Friday roundup: St. Louis moves ahead on $51m in MLS subsidies, minor-league cities react to MLB annihilation plan, plus stadium traffic notes from all over

Getting a late start today, so let’s just pretend I had something witty and informative to say in this intro paragraph and get on with the weekly news roundup:

  • The city of St. Louis has officially requested $30 million in state tax credits for the planned $250 million stadium for its expansion MLS team, on top of $21 million from three special taxing districts that will go to the team — all stuff we pretty much knew back in August, but now the paperwork is all being done. Anyway, the state credits are expected to be voted on a week from Tuesday, so if you want to yell at your local elected officials about this, get on the ball!
  • Noah Frank of WTOP has taken a long look at what MLB’s minor-league contraction plan will mean for teams and cities on the chopping block, and it’s not pretty: The Frederick Keys owners are “gobsmacked” to be on the hit list after leading the Carolina League in attendance in 2019, while the Erie SeaWolves got $12 million in stadium improvements last year and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies $5.1 million, and both could see their teams vaporized after 2020. Frank also notes (citing J.J. Cooper of Baseball America, who was the first to uncover this plan) that MLB’s claims that it spends $500 million annually on minor league players is more than a bit disingenuous, since that includes $416.5 million a year in draft bonuses and international signing bonuses that would continue under any contraction plan — the players who’d be cut would be the cheap ones at the end of the draft, so really MLB would only save chump change in this deal.
  • Add New York Congressional Rep. Max Rose (whose district includes the targeted Staten Island Yankees) and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (whose state includes the targeted Connecticut Tigers) to the list of elected officials griping about the minor-league contraction plan, not that it’ll do much good unless it threatens MLB’s antitrust exemption. (Rose has a say on that, Lamont none at all.)
  • The California Air Resources Board has okayed the Los Angeles Clippers‘ arena plan’s greenhouse-gas-mitigation plan, saying installing install 1,330 electric vehicle chargers, adding 93 bike parking spaces, buying two electric buses and 10 electric vehicles for they city, and planting 1,000 trees is enough of a measure to reduce carbon output from fans going to the games. (A Natural Resources Defense Council attorney called the measures “pretty much a joke,” noting that most fans will still choose to drive to games as usual.) Once signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the approval means all environmental lawsuits against the project need to be resolved in nine months, which would be more significant if the two main lawsuits still outstanding against the arena had anything to do with environmental impact.
  • A $200 million highway project to make it easier to drive to the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium won’t have its first piece open until 2021, a year after the stadium opens, and won’t be complete until 2024. Meanwhile, if you’re thinking, “Wait, Nevada is spending $200 million on highway improvements on top of $750 million for the stadium?”, rest assured that the Las Vegas Review-Journal says, “The project was in the works even before the Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas was whispered about, and it does not create any additional fiscal impact on the state Department of Transportation. But the timeline was accelerated once the $2 billion stadium, near I-15 and Russell Road, became a reality.” And spending money now doesn’t cost any more than spending money later, right? (Also, guess Nevada doesn’t have any laws about trying to reduce the number of cars on roads, huh?)
  • In related (and better?) new, those broken roof support bolts in the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium aren’t actually flawed, they were just overtightened, according to team officials. This project gets more and more like assembling an Ikea cabinet every day.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals suck and no one wants to see them play, and the Atlanta Falcons suck and no one wants to see them play. Apparently we’re going to spend the rest of our lives looking at photos of half-empty stadiums and noting that fans don’t like to watch their teams lose; somewhere Red Barber is looking down and thinking that he was born 50 years too soon.
  • It’s rare that we get a report of how much it costs for local government to provide emergency services for a sports venue (something that would normally be paid for by property taxes, except that most stadiums and arenas don’t pay property taxes thanks to being publicly owned), so it’s interesting to see that the Palm Springs fire and police departments say they’ll need nearly $20 million in new equipment and $3.6 million a year in operating costs to cover services for the city’s planned minor-league hockey arena — sure, it’s their own estimates and they have an incentive to ask for as much as possible, but still it’s probably within an order of magnitude of reality.
  • Here’s a Forbes unpaid contributor article about stadium innovations of 2019 that starts by claiming that private sports venue funding causes “ticket and associated prices” to climb, hurting fans. This is completely wrong in terms of both empirical data and economic theory — does anyone really think that owners with subsidized stadiums pull back on raising ticket prices as much as the market will bear, just because they already have someone else footing their construction tab? — and so I stopped reading there, but if you want to plod ahead to the end, it’s your funeral.
  • The $290 million Calgary Flames arena-subsidy deal is finally signed off on, so forget all your fantasies of taking the money and using it for transit and housing instead.
  • Now that the Los Angeles Angels won’t be moving to Long Beach, the city of Long Beach needs to figure out what to do with the proposed stadium site that was way too small for a stadium anyway, say city officials. And so do development plans spring fully formed from rotting meat.
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12 comments on “Friday roundup: St. Louis moves ahead on $51m in MLS subsidies, minor-league cities react to MLB annihilation plan, plus stadium traffic notes from all over

  1. Every time I see mention of “baseball’s antitrust exemption” I wonder – are there really potential upstart baseball leagues that are being held at bay by monopolistic activities perpetrated by MLB?

    1. We’ll never know how many there could be (or could have been) until the monopoly is broken. It’s very unlikely now with the monopoly in place, and would only be a bit less so without.
      The 1959-61 Continental League is pretty much the only modern example. Although it was created primarily for its owners to join the MLB by forcing the hand of the NL and AL to expand more quickly than the NL and AL owners wanted, with more headstrong owners either way, the CL might have succeeded.

  2. “The Cincinnati Bengals suck and no one wants to see them play, and the Atlanta Falcons suck and no one wants to see them play.”

    How soon will it be before some NFL owners start talking about contraction?

  3. Is construction moving at a fast enough pace for the Las Vegas stadium to be done by August? Comparing where Inglewood is right now and the Raiders project, looks like much more still needs to get done in Vegas.

  4. A minor-league hockey arena in Palm Springs? Is that what the Palm Springs area has been hungry for … minor-league hockey?

    1. It’s called a “cooling center.” In accordance with the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the “Housing Element” for every incorporated city must include a “cooling center.” In cases of dangerous or extreme heat conditions, California cities are required to provide “cooling centers” for their residents.

      I wish I had been so creative as an elected official to have used city funds, aka taxpayers monies, to have built a “cooling center!” In accordance with California law, of course.

    2. Actually pretty decent hockey down there from all the retirees and Canadians. But no idea about how a minor league team would do.

      It is not Minnesota or Michigan, but there are a lot of hockey people down there.

      1. Some NHL teams like having their AHL affiliate close by. Both the Kings and Ducks have nearby affiliates in Ontario CA, and San Diego, and neither are arena challenged. I suppose the Ducks could move that team even closer. An San Diego team moving to LA, what could go wrong? I don’t think another arena is in Long Beach’s top 100 needs.

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