NFL gives three Super Bowls to cities with new stadiums, implies, “Keep ’em coming”

The NFL awarded the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Super Bowls to Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles yesterday, continuing its policy of using the big game as a reward to cities and teams with new or significantly renovated stadiums. Or as Rams owner Stan Kroenke said following the decision, “I think they are telling the communities and the owners who stick their necks out that it’s worthwhile.”

The most important target of the announcement, then, isn’t the three cities that will now get the questionable benefit of hosting the NFL’s annual week-long road show, but those that are being wooed with that dubious carrot. Right now most of the reporting is on how New Orleans and Tampa Bay were snubbed because their stadiums aren’t as shiny as the cities that got the nod, but it’ll be interesting to see how this plays into future coverage of stadium campaigns — already, San Diego Union Tribune chief Chargers stadium cheerleader Kevin Acee has written that the possibility of getting a Super Bowl shouldn’t be the reason to vote for a new stadium, but really he means that you should vote for a new stadium regardless, so all remains right with the world.

Interestingly, there’s no reporting yet that I can see out of Las Vegas on the Super Bowl decision, but that may be because they’re too busy covering yesterday’s conflicting comments on a potential Oakland Raiders move from owner Mark Davis (“This is the real deal. If Las Vegas can come through, we’re going to be there”) and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (“It’s very premature at this point. Until we have more information, it’s pure speculation”). This could be just everyone playing their role — in terms of using Vegas as leverage in hopes of drumming up stadium subsidies from Oakland, Davis is bad cop, Goodell is good cop — or it could be a sign of deeper rifts among league owners over whether Davis should get to bolt from a bigger market to a smaller one in exchange for a lucrative (to him) stadium deal, and on what terms. We won’t know for sure until the next ESPN postmortem, I expect.

Florida to again consider $100m in sports tax kickbacks for projects already being built regardless

It’s time again for the Florida legislature to vote on the dumbest sports subsidies ever, wherein the state gets to hand out money from sales taxes to any sports organization that asks, to pay for venue upgrades they’re doing anyway, just because Florida, man. This year’s three candidates are the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Miami Dolphins, and Daytona International Speedway, which are set to receive a total of $210 million over 30 years (about $100 million in present value); the state Department of Economic Opportunity insists that Florida taxpayers will get a return on their investment via increased economic activity, though given that the work is already underway (in the speedway’s case, actually completed) whether or not the team owners get the money, it’s hard to see how this could be true.

It’s all mind-numbingly idiotic, and should be laughed out of the legislature in a sane world. Instead, naturally, we have legislators only thinking it’s a bad idea because Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria ripped them off once:

“I personally have an issue where taxpayer money is being used to fund billionaires,” [House Economic Development & Tourism Chairman Rep. Frank] Artiles said. “If [Marlins owner Jeffrey] Loria actually tries to sell the Miami Marlins, he has a major windfall on the back of taxpayers.”

That Loria, he just ruined it for everybody.

Buccaneers’ state subsidy request rejected for failing to fill out forms, will try again next year

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had their request for $1 million a year in state subsidies for their stadium renovations on top of $29 million in city subsidies rejected by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. How come? They failed to fill out all the forms:

“Due to the overall timing of our stadium renovation project,” said Bucs COO Brian Ford, “certain required documents were not deliverable within the timeframe set forth by the Statute. We anticipate submitting a complete application during the next filing period.”

The Buccaneers’ 2016 application lacked documentation on how its new construction project will increase jobs and taxable sales.

We knew all that was missing when the Bucs’ owners submitted the application back in November, but they said they’d add it later. Now “later” apparently means for the 2017 round of state subsidy approvals, which given that the only difference would be getting their $1-million-a-year pipeline started a year later probably isn’t worth worrying about when you’re worth $4.7 billion.

Still in the running for state subsidies: The Jacksonville Jaguars (already getting $45 million from city), Miami Dolphins (around $75 million from city), and Daytona International Speedway (no local subsidies yet that I’m aware of). The benefit to the state of handing out this money is absolutely zero — not just because of the substitution effect or what have you, but because the Dolphins and racetrack renovations are already underway, so it’s not like they’re only going to happen if the state kicks in money. (And realistically, the Jaguars aren’t turning down their $45 million from Jacksonville, either.) This is absolutely loony, but it’s the same loony premise that the state has been pursuing for a couple of years now, so we shouldn’t be surprised or anything. Florida, man.

Dolphins asking again for state cash for already-completed renovations, call this “economic development”

While Miami considers helping fund a new soccer stadium via tax breaks and infrastructure spending, its football stadium is in the midst of a $350 million renovation, about $200 million of which is being funded by the NFL, and up to another $5 million a year (present value $75 million-ish) from bonuses the team will get from the city if it can lure Super Bowls and the like. That still leaves about $75 million to be paid by billionaire Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, and he’s not going to take that lying down:

South Florida Stadium LLC, which oversees Sun Life Stadium, has again applied for up to $90 million in sales-tax dollars — up to $3 million a year over 30 years — as part of at least $350 million in renovations at the stadium that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has said he will pay…

“The whole idea is economic development,” [Sun Life Stadium lobbyist Ron] Book said this week. “I think the projects, whatever they are, will stand on their merits.”

As I’ve noted before, and as hopefully should be obvious to anyone with half a brain, giving public money to sports team owners for projects they’re already building and claiming it will generate economic development is completely insane: Whether or not you believe that stadiums can be economic catalysts (SPOILER: they can’t), any economic impact is going to be exactly the same whether Ross completes his renovations with his own money or with state tax money. Actually, you’d expect the economic impact to be more if Ross doesn’t get the subsidy, since then the state would still have that $3 million to spend on something else that might have a non-zero impact. It’s almost like you can’t trust lobbyists to make sensible economic arguments regardless of who’s signing their checks these days.

Dolphins renovations to add $75,000 “living rooms” for watching game on TV at the game

You want to know what NFL team owners want out of new stadiums? This is what NFL team owners want out of new stadiums:

As part of their $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium, the [Miami Dolphins are] installing 32 “living rooms” in the lower bowl of the stadium that come in groups of four with 30-inch wide recliners and an 18-inch television in front of each seat.

“We’re out to give a fan the very best seat and the very best experience they could possibly have,” Dolphins president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, via ESPN.com. “There are enough people in this marketplace that, if you can do that, [you] don’t care what it costs.”

This is the future of the NFL: Private rooms for people who can afford to pay $75,000 per season (that’s 160% of Miami’s median income!) to sit and watch the game at TV like they were at home, but in the same building as the actual game. Because that’s how rich people roll. Somebody really ought to do something about that.

Florida legislators gripe that they have to decide which teams to throw money at

It turns out that the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity really was supposed to rank sports subsidy requests instead of just telling the legislature “yeah, these are all good,” and at least a couple of state legislators aren’t happy about it at all:

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, announced Friday they have asked economist Amy Baker to use documents submitted by backers of the four stadiums and the Department of Economic Opportunity’s evaluation forms.

“It would be a great disservice to ask members to vote on these projects without an objective ranking,” Crisafulli said in the statement. He added, “We believe we will be able to get the results before session.”

Baker runs the legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, so basically the legislature is having to rank the projects themselves anyway. And lawmakers are still set to hand out $7 million to the four projects — all of which are already underway, so would take place with or without the subsidies — so the only thing that is going to be decided here is who gets what, and who’ll have to wait until another $13 million in state subsidies is available next year. So really, the legislature is paying one of its staff to decide how the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Orlando City S.C., or the Daytona International Speedway divvy up the money. I’d suggest a simpler solution.

Florida economic panel rules everybody should get tax money for stadiums they already agreed to build

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has issued its long-awaited (well, for a couple of months, anyway) ruling on which of the four finalists for state sales-tax subsidies are to get priority, and the answer is: all of them!

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity advised Jacksonville, Orlando, Daytona International Speedway and Sun Life Stadium that their applications met all “statutory criteria.” In a letter, the department also recommended that lawmakers could approve all four.

Daytona International Speedway and Sun Life Stadium are each seeking $3 million a year for 30 years for ongoing improvements to those facilities. Orlando has requested $2 million a year for three decades to help pay for a planned $110 million soccer stadium. Jacksonville, with its application supported by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has asked for $1 million a year for three decades.

This is jaw-droppingly dumb, since the whole point of this process of having teams seeking state subsidies to submit standardized forms to a state agency was to come up with a ranking for who’d get first dibs on the money; instead, the state legislature will now have to decide who gets what, which is exactly as it would have been anyway. It’s also dumb because, as an analysis of past state sports subsidies found, Florida has only received 30 cents of return on each dollar spent on stadium and arena projects. And finally, it’s dumb because all four of these projects — renovations to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins stadiums and to the Daytona Speedway, plus a new stadium for Orlando City S.C. — are already underway, meaning whatever economic benefit the state would get from them, it’ll happen regardless of whether the state decides to divert public money their way after the fact.

If there’s a bright side, it’s that the four sports entities have demanded $9 million a year in funding, and there’s only $7 million in the state’s available sales-tax fund, so the Joint Legislative Budget Commission will have to figure out somehow who’s going to see their subsidy demands trimmed. This is a bright side, however, only in the sense of “The bank just got robbed, but they ran out of money before the robbers’ bags were full.” Also, there’s nothing stopping the state from approving more money later, which means if these teams (and more) don’t get what they want this round, they can just come back for more. Congratulations, Florida — you appear to have just invented the first self-replenishing cat feeder of sports subsidies.

Renovated Dolphins stadium to offer “ultra-luxury” experience for those with cash to burn

The Miami Dolphins broke ground on their publicly aided stadium renovations on Friday, and here’s the innovation the Miami Herald is most excited about:

As part of an ultra-luxury game experience, the organization will send black cars to fetch their elite customers, with a private entrance and exit to skip traffic.

Once there, big spenders will have access to a swanky, all-inclusive club at the 50-yard line, with field access during the game.

Also, there will be 10,000 fewer seats, though at least fans won’t have to cough up for seat licenses. Ticket prices haven’t been announced yet, though CEO Tom Garfinkel promised that there will still be “thousands of seats under $50” (which is usually code for “all but a couple of thousand seats will cost way more than that”).

In short: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is hoping to make money off the renovations by appealing to more rich people who’ll pay to hang out at clubs during the game, because that’s the future of the live football experience, while everyone else watches on their big-screen TVs at home. But you already knew that.

Florida’s sports teams drop 2,000-plus pages of subsidy requests on state

Apparently alongside filling out the cracktastic application form, contenders for Florida’s new process for doling out sales-tax kickbacks for sports projects are allowed to submit additional material. And oh, what additional material:

Based upon sheer paper volume, Orlando and Jacksonville would be the front-runners in the new funding process.

The application from Jacksonville, supported by the Jacksonville Jaguars, stands at 954 pages.

Orlando, working to assist the Major League Soccer expansion Orlando City Soccer Club with a new 18,000-seat stadium, submitted a 1,144-page application.

Less bulky, Daytona International Speedway LLC filed a 110-page application. South Florida Stadium LLC, filing for the Miami Dolphins’ home, submitted 219 pages of material.

Included in these 2,000-plus pages are promises of new jobs, and new tourists, and new new new new! Also most of the work is already underway, so wouldn’t actually be new in the sense of “wouldn’t happen without the subsidies.” But, you know, details! Details that staffers at the state Department of Economic Opportunity will now have to dig through and analyze, which hopefully will mean more than just checking off which boxes the various applicants have provided screwy justifications for, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.

Florida to use standardized ranking to pick which sports projects to throw money at for no good reason

The state of Florida accepted its first applications for its new official state-vetted sports tax kickbacks process yesterday, and the finalists are:

  • The Miami Dolphins, seeking $3 million a year in sales tax rebates.
  • Daytona International Speedway, likewise seeking $3 million a year.
  • Orlando City SC, seeking $2 million a year.
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars, out for a piddly $1 million per annum.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity will now spend the next 60 days ranking the applications by “economic viability,” to evaluate each application within 60 days and by Feb. 1 provide the Legislature with a list that ranks the applications based on economic viability. According to the application form, the list of criteria runs from the sort-of-reasonable (jobs created, though there’s no indication of how to calculate this or whether they’re full-time-equivalent jobs) to the completely cracktastic (“amount of positive advertising or media coverage the facility generates”), with seemingly random thresholds for whether a project gets awarded 1, 2, or 3 points per item.

The worst of it, though, is that the applications all appear to be for projects that are already underway, meaning the number of new jobs and Super Bowls and “positive advertising” that will be generated if the teams get the subsidies vs. if they don’t is precisely zero. Yet the state legislature will now have no opportunity to discuss how stupid this is, nor will citizens have the chance to testify about this, because instead it’s all outsourced to a bunch of state workers with a checklist — all to reduce the amount of lobbying pressure on the legislature over sports projects. Florida continues to be the worst.