Friday roundup: Climate-doomed sports cities, a $500m video-game arena, and tax breaks to allay pirate fears

Happy Friday, everyone! If you’ve been thinking, Gee, what with vaccines rolling out and the end of the pandemic maybe finally imaginable, I could really use some other global catastrophe to experience existential panic about, Defector and I have you covered with an article about which U.S. sports cities are most likely the first to be made uninhabitable by climate change. No spoilers here, but suffice to say that if you’ve been holding out the last 64 years for the return of the Rochester Royals to the NBA, this might be your lucky century.

And in the newsier news:

  • Pittsburgh Penguins owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux were among the slew of developers and landholders who successfully lobbied the Trump administration last year to redraw Census maps to expand Opportunity Zones, earning who the hell knows how much money in tax breaks as a result. This may sound like a blatant cash grab that isn’t available to normal people who don’t have lobbyists on payroll, but just wait until you hear about the St. Croix hemp farmer who says that without tax breaks he would have trouble finding investors in the U.S. Virgin Islands because “people have ideas of pirates and all this sort of thing,” and then think about how little he probably paid for his land there after telling the seller, “I dunno, man, it’s probably infested with pirates,” and then you’ll know for sure.
  • The owner of two separate Toronto esports teams (one an Overwatch team and one a Call of Duty team, if you think I’m going to dignify them with boldface team names you’re nuts) has announced plans for a 7,000-seat venue to host them, at a cost of $500 million. Wut? I mean, it will also be able to host concerts (its designer called it neither “a sports arena nor an opera house” but “a new typology that straddles the two,” which he got “new” right, anyway), but still, half a billion dollars for a 7,000-seat theater with lots of big screens? Also, the developers already announced this last July, just without the $500 million price tag, so good job, guys, if you leaked the large number now just to get attention, as it’s working. No word yet on whether they’d want public money or tax breaks or anything for this, but you have to think they’d be crazy to spend all their own money on this.
  • Add the Pensacola Blue Wahoos to the list of minor-league baseball teams trying to use the downsizing of the minors to shake down cities for stadium improvements. Sure, it’s only $2 million, but it’s also only to secure a ten-year lease extension, which means they can demand more money in 2031 … if Florida is still above sea level by then. (Oop, damn, the spoiler thing again, sorry.)
  • The Oakland A’s owners may have won their lawsuit to fast-track any environmental challenges to their proposed Howard Terminal stadium (which, by the way, is in an area likely to be among the first to be inundated by sea level rise — oops, I said no spoilers), but lawsuits can be appealed! There, I just saved you $52 a year on an Athletic subscription.
  • I’ve been only marginally following Everton F.C.‘s plans for a new £500 million stadium on the Liverpool waterfront — holding 52,000 people, eat that, Overwatch barons — but there are some mostly dull new renderings out. Also the team’s owners are claiming that moving from one part of town to another will add £1 billion to the local economy, which just goes to show that even when all they’re asking for is a city loan that they’ll repay with interest, sports team owners can’t stop going to the “money will rain like manna from heaven” page in the stadium playbook.
  • The Columbus Crew have fresh renderings out of their new stadium, and do they include people throwing their hands in the air and gesturing wildly to things they want to buy at a bar to show how excited they are to be at a soccer match and ignoring the game so they can sit indoors with a bunch of other uniformly young and attractive people? You bet they do!
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17 comments on “Friday roundup: Climate-doomed sports cities, a $500m video-game arena, and tax breaks to allay pirate fears

  1. Neil.

    The Toronto video game arena is planned on City owned land (the exhibition lands) where MLSE has acquired a significant footprint. BMO field for Toronto FC, hockey arena for AHL Marlies, NBA practice facility for Raptors and admin offices for the MLSE group. Hard to imagine a group trying to build a competitive arena on city land MLSE would consider ‘home turf’. Expect a bun fight for sure. Unless MLSE principals are behind the new proposal, which is unknown. for now

    1. Thanks — so are the esports folks looking to lease the land? And would it pay property taxes if turned over to private use? The published articles about this project have been not so informative.

      Also, thank you for introducing me to “bun fight,” which is now my second favorite Briticism right behind “argy bargy.”

    2. MLSe may have acquired a significant footprint in the area, but the majority of the facilities named (BMO, the former Ricoh coliseum etc) are MLSe controlled facilities owned by the city and sitting on city owned land).

      MLSe may believe or feel like they should have squatters rights on all of the CNE lands, but they do not.

      I’m not sure on what grounds the company would mount a bun fight over another group trying to build an esports arena on city land… wouldn’t doing so be like your neighbour – who has been parking his holiday trailer on your land – attempting to lease out the stall next to his trailer (also on your land) to a third party on the grounds that ‘well, you let me park there so…”

  2. The challenge facing us going forward regarding climate is allocation of resources. How do we allocate resources to fix the problems that we face? To what extent can we depend of more expensive, less efficient forms of energy when about 3 billion people worldwide are energy poor to begin with? How do we balance the needs of the climate with the needs of human beings? None of these are particularly easy questions, and we need the most reliable data available to answer them. Climate projections are famously inaccurate and get exponentially more inaccurate as you go further out in time. I am not sure that I would be making too many decisions about resource allocation based on a projection model that seems to think the average Dallas temperature in 20 years will be 94 degrees. Of the projections that I have seen, that seems to be an outlier. Possible? Yes, but not nearly as likely as other scenarios. My point is not to argue malevolence or fraud on the part of the study. I am sure that they are all good people who are trying to make a positive difference in the world. It just seems to me that some people think we should act upon the worst case projections “just in case.” Remember that such action has a cost and that cost usually hits poor people the hardest.

    1. I mean, so does inaction on climate change:

      https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/the-unfolding-tragedy-of-climate-change-in-bangladesh/

  3. On the A’s proposed stadium, project elevations show where current and future sea levels would reach on the retaining wall outside the stadium grounds. If (or when) the highest projected level is exceeded and sea water enters the stadium grounds, the list of problems for the country (and globe) will be so long that a flooded baseball stadium won’t make the top 100.

      1. If localized flooding gets that bad, again MLB will be well down on the list of concerns (local, regional, national and global).

  4. The Everton renderings are nice to see… if relatively generic. They are from July 2019. Not sure how much progress, if any, is being made on anything related to the project these days?

  5. How could you? Disparage our beloved Ron Burkle. The billionaire who single handedly brought 1.24 “BILLION” in economic benefits to the Sacramento region over 30 years, with the awarding of an exclusive MLS franchise on October 21, 2019 (It could be more, it could be less. Some say it is, some say it isn’t. I don’t know why it would be. What have you got to loose. Need to stop channeling him. Stale article. Yes, I know). https://www.downtownsac.org/development-activity/1-25-billion-economic-impact-anticipated-from-new-downtown-mls-stadium/ Pay no attention to this recent article, and specifically Brad Humphreys of West Virginia University and Rick Eckstein of Villanova University. https://www.politifact.com/article/2019/oct/23/boosters-say-sacramentos-mls-stadium-will-be-econo/

    Ron is not your ordinary billionaire. How doesn’t just run out and buy a new beach house or yacht with his billions. No, Ron purchased a new throne to sit upon. That of the “King of Pop,” Mr. Michael Jackson. https://www.wsj.com/articles/once-asking-100-million-michael-jacksons-neverland-ranch-sells-to-billionaire-ron-burkle-for-22-million-11608817380 (behind a paywall. However, can be brought up via search engine). Article is of value for whom it discloses. Founder of Colony Capital, Tom Barrack. And we all know the name of Tom’s closet and longtime friend. Donald Trump. As George Carlin says, “It’s a big club and you ain’t in it!” https://youtu.be/Nyvxt1svxso

    1. I thought “Burklie” (oh wait, this isn’t a hockey story…) was bringing $1.25 Trillion in economic and other benefits to the region? Pretty sure I saw that somewhere. Or heard it. Or just made it up. But for sure, that number wouldn’t be out there if it wasn’t true and probably even underestimated.

      I think it’s more. You know it’s more. Everybody knows it’s more. It might be five times that. It probably is.

      1. That very same day, in fact.

        Ron was first one off the “Titanic.”

        Should’ve seen his face that Monday morning. All smiles. But definitely not happy. Having to pay a $200 million expansion fee, on top of $252 million, now $300 million + for a brand spanking new downtown soccer specific stadium. Sure Ron thought in could get his exclusive MLS membership for the bargain basement price of $150 million (like FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC).

        Meanwhile, King Garber was there all smiles, thinking he’d hooked himself another big fish.

        Ron Burkle: Managing partner of private investment firm Yucaipa Companies, controlling interests in members-only club SoHo House and the Pittsburg Penguins, estimated worth $2 billion via acquiring and selling grocery store chains and holds investments in UK and US talent agencies, Pomona, California native ….. now, would you blow 1/2 a billion dollars on a Western Hemisphere’s 2nd rate soccer league and barely 5th major sports league in the US, for a $33 million TIF from the city of Sacramento. NO! That’s not how being a billionaire works.

        PS John Bladen, you’re scaring me :-)

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