Friday roundup: Tons of news, but you’ll forget it all once you see that Houston is spending public money on a pro rugby stadium

And in other news that doesn’t involve proposed Tampa Bay Rays stadium sites:

  • United Airlines is spending $69 million on naming rights to the Los Angeles Coliseum in advance of the 2028 Olympics, but IOC rules prohibit corporate names during the Olympics, oops. Hope you enjoy the most expensive college-football naming rights deal in history, United!
  • Hotel revenue fell 16% in San Diego last year after the Chargers left town, but went up 0.2% in St. Louis after the Rams left. I’m not honestly sure what if anything this means — you’d really have to look at hotel revenue on football weekends to do this right, and it doesn’t look like this study did — but feel free to speculate wildly.
  • Did I mention the Yahoo Finance article yet that compares the Amazon HQ2 chase to the competition to host the Super Bowl, and cites me saying that while Amazon will bring more jobs, “that said, there’s almost no way it’s worth the kind of money that cities are talking about”? Well, now I have, enjoy!
  • AL.com has recalculated the public costs of a proposed University of Alabama-Birmingham football stadium and come up with a total of $18.2 million a year — $10.7 million from a bunch of county taxes, $3.5 million from a new car rental tax surcharge, $1 million from other county funds, and $3 million from city funds — not the $15.7 million I had previously reported. UAB and a naming rights sponsor and other private contributors, meanwhile, would only put in $4 million a year, and only for the first ten years. Out of his goddamn mind, I tell you.
  • Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report filed a Freedom of Information Law request to see the competing bids for the Belmont Park site that eventually got awarded to the New York Islanders, and was shot down on the grounds that it would “impair present or imminent contract awards.” Wait, wasn’t the contract already awarded? Will it be okay to ask again once it’s too late to do anything about it?
  • The WNBA’s Chicago Sky are moving to the new DePaul basketball arena that the city of Chicago helped pay for, which I guess is marginally good for Chicago in that it gets to steal a tiny sliver of economic activity from Rosemont, screw those guys, right? (Actually, Rosemont is apparently a gated community, so maybe screw those guys.)
  • A New Orleans Pelicans game was delayed because the arena roof leaked. No one is demanding that a new arena be built just yet that I’ve heard, but given that the current one is 19 whole years old, it’s gotta to be a matter of time, even if this one does have a fire fountain.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates are threatening to sue the city-county sports authority over who’ll pay how much for $10 million in improvements to their stadium, because apparently the people who write these stadium leases are idiots.
  • If you enjoy this site but were thinking, “Wouldn’t this be better as a YouTube video with lots of animated charts?”, Vox has got you covered.
  • The Houston city council has approved spending $3.2 million in tax dollars on a pro rugby stadium for the Houston SaberCats, who are a pro rugby team that is going to play in a pro rugby league, which councilmember Jack Christie calls “a beautiful example of public-private partnerships that we ought to look at in the future, because as far as I have heard, there’s not been one city tax dollar used for this development.” I’m done. Have a good weekend.

28 comments on “Friday roundup: Tons of news, but you’ll forget it all once you see that Houston is spending public money on a pro rugby stadium

  1. I literally spewed my coffee when I read that..Jeez..‪Isn’t this for a new rugby league that is replacing the one that was a year old that went bankrupt last year? ‬

  2. Cap One Center in DC is getting $40 million in upgrades, paid for by the naming rights, not the city. This is nice considering that the city paid for the last major upgrade. It also might mean that the teams aren’t maneuvering to move to the old RFK site.

  3. In defense of Rosemont apparently it wasn’t always a gated community & some people in said town were ticked that it became one in the 90s.

    Also I’d be more upset if they end up losing the Wolves personally. An AHL team owned by owners that care about winning in addition to developing players? Wut?

    • Allstate Arena will no longer have a basketball tenant after this month. The Wolves and concerts are all they have left. Based on my experiences there, primarily for basketball games, it’s not a good venue as far as sight-lines and fan amenities. So I wonder what the future is for this place?

      I’m guessing it can do fine with hockey, concerts, and shows. Maybe Wintrust steals some of their concerts and shows though. The Wolves don’t really have any options; I doubt they would move to the Sears Center.

  4. I’m genuinely disappointed. I was hoping that the WNBA team playing in the gated community was the opening round of the last remaining option in customer extortion techniques… charging people to leave the arena/area after the game.

  5. I am able to get out of bed on Fridays because I have the Friday Wrap to read, but I was hoping the number of bullet points would be falling by now.

    Amazon… Yeah, Sacramento bid too. I think it was $500M in incentives. We aren’t in the top 20. But this makes sense; why would HQ2 be on the west coast? To me, Denver makes way more sense. Or somewhere in the middle of the Eastern seaboard?

    • Yeah it’s strange. I’m sure they are keen to keep as many cities bidding from all geographic locations (if nothing else, it might drive up bids from the areas they actually are interested in), but if the new wonderplex isn’t somewhere on/near a line drawn from Atlanta to NY/NJ then I think they’ve lost the plot a bit.

  6. Has Birmingham announced what would happen to Legion Field once this new stadium was built? Because if they keep it that would mean upkeep on two stadiums going forward further adding to costs. And tearing it down would not be cheap so that would be more money going that route, as well.

    Throwing this in for anybody who might be wondering how Birmingham who has never had a high-attendance local team ended up with a stadium the size of Legion Field. Rather odd history there. It started out modest in the 1920s seating under 30K but went through multiple additions until it finally held an astounding 83,000 in the 1990s. (It’s 70,000-ish max now due to the upper deck being removed a while back.) All those additions were done to host 1-2 games per year. The Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama was there every year for decades plus Alabama played Tennessee there every other year. That was a WHOLE lot of stadium for a couple games per year. (There were also some Olympic events there during the Atlanta Games.) But since around 2000 it hasn’t hosted any of the Auburn or Alabama games. UAB averages in the 20s so it’s a cavern for them.

    • Thanks, always wondered why LF was the size it was… I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game (on tv) there that didn’t look to have ten-thirty thousand empty seats/benches.

      Maybe it’s one of those economic driver things… the stadium was supposed to drive growth but didn’t, so they expanded it to drive growth and it didn’t. Rinse Repeat. Eventually they tried to drive economic growth by dismantling sections of it. Did that work?

      And we used to laugh at the communists for paying people to dig holes and then paying other people to fill them. Strange days.

      • Anybody remember that time the NBA moved the three-point line in to increase scoring, and then a couple of years later moved the three-point line out to increase scoring?

    • These arrangements date from the early days of college football, when on-campus stadiums were often very small or non-existent and “neutral” venues could be used to meet high demand. Army-Navy is a relic of that arrangement (Army used to play numerous high-profile games at Yankee Stadium, as an example). So is Texas-Oklahoma.

      Of course, later on a combination of increased interest and tax laws allowed universities to attempt to build enormous stadia of their own, which meant the old arenas had to either keep up or be forgotten (as the Cotton Bowl was for the Red River War, and Legion Field as well).

      European colleagues of mine are always astounded at the quality of these places and their location on university campuses (college sports is simply “not a thing” in Europe). Alabama’s stadium is probably nicer than 90% of Italian and French soccer stadiums. Whether that has anything to do with education…

      • European stadiums have to be built out of the team’s own revenues and the risk of relegation causes them not to overdo it too much so the stadiums tend to be more modest.

        As you noted, college teams tend to build with OPM (other people’s money) so they go hog wild. They are also using the stadium tickets as a fundraising anchor for their other events so they tend to go big just so they’ll have more tickets to give to donors.

        • Some countries, especially those that have hosted big international events, have dipped their toes into public funding. In many of those cases, the experiment has caused extreme financial challenges for the teams (Portugal comes to mind).

          There are some countries where teams play in public stadia–Italy has quite a few. These tend to be bare-bones affairs, unlike their American equivalents, which actually has pushed a few teams to build their own stadium. Imagine that.

  7. Anecdatum 1 of 1 – if you have an Amazon headquarters, the city might find some private investors to help rebuild an arena near it.

  8. The USL team in Birmingham will sign an 8 year lease to play games at UAB’s soccer complex. So I guess those college football and concert ticket prices are going to be a lot high now.

  9. What’s wrong with the Houston MLS stadium that it can’t host rugby. The two sports share a number of stadiums in other countries.

    • It would work fine for the reason you have stated. I would imagine that they consider it too big (or too expensive to rent, if rent would be required) for a fledgling team in a fledgling league.

      Apparently the money being spent was earmarked for improvements to the same park the stadium (no word on size but I would have to think max 2,500 seats at that price) is to be built in and includes parking area upgrades and the like.

      It’s still pretty bogus, but at least some of the money covers general upgrades to the place this team will/may play.

      Is “using the money you set aside to repair your car to pay a month’s cab fees instead” a reasonable analogy?

      • Or more likely the Dynamo doesn’t want to share revenues, and if they can get city money to build their own it will work out better for the rugby owners pocketbooks.

  10. Let’s hope United Airlines is not in charge of selling tickets at the 2028 Olympics. We might have to add ‘spectator dragging’ as a certified sport.

  11. Heaven forbid that Rosemont should be a gated community; trying to keep out murderers, rapists, drug pushers and terrorists. They should accept those things, like New Yorkers accept army soldiers in full battle gear in Penn Station and roadblocks to minimize terrorist driving low tech automobiles into crowds on sidewalks.

  12. “Hotel revenue fell 16% in San Diego last year after the Chargers left town, but went up 0.2% in St. Louis after the Rams left. I’m not honestly sure what if anything this means — you’d really have to look at hotel revenue on football weekends to do this right, and it doesn’t look like this study did — but feel free to speculate wildly.”

    Pretty simple, really: Given the optional choice between going to San Diego for a weekend to take in a football game, and going to St. Louis for a weekend to take in a football game, which city would you choose?

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