Friday roundup: Pistons disguise empty seats as other-colored empty seats, Olympics tourism is bad and likely to get worse, Suns have no clue about arena plans, and more!

Off we go! In my case, literally: I’ll be traveling all next week, so if you don’t hear much from me around here, hold tight and I’ll catch up with all the news on my return. In the meantime, keep yourself warm at night with this week’s worth of fresh items:

  • Pyeongchang’s surge in tourism for the Olympics is unlikely to be sustained in future years, according to a study that shows tourism levels quickly drop back to normal, when they even have an Olympic uptick in the first place. (Overseas visitors to London were actually down in the summer of 2012.) Given that you can still walk up and buy tickets to most of this year’s Olympic events, I wouldn’t count on it being an exception to the rule. Hope the locals enjoy all those new hotels!
  • Phoenix Rising F.C. is designing a new MLS-ready stadium on the site of its current temporary stadium on the Salt River Pima reservation, and claims it will pay the whole $250 million cost. That would sure be nice, but then that’s what we were told in Sacramento, too.
  • The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity is sponsoring bills in state legislatures that establishing bans on spending public money on pro sports stadiums, which would kick in as soon as 25 states agreed to join the compact. Better they spend on that than on trying to buy Congress, certainly, but as sports economist John Vrooman noted to the Arizona Republic, this wouldn’t stop the other 25 states from continuing to spend to try to lure teams, at which point the whole system would break down. Vrooman said really any legislation needs to happen on the federal level, and “unfortunately for local taxpayers held hostage, that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.” You gotta believe, John!
  • The projected cost to restore Miami Marine Stadium — remember Miami Marine Stadium? — has risen from $45 million to $59.6 million, and Miami has only $50.4 million set aside to pay for it, and yeah, that’s not good.
  • If you were wanting a long, fawning profile of the Golden State Warriors COO in charge of building their new arena, the Associated Press is here to serve. I’m more interested in the accompanying photo of a giant model of the arena, which makes the upper deck seats look kinda crappy thanks to an intervening clot of suites and club seats, but other images that show the end seats make it look not so bad, so I’ll withhold judgment until somebody (maybe even me!) sees the new place with their own eyes.
  • Hey, Phoenix Suns president Jason Rowley, how are your arena plans going? “‘What’s the best solution?’ It hasn’t been figured out yet.” Are you thinking of going in on an arena with the Arizona Coyotes? “There really hasn’t been a whole lot of conversation between us and the Coyotes.” Any hints at all about what your plans might be? “There are so many pieces to an arena conversation that it’s very difficult to identify one thing that would either be a go-forward situation or one thing that would impact where you’re ultimately going to end up.” The Suns have an opt-out in their current arena lease in 2022, so expect more heated rhetoric once we get closer to that date.
  • The Detroit Pistons are putting black seat covers over the red seats at their new arena during their home games, to make it less obvious how many empty seats there are. The covers are removed for Red Wings games, because the Red Wings’ team color is red, so I guess for them it’s not embarrassing, it’s promotion of their brand? The Pistons are also letting fans move down from the upper deck to the lower at no cost to make the empty seats look less bad on television. Hope Detroit is enjoying all that economic development!
  • At least Detroit got lots of local construction jobs from the arena, and that’s one thing no one can take away! Unless you believe the claims of a local construction worker’s lawsuit against one arena contractor, which says he was only hired to meet the project’s 51% local hiring quota and then immediately fired, while at the same time suburban workers were brought in under fake addresses. And even then, city data shows that only 27% of total workers on the arena project lived in Detroit.
  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says he approves of the Tampa Bay Rays‘ preferred Ybor City site for a new stadium — it’s literally his job to say this, so no surprise there — and has told Tampa business leaders that they need to be “engaged in this effort” because “it’s good for community over the long haul.” He then added, “It’s crucial that we get a facility here that allows the Rays to get more toward the middle of the industry in terms of their revenues,” which pretty much sounds like, Hey, local corporate titans, one of your brethren isn’t making as much profit as he’d like, please give him a bunch of your money so his bank balance looks better, okay? More power to him if that sales pitch works, I guess, but I’m in no way confident it will take a significant bite out of that $400 million-plus funding hole, and remain concerned it’s mostly misdirection so that whenever the Rays eventually go to taxpayers hat in hand, they can say, Look, the business community is already chipping in, you gotta do your part too, capisce?
Share this post:

19 comments on “Friday roundup: Pistons disguise empty seats as other-colored empty seats, Olympics tourism is bad and likely to get worse, Suns have no clue about arena plans, and more!

  1. Regarding the Tampa Bay Rays, please read “Grade F: The Math Simply Fails for a Stadium Relocation” posted at

  2. Why don’t the Pistons do a mix of black seat covers, white seat covers, blue seat covers and no seat covers? Then it would actually look on TV like there are people at the games rather than just a mass of black empty seats rather than the current mass of red empty seats.

    1. Or decals of people!

      (They just have to be careful that they don’t accidentally place some of them upside-down, like happened in the South Bronx.)

    2. Still waiting for a team to imitate the “shotgun seating” color that they had at the Met Center in Minnesota, where seats were all random green, gold, and white. the Superdome has this as well, but not as brightly.

  3. A couple years back a Japanese team actually put people cardboard cut outs in seats. If the cut outs are on their cell phones no one could tell the difference.

  4. Mike,
    The superdome was initially designed with multi-color seats so that when empty it would appear as through there were more people on tv. I know this sounds stupid, and a lie, but it is true. Also, it was designed to not be full capacity at all times so that a baseball team (originally the A’s-if I remember correctly) can play and full the bottom two of the 3 levels. After Katrina the saints “renovated” the stadium so the seats couldn’t be retracted and used as anything other than a football field and replaced the multi-colored seats with black ones.

  5. You missed one! The Sacramento Kings want to host the NBA All Star Game in 2022 or 2023.

    They have yet to address one issue: Getting large cruise ships to Sacramento is not feasible at this time. The bridge in Rio Vista is much too low (by about 100 feet) to allow large cruise ships in, and the channel is much too shallow as well.

    Could they bring small ships in? Of course. But they’d need many of these to make it work, and they’d be docked in an industrial area (Lake Washington isn’t as romantic as it sounds.

    No, they’ll have to build hotels.

    I think it’ll make heads explode up here when San Francisco gets it before Sacramento. I’m looking forward to it.

  6. Anthony LeBlanc is up to his old tricks back in Canada, too.

    1. Yeah, I won’t be surprised if their “everything is in place” turns out to be “everything but $225m in public money is in place, we’ve done our part” (which will be $10m, of course).

      I don’t see a stadium happening in the region without major public funding. Governments have said there won’t be public funding, so….

  7. So the Pistons are actually paying someone to put covers on thousands of seats before each game and then take them off after each game. I can hear it now, “We need a basketball only venue. How can we play in front of the wrong color seats?” Just kidding on that one……… for now.

    1. My question is why they’re bothering to take them off rather than just leaving them in place. The linked photo shows that the seats are perfectly usable with the covers on so why not just leave them on al the time? I don’t believe the color makes any real difference but the logo on the cover from a distance does seem to break things up just enough it gives a bit of an illusion of there being something other than just an empty seat there.

  8. The Warriors have to be furious with Welts. He was specifically hired to shepherd the move to Frisco and their arena is going to be a white elephant before it opens, due to the MSG Sphere.

    1. Furious with him why? What was the guy in charge of the Warriors new arena supposed to do about the MSG Sphere? According to MSG it’s not even a usable venue for basketball so they couldn’t have built a sphere for the Warriors even if they’d wanted to. That’s like you being furious at your homebuilder because some other builder is putting up a new kind of of office building several states away.

  9. Miami Marine is clearly big enough to hold the number of paying fans the Marlins average…. and it’s more or less in the same district. Ok, so the field would have to float, who cares. Another missed opportunity for the city gov’t.

  10. As far as disguising empty seats as fans is concerned, I need to send you pictures from Golden 1 Center. I have never seen the arena 2/3 full. I think they’re selling their tickets, sure, but people aren’t attending games.

    And this one has always bugged me, during their “get loud!” part of the game, they play fan sounds over the sound system. It’s piped in sound. So fake. I don’t know why they do this.

    1. They aren’t the only franchise to have done this to make the crowd sound a) larger and b) more interested.

      IMO, it’s just another version of announcing a sellout when there are clearly 4-5,000 empty seats. I’m sure all those tickets are technically sold… after all, we live in a world where teams now routinely scalp their own tickets on the secondary market.

  11. Of course, there is a simpler solution than cardboard cutouts or camoflage seat covers….

    Yes, that tried and true standard, paying for people to go to the venues you built to spur economic development so you don’t look like such a fool for building them in the first place…

    Wouldn’t it be great if this sunk cost argument worked in, you know, real life? Like a developer has inventory he can’t sell so s/he pays you to take one of his new houses… or GM can’t sell all it’s $70k pickup trucks so they offer you $10k to just drive away in one to make things look better on the lot…

    Never happens to me. Never….

  12. I went to the Pistons’ home opener at the new arena. Good sets…sec. 119, row 10. Perhaps one reason a lot of seats are empty is that these seats listed at $203.00 a pop. (I was given the ticket.)

Comments are closed.