Friday roundup: San Diego gets arena developer (and vaportecture), horses play piano, and other stories

Happy Sebtembler! Things were a little quiet for much of the summer, what with the entire world shut down and it seeming like a bad time for rich dudes to ask for hundreds of millions of dollars for their new buildings, but as Josh Harris has shown, nothing lasts forever. Except rich dudes asking for hundreds of millions of dollars for their new buildings, that will go on until the world actually ends, which is at least a few more decades away.

Anyhoo, here are some other things that happened this week in the world of stadium-grubbing:

  • San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has chosen a team led by Brookfield Properties and ASM Global to build a new arena and associated development, with the arena to be paid for by building more housing units, somehow? Is housing that profitable that it can spin off hundreds of millions of dollars in extra revenue to pay for a new arena? If so, shouldn’t the city just be charging more for the right to build all this super-lucrative housing? This all sounds suspiciously reminiscent of the Los Angeles Angels land deal, except no one in San Diego politics or journalism seems interested in investigating how the money will actually work, so I’m clearly going to have to do some more digging and report back. In the meantime, jam everything but the kitchen sink into your sports venue deals, kids, it’s the best way to make sure sports reporters get bored by the financial details and wander off!
  • Let’s also not let the moment pass without commenting on San Diego’s new arena vaportecture, which mostly features … people shopping? People wearing, I guess those are San Diego Gulls t-shirts, some with the logo on the front and some on the back, depending on whether the shopper in question is walking toward or away from the camera. Do you think they coordinated that somehow? Also the Ostro Brasserie appears to be a branch of a restaurant in New Zealand, Ungar’s is a wholesaler of packaged pizza bagels, and Migdal is an Israeli insurance company. This is a really weird mall!
  • Sacramento is short on tax revenue to pay off bonds on its Kings arena and convention center, but honestly that’s just another way of saying that it spent a bunch of money that it didn’t need to and now the chickens are coming home to roost when “don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of tax money” isn’t working out so well. Would it be any better if the city had spent the same money on the arena and then received enough tax revenue to pay it off but couldn’t then use that money for other needed things? Please submit your persuasive essays in comments.
  • Big arenas are joining with smaller music venues in support of the RESTART Act, which would extend the Paycheck Protection Program to help companies pay their furloughed workers, and also provide Small Business Administration loans that would be forgivable for the amount of any losses that venues had in 2020. That doesn’t seem too terrible — music venues are indeed getting creamed by the shutdown, and will likely be among the last things to reopen — but at the same time, there are lots of funny things you can do with your books to show “losses,” so this is worth keeping at least one eye on, especially given that no one in power seems much interested in doing so.
  • I haven’t actually been able to get myself to finish reading this item about the Philadelphia 76ers arena subsidy plan, because I can’t get past its opening line: “Josh Harris is like a horse trying to play the piano… he hits every wrong note.” Is that really what a horse trying to play the piano would do, though? Wouldn’t it fall over from trying to stand on its two hind legs? Shatter the keys with its hooves? Now I can’t think of anything other than how horrifying for all concerned it would be to watch a horse trying to play the piano — pass the RESTART Act now, or we may never see such a sight again!
  • I wanna read this new book on the perils of sports fandom, and not just because I’m in it!

Have a good long weekend, everybody, if that’s still a concept that means anything, and see you back here on Tuesday refreshed and ready to go.

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3 comments on “Friday roundup: San Diego gets arena developer (and vaportecture), horses play piano, and other stories

    1. I believe it is more likely that Bettman will force the Montreal Canadiens to relocate to Tucson (the Javelinas?) to create a natural geographic rival for Phoenix (ok, Glendale) than that the Coyotes will move. Hockey fans in every other city in the league don’t seem to mind overpaying for everything they buy just to send revenue sharing money to help fill the (25 year) financial hole in the Arizona desert.

  1. It is interesting to me that the city played (relatively speaking) hardball with the Chargers who actually had a following in the city but now seem keen to fall all over themselves to build an arena.

    It isn’t clear to me how much public money (or public assets in lieu of money) is going in to this project, but it does seem quite an odd thing to do. Ok, arenas are more useful for a variety of events (depending on how they are built and by whom and who holds the lease etc). But SD had a professional sports team with a decent following in place that they were willing to let walk. Now they don’t have one and are building an arena for hockey/basketball/concerts?

    I don’t think it was a mistake to force the Chargers to cough up some real cash toward their own stadium or leave (particularly given how swimmingly things are going for them in Inglewood-oops-Carson). But I do find it odd that all of a sudden San Diego “needs” a sports and concert venue now that the Chargers have left town.

    This deal also sounds quite a bit like Wolff’s San Jose Earthquakes stadium land/rezoning/housing play. I’ll make the same argument as I did for that one: If the land in question would be so much more valuable if zoned for housing, the city should rezone it and sell it for that purpose. If desired, they can use some of the cash thus generated to help pay for the arena… or, you know, actual public amenities if they prefer.

    When you make a gift or sale of ‘soon to be rezoned and thus more valuable’ land to a private entity, they can’t really count the value of the rezoned land as part of (or all of) “their” contribution. It’s just a way of transferring a public asset to a private partner/entity at less than FMV.

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