So, yeah, some stuff happened this week, and is continuing to happen now. But let’s not let rampaging Viking cosplayers distract us from the fact that the new year has also brought a resurgence in sports subsidy activity, with a whole lot of news that normally I might write individual posts about if I hadn’t been up too late refreshing Google News, so instead you’ll have to bear with me through some long bullet points:
- The Jacksonville city council held its committee-of-the-whole hearing yesterday on Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s $200-million-plus subsidy request for redevelopment of his stadium’s Lot J parking area, and confirmed: Yup, we’re planning to give him $200-million-plus. The council rejected amendments to claw back part of the subsidy if the team moved out of town or to rescind a $65.5 million interest-free loan that’s part of the package — and did so by supermajorities, indicating this will pass the full council on Tuesday — on the grounds that, according to First Coast News, “Representatives for Khan told the council that they wouldn’t agree to a deal that contained either provision.” Apparently “Send money or we’ll shoot this dog” works just great for getting your way in the Jacksonville city council, at least if you’re the local billionaire NFL owner; we’ll find out for sure when the council votes on Tuesday, after which everyone can start negotiating more subsidies for stadium renovations in exchange for Khan extending his lease. It’s good to be king.
- It’s been a while since anyone has brought up the fact that Madison Square Garden’s operating permit expires in 2023, at which point the city could technically padlock the building and force the New York Rangers and Knicks to play hockey and whatever the Knicks have been playing the last 20 years elsewhere. But according to the real estate stan site New York Yimby, “the City Council voted this week in a Community Board Five meeting” — the council and community boards are separate governing bodies, so I have no idea which they actually mean here [UPDATED SPECULATION: There’s nothing on the city council calendar about this, so it looks to have been a CB5 hearing on Wednesday] — to move ahead with considering a plan to turn the current MSG into a giant round entryway for Penn Station and build a new MSG a block away between two skyscrapers taller than the nearby Empire State Building. According to the renderings, which are apparently from 2016 (seriously, reading New York Yimby is like trying to sift through plane crash wreckage for clues to what actually happened), the new arena would be built on a superblock created by tearing down two entire blocks of existing buildings, closing 33rd Street between 6th and 7th avenues to traffic, building a platform to lift the entire complex into the sky, and running a “service road” under it. No estimates were given of how much all this would cost or who would pay for it, but it’s worth recalling that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has previously hinted at expanding the Hudson Yards PILOT district that siphons off tax money to repay developers to include not just the current MSG site but this potential new one, which could provide a shit-ton of hidden subsidies for a new Garden. More news on this developing story once an actual journalism site reports on it, or if I get some time free to look into it more myself.
- Norfolk could again be getting proposals to build a new arena as it seeks to redevelop its Military Circle district. No word yet on how much any of this would cost or who would pay for it, but the Virginian-Pilot still feels authorized to note that it could make Military Circle “a major pillar of the city’s economy in the decades to come,” especially since it would be one of the few parts of town left above sea level thanks to climate change. I can see nothing possibly wrong with this plan!
- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says she’s “pretty optimistic” about her city getting an NBA expansion franchise, someday. This should be no surprise given that NBA commissioner Adam Silver just called expansion the league’s “manifest destiny” as owners salivate for expansion-fee money to offset Covid-related losses, and that Seattle is the clear frontrunner; if a new Sonics team does arrive, that would be a nice victory for a city that managed to say no to repeated arena subsidy demands and force a mostly-privately-funded one instead, though admittedly going close to 20 years without a basketball team before getting a new one is a somewhat pyrrhic victory.
- The Arizona Coyotes renewed their lease in Glendale for one year yet again, now making it six straight years that the team has re-upped after threatening to leave town without a new arena or a more team-friendly lease. This really would seem to be an example of a city successfully calling a team’s bluff, but new team owner Alex Meruelo still says he’s fielding arena offers and hopes to have something to announce by the end of 2020 — oh whoops, 2020 is over, would you look at that. But seriously, without a new lease deal, the Coyotes are gone! Someday. Maybe. He’ll get back to you.
- Melbourne, Australia, banned thousands of people who attended a cricket match in the same seating section as one guy who turned up coronavirus-positive from attending the next match, under threat of $1,000 fines. This is an interesting approach, as was allowing nearly 24,000 people to attend a cricket match in the first place, but certainly is a contrast to the NFL’s “pack in as many fans as you’re allowed until you have a proven superspreader event” approach.
- This has nothing specifically to do with stadiums, but Defector’s reminiscence about that time Washington Football Club owner Dan Snyder took over control of Six Flags and tried to launch a theme of rollercoaster-themed hair salons for kids where haircuts would be named after rollercoasters and kids would watch rollercoaster videos while getting their hair cut is still a worthwhile reminder that rich people can be just as dumb as the rest of us, only with a lot more money to make their dumb ideas become reality.