Friday roundup: Stadium trends, phantom soccer arenas, and the inevitable narwhal uprising

Welcome to the first weekly news roundup of the fourth decade during which this site has been in operation — unless you’re one of those people — which is kind of scary and depressing! I know I didn’t expect in 1998 that there would still be a need for Field of Schemes in 2020, but no one likes to give up a good grift when they see one, and for the last few decades nobody’s been able to make rich people in the U.S. give up much of anything, so here we are.

Seeing as I don’t want to even think about whether we’ll still be having this conversation in 2030, let’s get right to the news:

  • In the midst of a long New York Times article about how cool the new Golden State Warriors arena is, because the future, Temple University economist Michael Leeds asserts that it’s an example of “a trend since the Great Recession that, with some notable exceptions, cities have been much less willing to open up a pocketbook and fund a stadium or arena.” While “some notable exceptions” is a large caveat, I’m still not convinced that cities were all that much less willing in the Teens than the Aughts to cough up sports venue money — in California, sure, but then what of Nevada and Arlington and Georgia and Milwaukee and Indianapolis? I’ve emailed Leeds to ask for his data, but really what the world needs is a fresh dose of updated Judith Grant Long spreadsheets.
  • Major League Baseball says its plan to stop providing players to 42 minor-league franchises is not actually a plan to “eliminate any club,” and it’s minor-league owners’ fault if they insist on going bankrupt instead of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps and joining unaffiliated leagues. Also, this latest missive was apparently prompted by objections by Sen. Richard Blumenthal to the elimination of the Connecticut Tigers, who are in the process of being rebranded as the Norwich Sea Unicorns, and now all I can think about is: What’s a sea unicorn? Is it just a narwhal? Is Norwich now on the Arctic Ocean? What ship is the sea unicorn the captain of that earned it its captain’s hat, and how is it going to fire that harpoon-bat with its flippers? And at what? Is it a whale that has turned against its own kind? Or is it turning against humanity in revenge for our destruction of its habitat? Maybe MLB is just trying to protect us from the animal uprising, which if so they really should have mentioned it earlier in their statement.
  • The owners of the San Diego Sockers, which are an indoor soccer team, implying that there must still be indoor soccer leagues of some sort, are looking at building a 5,000- to 8,000-seat arena in Oceanside, which would cost dunno and be funded by ¯_(ツ)_/¯, but which team execs swear would be more affordable than paying rent at their current arena in San Diego and arranging schedules for their 12 home games a year. I can’t see anything that could possibly go wrong with this business plan!
  • Remember that $60 million soccer stadium for the NWSL Seattle Reign and USL Tacoma Defiance that was proposed for Tacoma last July, with negotiations expected to be completed by the end of the summer? The Tacoma News Tribune does, and notes that such details as how it would be paid for “all still remains to be seen,” though city sales tax money and hotel tax money could be on the table. This is clearly going to require more renderings.
  • English League Two soccer club (that’s the fourth division in English soccer, for English soccer reasons you either already understand or don’t want to know about) Forest Green Rovers are planning to build an all-wood stadium that will supposedly be “the greenest football stadium in the world,” but even if the timber is “sustainably-sourced,” wouldn’t it have less carbon impact to leave both the trees and the oil to fuel the construction equipment in the ground and keep on playing at this place that is just 14 years old? The narwhals are not going to be happy about this at all.
  • Should Syracuse build an esports arena? A gaming industry exec is given op-ed space to say: maybe!
  • How can anybody say that sports stadiums don’t create an economic spinoff effect when local residents can charge $10 a car to let people park on their lawns? That’s it, I take back everything I’ve said the last 22 years.
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17 comments on “Friday roundup: Stadium trends, phantom soccer arenas, and the inevitable narwhal uprising

  1. Those e-sports arenas are gonna be the next frontier in shoveling the taxpayer’s money into a pit, I mean, targeted public investment. Most of the e-sports teams that crop up will be owned by the guys who already own “traditional” franchises in the city because none of this is related to owning and controlling development rights to desirable plots of land. It’s for the kids.

    1. Maybe Atlantic Yards can be declared a blighted area and demolished to make way for NY’s (ok Brooklyn) newest e-palace?

      Or better yet, MSG. Oh the irony…

  2. A little surprised to see you snicker at Forest Green. Whatever the specific merits of their green stadium, shouldn’t we support small, locally owned sports clubs that build ecologically ambitious structures with their own money?

    Also, isn’t wood a renewable resource?

    1. Building anything, with anybody’s money, is carbon-intensive enough that there will have to be huge operational energy savings to ever hope to be considered a net benefit for the climate. Not that it’s impossible, but given that the available, material about this stadium doesn’t provide much beyond “green, woohoo!”, it’s reasonable to consider it guilty until proven innocent.

      But yeah, it would be even worse if they were making the public pay for it. That’s not how England rolls, though.

      1. I get your point, but this stadium seems to be a way for the owner to advertise his green energy business. So, the net costs of building the new stadium could be recouped by the many new energy customers he *might* acquire.

        1. And I get your point, but I’m not so sure carving the letters SWITCH TO SOLAR POWER into a field, filling the resulting trenches with gasoline, and setting it on fire should really be considered green, either.

          1. I burned these 18 tons of coal in the most ecologically appropriate way imaginable release only half the normal carbon! Now gimme gimme my carbon credits!

    2. Vegan! Forest Green Rovers’ players are vegan!

      So many questions. Player policy for vegan violations? Stadium concession offerings ….. will stands simply be marked “Vegan?” Club policy re: fur coats, leather belts and jackets, animal tested consumer products? Club plastic policy? Stadium entrance fee for free range farm animals? Earthship design elements (recycled construction materials, heating and cooling – passive solar and thermal mass, rain water and snow harvesting, cisterns for water storage, water recycling – grey and black water systems)?

      More “vaportecture” please. But vegan!

      1. Totally forgot leather footwear, gloves, handbags and other animal made apparel. Does that include pearls?

        1. Pearls are the worst I would think. All pearls come from torture. Cultured Pearls from manmade torture.

      2. Club Policy: Pearls banned inside Forest Green Rovers stadium (including those worn by the royal family and the queen mother).

  3. Is that the San Diego Sockers of the MASL, formerly the PASL (that merged with MISL III after it folded and rebranded as MASL, MISL III formerly the NISL), formerly the PASL-Pro, formed after the MISL II folded, formed after the WISL (not to be confused with the Western Indoor Soccer League) and NPSL (not to be confused with the National Premier Soccer League, NPSL formerly the AISA, not to be confused with the American Indoor Soccer League) both folded, formed after the PSA folded, formed after the CISL folded, formed after the MISL folded?

    Just to clarify. Sounds like a stable league and franchise to me. All good. Oceanside spend the money!

  4. While independent league baseball as a business is often a struggle, I do wonder if reducing the number of affiliated teams and leagues (either directly or simply by failing to allot the clubs players and watching them fade away) might actually be “good” for baseball in general?

    In the same way it is important for fans to remember the NHL does not have a monopoly on all hockey, I think baseball fans could do with reminding that it isn’t just the group of 30 franchise owners and their pet commissioner that rule all of baseball.

    I’ve no doubt that the elimination of the MLB related subsidies to MiLB will result in the loss of teams and perhaps entire leagues. But it does provide ‘space’ for some of the independent baseball teams and league to work in. I’m not suggesting there will be another Pacific Coast League (the original, not the present one) that one day will grow to become a rival major league… but it is possible that regional independent leagues might strengthen because of this. Anything that lessens MLB’s control of non-MLB markets could be a plus in my view.

    1. Running a minor or independent baseball team is a money losing proposition for pretty much everyone. Has been from day one. There might be one or two that could survive, but in this day and age if the MLB pull support the teams will fold like a lawn chair. The MLB funds its self from the TV contract and money from BAMTech, minor league teams won’t have those revenue streams.

      The current minor league only exists because the MLB started funding the teams as a place to place players for development so they didn’t need to go on the open market for players. Had that not happened the current teams would of all folded years ago.

      1. Yet there are many independent leagues still in existence. Some have been in place for decades… all without any support from MLB.

        I agree that plenty of the teams lose money even in the successful independent leagues, but certainly not all.

    2. Just data. Not taking a position this way or that. Although personally, I’d like to see MLB go away, with just MiLB remaining.

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