St. Petersburg mayor said near deal for buyout of Rays’ “don’t even think about stadiums elsewhere” clause

“People who have talked recently” with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman say that he is hopeful of reaching an agreement with Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg on a deal to allow Sternberg to talk to other local cities and counties about building a new stadium there. That’s current verboten under the terms of the Rays’ lease, but Kriseman has apparently decided that everything has its price:

[St. Petersburg council chair Bill] Dudley, who meets with the mayor weekly, said one critical element would be monetary compensation for the city if the Rays leave for Hillsborough before 2027, when their contract to play at Tropicana Field expires.

“I don’t know what the number is,” Dudley said, but added that city lawyers are working on contractual language “to protect our interests.”

That’s actually reasonable enough — as I’ve noted before, making the Rays stadium situation Hillsborough County’s problem, while getting some cash out of the deal (during negotiations with former mayor Bill Foster in 2013, Sternberg reportedly offered $2-3 million per year, or approximately one Jose Molina) and potentially freeing up the Tropicana Field site for redevelopment wouldn’t be the worst outcome for St. Petersburg. Of course, Foster tried this too and got nowhere, but supposedly Kriseman is close enough to a deal that he thinks he can present one to the council by year’s end, which is something. Then all the Rays and Hillsborough need to do is find $400 million in unmarked bills lying around somewhere, and they’re home free!

Lincoln arena losing money even after taxpayers cover construction costs, because most arenas are terrible ideas

I know this site is turning into Media Crit 101 some days, but 1) that is one of the things I do, and 2) the media coverage really deserves it lately. Like, try on for size the article from yesterday’s Lincoln Journal Star on Lincoln’s new arena (no pro teams present, just concerts and University of Nebraska basketball) that begins thusly:

Pinnacle Bank Arena has a mixed report financially for its first year.

And what’s the mix, exactly? The good: The restaurant, hotel, and car rental taxes that are going to pay off the arena bonds are coming in faster than expected so far. That’s reassuring in that not having enough money to pay off sports construction bonds can have dire consequences, but it’s not exactly a good financial report on the arena itself: It just means that people are renting more cars in Lincoln, which has nothing to do with the arena’s books per se.

And how are the arena’s books doing? That’s the bad news:

Run by a national management company under contract with the city, the arena did not meet its first year budget expectations, needing a $465,000 boost from the [West Haymarket Joint Public Agency] to break even.

The JPA already was providing $285,000 in pouring rights revenue — money beverage distributors pay to sell drinks at arena concession stands — to the city for arena operations, bringing total JPA contributions to $750,000 for the fiscal year…

In addition, the city gave the area a $500,000 cash advance, which it must repay by 2016.

So actually running the place is losing so much money that the city has had to kick in more than a million dollars just to keep it breaking even — and that’s even if you don’t count the cost of building the arena in the first place, which is being covered by taxes on all those restaurant-eaters and hotel-renters.

This is, frankly, not a “mixed” report, but a pretty dismal one. It’d really be nice if someday, someone other than me would lead off a story on an arena losing money hand over fist with a line like “The new arena is losing money hand over fist,” but I guess that’s not the kind of thing one says out loud in the polite society that is journalism.

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…

Live chat this Wednesday, plus: buttons!

The next Field of Schemes live chat will be this Wednesday, June 16, at 1 pm Eastern, or 10 am Pacific, or 11 pm if you’re in Almaty, Kazakhstan and want to discuss the 2022 Winter Olympics bid. All FoS Supporters at any level get to join in. (Archive of last month’s chat is now publicly viewable here.)

And speaking of membership having its privileges, the long-awaited Field of Schemes Supporter buttons are finally here on my kitchen table, and will begin winging their way to site supporters shortly. If you can’t live without one of these, or just want to help me keep devoting my time to reporting the latest stadium and arena news for this site, sign up today!

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?