Friday roundup: Grizzlies lease has secret out clause, judge orders do-over in Nashville stadium vote, reviewers agree Rangers stadium is super-butt-ugly

Normally the end of June is when news around here starts slowing down for the summer, but as no one needs reminding, nothing is normal anymore. There isn’t even time to get into sports leagues trying to reopen in the midst of what could be an “apocalyptic” surge in virus cases across the South and West, because busy times call for paralipsis:

  • The Daily Memphian has uncovered what it calls a “trap door” in the Memphis Grizzlies‘ lease that could let the team get out of the agreement early if it has even a single season where it doesn’t sell 1) 14,900 tickets per game, 2) all of its 64 largest suites, or 3) fewer than 2,500 season club seats. (There is at least a “force majeure” clause that should exclude any seasons played during a pandemic.) That could force the city to buy up tickets in order to keep the lease in force, the paper notes, and though talks between the team and city are underway to renegotiate the deal, you just know that Grizzlies owner Robert Pera will want something in exchange for giving up his opt-out clause. Pera has so far said all the right things about not wanting to move the team, but then, he doesn’t have to when he has sports journalists to spread relocation rumors for him; if savvy negotiators create leverage, city officials really need to learn to stop handing leverage to team owners when they write up leases, because that really never works out well.
  • In a major victory for local governments at least following their own damn rules, opponents of Nashville’s $50 million-plus-free-land deal for a new MLS stadium won a court victory this week when a judge ruled that the city violated Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act by approving the stadium’s construction contract at a meeting held with only 48 hours notice, when the law requires five days. The city’s Metro Sports Authority can now just hold another meeting with normal notice and reapprove the contract, but still it’s good to see someone’s hand slapped for a change for hiding from public scrutiny.
  • The reviews of the Texas Rangers‘ new stadium that received $450 million in subsidies so the team could have air-conditioning are in, and critics agree, it looks like a giant metal warehouse, or maybe a barbecue grill, or maybe the Chernobyl sarcophagus. Okay, they just agree that is is one ugly-ass stadium from the outside; firsthand reports on whether the upper-deck seats are as bad as they look in the renderings will have to await fans actually being allowed inside, which could come as soon as later this summer, unless by then Texans are too busy cowering in their homes to avoid having to go to the state’s overwhelmed hospital system
  • Amazon has bought naming rights to Seattle’s former Key Arena (Key Bank’s naming rights expired eons ago), and because Amazon needs more name recognition like it needs more stories about its terrible working conditions, it has decided to rename the building Climate Pledge Arena, after an Amazon-launched campaign to get companies to promise to produce zero net carbon emissions by 2040, something the company itself is off to a terrible start on. The reporting doesn’t say, but presumably if greenwashing goes out of style, Amazon will retain the right in a couple of years to rename the building Prime Video (Starts At $8.99/Month) Arena.
  • The NFL is still planning to have fans in attendance at games this fall, but it’s also going to be tarping off the first six to eight rows of seats and selling ads on the tarps as a hedge against ticket-sales losses. Even when and if things return to normal, I’m thinking this could be a great way for the league to create that artificial ticket scarcity that it’s been wanting for years, n’est-ce pas?
  • Amid concern that the New York Islanders will be left temporarily homeless or forced to move back to Brooklyn in the wake of the Nassau Coliseum being shuttered, Nassau County’s top elected official has promised that “the next time that the Islanders play in New York it will be in Nassau County.” If my reading-between-the-lines radar is working properly, that probably means we can expect to see the Islanders’ upcoming season played someplace like Bridgeport, Connecticut.
  • New Arizona Coyotes president Xavier Gutierrez is definitely hitting the ground with all his rhetoric cylinders running, telling ESPN: “When I took the job, [owner] Alex Meruelo told me finding a solution for where we should be located was priority one through five. I thought it was one through five, and he quickly corrected me and said, ‘No, it’s priority one through 10 for you.'” Shouldn’t that really be one to 11?
  • Here’s an actual San Diego Union-Tribune sports columnist saying voters did the city a favor by turning down a $1.15 billion-dollar Chargers stadium plan, because the city would be having a tough time paying it off now what with the economy in shambles. Of course, $1.15 billion still would have been $1.15 billion even if San Diego had the money, but budget crunches do seem to have a way of focusing people’s attention on opportunity costs.
  • Speaking of which, here’s an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about how it’s hard for Cobb County to pay off the construction debt on its Atlanta Braves stadium what with tourism tax revenue having fallen through the floor, though at least the AJC did call up economist J.C. Bradbury to let him say that it doesn’t really matter which tax money was used because “there’s no found money in government.”
  • Both of those are still way better articles, though, than devoting resources to a story about how holding baseball games without fans is going to lead to a glut of bags of peanuts, for which Good Morning America has us covered. Won’t anyone think of the peanuts?!?

17 comments on “Friday roundup: Grizzlies lease has secret out clause, judge orders do-over in Nashville stadium vote, reviewers agree Rangers stadium is super-butt-ugly

  1. In naming rights news: Lawsuit: FC Cincinnati stadium should have naming rights sponsor by now

    https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2020/06/22/lawsuit-details-why-fc-cincinnati-stadium-doesnt-have-naming-rights-deal/3225307001/

  2. Thank you Arlington, TX. Saint Pete is now officially not number one on the ugly stadium list. Actually the Trop looks pretty good compared to that mess.

    • Maybe we’ve been fooled all along and it is not going to be a baseball stadium but an internment camp.

      Things that aren’t finished yet often have a way of looking horrific… but yeah, it’s hard to see how finishing touches can redeem this disaster. Still, it won’t be the first piece of real estate who’s main selling feature is that it is the only property in the area that doesn’t offer an external view of itself.

  3. I’d be surprised if most (likely all) of the commercial leases the sports cartels of North America hold or own individually or otherwise do not have Force Majeure language in them.

    It’s common even in small business leases to include these provisions to cover events broadly similar to this… a hurricane or earthquake (or plague or flood) etc makes a stadium or arena unusable for a given period of time so any provisions of the lease that would otherwise require the team to play there are suspended. You can’t require a tenant to operate/live in a building that is not available for it’s intended use or habitation etc. It’s mostly common sense, but then, if people operated on that principle the courts would be significantly less busy than they are.

    So it really becomes a battle of lawyers over what constitutes FM for the purposes of the given lease. I have some friends who rent commercial property and their tenants’ lawyers are sending them a blizzard of paperwork suggesting that they may choose to invoke FM to halt rent payments (even if they are still operating their business) or quash their leases etc.

    While the claims made to rights under FM are often bogus (it isn’t the tenants’ lawyers who decide what is and what is not FM, nor what the allowable remedies are), most lessors know that you can’t get blood out of a stone. If the business is truly failing and cannot make payments, they will not make payments. The landlord’s remedies in the short term are limited to seizing equipment and stock of the tenant as security against arrears, and/or filing claims against them for non-payment.

    Given that the stock and materials of a sports franchise are a) employees/players and b) uniforms and training equipment – some of which these days is now purchased by the landlords for the tenant, um, it’s not much of an option.

    There’s a reason why private businesses aren’t often in the sports facility construction and leasing business. Building anything for a specific tenant that, essentially by design, can be the only one in that particular industry operating in your city or region is the definition of lunacy.

  4. I didn’t realize that the Goodyear blimp’s had come back and built a new blimp aerodrome back in Arlington, Texas.

    Amazing that this new stadium is not better than the former Ranger Stadium that had a hideous balconied office building in the centerfield portion of the stadium.

  5. Yes, Neil, thank you for the ‘Word of the day’ and assisting me in expanding my vocabulary.

    And your writing is cuttingly incisive. Thx for the enjoyable Sunday reading.

  6. I don’t think any sports fans here in Texas should get ready for any in attendance games anytime soon.

    Not with our governor William J LePetomane screwing things up so royally with his “Nothing to see here, move along” leadership.

  7. This Memphis Grizzlies stuff is not news. Here is an article from from 2012 that says the same thing:

    https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2012/03/26/Facilities/Grizzlies-Lease.aspx

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