Long Island residents protest $400m soccer stadium that’s been mostly dead for three years already

There’s been almost zero movement on the New York Cosmos‘ plans for a $400 million minor-league soccer stadium at the Belmont Park racetrack site (I almost wrote “crazy” plans, but I’ll leave that for readers to determine on their own) since it was first floated three years ago, but that isn’t stopping some locals from protesting it anyway:

[Nassau County Legis. Carrié] Solages, surrounded by about a dozen supporters, said the project was conceived without the input of the community, and that New York doesn’t have an appetite for soccer that would fill 25,000 seats. Protesters called on the state to issue a new request for proposals that considers the vision of local residents.

The state has so far held off from asking for new bids on the site, though it’s clearly not happy with the current bids: Not only has it sat on them for three years without taking action, but it released a statement saying it’s “re-engaging” bidders to get a better deal. The dream of the NASL Cosmos getting a better stadium than either of New York’s two MLS teams isn’t quite all dead, in other words, but it is mostly dead. This is going to take a really big set of bellows.

Minor-league team threatens to leave Altoona if 17-year-old stadium isn’t upgraded, this is getting nuts

How far has the trend of sports teams demanding upgrades to not-even-20-year-old stadiums spread? To Altoona, Pennsylvania, that’s how far:

A plan to fund improvements to Peoples Natural Gas Field, home of the Altoona Curve (Class AA; Eastern League), is needed to keep the team in central Pennsylvania.

Two proposals could generate revenue for a fund to enable maintenance and improvements to the ballpark. First, Logan Township is considering a plan to lessen its amusement tax on tickets and diverting the difference to a maintenance fund. Second, Blair County is considering whether to implement a hike in the hotel tax and putting that money toward the ballpark.

Ballpark Digest, citing the paywalled Altoona Mirror, says the initial upgrades would only cost $2.5 million, but presumably any “maintenance fund” could be used for any additional later improvements as well. The important number, though, is 1999, the year the Curve‘s new stadium opened — meaning here’s a Double-A minor-league team threatening to leave town (or threatening to have the league lean on it to leave town, it’s not entirely clear) because its stadium is turning 17 years old. Rod Fort’s quip about teams getting a new stadium every year is becoming less and less of a joke every day.

California city’s attempt to evict team over $1-a-year lease heads to arbitration

How are things going with the city of Adelanto, California’s attempts to evict the High Desert Mavericks to get out of the terrible $1-a-year lease a previous administration agreed to in 2012? Not so great so far:

On Monday, a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge granted the team’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop the city from interfering with its use of the stadium while the dispute is resolved. The judge also granted its request to force the city into arbitration…

In a statement last month, Mayor Richard Kerr said the city’s financial situation is dire.

“Adelanto declared a fiscal crisis in 2013 and is still not in a position to continue to assume financial responsibility to pay for water, gas, electricity, landscaping and maintenance for the stadium the next seven months to accommodate the team’s schedule,” he said.

The issue at stake here is whether the $1-a-year lease amounts to a “gift” of public funds illegal under the California state constitution, an argument pursued occasionally in other state to try to block sports subsidies, but never so far successfully. For his part, Mavericks owner Dave Heller said that the team provides other intangibles to the city like improving quality of life, and said the $1 rent isn’t unreasonable because Adelanto is very small. All of which seems to come down to “You were dumb enough to offer us free rent in order to keep us from moving somewhere else, too late to complain about it.” I don’t know off the top of my head if the California state constitution has a “no backsies” clause, so we’ll just have to wait to see how this turns out.

Famous soccer guy calls FC Cincinnati crazy for not wanting new stadium

The owners of the USL soccer franchise F.C. Cincinnati — yes, of course there’s a minor-league soccer team called F.C. Cincinnati — are being refreshingly reasonable about their plans for building fan support toward eventually getting a possible MLS slot, noting that the team’s current home, University of Cincinnati’s 35,000-seat Nippert Stadium, is more than big enough to fit an MLS team if it ever comes to that. And Hamilton County isn’t interested in building a new stadium after racking up hundreds of millions of dollars in debt on new stadiums for the Reds and Bengals. So the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Patrick Brennan had to go a bit far afield to find someone to say that Cincinnati needs a new soccer stadium now now now now!

Not having a stadium in the works could be damaging to FC Cincinnati’s cause, said Fox Sports soccer analyst and former U.S. men’s national team veteran Alexi Lalas.

“This is a gold rush, and you’ve got to get there and stake your claim because they’re going to continue to expand, but eventually it will be capped,” Lalas told The Enquirer. “This is not for the faint of heart. There are going to be plenty of casualties along the way. People are going to get hurt, and not everybody is going to get rich. And it’s going to require deep pockets, not just fortitude of body and mind.”…

“In this day and age, ‘major league’ means having your own soccer-specific stadium and having your own facility, and being able to show how it’s going to get done,” Lalas said, “and in the current climate, a lot of times it can’t be done with public funding.”

Okay, Alexi Lalas is a famous former soccer player and current soccer TV analyst, but WTF is he doing in this article defining what “major league” means? He grew up in the Detroit suburbs, went to Rutgers, and never played pro soccer within 500 miles of Cincinnati, so there’s no local connection. The only imaginable explanation here is the reporter thought (or was told by his bosses), “We need someone to espouse the MLS point of view that only new stadiums are acceptable!” or “We need conflict!” or just “Hey, doesn’t somebody in this office have Alexi Lalas’s phone number? He’ll probably comment, he’ll comment on anything! Have you seen him on TV?”

As for the content of his comments, there’s something special about anyone who can call stadium-building both “a gold rush” and a likely money-loser without public subsidies all in the same article*. Though given what happened in the actual gold rush, maybe he was just showing an astute knowledge of history.

[*EDIT: Reading more closely, it doesn’t look like Lalas was explicitly saying that stadiums require public money to make money, just that oftentimes teams will want public money, but elected officials won’t always cough it up. That’s a more reasonable point, but there’s still a “Man up, build a new stadium like all the other kids are doing!” tone here that’s a bit odd for anyone not on the league office payroll.]

Newark to raze 17-year-old minor-league stadium it spent $30m on, because that sure didn’t work

The minor-league Newark Bears folded two years ago, going out in a blaze of bankruptcy auction (I still have my $5 game-worn Bears jersey, not to mention my souvenir Bears yarmulkes), and leaving the city of Newark with the stadium that it paid $30 million to build just 15 years earlier. And soon, it won’t have even that, as the city has announced it’s selling the land to a developer for the construction of a mixed-use tower.

Newark will get $23.5 million for the land sale, which at least takes some of the sting out of spending $30 million (in 1999 dollars) to revitalize part of its downtown with a team that was never exactly vital. (Though Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco both played there briefly, which helped draw at least a few gawkers.) Though even then, Newark could still be on the hook for more money with the new development:

While [deputy mayor Baye Adofo-]Wilson said [developer] Lotus will probably seek a tax abatement for the project, the details of what it will look like have not yet been ironed out. But, the tax break would be contingent upon the company hiring Newark residents during construction, and hotel staffing, he said.

“We require that you hire Newark residents,” Wilson said. “If you do that, we can grant an abatement.”

Depending on how big an abatement and how many hires would be required, that could certainly be a pretty awful deal — Newark might be better off just keeping the tax money and handing it out to residents on streetcorners — but we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, it’s a sad ending to what was both a pretty nice place to watch baseball and a monument to the willingness of desperate cities to throw money at any sports franchise that offered a promise of a return to urban glory, regardless how faint. Don’t do this at home, kids.

No crazy stadium renderings released today, Internet is sad

Slow news day today, to the point where the only remotely stadium-related news is a minor-league soccer team signing a lease to play in San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium — which once hosted the 49ers, but now is a public park, so that was somewhat controversial — and the news that if you ask Siri where to find sadness in Cleveland, it will give you directions to the Browns‘ stadium.

Enjoy your Friday and your weekend, and may we be rewarded with more wack-ass stadium renderings on Monday.

Hartford residents speak out on Yard Goats bailout, if you listen carefully you can even hear them

So the mayor of Hartford held his town hall meeting for residents to comment on his Yard Goats stadium bailout plan last night, and two of the first print reports were, oddly, from non-print outlets: Fox 61 and WNPR. And both quoted the same person who spoke. Ready? Here we go:

“The best I can do and the best I can offer is to use my best judgement and then to come out and explain it and defend it and that’s what I’m trying to do,” said [Hartford Mayor Luke] Bronin at the meeting Monday night. “This was going to cost the taxpayers no matter what. It was going to cost us in the form of lawyers fees and delays in lost revenue if we had gone a different route. I think it’s going to cost us less going this route than it would have the other route.”

If you want to hear from the actual public who went to the public meeting, you’ll have to turn to the Hartford Courant, which ran a print article briefly citing a few local residents (one was worried about taxes going up as a result, one wants the members of the stadium authority fired, one wants the stadium project shut down, and one hopes the mayor is “thinking about the people of this city”) — as well as, since this is Opposite Day, video footage of the event. The lengthiest comment depicted:

The Yard Goats, even with their $2 million they’re putting in now — again, the onus of this is not on you because I don’t think you would have made this kind of deal — is a very insignificant amount of money, and their potential for profit is very great if this stadium is successful. That’s the deal we made. I have concern about that.

If you want to view more clips, featuring terrible framing and some excellent hand gestures, click here.

Mayor asks Hartford residents to tell him what they think of his $3.5m Yard Goats bailout plan

Hartford residents wanting to express their feelings about the bailout plan in which they’d contribute $3.5 million toward cost overruns on the Hartford Yard Goats‘ $56 million stadium (already being built primarily with public money) have their chance at 5 pm today:

[Mayor Luke] Bronin has called a town-hall style meeting on the proposed plan — in which the city, the developers and the team all contribute additional money — to be held Monday beginning at 5 p.m. at Hartford Public Library on Main Street.

This should be loads of fun. The city council will also be discussing the plan tonight, which seemingly would make it hard for anyone who wants to attend both events — though I guess through the magic of Twitter, being in two places at one time isn’t as hard as it used to be.

Hartford mayor proposes $5.5m city bailout of Yard Goats stadium overruns

The stadium budget fiasco that is forcing the Hartford Yard Goats double-A baseball team to spend the first month of their inaugural season on an epic road trip has been tentatively resolved. As you probably expected, it did not end well for taxpayers:

The city of Hartford will finance $5.5 million of the $10 million shortfall to complete the new Yard Goats stadium after reaching a deal and he said the stadium is now scheduled to be completed by May 17…

According to the deal, DoNo Hartford LLC would be responsible for $2.3 million, the city would fund $5.5 million and the Yard Goats would fund $2 million. The deal also requires DoNo to pay $225,000 in extra taxes annually over the life of the bonds.

For those scoring at home, DoNo is the developer that promised to build the stadium, which the city is funding to lure the Yard Goats away from New Britain, which is pretty much the next town over. (Newington residents, I don’t want to hear about it.) An extra $225,000 a year in taxes over 25 years of bonds is present value of … I get about $3 million, but the Hartford Courant says $2 million, so okay. The upshot here, then, is the team is kicking in $2 million, the developer who messed everything up is putting in $4.3 million, and the city is putting in $3.5 million plus a $2 million loan to the developer that will be repaid over 25 years.

That’s pretty awful for a city that’s already on the hook for $56 million, but Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin defending throwing good money after bad on the grounds that in for a penny, in for a pound:

Bronin said no one wanted to put more money into this project, but the city of Hartford needs the project to succeed. It would be “on the hook for far, far more” if it was not able to come to an agreement to get the project back on track, he said.

The city would still be responsible for paying the debt service on nearly $60 million of debt for the next 25 years and there would be no revenue coming in to support it.

That sort of makes sense, except that the only revenue Hartford is getting out of the deal is $500,000 a year in annual rent payments. So at worst if the city had refused to bargain, it would be out half a million dollars if the team had to play the entire season on the road — while the Yard Goats owners would be losing out on an entire season of gate receipts, and DoNo would be responsible for damages of $15,000 a day. It sure seems like the city has bailed out both the team owners and the developer despite holding all the cards — or at least, is being asked to bail them out, as the city council still needs to vote on all of this. Please let them have some better legal and financial advice this time around.

Consultant that’s never been right about anything tells Knoxville to build $200m minor-league hockey arena

As I frequently point out, I don’t have the bandwidth to cover all of minor-league sports, but occasionally a venue deal there stands out as especially noteworthy. And that’s the case with the proposal to replace the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, home of the Knoxville Ice Bears, with a new 10,000-seat arena for a whopping $205 million.

The price tag is alarming — I’m almost certain this would be the most expensive minor-league hockey arena ever, and it’s not close — but even more so is the consultant who made the proposal:

“It’s not state-of-the-industry, at all,” Bill Krueger, principal of Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, said in his presentation on the coliseum and auditorium during a public meeting.

Yes, it’s our old friends CSL, the venue consultant arm of the Dallas Cowboys/New York Yankees-owned concessions company Legends Hospitality, the same consultants who had to withdraw its own economic impact projections for a D.C. United stadium after it admitted screwing them up, overestimated the impact of the San Diego Padres‘ new stadium by including attendees at an unrelated convention center, and cited approvingly a study of LeBron James’ economic impact that the study’s own author had said didn’t mean what CSL said it meant. These are the guys that Knoxville called in to tell them what to do with their arena.

Really, shouldn’t there be some truth-in-labeling requirement that anyone who has been proven to be so spectacularly wrong on previous occasions should have to be presented as such? (I’ve been thinking about this ever since Iran-Contra co-conspirator Elliott Abrams started showing up as a TV pundit, and I thought one of the conditions of his plea deal should have been that he be IDed as “Elliott Abrams, convicted liar.”) The Knoxville News Sentinel can’t be bothered, apparently, so it’s left to me to mock them on my blog instead. I mock thee, Knoxville News Sentinel! How do you like them apples?