Friday roundup: Raiders stadium runs short of tax dollars, Falcons owner makes film about how great Megatron’s Butthole is, and a Ricketts cries poor (again)

Well, that was certainly something to wake up to on a post-Thanksgiving Friday morning. Not sure how many U.S. readers are checking the internet today, but if that’s you and you’re looking for some non-Canadian stadium and arena news for your troubles, we have that too:

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Staten Island official endorses spending $5m on empty baseball stadium to steal rugby team from Brooklyn

As I reported here a week and a half ago, New York City is set to spend $5.1 million on upgrades ti the Staten Island Yankees‘ home stadium even as the Staten Island Yankees may cease to exist, or at least will certainly no longer be a Yankees affiliate. This weekend the New York Post took notice of this, and got Staten Island borough president James Oddo to say he thinks throwing public money at an increasingly empty stadium is a great idea:

Borough President James Oddo said it’s about time the city steps up to the plate and invests in the ballpark with vistas of the downtown skyline, adding that the Yankees’ decision two weeks ago to drop the “Baby Bombers” as part of Major League Baseball’s minor-league consolidation “needs to serve as a wake-up call.”

“This is a moment of time where we have to extract something more than the status quo,” he told The Post. “You have this great stadium that’s underused, and we have to make it a bigger part of the Island’s community than it’s been.

“It was a major investment in tax dollars to build, yet the stadium is dormant for the overwhelming majority of the year.”

It was indeed a major investment to build — $71 million in city dollars, in part thanks to environmental cleanup costs at the site near the Staten Island Ferry terminal — but what would the value be in throwing another $5.1 million on the fire? According to “officials,” says the Post, “the pro rugby franchise Rugby United New York has expressed interest in playing there once it’s reconfigured.”

If you’re not familiar with Rugby United New York, that makes you and most of the population of New York City. The team has played a season and a half so far, with announced attendance settling in at under 2,000 per game following the franchise’s home opener, playing at the Brooklyn Cyclones‘ home stadium in Coney Island. So the primary announced goal of the city rehabbing the Staten Island stadium, apparently, would be to add artificial turf in order to move a team in an extremely minor sports league from one city borough to another.

This is dumb enough, apparently, to even draw opposition from Fansided’s Staten Island Yankees blogger, who writes that spending money on a stadium after its main tenant has left “makes no sense,” and that the prospect of a rugby team is “kind of bleak” and “a tough sell.” Which is maybe what you’d expect from a minor-league baseball blogger suddenly faced with the prospect of not having a team to write about, but it’s also completely accurate. Unfortunately, the New York City Economic Development Corporation is spending this money out of its own budget, so it isn’t likely we’ll get any city council hearings — which is a shame, as I’d love to hear what Brooklyn elected officials think about this move.

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Friday roundup: Charlotte approves $35m in soccer subsidies, NYC spends $5m on stadium upgrades for team that may disappear, NBA joins NFL in welcoming fans back to giant virus stew

Even after dispensing with that crazy San Jose Sharks move threat story, there’s a ton of leftover news this week. So put down that amazing Defector article about how the British have fetishized the Magna Carta as a declaration of citizen rights when it’s really just about how the king can’t unreasonably tax 25 barons, and let’s get right to it:

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Yankees axe Trenton, Staten Island, Charleston teams that received $112m in public stadium money

The long-promised contraction and reorganization of minor-league baseball began in earnest this weekend, as the New York Yankees announced they would be cutting ties with the Trenton Thunder, Staten Island Yankees, and Charleston RiverDogs, while adding affiliations with the Somerset Patriots (formerly in the independent Atlantic League) and Hudson Valley Renegades (formerly a short-season team affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays). The Thunder and Yankees owners apparently learned the news via Twitter:

The Patriots, who play about an hour west of New York City, have long been one of the top-drawing teams in the Atlantic League, though with roughly the same number of fans per game (just over 5,000) as Trenton. Both Trenton and Staten Island have been offered spots in the Atlantic League, reports CBS Sports, but “their futures are unclear at the moment,” which is what happens when you’re suddenly cast into a league that has seen a bunch of teams fold since its 1998 opening, even after getting tens of millions of dollars each in public stadium funding.

Speaking of which, both Trenton and Staten Island got a ton of stadium subsidies as well, money that’s now at risk of going for naught thanks to the elimination of teams. Trenton’s stadium was built in 1994 at a cost of $16.2 million, paid for entirely by Mercer County. Charleston’s stadium was built by the city in 1997 for $19.5 million, with another $6 million in upgrades since to stop it from sinking into the earth. And Staten Island’s was opened in 2001 and cost a staggering $71 million, thanks to cleanup issues at the site, all of which was paid for by the citizens of New York City. It’s possible that both cities will get new indie teams — or even new affiliated teams, though that’s unlikely with the Mets already having the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Philadelphia Phillies four existing affiliates in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, and both of them looking to cut back on farm teams as well — but if not, we could see a renewed wave of shuttered new-ish stadiums.

That would be bad news for baseball fans and taxpayers alike, but potentially great news for MLB owners, who would simultaneously cut back on minor-league payrolls, reduce travel costs by consolidating teams near their parent clubs, and potentially get cities and minor-league teams alike into bidding wars to make sure they have chairs when the contraction music stops. We haven’t seen that yet, but you know it’s going to happen: If the Trenton Thunder, say, can’t line up a new big-league affiliation, how long do you think before its owners go back to Mercer County to claim that stadium upgrades are needed to lure away some other town’s team?

The Staten Island Yankees, meanwhile, included in their tweeted press release this line:

The Staten Island Yankees made every effort to accommodate MLB and New York Yankees requirements, including securing a commitment from New York City for ballpark upgrades

Wait, they secured what now? This was news to me, and I followed New York City ballpark spending even more closely than that on the rest of the planet; I’ve reached out for comment to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the quasi-public agency that owns and operates the Staten Island stadium (though it’s been trying to ditch the “operates” part), and will post here when I learn anything more.

All this is certainly only the first show among many, with 29 other teams still set to announce which affiliates will be cast adrift. Just last night, in fact, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Giants are expected to ditch the Augusta GreenJackets and likely the Richmond Flying Squirrels as well. It’s still unclear when minor-league baseball will resume, thanks to the pandemic, but whenever it does, it could look very different than it has for the last several decades.

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