Friday roundup: IRS hands sports owners another tax break, A’s accused of skimping on Coliseum land price, Rays could decide this summer on … something

Happy Friday! Here is a fatberg of stadium and arena news to clog up your weekend:

  • San Jose Mercury News columnist Daniel Borenstein says the Oakland A’s owners could be getting a discount of between $15 million and $65 million on their purchase of half the Oakland Coliseum site from Alameda County, which is hard to tell without opening up the site to other bids, which Alameda County didn’t do. You could also look at comparable land sale prices and try to guess, which shows that the A’s owners’ offer is maybe closer to fair value; it’s not a tremendous subsidy either way, but still oh go ahead, just write us a check for whatever you think is fair is probably not the best way to sell off public assets, yeah.
  • St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman says he expects to hear by this summer from Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg whether Sternberg will seek to build a stadium in St. Pete or across the bay in Tampa. Of course, Sternberg already announced once that he was picking Tampa and then gave up when nobody in Tampa wanted to pay for his $900 million stadium, so what an announcement this summer would exactly mean, other than who Sternberg will next go to hat in hand, remains unclear.
  • Fred Lindecke, who helped get an ordinance passed in St. Louis in 2002 that requires a voter referendum before spending public sports venues, would like to remind you that the soccer stadium deal approved last December still has to clear that hurdle, not that anybody is talking about it. Since the soccer subsidies would all be tax kickbacks and discounted land, not straight-up cash, I suspect this could be headed for another lawsuit.
  • Cory Booker and James Lankford have reintroduced their bill to block the use of federal tax-exempt bonds for sports venues, but only Booker got in the headline because Lankford isn’t running for president. (Okay, also it’s from a New Jersey news site, and Booker is from New Jersey.) Meanwhile, the IRS just handed sports team owners an exemption from an obscure provision of the Trump tax law that would have forced them to pay taxes on player trades; now teams can freely trade their employees like chattel without having to worry about taxes that all other business owners have to, thank god that’s resolved.
  • Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant, for some reason, revealed that “Seattle is having a meeting to try to bring back the Sonics,” but turns out it’s just Chris Hansen meeting with a bunch of his partners and allies from his failed Sodo arena plan, not anyone from city government at all, so everybody please calm down.
  • The rival soccer team that lost out to David Beckham’s Inter Miami for the Lockhart Stadium site in Fort Lauderdale is now suing to block Beckham’s plans for a temporary stadium and permanent practice facility there, because this is David Beckham so of course they are.
  • Publicly owned Wayne State University is helping to build a $25 million arena for the Detroit Pistons‘ minor-league affiliate, and Henderson, Nevada could pay half the cost of a $22 million Las Vegas Golden Knights practice facility, and clearly cities will just hand out money if you put “SPORTZ” on the name of your project, even if it will draw pretty much zero new tourists or spending or anything. Which, yeah, I know is the entire premise of this site, but sometimes the craziness of it all just leaps up and smacks you in the face, you know?
  • The Philadelphia Union owners have hired architects to develop a “master plan” for development around their stadium in Chester, because they promised the city development and there hasn’t been any development and maybe drawing a picture of some development will make it appear, couldn’t hurt, right?
  • Wannabe Halifax CFL owner Anthony LeBlanc insisted that “we are moving things along, yeah” on getting federal land to build a stadium on, while showing no actual evidence that things are moving along. “The only direction that council has ever given on this is ‘dear staff, please analyze the business case when it comes,’” countered Halifax regional councillor Sam Austin. “Everything else is media swirl.”
  • Never mind that bill that could have repealed the Austin F.C. stadium’s property tax break, because its sponsor has grandfathered in the stadium and any other property tax breaks that were already approved.
  • Hamilton, Ontario, could be putting its arena up for sale, if you’re in the market for an arena in Hamilton, Ontario.
  • And finally, here’s an article by the Sacramento Bee’s Tony Bizjak on how an MLS franchise would be great for Sacramento because MLS offers cheap tickets and a diverse crowd who like public transportation and MILLENNIALS!!!, plus also maybe it could help incubate the next Google, somehow! And will it cost anything or have any other negative impacts? Yes, including $33 million in public subsidies, but Tony Bizjak doesn’t worry about such trivialities. MILLENNIALS, people!!!

9 comments on “Friday roundup: IRS hands sports owners another tax break, A’s accused of skimping on Coliseum land price, Rays could decide this summer on … something

  1. Someone should forward Oakland leadership the contact information of the appraisal firm that valued the Angels parking lots. Appraisers are licensed by the state they practice in, so they should have no problem providing the same service.

  2. What’s discussed above is not exactly a tax break – it’s really the IRS avoiding a difficult analysis that may or may not have resulted in tax. The value of the contract is only in it being at or below market value, and as the accountants quoted point out, that’s a difficult analysis that’s probably not worth engaging in.

    • Sure, and it’s arguably a stupid tax provision anyway. But until businesses in other industries get an “Enh, whatever” ruling from the IRS, it’s still special treatment for sports teams, which could end up saving them money.

  3. Anthony LeBlanc has not changed from his days here in Arizona, as he is still looking for taxpayers to fund his stadium.

    Interview video: https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1672921&binId=1.1145518&playlistPageNum=1

  4. Durant was just trying to throw some shade over the Knicks rumours with his Seattle thing… or so I’ve been told…

  5. In the linked article, I didn’t see any discussion about the cost to demolish the existing structures etc at the coliseum site in Oakland.

    Do we know if the land price is just to purchase the land under the coliseum/arena and does not represent the “bare land” cost alone? (IE: it will cost a fair bit to demolish what is there and prep the land for alternate development).

    Borenstein does seem outraged that Alameda has decided to sell it’s half directly to the A’s (if they want it), but I don’t see the impact to the city itself frankly. Yes, the city would be shackled to it’s co-owner if the A’s owned half the plot (just as it is now)… but so would the A’s.

    In the world of conjoined property ownership (party wall/strata, whatever you want to call it) the person buying one half of a split development last tends to have to overpay to gain control of the other half. So, barring any type of shotgun clause in the City/County ownership agreement, one can make the case that the city is quite a bit better off dealing with the A’s as co-owner (who are presumably motivated not to stay in the present facility and will want to get something done, even if it does mean taking a less than perfect deal from their new partner).

    Is there anything stopping another party from making an unsolicited bid for the city’s portion of the parcel (or interest therein, given that ownership is probably not split along a physical line anywhere…)?

    If I were an Oakland property investor and I knew that the team had just agreed/proposed to buy out Alameda, I would be snuggling up to the city to see if I couldn’t get a head start on buying their interest. There’s money to be made if the A’s want to redevelop all that property and feel they need to own all of it.

    • Interesting thoughts Mr. Bladen. I’ve always valued your input and commentary on this site. Please keep up the great posts.

      There is a ton of vacant property in and around the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum. The Walmart across the 880 closed years ago. Home Depot, not far too far south of the Coliseum, is threatening to close due to high crime/theft (https://www.nbcbayarea.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Home-Depot-Set-to-Leave-Oakland__Bay-Area-508832232.html)

      Perhaps Alameda County see’s little development hope for the area and is willing to accept the first offer for their share?

  6. Little late, I know, but the lede on Wayne State building an arena for the Pistons’ minor league team is not what the actual article says. The ‘stons D-League team is three hours west in Grand Rapids, MI, and isn’t looking to move anytime soon (with the exception of the 3rd-tier Detroit City F.C., minor league teams don’t draw flies in Detroit).

    Wayne State is (despite the low level of its’ athletics program) the third largest university in the state by student population, and statistically, one of the safest campuses in the country despite its Midtown Detroit location. However, it’s largely been a commuter school, and they’ve taken significant steps to reverse that; replacing city streets with walkable malls, bicycle lanes, and new housing complexes – that are full, by the way. Part of that is replacing the 55-year-old Matthei Center gym with a modern facility. Bear in mind, there’s no wailing and gnashing of teeth over leaving a “historic” building; Matthei was designed and began construction as part of Detroit’s Olympic bid, back in the early 60s. When the USOC declined to back Detroit’s bid, the school tweaked the design in a way that fit them…. in the 60s.

    Truth is, Wayne is building a new on-campus arena to keep students at the school after classes…. and the ‘stons (who are building their own practice facility a few blocks away) are just tenants. (Full disclosure, my son attends WSU, a resident assistant in the athletic/graduate student dorms.)

    • …. and to be honest, I neglected to read the full Free Press article, so I didn’t see the part about moving the Drive closer to Detroit, but they’re not interested in moving the team.