Friday roundup: Stadium trends, phantom soccer arenas, and the inevitable narwhal uprising

Welcome to the first weekly news roundup of the fourth decade during which this site has been in operation — unless you’re one of those people — which is kind of scary and depressing! I know I didn’t expect in 1998 that there would still be a need for Field of Schemes in 2020, but no one likes to give up a good grift when they see one, and for the last few decades nobody’s been able to make rich people in the U.S. give up much of anything, so here we are.

Seeing as I don’t want to even think about whether we’ll still be having this conversation in 2030, let’s get right to the news:

  • In the midst of a long New York Times article about how cool the new Golden State Warriors arena is, because the future, Temple University economist Michael Leeds asserts that it’s an example of “a trend since the Great Recession that, with some notable exceptions, cities have been much less willing to open up a pocketbook and fund a stadium or arena.” While “some notable exceptions” is a large caveat, I’m still not convinced that cities were all that much less willing in the Teens than the Aughts to cough up sports venue money — in California, sure, but then what of Nevada and Arlington and Georgia and Milwaukee and Indianapolis? I’ve emailed Leeds to ask for his data, but really what the world needs is a fresh dose of updated Judith Grant Long spreadsheets.
  • Major League Baseball says its plan to stop providing players to 42 minor-league franchises is not actually a plan to “eliminate any club,” and it’s minor-league owners’ fault if they insist on going bankrupt instead of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps and joining unaffiliated leagues. Also, this latest missive was apparently prompted by objections by Sen. Richard Blumenthal to the elimination of the Connecticut Tigers, who are in the process of being rebranded as the Norwich Sea Unicorns, and now all I can think about is: What’s a sea unicorn? Is it just a narwhal? Is Norwich now on the Arctic Ocean? What ship is the sea unicorn the captain of that earned it its captain’s hat, and how is it going to fire that harpoon-bat with its flippers? And at what? Is it a whale that has turned against its own kind? Or is it turning against humanity in revenge for our destruction of its habitat? Maybe MLB is just trying to protect us from the animal uprising, which if so they really should have mentioned it earlier in their statement.
  • The owners of the San Diego Sockers, which are an indoor soccer team, implying that there must still be indoor soccer leagues of some sort, are looking at building a 5,000- to 8,000-seat arena in Oceanside, which would cost dunno and be funded by ¯_(ツ)_/¯, but which team execs swear would be more affordable than paying rent at their current arena in San Diego and arranging schedules for their 12 home games a year. I can’t see anything that could possibly go wrong with this business plan!
  • Remember that $60 million soccer stadium for the NWSL Seattle Reign and USL Tacoma Defiance that was proposed for Tacoma last July, with negotiations expected to be completed by the end of the summer? The Tacoma News Tribune does, and notes that such details as how it would be paid for “all still remains to be seen,” though city sales tax money and hotel tax money could be on the table. This is clearly going to require more renderings.
  • English League Two soccer club (that’s the fourth division in English soccer, for English soccer reasons you either already understand or don’t want to know about) Forest Green Rovers are planning to build an all-wood stadium that will supposedly be “the greenest football stadium in the world,” but even if the timber is “sustainably-sourced,” wouldn’t it have less carbon impact to leave both the trees and the oil to fuel the construction equipment in the ground and keep on playing at this place that is just 14 years old? The narwhals are not going to be happy about this at all.
  • Should Syracuse build an esports arena? A gaming industry exec is given op-ed space to say: maybe!
  • How can anybody say that sports stadiums don’t create an economic spinoff effect when local residents can charge $10 a car to let people park on their lawns? That’s it, I take back everything I’ve said the last 22 years.

Tacoma plans $59.5m soccer stadium for NWSL and USL teams, with public’s share TBD

Yesterday a journalist asked me about the boom in new soccer stadiums, and replied that it was a function of a bunch of things, including MLS’s propensity to hand out new franchises like candy in exchange for new soccer-only facilities, as well as the fact that soccer stadiums tend to be relatively cheap as sports venues go. I wish that he’d waited a day to call me now, because:

The Tacoma City Council reviewed a feasibility study of a new $300 million soccer complex in Tacoma on Tuesday.

The project, called the Heidelberg Sports Complex, would be publicly and privately financed, a joint venture between the City of Tacoma, the Metro Parks department, and the Soccer Club of Tacoma (which includes the Reign FC and Tacoma Defiance).

Now, that $300 million is for a soccer stadium plus “eight recreational fields, shops, and 520 units of housing”; the actual stadium cost is listed at a somewhat more manageable $59.5 million, though it’s not immediately clear if that includes all the land and infrastructure that will be required for the stadium or not. In any event, this would all be for the Reign of the NWSL (that’s the women’s pro league) and the Defiance of the USL (that’s the top men’s minor league below MLS). The public’s share of the cost — and, one hopes, of any resulting revenues — won’t be revealed until the soccer team owners and public officials complete negotiations on the plan, which is expected to take place over the next month or two.

Tacoma officials did release a feasibility study on Tuesday, which I’m still going through, but aside from some requisite stadium renderings — featuring daytime fireworks, of course — and another rendering of, for some reason, Mount Rainier, there doesn’t appear to be a ton of useful detail in them. But I’m sure they were presented in a professional clear plastic binder, and that’s all that really matters.