Henrico County announces “smart economic partnership” for new Richmond arena that looks just like one city rejected as dumb last winter

When last we left the city of Richmond, Virginia, it was bailing on a plan to spend $300 million on a downtown arena after determining that doing so could have left the city raiding its schools budget and general fund if things went south. But never fear, the same developers are back with a new plan out in Henrico County that would cost even more money:

A group including Michael Hallmark and Susan Eastridge are planning a massive $2.3 billion arena-anchored development on the Henrico-owned 93-acre former Best Products site, according to an announcement made by the county this morning….

The $250 million multi-purpose arena would be comparable in size to what Hallmark and Eastridge had proposed as part of their involvement in the unsuccessful Navy Hill development which would have replaced the Richmond Coliseum. That project was killed by Richmond City Council in a heap of controversy earlier this year.

County Manager John Vithoulkis alluded to Navy Hill’s fate in explaining at today’s press conference how Henrico expects to handle things differently than the city.

“This is what we do in Henrico: Smart economic partnerships with no risk and significant benefit to the tax payer,” he said.

Yeah, about that “no risk” to the taxpayer, how would the Henrico County project be funded?

GreenCity would be financed in part through the creation of a community development authority, which would allow for the sale of private bonds that would be repaid with taxes produced by the development.

A community development authority is basically a tax-increment financing district, where tax payments from a development are kicked back to developers to pay down their construction debt. In other words, pretty much the exact same plan that was considered by the city and rejected, because TIFs way too often turn into money pits if the projected tax revenue doesn’t come in. (And even if it does come in, if siphoning off tax revenues turns your local budget into Swiss cheese.) This is what we do in Henrico: Copy off of other jurisdictions’ dumb ideas, then declare them to be smart, because we’re the ones doing them! Oh, and call it GreenCity, all the kids will like the sound of that.

UPDATE: A reader points me to the Henrico Citizen’s reporting on the county plan, which says the main difference from the city plan is that the tax kickbacks would be limited to taxes paid by the project itself, not any surrounding properties. Which is a nice idea in theory, but if those taxes were enough to pay off construction costs, then why would the city have needed to make the TIF district bigger? And there’s nothing stopping the county from making its district bigger if its money runs short. So while not exactly the same as the city’s plan, it’s awfully close, and Henrico really needs to come up with more details than “Different acronym! And the green thing!” to show that it would be any better for taxpayers.

Share this post:

Minneapolis seeks state bailout on Vikings stadium debt so it can pay convention center debt instead

Let’s start with the simple part of this story:

Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, said he will seek relief from the city’s first scheduled debt payment of $17 million [on U.S. Bank Stadium] — and then push for a longer-term discussion about restructuring the stadium’s debt to give relief to Minneapolis.

The city of Minneapolis owes $150 million toward construction costs on the Minnesota Vikings‘ stadium, with the state covering another $348 million and team owner Zygi Wilf another $600 million. (Though when you add in the team’s property-tax break and city money being spent on stadium operations, Wilf’s tab is really closer to $0.) The pandemic has trashed the city’s budget, especially the sales taxes it had set aside for stadium debt payments, so Noor is looking to the state to bail it out.

The reason why the city is looking for state help — other than that cities will always do that when they can — has to do with the insanely convoluted financing structure the two levels of government set up during the rush to approve funding for the Vikings’ stadium. The city put off paying down any stadium debt until 2021, because it was busy paying off debt on its convention center until then. The state, meanwhile, decided to fun its share with pulltab gambling revenues — which turned out initially to bring in no money at all instead of the $62.5 million that had been projected, forcing the state to raid its cigarette tax fund instead to pay down stadium debt. Then Minnesotans finally started getting hep to the pulltab gambling thing and money started flowing from that, which led to a small but growing surplus in the pulltab fund, which led Minneapolis officials to start salivating over how nice that money would look plugging their budget hole.

So far this is all just city and state governments bickering over who’ll cover how much of $1-billion-plus stadium tab now that money is tight. But then we get to the debt on Minneapolis’s convention center, which is another drag on the city’s budget:

Earlier this fall, Minneapolis City Hall decided to refinance the remaining $26 million convention center debt for up to five years…

City Coordinator Mark Ruff declined multiple interview requests but provided a written statement saying the city had seen an “unprecedented decrease” in sales tax revenues from the pandemic. City staff recommended delaying the convention center debt for greater “flexibility,” he said.

But Ruff warned that if sales tax revenues do not recover quickly, “revenues will need to be diverted from future capital improvements at the Convention Center to debt payments.”

Put it all together, and we have: If Minnesota doesn’t share some of its surplus money it ended up with after dumping more cash into the stadium project, then Minneapolis won’t be able to spend more money to upgrade its convention center. A convention center that nobody wants to go to during Covid, and probably no one will want to go to even after Covid because convention spending is in a long-term decline. This is maybe not the argument that I would want to go to the state capital with, but all’s fair in love and bailouts.

Share this post:

MLB redraws its minor-league map, including demoting team Wichita spent $75m to lure there

The fallout of MLB’s plan to jettison 42 minor-league affiliates to save money on paying players pittance wages is coming fast and furious, with big-league teams switching farm clubs while other teams scramble not to be left without a chair when the music stops:

  • The St. Paul Saints, founded in 1993 as one of baseball’s most successful independent-league teams, will now be converted into the Minnesota Twins‘ Triple-A farm team. The Sugar Land Skeeters previously announced they will likewise go from indie ball to affiliate ball, as the Triple-A team of the Houston Astros.
  • Since every MLB team has exactly one Triple-A affiliate, this means two teams will have to get demoted to Double-A, and those will apparently be the San Antonio Missions and the Wichita Wind Surge. The Wind Surge demotion is especially notable because the team never actually played a game at the Triple-A level (it is the former New Orleans Baby Cakes, relocated in 2020 right before the pandemic wiped out the minor-league season), and also because Wichita just allocated more than $75 million to a new stadium to lure a Triple-A team, and is now right back in the Double-A Texas League where it was until 2007.
  • MLB gave the owners of the Fresno Grizzlies and the city of Fresno until yesterday to accept demotion from Triple-A to Single-A, or else be left without an affiliated team at all. Following a behind-closed-doors council meeting yesterday, city attorney Doug Sloan released a statement saying MLB had agreed to give the city more time, but not how much more time. (MLB is supposedly set on releasing final team affiliations today or tomorrow.)
  • No, I don’t get where the additional Triple-A team would come from if Fresno were demoted, unless maybe this would give San Antonio or Wichita a reprieve? (UPDATE: The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are reportedly in line to jump from Double-A to Triple-A, thanks, Facebook commenter!)
  • The entire Pioneer League is becoming an independent “partner league,” which according to the press release seems to involve MLB giving them some seed money (“initial funding for the league’s operating expenses”) plus “scouting technology” (uh, radar guns?) and then cutting them loose to sink or swim.
  • The Mahoning Valley Scrappers, State College Spikes, Trenton Thunder, West Virginia Black Bears, and Williamsport Crosscutters, all of which were set to lose their affiliated teams, will instead become part of a grab-bag MLB Draft League, which will also get that “state-of-the-art scouting technology,” plus “educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes.” (Make your own jokes here.) Will the players get paid? Given that the league’s FAQ brags about how there’s no fee for players to play in it, almost certainly not! (Also, the FAQ warns that “players need to pay their way to get to the league at the start date,” so think on that before you submit your application to play shortstop.)

The offseason affiliate dance is a time-honored tradition by now, but this winter’s is something entirely different, and not just because of the contraction plan: MLB effectively took over the formerly independent Minor League Baseball organization in September, simply by refusing to negotiate a new operating agreement and demanding that MiLB hand over the keys. That means that instead of negotiating with individual MiLB teams as in the past, MLB can simply redraw the minor-league map and issue edicts: If you’re not happy being a Single-A team, Fresno, no more shopping around for a Triple-A affiliate on your own, because MLB has already decided that for you.

In other words, it’s extending MLB’s cartel power — or monopoly power, depending on whether you consider the league an association of competitors or one big company with 30 co-owners — to govern all of the minor leagues as well. And that’s a scary concept, and not just if you’re one of the people who bought gear with the hideous Wichita Wind Surge logo in anticipation of Triple-A ball. While MLB’s offer to Fresno right now is take-it-or-leave-it, there’s nothing stopping the league in the future from exacting stadium or lease concession demands from minor-league cities, or risk losing their teams to wherever MLB decides to move them. While hosting a minor-league team has always been dicey since they often have a relatively short lifespan, at least there was a silver lining in that if one MLB team abandoned you there were 29 others to shoot for; now, the minors are all a single-source negotiation, and that’s bad news for cities’ leverage.

The other benefit to MLB, of course, is that it is transitioning lots of minor-league players to playing for “exposure” instead of actual paychecks; in addition to the Draft League, the Appalachian League is becoming a summer league for college players, who also won’t be paid. This is such a common practice now in the work world that it has its own Twitter account for horror stories, but it hadn’t spread to pro sports until now — there’s a class action suit trying to force pro sports teams to pay their players at least minimum wage, but until then, it looks like baseball is determined to make lots of wannabe major leaguers start out their careers by doing season-long unpaid tryouts. Maybe teams like Trenton and Williamsport will at least allow players to trade autographs for sandwiches, that seems like a fair solution.

Share this post:

Friday roundup: Raiders stadium runs short of tax dollars, Falcons owner makes film about how great Megatron’s Butthole is, and a Ricketts cries poor (again)

Well, that was certainly something to wake up to on a post-Thanksgiving Friday morning. Not sure how many U.S. readers are checking the internet today, but if that’s you and you’re looking for some non-Canadian stadium and arena news for your troubles, we have that too:

Share this post:

Report: Toronto’s SkyDome marked for death, redevelopment using public land

Right, so three days ago in a comment thread about whether major stadium and arena construction is likely to slow down in coming years (because of Covid and shifting political winds), FoS reader Aqib wrote,

By my count there are 2 MLB teams (Oakland and Tampa) that are in the market for new stadiums

and I replied,

the Diamondbacks have already said they’re considering a new stadium, the Blue Jays and White Sox have at least been kicking tires, and teams like the Indians and Orioles have talked about significant renovations

and they replied,

Blue Jays? All I heard was that they were looking at refurbishing the stadium to make it a pure baseball park, but that was 5 years ago. Is there anything new?

and I replied,

Nothing lately — that was the tire-kicking I referred to. But you don’t put Chekhov’s gun on the mantel unless you’re going to use it eventually.

By “eventually” I didn’t actually mean “by the end of this week,” but here we are:

The owner of the Toronto Blue Jays wants to demolish the Rogers Centre and construct a new stadium as part of a downtown Toronto redevelopment, according to sources involved in the project…

Rogers Communications Inc. and the real estate arm of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. are working with city, provincial and federal government officials on a plan that would effectively cut the Rogers Centre in half.

The partners would build a new, baseball-focused stadium on the foundations of the southern end of the current facility and adjacent parking lots. The northern portion of the 12.7-acre site would be turned into residential towers, office buildings, stores and public space.

Rogers is also considering building a new stadium on a lakefront site if plans for the Rogers Centre fall through.

The Globe & Mail reports that the project would cost “multibillion” dollars, and would be “privately funded” (by Blue Jays owners Rogers Communications) and developers Brookfield, but “needs numerous government approvals to move forward.” It also would use federally owned land, which raises all sorts of questions about how much the team and developers would pay for this valuable property, and whether the development would pay property taxes (more common for private developments on public land in Canada than in the U.S., but still not a given), and generally sets up the potential for a Canadian version of Anaheim’s “We’re getting market value for our stadium land but also not really” scenario.

The report also says that lobbying records show the Jays and Toronto officials have been discussing this plan for two years, that rebuilding the stadium “is expected to play out over five to eight years,” and that “it is not clear where the team would play if its Toronto stadium is being torn down and rebuilt.”

SkyDome — now the Rogers Centre officially, but still once and always SkyDome — was opened 31 years ago (by Alan Thicke, for some reason), and as noted the Jays have made faint noises about leaving for a new stadium before, so this is slightly less shocking than when the Atlanta Braves owners announced they were leaving their then-17-year-old stadium to move to suburban Cobb County or the Texas Rangers owners announced they would be moving across the street from their only marginally older stadium to one that was the same only with air conditioning. But still pretty shocking! There are, as noted, still a whole lot of unknowns about this one, so I think we can say we’re going to spend much of 2021 discussing all its ramifications. And if we end up spending 2022 on the Chicago White Sox, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Share this post:

Blue Jackets bailout could go from bad to worse as team seeks more “glamorous” locker rooms

When I’m asked what I think is the worst sports subsidy deal in history, and I’m asked that a lot, my go-to response is that every unhappy stadium deal is unhappy in its own way. But when pressed to pick a few for the all-time Hall of Shame, I’ll occasionally find room for the Columbus Blue Jackets arena bailout, if only because it turned a model of private arena financing into a massive public subsidy just because the team owners whined that they weren’t making enough money. And then the city of Columbus agreed to give Nationwide Insurance, which put up the money for the original private arena construction, $62 million in added tax money when it turned out casino tax revenues weren’t going to cover the original deal.

If you see this headed toward “more good money thrown after bad,” you’re way ahead of me. Take it away, Columbus Dispatch:

Okay, so maybe the Dispatch got so excited it couldn’t remember how verbs work. The point is, as the paper discussed in an accompanying story with a more grammatical headline, the 20-year-old arena needs not just a new roof, but “$94.4 million in capital-improvement expenses over the next five years.”

The good news is that arena authority director Don Brown says the general public won’t pay for the upgrade costs, because it has a repair fund already set aside, funded by “casino tax and admissions tax proceeds.” The less good news is that these taxes would otherwise go into the general fund if they weren’t being siphoned off for the arena fund; the even less good news is that thanks to casino and admissions tax shortfalls in recent years, the repair fund currently just has $454,000 left in it, plus a $2.4 million reserve fund, which is a lot less than $94.4 million.

The Dispatch article goes on to say that the Blue Jackets and their partners in operating the arena — Nationwide and Ohio State University — will be on the hook for arena upgrade costs, but also that the team’s lease requires that the building be kept in “first class” condition, which seems likely to be a point of contention in any disputes over where to come up with $90 million. Among the items that the arena authority cited the hockey team as wanting to have improved:

The locker room for Blue Jackets players is “reasonably well-appointed but is not as glamorous as NHL home locker rooms in newer facilities,” and could use a “thorough” upgrade. The player lounge and training areas are well-maintained “but not impressive,” and the players’ family lounge “does not present an NHL-level image.”

Well, we certainly can’t have that! What will the neighbors say?

There’s a lot of confusing language in the arena operating arrangement — the public arena authority is part of the management group, but isn’t responsible for upgrade cash unless OSU backs out — but given that we’ve already seen Columbus bail out the private parties for no good reason other than that they asked for it, it’s hard to rule out anything. The main takeaway here is that the Blue Jackets are publicly seeking $94 million to replace their roof and bling up their locker rooms, which is always a sign that taxpayers should hold onto their wallets.

Share this post:

Nassau County to give Coliseum operator $2m in free rent once concerts resume, because “the future”

When it was announced back in August that former Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was handing over operations of Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum to one of his lenders, Florida financier Nick Mastroianni, one of the big questions was whether Mastroianni would agree to pay the millions of dollars in back rent that Prokhorov had been racking up since Prokhorov announced that he was shutting the arena down now that the New York Islanders were set to move out to play in their own new state-subsidized arena at Belmont Park. And the answer, Newsday now reveals, is that Nassau County wants to absolve Mastroianni of all rent payments until the Covid pandemic ends, and then another six months after that for good measure:

Nassau County has agreed to let the new leaseholder of Nassau Coliseum off the hook from paying rent until at least the summer in a deal that also guarantees that the Islanders can use the arena if needed during the COVID-19 shutdown.

The lease amendment, which requires approval by the Nassau County Legislature, calls for rent relief that continues until six months after the state lifts all restrictions on arena events…

“This extension coupled with the suspension of rent payments in recognition of the economic impact of the pandemic, will give Nassau and the HUB Team the opportunity to plan for the future, post-COVID, when the entertainment industry restarts,” [Nassau County Executive Laura] Curran said.

The current Coliseum rent is a little over $4 million a year, so the rent break will cost Nassau County maybe $5-6 million if arena events can resume at full capacity next spring or summer — plus an additional $2 million for the six months after that, when Long Islanders can again pack into the Coliseum to see Disney on Ice or whatever. That’s starting to run into some real money, even before you take into account that $6 million that New York state has promised toward arena renovations so that the Islanders can play one more lame-duck season at the Coliseum, before empty seats in all likelihood, if an NHL season even happens this winter.

One of the dilemmas of reporting on business subsidies during a public health crisis is drawing a line between legit economic stimulus and creating corporate windfalls for banks and Kanye West. Providing $8 million or so in rent rebates for an arena during a county budget deficit that could exceed $300 million, in exchange for exactly no promises about whether it will stay open or who will be employed there, does not seem like the best gamble; we’ll see what the Nassau County legislature says about it.

Share this post:

Friday roundup: Jacksonville council holds screaming match about Jaguars subsidy, Braves to charge county for fixing anything that wouldn’t fall out of stadium if you turned it over, plus Texas cricket wars!

I admit, there are some Fridays where I wake up and realize I have to do a news roundup and it just feels like a chore after a long week, and, reader, this was one of those Fridays. But then I looked in my inbox and there was a new Ruthie Baron “This Week In Scams” post for the first time in months, and now I am re-energized for the day ahead! Also despondent about how the fossil fuel industry is trying to catfish us all into thinking global warming isn’t real, but that’s the complex mix of emotions I have come to rely on “This Week In Scams” for.

And speaking of complex mixes of emotions, let’s get to this week’s remaining sports stadium and arena news:

  • Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on complaints that Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s $200 million development subsidy deal is being rushed through the city council: “What does that mean, it’s rushed? What does that mean? We are following the process we follow as a city. The administration has put forth legislation that includes the development of Lot J. The City Council will take their time and do their work. And then they’ll ultimately have to press a green button or a red button — a yes or a no.” Now I really want to know if the Jacksonville city council actually votes by pushing a green or red button, and if so what they do if a city councilmember has red-green color blindness, and oh hey, what happened at yesterday’s council hearing? “Finger-pointing, name-calling and what some members say was a big embarrassment for government”? Excellent, keep up the good work.
  • The Atlanta Braves owners have tapped their first $800,000 from their $70 million stadium repair fund, half of which is to be paid for by Cobb County, to pay for … okay, this Marietta Daily Journal article doesn’t say much about what it will pay for, except that one item is a new fence, and there was dispute over whether a fence counted as a repair (which the fund can be used for) or an improvement (which the team is supposed to cover). It also notes: “Mike Plant, president & CEO of Braves Development Company, described capital maintenance costs in 2013 by using the example of taking a building and turning it upside down. The items that would fall out of the building represent general maintenance, which is the responsibility of the Braves, while the items that do not fall out, such as pipes, elevators and concrete, fall under capital maintenance.” This raises all kinds of questions: Would elevators really not fall out of a stadium if you turned it upside down? What if furniture, for example, fell off the floor but landed on an interior ceiling? Would you have to shake the stadium first to see what was loose and just stuck on something? So many questions.
  • The Grand Prairie city council has approved spending $1.5 million to turn the defunct Texas AirHogs baseball stadium into a pro cricket stadium, which the Dallas Morning News reports “could cement North Texas as a top U.S. market for professional cricket.” (If this sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of nearby Allen, Texas, which thought about building a cricket stadium a couple of years ago but then thought better of it.) I went to a pro cricket match in the U.S. once, years ago, and there were maybe 100 people in the stands, and later the league apparently folded when none of the players showed up for a game, but surely this will go much better than that.
  • Angel City F.C. has announced it will be playing games at Banc of California Stadium, which made me look up first what league Angel City F.C. is in (an expansion team in the National Women’s Soccer League) and then what stadium named itself after Banc of California (the Los Angeles F.C. stadium that opened in 2018, I’m pretty sure at no public expense but you never know for sure with these things, and which is not supposed to be called Banc of California Stadium anymore since Banc of California bailed on its naming-rights contract in June) and then why Banc of California insists on spelling “Banc” that way (unclear, but if it was an attempt to put a clean new rebranding on the bank after its creation in a 2013 merger, that maybe didn’t go so well). So now, burdened with this knowledge, I feel obligated to share it — if nothing else, I suppose, it’s a nice little microcosm of life in the early Anthropocene, which may be of interest to future scholars if the cockroaches and microalgae can figure out how to read blogs.
  • The Richmond Times-Dispatch says that even if the Richmond Flying Squirrels get eliminated in baseball’s current round of minor-league defenestration, “Major League Baseball’s risk is our gain” if the city builds a new stadium that … something about “a multiuse strategy”? The editorial seems to come down to “Okay, the team may get vaporized, but we still want a new stadium, so full speed ahead!”, which is refreshing honesty, at least, maybe?
  • When I noted yesterday that the USL hands out new soccer franchises like candy, I neglected to mention that a lot of that candy quickly melts on the dashboard and disappears, so thanks to Tim Sullivan of the Louisville Courier Journal for recounting all the USL franchises that have folded over the years.
  • Six East Coast Hockey League teams are choosing to sit out the current season, and that’s bad news for Reading, home of the Reading Royals, according to Reading Downtown Improvement District chief Chuck Broad, who tells WFMZ-TV, “There is lots of spin-off, economic development, from a hockey game for restaurants and other businesses.” Yeah, probably not, and especially not during a time when hardly anyone would be eating at restaurants anyway because they’re germ-filled death traps, but why not give the local development director a platform to insist otherwise, he seems like a nice guy, right?
  • In related news, the mayor of Henderson, Nevada, says the new Henderson Silver Knights arena she’s helping build with at least $30 million in tax money is “a gamechanger” for downtown Henderson because “it’s nice to have locations where events can happen in our community.” This after she wrote a column for the Las Vegas Sun saying how great it will be for locals to be able to “attend a variety of events that create the vibrancy for which our city is known” — a vibrancy that apparently Henderson was able to pull off despite not having any locations where events can happen, because that’s just the kind of place Henderson is.
  • In also related news, the vice president of sales and marketing at New Beginnings Window and Door says that the Hudson Valley Renegades becoming a New York Yankees farm team could be great for his business (which, again, is selling windows and doors) because “the eyeballs are going to be there” for advertising his windows and doors to people driving up from New York City who might want to pick up some windows and doors to take home with them, okay, I have no idea what he’s talking about, seriously, can’t anybody at any remaining extant newspapers ask a followup question?
  • And in all-too-related news, here’s an entire WTSP article about the new hotel Tampa will have ready for February’s Super Bowl that never even mentions the possibility that nobody will be able to stay in hotels for the Super Bowl because Covid is rampaging across the state. Journalism had a good run.
Share this post:

Friday roundup: Charlotte approves $35m in soccer subsidies, NYC spends $5m on stadium upgrades for team that may disappear, NBA joins NFL in welcoming fans back to giant virus stew

Even after dispensing with that crazy San Jose Sharks move threat story, there’s a ton of leftover news this week. So put down that amazing Defector article about how the British have fetishized the Magna Carta as a declaration of citizen rights when it’s really just about how the king can’t unreasonably tax 25 barons, and let’s get right to it:

Share this post:

Yankees axe Trenton, Staten Island, Charleston teams that received $112m in public stadium money

The long-promised contraction and reorganization of minor-league baseball began in earnest this weekend, as the New York Yankees announced they would be cutting ties with the Trenton Thunder, Staten Island Yankees, and Charleston RiverDogs, while adding affiliations with the Somerset Patriots (formerly in the independent Atlantic League) and Hudson Valley Renegades (formerly a short-season team affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays). The Thunder and Yankees owners apparently learned the news via Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SIYanks/status/1325840959456874499

https://twitter.com/njjim1019/status/1325855877522481152

The Patriots, who play about an hour west of New York City, have long been one of the top-drawing teams in the Atlantic League, though with roughly the same number of fans per game (just over 5,000) as Trenton. Both Trenton and Staten Island have been offered spots in the Atlantic League, reports CBS Sports, but “their futures are unclear at the moment,” which is what happens when you’re suddenly cast into a league that has seen a bunch of teams fold since its 1998 opening, even after getting tens of millions of dollars each in public stadium funding.

Speaking of which, both Trenton and Staten Island got a ton of stadium subsidies as well, money that’s now at risk of going for naught thanks to the elimination of teams. Trenton’s stadium was built in 1994 at a cost of $16.2 million, paid for entirely by Mercer County. Charleston’s stadium was built by the city in 1997 for $19.5 million, with another $6 million in upgrades since to stop it from sinking into the earth. And Staten Island’s was opened in 2001 and cost a staggering $71 million, thanks to cleanup issues at the site, all of which was paid for by the citizens of New York City. It’s possible that both cities will get new indie teams — or even new affiliated teams, though that’s unlikely with the Mets already having the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Philadelphia Phillies four existing affiliates in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, and both of them looking to cut back on farm teams as well — but if not, we could see a renewed wave of shuttered new-ish stadiums.

That would be bad news for baseball fans and taxpayers alike, but potentially great news for MLB owners, who would simultaneously cut back on minor-league payrolls, reduce travel costs by consolidating teams near their parent clubs, and potentially get cities and minor-league teams alike into bidding wars to make sure they have chairs when the contraction music stops. We haven’t seen that yet, but you know it’s going to happen: If the Trenton Thunder, say, can’t line up a new big-league affiliation, how long do you think before its owners go back to Mercer County to claim that stadium upgrades are needed to lure away some other town’s team?

The Staten Island Yankees, meanwhile, included in their tweeted press release this line:

The Staten Island Yankees made every effort to accommodate MLB and New York Yankees requirements, including securing a commitment from New York City for ballpark upgrades

Wait, they secured what now? This was news to me, and I followed New York City ballpark spending even more closely than that on the rest of the planet; I’ve reached out for comment to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the quasi-public agency that owns and operates the Staten Island stadium (though it’s been trying to ditch the “operates” part), and will post here when I learn anything more.

All this is certainly only the first show among many, with 29 other teams still set to announce which affiliates will be cast adrift. Just last night, in fact, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Giants are expected to ditch the Augusta GreenJackets and likely the Richmond Flying Squirrels as well. It’s still unclear when minor-league baseball will resume, thanks to the pandemic, but whenever it does, it could look very different than it has for the last several decades.

Share this post: