Cincy soccer team exec: We’ve never asked for subsidies before, so give us $100m as thanks

The owners of the USL’s F.C. Cincinnati are listening to Alexi Lalas and moving ahead with plans for building a new stadium as they prepare to apply for an MLS expansion franchise, and blah blah blah, here are some places they may want to build it, where’s the bit about who’ll pay for it? Here we go:

[FC Cincinnati President Jeff] Berding said FC Cincinnati is committed to spending $250 million of its own money — $150 million for MLS franchise fees and $100 million toward the stadium. Berding wouldn’t say how much public money the club wants, but he did say FC Cincinnati’s contribution would cover more than half of what’s needed to build a stadium. So it figures it could be asking for less than $100 million in public aid.

That’s a little on the vague side, but it does sound like “almost $100 million” is probably in the ballpark. Though as usual, until a funding plan is actually revealed, there’s no way to tell whether that’ll be almost $100 million total, or almost $100 million in direct construction subsidies, plus tax breaks and operating subsidies and what have you.

And either way, that’s a significant chunk of public change for a team that may or may not win an expansion franchise regardless of whether it gets a stadium built. (Or, looked at another way given MLS’s relentless expansion frenzy, might get a franchise eventually even if it played in a hole in the ground. Not that they play in a hole in the ground currently — F.C. Cincinnati currently plays at University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, where they outdraw several MLS franchises, either a sign that they have the kind of fan base that can support a new building, or that they don’t need a new building, because the old one is plenty popular already.) A new group called No More Stadium Taxes has been formed to oppose the plan, as well as plans to spend public money on expanding Cincinnati’s arena, with attorney Tim Mara, a veteran of the Bengals stadium subsidy battles, on board.

The best part of this whole story, though, is Berding’s explanation of why team owner Carl Lindner III, son of the late billionaire Reds owner Carl Lindner Jr., deserves public funds to help build his private soccer stadium:

Berding also suggested public investment would be a payback to the Lindner family for its largesse over the years.

“Carl Lindner and his family have brought thousands of jobs to the city for decades and never asked for help,” Berding said.

I suppose that’s technically true of Lindner’s ownership of the Reds, since while he owned the team when Great American Ball Park opened in 2003, the bill that authorized it was passed in 1996, when Marge Schott still had possession of the team. (I’m not going to check into whether Lindner’s multiple Cincinnati-area businesses ever asked for tax breaks or the like, though that’d be a fun exercise for both readers and Cincinnati journalists.) But still, “We’ve always run our business with our own money, how about throwing $100 million our way in appreciation of us never asking for help before” seems a little off somehow — but I guess when you’re a billionaire asking for public funds, you need some kind of excuse, even if it’s just “My family has never screwed you over — yet.”

RI officials won’t vote on $38m PawSox subsidy demand yet, they have real work to do, okay?

I neglected to mention last week that the Pawtucket Red Sox had revealed the projected costs for their proposed new stadium, and it would be roughly $45 million from the team, $23 million from the state of Rhode Island, and $15 million from the city of Pawtucket. (The Providence Journal uses higher numbers because it adds up all principal and interest payments over time, which is stupid for the same reason it’d be stupid to add up all your mortgage payments over 30 years to describe the cost of your new house.) But you can forget all that for now, anyway, because the PawSox stadium plan appears to be going nowhere fast in the state legislature:

“The Senate has not received any legislation from the Governor’s office or the Pawtucket Mayor’s office,” [State Senate President Dominick] Ruggerio said in a statement. “At this point, it is too late in the session for a thorough, public review of a proposal of this magnitude. Should legislation be forthcoming, I am not opposed to reconvening in the fall to consider it in a deliberative and public manner.”

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello had reacted coolly to the PawSox’s latest stadium proposal, indicating it wouldn’t get House consideration unless related legislation was introduced at the request of Governor Gina Raimondo.

“Speaker Mattiello is not putting a deal before the House Finance Committee that was negotiated by the governor, as the chairwoman of the Commerce Corporation, without her endorsement and her stamp of approval,” Mattiello spokesman Larry Berman, said in a statement Tuesday. “The speaker finds it highly unusual that the governor is unwilling to endorse a financial plan that she and her team negotiated. The stadium is a significant taxpayer investment, and with the governor sending mixed signals, it is likely too late in the session to initiate a proposal of this magnitude. The House Finance Committee has a great deal of other work to do.”

Oof — declining to take action on a requested stadium subsidy is one thing, but saying “We have a lot of other work to do, don’t bother me”? That’s cold.

To their credit, Rhode Island legislators appear to recognize that they have no good reason to throw a bunch of money at the PawSox owners, especially when the owners have promised not to threaten to move until 2020 to heal “wounds that were suffered by fans” the last time they threatened to move. Coming up next, probably: More threats to move. This doesn’t seem to be working out too well so far for Larry Lucchino and his fellow owners, but remember, they only have to win once.

New L.A. stadium won’t host Super Bowl until 2022, we know you’re broken up about this

Now that the new Los Angeles Rams and Chargers stadium has been delayed until 2020 thanks to rain, the NFL has moved the 2021 Super Bowl to Tampa and given the 2022 Super Bowl to L.A., because of a league rule that says stadiums can’t host Super Bowls in their first seasons, or because the league was afraid the stadium wouldn’t be ready by 2021, or because the rule is there because of fears stadiums won’t be ready on time or — wait, what the heck is this?

Somehow I’d missed this particular Inglewood stadium rendering, which makes it look kind of like a space-age tennis racket suspended on pillars over an open pit. It almost certainly won’t look much like this — for one thing, everything used to build it won’t be blazing white, and neither will all the surrounding buildings and parking lots — but that appears to be somebody’s best attempt to depict a translucent (?) roof with some kind of video boards suspended from it, and … you know what, we should probably just wait to see this thing. I get why it’s going to cost $2 billion now, though, even if I still don’t quite get why Stan Kroenke wants to spend that much.

Ariana Grande concert bombing: Was lax arena security really to blame?

Because yesterday’s horrific Ariana Grande concert bombing took place at a sports arena, and because I’ve written about sports arena security, I feel like I should have something to say about it, beyond the obvious fact that it’s horrific. With the sketchy details available so far, here’s what I can think of:

  • The explosion went off in the arena lobby, so the obvious question is how the bomber got the explosives in past security. (Assuming the lobby was inside the arena gates, which isn’t entirely clear from this diagram.) The bomb is described as an “improvised explosive device,” which could be made entirely (or almost entirely) from plastic explosives, and thus be difficult to scan for with metal detectors.
  • The mother of a 19-year-old who was at the concert (and uninjured) said that “although her son had water taken off him, his bags were not searched and security did not check what he was carrying,” something that was echoed by other attendees. That’s dumb security, obviously, but exactly the kind of “security theater” that stadiums and arenas engage in when faced with the dilemma of how to get tens of thousands of fans to their seats while also doing some minimal security search, which means minimal is exactly what you get.
  • This is almost certainly going to lead to increased security measures like more stringent bag checks and more walkthrough metal detectors, neither of which I’m all that confident will do much to prevent future bombings, especially since not only can IEDs be strapped to someone’s body rather than carried in a bag, but a bomber could have done about the same amount of damage standing just outside the arena lobby instead of just inside it.
  • The most effective way to prevent attacks on innocent concertgoers is to get fewer people in the world thinking that that’s an effective way to get their point across. That’s hard.

And that’s all I’ve got. I’d love to be able to blame this on someone (other than the bomber), or suggest an easy fix, but I’m not too hopeful on either count. In the meantime, my sympathies to the families of those killed and injured. What a damn world.

Foes of $70m Cavs subsidy file repeal petitions, city won’t accept them, all hell breaks loose

As expected, members of the coalition opposing the deal to give Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert $70 million in public money so he can build a big glass wall filed petitions yesterday containing more than 20,000 signatures seeking to have the agreement overturned. As not so much expected, the Cleveland city council clerk’s office told them to take a hike, arguing that accepting the petitions would “unconstitutionally impair an already executed and binding contract”:

“A referendum seeking repeal of Ordinance No. 305-17 would unconstitutionally impair an already executed and binding contract. Therefore, I do not accept the petition papers for such referendum,” said a letter signed by deputy clerk of council Allan Dreyer when the petitions were presented to the clerk’s office.

An hour later, a second letter signed by Dreyer, but presented to the groups’ leaders by council president Kevin Kelley, stated the city was “taking custody” of the petitions but added, “do not consider the petition to be filed with the Clerk.”

This did not go over well with coalition leaders Rev. Jawanza Colvin of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church and Rev. Richard Gibson of Elizabeth Baptist Church, who held out their arms demanding to be handcuffed and arrested, saying they had no intention of leaving unless the petitions were accepted. Eventually the council “took custody” of the petitions without accepting them as “filed,” and everybody went back to their own corners to figure out their next steps.

Exactly what the hell the Cleveland council is thinking isn’t clear, since the arena renovation deal would involve county bonds, which are explicitly subject to repeal by public referendum under Ohio law. (Actually the bonds haven’t even been sold yet, as the county has been waiting on the referendum drive before moving ahead with that.) There’s some question as to whether a public vote overturning the bonds could also overturn the agreement between the council and Gilbert over how to use the proceeds of the bonds — in which case presumably the council would need to come up with $70 million some other way — but there doesn’t seem to be any precedent for refusing to accept referendum petitions on the grounds of “go away, kid, don’t bother me.” This was all going to end up in court sooner or later, and it sounds like the smart money is on “sooner” now.

New stadium for Rams, Chargers delayed till 2020 because it rained

And in today’s comedy news, the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers will be delayed a year in moving into their new stadium because it rained:

Historically heavy rainfall in Los Angeles has delayed the highly anticipated, $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, California, by a year.

The new facility, to be shared by the Rams and Chargers, will now open in 2020 instead of 2019, the teams said Thursday. In the meantime, the Rams will play at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for an additional year and the Chargers will have one more season at StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Color me marginally skeptical — stadium manager Dale Koger acknowledged that the original timetable was “very aggressive,” so this could just be a matter of realizing they weren’t going to be done on time and blaming it on the rain. But whatever; anything else hilarious about this? Like, how will this mess with any important plans that the teams will now have to put on hold?

Fourteen months ago, [Rams COO Kevin] Demoff told The Times, “Our focus has always been on introducing new uniforms the year we open a new stadium. That’s the opportune time to shape your brand.”…

But it might not happen until 2020.

“That’s a decision we’ll make in the coming months as we look at the uniforms,” Demoff said during a teleconference with a reporters. “But we will have the option of beginning a rebrand in 2019 or with the stadium in 2020.”

Man, there is nothing as funny as people unironically saying things like “shape your brand.” Still not quite as good as when a masked superhero does it, but I’ll just picture Demoff wearing a purple unitard, and it’s almost as good.

Las Vegas approves Raiders lease that will pay taxpayers $0 in rent for next 30 years

The Las Vegas Stadium Authority unanimously approved a lease with the Oakland Raiders yesterday, and it’s online and everything so we can look at it! Good news first:

  • The Raiders owners have to pay all maintenance and operating costs, as well as putting $2.5 million a year into a Stadium Authority Capital Projects Fund that they can then spend on themselves.
  • There doesn’t appear to be any kind of “state of the art” clause that would allow the team to break its lease if the county doesn’t provide stadium upgrades.

And the not-so-good news:

  • In exchange for its $750 million in construction subsidies, the public gets absolutely zero revenues from anything: ticket sales, naming rights, concessions, ad boards, you name it. The Raiders’ rumored $1 a year rent turns out not to be true; they will actually pay $0 a year.
  • The stadium, despite all of its revenues for the next 30 years being controlled by its private tenant, will pay no property taxes.

This isn’t quite as bad a lease as I’d feared — a state-of-the-art clause would have been a real disaster, since it would have allowed the Raiders owners to demand future upgrades in a decade or two under threat of moving again — but it’s still not very good for taxpayers. It was apparently finalized in a hurry because of the team’s threat to stay in Oakland for another year if a lease wasn’t worked out this week; Mark Davis may be bad at a lot of things, but he seems to have this whole gamesmanship thing worked out pretty well.

RI officials talk a lot about new PawSox stadium plan, don’t say much of anything

In the wake of Rhode Island’s governor saying she might be okay with spending as much as $35 million on a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium, several politicians in the state spent yesterday backing away from any such thing, including the governor herself:

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston, insists any legislative package involving state financing of a new stadium must arrive with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s stamp of approval.

“I have no bill. I have no legislation. No proposals. No nothing,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “I just got their press packet today …. I will look at it in my leisure, which I have none. It’s not my issue.”

And:

Although [Gov. Gina] Raimondo on Tuesday and again on Wednesday afternoon rattled off multiple reasons why she concludes the proposal appears to “pay for itself,” “would be self-supportive,” is a “much better, much more reasonable proposal than last time,” her spokesman Mike Raia insisted Wednesday morning that “The Governor did not endorse the deal or throw her support behind it, as [The Providence Journal] reported.”

Raimondo did say that the latest team proposal (which, as Mattiello noted, isn’t really a formal proposal) is better than the team’s previous one, something that Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio echoed. But for now, this looks like lots of “we want to do something for the team, but we’re not going to make any commitments until we see which way the winds are blowing” posturing, which is about right for this stage of the game. Though “you’re not going to get a dime of public money until you can show clear and unassailable public benefits” works too, maybe somebody might want to try that?

Beckham unveils new Miami stadium design, promises to create a whole 25 living-wage jobs

David Beckham’s gang of stadium negotiators descended yet again on Miami yesterday, to present the latest iteration of his long-delayed MLS stadium plans. He’d gotten raked over the coals of late by a local neighborhood group for proposing a plan that includes no parking, so how’d he do this time?

That’s less crazy than the last rendering, in that it doesn’t have sidewalks sloppily pasted over parked cars, though it still seems to rely on cantilevering some of the seating over the surrounding streets via support beams with all the structural integrity of a toothpick sculpture. But we’ll leave it to the engineers to figure that out — what about that whole parking issue?

“We’re going to be encouraging the use of Metromover, Metrorail, water taxis, ride-sharing,” said Spencer Crowley, a lawyer and lobbyist representing Miami Beckham United in its talks with Miami-Dade to buy a parcel needed for its nine-acre stadium site near the Miami River. “We view this as a paradigm shift for the county as to how people get to large events.”

Sure — when live serves you no-parking lemons, might as well make alternate-transit-ade. And it might even work, though proposing that your fans won’t need to park their cars anywhere because they can take “water taxis” is a bit out-there. (Beckham’s stadium czar Tim Leiweke also promised a “dinner-cruise boat to deliver fans to the Miami River a few blocks away.”)

And speaking of out-there, dear lord, this:

As part of the deal, the Beckham group promised to create 50 permanent jobs at the stadium. Half would be required to pay Miami-Dade’s living wage of about $15 an hour.

That’s right, 50 new jobs! And 25 of them would pay at least $15 an hour! And local Overtown residents should be grateful, said Audrey Edmonson, the Miami-Dade commissioner for the neighborhood:

“I heard some groans when it came to 50 jobs,” Edmonson said. “Guaranteeing 50 permanent jobs, that is a lot of jobs when it comes down to a stadium. … Believe me, I had a difficult time getting that out of them.”

She tried, people. Life is hard.

SDSU drops out of San Diego MLS plan, would rather use stadium land itself

How’s that whole plan going to build a San Diego soccer stadium on the site of the Chargers‘ old stadium that would double as San Diego State University’s football stadium, using no public money except for, oh yeah, about $240 million in public money? Not well at all, if the SDSU part was important to anybody:

San Diego State made their position clear Tuesday afternoon, releasing a statement that announced that they will no longer engage in discussions with FS Investors, whose plans are to build an MLS stadium that would be shared by the SDSU football team…

“While SDSU’s current campus footprint of 238 acres is sufficient to support the University’s aspirations in the short term, we have long-articulated the need for more space for the advancement of the University over the next 50 years. The Mission Valley opportunity is a once-in-a-generation chance for SDSU to expand its research, tech transfer, collaboration space and other future needs, as we continue to ascend toward becoming a top 50 public research institution.

Translated: That’s a nice piece of property you’ve got there, and we’d way rather have it for ourselves rather than having to share with a soccer team. Which, maybe that’s a better use of land, maybe it’s not — we’d need to see, and hopefully the San Diego city council will demand to see, some kind of cost-benefit analysis to determine what’s the best use of the site. This doesn’t necessarily kill the soccer plan by any means, but it’s certainly not going to help the push for a public referendum in favor of it this fall when voters ask, “So this will give SDSU’s football team a place to play, too, right?” and canvassers have to reply, “Um, have we mentioned that soccer is growing in popularity among well-off millennials?”