Crain’s admits Super Bowl impact overblown, says still “windfall” because it just is, okay?

I guess this is a victory of a sort: After a flurry of articles calling into question the NFL’s claims of an economic windfall for New York and New Jersey from hosting the Super Bowl, including mine and one from the Associated Press, Crain’s New York business columnist (isn’t that redundant?) Greg David began his column yesterday by writing, “The Super Bowl probably didn’t generate the $500 million in economic activity that the host committee claimed based on a study that wasn’t credible enough to be released.” But no worries, because, as he explained in perfect 5th-grade persuasive-essay format (topic sentence, details, concluding sentence), the game was still a “windfall” for its host city. Why?

  • The Super Bowl was free advertising for New York. Because who can put a price on putting New York on the tourist map?
  • The Super Bowl “highlighted the city’s ability to handle any big event in stride.” This is really the same as point #1, but is especially hilarious given that the main visitor memory of the game is likely to be this.
  • “The hotels did well.” David might have wanted to actually call some hotels; the AP did, and found that many were actually underbooked, with one midtown hotel manager declaring, “All of the anticipation and the hype about what this was going to bring for hotels in New York City has not materialized.”
  • “One of the biggest subliminal messages is that winter in New York is not a big problem for tourists.” Admittedly, the weather on Sunday was lovely. So long as you left straight for the airport at halftime and didn’t wait until the next day for your flight, when, not so lovely.
  • You didn’t need pricey game tickets to be a part of the action. There was a giant slide in Times Square, and only a 45-minute wait to ride on it! And, um, the press conference in Newark was free! Who can put a price on that?

Speaking of putting a price on things, David didn’t attempt to do any of that, because “windfall” is such a nice evocative word. His concluding sentence: “Big events are important to the city, and should be a part of any administration’s economic agenda.” Business journalism, ladies and gentlemen.

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.

Osceola County votes to spend $50 million plus yearly subsidies on rodeo arena

As the correspondent who alerted me to this story remarked, “Now these stadium headlines are just looking like Mad Libs results”:

In an historic Sunday meeting of the Osceola County Commission, commissioners agreed today to begin the process that would bring the National Finals Rodeo, as well as build a new 24,000-seat arena, to Osceola County.

Snickering over building an arena for rodeo aside — the event draws about 175,000 fans over ten days, which is respectable as sporting events go — the deal that Osceola County offered to the NFR to relocate from its longtime home in Las Vegas sounds just nuts: The county will use $50 million in hotel/motel tax dollars to help build a $150 million, 24,000-seat arena by October 2016, while owning the building (read: no property tax bill for the rodeo) and guaranteeing the rodeo $16 million a year in ticket and concessions revenue. If there’s any money left over after that, only then the county will get to share in it.

That’s a sweetheart deal by any measure, so naturally, according to the Osceola News-Gazette, “the commission was unanimous in its praise for the proposal, which could have significant impact on the area’s economy and would be a major shot in the arm to the county’s rodeo and cowboy heritage”:

“This is an historic proposal” for Osceola County,  County Commission Chairman Fred Hawkins Jr. said. “I’m pro-rodeo and a Silver Spurs member,” and (PRCA) is a tremendous organization.”…

“We have 90 million visitors a year,” to Central Florida, and rodeo visitors will have so many more opportunities here with theme parks such as Disney World, [Commissioner Frank Attkisson] said. “You can’t do that in Vegas.”…

“It’s the World Series and the Super Bowl,” Attkisson said.

“It will put Osceola County on the map as a tourist destination,” County Commissioner Mike Harford said…

“Wow,” said Kriss Titus, executive director of the Kissimmee Tourism Education Association. “The tourism industry will be thrilled about this. It is the best thing for tourism ever.”

So let’s get this straight: Osceola needs the help attracting tourists, because right now Central Florida only has more attractions than Las Vegas, something like that? But I guess you can’t really put a price on reviving Florida’s cowboy heritage.

De Blasio expresses “real concerns” about NYCFC tax-break plan

When last we left off with New York City Football Club trillionaire owner Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s proposed $400 million soccer stadium in the Bronx (projected public cost in tax breaks and free land: something like $150 million or so), everyone was wondering what mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s reaction was going to be to outgoing mayor Mike Bloomberg’s deal, given that de Blasio has a mixed record on subsidized development projects. And now, the great wizard has spoken, or at least his spokesperson has:

Lis Smith, a de Blasio spokeswoman, said, “We have real concerns about investing scarce public resources and forgoing revenue to support the creation of an arena for a team co-owned by one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, and will review any plan with that in mind.”

That’s not exactly a “no,” but it sure ain’t a “yes.” Bloomberg is reportedly including a clause in the agreement that would require de Blasio to make a decision by March or the whole deal is off, but that could end up backfiring on Mansour if the new mayor says it’s not enough time to review the use of those public resources. Right now local elected officials aren’t exactly jumping all over themselves to back the deal — even Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who previously invited the team to move to his borough, has declared himself undecided, though in Bronxspeak that usually means “sweeten the pot, woudja?” — so expect some frantic lobbying after January 1 once the old guard has departed and fresh blood has arrived at City Hall.

Detroit council delays Red Wings arena vote until they can read the actual lease

The Detroit city council was set to vote yesterday on the only thing it gets to vote on regarding the proposed $650 million Red Wings arena-and-other-development project (public cost: around $261 million), the expansion of the TIF district that will kick back property taxes to help pay for it, but instead postponed the vote until December 17. The reason: Councilmembers still haven’t seen details of the new arena’s concessions agreement, including whether local businesses will be hired and who’ll pay for increased police costs, a complaint that the council first raised back in September. The agreement will supposedly be ready in a couple of weeks, but at least some local elected officials aren’t down with buying a pig in a poke.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press reveals that council staff say the arena deal will cost the city an estimated $45 million, which goes against the team’s (and governor’s) claim that this is all tax money that the state doesn’t let the city see anyway, so quit yer yapping. There are no other details of this in the news media, and doesn’t appear to be anything on the council’s website, either; if I can find out anything else, I’ll post an update here.

Anaheim’s proposed land gift to Angels could pay for entire stadium reno cost

Not sure how I missed this at the time — especially since I’m quoted in it — but in the midst of a long, excellent article in the Orange County Register last week about how the study commissioned by the city of Anaheim commission on the economic impact of the Los Angeles Angels is full of crap (sorry for the technical economics terminology), there was hidden this tidbit about how the Angels are looking to pay for planned renovations to Anaheim Stadium:

[The proposal] would grant the team a 66-year, $1-per-year lease on 150 undeveloped acres around the stadium, which the team could develop according to the existing high-density residential, commercial and retail zoning. All tax revenue generated by the development for the city would be rebated to the team, according to the team’s proposal.

In return, the city would no longer have to make its $600,000 annual maintenance payment for the city-owned stadium. The Angels would pick up that tab, as well as the bill for an estimated $130 million to $150 million in needed renovations.

How much is free development rights to 150 acres for 66 years worth? The OC Register cites figures of anywhere from $30 million to $380 million, either of which would be far more than the value of getting out from under that annual $600,000 maintenance payment. (Picking up the bill for renovations to their own stadium isn’t actually so much an Angels gift to the public as a gift to themselves.) Plus, under the new deal the $2 ticket tax that the Angels pay on every ticket sold after the first 2.6 million would only kick in after the 3 millionth ticket — costing the city an additional $800,000 a year.

Depending on how you value the land, then, the Angels are either looking at getting a development deal that will pay for around 20% of their renovation costs, or one that will pay for their entire nut and leave them with a ton of profit left over. Since it seems kind of important to the story, it’d be nice for some local journalist to actually attempt to figure out what that land is worth — maybe one of these days.

Brooklyn arena developer sues NYC to get lower tax bill on its parking lots

Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Brooklyn Nets arena and the as-yet-mostly-unbuilt surrounding Atlantic Yards housing tower project, is suing the city for lower property tax payments on one of its parking lots. Because that’s just what developers do:

The Finance Department put the block’s market value at $11.2 million for its current fiscal year, which began July 1. But FCR says in a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court that it’s only worth about $1.6 million…

“As you can imagine, real estate and development companies like Forest City have a fiduciary responsibility to review and question assessments in a timely manner,” FCR spokesman Joe DePlasco told DNAinfo New York.

“This is a standard operating procedure for these types of companies.”

FCR, you may recall, last year sued the city over its Barclays Center tax bill, then later said it was a mistake, after realizing that Barclays Center doesn’t pay taxes. Nor does the parking lot block, technically, but it does pay PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), which, unlike the PILOTs for the actual arena site, the city gets to keep, rather than kicking them back to pay off Ratner’s arena costs.

Under the deal to build on the Atlantic Yards, FCR leases the block for a nominal fee from the state’s Empire State Development Corporation.

Since the state owns the Atlantic Yards, the land is exempt from property taxes. However, FCR must make payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, to the city to develop the block.

The PILOT amount for the block is the equivalent of what FCR would pay the city in property taxes, according to the ESDC. The Finance Department determined that for this fiscal year the property tax for the block would be nearly $700,000, according to city records.

If the court agrees to lower the city’s appraisal, FCR would in turn pay a smaller PILOT amount, according to the ESDC.

This is apparently the kind of lawsuit that land owners file all the time, so no hard feelings or anything between FCR and the city. Unlike the lawsuit by employees of Ludwig’s Drug Store charging racist treatment when they attended games in the store’s luxury suite, which looks to have hard feelings aplenty — understandable when you’ve been charged $1,000 for a pizza.

Detroit’s bankruptcy may not derail Red Wings arena subsidies

So Detroit filed for bankruptcy yesterday. It’s a Chapter 9 bankruptcy, which is the kind that cities use, and Detroit’s emergency manager — who was appointed by the state earlier this year to take over the city’s finances — plans on using it to get out from between $18 billion and $20 billion in debt, forcing creditors to accept pennies on the dollar and renegotiating union contracts and pension plans, with the goal of emerging from bankruptcy in late 2014.

You don’t care about any of that, though. You — judging from my email — just want to know, “What business does a bankrupt city have spending more than $200 million on a new arena for the Red Wings?!? Does this derail the downtown arena plans?”

My best guess: probably not, though it could complicate them. First off, the arena isn’t going to paid for by Detroit, but rather by the separate Detroit Development Authority, which has a special revenue stream of property taxes that it gets to siphon off before it hits the city treasury. And because the DDA’s tax collection power is authorized by the state, not the city, I’m not sure a bankruptcy court could order the city to abrogate that deal even if it wanted to, which admittedly is a pretty far-fetched scenario to begin with.

So the DDA still has money, even if the city of Detroit has none. There are a couple of potential problems, though. First off is the PR one: It just looks really really bad to be proposing to hand over $200 million to the local rich guy when you’re telling city workers that they’re not going to be getting their pensions. Second, property tax revenues are notoriously volatile; if the DDA was hoping that bond buyers would purchase their debt figuring that the city would backstop them if anything went wrong, well, promises by Detroit to backstop anything just became worth less than the piece of paper they’d be printed on, if anyone ever printed anything on paper anymore.

Still, one thing the Detroit no doubt can and will tell both residents and creditors is that it needs its money in order to fund things that will help the city get back on its feet again, which could be interpreted, depending on your political perspective, to include development projects. In fact, Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is already saying it, according to the Detroit News:

Instead of paying creditors in full, Orr would use $1.25 billion over the next decade to buy police cars and fire trucks, replace broken street lights, tear down burned-out homes, fight blight and improve city services.

Orr wants to stabilize the city, woo new residents, provide essential city services for Detroiters, lower property taxes and transfer costly departments, including the water department, to an outside group.

While everybody likes fire trucks — especially the sirens! rrrrrreeeeeyoowwwww! — “fighting blight” is the kind of nebulous term that can be used for most anything, but is most commonly employed for knocking down old stuff and putting up new stuff. And if Orr is going to “woo new residents,” he could certainly make the case that what new residents want is a shiny new downtown arena district, even if $200 million could buy an awful lot of fire trucks.

So no, this likely isn’t a death knell for the Red Wings arena project, though both Orr and Wings owner Mike Ilitch are going to have to do some tricky navigating if they want to pull it off. If anything, Orr’s modus operandi sounds like the one pursued — sans bankrutcy filing — by Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who similarly tried to privatize city departments while giving money to the local sports team. And that worked out … um, not so great, but second time’s the charm, right?

Stadium news roundup, special July 4th week haven’t-been-paying-attention edition

Catching up on some of the week’s news that slipped by while I was traveling (full reporting here will return late Monday, or maybe Tuesday depending on how much sleep I get on the plane):

Queens tennis stadium to reopen as concert venue

Some happy news for fans of 90-year-old tennis stadiums: Nearly three years after the West Side Tennis Club in Queens rejected selling Forest Hills Stadium to a condo developer, the building is being renovated as a concert facility:

The stadium is still in shoddy condition, and after an accelerated renovation to make it ready, one concert is planned there this summer — an Aug. 28 show by Mumford & Sons — followed by six in each of the next three summers.

This summer’s concert will serve as something of a pilot, to convince residents of Forest Hills Gardens, the exclusive neighborhood of elegant Tudor homes around the stadium, that the concerts will not be a nuisance, said the club’s president, Roland Meier. Concerts have not been welcomed in the neighborhood in the past.

For anyone wondering how well an undermaintained 90-year-old stadium has held up, concert promoter Mike Luba told the New York Times: “You could drop a bomb on it and it would still be standing — it’s borderline indestructible.”

It’s hoped that the concerts will raise enough money to help renovate the stadium further, and eventually use it again for tennis. So long as the neighbors don’t complain too much about being assaulted by the mellifluous tones of Grammy-winning folk rock, that is.