Thursday roundup: Teams top off 2020 with added public stadium cash, look forward to more of the same in 2021

Welcome to the long-awaited season finale of 2020! What plot twists do you think they have in store for us? I was going to guess some musical numbers, but we already got that earlier in the season, so it’s really anybody’s guess.

One thing never changes year after year, though, even a year filled with unprecedented deaths and huge hits to local government balance sheets, and that’s rich people who own sports teams trying to get public officials to sign large checks to them. How successful were they this week? Let us count the ways:

  • The state of Ohio officially approved $16 million for F.C. Cincinnati‘s new stadium and a $25 million loan to the Columbus Crew for their new stadium, bringing the total public subsidies for those two projects to $97 million and … a loan at 3% interest isn’t actually a significant benefit to the Crew, so that’s probably still around the $98 million it was at before. Both are well short of D.C. United‘s MLS record $183 million in subsidies, but still Ohio taxpayers are looking at some real money here. And don’t forget the Crew owners are still maybe looking for additional tax breaks, so there could be more public costs to come in stoppage time!
  • Elsewhere in MLS, the New York Red Bulls owners may be looking to build a new training facility just seven years after opening their old one (and just expanding it in 2017), either because they need more room or because other teams have glitzier practice fields now, depending on which part of the SB Nation post you want to believe. Team execs have hinted they may be looking at Kearny, the next New Jersey town over from their home stadium in Harrison, but no details yet on where the training center might go or how it would be paid for.
  • Once indoor concerts are a thing again, there could be a short-term boom for venues like Nassau Coliseum that were otherwise having trouble booking shows, notes Newsday, since everybody is going to want to tour at once and everybody can’t play Madison Square Garden at once. The less good news is that this might not take place until 2022; in the meantime, I’m still very eager to see who’s going to get to play on New York City streets this spring and summer, because man oh man do I miss live music.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is allowing the Buffalo Bills to have limited attendance at their home playoff game, and local restaurateurs are griping that they can’t have indoor dining at the same time, even though indoors and outdoors are two different places with two different viral infection rates. (The article also mentions that less than 2% of new infections can be traced to restaurants and bars, apparently based on this spreadsheet released by Cuomo, but since the governor’s office hasn’t revealed whether that’s the percentage of all new infections or just those that can be contact traced — it’s way easier to tell if someone is living with someone who has Covid than if they sat near someone at a restaurant — major grains of salt apply here.)
  • Hawaii is still set to spend $350 million on building a new Aloha Bowl after the old one was condemned. No, I don’t know why Hawaii needs a $350 million football stadium either.
  • Most pro sports teams that applied for Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans back in the spring withdrew their requests when they realized how bad it looked for them to be scarfing up all the money that was meant to keep small businesses afloat, but that’s not the case with the Pittsburgh Penguins owners, who kept their $4.8 million in PPP loan money and say they needed it to pay their arena rent. On the one hand, the rest of the NHL somehow managed to pay rent (where teams are paying any rent) without the need for a government bailout; on the other, most of the PPP money went to places like giant restaurant chains anyway, so if the Penguins are just taking money out of the mouths of TGI Friday’s owners, I guess whatever.
  • The Metro Millers, an indie-league baseball team set to start play in 2022 in the Minneapolis suburb of Shakopee, have hit a couple of roadblocks on their planned $36 million stadium, namely that private investment is “on hold” thanks to the pandemic and crowdfunding only brought in $7,000 of the team’s $600,000 goal. But they’re still planning on opening in 2022, or maybe 2023, or whenever the money materializes. “It needs a lot of work, at least from the funding aspect of it,” Shakopee Mayor Bill Mars said back when the project was first announced in 2019, with a projected opening date of 2021. “It will be interesting to see how they progress over the next six months to a year as far as funding.” Not going too well! Paying for stadiums is hard when you need to do it out of actual venue revenues instead of finding some other sucker to stick with the tab.
  • The Las Vegas Review-Journal has ranked potential NBA expansion cities, mostly to assert that Vegas should be co-frontrunners with Seattle, the end.
  • There was an article earlier this week on how the Jacksonville Jaguars getting the first pick in next year’s NFL draft and the right to take quarterback Trevor Lawrence “could impact NFL and London to tune of hundreds of millions of dollars,” which really didn’t make much sense — something about how having a marquee player could give Jags owner Shad Khan more leverage to get stadium money from Jacksonville or move elsewhere, somehow. Instead let’s focus on how the New York Jets somehow fumbled away their near lock on the #1 draft pick by winning two games in a row, because #LOLJets is always fun even for someone like me who doesn’t watch football and thinks it should probably be replaced entirely by video games.
  • The city of Cleveland is tearing down two warehouses new the Browns‘ stadium so the team can have more room for hosting fans at the the 2021 draft in April, even though it’s pretty unlikely that large numbers of fans will be allowed to gather in one place, even outdoors, by April. The city says it’s only keeping “attic stock” in the warehouses, so those can be relocated at a cost of just — whoops, article is over, no time for that detail, sorry!
  • New San Diego mayor Todd Gloria told a radio show that he’d like to see a new arena built in his city, and you can listen to his interview at that link if you want, but meanwhile I’m transfixed by this arena rendering, which I had missed until now:
    What is happening here? Is there some kind of giant glass wall (fringed with plants, because plants) taking up an entire corner of the arena bowl so that people outside can see the people sitting inside and vice versa? Won’t that make it hard for people inside to see whatever is going on on the court or rink or stage, with all the light pouring in from outside? Why is there a streak of light in the foreground that passes right in front of (or through) all the people on the street? If it’s one of those time-lapse things where cars just look like streaks of light, does that mean all the pedestrians have been frozen in place by some calamity? Maybe this is the surprise that the last day of 2020 holds for us: the end of time itself? If so, go listen to that radio clip now, it may be the last thing you ever do!
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7 comments on “Thursday roundup: Teams top off 2020 with added public stadium cash, look forward to more of the same in 2021

  1. “Paying for stadiums is hard when you need to do it out of actual venue revenues instead of finding some other sucker to stick with the tab.”

    But far less hard if you’re not crazy enough to think that you need to spend $36 million for an independent minor league (or, actually, any minor league) stadium.

    Happy New Year, Neil!

  2. Weird club to general admission seat ratio on that proposed Minnesota stadium. Some (maybe including you?) have said they feel like that’s where the pro leagues would like to go in the future though.

    1. A lot of the “club” seats look to be what we would normally just call “box” seats. But still, yeah, the idea seems to be to have lots of corporate seats and few general admission ones, which is definitely the trend for major-league sports but maybe just slightly weird for an indie-league team in the suburbs that doesn’t even exist yet.

      1. Actually, a closer look at the schematics shows that most of those “club” seats are just “priority” seats, so really just regular seats with a higher price tag. I would pick on the reporter in question for not reading carefully, but the person putting together the schematics spelled “luxury” with an “e,” so attention to detail clearly isn’t a priority all around here.

  3. Surprised or Not Surprised.

    Coyotes keep renewing their arena lease, year by year, with no announcement of a new arena.

  4. Considering the Hawaii stadium has been condemned, they’re going to need a new facility. I wonder if anyone’s projected what the difference between paying for a large, modern-ish facility is compared to a moderate, 40K or so seat stadium, given Hawaii’s exorbitant prices?

    1. Well not only that, but recently there’s been a movement to curb tourism in Hawaii, which is kind of like Florida curbing orange plantations. Seems the natives are fond of having less tourism. And, like, OK, but that means public funds are going to be less available for things like $350M stadiums.

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