Friday roundup: Saints’ $300m subsidy moves ahead, St. Louis MLS announcement on tap, Richmond council votes no on democracy

Sometimes I feel lucky to cover a topic with so many constant absurdities, and then this happens, and I realize that constant absurdities are just the new normal. Anyway, I did get to edit this this week, which is an excellent look at how this week’s absurdity is having potentially catastrophic impacts on people’s lives, so go read it!

But not before you read these:

  • The Louisiana State Bond Commission has approved selling $450 million worth of state bonds to fund renovations to the Superdome, in exchange for the New Orleans Saints signing a 15-year lease extension. As covered back in May, Saints owner Gayle Benson would cover one-third of the bond cost, leaving Louisiana to pay off $300 million, bringing the Saints’ five-decide subsidy total to a cool $1.442 billion. In exchange, the Saints will sign a 15-year lease extension — with another 15-year option, but there’s no way they’re going to extend their lease again without more subsidies the way this gravy train is rolling — which comes to state taxpayers ponying up $20 million a year for the presence of an NFL team, which is a hell of a lot of money, though not as much as Indiana pays the Pacers, because Indiana.
  • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this week that St. Louis will be announced next Tuesday as the next MLS expansion city, bringing the number of teams in the league to a cool 154. (I think it’s actually 28, but honestly the number changes so fast it’s hard to keep track.) Deadspin read the announcement that there would be no public subsidies for the as-yet-unnamed team’s stadium and excitedly reported that the deal “might not completely fleece the city”; sadly, it will actually involve about $60 million in public subsidies, but since about half of that is coming from the state, not the city, that Deadspin headline is still technically correct, right?
  • The Richmond city council has voted 5-3 against allowing a referendum on the city’s proposed new $350 million city-subsidized arena on the November ballot, because voting is for elected officials, not regular folks. Though regular folks do still get to vote on electing elected officials, something that referendum sponsor Reva Trammell clearly had in mind when she said following the no-voting vote: “I hope the citizens hold their feet to the fire. Every damn one of them that voted against it.”
  • Two-plus years after the arrival of the Hartford Yard Goats in exchange for $63 million in public stadium cash — plus a couple million dollars every year in operating losses — the Hartford Courant has noticed that stadium jobs are usually part-time and poorly paid. Not included in the article: any analysis of how many full-time jobs could have been created by spending $63 million on just about anything else.
  • New Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo said he intends to keep the NHL team in Arizona, but that keeping it in Glendale is a “difficult situation,” at which point a Glendale spokesperson said that city officials would meet with Meruelo “to see how we can help him achieve his goals of success.” Which is all fine and due diligence and all, but given that helping Meruelo “achieve his goals” is likely to mean paying him money to play in Glendale like the city used to do, it’s not exactly promising; if nothing else, Glendale officials would do well to remember that Meruelo currently has exactly zero better arena options elsewhere in the state, so he’s not exactly negotiating from a position of strength.
  • Joe Tsai, who was already set to buy the Brooklyn Nets from Mikhail Prokhorov, has officially exercised his option to purchase the team, plus the Barclays Center arena to boot, for a reported $3.5 billion. Given that the arena is currently losing about $21 million a year, this seems like an awful lot of money even if the team does employ whatever’s left of Kevin Durant. Since Tsai already owns the New York Liberty, though, maybe it at least means that WNBA franchise will finally return to the city from its exile in the suburbs.
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7 comments on “Friday roundup: Saints’ $300m subsidy moves ahead, St. Louis MLS announcement on tap, Richmond council votes no on democracy

  1. Neil…I think you’ll find the “benson tower” & “smoothie king dome” add up to quite a bit more to the Benson piggy bank from literally one of the poorest, uneducated, unhealthy, and crime ridden parts of the US.

    I remember reading (somewhere) about how the “benson tower complex” next to the superdome was centered around “keeping the saints” and was purchased and rehabilitated using tax-payer funds allocated to the bensons and then leased back to the state.

    I wonder what I could do with $1.5billion +++ knowing the biblical story of the master giving his servants gold…

  2. Didn’t the Saints receive a more direct “pay to play” deal about 20 years ago while Benson was still alive?

    I seem to recall the state agreeing to pay the team around $10m annually to continue playing in the Superdome while they did something or other… probably haggle about how many hundreds of millions they would spend on the Superdome in upgrades with all the new revenue going to Benson & co.

    I’m not in favour of this type of corruption, obviously, I would only point out that paying a team $10m to play in an existing arena over a long period could potentially be cheaper than the debt service on building them a new one. Potentially.

  3. Also with the Nets sale, you have Brett Yormark leaving as Nets CEO. Yormark a few years ago told Islanders fans dissatisfied with seats at Barclays with obstructed views that they could see the action on their mobile devices.

  4. Any idea of where overall subsidies are in the last decade compared to the 20 years before? Seems like this dizzying number of handouts–that now include soccer stadiums, renovations more expensive than a stadium, and twenty-year lifespans of some “state of the art” facilities–is, as they say, adding up to “real money.”

    As if this isn’t exactly what we/you knew was coming.

    1. It’s hard to say, since there’s a lot of year-to-year volatility. (And Judith Grant Long hasn’t updated her figures lately.) But in general, yearly subsidies have tended to rise just because sports venues keep getting more expensive, even after adjusting for inflation — so even if cities are paying (maybe) a smaller percentage of costs on average, the actual dollar amounts keep going up.

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