Diamondbacks courted Henderson, Nevada for a $1B stadium (then stopped, but still)

Um:

Last year, Henderson [Nevada] officials quietly began a push to lure the Arizona Diamondbacks from the team’s Phoenix home to their city, records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal show.

Um:

According to the presentation, Henderson hired a consultant to conduct a financial analysis, assuming the ballpark would have 32,000 seats and space for 4,000 standing-room-only ticket holders. The Diamondbacks would serve as the primary tenant for a 30-year term and the stadium would be publicly owned and exempt from property tax.

The consultant estimated the ballpark would cost about $1 billion to construct.

Um:

On Jan. 4, [Derrick] Hall, the team’s CEO, sent Derrick an email with the subject line, “Have not forgotten you!”

“Hopefully there is still strong interest there as we go through the MLB motions,” he wrote.

Let’s be clear about one thing: Given the relative sizes of their media markets, the Arizona Diamondbacks owners are extremely unlikely to leave Phoenix for the Las Vegas area anytime soon. (The last contact between the two parties was apparently in February.) But that doesn’t mean they won’t play footsie with Nevada as a way of scaring Phoenix into coughing up that new stadium that they badly want it to, just as it won’t stop Henderson — a small city near Las Vegas that is best known for paying to build a Vegas Golden Knights practice facility and previously suing a developer who promised to build an NFL stadium there but didn’t — from getting free media impressions by exchanging a few emails with an MLB team exec.

Still, it’s another sign that there are still plenty of cities out there eager to fill the threat gap that MLB has had ever since putting a team in Washington, D.C., and that MLB teams are happy to have them do so. The D-Backs’ stadium demands have been in a bit of a holding pattern of late, but I’ve got a feeling they’re likely to heat up real soon now.

Friday roundup: Red Wings owner touts his “passion” amid sea of parking lots, cities are terrible stadium negotiators, newspapers are terrible newspapers

The cryptocurrency-based journalism startup Civil couldn’t have gone much worse, but it did spawn a couple of successes, none more welcome than Hmm Daily, the news commentary site from former Gawker and Deadspin editor Tom Scocca. Or as I will always think of him, the co-founder of Funny Paper, the now virtually unfindable-on-the-internet weekly(ish) political analysis of daily comic strips that was the greatest such enterprise until the great Josh Fruhlinger elevated it to an even higher art form. I’ve been enjoying Scocca’s excellent columns on the militarization of language and how big a giant bee is for months now, but I didn’t feel compelled to bite the bullet and kick in any money until I spotted this photo caption in an article by Scocca’s Funny Paper co-conspirator Joe MacLeod: “I have no beef with the M&M’s homunculus infesting the menu.” If you know me at all from reading this website, you know that I immediately pulled out my wallet and became a paying Hmm Daily subscriber (at the $5 a month level, though the reward at the $50,000 level is truly amazing).

Anyways, on to the sports stadium and arena newses:

  • The District Detroit development around the new Red Wings arena still consists mostly of some state-subsidized parking lots, but Red Wings exec Christopher Ilitch says that’s okay because “Our timelines may change. Our passion, the energy, the way we feel about this community has not.” And truly, who can put a price on feels?
  • The Voice of OC cites “experts” as saying that Anaheim may not be driving a hard enough bargain with Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno on a price for stadium parking lot development rights, and oh hey look, it’s me. Also Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson, who says, “Cities tend to be remarkably bad negotiators when it comes to professional sports,” which, yup.
  • Politifact Wisconsin did a fact-check on claims that the state of Wisconsin will get a “tremendous” payback on its Milwaukee Bucks arena subsidies and found that that’s only if you assume the Bucks would have moved without them, and assume that Bucks fans would have all stopped spending their money in Wisconsin without them, and assume that NBA salaries will quintuple by the 2040s, and further found that Villanova sports stadium researcher Rick Eckstein calls the revenue estimates “fantasy figures,” and concluded that this makes the claim Mostly True. It is just slightly possible that having staff members of the local newspaper that has a record of overarching credulity on the arena deal do fact-checking on it might not be the best idea.
  • The people trying to get an MLB franchise in Portland are running out of momentum as MLB waits for the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s to work out their stadium situations before considering expansion, but at least they got a meeting with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred — no wait, the news report has corrected itself, they didn’t even get that. Well, at least they have weirdly non-Euclidean renderings.
  • Speaking of MLB expansion hopefuls, Montreal’s would-be neo-Expos owner Stephen Bronfman has a deal in place on land for a new stadium … not on buying the land, mind you, but with a developer to help develop the non-stadium part of the land once they buy it. This could be a while.
  • And speaking of the Rays and of terrible newspapers, the Tampa Bay Times’ John Romano wants to know when St. Petersburg and Tampa officials will stop bickering and get to work on throwing money at Rays owner Stuart Sternberg already?
  • The New York Times is a significantly less terrible newspaper, but a profile on A’s president Dave Kaval with the headline “Can This Man Keep the A’s in Oakland?” is not only pretty sycophantic in its own right, but it assumes a lot about the team owners moving without a new stadium when they’ve already gone a couple of decades demanding a new stadium and not getting one and still not moving.
  • Henderson, Nevada, is giving $10 million to the owners of the Vegas Golden Knights to build a practice rink, which is dumb but less dumb than some other cities’ expenses on similar projects.
  • The Arizona Coyotes are getting a new majority owner and the Phoenix Suns are up for sale, according to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, who added, “as one NHL official told me yesterday, when I asked that very question, I said, ‘Does this new owner mean that there’s an arena closer to fruition?’ And the answer was, if you get a new owner, there’s a better chance of a new arena. So you can put two and two together, Steve.” Then the Suns owners and a report in The Athletic on the Coyotes completely refuted what Shannon said, so maybe you’re better off putting two and two together without his help.
  • I was about to write up this news story about a potential rezoning approval for Austin F.C.‘s new stadium, but then I saw that KXAN managed to write “Austin’s Planing Commission” and “this ammendment” in the first three paragraphs, and now I gotta go cry all day about the death of copy editing, sorry.

Friday roundup: IRS hands sports owners another tax break, A’s accused of skimping on Coliseum land price, Rays could decide this summer on … something

Happy Friday! Here is a fatberg of stadium and arena news to clog up your weekend:

  • San Jose Mercury News columnist Daniel Borenstein says the Oakland A’s owners could be getting a discount of between $15 million and $65 million on their purchase of half the Oakland Coliseum site from Alameda County, which is hard to tell without opening up the site to other bids, which Alameda County didn’t do. You could also look at comparable land sale prices and try to guess, which shows that the A’s owners’ offer is maybe closer to fair value; it’s not a tremendous subsidy either way, but still oh go ahead, just write us a check for whatever you think is fair is probably not the best way to sell off public assets, yeah.
  • St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman says he expects to hear by this summer from Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg whether Sternberg will seek to build a stadium in St. Pete or across the bay in Tampa. Of course, Sternberg already announced once that he was picking Tampa and then gave up when nobody in Tampa wanted to pay for his $900 million stadium, so what an announcement this summer would exactly mean, other than who Sternberg will next go to hat in hand, remains unclear.
  • Fred Lindecke, who helped get an ordinance passed in St. Louis in 2002 that requires a voter referendum before spending public sports venues, would like to remind you that the soccer stadium deal approved last December still has to clear that hurdle, not that anybody is talking about it. Since the soccer subsidies would all be tax kickbacks and discounted land, not straight-up cash, I suspect this could be headed for another lawsuit.
  • Cory Booker and James Lankford have reintroduced their bill to block the use of federal tax-exempt bonds for sports venues, but only Booker got in the headline because Lankford isn’t running for president. (Okay, also it’s from a New Jersey news site, and Booker is from New Jersey.) Meanwhile, the IRS just handed sports team owners an exemption from an obscure provision of the Trump tax law that would have forced them to pay taxes on player trades; now teams can freely trade their employees like chattel without having to worry about taxes that all other business owners have to, thank god that’s resolved.
  • Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant, for some reason, revealed that “Seattle is having a meeting to try to bring back the Sonics,” but turns out it’s just Chris Hansen meeting with a bunch of his partners and allies from his failed Sodo arena plan, not anyone from city government at all, so everybody please calm down.
  • The rival soccer team that lost out to David Beckham’s Inter Miami for the Lockhart Stadium site in Fort Lauderdale is now suing to block Beckham’s plans for a temporary stadium and permanent practice facility there, because this is David Beckham so of course they are.
  • Publicly owned Wayne State University is helping to build a $25 million arena for the Detroit Pistons‘ minor-league affiliate, and Henderson, Nevada could pay half the cost of a $22 million Las Vegas Golden Knights practice facility, and clearly cities will just hand out money if you put “SPORTZ” on the name of your project, even if it will draw pretty much zero new tourists or spending or anything. Which, yeah, I know is the entire premise of this site, but sometimes the craziness of it all just leaps up and smacks you in the face, you know?
  • The Philadelphia Union owners have hired architects to develop a “master plan” for development around their stadium in Chester, because they promised the city development and there hasn’t been any development and maybe drawing a picture of some development will make it appear, couldn’t hurt, right?
  • Wannabe Halifax CFL owner Anthony LeBlanc insisted that “we are moving things along, yeah” on getting federal land to build a stadium on, while showing no actual evidence that things are moving along. “The only direction that council has ever given on this is ‘dear staff, please analyze the business case when it comes,’” countered Halifax regional councillor Sam Austin. “Everything else is media swirl.”
  • Never mind that bill that could have repealed the Austin F.C. stadium’s property tax break, because its sponsor has grandfathered in the stadium and any other property tax breaks that were already approved.
  • Hamilton, Ontario, could be putting its arena up for sale, if you’re in the market for an arena in Hamilton, Ontario.
  • And finally, here’s an article by the Sacramento Bee’s Tony Bizjak on how an MLS franchise would be great for Sacramento because MLS offers cheap tickets and a diverse crowd who like public transportation and MILLENNIALS!!!, plus also maybe it could help incubate the next Google, somehow! And will it cost anything or have any other negative impacts? Yes, including $33 million in public subsidies, but Tony Bizjak doesn’t worry about such trivialities. MILLENNIALS, people!!!

Detroit Free Press credits Red Wings arena for fixing blight that Red Wings owner created

The Detroit Red Wings and Pistons are about to open their new Little Caesars Arena (named after the Red Wings’ owners’ pizza company, which is actually a longstanding sports tradition), and the Detroit Free Press could not be more excited! On Thursday, reporters Frank Witsil, JC Reindl, and John Gallagher teamed up for a report on how the publicly subsidized arena and surrounding development promises to “breathe life into a part of Detroit that has long been considered a dead zone”; today, Gallagher is back by his lonesome to call the arena an “exciting new venue” for hockey and an “exciting new venue” for concerts, as well as a “major new attraction to the rapidly revitalizing greater downtown” and “a monument to Detroit’s sports and entertainment history.” Total number of citations across the two articles of studies of how past sports-based city “revitalizations” have gone, or even what the impact was or wasn’t from Detroit’s construction of nearby stadiums for the Tigers and Lions: zero.

All of which is pretty much par for the sports-media course, except for that, as the Detroit Metro Times pointed out after Thursday’s piece, calling the arena district a “dead zone” conveniently ignores what made it dead in the first place:

Well, of course the area was blighted. The Ilitches spent 15 years quietly buying up properties in the area. What interest did they have in developing any of them when (a) they knew they intended to flatten them for a new arena and (b) any investment in them would only cause land values to rise? Chris Ilitch said as much to The Detroit News.

In other words, Olympia is the main cause of the area’s deterioration. You don’t need to be an expert on Detroit development to know that. Even the uninitiated could pick up on the unintended irony when Chris Ilitch reportedly said, “It’s no coincidence that these areas to the north of I-75 are some of the most blighted areas of our city core.”

Metro Times goes on to note that a lot of the unblight that the Ilitch family is getting credit for doesn’t actually have a timetable for construction yet — or in their words, “mostly exists in the fevered imagination of Olympia executives — another example of information not appearing in this article.

The Freep opinion page did demur on one thing, at least: The arena’s official opening will take place next Tuesday, with the first of a series of concerts by confederate-flag-waving, Colin Kaepernick–hating rap-rocker Kid Rock, which editorial page editor Stephen Henderson calls “a sturdy middle finger to Detroiters,” who are 83% African American — though the greater metro area is 70% white, so maybe it’s just a beckoning hand to suburbanites, huh? (Editor’s note: Not all white Michigan suburbanites are fans of racist symbols of slave states. I know a couple.)

The Ilitches have responded with a statement that “Kid Rock has been a consistent supporter of Detroit, and the marketplace has responded accordingly to his appearances. Performing artists’ viewpoints in no way represent an endorsement of those viewpoints by Olympia Entertainment.” So there.

Newark to raze 17-year-old minor-league stadium it spent $30m on, because that sure didn’t work

The minor-league Newark Bears folded two years ago, going out in a blaze of bankruptcy auction (I still have my $5 game-worn Bears jersey, not to mention my souvenir Bears yarmulkes), and leaving the city of Newark with the stadium that it paid $30 million to build just 15 years earlier. And soon, it won’t have even that, as the city has announced it’s selling the land to a developer for the construction of a mixed-use tower.

Newark will get $23.5 million for the land sale, which at least takes some of the sting out of spending $30 million (in 1999 dollars) to revitalize part of its downtown with a team that was never exactly vital. (Though Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco both played there briefly, which helped draw at least a few gawkers.) Though even then, Newark could still be on the hook for more money with the new development:

While [deputy mayor Baye Adofo-]Wilson said [developer] Lotus will probably seek a tax abatement for the project, the details of what it will look like have not yet been ironed out. But, the tax break would be contingent upon the company hiring Newark residents during construction, and hotel staffing, he said.

“We require that you hire Newark residents,” Wilson said. “If you do that, we can grant an abatement.”

Depending on how big an abatement and how many hires would be required, that could certainly be a pretty awful deal — Newark might be better off just keeping the tax money and handing it out to residents on streetcorners — but we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, it’s a sad ending to what was both a pretty nice place to watch baseball and a monument to the willingness of desperate cities to throw money at any sports franchise that offered a promise of a return to urban glory, regardless how faint. Don’t do this at home, kids.

Latest Vegas arena developer vows no tax money, just green card swaps

We have a little more information about former UNLV player Jackie Robinson’s proposed $1.3 billion Las Vegas arena project this morning. The Las Vegas Sun reports that the project would use “no tax money,” but would qualify for EB-5 tax credits, the green-cards-for-interest-free-loans program that the Brooklyn Nets used for their arena.

EB-5 is certainly the flavor of the month in sports venue financing — it’s been floated for the Sacramento Kings and Tampa Bay Rays as well, though neither has actually implemented it — but it’s going to be a drop in the bucket on a $1.3 billion project. And it’s important to remember that Las Vegas is traditionally the land where arena announcements go to die — Robinson’s proposed site, in fact, is the same plot of land where Chris Milam proposed his own “privately financed” $1.95 billion multi-stadium project, before revealing that it would actually require tax kickbacks and eventually hightailing it to the nearby city of Henderson, where he proposed yet another stadium complex that never happened. So, grains of salt here.

As for who would play at his arena, Robinson said he hopes to secure an NBA team, touting the fact that NBA VP Kiki Vandeweghe is “one my closest, dearest friends.” Which is all well and good, but he’s going to need more than that (and his former ownership of a team in the extremely short-lived International Basketball League) to get a franchise for a city that has mostly only been connected to the NBA for its disastrous 2007 All-Star Game, though commissioner David Stern does occasionally mention it in laundry lists of possible expansion targets. If Robinson does manage to get his complex built, though, and the NBA either expands or a team is up for relocation, and … you know what, let’s cross that bridge when we can actually see it without a high-powered telescope.

Tampa Bay media report on Tampa Bay media’s reporting of Rays-to-Montréal rumors

What do you get when you combine a slow news day, a semi-famous guy in one city looking to promote his campaign to own an MLB team, and a sportswriter in another city looking for something to write about his city’s team’s stadium campaign in which nothing much is happening? That would be this:

Former Montreal Expos icon Warren Cromartie — so popular in Montreal he once had his own candy bar, the CroBar — is mounting a campaign to lure a team back to the francophone city on the St. Lawrence River. Cromartie told The Tampa Tribune on  Tuesday that he isn’t targeting any team specifically, including the Rays.

However, he acknowledges certain teams are struggling with attendance or their finances and he’s more than willing to let baseball writers and sports agents make the Rays-to-Montreal suggestion.

“You know, baseball writers. Those guys. Not like me, Tampa Tribune baseball writer Michael Sasso, who just wrote an article headlined, ‘Could Montreal make a play for Rays?'”

Look, I’ve long said that Montréal is almost certainly the best baseball market in North America without an MLB team, but that doesn’t make Cromartie’s campaign news just yet — as the Tampa Tribune’s Joe Henderson points out, what the Rays are unhappy about in Tampa Bay is that they don’t have anyone offering to build them a new stadium, and all Montréal has is “a sketchy, unfunded plan to build a ballpark.” Still, Henderson did end up writing a whole article about the Rays moving to Montréal, or at least about them threatening to move to Montréal in order to extort a new stadium in Tampa Bay. Stuart Sternberg has got to be really happy for slow news days.

How realistic is it to find $600 million for a Rays stadium?

First things first: On Thursday, I reported, based on a column by the Tampa Tribune’s Joe Henderson, that the $100 million in downtown property tax money Tamps Mayor Bob Buckhorn is proposing to dedicate to a Tampa Bay Rays stadium was worth only $50 million, since it would be paid out over 30 years. This was wrong: I’d assumed that when Henderson wrote “it’s worth about $100 million over 30 years,” he meant it was worth $100 million over 30 years, when he actually meant it would be paid out over 30 years, but worth $100 million now. According to last November’s joint Tampa-area chamber of commerce funding document (thanks, Noah Pransky, for the link), the Community Redevelopment Area fund actually brings in $13 million a year, which if dedicated to the Rays could pay off … actually close to $200 million in stadium bonds, but the chambers of commerce used conservative projections, so only counted it as worth $105-115 million now, which Buckhorn apparently rounded down to $100 million.

This isn’t actually good or bad news — or rather, it’s good news if you’re trying to count pennies to add up to $600 million worth of stadium cost, bad news if you’d rather see Tampa considering handing $50 million in tax money to the Rays than $100 million.

Buckhorn is determinedly in penny-counting mode, holding a press conference on Friday in which he said that the Rays may be asked to contribute a “significant” amount toward a stadium, as much as $200-300 million, while promising that taxpayers won’t bear most of the costs — which would be a neat trick, given that $200-300 million would still leave the majority of the costs on the public’s tab. Though Buckhorn did add, according to the Tampa Tribune’s Michael Sasso’s paraphrase, that “Tampa and Hillsborough County simply might not be able to find enough money for a new ballpark and may have to scrap the idea,” so maybe the mayor is at least acknowledging the tyranny of math.

Assuming all these numbers actually mean anything, though, how reasonable is it to think that Tampa could actually cobble together enough money to build a new stadium for the Rays? If a stadium costs $600 million, which seems to be the going rate — the four recent MLB stadiums listed in the chamber of commerce report (Marlins, Twins, Mets, Nationals; the Yankees‘ $2-billion-plus stadium didn’t get included for some reason) averaged $628.5 million per — then the math looks like this:

Public: $105-115m from CRA property tax receipts
Team: $200-300m from new stadium revenues, naming rights, parking revenues, Stuart Sternberg’s pocket, etc.
???: $185-295m from elfin magic

That’s a sizable chunk of change still left to be determined. Proposals for new revenue in the chamber of commerce report range from a countywide 5% surcharge on rental cars ($140-150 million) to asking the state of Florida for one of its $2 million a year tax-rebate deals $33-37 million); Buckhorn has also suggested tapping into the EB-5 green-cards-for-interest-free-loans deal that the Brooklyn Nets used for $100-150 million, but since that would only amount to a way to borrow money without interest for five years, after which the principal would still have to be repaid, it’s hard to see it being worth more than a few million dollars total to the city.

Then there’s the question of whether Sternberg would really want to spend as much as $300 million to move to a new stadium across the bay. That’s as much as Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is spending on renovating Wrigley Field, and about as much as the San Francisco Giants spent on their new ballpark a decade ago, and Tampa fans don’t have the deep pockets of either Cubs or Giants fans to repay it via more club seat purchases.

Or to look at it another way: Just to break even on $300 million of expenses, the Rays would have to generate $20-25 million in new revenues per year. To make that a reasonable gamble, the Rays, currently at $167 million a year in revenue, would have to turn into … the San Diego Padres ($189 million), maybe? I guess that’s not too terrible a bet for Sternberg to agree to, though to have any money left over to actually increase the Rays’ payroll — the ostensible goal of this whole exercise — they’d need to be up in the echelon of the Toronto Blue Jays ($203 million) or Baltimore Orioles ($206 million), which seems like a stretch given the Tampa market.

Still, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility; and back in 2008, when the sail-roofed St. Petersburg model was still the flavor of the month, Sternberg did float spending $150 million in cash, plus $55 million in future parking revenues. Regardless, it looks pretty likely that the best Buckhorn (or any other Tampa-area official) will be able to do is to have the public go halfsies on a stadium for which the Rays would receive all the revenues; that would be better than some stadium deals, certainly, but still a whole bunch of taxpayer money. And that’s before even getting into whatever it would cost to buy the Rays out of their current lease in St. Petersburg, which runs through 2027 … you know, elfin magic is looking better and better.

Tampa’s proposed $100m for Rays stadium is only worth half that (or not — see update)

There’s been lots more posturing over the possibility of a Tampa Bay Rays move from St. Petersburg to Tampa today — check out Shadow of the Stadium for a full rundown — but I’m more interested in a tidbit I hadn’t noticed before from a Tampa Tribune column: The $100 million in Community Redevelopment Area money (a slush TIF-style fund that earmarks downtown property taxes for development projects) that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn wants to dedicate to a Rays stadium is actually worth $100 million over 30 years*, not up front.

That’s a huge difference. Paid out over 30 years, $100 million is enough to finance maybe $50 million or so in upfront costs, depending on what interest rate you get on stadium bonds. Which means that if you assume a $600 million stadium and that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg will put in $200 million — a number he seems to have managed to get reified in the sports media, though so far as I can tell he came up with it out of thin air — there’d still be $350 million unaccounted for, even if Buckhorn manages to wrest the CRA money away from other projects eager to tap it.

Plus, as St. Petersburg city council chair Karl Nurse points out, the Rays would also have to pay off his city for breaking their lease early, if they wanted to leave before 2027. Picking a stadium site in Tampa may turn out to be the easy part; finding the money to pay for one without soaking local taxpayers is going to be … I was going to say “harder,” but I guess the real question is less how not to soak local taxpayers than which local taxpayers to soak, isn’t it? Unless either Sternberg budges from that $200 million figure or somebody invents another solution.

*UPDATE 8/9: Buckhorn now says that Henderson’s report was wrong, and that the CRA actually could provide $10-13 million a year over 30 years, which would easily pay off $100 million in stadium bonds. More on this on Monday…

Detroit proposes $450m Red Wings arena, mostly paid for by taxpayers

And the campaign for a new Detroit Red Wings arena has been officially launched: As previously reported, it would cost $650 million and include a whole bunch of crap that isn’t actually a hockey arena (retail space, offices, housing, a hotel, a space elevator). And Detroit development chief George Jackson, who made yesterday’s announcement — it was technically of the Detroit Development Authority giving its go-ahead to the project — wants all approvals in place by the end of the year.

The arena development, which would cover a huge swath of land at the edge of downtown Detroit and adjacent to Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch’s Fox Theater and Comerica Park, would be paid for by bonds sold by the state Michigan Strategic Fund. Those bonds, in turn, would be paid off by:

  • Between $12.8 million and $15 million a year in property taxes collected by the DDA that would otherwise go to city schools — a TIF, in essence. That’s probably enough to pay off between $150 million and $200 million in bonds.
  • $64.5 million in other DDA revenues.
  • An annual “concession fee” of $11.5 million a year from Ilitch, enough to pay off maybe $150 million in construction costs, depending on the interest rate.
  • $200 million in additional spending by Ilitch on the non-arena stuff.

Tacking on the hotels and such to the deal allows Jackson (and Ilitch) to call this deal 56% private, though even the math-challenged should be able to see from the above that the public will end up putting in way more than half of the $450 million arena cost. And that’s before we even account for the hefty property tax break that Ilitch would be getting by putting the state’s name on the arena deed in place of his own.

The project still needs more official approvals, though presumably not from the Detroit city council, which has been barred from running the city’s own finances because the governor of Michigan doesn’t trust them to. (The governor of Michigan is very untrusting.) Which creates the slightly bizarre scenario of the state of Michigan forcing the city of Detroit to spend its tax money on a development project because it’s out of money for schools — but Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson, for one, isn’t worried:

I’ve never fully bought into the idea of sports stadiums as economic development; the math never really seems to work out, and there are strong, legitimate arguments to make about whether tax dollars ought to go to these kinds of projects.

But as girders of momentum and builders on buzz and excitement? I think the case in downtown Detroit right now argues pretty strongly in favor of our sports venues.

“Girders of momentum.” Now there’s an image to envision stadium projects by — even if it does bring to mind this.