Poll shows D.C. residents opposed to soccer stadium 59-35%, mayor gripes that it’s just badly worded

The Washington Post may be getting beaten up for letting Ezra Klein go to the Seattle Mariners Vox Media, but at least they should know how to conduct a poll, right? So when the Post reported Sunday that six out of ten D.C. residents oppose Mayor Vincent Gray’s D.C. United stadium deal, including opposition across “virtually every demographic and political group,” that should be big news.

And it is, but both Gray and United supporters immediately called foul, noting that the poll asked if people “favor or oppose using city funds to help finance a new soccer stadium,” and complaining that this isn’t a fair cop:

“The poll question is, do you support public financing for a stadium in general?” says spokesman Pedro Ribeiro. “Not even the mayor supports that, because what the mayor has proposed is not public financing for a stadium.”

Um, yes, that is what he’s proposed, to the tune of about $200 million in city-funded land costs and tax breaks. It’s not financing of the whole project, no, but the question does say “help fund,” which is a reasonable shorthand for what Gray is proposing, even if obviously it would have been nice if the Post had spelled out the details of the funding plan in their poll. (Hopefully without putting any of the respondents to sleep.)

In any event, the Post poll shows D.C residents opposing the project by 59-35%, which is probably a way bigger margin than you’re going to erase by a mere tweak in wording. And it’s certainly not going to change the minds of respondents like this woman:

Rosalind Jackson-Lewis, a 57-year-old Riggs Park resident, said she is “absolutely, positively against it.”

“There are more pressing problems in the city, and soccer is not going to add value to the city,” said Jackson-Lewis, a retired accountant. “Any extra money the city gets should go into education. . . . We need a better education system.”

Detroit group calls for community benefits deal on Red Wings arena

The Detroit community group Corridors Alliance is demanding that any public funding of a new Red Wings arena should include a community benefits agreement to guarantee that jobs go to local residents and protect local homeowners from being displaced:

“We want to hold the development to a higher standard,” [the alliance's Francis] Grunow said. “As time has gone on, there’s been more and more public money included in these projects.”

That’s all well and good, and a CBA would indeed provide some teeth for requiring that the Red Wings actually live up to their promise to hire Detroit residents for the majority of jobs created. The problem with even well-written CBAs, of course (i.e., not this one), is that 51% of the jobs created by an arena project is still not a whole heck of a lot of jobs, especially not once the actual construction is completed.

If the argument for the arena project is that it will help the local economy, then requiring local hiring seems like a no-brainer, but it won’t change the fact that Detroit could create a heck of a lot more jobs for its $261.5 million if it spent it on just about anything else. Which isn’t getting discussed now, mind you — and the state of Michigan has effectively ruled out considering it — but so long as community groups focus on getting a cut of the meager spoils and not the overall policy behind sports subsidies, it’s easy for team owners to buy off opposition by promising to hire the right people.

Cubs’ battle with rooftop owners now headed to court, as God intended

As of early last week, the Chicago Cubs owners were reportedly making good progress in negotiations with rooftop owners over their planned Wrigley Field renovations, with “Cubs executives [saying] they have made significant progress in negotiating with rooftop owners in the past two weeks” and team president Crane Kenney saying, “I feel confident we’re working our way toward the finish line here.”

Then, this happened:

The Cubs privately declared their intention to apply for a city permit to put up a 650-square-foot, see-through sign in right field that, the rooftop owners claim, will block their bird’s-eye view of the century-old stadium.

The decision to take immediate advantage of a sign already authorized by the City Council was made after a stormy negotiating session Tuesday and after rooftop club owners filed a defamation lawsuit against a stadium financing consultant who once advised the Cubs’ prior owner, the Tribune Co.

“Everything fell apart” at that meeting, said a source close to the negotiations.

And then this:

In a statement reacting to today’s earlier news that the Chicago Cubs have applied for a permit to build a large right-field sign at Wrigley Field, the rooftops released a statement saying that they will sue.

“Rooftop owners believe a blockage of our views violates the contract we have with the owners of the Cubs,” said Ryan McLaughlin, spokesman for the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association. “We have instructed our legal team to proceed accordingly.”

At issue is this sign, which Cubs owner Tom Ricketts wants to erect behind the right-field bleachers, and which the rooftop owners say would be in violation of their contract to provide a cut of their revenues to the Cubs in exchange for unimpeded views of the game. The key clause in the contract, as reported by CSN Chicago’s David Kaplan, who got ahold of the actual language, is this:

6.6 The Cubs shall not erect windscreens or other barriers to obstruct the views of the Rooftops, provided however that temporary items such as banners, flags and decorations for special occasions, shall not be considered as having been erected to obstruct views of the Rooftops. Any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation of this agreement, including this section.

The big question is going to be whether a new ad sign counts as an “expansion of Wrigley Field” or not. Contract lawyers (all unnamed) quoted by Kaplan seem to think that Ricketts will likely be able to argue that it is — “I think it is probably going to go the Cubs’ way, but it is not a slam dunk,” said one — but even more likely is an out-of-court settlement once everyone gets a better sense which way the legal winds are blowing.

For now, anyway, it means one more season without a giant ad board and electronic scoreboard in the Wrigley bleachers. Which at least gives some reason to go see the Cubs this year.

Beckham’s Miami MLS stadium doesn’t even have a site, actually

Reader challenge! Pretend you are a TV news reporter writing for this whole new Interweb thing. Finish this sentence:

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade County will begin talks this week with a group led by David Beckham to hammer out details of a pro-soccer stadium.

The big question is

Your options are:

  1. …why they need it?
  2. …who will pay for it?
  3. …where to put it?

Okay, that was an easy one: It’s #3, because who cares about money when you can look at Google Maps and throw darts? (Note to readers: Don’t actually do that. You could damage your screen.) Not that CBS Miami’s Gary Nelson actually mentions any specific sites, mind you, not even the site that prospective team owner David Beckham was reportedly eyeing back in November, but he does cite county commissioner Xavier Suarez as being able to “envision a stadium at the port and a network of pedestrian walkways and overpasses tying it and all of downtown’s parks and art and sports venues together,” which if you close your eyes, yes, yes, I can see it too!

County commissioner Bruno Barriero also promises: “The stadium is definitely going to be built out of the private sector’s wallet. We are not, under any circumstances, going to fund the construction of the stadium.” That’s pretty unlikely given recent MLS stadium projects, all of which have at least included free land and/or tax breaks, but it’s a nice promise, anyway. Now to see whether the commission can be held to it — and by “now” I mean of course “not until several months from now when the stadium is a fait accompli and people can actually discuss how to pay for it.”

[UPDATE: Beckham is starting "negotiations" with the county, effective today! Which means talking about possible sites, as many as 30 of them. As for money, the Miami Herald reports that "Beckham’s investors have hired a Tallahassee lobbyist to go after potential state funds." That'd be a way around the county not chipping in, certainly, but it would mean that Bruce Barriero has a funny definition of "the private sector's wallet."]

Orlando City SC latest team to evict church via eminent domain for stadium

Orlando City Soccer Club may have gotten its $20 million in public stadium money, but it hasn’t acquired the land it needs yet. So, naturally, it wants to evict a church to make way for its stadium, because that’s how things are done these days. And also naturally, now that the city can’t settle on a price for the church land (the city offered $1.5 million, Faith Deliverance Temple countered with $35 million), it plans to use its eminent domain powers to acquire it:

Jonathan Williams, son of the church’s founder, said city officials jumped the gun by ending negotiations and saying they had to settle it in court.

“If they want it, they’ll pay more for it than it’s actually worth. We used that [$35 million price] as a basis to start conversations,” Williams said. “I was shocked — I thought we were still in negotiations. There was a high ball and a low ball, so let’s work it out. They initiated the disconnect.”

Silly church founder’s son: There is no “high ball” and “low ball.” There is only  hardball.

Sacramento clerk rejects Kings arena petitions, everybody warms up their lawyers

Turns out that getting people to sign multiple different versions of a petition is a problem after all: Sacramento city clerk Shirley Concolino ruled on Friday that she was rejecting the petitions to put a vote on the Kings arena plan on the June ballot, because of the multiple-versions thing, and the failure-to-include-required-legal-language-saying-this-will-be-enacted-into-law-if-approved thing, and the statements-ending-in-incomplete-sentences thing. “I’ve never seen a petition with as many flaws as this one,” Concolino said.

Of course, Concolino’s boss is Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, something that ballot measure advocates noted in protesting her ruling. Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork and Voters for a Fair Arena Deal will almost certainly now challenge the petition rejection in court; the Sacramento Bee cites some legal experts as saying judges tend to interpret petition rules strictly, others that they’ll let things slide if they’re not major, so it’s anyone’s guess how things proceed from here. Except that unless things are resolved soon, there’s an excellent chance that Sacramento will be able to sell arena bonds before anyone can vote on anything, which could make the whole issue moot.

Meanwhile, the Bee this weekend ran another story about that economic impact report Kings arena boosters issued last month, this time burying the bit about how more than 90% of the impact would just be cannibalized from spending elsewhere in the city way down in the 22nd paragraph. Actual additional economic activity: $25 million a year, according to the report. Even that’s questionable (Stanford economist Roger Noll says it’s more likely $10-15 million a year), but if we take the report at its word, this means that the city of Sacramento would be better off taking its arena money in suitcases of twenties and handing them out on the streets of the city. (Especially when you consider that Sacramento residents are more likely to spend money locally than Kings players or owners, making for a higher multiplier.)

It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see in a headline — “Even Kings supporters don’t see much new economic impact” — but instead we get
“City says Sacramento arena would be economic powerhouse; subsidy critics disagree.” Because far be it from journalists to actually try to say whose math is correct.

All Portland needs to join MLB is a team (and a few hundred million dollars)

By my count, it’s been eight years since anybody seriously talked about Portland, Oregon, getting a major-league baseball team, and even then the only one serious about it was Florida Marlins president David Samson, who was just polishing his future Survivor bio. (The mayor at the time said of his citizens’ disdain for pro baseball: “That’s my very strong sense.”) Since then, Portland has renovated its only baseball stadium for the MLS Timbers, forcing its only minor-league baseball team to relocate; but, hey, if not even having a minor-league team isn’t stopping people in Montréal from trying to get an MLB team, why should it stop Portland, so away we go:

Portland’s backers of baseball have the blueprint for a state-of-the-art baseball-only stadium, which would have a retractable roof and seat 35,000. They have community support, including that of the current city administration. A site, endorsed by mayor Charlie Hales, has been chosen, next to Memorial Coliseum and the new Rose Garden, home of the NBA’s Trailblazers.

“We have the land and the infrastructure,” said architect Barry Smith.

The supporters believe they can find an ownership group, possibly a major Japanese firm, along the lines of Nintendo, which owns the Seattle Mariners.

All the folks in Portland need is a team.

Let’s see, a site, an architect, the mayor’s endorsement, a team, what else could they possibly need? Oh, right, money. Which was kind of a problem last time.

The MLB.com article reporting on all this (by Tracy Ringolsby, who used to work for actual newspapers, as did we all) is very hazy on who baseball’s “backers” in Portland actually are, but it looks like it’s mostly Smith, who’s designed several small buildings in the city, and Lynn Lashbrook, an NFL agent and sports management trainer. But they’ve managed to get people in Oakland starting to worry about the A’s leaving the Bay Area, which is half the battle. If you’re the owner of the A’s, that is.

State-funded Syracuse stadium would cost $495m, plus land and parking lots

Syracuse University has provided more details about its proposed new state-subsidized football stadium, which are:

  • Cost would be $495 million plus parking structures and land acquisition, the cost of which aren’t outlined.
  • The stadium would seat 44,000 (down from the Carrier Dome’s 49,000), with a retractable roof so it could host basketball and other indoor events while also events that need to be outdoors, like, um, professional snowball fights?
  • “Additional development of a 250-room hotel, over 160 apartments and 150,000 feet of retail space.” No word on how that would be paid for, or whether there would be penalties if it didn’t happen; the university said it would require “additional discussions.”
  • “The facility’s operating budget would pay for the extra police, fire and other public services needed.”
  • Whether the site would pay property taxes is undecided, but in any case the university wouldn’t pay any, since it would just be a tenant.

That’s clear as mud, but at least it’s something. Also noteworthy: The SU consultant who wrote the letter demanding public funds is Irwin Raij, the same guy who New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hired two years ago to be his state stadium negotiations czar. It’s always more profitable when you can work both sides of the street.

Edmonton set to break ground on Oilers arena in March, paying-for-it, schmaying-for-it

The city of Edmonton may still be between $50 million and $130 million short on being able to pay for a new Oilers arena, but that’s not going to stop them from breaking ground:

Edmonton’s downtown arena is on course to meet its $480-million construction cost and should be ready to start construction in March, city manager Simon Farbrother says.

“I would say we’re very close to the end,” he said Thursday.

It sounds like Oilers and city representatives have been working with contractors to ensure that the project won’t bust its $480 million budget ($605 million counting land and infrastructure), which would leave it just $50 million short, plus however much the city will end up needing to dig in its pockets for if the local Community Revitalization Levy (aka a Canadian TIF) only produces the amount of revenue the city expected in the first place, and not the amount it decided to project when it suddenly realized it had a funding hole to fill.

The city is apparently still hoping to apply to the province for funds for at least another $25 million — which has never worked before, but can’t hurt to keep asking, right? — but if it doesn’t get it, it can always shuffle some money around and figure it out later. Because that’s worked out so great elsewhere.

Minor-league soccer team that hasn’t started play yet already wants a state-funded stadium upgrade

It’s official: Every single minor-league soccer team in North America now has a plan for joining MLS by getting a new stadium built. The latest candidate: The Indy Eleven, a team in the third-tier minor-league NASL that hasn’t even played its first game yet, but whose owner Ersal Ozdemir said Friday that it could totally join MLS if only it had an $87 million, 18,500-seat stadium.

And who’s going to pay for it?

Ersal Ozdemir said Friday night that he understands why Indianapolis taxpayers wouldn’t want to pay for yet another sports venue.

“I totally get that. People are just tired of that,” said Ozdemir, a local real estate developer. “Because of that, really, we were being very thoughtful of that.”

Right. And who’s going to pay for it?

Lobbyists are trying to find a lawmaker willing to shepherd a bill that would allow the team to capture ticket-tax revenue, plus sales taxes and state and local income taxes, to help it finance the project.

So by “very thoughtful,” Ozdemir meant “we’re still going to use tax dollars, but we’ll be thoughtful about actually coming clean to the public about this.” (He told the Indianapolis Star that, in their words, “debt for stadium construction could be paid off by accruing taxes from the downtown Professional Sports Development Area,” aka a TIF, aka developers’ favorite confusing hidden tax subsidy.) Though at least that’s more thought than he put into coming up with the team name.