Bills used taxpayer money to rip out drinking fountains, force people to buy $5 water

My article yesterday at The Cauldron (direct link now active, click at will) on the Buffalo Bills demanding a new stadium right after getting renovations to their old one prompted this tweet pointing me to this article by ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook, which notes:

Reader Jim Medwid of Alden, New York, attended a recent Bills preseason game and reports: “The concourses are now wider, but all drinking fountains have been removed from the stadium, which prohibits bringing in any kind of bottle, even clear-sided water bottles.” So taxpayers paid $90 million for renovations that force Bills ticket holders to buy $5 water bottles from the concession stands, and guess who keeps the profit.

Actually, more like $227 million, but who’s counting?

No drinking fountains and a ban on water bottles sounds like not just a terrible idea, but a recipe for lawsuits the first time someone passes out from dehydration on a hot day. (Yes, they have those in Buffalo in September.) It’ll also be interesting to see if we fan protests along the lines of the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ memorable Water-gate, which ultimately led to the team reversing its ban on outside water.

Warriors release rendering of what new SF arena will look like from orbit

People love the arena renderings, even if the actual buildings seldom end up looking quite like the original drawings, so here you go. Courtesy of the San Francisco Business Times, renderings of the latest Golden State Warriors arena plans:

Toilet bowl? Trash can lid? The Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy? (Snohetta designer Craig Dykers actually compared the design to one of these three — see if you can guess which!)

Okay, this doesn’t actually show us much of anything of what the arena will look like to humans who aren’t paragliding overhead. (Snohetta didn’t release any ground-level renderings.) You can see where two 160-foot office towers would go (only a bit taller than the arena itself), but other than that, for now you’ll just have to imagine yourself being one of those teensy dots looking up at the building.

Sports on Earth blows up real good

Sorry for the lack of news posts yesterday, but I had some other stuff to work on in the morning, then news broke that Sports on Earth, where I’ve written 2-3 times a month since last fall, was shutting down. Also not shutting down. Actually pretty much shutting down after all, even if the site will live on in name only.

This sucks for me as a journalist, because under editor Larry Burke, SoE had become a terrific place to explore important topics in-depth, and get paid an actual living wage while doing so. But it also sucks for me as a reader, because now I won’t be able to read all the great work being done by Patrick Hruby and Jeb Lund and Howard Megdal and … I’m going to stop there before I start worrying about who I’m leaving out, but so many other talented sportswriters who are suddenly out of a job. Or rather, I’m sure I’ll still get to read them somewhere, but not all in one place, and probably not with as much freedom to explore the nooks and crannies of the sports world as they were afforded at SoE.

Anyway, for the immediate future the bulk of my sportswriting will be here, though I do have one article in the pipeline for another outlet. Thanks to all of my supporters for helping pay the bills so I can devote time to this site (if you’d like to become one, that’s what this hotlink is for), and thanks to every Field of Schemes reader for reading, and commenting, and retweeting, and all that good stuff.

And now for the news…

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Braves stadium will face south, the better to see their new artificial lake

New Atlanta Braves stadium rendering porn! Looks like the Cobb County facility will have, um, an artificial lake? And a, what’s that in left-center field, a restaurant? An aquarium? And four decks of seating, or maybe five?

The most interesting rendering is probably this one, since it finally gives a sense of perspective on which way the stadium will face:

Braves officials at first indicated that the stadium would face southwest, which would be kind of crazy, given that that’s where the sun is during the afternoon, which is when baseball games are played. (Batters face east in most baseball stadiums, which is why left-handed pitchers are called “southpaws.”) They later changed that to “south,” and it looks from this rendering like it’s slightly east of south — one reporter tells me that the stadium designers now say it’s 22º east of due south, which would still be the most southerly-facing stadium in MLB. (Comerica Park in Detroit, the current record holder, looks to be about 28.5º east of due south.)

Anyway, it’s all fun to speculate about, especially since there’s nothing else really to say about the Braves’ stadium plan … what’s that? The transportation improvements that could still cost the county an additional $160 million on top of its $276 million in stadium construction costs? Reply hazy, ask again later.

In Bizarro America, city council am saying no to funding new football stadium

Big news from Liverpool, where the city council has just turned down a request from Everton for funding for a new 50,000-seat stadium:

Liverpool City Council says it will not fund Everton’s new stadium

Also, where the city council has just promised to support Everton’s new 50,000-seat stadium in any way possible:

Liverpool City Council back new Everton stadium

Okay, what the council actually said was that it “is clearly not in a position to fund the costs of a new stadium,” but would consider funding “a wider regeneration scheme, subject to a sound financial and economic rationale for doing so.” Which leaves the door open to lots of things, but not to Liverpool building a stadium and then renting it to Everton, which is what team execs wanted.

Of course, we’re still talking about a team offering to pay rent at a publicly built stadium, which almost never happens in the U.S., and then a city council saying, “No, we might help, but go build it yourself,” which also pretty much never happens. No wonder the Pilgrims got the hell out of Dodge.

Wrigley Field celebrates 100th anniversary as Cubs owner mulls how to make it look less like Wrigley Field

Today is the 100th anniversary of the first game at Wrigley Field, and I hope everyone is tuning in, because those 1914 Federal League uniforms are pretty cool, even if the uniform numbers are an anachronism:

fed-uniNot pictured, of course, is the not-at-all-1914-throwback scoreboard that Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is champing at the bit to build, but holding off on for now because of the thicket of lawsuits he must navigate first. The Associated Press tackles this subject today, coming to the conclusion that video screens make it easier to see replays, fans don’t all like them regardless, Wrigley Field had a moving walkway in the 1950s, young people love to take selfies, wait, what were we talking about again?

Everything that’s wrong with sports stadium coverage, in one sentence

I’ve made no secret of how unimpressed I’ve been with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s coverage of the Bucks arena debate, but this, from today’s column by Michael Hunt, really takes the cake:

So now it becomes a matter of trust that the extraordinary financial commitments by Kohl and the new owners toward the building won’t languish on the table in another unseemly political fight.

So, to recap: The owners of a professional sports team offering to pay for less than half of the cost of their new arena is “extraordinary.” Public officials not wanting to pay for the other half, meanwhile, is “unseemly.” Got that?

(For those who would like an alternate perspective, I have a longer piece on the Bucks situation up at Sports on Earth, hot off the presses.)

Edmonton not building a $120m soccer stadium just yet

Finally, somebody who isn’t jumping into building an MLS-ready soccer stadium! Hello, Edmonton!

City councillors agreed Wednesday to install new artificial turf at Clarke Park, but dropped plans to one day consider building a $120-million soccer stadium.

That’s a reasonable decision, even if MLS does seem committed to offering up a franchise to just about anyone who asks for one (and builds a stadium, and finds someone to come up with the expansion fee). So what made the city decide to reject plans for a new home for FC Edmonton?

Councillors accepted a $20-million plan to expand Clarke to 10,000 seats from the current 5,000 once a team can average 4,500 fans a game for three years.

FC Edmonton, which now draws almost 2,500 people a game, says it needs average attendance of about 8,000 to break even.

But council deleted a proposal to start planning a 20,000-seat stadium at a new location once an average of 9,500 spectators start showing up.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate to make decisions in 2014 about something that might not come up as an issue until the 2020s,” Coun. Bryan Anderson said.

Okay, so that’s not so much “rejecting” a 20,000-seat stadium as “putting one off,” though it is nice to see that they’re considering the idea of having the soccer team share with the Eskimos CFL team if it should come to that.

What I’m still a bit unclear on, though, is why Edmonton is talking about putting up the money for the soccer team’s stadium, or what the city would be getting in return. (Okay, I’m also confused as to whether it’s Clarke Park, Clarke Field, or Clarke Stadium — the Interweb can’t seem to agree on a name.) It makes sense to wait until the team is showing it can draw more fans before expanding the place, but would FC Edmonton pay more in rent to compensate the city for the expansion? Does the pro team really just pay the hourly rental fee? Canada truly remains a strange, inscrutable land.