Inside of new Bucks arena looks more and more like a dystopian sci-fi movie

It’s a bit of a slow news day, so thank goodness the Milwaukee Bucks have come through with some new interior arena renderings for us to peruse while we wait for the last dregs of the week to run out:

pano3pano1v2I don’t know exactly what’s going on with that creepy dark club with the glowy rings on the ceiling — supposedly it gives fans views of both the court and the city, though given that in real life there would be more than ten people in it at any one time, more likely it will mostly provide a view of those TV screens as you crane your neck to see the score while waiting on line for overpriced food. The “corner sponsor tower” next to it, meanwhile, is even more mysterious — presumably it should have a big sponsor logo on it, but instead it’s just three levels of blank void with more of those geometric patterns on the ceilings. The interior of the levels doesn’t appear to be raked at all, so only the people at the front railing (there is a railing, right?) will be able to see the game, from a great distance, while everyone behind them will be … dancing? Enjoying presentations from the corporate sponsor of their choosing? What the heck does any of this have to do with basketball, exactly?

Davis pledges $500m toward Vegas stadium, could actually ask taxpayers to pay entire $1.4B cost

Here it is, the big Oakland Raiders Las Vegas announcement you were waiting for since it was first leaked at the beginning of the week:

[Raiders owner Mark] Davis told an influential tourism committee gathered at UNLV that the Raiders would put up $500 million toward the stadium if Nevada legislators approve public funding for the project and other NFL owners allow the team to relocate…

“We do want to be your partners. We’re not coming in looking for a free handout,” Davis said. “I want to tell you what I told Gov. Sandoval a few weeks ago: Together, we can turn the Silver State into the Silver and Black State.”

That’s not exactly the catchiest slogan, but never you mind about that. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what Davis (and billionaire would-be Vegas stadium builder) Sheldon Adelson) are offering, and what they’re asking for:

  • The stadium would now cost $1.4 billion, up from $1.2 billion just a couple of months ago, presumably because if it’s hosting an NFL team it’s going to need a snazzier eternal flame.
  • Davis’s $500 million pledge would include $200 million in NFL G-4 money, plus $300 million out of his own pocket.
  • As for the other $900 million, $750 million of it would be from hotel and rental-car taxes (down slightly from $780 million in the last proposal), and the other $150 million would be in mystery “private funds.” Since we haven’t mentioned Adelson yet, and he has $150 million in loose change in a jar in his kitchen, maybe he could bring that.

That’s the deal as presented in the headlines today. What’s being largely overlooked is this, which appeared way down in the 18th paragraph of the Las Vegas Sun’s story:

The companies would also want a tax increment district in the area around the stadium. Details would still need to be ironed out, but Majestic executive Craig Cavileer said the district would help the stadium’s private backers get a return on their investment.

This is potentially huge: “tax increment financing,” for those who need a reminder, involves kicking back increased property and/or sales taxes from an area around a development project, to help pay the project’s costs. We obviously have no idea how much money it could provide — depending on how big you draw the district, it can generate an almost unlimited amount of tax revenue — but if Adelson and Davis are looking at this as a way to provide a “return on investment,” that means it’s going to go to reimburse their $650 million in costs, not state taxpayers’ $750 million. In other words, if enough TIF money can be agreed on, the private costs could be as low as zero, with the entire $1.4 billion nut either provided by tourist taxes or by TIFs.

It’s an incredible bit of media legerdemain to turn a request for potentially the largest NFL stadium subsidy in history into headlines about a promise to put up half a billion dollars in private funds — props to Davis’s (or more likely Adelson’s) PR strategist for coming up with this one. And that’s before even getting to Davis’s “commitment” to Las Vegas, which as I predicted Wednesday comes with a whopping out clause, in that if he gets an offer he likes better, he can always have the NFL vote against the move, and say, “Hey, sorry, they wouldn’t let me go to Vegas, I tried.”

Not that I expect Davis or the NFL to turn down this deal if it really includes both $750 million in cash plus additional TIF subsidies, because who would turn down a new $1.4 billion stadium essentially for free, regardless of what market it’s in? We still have to see if the Nevada legislature is crazy enough to approve it, but this is no longer merely a leverage deal: It’s an attempt at the biggest public cash grab in NFL history, which if Davis can pull it off despite currently having zero other legitimate bidders for his team’s presence would seriously move him up the rankings of evil supergeniuses with questionable haircuts.

Mark Davis definitely going to announce plans to use Las Vegas as Raiders move threat

We have another “Mark Davis is gonna say something about the Oakland Raiders and Las Vegas on Thursday” report, this one with sources that are, if not named, at least identified a bit beyond the earlier rumors:

Davis’ appearance Thursday – and the commitment he is expected to make – could be a difference-maker. Davis will leave no doubt his franchise will pursue relocation to Las Vegas if the stadium project is approved.

“It’s huge because the committee sees (the Raiders) as serious,” a source close to the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told this newspaper. “And if (the committee) approves the funding, there will be no stopping the train.”

Meanwhile, there is growing sentiment within the NFL that fellow owners are opening up to Las Vegas and granting Davis his wish to move there should he request it.

“It would be a good home for them,” said a high-ranking NFL source.

This pair of anonymous quotes — in particular the one identified as being from the NFL — give us a bit more of a sense of what’s going on here. Davis is clearly shopping around for a better stadium deal than he has now in Oakland (which isn’t a bad stadium deal, mind you, but it’s not as good as all the other teams that have brand-new stadiums that were largely paid for by someone other than them), and if Las Vegas ends up building a stadium, he wants to shake that tree now while the tree-shaking is good. And the league office is at least tacitly giving him the go-ahead to do this, because why the hell wouldn’t they? Having stadium offers in pocket is the lifeblood of the industry, almost as much as buying the silence of brain-injured players, plus it helps out a friendly local billionaire, and you never know when you’re going to need one of those.

Now, does this mean the Raiders are actually moving to Las Vegas? Not by a longshot, at least not yet. First off, Nevada still has to approve the $780 million in subsidies that billionaire Sheldon Adelson is looking for, and that phrase right there is why it’s likely to be an uphill battle. But even if the stadium is approved, “pursuing relocation to Las Vegas” is no guarantee of relocating to Las Vegas — Davis could change his mind if he gets a better offer from elsewhere, or the NFL could change his mind for him, or (most likely) he could change his mind and then have the NFL deny him approval to move (or place an exorbitant relocation fee on it) to provide him with plausible deniability if he decides he’d rather move to Los Angeles or San Antonio or Walla Walla or wherever.

Las Vegas wouldn’t be as terrible a location for the NFL as for, say, hockey: Sure, Vegas’s TV is smaller than West Palm Beach and the only people with any spending money there are tourists, but football is the one sport where local TV deals don’t matter, and with only eight games a year maybe the Raiders could sell themselves as a destination theme vacation or something. I’m not saying it’s a good idea — staying put in Oakland, even in an older stadium, could well be better — but it’s not completely crazy. And as far as creating leverage goes, it makes perfect sense. Plus Davis can make a side trip for a haircut!

Cuomo proposes spending $1B to make Javits convention center exhibit space 11% bigger

The New York State Convention Center Development Corporation recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a designer/builder for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s planned expansion of the Javits Center on Manhattan’s west side. So now there are some specifics on the $1 billion boondoggle, but no real indication of where the public dollars are actually going to come from, beyond that “a State appropriation of $1 billion, bond issuance proceeds, cash on hand, and other sources as required.” It’s nice to have “cash on hand.”

The project would include a new 480,000-square-foot marshaling facility, with 27 loading docks — because what Manhattan most needs are fleets of 18-wheelers hauling stuff on city streets — roof terrace for outdoor events, and 92,000 square feet of new prime exhibit space, together with added meeting room and ballroom space. That amounts to just an 11 percent increase in exhibit space — what a deal for a billion bucks in public dollars!

Gov. Cuomo proclaimed last January that the Javits was the “busiest convention center in the United States,” with more than 2 million visitors annually. The Javits’ annual report shows attendance of 2,056,500 in 2014. But that year Chicago’s McCormick Place saw total attendance of 2.34 million. So “busiest” might be open to some question. And those Javits attendance figures include big public shows like the New York International Auto Show that sees a million attendees itself, almost entirely from the New York metro area.

The real issue with the Javits is dismal attendance at conventions and trade shows, the events that draw out-of-town visitors and fill hotel rooms. In 2000, the Javits drew 1.25 million convention and trade show attendees. For 2014, the total was just 629,500. And those attendees produced just 478,000 hotel room nights — a tiny fraction of the 31.6 million room nights filled in the city in 2014. That may be why the Cuomo administration has yet to produce any kind of market analysis or feasibility study for the expansion: It likely won’t produce any real increase in the Javits’ convention business.

Some sportswriters say they totally heard the Raiders are moving to Vegas, no really, a guy said it

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is following up his appearance at a Nevada state legislative hearing two weeks ago on a new Las Vegas football stadium with an appearance at another meeting of state officials this Thursday, and … and that’s really all we have to go on, but certain football writers, citing “sources” in one case and their own brains in another, are still off to the races:

And from a Twitlonger by Joe Arrigo:

Here is what I can confirm and KNOW in regards to the Raiders and a move to Las Vegas.
The Sands Group (who is attempting to build the stadium) is meeting this Thursday to discuss (and potentially approve) a new stadium for the UNLV football program and the Raiders.
Mark Davis, the Raiders owner, will be in attendance at the meeting on Thursday and speak at the meeting as well. Davis is ready to commit to moving the Raiders to Las Vegas at the meeting Thursday if they approve the new stadium.
The Raiders would move in 2017 or 2018 and play at Sam Boyd stadium until the new stadium is built. Davis already has toured the stadium with Tony Sanchez and the UNLV president and AD, and is on board with playing there temporarily.

Cole is an NFL columnist for Bleacher Report who specializes in Q&A’s with current players, which doesn’t seem like the best way to get the inside scoop on whether the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas. [UPDATE: Cole would like you to know that “whatever dude, I’ve been on the stadium/LA issue for 10 years.”] Arrigo, per his Twitter bio, is a high-school wide receivers coach, and a former radio host, and runs a UNLV fan site, which makes “Q&A reporter for Bleacher Report” seem like Bob frickin’ Woodward.

Since we’re here, though, here are the reasons why it’s extremely unlikely that Mark Davis will be moving the Raiders to Las Vegas anytime soon:

  1. The Raiders still have second dibs on sharing the Los Angeles Rams‘ new Inglewood stadium, if the San Diego Chargers pass it up. The Chargers probably won’t — their campaign for a new stadium in San Diego is currently somewhere between “longshot” and “train wreck” — but it’d be nuts for Davis to throw away the option before he sees what becomes of it.
  2. Notwithstanding Joe Arrigo, the Vegas stadium is not going to be approved this Thursday. First off, this isn’t even a meeting of the state legislature, but of something called the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, a group of political and business leaders convened by the governor to examine possible tourism initiatives and report back this summer. Secondly, there’s the little matter of the $780 million in public subsidies that billionaire Sheldon Adelson wants for his proposed stadium, which is going to take a while to put together, if it gets any traction at all.

Still, media events like this aren’t meant to signify anything real, they’re meant to provide a sense of “momentum” to stadium projects — so Davis and Adelson and the NFL must be just thrilled that NBC Sports’ Mike Florio is reporting exactly that. In an age where people are famous for being famous, getting credited with momentum for leaking news to the press that you have momentum is probably the next logical step.

Architects explain Washington NFL stadium moat as “gentle transition,” are just trolling us now

Want to know why Washington NFL owner Daniel Snyder’s proposed stadium design has a moat around it? Here’s why it has a moat, courtesy of a Washington Business Journal article titled, “Now we know why Dan Snyder’s stadium has a moat“:

According to Bjarke Ingels Group, the water feature would provide separation between the tailgating area and the stadium (as opposed to a fence or wall), while a series of bridges would act as new gates. “Access becomes a gentle transition between the tailgating and game,” reads the description. If you remember the tunnels from RFK Stadium to the parking lots, it’s not too far removed from that … except for the water part. And as was already revealed in one of the renderings (click through our gallery, above), the moat would in fact double as a wave pool in the summer and an ice rink in the winter.

Um, guys? That doesn’t actually explain why the stadium design has a moat, unless maybe it’s “the Bjarke Ingels Group architects have never been to a sporting event, and think that walking across a narrow bridge with 70,000 other fans to get from tailgating to the game would be a ‘gentle transition.'” Also possibly “the Bjarke Ingels Group architects have never been to D.C., and don’t realize that if it ever snows there, people will more likely be cowering in their homes than going out to ice skate on a frozen moat that will probably plunge them to their deaths at any second, because this isn’t Minnesota, people.”

On the other hand, here it is one month later, and we’re still talking about that damned moat, instead of about who on earth would actually build this thing when the team just got a new stadium 19 years ago. It’s all about the misdirection.

West Ham’s Olympic stadium lease sticks London with cost of everything from heating to corner flags

I don’t follow English Premier League finances as closely as those on this side of the pond, so I honestly couldn’t tell you whether the £2.5 million a year in rent that West Ham will pay for use of the 2012 London Olympic stadium as its home pitch is a huge sweetheart deal or not. I’m leaning yes, though, if only from this extraordinary statement put out by the London Legacy Development Corporation, the team’s new landlord:

“We were concerned that the publication of this contract and the precedent it may set for future agreements could make it harder to do this. However, we have decided not to seek leave to appeal, and have today made the contract available on our website.”

That sure sounds like, “No, don’t let it out that we gave West Ham such a great deal, now everyone will want one!”

The big giveaway here, as with many modern stadium leases, is the degree to which taxpayers will be on the hook for stadium operations: The public body will have to pay for all policing, stadium heating, lights, goalposts and even corner flags, which could easily eat up the entire £2.5 million. Nice negotiating, London Legacy Development Corporation!

County to D-Backs: Most of $187m in upgrade demands is items team agreed to pay for

Maricopa County responded to the Arizona Diamondbacks owners’ demands for at least $187 million in improvements to Chase Field plus maybe additional tax subsidies with a letter of their own this week, which you can read in its entirety here. The key bit, though, is this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 3.17.25 PMTranslated, this means: Okay, you keep saying our 2013 study of possible repairs/improvements to Chase Field lists $187 million in needed work. But $55 million of that is your own operations and maintenance expenses, and another $90 million is wish-list stuff that is explicitly excluded from the county’s obligations. So, WTF?

I also asked a county representative about that “Non-Obsolescence Fund” that the Diamondbacks can draw on if they agree to extend their lease: Right now it has a whopping $460,000 in it, so that’s not really worth worrying about.

To my knowledge, D-Backs execs haven’t yet responded to this letter — but then, they wouldn’t need to, if their concern is less legal niceties than trying to drum up an urgency to fix their stadium situation out of thin air. Whether Maricopa County stadium officials see this as a crisis or not, the media certainly does, which means elected officials are likely to as well, and that can be enough to set the ball rolling on hundreds of millions of dollars shifting pockets. A contract may be a contract, but when you’re seen as a 700-pound gorilla, you don’t need to sweat the fine print.

Mark Davis to speak at Nevada legislature about moving Raiders to Vegas OMG OMG OMG

Stop the presses! Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is going to speak to the Nevada state legislature about moving his team to Las Vegas!

The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meets April 28 at UNLV to review tourism-related projects for possible state funding. A 65,000-seat stadium in the Strip resort corridor is among the projects under consideration for recommendation to the Nevada Legislature. Davis will be at the meeting to address the stadium plan and the Raiders’ potential move, a source confirmed Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

Presses all stopped? Good. And now start them back up again, because that’s all we have — for all we know Davis is just going to say that Las Vegas would work well with his brand like he did two months ago. He’s certainly doing a good job of creating leverage, plus headlines for the newspaper owned by the billionaire seeking $780 million in public money to help him build an NFL-ready stadium in Las Vegas. Synergy!

So would Davis ever really move the Raiders to Vegas? It’s not as crazy as it would be in other sports: Local TV market size doesn’t matter much in the NFL, so moving from the Bay Area to the nation’s 42nd-largest TV market isn’t such a huge deal. On the other hand, the Rams‘ move to Los Angeles is a sign that market size does matter even in the NFL in terms of things like PSL sales and naming rights. But Vegas is a kind of a special case, with lots of people who don’t live there spending lots of money. Except that hardly any of them are likely to be Raiders fans, so they’re not likely to put up big money for season tickets or anything. But Mark Davis is Mark Davis, and he doesn’t have a lot of other great options…

I’m still putting my money on “leverage ploy,” because that’s usually what these things are, but there are enough moving parts here that we can’t totally blow this off as a bluff. Set your watches for April 28, and we’ll see what happens.

Tampa proposes $30m subsidy for Yankees’ spring stadium, this passes for getting off cheap these days

The New York Yankees, a team that will be paying $225 million in player payroll this season (just thought I’d mention that, no reason), have agreed to a lease extension with the city of Tampa on their spring-training stadium that will include $30 million in city- and state-financed upgrades. (The Yankees will chip in $4.1 million for improvements to their training complex, and $6.2 million that they’ve already spent on the stadium since 2010, which is a new meaning of “will chip in.”) Planned improvements include new concessions concourses, new sun roofs, and a new “grand entrance” for fans fleeing the watchful gaze of bronze George Steinbrenner.

In exchange, Tampa gets to ensure the presence of the Yankees for another 21 years: The lease currently ends in 2025, and will be extended through 2046. That’s not a horrific tradeoff, though it’s worth noting that entire new minor-league stadiums have recently been built for this price. And the assessment of Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, aka the guy who thinks a single college football game can create 2,000 permanent jobs, remains, um:

[Hagan] said the deal is a good one for taxpayers. The county, which owns Steinbrenner Field, will receive an additional $8.4 million in lease payments for the extra 20 years of the contract. The improvements to the Yankees’ practice complex will raise its taxable value resulting in more property taxes.

And, Hagan said, the continued presence of baseball’s biggest name for spring training will continue to fill local hotels, bars and restaurants with out-of-state visitors.

“When you consider all the additional revenue, this is an extremely attractive return on investment, which makes this deal a no-brainer,” Hagan said.

First off, $8.4 million over the years 2026 through 2046 is never going to make a dent in $30 million in construction costs right now. The property-tax bump is likewise going to be small; as for the throngs of “out-of-state visitors” allegedly drawn to Tampa in March just to see Yankees spring training games, haven’t we killed that urban legend dead yet?

If there are two reasons to care about this, other than just enjoying hating the Steinbrenners for being rich and still being able to get public subsidies whenever they want (assuming the city and county approve the deal, which they haven’t yet), it’s because it’s likely to give another boost to the trend of MLB teams making demands for public upgrades or replacement of not-that-old spring training facilities (Steinbrenner Field was built in 1996), and because it gives us another hint of what Ken Hagan is likely to be like in negotiations for a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s almost certainly going to cost Tampa taxpayers a heck of a lot more than $30 million if it happens, especially if Hagan hauls out rationalizations like these.