It’s Friday again! And December, how did that happen? “Passage of time,” what manner of witchcraft are you speaking of? Time is an eternal, unchanging present of toil and suffering under the grip of unending plagues! Thus has it ever been!
This notwithstanding, there was some news this week, though in keeping with the theme, it looks an awful lot like the news every week:
- The Jacksonville city council ignored Mayor Lenny Curry’s pleas to stop thinking about Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s multi-hundred-million-dollar subsidy demand and just vote on it, and instead held another hearing last night on the team’s request for $200 million in public cash toward building a development in one of the stadium parking lots. Jaguars president Mark Lamping picked up the baton, though, and issued an impressive string of non-threat threats that the team would leave town without approval of the subsidy, saying, “We’re doing what we believe is necessary to ensure NFL football is here in Northeast Florida for decades to come,” that the Lot J development and renovations to the team’s stadium are needed to “ensure we stay in Jacksonville,” and “We are doing everything to stay here.” Council president Tommy Hazouri would like to wait to vote on the Lot J subsidy until January, but Jaguars lobbyist Paul Harden warned of “deal fatigue” and called for a vote on Tuesday, and apparently Florida law gives lobbyists equal power to council presidents — who knew? — so that might actually happen. At which point Khan can come back in a couple more years to demand additional stadium renovation money in exchange for a lease extension. It’s good to be king.
- Good article in the New York Times this week about how multiple cities (Indianapolis, Savannah, Cleveland, Terre Haute) are pouring money into convention center expansions even as convention centers remain closed and in any case have been facing years of declining attendance nationwide. In fact, convention center operators say this is even more of a reason to throw good money after bad, because with fewer conventions, they have no choice but to spend more to compete for the few that are available, right? “This is a perverse world, where market realities do not affect city decision-making,” University of Texas at San Antonio economist and FoS convention center correspondent Heywood Sanders tells the Times.
- When Hamilton County, Ohio passed a 0.5% sales tax hike in 1996 to fund new stadiums for the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds, lawmakers promised county residents that if there was any money left over after paying off the stadiums, it would go to lower their property taxes. That’s only happened in the amount promised back then twice in the last decade, and it’s not going to happen this year either, with the pandemic taking a bite out of sales tax revenues that will leave only enough surplus for 21% of what homeowners were expecting. This has squat-all to do with the stadium deal — it’s more about the county overpromising by making rose-colored projections of how much money the tax hike would bring in — but as I noted when this same thing happened two years ago, at least this time the county didn’t have to sell any hospitals.
- The Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins are all reportedly considering playing their NHL seasons outdoors in order to be allowed to sell tickets, which is a great plan except that California is about to be under new stay-at-home restrictions that almost certainly won’t allow outdoor sports attendance either, and in Boston and Pittsburgh it snows a lot in the winter. Add in the costs of building and operating a temporary hockey rink at, say, Fenway Park, and this doesn’t seem all that likely to happen, but it’s certainly a better idea than hoping to allow attendance at indoor arenas before enough people are vaccinated, which isn’t likely to happen until the 2021-22 season.
- Santa Clara’s stadium authority met this week to discuss an audit report of the San Francisco 49ers‘ stadium, and the 49ers responded by telling Santa Clara to fire its auditor. Then the audit showed a couple of million dollars of “discrepancies” in the 49ers’ books, at which point 49ers officials said they wouldn’t cooperate with audits anymore. Is this how rich people behave with the IRS, too? Yeah, pretty much.
- I went on Orlando’s Beat of Sports radio show this week to discuss MLB’s self-declared mission to reorganize much of the minors into intern leagues so it can stop paying players while also leveraging cities for more stadium money, and you can listen to it here.
- There are new renderings of the under-construction St. Louis S.C. stadium, and frankly they’re kind of boring, though they do have a Ferris wheel in them. They also supposedly show how fans will have a “perfect view” of the Gateway Arch, which I can’t actually spot in any of the images, but then I’m not sure why anyone would buy tickets to a soccer match to see a structure that they can see every day for free.
- The Pawtucket Red Sox are no more, and if you want to remember the team’s history by buying some Keith Foulke bobbleheads, knock yourself out.