Friday roundup: Stadium construction continues despite sick workers, drained city budgets may not slow subsidy demands, and other news from our continuing hellscape

How did everyone do during Week Whatever (depending on where you live) of the new weirdness? I finished another jigsaw puzzle, spent way more time than I thought possible trying to understand the new unemployment insurance rules, had the best idea ever, and wrote another article about how the media should stop feeding the troll. (Here’s the previous one, if I neglected to post a link to it before, which I probably did.) And, of course, continued to write this site, even if the subject matter, like all subject matter everywhere, has taken a decided turn for the microbial. Hopefully it’s helping to inform or at least distract you, because it looks like we may be here a while.

Anyway, it’s Friday again, so let’s celebrate getting another week closer to the end of this unknowably long tunnel with some stadium and arena news:

  • Construction is now shut down on the Worcester Red Sox stadium, but continues on the in-progress stadiums for the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Texas Rangers, even after workers on the latter two projects tested positive for COVID-19, and despite it being pretty much impossible to do construction while maintaining a six-foot distance from your fellow workers. The USA Today article reporting all this cites continued construction as a “boost to the economy,” which is slightly weird in that 1) pretty much all economic activity is a boost to the economy, but everyone has kind of decided now that keeping millions of people from dying is more important (okay, almost everyone), and 2) given that these stadiums will all have to be finished eventually regardless, shutting down construction would only push the economic activity a few weeks into the future, to a time when construction workers would actually have stores and restaurants open where they could spend their salary. It really would be nice if journalists writing about economics talked to an economist every once in a while.
  • Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin says she’s preparing for a “recession budget” that could require cutting back on planned projects including “a planned renovation of the PNC Arena, an expansion of the Raleigh Convention Center, an addition to the Marbles Kids Museum, a proposed soccer stadium in south Raleigh and a recreational complex at Brier Creek,” reports the News & Observer. Since every local government in the U.S. if not the world is about to see its tax revenues plummet, could this mean a temporary lull in stadium and arena demands while teams have to wait for treasuries to refill? Or will team owners just do like during the Great Recession and pivot from “times are good, now is when you should spend your surplus on giving us new sports venues” to “times are tough, now is when you should be spending to promote any development jobs you can get”? Hawaii officials say the latter, and they don’t even have a team owner lobbying them, so I think you know where I’d be laying my bets.
  • A new poll shows that sports fans believe they’ll be less likely to go to live sporting events once they’ve been “deemed safe,” mostly over fears that they won’t actually be safe. (Nearly two-thirds said they’d be concerned about “health safety,” and more said they’d avoid indoor events than outdoor ones.) There’s presumably some push-poll effect here — if someone asks you if you’re going to be concerned about your health at large events, that’s going to get you thinking about how you maybe should be concerned — but still it’s at least one data point suggesting that game attendance could suffer for a while despite pent-up hunger for live sports.
  • Meanwhile, ratings have plummeted for pro wrestling events before empty venues, which could be a sign that a big part of watching televised sports is enjoying the roar of the crowd, or that pro wrestling isn’t really a sport, take your pick. Where are those New Jersey Nets sound operators when you need them?
  • Don’t count on getting back your “sports fee” on your cable bill even if there’s no sports to watch, though maybe if your TV provider can recoup some fees they’re paying to sports leagues, they’ll consider sharing some of the savings with you.
  • A study by an “advertising intelligence and sales enablement platform” that is no doubt really annoyed right now that this press release didn’t get me to use their name and promote their brand projects that ad spending on sporting events will drop by $1 billion this year. And will that cost sports teams, or the cable and broadcast networks that are contracted to carry them? Sorry, didn’t study that part, we figured Forbes would report on this even without that info, and we were right!
  • Speaking of dumb Forbes articles, here’s one about how baseball should make up for lost revenue by expanding, which overlooks both that this is undoubtedly the worst time imaginable to get the highest expansion fee possible, and that MLB teams are all owned by billionaires so really the issue isn’t having cash on hand, it’s getting yearly income back up, and diluting your share of national revenues by one-fifteenth (if two new teams were added) is no way to do that.
  • But hey, at least stadiums come in handy for herding homeless people into en masse to keep them from getting sick, that’s neither disturbingly dystopian nor terrible social distancing policy, right? What’s that you say? You’re right, let’s instead spend some time revisiting cab-hailing purse woman, that’s a much more soothing start to the weekend.
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17 comments on “Friday roundup: Stadium construction continues despite sick workers, drained city budgets may not slow subsidy demands, and other news from our continuing hellscape

  1. Neil: Everything will depend on timing. How? 1: When does the virus end? 2: The only way you will see spending on sports facilities ramp up, is if there is a big Infrastructure Bill, and is there enough time to get it through before Election Day? I can tell you, I am a huge Penn State guy and the AD ( Sandy Barbour) is actually talking about the possibility of games being played in empty stadiums. Beaver Stadium ( @ State College) seats 102,000. I cannot overestimate how much of a financial loss that would be for Penn State to lose home games. But if she is even saying that, she must think, there exists the possibility the virus goes into the fall, and of that happens, there is no way a Bill helping College and Pro Sports teams passes. As for Beaver Stadium, doing a renovation is part of the Penn State “Master Plan” so if something passes Congress and gets signed into Law ( which I doubt), that is a “Shovel Ready” project that just might happen.

  2. The primary tenant of the current (and future) Aloha Stadium is the University of Hawaii’s football team.

      1. But will they consider moving to another city for a better deal on football/soccer/basketball/baseball/softball/library facilities

  3. Don’t they herd everyone into sports stadiums in EVERY apocalyptical movie before they are executed? It’s been a while since I’ve seen Red Dawn and the like…

    I’m pretty sure when Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump start agreeing we are all screwed.

    1. Auditorium herding is an essential precursor to being sent to the carousel.

      And all the best dystopian societies get you to want to go there, not be forcibly herded.

  4. Penn State AD Barbour is talking about the virus being around in the Fall?

    Why that is simply silly talk. Has Barbour been listening to those public health experts again?!

    When will this science based non-sense stop?

  5. And all that jazz …..

  6. Regarding MLB. COVID-19 represents a great opportunity to “cull the herd.” The MiLB herd. A 26% death rate is high, however, MLB’s talking point could be “MiLB wasn’t practicing social distancing.” MLB will arrive at a social distancing formula. Thinks miles.

    What about “shelter in place” you say? Federal guidelines prohibit gatherings of 10 or more in one place. Surely 160 teams sheltering in place under the MiLB roof is a federal violation. MLB will move swiftly to deal with this federal violation.

  7. I would like to know what percentage of those fans who say they will be less likely to attend live sporting events for health/safety reasons post pandemic have ordered and eaten ballpark nachos (in helmet or cardboard container) at some point in their lives.

  8. Question about that Forbes article.

    Is New Orleans really a candidate for MLB expansion? Cause last I heard they just wanted an AA team to replace their departed AAA team.

    Hope you’re staying safe in all this insanity. Lord knows I’m not going to any sports game till there is a vaccine.

    1. Did it really suggest New Orleans for expansion? Man, the Forbes “contributors” are really scraping bottom of the barrel to earn their non-pay.

      I don’t see any sporting events being held before paying audiences until there’s a vaccine, so you’re probably on safe ground there. Spent a bunch of time yesterday debating with a friend whether “Let’s get the whole NBA and staff and TV crews and their families together in Vegas for a month and play a tournament for the championship” makes any sense in a world where 25% of carriers are asymptomatic and a single positive test result could cause the whole thing to grind to a halt. I think “You can try to bring back live sports for TV audiences this summer, but be prepared it may not last long” is probably the best attitude to take overall. And all this “We’ll just play half a baseball season and finish with a World Series in December in Los Angeles, it’ll be cool” talk still feels like the bargaining stage to me.

  9. Unemployment websites are thoroughly awful, thanks to our friends in the federal government who’ve decided that keeping any public money from the occasional malingerer is more important than supporting hard workers in need of assistance. It doesn’t even matter what state you live in, they’re all terrible websites. One humiliating question after another, many repeated. I hadn’t done one in awhile, they haven’t improved.

    What’s always astounded me is how you can qualify for benefits if you get fired, but not if you quit. So you can be a terrible employee and fired for it, that counts, but a good employee who quits a job on principle, doesn’t count. By this logic, John Rocker is better than Curt Flood.

    1. Very good.

      Although I had managed to completely forget about John Rocker before reading your post… I’ll have to work to reforget him now.

      Gov’t websites are really no different than customer service departments in any company…. the main goal is to get a significant – hopefully a majority – of callers/customers to give up in frustration before the organization spends a dime on dealing with them.

      A bit like television providers or car dealers… as long as they are all equally awful, your only choice as a customer is which criminal you will allow to fleece you this time and then swear you will “never be back”. They don’t really care that you won’t be back, because they know all their fellow con artists are doing the same thing, and they will get new customers who are disgruntled at the other folks.

      A merry go round of malfeasance, if you like..

      1. Thanks — but now I have to remember every time I’ve been stuck in Menu Hades trying to get a company to honor the warranty or the health insurance coverage I signed up for or whatever.

        What’s truly terrible about such experiences is that you end up super-frustrated, when it’s not the person on the phone’s fault, they’re just workers trying to get by like any of us. That message “this call can be monitored to ensure customer service,” it’s never about customer service, it’s making sure the workers don’t deviate from the script and treat you in the decent way they’d probably prefer to do.

        1. No one I know applying for unemployment in New York has been able to get an actual person on the phone, so rest assured it’s only the computers that are getting yelled at.

  10. Correct. A state call center I worked for was funded by the state legislature to take only 60% of incoming calls.

    “Gov’t websites are really no different than customer service departments in any company…. the main goal is to get a significant – hopefully a majority – of callers/customers to give up in frustration before the organization spends a dime on dealing with them.”

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