And speaking of turkeys, how are our favorite stadium and arena deals faring this holiday week?
Add the Tri-City Dust Devils to the list of minor-league teams in the middle of getting publicly funded stadium upgrades that may now get eliminated by MLB’s push to slash the size of the minors. The U.S. House of Representatives has formed a task force to oppose the plan, which normally isn’t exactly the kind of thing that makes anyone quake in their boots, but since this move has managed to piss off both Democrats and Republicans with minor-league teams in their home districts, there’s at least a slim chance it may actually mean something.
Meanwhile, a Minnesota state representative wants to build a new $42 million minor-league baseball stadium in Shakopee just outside Minneapolis-St. Paul. The would-be Metro Millers would join the St. Paul Saints in the independent-league American Association, except that the MLB minor-league contraction plan would reportedly shift the Saints to being an affiliated team — except that Saints general manager Derek Sharrer says MLB hasn’t yet contacted his team about it. Happy not-thinking-things-through-before-announcing-them week, everybody!
59% of Washington, D.C. residents would like the city’s NFL team with the horrible name to build a new stadium on the old RFK Stadium site, but 52% oppose using city funds to pay for it. WTOP sports reporter Dave Preston sums this up pretty well: “Of course fans want to root for their home team at home but when it comes to paying for it, people don’t want to. Why would they?”
Speaking of the Bronx, 161st Street BID executive director Cary Goodman — who, full disclosure, when I was in high school I briefly worked for on a presidential campaign where our candidate dropped out before getting to the primary in our state, which was a valuable lesson in the frustrations of electoral organizing in a two-party system — is proposing that any new NYC F.C. stadium in the Bronx be owned by local residents, which sounds like a great idea until you realize that stadiums don’t make any money, teams that play in them do.
Canada’s federal government has no interest in paying for a new Ottawa Senators arena, which should come as no surprise, but props to Canadian Minister of Infrastructure Catherine McKenna for putting it very Canadianly: “Well that’s not something we normally fund.”
According to some guy’s tweet, the Chicago Fire owners are considering buying out the rest of their lease in Bridgeview and moving back to Soldier Field on the Chicago lakefront. Bridgeview has been a disaster for all concerned, most of all Bridgeview, but a buyout could cost as much as $125 million, which seems a steep price to pay; also, the above linked article notes that lame duck Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is involved in the move plans, which raises the possibility of public money being involved, so let’s all keep a close eye on this.
Pawtucket is looking to lure a baseball, soccer, or lacrosse team to McCoy Stadium to replace the Triple-A Red Sox when they move to Worcester (in 2021, because the planned ballpark site is currently still a vacant lot), which is a fine enough idea so long as they don’t pay through the nose for it. Also, apparently the Worcester team still controls territorial rights to the city it’s abandoning and can block a replacement affliated minor-league team, which seems like good grounds for an antitrust lawsuit — MLB’s antitrust exemption doesn’t extend to the minors, does it?
Tottenham Hotspur hasn’t even played a game yet in its new stadium, and there have already been a couple of articles worrying that it will gentrify the surrounding neighborhood out of existence. Fortunately, there’s little evidence that stadiums have all that much impact on development surrounding them — the Tottenham stadium’s “restaurant run by a Michelin-starred chef” may encourage more fans to eat at the game, but it won’t make anyone open a restaurant across the street — though they can get dollar signs to light up in the eyes of local property owners, which we’re already seeing happen in Cincinnati.
Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini has declared that “every Italian city” needs a new stadium because he’s “tired of committing thousands and thousands of women and men every Sunday in uniform to check what happens outside stadiums and inside them with old systems, without cameras, without exits or emergency access points.” I would have gone with “buy some security cameras,” but that’s just me.
Happy interval between Hanukkah and Christmas! If anyone is out there reading this and not getting on a plane from somewhere to somewhere else — or is reading this while waiting for a plane from somewhere to somewhere else — enjoy your lightning-round news of the week:
San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Kevin Acee, who never met a stadium or arena deal he didn’t love to bits, says that several people are interested in building a new arena in San Diego, including the owners of the Padres and new Brooklyn Nets minority owner Joe Tsai. Acee adds, “Several people insisted in recent weeks the Nets will remain in Brooklyn long-term and there are no plans to ever move the team to San Diego,” which, given the relative size of the markets, is possibly the least surprising sentence ever written in the English language. Also, Acee includes zero attributed quotes in his story, and says nothing about how such an arena would be paid for, so take it with a large grain of salt for the moment.
Donald Trump made retaining the tax-exempt bond subsidy for sports stadiums in the tax bill “a priority,” according to one GOP aide. So when he tweeted in October, “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!”, either he didn’t mean anyone to take him seriously just because he was the president of the United States speaking out on a matter of public policy, or more likely he just forgot to check with his funders before clicking Tweet.
“The Miami Open tennis tournament won permission to move to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, with the kickoff planned in 2019,” reports the Associated Press, which seems to be slightly confused about how a tennis match starts.
There’s a “Plan B” stadium proposal for the Pawtucket Red Sox, where instead of helping to fund the stadium directly, the state would instead give the city all income and sales taxes collected at the stadium and let the city use the money on construction costs. Rhode Island state senate president Dominick Ruggerio says he doesn’t “see that as being a viable alternative,” and plans to submit his own stadium-financing bill, which probably won’t pass the state house. This could go on for a while, until somebody remembers where they stored the money generating machine.
The Arena Football League is now down to four teams, in part because the Cleveland Gladiators had to suspend operations for the next two seasons thanks to renovations to the Cavaliers’ arena. This was reported in the Albany Times-Union, which has to care because Albany is supposed to be getting an AFL expansion team this year, and man, do I feel sorry for whoever got stuck with being the Times-Union beat reporter on this team, because this is looking like a sad year ahead for them.
Deadspin’s Drew Magary weighed in this week on arena and stadium subsidies and concluded that “Arenas Are Important And Football Stadiums Are Not,” according to his headline, but really he meant “if you’re going to waste money on something, at least arenas can be used more days of the year,” which, fair enough. Or as Magary puts it as only he can: “We are entering an age of horrific corruption, and so I have accepted the fact that living in a fraud-free America is a hilarious pipe dream. All I can do is hope for the least of all corruptions, and pray that a bare scrap of public good accidentally comes out of it. If you are some ambitious dickbag city councilman looking to make his name for himself, an arena should be your priority when it comes to getting worked over.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke out again about the Calgary Flames arena situation, calling it “very frustrating” and saying that “they’ll hang out and hang on as long as they can and we’ll just have to deal with those things as they come up,” but insisting that “yes, Quebec City has a building, but nobody’s moving right now, we’re not expanding East.” Which either means the Flames owners really don’t want to threaten to move right now (or ever), since making overt move threats is usually Bettman’s job, or it means even Bettman is sick of trying to pretend that the Flames have a viable threat to go anywhere.