’t be so sure about that.

    3. When is the last time someone got on an airplane, flew across the country and booked several nights of hotel rooms to see Wrestlemania?

      1. Every year.

        Now the economic impact numbers are probably bs but the visitor numbers are probably good. Mania is a huge deal – bigger than the NCAA Final Four. WWE shakes down cities who host it. It’s probably the 2nd biggest annual stadium sporting event.

  4. Minor correction: It’s the Tampa Bay Storm that tapped out of the AFL yesterday. The Cleveland Gladiators were last week’s “Screw it, we’re out of here” honoree.

  5. It’s absurd to even consider moving the Flames. Move them to where? Des Moines?

    I wish all of you guys a good holiday, and Neil I wish you nothing but continued success, in the new year.

  6. Shocking that an inland city whose major business is State Government wouldn’t have enough corporate wealth to get a soccer team going.

    The arena/stadium “dispute” is fully American. I find it interesting that no one outside of North America seems to believe that a stadium that “works” for about 33% of the year–maximum–would be a “driver” of the local economy. (Particularly dumb–most municipalities don’t have significant sales taxes–they need year round businesses and residents to pay the bills).

    America has better stadiums than any country around, its just that for some reason concert promoters are now more important than anyone else in deciding what we spend our money on.

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