TGIF, but please cut God some slack for this week in stadium facepalms:
Members of the Worcester city council say they won’t rush to rubber stamp city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr.’s proposed $100 million stadium subsidy deal for the Pawtucket Red Sox, with public hearings scheduled for next Tuesday and September 5. Augustus, though, says he won’t accept proposed amendments to the deal, only a straight up or down “yes” or “no” vote, because any changes “would significantly impact our ability to deliver this project on time and could lead to unintended consequences.” So, basically, he’s asking for a rubber stamp, though the council still always has this one available.
Worcester city councilmembers might also want to check out this article from WBUR about how throwing large sums of money at minor-league baseball stadiums has worked out in other cities like Nashville, Durham, and El Paso. Representative quote, from Nashville City Councilor John Cooper: “Our overall success as a tourist destination is clearly not part of this baseball project. Nobody here thinks of the minor league baseball park as driving much of that.”
Meanwhile, the Worcester stadium deal has already created a cascade effect, with the owners of the Boston Red Sox‘ single-A team, the Lowell Spinners, asking when they’ll get some public money too. “I love Lowell, and I believe in Lowell,” Spinners owner Dave Heller said after meeting with Massachusetts state economic development officials. “I’m excited about the future in Lowell and investing here. I want to make sure we can take advantage of any incentives that are available from the state.” Spoken like a true Vercotti brother.
The GM of the New York Islanders and the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers both say they’re optimistic about getting the arenas built that they are lobbying to get built, and they both got articles in major news outlets (Newsday and CBS Sports) about their optimism. Normal non-rich humans who would like to express their pessimism about the arena projects can write a letter to the editor — ha ha, just kidding, CBS Sports doesn’t publish letters to the editor, go write an angry tweet or something.
Arizona Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway is looking for more investors in his team, and if I owned the Coyotes I’d be trying to find someone to take chunks of it off my hands, too. Barroway also said that the Coyotes won’t remain in Glendale long-term, but that he “wouldn’t focus on Arizona moving right now or any time soon, or maybe ever,” so apparently his plan is to stand around the Phoenix area holding his breath until he turns blue if no one else will give him a new arena.
The owners of the Golden State Warriors say they shouldn’t have to pay off the remaining debt on their Oakland arena when they move to San Francisco, as their lease requires, because their lease expires after 20 years while the debt goes on for 30. Just thinking about this makes my head hurt, so good luck to whatever judge ends up with the case.
Arlington, Texas is offering to spend $10 million on an e-sports arena, because that’s just what Arlington does. At least the city claims the money would be repaid by lease and event revenue, but I’d like to see the actual lease, please, to be sure of that.
Qatar is going to build a World Cup stadium partly out of shipping containers, which would allow it to be disassembled and … turned into a bunch of smaller stadiums later, because that’s what Qatar really needs? I’m not entirely clear on the concept here, honestly, but there are some cool pictures if you like dystopian future architecture.
Dave Zirin asked me if subsidy demands like Amazon’s have learned from sports stadium shakedowns over the past couple of decades, and I said no duh.
Hamilton County may be again facing a sales-tax shortfall for paying off Cincinnati Bengals and Reds stadium debt, which means local property taxes will have to be raised to fund the difference. At least they won’t have to sell any hospitals this time.
This actually was reported a couple of weeks ago, but I missed it at the time: Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says he’s willing to pay about $150 million towards a new $800 million stadium, leaving — math time! — $650 million to be paid by somebody else. This week Sternberg said the team’s contribution “can certainly go up,” but warned that that would prevent him from spending to put a winning team on the field, and, sorry, why does he need a new stadium again if it would cost $800 million but only bring in $150 million worth of benefits? This really would be cheaper all around if he’d just ask St. Petersburg to buy him a first baseman.
So, so much news this week. Or news items, anyway. How much of this is “news” is a matter of opinion, but okay, okay, I’ll get right to it:
Four of Phoenix’s nine city council members are opposed to the Suns‘ request for $250 million in city money for arena renovations, which helps explain why the council cut off talks with the team earlier this week. Four other councilmembers haven’t stated their position, and the ninth is Mayor Greg Stanton, who strongly supports the deal, meaning any chance Suns owner Robert Sarver has of getting his taxpayer windfall really is going to come down to when exactly Stanton quits to run for Congress.
Speaking of Phoenix, the Milwaukee Brewers will remain there for spring training for another 25 years under a deal where the city will pay $2 million a year for the next five years for renovations plus $1.4 million a year in operating costs over 25 years, let’s see, that comes to something like $35 million in present value? “This is a great model of how a professional sports team can work together with the city to extend their stay potentially permanently, which is amazing, and we’re doing it in a way where taxpayers are being protected,” said Daniel Valenzuela, one of the councilmembers opposed to the Suns deal, who clearly has a flexible notion of “great” and “protected.”
And also speaking of Phoenix (sort of), the Arizona Coyotes are under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board for allegedly having “spied on staff, engaged in union busting and fired two employees who raised concerns about pay.” None of which has anything directly to do with arenas, except that 1) this won’t make it any easier for the Coyotes owners to negotiate a place to play starting next season, when their Glendale lease runs out, and 2) #LOLCoyotes.
A U.S. representative from Texas is trying to get Congress to grandfather in the Texas Rangers‘ new stadium from any ban on use of tax-exempt bonds in the tax bill, saying it would otherwise cost the city of Arlington $200 million more in interest payments since the bonds haven’t been sold yet. (Reason #372 why cities really should provide fixed contributions to stadium projects, not “Hey, we’ll sell the bonds, and you pay for whatever share you feel like and we’ll cover the rest no matter how crappy the loan deal ends up being.”) Also, the NFL has come out against the whole ban on tax-exempt bonds because duh — okay, fine, they say because “You can look around the country and see the economic development that’s generated from some of these stadiums” — while other sports leagues aren’t saying anything in public, though I’m sure their lobbyists are saying a ton in private.
A Hamilton County commissioner said he’s being pressured to fund a stadium for F.C. Cincinnati because Cincinnati will need a sports team if the Bengals leave when their lease ends in 2026 and now newspapers are running articles about whether the Bengals are moving out of Cincinnati and saying they might do so because of “market size” even though market size really doesn’t matter to NFL franchise revenues because of national TV contracts and oh god, please make it stop.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says the proposed Oakland A’s stadium site has pros and cons. Noted!
The Seattle Council’s Committee on Civic Arenas unanimously approved Oak View Group’s plan to renovate KeyArena yesterday, so it looks likely that this thing is going to happen soon. Though apparently the House tax bill would eliminate the Historic Preservation Tax Credit, which the project was counting on for maybe $60 million of its costs, man, I really need to read through that entire tax bill to see what else is hidden in it, don’t I?
The owners of the Rochester Rhinos USL club say they need $1.3 million by the end of the month to keep from folding, and want some of that to come from county hotel tax money. Given that the state of New York already paid $20 million to build their stadium, and the city of Rochester has spent $1.6 million on operating expenses over the last two seasons to help out the team, that seems a bit on the overreaching side, though maybe they’re just trying to fill all their spaces in local-government bingo.
There’s a crowdfunding campaign to buy the Columbus Crew and keep them from moving to Austin. You can’t kick in just yet, but you can buy beer from the beer company that is proposing to buy the team and then sell half of it to fans, and no, this whole thing is in no way an attempt to get free publicity on the part of the beer company, why do you ask?