Friday roundup: New Rangers stadium scam movie, Nevada arena petitions rejected over technicality, and many many dumb ideas for getting you (or cardboard cutouts of you) into stadiums this year

Welcome to the end of another crazy week, which seems redundant to say, since that’s all of them lately. I spent a bunch of it working on this article on what science (but not necessarily your local newspaper) can tell us about not just whether reopening after lockdowns is a good idea, but what kinds of reopening are safe enough to consider. And important enough to consider, since as one infectious disease expert told me, “It’s not ‘open’ or ‘shut’—there’s a whole spectrum in between. We need to be thinking about what are the high-priority things that we need to reopen from a functioning point of view, and not an enjoyment point of view.”

And with that cheery thought, on to other cheery thoughts:

  • If you’re a fan of either sports stadium shenanigans or calamitous public-policy train wrecks in general — and I know you are, or why would you be reading this site — you should absolutely check out “Throw A Billion Dollars From The Helicopter,” a new documentary about the Texas Rangers‘ successful campaign to extract half a billion dollars from the city of Arlington so they could play in air-conditioning. It’s a story that has everything: a mayor who was elected as a stadium-subsidy critic then turned around to approve the biggest stadium subsidy in local history, George W. Bush grubbing for public money and failing to do basic math, grassroots anti-red-light camera activists getting dragged into stadium politics, a trip back to the Washington Senators’ final home game before moving to Texas which they had to forfeit because fans ran on the field and walked off with the bases, footage of that 1994 Canadian TV news story I always cite about how video-rental stores comedy clubs in Toronto were so happy with extra business during the baseball strike that they wished hockey would go on strike too, plus interviews with stadium experts like Roger Noll, Rod Fort, Victor Matheson, Allen Sanderson (the man whose line about more effective ways than building a stadium for boosting your city’s economy gave the documentary its title), and me. Rent it here on Vimeo if you want some substitute fireworks this weekend.
  • Opponents of the publicly funded minor-league hockey arena for the Henderson Silver Knights got enough signatures to put a recall on the November ballot, but have had their petitions invalidated for not including a detailed enough description of their objections on every page. This will almost certainly result in lawsuits, which is how pretty much every battle for public oversight of sports subsidy deals ends — that, and “in tears.”
  • The San Diego city council approved the $86.2 million sale of the site of the Chargers‘ former stadium to San Diego State University, which plans to build a new $310 million football stadium there. Whether this is a good deal for the public is especially tricky, because not only do you have to figure the land value of a 135-acre site in the middle of an economic meltdown, but also San Diego State is a public university, so really this is one public agency selling land to another. It’s all more than I can manage this morning, so instead let’s look at this rendering of a proposed park for the site that features bicyclists riding diagonally across a bike path to avoid a woman who stands in their way with arms akimbo, while birds with bizarre forked tails wheel overhead.
  • You know what would be a terrible idea in the middle of a pandemic that has closed stadiums to fans because gathering in one place is a great way to spread virus? An article telling fans what public spaces they can gather in to catch a glimpse of game action in closed stadiums, and Axios has you covered there! And so does the Associated Press!
  • Sure, hundreds of thousands of people have died and there could be hundreds of thousands more to go, but won’t anyone think of the impact on TV network profits if there’s no football to show in the fall?
  • And speaking of keeping an eye strictly on the bottom line, the NFL is considering requiring fans (if there are any) who attend NFL games this fall (if there are any) to sign a waiver promising not to sue if they contract Covid as a result. But can I still sue if someone goes to a football game, contracts Covid, and then infects me? I’m not actually sure how easily one could sue in either case — since you can never be sure where you were infected with the virus, it would be like suing over getting cancer from secondhand smoke — but I always like the idea of suing the NFL, so thanks for the idea, guys!
  • New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner says he wants to see fans at Yankee Stadium “in the 20-30 percent range,” a number and prediction he failed to indicate he pulled from anywhere other than his own butt. Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs are reportedly planning to open rooftops around Wrigley Field at 25% capacity for watching games this year, something that might actually be legal since while would mean about 800 fans in attendance, they wouldn’t all be in attendance in the same place, so it could get around rules about large public gatherings.
  • If you want to spend $49 and up so a cardboard cutout of yourself can watch Oakland A’s games, you can now do that on the team’s website. If that sounds like a terrible deal, know that with each purchase you also get two free tickets to an exhibition game at the Coliseum in 2021 (if there are any), and if you pay $129 then you also get a foul ball mailed to you if it hits your cutout, all of which still sounds like a terrible deal but significantly more hilarious.
  • If you were hoping to make one last trip to Pawtucket’s 74-year-old McCoy Stadium to see Pawtucket Red Sox baseball before the team relocates to Worcester after this season — it was on my now-deleted summer calendar — you’ll have to settle for eating dinner on the field, because the PawSox season, along with the rest of the minor-league baseball season, has been officially called off. Also, the Boston Herald reports that the Lowell Spinners single-A team won’t be offering refunds to those who bought tickets for non-canceled games, only credits toward 2021 tickets — shouldn’t ticketholders be able to sue for not receiving the product they paid for? I want somebody to sue somebody, already! When will America’s true pastime be allowed to reopen?
  • Here’s a New York Times article on how new MLS stadiums are bucking past stadium trends by being “privately financed, with modest public support for modernizing infrastructure,” which is only true if you consider $98 million (Columbus) and $81 million and up (Cincinnati) to be “modest” figures.
  • I apologize for failing to report last week on the Anaheim Ducks‘ proposed development around their hockey arena, less because it’s super interesting or there is amusing vaportecture than because it’s supposed to be called “ocV!BE,” which is the best name ever, so long as you want to live in a freshly built condo in what sounds like either a randomly generated password or an Aughts rock band.

Mark Davis is a big dumb idiot, Tuesday edition

If some things about Covid safety are becoming increasingly clear — outdoors is better than indoors, short interaction times are better than long ones, masks are hugely important — there are still a lot of question marks, including how safe outdoor sports are, for both players and fans. For now, most sports leagues look to be committed to restarting this summer, though not all the players may choose to show up: The Colorado Rockies‘ Ian Desmond just became the fourth MLB player to declare he’ll be skipping 2020, something that overshadowed the rest of his eloquent Instagram post focused on baseball’s structural racism, and more defections are likely, as everyone starts deciding for themselves what is reasonable behavior amid a fast-moving epidemic that a month ago seemed to be sparing the South and West but now is very much not.

Of course, if you’re a sports team owner, you get to make decisions for far more than just yourself. And Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis is ready to make all kinds of decisions, based on the latest science — ha ha ha, no, of course it’s based on him wanting to sell tickets, the more glorious tickets the better. And he’s especially steamed that his fellow NFL owners have decided to sell ad signage space on seats near the field this season instead of allowing every single seat to be filled to capacity:

“I can’t imagine telling one fan they cannot attend the opening game of our inaugural season in Las Vegas at the most magnificent stadium that they helped to build, let alone tell 3,500 fans that their seats are gone for the entire season,” Davis said. “Those seats in the front rows are some of our most ardent fans, including members of the famed Black Hole. You think I want to sell advertising on their seats? … We will do everything we can to see that all our fans are able to attend every game this season.”

“They helped to build” is a nice acknowledgement from Davis, given the $750 million he received from Nevada taxpayers for his new stadium, though given that his marketing campaign has been largely geared toward selling tickets to out-of-towners — the Black Hole members mostly still live in Northern California, presumably — maybe that’s not what he’s talking about at all.

But more alarming was the idea that Davis wants to have a full stadium this fall, in a state that is seeing a huge spike in virus cases even as testing rates have not increased. Though he immediately hedged on that as well:

“What Gov. (Steve) Sisolak and the state of Nevada determine to be safe in the face of coronavirus after careful consideration, I’ll abide by,” Davis said. “And at the appropriate time, he may determine that it isn’t safe for 100 percent of the fans to attend. At that point, I have to make a decision.”

If it comes to that, Davis wonders if the best solution might be to play all games without fans.

“Maybe that is the fairest thing to do,” he said. “Maybe it’s all or none, because I’d hate to have to tell any of our fans they can’t go to some or any Raiders games.”

So he’d rather tell all fans they can’t go to games than some fans? Or he just wants to make sure if he can’t sell tickets, no other NFL teams can? (He also griped during his Las Vegas Review-Journal article that “We have potentially 32 different capacities and seating formations. Where is the equity in that?”)

Or maybe looking for any sense in Davis’s statements is a futile scavenger hunt, because there was also this:

While other leagues are creating a bubble component to protect players, the NFL has not. Teams will be in their respective cities, and presumably players and staff will be free to come and go as they please.

“You can keep players from the fans, but you can’t keep players from the players,” Davis said. “That could be our Achilles’ heel. Without some form of bubble, we may be asking for trouble.”

Okay, so to recap: Mark Davis will do everything he can to make sure 65,000 fans are cheek to jowl at Raiders games this fall, but if not he may try to insist that no fans can go to NFL games at all, but players absolutely have to be kept away from anyone other than teammates, such as people in the general public who might be teeming with virus. Which they might have picked up at, you know, some big public gathering, maybe one that involved lots of cheering and shouting that is great at spreading viral droplets? It’s almost as if letting unelected business leaders set public health policy isn’t a great idea — speaking of which, somebody tell Ohio that, wouldja?

Friday roundup: Grizzlies lease has secret out clause, judge orders do-over in Nashville stadium vote, reviewers agree Rangers stadium is super-butt-ugly

Normally the end of June is when news around here starts slowing down for the summer, but as no one needs reminding, nothing is normal anymore. There isn’t even time to get into sports leagues trying to reopen in the midst of what could be an “apocalyptic” surge in virus cases across the South and West, because busy times call for paralipsis:

  • The Daily Memphian has uncovered what it calls a “trap door” in the Memphis Grizzlies‘ lease that could let the team get out of the agreement early if it has even a single season where it doesn’t sell 1) 14,900 tickets per game, 2) all of its 64 largest suites, or 3) fewer than 2,500 season club seats. (There is at least a “force majeure” clause that should exclude any seasons played during a pandemic.) That could force the city to buy up tickets in order to keep the lease in force, the paper notes, and though talks between the team and city are underway to renegotiate the deal, you just know that Grizzlies owner Robert Pera will want something in exchange for giving up his opt-out clause. Pera has so far said all the right things about not wanting to move the team, but then, he doesn’t have to when he has sports journalists to spread relocation rumors for him; if savvy negotiators create leverage, city officials really need to learn to stop handing leverage to team owners when they write up leases, because that really never works out well.
  • In a major victory for local governments at least following their own damn rules, opponents of Nashville’s $50 million-plus-free-land deal for a new MLS stadium won a court victory this week when a judge ruled that the city violated Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act by approving the stadium’s construction contract at a meeting held with only 48 hours notice, when the law requires five days. The city’s Metro Sports Authority can now just hold another meeting with normal notice and reapprove the contract, but still it’s good to see someone’s hand slapped for a change for hiding from public scrutiny.
  • The reviews of the Texas Rangers‘ new stadium that received $450 million in subsidies so the team could have air-conditioning are in, and critics agree, it looks like a giant metal warehouse, or maybe a barbecue grill, or maybe the Chernobyl sarcophagus. Okay, they just agree that is is one ugly-ass stadium from the outside; firsthand reports on whether the upper-deck seats are as bad as they look in the renderings will have to await fans actually being allowed inside, which could come as soon as later this summer, unless by then Texans are too busy cowering in their homes to avoid having to go to the state’s overwhelmed hospital system
  • Amazon has bought naming rights to Seattle’s former Key Arena (Key Bank’s naming rights expired eons ago), and because Amazon needs more name recognition like it needs more stories about its terrible working conditions, it has decided to rename the building Climate Pledge Arena, after an Amazon-launched campaign to get companies to promise to produce zero net carbon emissions by 2040, something the company itself is off to a terrible start on. The reporting doesn’t say, but presumably if greenwashing goes out of style, Amazon will retain the right in a couple of years to rename the building Prime Video (Starts At $8.99/Month) Arena.
  • The NFL is still planning to have fans in attendance at games this fall, but it’s also going to be tarping off the first six to eight rows of seats and selling ads on the tarps as a hedge against ticket-sales losses. Even when and if things return to normal, I’m thinking this could be a great way for the league to create that artificial ticket scarcity that it’s been wanting for years, n’est-ce pas?
  • Amid concern that the New York Islanders will be left temporarily homeless or forced to move back to Brooklyn in the wake of the Nassau Coliseum being shuttered, Nassau County’s top elected official has promised that “the next time that the Islanders play in New York it will be in Nassau County.” If my reading-between-the-lines radar is working properly, that probably means we can expect to see the Islanders’ upcoming season played someplace like Bridgeport, Connecticut.
  • New Arizona Coyotes president Xavier Gutierrez is definitely hitting the ground with all his rhetoric cylinders running, telling ESPN: “When I took the job, [owner] Alex Meruelo told me finding a solution for where we should be located was priority one through five. I thought it was one through five, and he quickly corrected me and said, ‘No, it’s priority one through 10 for you.'” Shouldn’t that really be one to 11?
  • Here’s an actual San Diego Union-Tribune sports columnist saying voters did the city a favor by turning down a $1.15 billion-dollar Chargers stadium plan, because the city would be having a tough time paying it off now what with the economy in shambles. Of course, $1.15 billion still would have been $1.15 billion even if San Diego had the money, but budget crunches do seem to have a way of focusing people’s attention on opportunity costs.
  • Speaking of which, here’s an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about how it’s hard for Cobb County to pay off the construction debt on its Atlanta Braves stadium what with tourism tax revenue having fallen through the floor, though at least the AJC did call up economist J.C. Bradbury to let him say that it doesn’t really matter which tax money was used because “there’s no found money in government.”
  • Both of those are still way better articles, though, than devoting resources to a story about how holding baseball games without fans is going to lead to a glut of bags of peanuts, for which Good Morning America has us covered. Won’t anyone think of the peanuts?!?

Angels owner releases pictures of whatever stadium development idea is in his head this very second

After getting granted a one-month extension by the Anaheim city council, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno has come out with his redevelopment plan for the Angel Stadium land he got from the city at a bargain price last winter, and the whole thing is so handwavy that it makes you wonder why he couldn’t have just made a crayon drawing of some buildings and released that on time in May. Let’s see what Moreno’s planning team came up with:

That is indeed a bunch of numbers of things! Can we get any renderings that aren’t just bird’s-eye schematics?

That’s a little better, I guess, though still pretty generic, aside from somebody coloring in the roofs green because that what one does in 2020.

More to the point, there’s nothing that I can find in Moreno’s plans that indicates a timeline: Is he actually committing to building all this stuff, or just sketching out pretty pictures of what it might look like if he decides this is a good idea? (Past “ballpark village” concepts, it’s worth noting, haven’t always immediately panned out as planned, and have sometimes come with requests for more public money to make them happen.) Presumably if the city of Anaheim is selling him the land because they want it developed, there should be some rules about when it will be developed by — maybe that’s still in the “TBD” folder, but if so, what’s the point of releasing this plan now?

As for what will happen to the stadium itself, we learn this from the Los Angeles Times:

The Angels put off for now the decision to renovate Angel Stadium or replace it. If the Angels decide to build a new ballpark, the plan calls for it to be located immediately adjacent to the 57 Freeway, and closer to the Anaheim train station. If they renovate, they plan to open up the outfield and turn it into a grand entrance plaza.

Definitely one of those things! Maybe.

Let’s see, anything else remotely of note here? There’s a guy pointing randomly at the sky outside a bistro called “Bistro,” and oh hey check it out:

Yes, that is indeed Cab-Hailing Purse Woman, though someone has tried to disguise her true intent by placing a giant foam finger over her cab-hailing hand. If this clip-art woman is indeed the key to all sports-related economic development plans, maybe it would cheaper for cities just to buy her plane tickets (on clip-art airplanes, obviously) so she can bestow her presence on their populaces? Do you think she’s based on a real person, and if so does that person get royalties? Did anyone at the rendering software company think to shop around for a purse company that would pay for product placement? So very many questions, so few answers.

Amazing study claims spending public money on sports is good because big cities are big

One of the basic tenets of sports economics at this point is that there is zero evidence that whether a city plays host to sports teams has any measurable effect on its local economic health. That was the finding back in the 1990s when Joanna Cagan and I first started researching sports stadiums, and it’s continued to be the case in more recent studies — though as academic researchers have told me, it’s hard to get new studies approved when studying the economic impact of sports teams is like studying whether gravity makes things fall down.

So it was more than a little surprising when I was alerted (thanks, David!) to a new study out of Ball State University that claims that investing in luring and retaining pro sports teams has a long-term payoff for cities. According to the university’s press release, Census Bureau data show that if you look at certain long-term metrics, hosting a sports team “has a positive effect on the GDP and the population of the metropolitan area.”

There were some red flags, certainly — for starters, nobody on the study team appears to have any background in economics, rather being an assemblage of IT professors and business students — but still I figured this would be worth checking into. And then I got a look at the actual study itself, and I knew that I had to head straight here to share it with you, because this is one of the most hilariously incompetent pieces of academic work you could ever expect to see. Let’s skip straight to the “methodology” section, which is really where you want to start in any economic research paper:

We argue that not all economic benefits are measurable with typical metrics. Nor are they tangible in terms of their visible impacts on the appearance of the city and its residents. Rather, the main impact of investing in large-scale sports facilities and also hosting professional sports teams appears in the long term.

Okay, so not “typical metrics,” but rather something “in the long term.” What’s your actual data, guys?

In order to see the effect of hosting professional sports teams on the local economy, the correlation between the sum of the number of teams and the GDP of the Metropolitan area is calculated which is given below.

GDP SUM(Teams)
Linear Correlation Table Data Set #1 Data Set #1
GDP 1.000 0.881
SUM(Teams) 0.881 1.000

Table1. Correlation between Team Numbers and GDP

And … that’s it. This entire paper is based on the observation that if you look at which cities had the most economic growth from 2001 to 2018, and which cities have the most sports teams, they’re the same cities.

But, you know, of course they are. The whole reason you choose put a sports team in a city is because it’s growing in relative size and economic activity — it’s why Rochester used to have an NBA team, but doesn’t anymore, and won’t anytime soon. Also, the last two decades have seen a historic rebound of the largest cities in particular, with well-off residents and companies alike recolonizing the metropolitan areas that they largely abandoned in the 1960s and ’70s. So if big cities are doing well over all, and big cities have the most sports teams, obviously there’s going to be a correlation there — it’s like observing that rich people tend to own the most yachts, and concluding that buying a yacht is a great way to get rich.

This is one of the most famous logical fallacies of all time, and is usually summed up as correlation does not imply causation. It has its own Wikipedia page, with some terrific examples, the best of which may be this one:

Example 1

Sleeping with one’s shoes on is strongly correlated with waking up with a headache.

Therefore, sleeping with one’s shoes on causes headache.

The above example commits the correlation-implies-causation fallacy, as it prematurely concludes that sleeping with one’s shoes on causes headache. A more plausible explanation is that both are caused by a third factor, in this case going to bed drunk, which thereby gives rise to a correlation. So the conclusion is false.

I reached out to Ball State’s PR spokesperson to see if the authors would be available to answer some questions about their work, but I haven’t heard back. In the meantime, I talked to College of the Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson, who agreed with me on the correlation vs. causation error, and added:

It is unfortunate that they didn’t understand the huge statistical error they were making here, but that’s what being a student is all about – learning by doing and recognizing mistakes so you don’t make them again in the future. What is concerning here, however, is that two Ball State professors also put their name on a paper that is clearly wrong and allowed it to be issued in such a way that the general public could read it despite its obvious flaws. Perhaps they were just trying to do something out of their area of expertise and didn’t understand why the analysis was wrong, but I
certainly wouldn’t put my name on a paper about computer technology or information systems unless I was very sure that I wasn’t doing something that would instantly make me look very foolish.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that at least this paper doesn’t seem to have resulted in a flurry of media coverage that grabs at the man-bites-dog nature of the headline without looking into whether the paper itself makes any damn sense. In fact, I thought twice about whether writing about this would be giving the paper more attention than it deserved — but it is still a fascinating case study in how bad ideas can take on a momentum of their own, eventually enlisting an entire public relations apparatus to put them out into the world and defend them. Thank goodness we have professional journalists out there to tell legitimate research from utter gibberish — oh wait

MLB’s aborted restart shows sports owners only get the “evil genius” thing half-right

On Friday I reported how plans to restart American pro sports leagues were hitting snags in the form of rising Covid caseloads in major sports states like Arizona, Florida, and Texas, and since then things have gotten oh so much worse:

Now, there’s no reason you can’t hold a sports season even with a few players testing positive — it’s what soccer leagues in Europe are doing, figuring that if you keep testing and quarantining anyone who turns out to be infectious, the rest of the league can continue more or less as normal. But Europe has way, way less virus than much of the US right now: Even the United Kingdom has a daily new cases per capita figure that’s barely 5% of that in Arizona, so fewer Premier League players are likely to be getting infected when they go to a local restaurant or grocery store (“community spread,” in the epidemiology lingo), meaning there’s less risk of a surge of cases that would require an entire team to be sequestered for two weeks.

This is the whole reason MLB was considering its “bubble plan,” wherein all the teams and game officials and TV crews and hotel workers and everyone else necessary to support them would be walled off in a single location, something that it soon became clear would be entirely unworkable. The NBA is looking to do its own version of a bubble, but as that includes things like being allowed to leave the “campus” for excused absences without having to quarantine on your return, it’s clear that this is more a “let’s figure out something workable and cross our fingers” plan than something that’s actually airtight from a public health standpoint — if that wasn’t already clear from the fact that the NBA is locating its bubble in Orlando and not New Zealand.

There is also always the possibility of just rolling the dice and figuring if some players get infected, so be it — they’re relatively young and healthy, so most of them probably won’t get very sick. But that can’t be said for coaches, or game officials, or players with preexisting risk factors (have we discussed here how half of the US adult population has high blood pressure?), or family members who are going to continue to be in contact with players, whether they’re in a bubble or not? Even setting aside whether sports leagues want to be responsible for exacerbating the spread of a deadly disease in the general population, it would be very bad if they ended up telling Dusty Baker he has to decide between risking his life to show up for work and staying at home watching cowboy movies. (Not that plenty of other workers aren’t being asked to do the same thing, but that’s not great either.)

As it looks increasingly like the US is headed toward a patchwork of outbreak scenarios, with some regions seeing low caseloads while others face second waves or even first waves that never ended, it’s probably impossible to have any kind of sports that involves travel and maintain any kind of safety from infection for those involved. That leaves several unpalatable options: 1) gather all the players in one spot with low infection rates and try to play a quick season before they go stir-crazy and miss their families; 2) damn the virus and go full speed ahead, and hope you still have enough players to finish out the season after they start getting quarantined or head for the hills to avoid getting infected; 3) cancel everything and wait for a vaccine — or at least for infections to get down to a low enough boil that contact tracing can keep them under control, something that isn’t getting off to a great start what with states reopening even while caseloads are still high.

It would arguably make more sense, even just in terms of self-interest, for sports team owners to take the lead by saying, “We’re not restarting nothing until the virus is under control,” in hopes of encouraging local leaders to pursue a plan where in a couple of months we might be in a place — like Spain and Germany and even the UK are in now — where resuming sports might be a reasonable gamble instead of a desperate dice roll. But then, long-term thinking is never what sports team owners were known for; the botched restart plans are just another reminder that rich people may know how to throw their money and power around, but that doesn’t mean they’re always going to be smart about it.

Friday roundup: Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it for 150 years edition

Happy Juneteenth, the most quintessentially American of holidays, in that it celebrates both the nation’s ability to right seemingly intractable horrific historic wrongs through grassroots action faster than anyone ever could have dreamed, and also its ability to then revert to virtually the exact same horrific wrongs in all but name for the next century or so. We got issues.

And speaking of issues — if that’s not too inappropriate to compare the enslavement of an entire people with the siphoning off of tax dollars for sports, which it probably is, but segues gotta segue — here are a bunch regarding stadiums and arenas that reared or re-reared their heads in the last week:

Newly renovated Nassau Coliseum dies of arena glut, after short illness

So this happened, or is happening, or is reported to be happening based on “people familiar with the matter”:

The Nassau Coliseum, the Long Island arena that hosted professional hockey games and rock concerts, is turning off the lights.

Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim Sports and Entertainment, which operates the arena under a lease from Nassau County, is planning to shutter the venue indefinitely while it seeks investors to take over operations and pick up the remaining debt on the building, according to people familiar with the matter.

Onexim has told potential investors that it would turn over the lease in return for assuming roughly $100 million in loans on the property, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private. The firm, which is laying off arena employees, could also surrender the lease to its lenders, the person said.

Onexim released a statement saying that the Coliseum’s value “will be best realized by other parties” and blaming the Covid pandemic for the move, but the Coliiseum has other, much bigger problems: It just underwent a $180 million renovation to modernize it so it could compete with other New York–area venues for concerts, then saw a whole new arena start construction at nearby Belmont Park. The last time something similar to this happened, it was Newark opening the Prudential Center just down the turnpike from the Meadowlands Arena (or whatever it was called right then), which resulted in the latter arena closing and turning into a state-subsidized movie soundstage, because there really aren’t enough events to go around in the tristate area to fill five arenas. Prokhorov clearly saw the writing on the wall then — he put the arena up for sale right after the Islanders arena was approved — so declaring Operation Shutdown is the next logical step, even if maybe loudly declaring that your arena can’t make any money is not the absolute best way to find buyers for it.

The immediate impact, of course, is that the New York Islanders now have nowhere to play (once having a place for sports teams to play becomes a thing again), as the team had only just announced earlier this year that it would be playing the 2020-21 season in Nassau after giving up on Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. (Okay, also it may mess with this summer’s planned drive-in movies in the arena parking lot, but I’m guessing somewhat fewer people will be concerned about that.) Newsday speculates that the team would have no choice but to return to Brooklyn for a season if the Coliseum remains shuttered once the next NHL season starts up sometime next winter, because its old lease says it has to play games at either the Coliseum or Barclays, but it will likely take lawyers with a fine-tooth comb to determine what that means if Nassau remains padlocked. Not that the Islanders would have many other options, though I suppose if pandemic-related bans on fans are still in effect come January 2021, they could always play at some college rink or in Iceland or something.

While the pandemic didn’t create venue glut, it certainly seems to be forcing some hard reckonings with it: The Rose Bowl is also reportedly trying to figure out how to stay afloat amid tons of other Los Angeles–area stadium options, with everything on the table from adding miniature golf to shutting down entirely, though the latter would be a last resort. (The Rose Bowl is also getting $11.5 million in emergency cash from its owner, the city of Pasadena, which is not going to help with Pasadena’s massive schools budget gap.) There’s been an awful lot of blinkered optimism about letting a thousand sports venues bloom and crossing fingers there’ll be enough events to go around; that was never going to work, and the pandemic is quickly making clear that the resulting shakeout is likely to hit the oldest venues the hardest, even if they’ve been recently renovated. Score one for the investors who rolled the dice on building the new Belmont Park arena, I guess, since they’re effectively grabbing a slice of a limited market by driving a competitor out of business — though New York state might want to revisit its economic impact projections for the public money it’s pouring into the Belmont site, now that it turns out it’s just likely to end up replacing one Nassau County arena with a shinier one.

Friday roundup: Return to some pretense of normalcy (for now, depending) edition

Morning, everybody! We’re coming up on halfway through June, and the sports world is beginning to awake from its pandemic-inspired slumber: Spain’s La Liga soccer league held its first restarted games yesterday, with fake crowd noise and CGI fans (I’m watching via DVR right now: the fans disappear periodically and are replaced by ads, something I’m sure league broadcasters wish they could do in normal times); England’s Premier League is set to begin games next Wednesday. Japan’s J League is set to restart on July 4, with fans possibly returning at reduced capacity a week later. Germany’s Bundesliga, meanwhile, is several weeks into its restart and going full speed ahead despite occasional players testing positive and going into quarantine.

Over in the U.S. — currently 7th worldwide in new Covid deaths per day, behind Chile, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Sweden, and the UK — the NBA is planning to finish its season and then play the playoffs entirely at Disney World starting July 30, though it’s not certain that all players will show up given they’d be isolated from their families for seven weeks at minimum. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has promised “100 percent” that there will be a 2020 season of some kind, though again, it’s always possible lots of players will just stay home rather than risk their health to get less than a third of their regular salaries in exchange for a month-long preseason plus a month and a half of games. MLS is relaunching with a World Cup–style tournament at Disney World, to be followed by a season as yet to be determined. The NHL is shooting for a playoff tournament starting in August, maybe, depending. The NFL is still insisting it will be able to play its regular season as usual in September with full stadiums, though individual teams are planning otherwise.

In short, the grand sports epidemiological experiment has begun, and we’re just going to have to keep checking back week to week to see how it’s turning out. Playing fan-free games in regions with low current infection rates seems to be working out okay — at least if you don’t mind that players will occasionally keep turning up infected and have to be quarantined, which is fine enough on public health grounds even if it might leave players antsy — but how that translates into fans in seats, or a world where a second wave kicks in starting in September just as leagues are in full swing, remains a work in progress. The best bet remains not to plan anything more than a few weeks in advance, which is understandably hard when you’re trying to steer an aircraft carrier of an institution like a sports league, but for individual fans we can just enjoy whatever’s on TV this week while we wait for our ticket refunds to trickle in one month at a time.

Anyway, on to the week’s stadium and arena news:

  • To the confusing lack of firm information about the Carolina Hurricanes‘ new arena lease, add the news that Hurricanes owner Thomas Dundon has “termination rights” and the executive director of the local sports authority is mumbling about how maybe it’s time for a downtown arena. This still looks to be in the long-game phase — if you’re not playing the long game during a hopefully temporary global health crisis, you’re pretty dumb, not that sports team owners can’t be dumb when necessary — but it’s worth keeping an eye on, because we know well that sports team owners and elected officials love nothing more than to meet behind closed doors to plot things while waiting for the money to return.
  • Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi is defending spending tons of city money on a new Flames arena and other big development projects as the smart thing to do during an economic downturn, and he has a point in terms of government spending being a smart thing to do when the cost of borrowing is cheap and people need jobs so they’ll start spending again. Whether it’s a smart thing to spend that money on a new hockey arena when the city is in the middle of slashing school budgets is another question.
  • Henderson, Nevada has issued some renderings of its planned arena for the Silver Knights (what the Vegas Golden Knights‘ farm team will apparently be called, which, okay), and I gotta say, they are seriously lacking in batshittery. Long-distance images of generic fans, with no lens flare or fireworks or Mitch Moreland? Okay, there’s a giant statue of a knight and one fan raising his hands in the air in the parking lot for no particular reason, but step up your game, Henderson, America needs entertainment, or else we’ll have to start pretending that our game consoles are hockey arenas!
  • Speaking of long-term vs. short-term thinking, people who want to own major-league (or minor-league) sports teams are lobbing plenty of lowball offers, but aren’t getting many takers.
  • Here’s an article about how college football teams will only let you into games if you’re old or rich, which seems about right for America.
  • Wait, there was a baseball stadium named after Marge Schott? Who ever thought that was a good idea?

Yeah, good thing MLB didn’t go ahead with that plan to play all its games in Arizona

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said yesterday that he was “100%” sure there will be a baseball season of some kind in 2020, which reminded me of ESPN’s vow six weeks ago that “There will be MLB in 2020. It’s just a matter of when, where and how.” At the time ESPN declared the league’s best option to be gathering all 30 teams together in a virus-free bubble in Arizona, which how would that be working out about now?

Experts around the country and in Arizona are raising alarms about the state’s COVID-19 situation because cases and hospitalizations have increased for the past two weeks…

Dr. Kacey Ernst, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Arizona, said all signs seem to point to the increasing transmission of the disease. Increased testing could explain increased cases, but not increased hospitalizations, she said. Arizona does appear to be increasing more than other states, she said.

The situation is “very concerning,” she said.

“If we continue on this trajectory and it is not just due to one or two localized outbreaks, then we may need to gear up for increasing action,” Ernst said in an email. “The director of ADHS has declared all hospitals should activate their emergency plans. That should tell us all something.”

Okay, then! Whoever had Arizona in the “Which state will be first to go on second-wave re-lockdown?” pool, your odds are looking pretty good right now.

(And no, it’s not just the Navajo Nation communities in the northeast of the state that are responsible, which was the first thing I wondered. Check out these charts.)

Arizona is not the only state, of course, seeing an uptick in reported cases (and hospitalizations, which as Ernst notes can’t be a mere artifact of increased testing). Twenty-one states are seeing rising caseloads, and many are seeing rising hospitalization rates as well: North Carolina hit a record number of hospitalizations on Tuesday (though the state’s Johns Hopkins numbers as reported at 91-DIVOC appear to be broken, so there’s no way to tell if it was a record number of new hospitalizations or just lots of folks still lingering in Covid units) and there are concerns about Florida as well, where according to 91-DIVOC figures new hospitalizations are running steady at best, and that’s before we see any impact of the state allowing bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and concert venues to reopen at 50% capacity starting last Friday.

And Florida’s microbial future is particularly interesting because it’s apparently set to get one major mass attendance event this summer, and likely not at no 50% capacity, either:

President Donald Trump is poised to announce the city where he will accept his nomination for a second term as early as Thursday, with Jacksonville, Florida, emerging as one of the leading final contenders, two GOP officials close to the matter tell CNN…

The scramble to find a new home for the convention comes after tense negotiations between Republican officials and officials from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s office broke down last week. Trump, over the last two weeks, started to target Cooper because he refused to lift social distancing guidelines and allow massive crowds inside the host arena, a strategy that Republicans have said looks to turn the Democratic governor into a scapegoat should the convention not be able to go off as planned due to coronavirus.

Trump is ditching North Carolina because he doesn’t want to subject conventioneers to social distancing, according to the New York Times; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said that social distancing is key to allowing reopening to work, so this is gonna be interesting to see how it plays out. Oh, and also mask-wearing — DeSantis this week blamed an uptick in new cases on people not wearing masks right, something he’s admittedly an expert on, and which Trump famously has lots of feels on himself.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that Trump is less trying to shop around for a social-distancing-free venue like a latter-day Jerry Reinsdorf than just trying to punish North Carolina’s governor for being a Democrat, in which case, mission accomplished, I guess? Unless Florida is in the midst of a second-wave outbreak by August, which could make holding a convention in a packed arena in Jacksonville kind of awkward. Maybe Trump can give his acceptance speech to a hall full of stuffed animals instead.