FIFA not actually demanding every 2026 World Cup host city have two extra stadiums on hand for watching on TV, phew

So several readers wondered if the line in the Las Vegas Review-Journal article cited in my previous post about FIFA demanding “two outdoor venues — each capable of seating 20,000 people to watch every tournament game on a big screen at no cost” really meant outdoor venues, as I assumed, or just public plazas for fan zones, as has been done for past World Cups. I reached out to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, whose COO Steve Hill was quoted (well, paraphrased) as saying the thing about 20,000-seat venues, and didn’t hear back immediately — their press people are still trying to track Hill down for clarification.

But the Review-Journal’s reporter Rick Velotta did get back to me, and wrote this:

I specifically asked Steve Hill about this because I asked, “What about just opening up T-Mobile and Thomas & Mack?” He said they had to be strictly outdoor venues (which makes little sense to me, considering the tournament is in June/July).

So I asked, “What about Sam Boyd Stadium and maybe the Las Vegas Motor Speedway?” He said FIFA is looking for a new place to set up so that a big screen could be set up at one end. So it’s more like what you suggested … public space where a big screen and seating could be built.

So you’d be talking about not only a lot of space but a place where people could also park their cars.

My apologies, then, for getting anyone in a panic about having to build tons of new outdoor stadiums (or at least rent tons of old ones), as it appears that all FIFA really wants is two big-ass fields and 20,000 folding chairs and big video boards and a few thousand parking spaces. For around 100 games over the course of several weeks. And security for all that, of course. For free. Really, I don’t see what Las Vegas (and Chicago and Minneapolis and Vancouver) was even griping about — that’s nothing more than you’d offer to any multi-billion-dollar company visiting for a few weeks, right?

FIFA is reportedly demanding every 2026 World Cup host city have two extra stadiums on hand for watching on TV

So it turns out Chicago, Minneapolis, and Vancouver weren’t the only cities to bow out of bidding to be host cities for the 2026 World Cup because the FIFA demands were too rich for their blood; Las Vegas did so as well. And the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has revealed one previously unannounced FIFA demand that is, frankly, jaw-dropping:

The requirements included providing two outdoor venues — each capable of seating 20,000 people to watch every tournament game on a big screen at no cost, [Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and Chief Operating Officer Steve] Hill said.

So if we’re taking this at its word*, every host city needs to have three stadiums — one to play in, and two to watch TV in. And they need to be outdoors, because what kind of crazy person watches games on a screen indoors?

In a lot of the prospective host cities — Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando, Miami, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, if you needed a reminder — this won’t be too difficult, as there will be MLB and MLS facilities in place that can be used as well. (Or college football stadiums, as in Seattle, where the MLS team already plays in the stadium that would be used for the World Cup.) The bigger problem will be getting them for free: In most cases the local sports teams control the use of the venues, not the cities, which raises the possibility that cities may have to fork over big bucks to rent back the stadiums they themselves helped build in order to hand them over to FIFA to use for rent-free watch parties.

And then, there’s also the problem that the World Cup takes place in the middle of the baseball season, so will the Houston Astros — to pick a team at random — be asked to go on a month-long road trip so that their stadium can be used as a giant open-air movie theater for soccer fans?

The Las Vegas Review-Journal also reports that FIFA is requiring each city to put in place “world-class practice facilities shielded from the public” for teams playing in each host city, which, again, most cities probably have somewhere (depending on what you mean by “world-class”), but may not be able to access for free.

If the “two free bonus stadiums” thing is accurate — it’s not in the FIFA bid book, though really, not much is (the practice facilities are, though) — this is clearly going to be a large issue for many, if not most, of the prospective North American host cities. We have several years of ugly, ugly haggling ahead of us, so it’s important to figure out what the key sticking points are going to be sooner than later, before a whole lot of cities get stuck with some unexpected bills.

*UPDATE: We don’t need to take this at its word, phew.

Austin council split going into June 28 vote on whether to open up bids on proposed Crew soccer stadium land

It looks like the soccer stadium vote at the final Austin city council meeting of the session on June 28 will come down to whether to open negotiations exclusively with Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt’s group or to put the McKalla Place land up for open bid:

Item 64 on the agenda is to approve a resolution that would direct the city manager to begin negotiating with Precourt Sports Ventures for a Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place in North Austin.

Item 60 is for a resolution that would direct the city manager to solicit development plans, including those for mixed-use developments, for McKalla Place.

The soccer-only plan is backed by Mayor Steve Adler and councilmembers Kathie Tovo, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, and Delia Garza; the open-bid plan is backed by councilmembers Leslie Pool, Alison Alter, Ora Houston, and Ellen Troxclair. That leaves three swing votes: Greg Casar, Ann Kitchen, and Jimmy Flannigan.

If you’re trying to handicap those swing votes, here’s their record so far on the Crew stadium debate:

So if we count Kitchen as leaning against the soccer-only deal, and Flannigan as leaning for, it looks like we could be headed for a very, very busy week of lobbying calls to Greg Casar. He might want to put in a call to Miami to talk to Michelle Spence-Jones for tips on haggling.

*CORRECTION: McKalla Place is indeed city-owned, but Kitchen was reportedly (see comments) opposed only to using city owned parkland for a stadium, not any city-owned land. So if Kitchen is indeed okay with the MLS-only plan, then maybe Casar’s phone won’t be ringing quite so much off the hook this week.

Friday roundup: Kraft tries to use World Cup to get new stadium, Roger Noll says Austin MLS subsidies are indeed subsidies, NC mulls new tax breaks for Panthers

Posting this while watching the first World Cup match at the crazy stadium with the seats outside the stadium. (I haven’t honestly even noticed who the teams are yet, I’m just watching the architecture.) Anyhoo:

Another Austin councilmember thinks Crew stadium proposal is a load of poop

The Austin city council held its first official discussion of a proposed MLS soccer stadium to host the relocated Columbus Crew yesterday, and apparently Leslie Pool isn’t the only councilmember who went into it having done her reading. Just check this out:

Council Member Alison Alter, who has aligned with Pool in the debate, cited an economic study by Stanford professor Roger Noll critical of most stadium deals cities strike with major league sports owners.

“Austin is wonderful, but we don’t defy the laws of economics,” Alter said. “According to this proposal, we’re giving away our land for free. I have an issue with that.”

Elected officials namechecking Roger Noll without prompting! Maybe we really are in the brave new world predicted by, uh, Roger Noll!

The council is set to meet again on Thursday, but soccer isn’t on the agenda, meaning the decision on whether to give Crew owner Anthony Precourt free land and a bunch of infrastructure money is likely to come down to one final winner-take-all debate on June 28 — though the opposition proposal is likely to be less “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” and more “open up the site for competitive bidding so we can see if we get any better offers.” Aside from Pool and Alter being opposed, and both Mayor Steve Adler and Mayor Pro Tem (vice-mayor, basically) Kathie Tovo being in favor, most councilfolk didn’t have much definitive to say yesterday other than this thing is 189 pages, we need to read it more carefully. Good thing they’re going to have two whole meetings to discuss it, because that sure is democracy!

U.S., Canada, Mexico Win Right to Host Quadrennial Traveling Soccer Grift

It’s official: The 2026 World Cup has been awarded to a joint bid by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The North American bid won out over one by Morocco by a 134-65 vote of FIFA member nations, if FIFA vote numbers can really be said to mean anything at all.

Anyway, aside from a whole lot of people now making June 2026 travel plans — I personally am torn between wanting to watch top international soccer and wanting to rent out my apartment to a bunch of Icelanders eager to watch their team — the obvious big question is: What will this mean in terms of building and upgrading stadiums? Obviously, the North American nations have a lot more World Cup–ready stadiums than Morocco, which was going to have to spend $15.8 billion on new or renovated stadiums if it had won. But still, FIFA has high expectations — Russia had lots of stadiums already before this year’s World Cup, but still ended up spending $11 billion (not only on stadiums, but mostly) — and even relatively new venues could be deemed in need of upgrades after another eight years has passed, given the way “aging” keeps getting defined down.

The North American bid included 23 cities (deep breath): Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando, Miami, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle; not all of those will ultimately end up hosting games, even with an expanded 48-team field, but all will be in the running. Several other cities, such as Chicago, Minneapolis, and Vancouver, bowed out of the running after deciding that they didn’t want to be subject to FIFA’s demands, which can include stadium upgrades, security costs, and tax breaks.

One big issue is bound to be grass vs. turf fields, since a lot of the proposed U.S. stadiums are home to NFL teams and so use fake turf, while FIFA insists that the World Cup — the men’s World Cup, anyway — be played on grass. Obvious candidates for a World Cup final, for example, would be either MetLife Stadium in New York (really New Jersey) or the new Inglewood stadium in Los Angeles (really Inglewood), given the size of the media markets and hotel capacity; however, both have artificial turf, and it’s tough to see the biggest game in international soccer being played on a bunch of grass trays that look like it.

I’ll no doubt be researching this more over the next eight years, so stay tuned. But given that FIFA is involved, as well as U.S. sports team owners who will use pretty much anything at all as a pretext to demand a new or renovated stadium, and this has bad news written all over it for North American taxpayers. Even if the prospect of seeing these guys suit up within driving distance of your home is kind of cool.

Austin councilmember says Crew stadium “massive giveaway,” team owner acting like “used-car salesman”

With the official debate over an Austin MLS stadium to lure the relocated Columbus Crew about to kick off, it’s only one city council member who has publicly come out to say it would be a bad deal — but that one has done so in no uncertain terms:

After a detailed review with her staff, [Leslie Pool] said, the plan “doesn’t pencil out.”

“It looks like a massive giveaway,” Pool said. “Precourt Sports Ventures, they don’t want to pay property taxes but they want the city to cover most of the cost for them without any revenue to pay for it, which we could get from the property taxes.”

That’s not exactly how I’d put it — the city wouldn’t be covering “most of the cost,” though it would definitely be forgoing both property taxes and any share of stadium revenue, both of which are things the people of Austin really think the city should be getting. But Pool did go on to say that the Crew owners “want all the benefit from it — the gate fees, the merchandise, concessions, advertising, you name it — and they don’t want to pay property taxes and [want to] keep all the revenue,” which is dead on, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for misspeaking in the “most of the cost thing.

Team president Dave Greeley immediately responded with a backhanded-placating statement that said while the owners “respect all of the process” and would understand if Pool wants to put the proposed stadium property up for open bidding, “the reality is that there is time sensitivity attached to this,” and maybe there could at least be a memorandum of understanding by the end of June to, you know, create some momentum that would be too hard to undo even if another bidder came in with a better offer? (Greeley didn’t directly say the “creating momentum” thing, but you know he was thinking it.) To which Pool responded:

“That’s a time-honored approach for a used-car salesman. ‘This car isn’t going to be here at this price tomorrow.’ I’m constitutionally reluctant to be pushed like that. … That’s not how a governmental entity should be making policy or decisions for the taxpayers.”

I’d offer to send Councilmember Pool a copy of Field of Schemes, but I feel like she’s already read it.

Friday roundup: Grading Mariners subsidies on a curve, Cobb County could close parks to pay off Braves debt, Beckham punts on another stadium deadline

Congratulations to the team that had never won the hockey thing winning it over the other team that had never won the hockey thing because it was a new team! And meanwhile:

Look out, Saskatoon, here comes Mark Rosentraub with his tales of arena milk and honey

My apologies for not keeping you up to speed on events in Saskatoon, where the city has been considering building a new downtown arena, at a potential price tag of $375 million plus land costs, to replace the 30-year-old SaskTel Centre. That’s been going on for a few months; I mention it now because University of Michigan sports economist Mark Rosentraub is in town (in Saskatoon, I mean, not in my town or yours, unless you live in Saskatoon) to give a talk about building a new downtown arena, and how totally awesome it would be:

“Sport venues have been very, very successful,” said Mark Rosentraub, professor of sports management at the University of Michigan…

“There is no city where we have not been able to literally put something together something where the public sector gains and the private sector gains,” he told CBC Radio’s Saskatoon Morning.

Setting aside Rosentraub’s odd syntax — it’s a transcribed radio interview, I’ll cut him some slack — you may be forgiven for wondering, What, what the hell is he on about? Isn’t this entire website a 20-year record of cities that have not been able to put together something where the public and private sectors both gain?

Rosentraub has long been an odd duck in the sports stadium world. Way back in 1997, he wrote a book called Major League Losers, which, as you can probably guess from the title, talked about private sports stadiums as bad deals for cities. Since then, though, he’s been more sunny on the prospect, noting that building venues downtown can move economic activity to the city center — true, if your only concern is where people spend their money and not how much they spend in your metro area overall. It will be left as an exercise for readers to determine whether this change of message is related to Rosentraub’s side business of working as a consultant for cities and teams that want to build downtown stadiums and arenas.

Anyway, building a new arena isn’t an inherently terrible idea, if the city will own it and get any increased revenues from it, and — crucially — if those new revenues will be enough to make it worth the $400 million-ish price tag. The only sports tenants are the minor-league junior hockey Saskatoon Blades and the National Lacrosse League team the Saskatchewan Rush, so this deal would have to pencil out based on being able to draw more concerts to town. Could Saskatoon make an extra $25-30 million a year just by offering more concession stands and restrooms? That’s the interesting and important question that needs to be asked, rather than nattering about how an arena can “anchor” an “entertainment district.” I can recommend several sports economists, or even arena managers, who could begin to address that question, if anyone in Saskatoon is interested.

Russell Wilson gets in helicopter with wannabe Portland MLB owner, struggling newspaper devotes precious staff time to covering it

I’m not honestly sure exactly what has sparked this sudden flurry of interest in applying for MLB expansion franchises that MLB isn’t even offering yet — I guess MLB commissioner Rob Manfred keeps vaguely talking about how expansion would be nice, but that seems a bit much to be basing entire development plans around — but if you want a summary of where the madness is leading in a nutshell, you could do worse than this photo caption from the Oregonian:

Russell Wilson and Ciara take a selfie Saturday after holding a news conference in Northwest Portland to discuss their investments into the Portland Diamond Project’s effort to land a Major League Baseball team.

Yes, this is where journalism is right now: The quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks and the singer of “Goodies” took a helicopter tour of potential stadium sites with potential MLB owner Craig Cheek, were “whisked in a Mercedes SUV to Saturday’s news conference” (per the Oregonian), then posed for some photos in front of an “MLB PDX” backdrop. And then some poor college football writer who is one of the few people left in the newsroom had to write the whole thing up for the Oregonian, probably with occasional breaks to check Indeed.com for alternative career opportunities.

If you were hoping for any word on what an actual Portland baseball plan would look like, or what MLB would demand for an expansion franchise (either in terms of a franchise fee or stadium amenities or whatever), or really any details at all, needless to say this was not the article for you. Art Thiel at SportspressNW made a slightly better attempt, but even he was forced to rely on speculation and a few hints dropped by Manfred over the years, because really there is no solid information at this point at all. When a news vacuum exists, it will apparently now be filled with selfies, which is as good an epitaph for our age as any.