Friday roundup: Helicopter rides for rich fans, pricey bridge prices, and why Deadspin mattered

In case anyone hasn’t been following this week’s Deadspin drama, pretty much the entire staff has resigned over the past two days, following Tuesday’s decision by CEO Jim Spanfeller to fire acting editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky because the staff had responded to Spanfeller’s edict to “stick to sports” by posting a ton of excellent non-sports content. A few last posts have gone up the last couple of days, some to burn off features that were already scheduled to run and some to take classically Deadspinesque digs at management for burning down a popular website seemingly out of spite for continuing to do exactly what it had been doing for years before they bought it.

This is very bad news for journalism and America and humanity, and not only if you, like me, will miss the site’s potshots at our Big Wet President. There’s a popular notion that sports is just a fun diversion where the “outside world” of politics has no place — and that, as I hope the entire 21-year history of this site has made abundantly clear, is an extremely dangerous notion, because it means that concerns over what taxpayers are being charged for places to play sports or what athletes are being paid to play sports or who is allowed to speak out on what issues involving sports are dismissed with a Can’t we just watch the game? But games are serious — and lucrative — business, and can’t be divorced from the greater culture, any more than we should be just watching movies as pure entertainment without attention to the bigger issues involved. Deadspin was dedicated to erasing those lines and allowing its writers to address whatever they felt needed addressing at the moment, whether it was the meaning of who you’re seen sitting with at a football game or what we’re getting stuck in our rectums each year, and until and unless a successor emerges to pick up the torch, the world will be a sadder, dumber place.

(Already yesterday I read about Josh Hamilton’s arrest after his daughter said he threw a chair at her — a phrasing I owe to this excellent Deadspin non-sports article, incidentally — and wished I could read Deadspin’s analysis of it. Then I read about John Wetteland’s arrest for reportedly sexually assaulting a four-year-old child, and thought I wonder if maybe men’s sports should just be banned altogether at this point given the kind of behavior it encourages and realized Deadspin was probably my best bet for reading that take, too. It’s going to be a long however many weeks or months until something arises from Deadspin’s ashes, if that ever happens.)

Anyway, on to the weekly muddling of sports and politics:

  • The Indiana Pacers‘ arena will still be named after the bank that stopping paying for naming rights in June until the team has found a new naming-rights sponsor, which seems weird at first but actually makes total sense: It costs money to change the signage so why do it twice, and also the value of naming rights goes down with each new iteration of a corporate moniker that dilutes the name’s image for the public — quick, tell me what the Oakland Coliseum’s official name is these days — so calling it “Pacers Arena” or whatever for a few months might get fans to start calling it that permanently, and we can’t have that. And if you’re wondering why the Pacers get to sell naming rights to a building that was built entirely with public dollars and is owned by the public: It’s Indianapolis, Jake.
  • St. Louis’s new MLS stadium finally has a site picked out — Market Street near Union Station, if you’re scoring at home — and new renderings as well, though they look pretty much like the old renderings except for the one that is just a closeup of a kid riding on his parent’s (?) shoulders. The state of Missouri has received approval to sell 22 acres of land for the stadium to the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, which will then lease it to the MLS team for … oh, that doesn’t seem to have been reported. Just look at the pretty pictures and don’t worry your head about that nasty money business.
  • A public city database in Atlanta is indicating that the city’s $23 million pedestrian bridge for the Falcons actually cost $41.7 million, but the city insists it’s really just that they entered the same checks multiple times. I’m not sure “spent $23 million on a pedestrian bridge for a football team and also can’t do basic bookkeeping” looks much better, honestly.
  • The San Antonio Spurs — whose mascot is for some reason a kangaroo, is that a kangaroo? — have installed four new helipads so that fans can buy helicopter rides to games, which really tells you everything you need to know about 1) who sports teams are interested in marketing to these days and 2) just how ridiculously much money rich people in America have to burn these days.
  • Fresno FC owner Ray Beshoff has declared he “will almost certainly be relocating the team” because he hasn’t been provided with a new soccer-only stadium, unless “in the next two or three weeks if people come to the table with ideas or suggestions that we think are tenable.” This will come as a huge shock to fans who’ve been dedicated followers of the USL team since (looks up team on Wikipedia) March of 2018.
  • The San Francisco 49ers are raising ticket prices by 13% but giving season ticket holders free food and soda, which I guess means 49ers fans will be spending most of games from now on pigging out on all-you-can-eat nachos instead of watching the action on the field. Also, you can’t get the free food if you buy tickets on the secondary market, only if you’re the original season ticket holder. Or, I guess, borrow the season ticket holder’s free-food card? Or have a season ticket holder go up to the counter for you and get your nachos? I don’t live anywhere near Santa Clara and hate football, but I am very excited at seeing how fans figure out how to game this system.
  • Still nobody is sure which minor-league teams MLB will threaten to eliminate as part of its plan to restrict minor-league affiliates, or what criteria MLB will use for deciding who shall live and who shall die or whether MLB is even serious or just trying to scare minor-league players into not demanding they be paid minimum wage. I really should write about this for Deadsp — crap.
  • It rained at the Buffalo Bills game last weekend, so a local country music station ran a poll asking listeners: “Would you be in favor of a roof stadium or no?” Not included: any mention of what a roof would cost, or what WYRK has against the word “roofed.”
  • The corporate newspaper that helped gut a free daily by selling it to people who immediately laid off most of the editorial staff ran an article this week asking if the new New York Islanders arena will make it harder for the nearby Nassau Coliseum to draw events, but I’m not going to link to a union-busting-enabling outlet that put the article behind a paywall anyway, so let me just answer the question here: Duh, yes!
  • A former assistant to Inglewood Mayor James Butts has changed her testimony in the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Clippers‘ proposed arena, and Inglewood officials are asking that her revised testimony be rejected because they say she’s in “cahoots” with Madison Square Garden, which opposes the arena because it doesn’t want competition for its own arena nearby. Elephants, man.
  • The DreamHouse New Mexico Bowl has been canceled, because alleged film production company and title sponsor DreamHouse turns out not to exist, but rather to be a scam perpetrated by “a relentless self promoter who lies about nearly everything he says he does.”
  • A giant water droplet named Wendy has made a video suggesting that Washington’s NFL team should move back within city limits. Sorry, Sean Doolittle, this is actually the most 2019 Washington thing ever.
  • The Sunshine Coast Pickleball Association is seeking funding from the city of Sechelt for a new pickleball stadium. I don’t actually know where Sechelt is and am only dimly aware of what pickleball is, and I’m not going to ruin the perfect sentence above by looking either thing up.
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31 comments on “Friday roundup: Helicopter rides for rich fans, pricey bridge prices, and why Deadspin mattered

  1. Re Newsday’s coverage of the two-arena problem on Long Island: just a little late, as I wrote:

    1. That doesn’t look anything like a coyote. Are you sure the Spurs didn’t buy a surplus kangaroo costume and try to pass it off as a coyote?

  2. I have an idea which minor league teams will NOT be eliminated: Teams in which the Parent Club has an ownership stake.That said, if in the new CBO between the owners and Players Association the Draft is cut to 20 Rounds and International Players are included, there is less of a need for minor league affiliates.

  3. “a scam perpetrated by a relentless self promoter who lies about nearly everything he says he does.”

    If this were a valid reason to cancel ANYTHING the world would be a much, much different place.

  4. Oh, and if you just google “What the fuck is pickleball”, the answer will magically pop up. This didn’t used to happen when you shouted the same phrase at a newspaper in the 1970s.

    Count me among those disappointed to learn that it literally has nothing to do with pickles… but this means it could be Pence’s favourite (or only) sport.

  5. Looks like Fresno FC folded three days ago:

    1. I saw that article, but it’s based on the same press release as the article I cited in this post. I suspect the headline-writing department at ABC 30 skimmed the story too fast and didn’t notice that the owner was saying “done IN FRESNO.”

      1. Nope. 1 day ago.

        You don’t really believe Ray Beshoff is going to walk from the $5 million USL Expansion Fee he paid, especially after obtaining both the PDL Fresno Fuego and the WPSL Fresno Freeze and shuttering these successful soccer teams (PDL Fuego played 12 of their 16 years at Chukchanski Park, quite happy to do so, having strong fan support for a 4th tier soccer team). Beshoff’s message couldn’t have been more clear “I don’t support local soccer” and “I want to eliminate any Fresno FC competition that may impact attendance.” Sure he’ll be quite happy to relocate to Monterey, where he lives.

        Funny how current digital disappears or gets re-written. Without the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, digital history would be lost.

  6. “Still nobody is sure which minor-league teams MLB will threaten to eliminate as part of its plan to restrict minor-league affiliates…”

    I’ve got a guess, although the numbers don’t quite work out. I see four entire leagues eliminated: The New York-Penn (14 teams), Northwest (8), Appalachian (10) and Pioneer (8) leagues. That’s 40 of the 42 MLB wants to get rid of, all of them short-season developmental leagues that to some degree are replicating what the GCL and AZL complex-ball league also do, only with road trips, apartments and people in the stands.

    Just as easy to have a kid report to Bradenton or Tempe as Pulaski or Idaho Falls, plus you’ve got almost 24/7 control of a prospect living in your spring training complex while practicing and playing on diamonds you already own. Getting rid of 20 rounds worth of the draft would cut costs, too.

    MiLB will obviously fight like hell to keep things as they are, but what power do they really have?

    1. Except that some of the teams in those leagues are among the more popular and profitable, and also MLB teams love having their affiliates close enough that they can easily visit there, send players there on rehab, etc. So you’ll need to kick some of those teams up to higher levels, which means Sally League teams, say, will instead face the firing squad.

      So we’re back to “no one knows.”

      1. Having an affiliate nearby is nice, but what does an MLB organization care about how popular or profitable their Short Season A affiliate is if they aren’t the ones making the money? They already have well-manicured ballparks/practice fields and dormitories within close proximity to each other in Arizona and Florida that don’t get much use after Spring Training…it’d be an easy transition for MLB.

        We’re all guessing, but I’ll stick with mine. Ultimately, I think this is about controlling the environment younger prospects develop in with a healty dose of cost containment while eliminating the need to even deal with team operators in places like Kentucky or Montana. Cold-blooded for sure, but Rob Manfred is not a warm and fuzzy guy.

        1. Popularity matters when it comes to cultivating fanbases. For example, the Salt Lake Bees and Orem Owlz have been affiliates of the Angels for 20 years, which is a big reason why that team has so many fans out here. (In fact, the Angels and Dodgers, who are long-time affiliates with the Ogden Raptors, do better in Utah than the Diamondbacks or Rockies). That’s not nothing in terms of value.

    1. You know, I really thought “let’s ban men’s sports” was going to be the part of today’s post that would be controversial, but it just goes to show you never can tell.

  7. Sechelt is a small town on the west coast of British Columbia, just north of Vancouver.

    Pickleball is a game that’s kind of combination between tennis and badminton. Although I’ve never tried it, I see a lot of seniors playing it here in Canada. Apparently it’s a popular way for them to stay active with a lower risk of injury.

    1. Pickleball is kind of popular here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, (apparently spreading from retirement havens like Florida & Arizona) among some in my geezer demographic (60-80 yrs old) and especially those who were previously ‘social’ tennis players, at least according to my non-scientific observations/conversations. My local community even converted some public-park tennis courts to pickleball courts. I was never a tennis player and haven’t tried pickleball, so I’m by no means an aficionado of the activity.

      Reading the link, I can’t find anything really too outrageous or even interesting — sounds like a mundane request to the civic government to lease land for pickleball courts (next to some similarly leased land for racquetball courts) that would be covered by an inflatable dome, much like the golf-practice domes we had here in the Midwest US when golf was in its ‘Tiger-boom’. I don’t think I’d even call it a ‘stadium’, since it doesn’t sound like any significant spectator seating (tiered or otherwise) would be present. And at the end of the day, I’m good with communities leasing land to organizations that are about healthy participatory physical activity, as opposed to throwing money at billionaires to build stadiums/arenas where the vast majority of the inhabitants sit on their dead-butts, eating & drinking insanely priced* food/drink.

      * Favorite anecdotal stories: fan-friends went to a MLB game in Washington, DC, and paid $52 fo 2 hot dogs and 2 beers! Another friend went to a Dodgers playoff game in LA and sent me a pic of menu prices with a $20 bottle of beer (micro-brew).

      1. Completely agree. The sport itself holds no interest for me, but if actual taxpayers are the ones mainly benefitting from the existence of the proposed pickledome this is far better use of taxpayer funding than “giving it to a billionaire so he can build a stadium and charge people $12,000 for the right to buy ($400) tickets to go watch his team play.

  8. I am all for reducing political content in sports and sports reporting. I read this site to stay informed of baseball and football stadium news, but wading through the constant diatribes, snarkiness, and left-wing bias is exhausting.

    1. It would be really hard to write about the system by which wealthy sports team owners extract billions of dollars from public treasuries via lobbying, threats, and exploiting their connections to elected officials and the media without including any political content.

    2. As long as billionaire team owners expect taxpayers to build them stadiums, I’m not sure how you separate politics from sports stadiums.

    3. It’s pretty emblematic of modern American “conservativism” that stating facts and providing supporting evidence is viewed as something that constitutes a “liberal bias”.

    4. I happen to agree with you, sporscshould be an escape from politics. It is funny that you NEVER hear complaints from The Left about building an art museum, symphony orchestra music hall, or opera house, those are the kind of things that about 2 percent of the population like (and half of those are wealthy).

      1. I can’t think of any recent opera houses that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars in public money of late (I can’t think of a whole lot of opera houses built recently, period). But on the subject of “things that about 2 percent of the population likes,” it’s worth noting that the Met has more than double the attendance of the Mets.

        Another industry that is a giant subsidy suck is film and TV, which I’ve written about on several occasions, and mention here when there’s news about it. Should that have a “no politics” rule as well?

      2. It isn’t “sports” that is being drawn into politics (except when the military pays MLB teams, NASCAR or other sporting endeavours to salute them), it’s the method of funding the facilities they play in.

        If the buildings are built with public money and are rented to the franchise owners at something approaching market rate, there would be no need for this site at all (sorry Neil). Or if the owners built the facilities the same way they build their other “profit centers”. But they don’t.

        The reason politics always enters into it is that professional sports has become one of the chief methods by which the state provides welfare to billionaires.

        As for “opera houses and art museums”, I think you’ll find that many of those were funded the way that sports palaces ought to be… by billionaires donating money to a fundraising effort (or funding the entire building) in order to have their name permanently attached – another practice that has been corrupted by the MBA class.

        Museums and libraries are often free (or very low cost) for the general public to enter as well – Not something you can say about a modern publicly funded sports stadium.

  9. I’m like a lot of people here who views sports as an escape from politics, especially given how politics have divided this country (Thank God I’m moving to The Philippines in December so I don’t have to be around for next year’s elections, particularly their aftermath). However, there’s no way to do a good, honest website about stadiums and arenas by leaving politics out of it. As long as pols continue to subsidize construction of facilities in sweetheart deals for billionaire owners, politics and sports will be inextricably intertwined. It sucks, but it’s how things are here.

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