Braves demand $14m more for roads, because county didn’t say “Simon Says” in spending first $70m

Looks like having Mike Boyce running Cobb County instead of Tim Lee is already having some consequences: The Atlanta Braves just demanded an extra $14 million for roads and sidewalks around their new stadium opening in April, and the Cobb County Commission is telling them to get lost:

The dispute has been on-going since December, with origins that date to the earliest agreements forged by the county and team in 2013 and 2014. Those contracts require that $14 million in public funds be spent on transportation improvements, and are vague as to the exact projects covered by the money.

Cobb transportation director Jim Wilgus wrote in a Dec. 2 memo to County Manager David Hankerson that taxpayers have already spent $69.5 million on nine road projects for the stadium and privately owned, mixed-use development.

“We feel this satisfies Cobb County’s transportation improvement contribution,” Wilgus wrote in the memo.

The Braves think otherwise.

What appears to have happened here: When the county agreed to build the Braves a stadium back in 2013 without specifying a transportation plan, it threw $14 million into pot for unspecified future transportation needs. The Braves owners now say that the stuff the county built shouldn’t count toward that because the county was going to build that stuff anyway (though the county says $17 million worth of that stuff only came up as a result of the stadium deal), and is instead demanding reimbursement for $14 million worth of stuff that the team has already built.

This is almost certainly going to get resolved in court based on whatever crappy contract language Cobb County agreed to in 2013, not based on fairness or anything like that, and either way it shouldn’t interfere with getting transportation improvements like that bridge to the parking lots sort of working by opening day. It’s nice to see public officials not just signing any checks they’re asked to, though, even if it’s shutting the barn door way, way late.

San Diego group says it can build MLS stadium and housing at Qualcomm site with no public money

Apparently this is just the way it goes now: Your NFL team leaves town, and immediately thereafter somebody proposes building an MLS stadium as a booby prize. Next up, San Diego:

$1B soccer redevelopment initiative announced for ‘Q’ site

Mmm, not quite, San Diego Union-Tribune. First of all, the redevelopment was just proposed, not announced — there will have to be a ballot initiative, and then either a city council vote or a public referendum to make the thing happen. And only about $200 million of the money would be for the soccer stadium, which would be shared by an MLS expansion franchise (everybody thinks they’re getting an MLS expansion franchise, and everybody is probably right) and San Diego State University’s football team; the rest would go for a mixed-use development on the rest of the property currently taken up by the Chargers‘ now-former stadium, and is only estimated at $1 billion.

Still, the plan sounds promising, at least the way its boosters describe it: The developers, a group called FS Investors that has helped build everything from real estate projects to small-batch popcorn, say they would pay for all construction, buy the land at fair market value, and even set aside room for a new NFL stadium if San Diego ever got the chance to bring in a team to replace the Chargers. There’s no word about any public money involved, which could mean they’re not asking for any, or it could mean they’re not mentioning that part yet. (Involving a public university, for one, seems like a potential route to requesting state funds.)

This plan certainly seems worth exploring, though — and if it can work without taxpayer cash, it would be a sign that the problem with past Qualcomm Stadium redevelopment plans wasn’t the redevelopment part, it was the expensive-ass football stadium that was being required to go at the center of it. Soccer stadiums may not be any better as economic anchors than football stadiums, but they are a hell of a lot cheaper, which has its advantages.

Charlotte taxpayers now only being asked to spend $100m on a private MLS stadium, maybe

Great news, everybody! Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located, is now only being asked to spend $100 million on a soccer stadium for which the nonexistent team’s owner has only offered to put up $50 million, instead of being asked to spend $113 million:

Commissioners, meeting in closed session Wednesday night, were told the county and the city would each be asked to pay $43.75 million toward a $175 million stadium. That’s down from the $50 million each that was sought in the initial proposal in early January.

The report in the Charlotte Observer leaves out $13 million in land costs that county taxpayers would cover, bringing the total to $100.5 million. It also doesn’t explain who’d pay the additional $25 million that the stadium would now be expected to build since this was first proposed, if those are real costs and not just other stuff larded in to make it look like the public portion is a smaller share of the whole nut.

Also not mentioned is what the team’s lease would be like — except that “team owners would control [the stadium] in much the way the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets do the city-owned Spectrum Center” — so it’s entirely possible that this $12.5 million cut in county spending would be offset by $12.5 million more towards future renovations, or something. The Mecklenburg county commission is expected to vote on this plan next Thursday at a private retreat, after holding just a single public forum at 3 pm next Tuesday, when surely lots of folks will be free to testify about this proposal that doesn’t appear to be even mentioned on the commission’s website.

One commissioner critical of the plan, Pat Cotham, remarked, “I’m struggling with this rushed process. Rushed deals of any sort are not good deals, because you need to have time to vet things.” Crazy talk! In America, we vote on stadium deals first, and figure out the details later, and nothing’s gone wrong yet, right?

Washington Post doesn’t understand basic stadium economics, free agent spending, Twitter

If you read this site at all regularly, you should already be familiar with Betteridge’s Law of Headlines. So you know what to do when you see this in the Washington Post:

Could the Nationals’ spring training project be affecting their offseason spending?

The genesis of this story appears to be that Jim Bowden, former GM of the Washington Nationals who is now an ESPN analyst, tweeted that the team may hold off on signing free agents this winter because they “are way over budget on [their] Spring Training Complex, making [their] decision difficult.” A Nats spokesperson immediately countered that “one has nothing to do with the other,” but still, Washington Post story.

Basing an entire article on one stray remark from a guy paid to come up with bulk-size opinions on camera is bad enough, but this report also displays a stunning failure to understand the concept of sunk costs. Think of it this way: You’re about to buy a new computer because you’ve determined it will increase your productivity and allow you to earn enough money that it will pay for itself. Then you find out that your roof has a leak, and you need to spend more than you thought to repair it. Unless you’re short on cash — which is unlikely since you have a net worth of $5.4 billion — you’d be foolish to skimp on one investment just because another cost arose that you’ll need to pay regardless.

For the Nationals to cut back on free agent spending because their spring training complex is running over budget, in other words, they’d have to be incredibly stupid. Which isn’t to say it’s impossible — teams all the time set “budgets” for payroll based on little more than how much the next guy is spending, even though player salaries are sunk costs as well once you’ve signed them. But taking it this seriously is a sign that the Post not only is jumping to write articles based on off-handed tweets, but has a serious misunderstanding of economics. Good thing there isn’t anything happening soon that’s likely to exploit those weaknesses.

Warriors break ground on privately funded SF arena, only travesty is the entertainment

The Golden State Warriors held their long, long-awaited groundbreaking on their new San Francisco arena this week, which presumably means they’re actually going to build this thing. The event was not without its awkward weirdness, though:

Oooookay. That’s got to be the worst of it, though, right?

Man.

Anyway, the Warriors arena is still being built with $1 billion in private funding, because ownership decided it could make more money by having an arena closer to its wealthier fan base (and to give San Francisco its first arena for hosting concerts and such), which while slightly icky if you consider the whole “San Francisco is for richies while less-richies have to go live in the East Bay” thing is at least the way that matters should work in a world without public subsidies to chase after. And at least East Bay residents can still get to games easily enough — which is good, because it meant at least the Warriors avoided the embarrassment of having a fan from their former city interrupt their welcome-to-their-new-city event, like some other relocating California teams I could name.

S.D., L.A moving companies lining up to refuse to haul Chargers’ stuff north

Chargers owner Dean Spanos’s grudging “I’d love to stay, I must be going” announcement that he was moving the team from San Diego to Los Angeles was sad enough, especially with the logo uproar and public message to stay home from one of L.A.’s top sports columnists that immediately followed. So what could he possibly do for an encore? Oh, how about not being able to find anyone to rent him a moving van:

[Ryan Charles of HireAHelper.com] said that more than 25 San Diego-based [moving] companies and 10 from the L.A. area have united via the wewontmoveyouchargers.com website to pledge not to participate in what Charles admitted would be a very lucrative series of jobs.

“We’re continuing to add more companies every hour,” Charles said. “We’re still actively calling companies, and companies are signing themselves up through the link on that site. So yeah, I think it’s definitely had an impact.”

It’s always possible that one day the Chargers will be ensconced in their new stadium, and they will win games again, and they will compete with the Rams for the hearts of L.A. football fans, who will actually be proven to exist (except in the sense of football fans who live in L.A., vs. fans of L.A. football). But this definitely isn’t getting off to a good start.

Raiders to file papers to move to Vegas, it is said (by someone [we can’t tell you who])

So on Saturday morning (updated again on Sunday), NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport had this to report:

The Raiders will file relocation papers to move from Oakland to Las Vegas, according to sources familiar with their thinking. … The stunning move, one that should be made official in the coming days, is expected to add a new city to the NFL’s ever-changing landscape. The Raiders would need 24 votes from the league’s owners to formally make the move, a vote that will come this spring…

As for the support from the room of owners, it’s described as making progress and gathering momentum. There isn’t nearly the opposition some anticipated originally. And it continues to build, with some of the most prominent owners vocally in favor of it.

Number of named sources cited: zero. Citations are to “sources familiar with [the Raiders’] thinking,” “sources,” and that passive-voice “it’s described as.” So what we know for sure is that somebody wants the world to know (or think) that the Raiders are all set to move to Las Vegas, and that the NFL is set to approve it.

Anyway, we’ve known for a long while that Davis wants to move to Las Vegas, or at least that he says he wants to. (Notwithstanding that he still doesn’t know who he’s going to build a stadium there with, after getting $750 million in public money to help with the costs.) Does this mean the move could be official in another couple of months? That this is an attempt to shake down Oakland, or even once-and-maybe-future Davis stadium partner Sheldon Adelson, for a more Davis-friendly deal? What kind of relocation fee would Davis have to pay for moving from an old stadium in a large market into a new stadium in a fairly small one? All good questions to ask Rapoport’s sources — here, go to it.

Charlotte MLS backers asking for $113m in public cash for stadium, isn’t this where we came in?

So, let’s see, anything else been going on while we’ve all been focused on where the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders were going to end up? How about Charlotte, North Carolina being asked for $113 million for a soccer stadium for a team that doesn’t exist yet?

A proposal presented to Mecklenburg County commissioners in closed session last week calls for the city and county to each spend $50 million toward a $150 million stadium in Elizabeth just outside of uptown. The local ownership group of Bruton Smith, the billionaire race track owner, and his son, Marcus, CEO of Speedway Motorsports, would spend $50 million for the stadium.

The county would also demolish Memorial Stadium and the Grady Cole Center to make room for the stadium. The county would also provide the land – assessed at $12.9 million – for the new stadium.

That’s about equally as bad as the historically awful St. Louis soccer stadium proposal that that city mercifully killed earlier this week. If this is the new baseline ask for would-be MLS owners, we could be seeing the gradual end to the days when public subsidies in that league were generally lower than in other sports. (Though if cities keep saying no to them, maybe it’ll just be an indication that no matter if lots of kids are playing soccer now, that still hasn’t translated into the public or politicians feeling like landing an MLS franchise bestows that major “major league” feeling.) Already the Charlotte Observer has raised its eyebrows at the cost, and Charlotte Magazine contributing editor Greg Lecour has urged the city and county to drive a way harder bargain. Though it’s way more likely that MLS just packs up and tries its shtick on the next city down the road. How’s that legislation to end the Economic War Among the States going?

Raiders could have new evil billionaire to partner with on Vegas stadium

Wednesday’s NFL meeting about the Oakland Raiders‘ possible relocation to Las Vegas was a big bust as far as actual news goes, with the exception of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II’s cryptic statement that “the Raiders are looking at this potentially going without Mr. Adelson.” We now have some indication of what that was all about, though, as a Las Vegas stadium authority consultant reported yesterday that Raiders owner Mark Davis thinks he has another option for raising money if he can’t come to an agreement with casino baron Sheldon Adelson:

“The team’s presentation highlighted its research that the Las Vegas market can support the team, that bringing the NFL to the market aligns with the league’s strategic goals and that Goldman Sachs is committed to financing the project with or without a third party,” [Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis] said.

“The Raiders told the committees that there is no deal in place yet with the Adelson family and that the team is pursuing approval with no third-party involvement,” Aguero said. “However, if an accord with the Adelson family is reached later, the team would bring that back for league approval.”

This makes sense: If building a Las Vegas stadium (with $750 million of it paid for by taxpayers) is a good deal for Adelson, it’s likely to be a good one for Goldman Sachs as well. Though it’s important to note that Goldman would only be the financier here — Davis would have to borrow the money and repay it later. Still, if he’d rather make annual loan payments than share revenues and potentially team ownership with Adelson, sure, go for the vampire squid, or at least pursue it as an option so you have some leverage with your prospective partner.

The big question is whether that $750 million is still on the table if Adelson is no longer involved. I’ve looked at all the reports on the legislation and been unable to tell whether the money is contingent on it going to Adelson, or if it’s just free-floating money that can go to anyone looking to build an NFL stadium. It would certainly be ironic if Adelson ended up putting in all this lobbying effort, including buying the local newspaper, only to get shoved unceremoniously aside. Though if you believe the scuttlebutt that Adelson only did this to block hotel tax money from going to a convention center that would compete with his, maybe he won’t care so much, especially after the convention center got its money anyway.

And yes, all this is a dumb way to decide which cities get pro sports franchises. In case you were wondering.

Chargers announce move to Los Angeles, all that’s left is deciding who to be the most mad at

So the San Diego Chargers are moving to Los Angeles, owner Dean Spanos having dropped the other shoe yesterday by releasing this statement and changing their logo before announcing it wasn’t really their new logo after everyone, even the Tampa Bay Lightning social media director, made fun of them. Normally a relocation like this would require a vote of NFL owners to make official, but the league already gave Spanos a “good for one move to Inglewood” coupon last January, so this is a done deal.

There are many, many, many feels that one can have about this, depending on one’s perspective, so why doesn’t one sit down with us and run through them to see how reasonable one is being?

  • Rot in hell, Dean Spanos, for taking a team away from the fans who’ve supported it for a half-century! Spanos is definitely screwing over Chargers fans (who have responded by dumping their team gear outside the Chargers office and throwing eggs at the windows, and even trying to set fire to a team flag) in an attempt to make more money. Whether this makes him a greedy asshole or a savvy self-interested businessman is, wait, what’s the difference again?
  • Dean Spanos is an idiot for choosing to pay a relocation fee and be Stan Kroenke’s second fiddle in L.A. rather than working something out in San Diego! VERDICT: unproven. Yes, the relocation fee (reportedly $550 million payable over 10 years, which in present value is worth more like $425 million) is a lot, and Spanos is going to need to choose between either paying Rams owner Stan Kroenke a whole lot of rent (or shared revenues, which amount to the same thing) or putting up half the construction cost of the new Inglewood stadium up front, either of which is going to be really expensive. Maybe he thinks he can earn it back from increased revenue in a bigger market (though the NFL is limited in that regard since there are no local TV deals), maybe he was just pissy that San Diego voters didn’t want to give him $1.15 billion. Or maybe he’s an idiot.
  • Dean Spanos is an evil genius, now he can sell the Chargers for twice what he was going to get for them in San Diego! This is wisdom so conventional that people feel authorized to tweet about it like it’s true, but like all franchise value claims, it’s really just guesswork: Nobody knows how much more some theoretical billionaire would be willing to pay for the Los Angeles Chargers than for the San Diego Chargers, especially not until we see how popular they’ll be sharing that market with the Rams, and with that unfriendly lease that will saddle them with uncounted future costs. Only Spanos’s bean counters know for sure, and while it’s a fair bet that he’ll come out ahead since otherwise he wouldn’t be doing this (though see above re: pissy and/or idiot), it’s probably not going to be a double-your-money deal.
  • The NFL is going to regret this, nobody in L.A. wants to watch the dumb old Rams and Chargers! Certainly the Rams’ first season in L.A. wasn’t a raging success, with fans coming disguised as empty seats and TV ratings down relative to when L.A. football viewers were watching other cities’ teams. But the Rams and Chargers aren’t going to be pathetic excuses for football teams forever (probably), so maybe things will improve, and this won’t end up being a giant embarrassment for the league. Though that wouldn’t be any fun at all.
  • This is all San Diego’s fault for refusing to give Spanos a new stadium! To football fans’ credit, this viewpoint mostly seems to be limited to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who released a “Hey, we tried” statement following the announcement of the Chargers’ move. There were plenty of city officials willing to talk to Spanos about a new or renovated stadium (though they were limited in how much public money they were willing to/able to provide for one), but between the owner’s demand that the city fork over the lion’s share of the costs and the time limit on the relocation clause that meant Spanos had to move to L.A. now if he ever wanted to, there wasn’t time to work on that.
  • Wait, the Chargers are going to play in a soccer stadium for two years?! Yup. On the bright side, see above about nobody wanting to see the team play right now anyway.
  • At least San Diego taxpayers can still watch the team on TV if they want, without having to pay $1.15 billion in tax money as well! Also yup.
  • Sports is a festering cesspool of greed and extortion, less about putting out a good product than about an arms race among owners to build opulent stadiums with other people’s money! Well, duh.

If there’s a silver lining for wannabe haters, it’s that unlike in the typical stadium controversy, this looks set to be a tragedy in the Shakespearean sense, where all the major players end up dead on the battlefield thanks to hubris or stupidity or what have you. The San Diego Chargers may be dead, but San Diego Chargers schadenfreude is just beginning.