Friday roundup: Warriors rail stop turns pricey, West End stadium undead again, Montreal mayor meets with would-be Expos owners

Superbrief mode today:

  • Expanding light-rail service to the Golden State Warriors‘ new arena is now expected to cost at least $62 million, which is a lot for Muni Metro, though not for some other transit systems. The Warriors owners are kicking in $19 million, but the rest will be funded by tax money from the arena district, which may or may not be enough to cover the entire nut. Tim Redmond saw this coming.
  • F.C. Cincinnati owners are officially pivoting back to the West End stadium site that it had declared dead last month after not getting offered enough property-tax breaks on the land. How come? Team CEO Jeff Berding said of the other two options, Oakley is “not as close to the urban core as desired,” and the team couldn’t secure land in Newport, Kentucky. Sounds like the West End has the club over somewhat of a barrel, which it should be able to use to ensure the team pays full property taxes, at least, though some residents may be more concerned about keeping out a stadium entirely over fears it will further gentrify their neighborhood.
  • The mayor of Montreal is meeting today with an ownership group that wants to bring a new Expos MLB team back to town. “We don’t need a cent from the city of Montreal, but we need a little help,” prospective co-owner Stephen Bronfman said earlier this week; your guess is as good as mine what that actually means.
  • Minnesota taxpayers have spent $1.4 billion on new or renovated sports venues over the past 20 years, if anyone is counting.
  • The Pawtucket Red Sox‘ stadium demands continue to be stalled, if anyone is keeping track.
  • “A deputy in one of Russia’s 2018 FIFA World Cup host cities has claimed that a latest inspection by the world’s footballing body has neglected a missing column at a newly built stadium.” You’ve just got to read the whole Moscow Times article now, don’t you?


F.C. Cincinnati is just going to keep setting stadium deadlines until one of them works

Readers of the book Field of Schemes — you are all readers of the book, right? if not, would you mind clicking here or here? — will be familiar with the sections of the chapters on the standard stadium playbook titled the “Two-Minute Warning”: the tactic whereby team owners declare an arbitrary deadline to get a subsidy deal done, then if it doesn’t happen by then, declare another arbitrary deadline a bit further down the road.

Well, F.C. Cincinnati‘s owners did just that for their stadium plans, announcing that they would select a stadium site by the end of March, and then when they couldn’t get approval for any sites by then — at least, not on terms where they wouldn’t have to pay full property taxesblew right past that date without making a decision. But that didn’t mean the clock wasn’t still ticking, nosirreebob:

FC Cincinnati CEO Jeff Berding described the next 24 hours as “critical” in determining where a proposed new soccer stadium would go.

According to Berding, the March 31 deadline was a real deadline, and he is engaging in conversations with Major League Soccer officials to keep the process moving forward.

He would not share details about the specifics of those discussions, but indicated that by noon Tuesday, after the conversations have taken place, he would have a better sense of how the rest of the week would unfold.

That statement by Berding was on Monday, so the 24 hours were up yesterday, and … nope, not a word from him since. So either he’s talked to MLS officials about how to proceed but isn’t telling anyone yet, or he’s talked to them but nothing was decided (beyond “yeah, gotta figure that out at some point soon”), or he keeps calling and getting a busy signal.

Either way, there’s no shame in waiting to make a decision until you actually know what you want to do. But it is yet another reminder that all stadium “deadlines” are garbage, always.

Friday roundup: Rangers to keep empty ballpark, football Hall of Fame seeks bailout, Goodell dreams of a new Bills stadium

Happy baseball season! Unless you’re a Miami Marlins fan, in which case it’s already ruined. But anyway:

FC Cincinnati sticks fork in West End stadium plan after school district rejects tax break

F.C. Cincinnati‘s plans to build a soccer stadium on the site of a high school football stadium and then not pay very much in taxes on it are apparently dead, after Cincinnati’s public school district delivered a letter to team execs insisting that they pay full property taxes on the site:

CPS sent a letter to the soccer team holding its ground on what it wanted in tax payments. CPS argued that the district, even with tax abatements currently in play, should get more than $2 million a year – more than double what FC Cincinnati was offering.

In a letter from CPS lawyer Daniel Hoying, the school district called the 5 p.m. deadline set by FC Cincinnati Wednesday morning “unreasonable.”

“The Board of Education will not consider a proposed land agreement with FC Cincinnati unless the club promises to pay its fair share of property taxes,” Hoying wrote.

F.C. Cincinnati immediately issued a statement saying it “did not move ahead with the purchase of needed property for a West End stadium,” which presumably kills the deal.

This leaves the would-be MLS club with two options: the Oakley neighborhood of Cincinnati, and Newport, Kentucky, across the river. The Oakley plan has already been approved by the city council — over the unanimous objection of the local community council — but is far from the city center, while Newport is close to the city center but in another state. Team execs say they’ll pick a site by the end of the month, so we’ll see what haggling goes on between now and then; maybe we’ll even find out who’s going to be expected to fill that estimated $25 million funding gap for stadium construction, which nobody has been talking about since the whole site kerfuffle took center stage.

FC Cincinnati asks to pay property taxes on stadium site as if it weren’t building a stadium there

One of the big unknowns in F.C. Cincinnati‘s plans for a soccer stadium on the site of a high school football stadium in the city’s West End has been how much the team would pay in property taxes to the local school district. We finally have a figure, and West End leaders are not at all happy with the offer:

Under the deal revealed Monday evening, FC Cincinnati would:

• Pay $100,000 a year in property taxes during construction.

• Pay $250,000 a year in property taxes the next five years, from 2021-2026.

• Pay $500,000 a year in property taxes the five years after that, from 2027-2031.

• Pay an amount, up to $3.6 million, based on team profits.

But school officials calculate that, if FC Cincinnati builds a $250 million stadium as expected, the club should under typical guidelines pay CPS more than $2 million a year in taxes.

And this is actually the second deal FC Cincinnati offered the school district. The district rejected the first, a $70,000-a-year offer, telling FC Cincinnati it was “very disappointed.” The team came back with the current $100,000 a year, but the school district still seems unsatisfied.

“There’s not a magic number, per se, but there’s a wide gap between $70,000 and $2.8 million,” said CPS spokeswoman Lauren Worley.

That there is! Excellent powers of subtraction on display there!

The philosophical gap here is equally easy to see: F.C. Cincinnati’s owners are saying, Hey, you’re not getting much tax money from the land now, at least this is more than that, while Cincinnati school district leaders are saying, Uh, dudes, you don’t get to be taxed on your $250 million stadium as if it were vacant land. Team owners are also citing the $20 million “investment” it plans to make in the school district, most of which consists of building a new high school football stadium to replace the one they’d be tearing down, so yeah, not a huge net gain there.

F.C. Cincinnati president Jeff Berding also said yesterday that the team’s owners will be making a decision by the end of the month on whether to put the stadium in the West End, in the Oakley neighborhood, or across the Ohio River in Newport, Kentucky. Since the school board has to approve the West End deal, it doesn’t sound super-likely that that’s going to happen, but you can still do a lot of haggling in 18 days.

Friday roundup: Crew claps back at Modell Law suit, Cincy mayor thinks his citizens are dumb, Wrigley Field is a construction zone again

This week brought thundersnow that led to a fireball in a subway tunnel, but the stadium and arena news was reasonably exciting too:

  • Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt says the lawsuit to force him to offer the team for sale to local owners before moving it to Austin is groundless, since he made “significant investments” in the team “both on and off the field” and yet the team isn’t making money hand over fist like he’d like it to. I would have gone with “fine, you can buy the team if you want, my asking price is one quattuordecillion dollars,” but that’s why Precourt pays himself the big bucks.
  • Oakland Raiders management says it has identified room for 27,000 parking spaces within 1.5 miles of its Las Vegas stadium, and 100,000 spaces within three miles. “Now, obviously, people don’t want to walk three miles, so you have to have a pretty strong infrastructure program and transportation plan in place,” said Raiders president Marc Badain. “We’re working on all of that.” Cool, get back to us!
  • Residents of the West End opposed to building an F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium on the site of a revered high school football stadium there are all about “maintaining disinvestment, maintaining the status quo and not closing racial and economic gaps but keeping them divided,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said this week. “I think that’s wrong.” But enough with the pandering to your constituents, Mayor Cranley what do you really think about them?
  • Because no arena project can truly be cost-free for the public, the new Muni Metro stop being built at the Golden State Warriors‘ new San Francisco arena has now risen in cost to $51 million, and the city of San Francisco hasn’t figured out how to pay for $17 million of that yet. Not that a new mass transit stop isn’t a public benefit for people other than Warriors fans, but just saying.
  • This is what Wrigley Field looked like as of a couple of weeks ago. There’s still time before opening day, so hopefully this renovation will go better than the Chicago Cubslast big one.
  • Does an “asteroid the size of a sports stadium” zooming past Earth count as stadium news? It does to my custom RSS feed for “stadium” news, so enjoy!

MLS ready to pick FC Cincinnati as next expansion team just as soon as someone coughs up a new stadium

The MLS season kicks off next weekend, which means the league almost certainly won’t meet its self-imposed deadline of having a second expansion team selected by then to go along with Nashville S.C. But league officials don’t sound concerned — rather, they sound an awful lot like they’ve already settled on Cincinnati as their favorite for the second slot, but are holding off on a decision to improve local owners’ leverage to extract a stadium deal:

“Although we haven’t finalized any deals and all of the finalist markets remain under consideration, we’ve made the most progress in Cincinnati,” MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott told on Friday…

“We don’t have, and don’t need to have, a fixed deadline, and we will wait until all of the necessary elements are in place before selecting the next club,” Abbott said. “Whether the announcement is in a few weeks or a couple months is dependent on finalizing the details, but I don’t anticipate that it will be an extended period of time.”

Cincinnati team president Jeff Berding is still making the rounds of three potential stadium sites — Cincinnati’s West End and Oakley neighborhoods, and Newport, Kentucky — in hopes of landing approval for a new stadium (and the $70-75 million in public “infrastructure” spending they’re hoping for), so that’s clearly what MLS is waiting on.

On the one hand, this is perfectly reasonable: May as well wait until local ownership has all its ducks in a row before assigning a new expansion franchise. On the other hand, if Cincinnati is a viable market and local ownership wants to make a go of it in MLS, the league could just approve a franchise and let it play at Nippert Stadium, where F.C. Cincinnati is currently breaking USL attendance records, and figure out a new stadium later. So it looks like MLS is trying to split the difference on the “pick the best city” vs. “pick the spendiest stadium subsidy” decision: Give a nod to its favored choice, but indicate to city leaders that it’s not really official until there’s a new stadium deal in place, capisce?

Which is standard operating procedure for the Big Four U.S. sports, so no surprise there, but it sure ain’t the way it’s done in international soccer, where new teams are promoted from the next level down based on their performance on the field. Which is one big reason why you’re never going to see promotion and relegation in MLS — at least, not until cities and owner groups stop being willing to pay big bucks to be part of the ever-bigger big league.

Friday roundup: Some stuff happened, man

I’ve pieced together this week’s news roundup via WiFi made from powdered limestone and gum-tree resin, so if I missed anything important, let me know and I’ll pick it up starting Monday. In the meantime:

  • The state of Connecticut approved spending $10 million to renovate Hartford’s Dillon Stadium if it can lure a USL soccer team. In totally unrelated news, the last guy who promised to lure a soccer team to Dillon Stadium is awaiting sentencing for embezzling city funds spent on the project. Second time’s the charm!
  • That Koch Brothers–sponsored bill to ban sports subsidies in Arizona that got all the attention last week is now apparently dead after it was opposed by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, Arizona and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association. Maybe it’ll have better luck in one of the other 24 states where Americans for Prosperity said they were introducing it, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
  • The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Politics Extra column says that the West End is going to get gentrified against its will whether it likes it or not, so shouldn’t it be by a local guy who wants to build an F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium as part of it, and not “a developer from, say, New York or Chicago who doesn’t know or care about you or your homes”? Yes, it really truly says that.
  • The Oakland Raiders‘ Las Vegas stadium-building company is proposing to provide a $5 million bond to restore the stadium land to its original condition in the event that construction has to be halted partway through if it goes bankrupt. This is simultaneously an excellent way to safeguard the public interest in all contingencies (except for the $750 million the public would be out either way, obviously) and also really not the kind of thing you want newspaper readers to be thinking about when your new multi-billion-dollar stadium project is about to get underway. Here’s hoping Roger Noll is wrong about this thing having a shot at working.
  • The Miami-Dade County lawsuit against the Marlins‘ former owner Jeffrey Loria and current owners Derek Jeter and Friends over not cutting the county in on a share of the team sale proceeds went to court yesterday, and probably something happened, but it’ll be next week before the latest news story loads for me, so somebody recap anything important in comments, okay? I’ll see you next week.

FC Cincinnati exec says neighborhood residents only oppose stadium because they’re not “educated” about it

And speaking of public stadium opposition, residents of Cincinnati’s West End sound to be really not okay with F.C. Cincinnati‘s attempts to tear down a high-school stadium named for a local African-American community activist, build a new soccer stadium there, rebuild the high school stadium on land previously earmarked for housing, and build the housing somewhere else. Check out these quotes from a community council meeting last night, as reported by Cincinnati Business Journal:

“I wish y’all would go somewhere else,” LaShon Taylor, a lifelong West End resident, said to FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding to loud applause. “No one wants y’all here. Please go somewhere else.”…

“A monstrous high-school football stadium, that’s not going to be a good look to be a gateway to a community,” [West End resident Randy] Sroufe said…

“We’re not going to be able to survive,” resident Fericka Smith said. “I love my people. Don’t take our neighborhood from us.”

F.C. Cincinnati president Jeff Berding insisted that most West End residents support the project “as they are educated” about it, adding, “I’m not saying we’ve educated everybody.” So, most residents don’t support the project, but if you only count the ones who support it as “educated,” then there’s a majority in favor? That’s a redefinition of democracy worthy of the Pennsylvania Republican Party. (I could also note that charging that residents of a historic African-American neighborhood aren’t “educated” enough is maybe not the way Berding wants to go here, but I’m too big a fan of paralipsis to say that.)

FC Cincinnati proposes tearing down stadium to build stadium, building stadium to replace stadium that was torn down

The owners of F.C. Cincinnati have finally revealed their plans for a new stadium in the city’s West End — well, a plan, since if this doesn’t work they can still presumably pursue one in Oakley or in Newport, Kentucky — and if you enjoyed the now-rejected Detroit plans for an MLS stadium that involved tearing down a half-built jail and building a new jail elsewhere, you’ll love the Rube Goldbergness of this one, which goes a little something like this:

  • F.C. Cincinnati would tear down Taft High School’s Stargel Stadium, a 3,000-seat stadium that is named for a revered local community activist, and which was only opened 13 years ago.
  • The team would buy land across the street that’s currently planned to hold a community of model homes, and replace Stargel with a new stadium there of the same name.
  • The team would replace the housing with new units on scattered sites it has the option to buy from the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority. (The team owners paid $100 for the option, but it’s not clear how much they would pay for the actual land.)

The West End is Cincinnati’s traditional African-American neighborhood, and lots of locals are already not thrilled about being used as part of a game of three-card stadium monte, especially given that the neighborhood was largely obliterated once already by urban renewal in the 1950s. There are also questions about how much public money the team would want — they’ve promised to build the replacement high school stadium with private funds, but there are a lot of moving parts here that could involve subsidies — and which parcels will pay property tax.

So, lots still to be determined, and that’s not even counting the fact that there’s still about a $25 million funding gap in F.C. Cincinnati’s initial stadium proposal. Now that the Detroit expansion group has backed down and proposed playing at the Lions‘ stadium instead, and Indy Eleven is playing at the Colts‘ stadium and NYC F.C. and Atlanta United are both playing in NFL (or MLB) facilities, you really have to wonder why the Bengals‘ stadium isn’t being considered as an option — not being considered by anyone but the Hamilton County Commission, that is. I know the trend now is for every sport to have its own stadium, but it’s kind of wasteful and ridiculous, especially when all of Europe is probably pointing and laughing at the U.S. at this point.