Friday roundup: MLB billionaire owners cry poor, Rangers stadium reviews get worse and worse

What a week! I know I say that every week, but: What. A. Week. In addition to the World Series insanity, I spent some time this week writing an article about other ways that giant monopolistic cartels screw over regular folks, but it’s not up yet* so you’ll just have to find out about it next week (or keep refreshing my personal website, or follow me on Twitter or something).

In the meantime, there’s lots of sports stadium and arena news to keep you occupied:

  • NYC F.C. may have announced progress on its new soccer stadium this week while providing no indication of actual progress, but the Washington Football Team one-upped them when team president Jason Wright earned an entire NBC Sports article about their stadium plans by saying he didn’t even have a timeline for the process. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Republic likewise issued a statement on their new stadium construction plans that amounted to nothing (“I do have a hard hat in my trunk!” said team president Ben Gumpert, by way of news). At this rate, team owners will be able to get reporting on their stadium campaigns after denying they even want one — oh wait, we’ve gone there already.
  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says the league now has $8.3 billion in debt, $3 billion of it accrued during 2020’s pandemic season, which doesn’t actually tell you how well baseball is doing — presumably some of it was borrowed against future revenues from TV contracts and naming-rights deals and the like — but sounds impressive when you’re about to go into union contract talks. Also, notes Marc Normandin, that’s really only a $100 million loss per team, which isn’t an unfathomably huge sum for the billionaires who own most teams; plus we have to take Manfred’s word on that debt figure, and it already doesn’t include things like teams’ ownership of regional sports networks. MLB owners, he writes, are “hoping, as they so often do, that you have no idea how anything works, and will just take them at their word. So that they can do things like, oh, I don’t know, decline the 2021 option on basically everyone with one in order to flood the free agent market with additional players they can then underbid on and underpay, claiming that this is all financially necessary because of all the debt, you see.” Or as we may start calling it soon, getting Brad Handed.
  • Philadelphia public schools lost $112 million in property tax revenues in 2019 that were siphoned off to tax breaks for developers, according to a new Good Jobs First study, nearly double their losses from just two years earlier. Good thing the 76ers‘ plan for an arena funded by siphoned-off property taxes was rejected, though there are more plans where that came from, so Philly schools should probably still hold onto their wallets.
  • One more review of the Texas Rangers‘ new stadium that team owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson got $500 million to help build because the old one lacked air-conditioning, this one from a fan who’s visited every stadium and arena in North America: “This would probably end up probably down near the bottom.” He added that the upper decks are too far from the field, the place is too dark, the scale is “ridiculous,” and on top of that fans were taking off their masks as soon as security is out of sight, which, yup.
  • Las Vegas has extended its negotiating window again for a new soccer stadium to lure an MLS team, which makes you wonder why they even bothered to set a window in the first place instead of just hanging out a shingle saying, “Have Stadium $$$, Inquire Within.”
  • Sports team owners make tons of “dark money” to political campaigns to try to get elected officials to support their interests, according to ESPN, though disappointingly their only real source is an unnamed NBA owner. But that source did say, “There’s no question,” in italics and everything, so you know they’re serious.
  • Maybe the NHL should just play games outdoors so they can allow in fans? There are dumber ideas, but they might want to figure out how to get fans to keep their damn masks on first.
  • There are some new renderings of the New York Islanders‘ luxury suites at their new arena, and I can’t stop puzzling over what that weird counter-like thing is in this one, or why the women are all wearing stiletto heels to an NHL game. I’ll never understand hockey!

*UPDATE: Now it’s up.

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11 comments on “Friday roundup: MLB billionaire owners cry poor, Rangers stadium reviews get worse and worse

  1. Neil: The idea of every player operating on a one year contract has been around a long time. In fact, it went back to Charlie Finley ( an idea Marvin Miller was afraid of). But for all of the Cleveland’s dumping Brad Hand, you still have teams willing to spend, such as the Yankees picking up the Zack Britton option ( for more money and a year longer then Hand’s contract):. Guess what? Until teams go bankrupt and until there is no one willing to purchase a franchise, you will always have the haves ( like the Yankees and Dodgers), and the have nots ( like the Indians and Pirates):

  2. I love the idea of playing the NHL season outside. But that article doesn’t address one problem: where would they play? They can’t use NFL/CFL stadiums because the seasons overlap. Baseball stadiums would work but not every NHL city has a major-league baseball stadium.

    1. The NHL season isn’t starting until February, right? The NFL will have cleared out by then.

      I don’t know what you do if your city’s only stadium is a dome. Would that affect anyone other than the Canadiens and Canucks?

    2. Finding venues will be simple, it’s for one season so even something like Hofstra would be sufficient. It’s the cost of keeping a quality rink outside for an entire season that’s the issue, especially in humid places and hot (or in the case of North Carolina and Florida, both) markets.

  3. So much vaportecture in the stadium video. It may take you all weekend to analyze. Can someone explain to me why I find the vaportecture reviews so comforting?

    1. Cohen got approved after this was posted. But here: “Richer Guy Replaces Less-Rich Guy As Mets Owner.”

      Noah Syndergaard has the best line on this anyway:

      1. When every non-protagonist in the film is Dr. No/Dr. Evil/The Borg suspension of disbelief becomes quite difficult.

  4. Neil, not sure if you’ve seen this report yet: this isn’t a stadium related thing, but seems like it’s up your alley:

    1. Good article, and sadly not entirely surprising. As Greg LeRoy notes in it, Amazon has gotten billions of dollars in recorded tax breaks, and likely billions more in hidden ones. $741 million just in Illinois alone is a lot, though.

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