Friday roundup: Developers pay locals $25 each to hold pro-arena signs, a smoking and farting winged horse team logo, and do you even need a third thing after those two?

It’s been another week of pretty bad news, topped off by a private equity firm somehow buying the entirety of .org domains, meaning every nonprofit website will now have to be licensed from an entity whose sole mission is to squeeze as much money from them as possible. The stadium and arena news, by contrast, isn’t all terrible, so maybe it qualifies as cheery? You be the judge:

  • The Richmond city council voted Tuesday to put off a decision on a $1.5 billion downtown development that would include a new arena (public cost: $350 million), after a contentious hearing where both supporters and opponents held signs espousing their opinions. Or espousing somebody’s opinions, anyway: Some locals holding “yes” signs later reported that the project’s developers paid them $25 a pop to do so. City council president Michelle Mosby replied that if anything people were just reimbursed gas money, which 1) only makes sense if everyone there drove their own car and had to travel like 250 miles round trip to get to the hearing and 2) isn’t really any less corrosive of democracy anyway.
  • If you’ve been wondering how Inter Miami plans to build a temporary 18,000-seat stadium in Fort Lauderdale (later to be turned into a practice field) between now and March and figured it would have to involve throwing up a bunch of cheap metal bleachers, now there’s video of construction workers doing exactly that. Also laying down the sod for the field, which I thought usually takes place after the stadium is more or less built, but I guess if they can build the stadium without treading on the field, no harm in doing so now. This all raises questions of whether the stadium will feel excessively crappy, and if not why more soccer teams can’t just build cheap quickie stadiums like this without the need for public money; I guess we’ll know the answer by springtime one way or another.
  • When the state of Minnesota agreed to pay for the Vikings‘ new stadium with cigarette revenue after electronic pulltab gambling money didn’t come in as expected, it still kept collecting the gambling cash; and now that e-pulltabs (which are just lottery tickets, only on a tablet) have taken off, there’s debate over what to do with the cash that the state is collecting, about $5 million this year but projected to rise to $51 million by 2023. The Vikings owners want the money used to pay off their stadium debt early, while some lawmakers would like to use the revenue to fund other projects or reduce taxes on charitable gambling institutions now that it’s no longer needed — all are valid options, but it’s important to remember that the state already paid for most of the stadium, this is just arguing over what to do with the zombie tax that was left over after the financing plan was changed. (It would also be nice to know if e-pulltab gambling has cannibalized revenues from other gambling options, thus making this less of a windfall, but modern journalists have no time for such trivialities.)
  • The city of Wichita is spending $77 million (plus free land) on a Triple-A baseball stadium to steal the Baby Cakes from New Orleans, and have been rewarded with the Wichita Wind Surge, a name that’s supposed to reference the city’s aviation history or something but actually means “storm surge,” which isn’t a thing that they have in landlocked Kansas? It also features a logo that looks like a horse and a fly got caught in a transporter accident, which the team’s designer explained with “The nice thing about Pegasus, however, to me, was the fact that it’s got a horse in there.” A local designer responded with a sketch of a winged horse smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer, and farting, which by all accounts is much more popular with Wichitans. (The sketch is, I mean, though I’d love to see a poll asking Wichitans, “Which do you prefer, the name Wichita Wind Surge or farting?”)
  • San Diego State University’s plan to buy the city’s old football stadium and its surrounding land for $87.7 million has hit some “speed bumps,” namely that city economists have determined that the price could be below the land’s market value and $10 million of the sale price would have to be set aside for infrastructure improvements for the university’s development. “There’s also the matter of the $1-per-month lease that, as proposed, may not adequately protect the city from expenses or legal risk,” notes the San Diego Union-Tribune. Given all these uncertainties, the city’s independent budget analyst called SDSU’s proposed March 27 deadline “very challenging,” not that that’s stopped city councils before.
  • Saskatoon has enough room under its debt limit to finance either a new central library or a new sports arena, and regardless of what you think of how badly Saskatooners need a new library, it’s still a pretty strong example of how opportunity costs work.
  • The Phoenix Suns‘ new practice facility being built with the help of public money will include a golf simulator for players, because of course it will.
  • Speaking of Phoenix, the Arizona Republic has revealed what the Diamondbacks owners want in a new stadium; the original article is paywalled, but for once Ballpark Digest‘s propensity for just straight-up paraphrasing other sites’ reporting comes in handy, revealing that team owners want a 36,000-  to 42,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof and surrounded by a 45- to 70-acre mixed-use development and a 5,000-seat concert venue and good public transit and full control of naming-rights revenue and public cost-sharing on ballpark repairs. And a pony.
  • Will Raiders football hike your home value?” asks the Nevada Current, apparently because “Is the moon made of green cheese?” had already been taken.
  • And last but certainly not least, your weekly vaportecture roundup: The New Orleans Saints‘ $450 million renovation of the Superdome (two-thirds paid for by taxpayers) will include field-level open-air end zone spaces where fans have ample room enjoy rendered people’s propensity for flinging their arms in the air! The new Halifax Schooners stadium designs lack the woman hailing a cab and players playing two different sports at once from previous renderings, but do seem to still allow fans to just wander onto the field if they want! It should come as no surprise to anyone that even Chuck D can do a better job of drawing than this.

13 comments on “Friday roundup: Developers pay locals $25 each to hold pro-arena signs, a smoking and farting winged horse team logo, and do you even need a third thing after those two?

  1. Someone please tell me where I can place a bet that by 2025 Inter Miami will still be playing their home matches in this stadium and construction of their “permanent” stadium will not even have commenced yet. 18,000 seats, 23 suites, a canopy, and on site training complex…if I’m being honest, I’d take this “crappy” stadium over half of the current MLS stadiums.

    • There are companies that specialize in setting up these sorts of facilities as ‘temporary’ homes. One was set up for the BC Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps while their permanent (publicly funded, naturally) home was being renovated.

      It had a capacity of 28,000 and included some covered seating. What it did NOT have was permanent amenities (so temp dressing rooms and portapotties abound). IIRC the full cost of the temp facility was around $15m, including set up and tear down, lighting and other costs.

      I don’t believe that such a facility “as is” would make a serviceable permanent stadium. However, if a franchise owner were to combine a couple of modest permanent buildings (for offices, training rooms, proper concessions & bathrooms etc) with the erector set stadium, I can still see it being completed at $30-40m.

      It’s the comfort of the seating and the availability of good amenities that make the stadium for me, so I see no reason why this is not doable… other than that once the public is paying, the minimum specification for any stadium rockets through the roof.

  2. So basically the d-backs want a new stadium that is just like their old stadium except with more stuff that doesn’t involve baseball.

    Arizona.

    • Just like their old stadium except smaller. Not as much room for baseball with all that other stuff.

  3. “Will Raiders football hike your home value?”

    Probably not.

    “Will Raiders football in LV hike your property taxes?”

    Oh yes, yes they will.

  4. Why would the D-backs need a retractable roof? Haven’t they quit retracting their current roof because it takes too long to cool the interior after it is opened? (which caused the grass to look bad, which caused them to go to artificial turf last year)

  5. Like I’ve said before, any Wichita team should be called the Wichita Linemen. Or Linedrive Men.

    • The Wichita Welfares would be a more accurate description given the subsidy level being offered.

  6. Inter Miami’s “stadium lite” is fascinating. If they pull off a decent, moderately priced stadium there should be many USL-level teams interested in similar concepts.

    Also, is there going to be an Inter Miami women’s team? The lite stadium would be perfect for their permanent home.

    • It’s certainly cost effective and innovative in that it’s 1) what most towns would call a “high school stadium” and 2) not that much different than what MLS complained about in Columbus.

      In most of the world, a stadium is a place where you sit to watch a game or concert. America’s innovation is making them expensive shopping malls.

      • Bingo!

        “Shopping malls” that are “routinely” subsidized by local and state governments. How many other businesses or corporations “routinely” have their buildings or factories subsidized by local or state governments?

        And it doesn’t stop there. In addition to these subsidies, the owners (read billionaires) of the “shopping mall’s” revenue streams include:
        Aquariums
        Bars, Beer Garden, Brew Pub, Craft Beer
        Cabanas with swimming pool with swim bar (staffed by full time lifeguard)
        Club, Premium or VIP Seating
        Concessions
        Luxury, Corporate Boxes or Party Suites
        Merchandise sales (hence, extra wide concourses)
        Naming rights
        Parking (including Concierge and VIP Parking)
        Restaurants
        Ticket sales
        Water park and play land
        Wine Cellars (for general public and private)

        So many revenue streams to keep track of in these “shopping malls,” did I leave anything off of the list. And that’s just the point. Do you think billionaire owners need your butt parked in the general seating section? No! No he or she does not. You’re just window dressing. Empty stadiums don’t look so good on television, Twitter, YouTube and yes, even photos.

        With all these other revenue streams, billionaire owners have maximized his or her revenue potential (I’m sure despite their abysmal attendance, even the Miami Marlins turned a profit this year. And Miami will continue to do so, so long as they keep Triple A players on the field). Hence, the need to tear down that 15 – 20 year old “shopping mall” and replace it with new and improved.

        And with the potential of that new “shopping mall” the drumbeat begins. From the business community, Business Journal, Chamber of Commerce, elected politicians and billionaire owner. Job creation! During construction and after! Neighborhood revitalization! New businesses and residential! Increased tax revenues for the city! Tourism! Tourists! Who will spend 100’s of millions of dollars on everything from hotels and motels for overnight stays, to restaurants for eating out and of course, shopping at local retailers (I know when I take in a game, I spend a whole extra day just to see that city’s sites).

        Only one problem. It doesn’t hold water. Construction jobs are temporary. “Shopping mall” is mostly low wage employment.

        Neighborhood revitalization occurs not because of a “shopping mall,” but in spite of it. Neighborhoods develop due to outside pressures and factors. Demand or shortage of affordable property for commercial and residential close to city center, for example. If the demand exists. In some cases, it doesn’t. Commercial and residential projects take years from conceptualization, to the drawing board, to financial backing, to approval, to construction, to completion. In many cases, these projects were already somewhere in this process, prior to “shopping mall” proposal. Lastly, businesses and residences do not locate next to a “shopping mall” closed 300+ days out of the year. Few human beings think “Gee, I want to work or live next to that new shopping mall.”

        All income is finite. You don’t receive additional income due to a new “shopping mall.” Discretionary income is even more finite. Going to a new “shopping mall” means you’re less likely to go to the old mall, the one with the movie theater (Damn. That wasn’t a suggestion to include theaters in new “shopping malls”). Going to hotels, motels, restaurants, retailers and entertainment in one city or neighborhood, means you’re less likely to go to hotels, motels, restaurants, retailers and entertainment in another city or neighborhood. Revenue gains offset revenue losses.

        Sports stopped being about sports a long time ago. It’s now a business. The billionaire owners don’t give a damn about the fans, the team or the city. It’s all about the money. The bottom line.

        Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for new “shopping malls.” So long as the billionaire owner pays for it.

        Well GDub, off to that brand spanking new “shopping mall.” Thank God, for VIP parking and concierge service. Parking in the city is a bitch. Not about to take public transit in. Hope my private menu is ready. Chilled wine from my private cellar. Team sucks. 2 and 11. Another loss in the offering. No problem. Will watch something on Netflix in the private suite!