Friday roundup: St. Louis moves ahead on $51m in MLS subsidies, minor-league cities react to MLB annihilation plan, plus stadium traffic notes from all over

Getting a late start today, so let’s just pretend I had something witty and informative to say in this intro paragraph and get on with the weekly news roundup:

  • The city of St. Louis has officially requested $30 million in state tax credits for the planned $250 million stadium for its expansion MLS team, on top of $21 million from three special taxing districts that will go to the team — all stuff we pretty much knew back in August, but now the paperwork is all being done. Anyway, the state credits are expected to be voted on a week from Tuesday, so if you want to yell at your local elected officials about this, get on the ball!
  • Noah Frank of WTOP has taken a long look at what MLB’s minor-league contraction plan will mean for teams and cities on the chopping block, and it’s not pretty: The Frederick Keys owners are “gobsmacked” to be on the hit list after leading the Carolina League in attendance in 2019, while the Erie SeaWolves got $12 million in stadium improvements last year and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies $5.1 million, and both could see their teams vaporized after 2020. Frank also notes (citing J.J. Cooper of Baseball America, who was the first to uncover this plan) that MLB’s claims that it spends $500 million annually on minor league players is more than a bit disingenuous, since that includes $416.5 million a year in draft bonuses and international signing bonuses that would continue under any contraction plan — the players who’d be cut would be the cheap ones at the end of the draft, so really MLB would only save chump change in this deal.
  • Add New York Congressional Rep. Max Rose (whose district includes the targeted Staten Island Yankees) and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (whose state includes the targeted Connecticut Tigers) to the list of elected officials griping about the minor-league contraction plan, not that it’ll do much good unless it threatens MLB’s antitrust exemption. (Rose has a say on that, Lamont none at all.)
  • The California Air Resources Board has okayed the Los Angeles Clippers‘ arena plan’s greenhouse-gas-mitigation plan, saying installing install 1,330 electric vehicle chargers, adding 93 bike parking spaces, buying two electric buses and 10 electric vehicles for they city, and planting 1,000 trees is enough of a measure to reduce carbon output from fans going to the games. (A Natural Resources Defense Council attorney called the measures “pretty much a joke,” noting that most fans will still choose to drive to games as usual.) Once signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the approval means all environmental lawsuits against the project need to be resolved in nine months, which would be more significant if the two main lawsuits still outstanding against the arena had anything to do with environmental impact.
  • A $200 million highway project to make it easier to drive to the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium won’t have its first piece open until 2021, a year after the stadium opens, and won’t be complete until 2024. Meanwhile, if you’re thinking, “Wait, Nevada is spending $200 million on highway improvements on top of $750 million for the stadium?”, rest assured that the Las Vegas Review-Journal says, “The project was in the works even before the Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas was whispered about, and it does not create any additional fiscal impact on the state Department of Transportation. But the timeline was accelerated once the $2 billion stadium, near I-15 and Russell Road, became a reality.” And spending money now doesn’t cost any more than spending money later, right? (Also, guess Nevada doesn’t have any laws about trying to reduce the number of cars on roads, huh?)
  • In related (and better?) new, those broken roof support bolts in the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium aren’t actually flawed, they were just overtightened, according to team officials. This project gets more and more like assembling an Ikea cabinet every day.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals suck and no one wants to see them play, and the Atlanta Falcons suck and no one wants to see them play. Apparently we’re going to spend the rest of our lives looking at photos of half-empty stadiums and noting that fans don’t like to watch their teams lose; somewhere Red Barber is looking down and thinking that he was born 50 years too soon.
  • It’s rare that we get a report of how much it costs for local government to provide emergency services for a sports venue (something that would normally be paid for by property taxes, except that most stadiums and arenas don’t pay property taxes thanks to being publicly owned), so it’s interesting to see that the Palm Springs fire and police departments say they’ll need nearly $20 million in new equipment and $3.6 million a year in operating costs to cover services for the city’s planned minor-league hockey arena — sure, it’s their own estimates and they have an incentive to ask for as much as possible, but still it’s probably within an order of magnitude of reality.
  • Here’s a Forbes unpaid contributor article about stadium innovations of 2019 that starts by claiming that private sports venue funding causes “ticket and associated prices” to climb, hurting fans. This is completely wrong in terms of both empirical data and economic theory — does anyone really think that owners with subsidized stadiums pull back on raising ticket prices as much as the market will bear, just because they already have someone else footing their construction tab? — and so I stopped reading there, but if you want to plod ahead to the end, it’s your funeral.
  • The $290 million Calgary Flames arena-subsidy deal is finally signed off on, so forget all your fantasies of taking the money and using it for transit and housing instead.
  • Now that the Los Angeles Angels won’t be moving to Long Beach, the city of Long Beach needs to figure out what to do with the proposed stadium site that was way too small for a stadium anyway, say city officials. And so do development plans spring fully formed from rotting meat.

The vaportecture artists just aren’t even trying anymore, man

We’ve been over a lot of bad stadium renderings on this site — stadiums with two sports being played at once, stadiums with people walking on snow-covered ice rinks in street shoes, stadiums where fans stare at trees. But this latest from the Worcester Red Sox (previous home of the tree starer), just come on:

What… what is even happening here? At first glance, it looks like the WooSox are proposing a stadium where all of the seating is in the outfield, the better to protect fans from the horrific sight of 30-foot-tall toddlers rampaging across the infield. Or it’s possible that’s some kind of baseball-field-themed play park out in the outfield behind the scoreboard — this image suggests maybe that’s the case — but even so, the people walking on it are wildly out of scale, even with each other, and also there appears to be nothing stopping them from just tumbling onto the real field in the background. I’m also not sure what purpose those frosted-glass turnstiles are supposed to serve, or what happened to the feet (or eyes, nose, and mouth) of that poor woman in the foreground. It’s like someone was left in the rendering room with a bunch of Colorforms and no supervision, and then the results were sent directly to the press.

Then there’s this, which MassLive helpfully captioned “Polar Park will offer a berm seating location the left centerfield”:

From the other images, I’m guessing that’s supposed to be a grassy slope with the outfield wall at the bottom, a wall that’s made up of some kind of blue rocks topped with a divider from Atari Adventure.

Of course, it’s always possible that the MassLive caption editors are trolling us, when you consider that this image is captioned “The Summit Street Fair located in Polar Park will offer year-round and nightly activities for patrons visiting the area in Worcester”:

Look, we all know that renderers are overworked by clients with no particular interest in quality control, so I’m willing to cut them some slack here. But why on earth did MassLive choose to run all of these horrific images, under the uncritical (if possibly trolly, everything starts to look possibly sarcastic if you stare at it long enough) headline “New Polar Park details include a heart-shaped clock, smiley foul poles and year-round nightlife”? (Yes, I didn’t even get to the smiley-face-topped foul poles.) Is this the dystopian future we now live in, where everyone just sighs and does whatever the money people ask for, while hoping that readers will be smart enough to laugh instead of taking it seriously? Do they even care if people take it seriously, so long as the checks clear? I think we may finally have arrived at that Hobbesian grift of all against all that we’ve been waiting for, people.

Friday roundup: Tax money for A’s “privately funded” stadium, ticket prices to blame for MLB attendance drop, and USL stadiums for everybody!

Running late after staying up reading that damn Rams/Chargers article, so going to have to rush through the week’s remaining news a bit. I’m sure you all will add the requisite snarky remarks in comments:

Friday roundup: Developers pay locals $25 each to hold pro-arena signs, a smoking and farting winged horse team logo, and do you even need a third thing after those two?

It’s been another week of pretty bad news, topped off by a private equity firm somehow buying the entirety of .org domains, meaning every nonprofit website will now have to be licensed from an entity whose sole mission is to squeeze as much money from them as possible. The stadium and arena news, by contrast, isn’t all terrible, so maybe it qualifies as cheery? You be the judge:

  • The Richmond city council voted Tuesday to put off a decision on a $1.5 billion downtown development that would include a new arena (public cost: $350 million), after a contentious hearing where both supporters and opponents held signs espousing their opinions. Or espousing somebody’s opinions, anyway: Some locals holding “yes” signs later reported that the project’s developers paid them $25 a pop to do so. City council president Michelle Mosby replied that if anything people were just reimbursed gas money, which 1) only makes sense if everyone there drove their own car and had to travel like 250 miles round trip to get to the hearing and 2) isn’t really any less corrosive of democracy anyway.
  • If you’ve been wondering how Inter Miami plans to build a temporary 18,000-seat stadium in Fort Lauderdale (later to be turned into a practice field) between now and March and figured it would have to involve throwing up a bunch of cheap metal bleachers, now there’s video of construction workers doing exactly that. Also laying down the sod for the field, which I thought usually takes place after the stadium is more or less built, but I guess if they can build the stadium without treading on the field, no harm in doing so now. This all raises questions of whether the stadium will feel excessively crappy, and if not why more soccer teams can’t just build cheap quickie stadiums like this without the need for public money; I guess we’ll know the answer by springtime one way or another.
  • When the state of Minnesota agreed to pay for the Vikings‘ new stadium with cigarette revenue after electronic pulltab gambling money didn’t come in as expected, it still kept collecting the gambling cash; and now that e-pulltabs (which are just lottery tickets, only on a tablet) have taken off, there’s debate over what to do with the cash that the state is collecting, about $5 million this year but projected to rise to $51 million by 2023. The Vikings owners want the money used to pay off their stadium debt early, while some lawmakers would like to use the revenue to fund other projects or reduce taxes on charitable gambling institutions now that it’s no longer needed — all are valid options, but it’s important to remember that the state already paid for most of the stadium, this is just arguing over what to do with the zombie tax that was left over after the financing plan was changed. (It would also be nice to know if e-pulltab gambling has cannibalized revenues from other gambling options, thus making this less of a windfall, but modern journalists have no time for such trivialities.)
  • The city of Wichita is spending $77 million (plus free land) on a Triple-A baseball stadium to steal the Baby Cakes from New Orleans, and have been rewarded with the Wichita Wind Surge, a name that’s supposed to reference the city’s aviation history or something but actually means “storm surge,” which isn’t a thing that they have in landlocked Kansas? It also features a logo that looks like a horse and a fly got caught in a transporter accident, which the team’s designer explained with “The nice thing about Pegasus, however, to me, was the fact that it’s got a horse in there.” A local designer responded with a sketch of a winged horse smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer, and farting, which by all accounts is much more popular with Wichitans. (The sketch is, I mean, though I’d love to see a poll asking Wichitans, “Which do you prefer, the name Wichita Wind Surge or farting?”)
  • San Diego State University’s plan to buy the city’s old football stadium and its surrounding land for $87.7 million has hit some “speed bumps,” namely that city economists have determined that the price could be below the land’s market value and $10 million of the sale price would have to be set aside for infrastructure improvements for the university’s development. “There’s also the matter of the $1-per-month lease that, as proposed, may not adequately protect the city from expenses or legal risk,” notes the San Diego Union-Tribune. Given all these uncertainties, the city’s independent budget analyst called SDSU’s proposed March 27 deadline “very challenging,” not that that’s stopped city councils before.
  • Saskatoon has enough room under its debt limit to finance either a new central library or a new sports arena, and regardless of what you think of how badly Saskatooners need a new library, it’s still a pretty strong example of how opportunity costs work.
  • The Phoenix Suns‘ new practice facility being built with the help of public money will include a golf simulator for players, because of course it will.
  • Speaking of Phoenix, the Arizona Republic has revealed what the Diamondbacks owners want in a new stadium; the original article is paywalled, but for once Ballpark Digest‘s propensity for just straight-up paraphrasing other sites’ reporting comes in handy, revealing that team owners want a 36,000-  to 42,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof and surrounded by a 45- to 70-acre mixed-use development and a 5,000-seat concert venue and good public transit and full control of naming-rights revenue and public cost-sharing on ballpark repairs. And a pony.
  • Will Raiders football hike your home value?” asks the Nevada Current, apparently because “Is the moon made of green cheese?” had already been taken.
  • And last but certainly not least, your weekly vaportecture roundup: The New Orleans Saints‘ $450 million renovation of the Superdome (two-thirds paid for by taxpayers) will include field-level open-air end zone spaces where fans have ample room enjoy rendered people’s propensity for flinging their arms in the air! The new Halifax Schooners stadium designs lack the woman hailing a cab and players playing two different sports at once from previous renderings, but do seem to still allow fans to just wander onto the field if they want! It should come as no surprise to anyone that even Chuck D can do a better job of drawing than this.

Friday roundup: Oakland opens A’s land sale talks, Clippers arena down to two lawsuits, plus video vaportecture!

I know it’s not Deadspin — nothing is, or ever will be again, though we can dream — or even sports, but I have an article up at City Limits this week about another big-money public construction project that seems to be proceeding despite no one quite knowing how it will work or how it will be paid for. It’s probably only a matter of time before sports team owners figure out a way to do promote new stadiums as worthy of climate resilience funding, especially since local governments are already showing themselves willing to spend climate money poorly to benefit rich people.

Anyway, oodles of bonus news this week, plus more vaportecture, so let’s get to it:

  • The city of Oakland is starting talks with the A’s owners about selling the city’s half of the Oakland Coliseum property to the team for development — with the proceeds to be used to build a new stadium on the Oakland waterfront — but still hasn’t dropped its lawsuit against Alameda County for agreeing to sell its share to the A’s without consulting the city. Meanwhile, here’s an article by the mayor of Oakland about how baseball and port operations are both good things, let’s find a way to make them both work together!
  • The Federal Aviation Administration has ruled that the proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena in Inglewood poses no danger to aviation at nearby Los Angeles International Airport, and a judge has dismissed claims that the city was required to seek affordable housing uses for the site first. But the project still faces two more lawsuits over how Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was granted the land and whether the city illegally evaded open-meetings laws, so we could yet be here a while.
  • Paterson, New Jersey is asking the state Economic Development Authority for $50 million in tax credits to use on a $76 million project redevelopment of Hinchliffe Stadium, a crumbling (this term is way overused, but it’s actually crumbling) former Negro League stadium, into “a 7,800-seat athletic facility, with a 314-space parking garage, restaurant with museum exhibits dedicated to Negro League baseball, 75-unit apartment building for senior citizens and a 5,800-square-foot childcare facility.” The rest of the article doesn’t explain much about what the renovation will look like or how the money will be spent or who will collect revenues from the new facility or anything, but it does include Mayor André Sayegh opining that you could “have a big concert there. Boxing. Wrestling. It could all happen there,” and Councilmember Michael Jackson countering that “to spend money on this project is senseless” since it will only create maybe 50 jobs. Feel free to take sides!
  • The Arena Football League has suspended operationsagain — after getting sued for nonpayment by its former insurance company, but “may become a traveling league, similar to the Premier Lacrosse League, whereby all players practice in a centralized location and fly to a different city each weekend to play games.”
  • Nashville S.C.‘s MLS stadium is now on hold, with Mayor John Cooper suspending demolition to clear the site, amid a lawsuit charging that the project and its $75 million in public cash were approved improperly and will interfere with the annual Tennessee state fair. The Tennessee Tribune writes that “it’s only a matter of time before the MLS soccer stadium contracts will be voided and put out to bid again”; I am not a lawyer, but then, neither are the Tribune’s journalists, so we’ll see.
  • If you want to rent office space in the Texas Rangers‘ old stadium for some reason, you now can! Just realize that it won’t be air-conditioned when you go outside.
  • The Minnesota Vikings‘ stadium is killing more than a hundred birds a year, but other buildings kill even more birds, which means the Vikings clearly need a more state-of-the-art bird-killing building, that’s how this works, right?
  • Here’s a photo of how the new Los Angeles Rams (and Chargers) stadium looks in its current state of construction, and if you think that the “vertical design” will make it feel “intimate.” then you agree with one Rams fan! Another fan, who was sitting in the fourth row of seats behind the end zone, remarked, “I kind of expected the field (area) to be much larger, to take you away from the experience. But you’re going to be right in the game.” Two takeaways: There are reasons why teams never invite fans to sit in the cheap seats to see what the view will be like from there, and American sports fans really aren’t great with geometry.
  • Calgary is looking at cutting wages for city employees to balance its budget, and one local economist thinks maybe not building the Flames a new arena would be a better idea.
  • The five-county sales tax surcharge that paid for the Milwaukee Brewers‘ Miller Park is finally set to phase out in January, after 23 years and $577 million. This is not so good news if you’re upset about Wisconsin taxpayers spending $577 million to pay for a private sports owner’s baseball stadium, but good news if you were worried that the Brewers or some other sports team might see the sales tax money sitting around and want to propose a new project to spend it on, which is always a worry.
  • The Montreal Canadiens have gotten a reduction in their property tax bill for the fourth time since 2013, even while property valuations elsewhere in the city are soaring. No reason was given, but “they’re major players in the local business community and whined about it a lot” seems like a reasonable theory.
  • Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist John Steigerwald asks about public funding for the Pirates‘ now 18-year-old stadium, “If the Pirates were faced with paying for their ballpark, do you think they might have had more incentive to insist on real revenue sharing and a salary cap before they built it?” Answer: No, rich people have incentive to demand money everywhere they can find it, regardless if they already have money, which Pirates owner Bob Nutting totally does. Next question!
  • I promised you vaportecture, so here’s some vaportecture: a ten-second video of the entryway to the Phoenix Suns arena morphing into a somewhat snazzier entryway now that the city of Phoenix agreed to spend $168 million in renovations in exchange for a few tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations. (Actual quid pro quo not included, but you can picture it easily enough.) Yes, it’s mostly just a bunch of new video boards and some new escalators being enjoyed by a handful of beefy white people, but isn’t that what pro basketball is all about?

Friday roundup: Helicopter rides for rich fans, pricey bridge prices, and why Deadspin mattered

In case anyone hasn’t been following this week’s Deadspin drama, pretty much the entire staff has resigned over the past two days, following Tuesday’s decision by CEO Jim Spanfeller to fire acting editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky because the staff had responded to Spanfeller’s edict to “stick to sports” by posting a ton of excellent non-sports content. A few last posts have gone up the last couple of days, some to burn off features that were already scheduled to run and some to take classically Deadspinesque digs at management for burning down a popular website seemingly out of spite for continuing to do exactly what it had been doing for years before they bought it.

This is very bad news for journalism and America and humanity, and not only if you, like me, will miss the site’s potshots at our Big Wet President. There’s a popular notion that sports is just a fun diversion where the “outside world” of politics has no place — and that, as I hope the entire 21-year history of this site has made abundantly clear, is an extremely dangerous notion, because it means that concerns over what taxpayers are being charged for places to play sports or what athletes are being paid to play sports or who is allowed to speak out on what issues involving sports are dismissed with a Can’t we just watch the game? But games are serious — and lucrative — business, and can’t be divorced from the greater culture, any more than we should be just watching movies as pure entertainment without attention to the bigger issues involved. Deadspin was dedicated to erasing those lines and allowing its writers to address whatever they felt needed addressing at the moment, whether it was the meaning of who you’re seen sitting with at a football game or what we’re getting stuck in our rectums each year, and until and unless a successor emerges to pick up the torch, the world will be a sadder, dumber place.

(Already yesterday I read about Josh Hamilton’s arrest after his daughter said he threw a chair at her — a phrasing I owe to this excellent Deadspin non-sports article, incidentally — and wished I could read Deadspin’s analysis of it. Then I read about John Wetteland’s arrest for reportedly sexually assaulting a four-year-old child, and thought I wonder if maybe men’s sports should just be banned altogether at this point given the kind of behavior it encourages and realized Deadspin was probably my best bet for reading that take, too. It’s going to be a long however many weeks or months until something arises from Deadspin’s ashes, if that ever happens.)

Anyway, on to the weekly muddling of sports and politics:

  • The Indiana Pacers‘ arena will still be named after the bank that stopping paying for naming rights in June until the team has found a new naming-rights sponsor, which seems weird at first but actually makes total sense: It costs money to change the signage so why do it twice, and also the value of naming rights goes down with each new iteration of a corporate moniker that dilutes the name’s image for the public — quick, tell me what the Oakland Coliseum’s official name is these days — so calling it “Pacers Arena” or whatever for a few months might get fans to start calling it that permanently, and we can’t have that. And if you’re wondering why the Pacers get to sell naming rights to a building that was built entirely with public dollars and is owned by the public: It’s Indianapolis, Jake.
  • St. Louis’s new MLS stadium finally has a site picked out — Market Street near Union Station, if you’re scoring at home — and new renderings as well, though they look pretty much like the old renderings except for the one that is just a closeup of a kid riding on his parent’s (?) shoulders. The state of Missouri has received approval to sell 22 acres of land for the stadium to the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, which will then lease it to the MLS team for … oh, that doesn’t seem to have been reported. Just look at the pretty pictures and don’t worry your head about that nasty money business.
  • A public city database in Atlanta is indicating that the city’s $23 million pedestrian bridge for the Falcons actually cost $41.7 million, but the city insists it’s really just that they entered the same checks multiple times. I’m not sure “spent $23 million on a pedestrian bridge for a football team and also can’t do basic bookkeeping” looks much better, honestly.
  • The San Antonio Spurs — whose mascot is for some reason a kangaroo, is that a kangaroo? — have installed four new helipads so that fans can buy helicopter rides to games, which really tells you everything you need to know about 1) who sports teams are interested in marketing to these days and 2) just how ridiculously much money rich people in America have to burn these days.
  • Fresno FC owner Ray Beshoff has declared he “will almost certainly be relocating the team” because he hasn’t been provided with a new soccer-only stadium, unless “in the next two or three weeks if people come to the table with ideas or suggestions that we think are tenable.” This will come as a huge shock to fans who’ve been dedicated followers of the USL team since (looks up team on Wikipedia) March of 2018.
  • The San Francisco 49ers are raising ticket prices by 13% but giving season ticket holders free food and soda, which I guess means 49ers fans will be spending most of games from now on pigging out on all-you-can-eat nachos instead of watching the action on the field. Also, you can’t get the free food if you buy tickets on the secondary market, only if you’re the original season ticket holder. Or, I guess, borrow the season ticket holder’s free-food card? Or have a season ticket holder go up to the counter for you and get your nachos? I don’t live anywhere near Santa Clara and hate football, but I am very excited at seeing how fans figure out how to game this system.
  • Still nobody is sure which minor-league teams MLB will threaten to eliminate as part of its plan to restrict minor-league affiliates, or what criteria MLB will use for deciding who shall live and who shall die or whether MLB is even serious or just trying to scare minor-league players into not demanding they be paid minimum wage. I really should write about this for Deadsp — crap.
  • It rained at the Buffalo Bills game last weekend, so a local country music station ran a poll asking listeners: “Would you be in favor of a roof stadium or no?” Not included: any mention of what a roof would cost, or what WYRK has against the word “roofed.”
  • The corporate newspaper that helped gut a free daily by selling it to people who immediately laid off most of the editorial staff ran an article this week asking if the new New York Islanders arena will make it harder for the nearby Nassau Coliseum to draw events, but I’m not going to link to a union-busting-enabling outlet that put the article behind a paywall anyway, so let me just answer the question here: Duh, yes!
  • A former assistant to Inglewood Mayor James Butts has changed her testimony in the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Clippers‘ proposed arena, and Inglewood officials are asking that her revised testimony be rejected because they say she’s in “cahoots” with Madison Square Garden, which opposes the arena because it doesn’t want competition for its own arena nearby. Elephants, man.
  • The DreamHouse New Mexico Bowl has been canceled, because alleged film production company and title sponsor DreamHouse turns out not to exist, but rather to be a scam perpetrated by “a relentless self promoter who lies about nearly everything he says he does.”
  • A giant water droplet named Wendy has made a video suggesting that Washington’s NFL team should move back within city limits. Sorry, Sean Doolittle, this is actually the most 2019 Washington thing ever.
  • The Sunshine Coast Pickleball Association is seeking funding from the city of Sechelt for a new pickleball stadium. I don’t actually know where Sechelt is and am only dimly aware of what pickleball is, and I’m not going to ruin the perfect sentence above by looking either thing up.

Deadspin editor fired for thinking politics has anything to do with sports

So I was hoping that today I’d be posting about my latest Deadspin article that I filed last week, which is about a topic that FoS readers are particularly passionate about, but that’s probably not going to happen now that my editor was just fired:

If you want to read the whole background of the “stick-to-sports” edict, you can start with this article yesterday from the Daily Beast, though really you should go back to Megan Greenwell’s farewell post as editor-in-chief where she laid out how, as she put it, “the tragedy of digital media isn’t that it’s run by ruthless, profiteering guys in ill-fitting suits; it’s that the people posing as the experts know less about how to make money than their employees, to whom they won’t listen.” (Petchesky wasn’t even editor-in-chief of Deadspin when he was fired; he was just the interim fill-in after Greenwell’s departure.) But if you’ve ever read Deadspin, you’ll know that its entire raison d’etre is the notion that sports and culture and politics and everything else are one big glorious mess, and while sports is the site’s bread-and-butter, digressing occasionally to write about the propriety of hanging out at football games with war criminals or even bizarrely aspirational gift catalogues is all part of the attraction.

I don’t have the slightest idea what happens to Deadspin now — whoever’s next in line to be interim EIC undoubtedly would be at least as hostile as Barry to the “stick to sports” edict, which I guess could lead to a long series of Deadspinners stepping into the role only to be fired in turn, a la the Wobblies’ free speech protests. There’s a good chance there will be unfair labor practice charges, and almost certainly more fights over the private equity takeover of American media. There is almost zero chance that it will mean good things for the future of Deadspin, or of reporting that does political analysis of sports. If you’re a sports owner who depends on doing business beyond the reach of journalistic scrutiny, your job just got a little easier today.

Friday roundup: Ex-D.C. mayor says his $534m Nats stadium expense was worth it, Clippers arena stymied by car trouble, MLS franchise fees to go even higher

Shouldn’t posting items more regularly during the week leave less news to round up on Fridays? I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s supposed to work, but here I am on Friday with even more browser tabs open than usual, and I’m sure someone is still going to complain that I left out, say, the latest on arena site discussions in Saskatoon. I guess lemme type really fast and see how many I can get through before my fingers fall off:

 

D.C. and Houston both predict World Series windfall from visitors from opposing city, what could possibly be wrong with this logic?

With the World Series underway, Washington, D.C.’s tourist bureau has estimated that the city will see a $6.5 million windfall from hosting games, partly from added Nationals fan spending and partly from spending by visiting Houston Astros fans:

“We are going to be welcoming business that we would not have without the World Series here,” McClain said. “You can really feel the excitement throughout the city, whether you are watching with folks at local restaurants and bars or just walking down the street seeing all the Washington Nationals gear that people are wearing.”…

“New York is closer, and so people can make that decision to come to D.C. closer to the times of the games. … If it’s Houston, it’s really just a distance thing, in terms of people having to take flights here, and so that just becomes a little bit more limiting in terms of the visitation estimate,” McClain said.

Houston, meanwhile, is excited for the $9 million windfall that the Greater Houston Partnership estimates the city will receive thanks to visiting Nationals fans:

“It’s wonderful hosting the World Series because it gives us an opportunity to show businesses and people outside of Houston what a great place this is,” Jankowski said. “It gives an image of a winning team, a winning season and enthusiastic sports fans. Houston needs images like that — not the images we saw with [Tropical Depression Imelda].”

Okay, so here’s the thing about baseball games — in fact, about all sporting events: Only one of the two teams can be the home team. Depending on how long the World Series goes, Houston will host from two to four home games, and Washington from two to three; and each time fans from one city travel to the other, they leave their home city. So while there may be an influx of big-spending Washington fans in Houston for tonight’s Game 2, there will be that many fewer people spending money in Washington tonight (and, perhaps more the point, that many more Washingtonians returning to town tomorrow with drained bank accounts); and vice versa for Friday’s Game 3 in Washington. “Let’s boost our local economies by first us sending you a bunch of our fans and then you send us a bunch of your fans!” sounds more like a design for a perpetual motion machine than a legitimate economic argument.

There is some positive impact from a World Series game, obviously: A few locals probably do increase their spending somewhat instead of just reducing their other entertainment spending by the same amount, and there are visiting media crews and whatnot who rent hotel rooms and eat dinner the same as baseball fans do. But the numbers are fairly marginal: A 2005 study by economists Victor Matheson and Robert Baade determined that “any increase in economic growth as a result of the post-season is not statistically significantly different than zero,” though they also guesstimated the economic impact at $6.8 million per home game, which is actually quite a bit more than the D.C. and Houston studies are promising.

I just got off the phone with Matheson, who says that the issue is the $6.8 million figure wasn’t statistically significant, so “the answer could be zero,” or could be more. He added that any actual positive impact could come in the form of fans traveling into the city from the suburbs to see games — “you want to be in a Houston sports bar rather than a Galveston sports bar to watch the game” — or from, say, expatriate Astros or Nats fans driving down from Philadelphia to D.C. for games and bringing their spending with them. So the ultimate economic activity numbers being put forward by the D.C. and Houston groups may not be too far off, even if their explanation of them is kind of nutty.

In any event, though, that’s all “economic activity,” which Matheson once memorably defined to me as: “Imagine an airplane landing at an airport and everyone gets out and gives each other a million bucks, then gets back on the plane. That’s $200 million in economic activity, but it’s not any benefit to the local economy.” So really the lesson here for journalists and sports page readers alike is twofold: Take the claims of tourism booster agencies with an enormous grain of salt, and always ask what the tax revenue impact will be, not just the economic activity impact. Or just use your basic brain skills and understand that you can’t make two glasses of water more full by pouring them back and forth into each other, and you can save time on reading news coverage at all.

Sacramento is finally granted MLS team, local paper unleashes stored-up flood of soccer metaphors

Sacramento Republic F.C. was officially designated as MLS’s 29th franchise yesterday, and if you were hoping this would unleash a torrent of bad sports plays-on-words in the local media, the Sacramento Bee has got you covered:

Goal! Sacramento is officially a Major League Soccer city

It took years to line up the kick. But Sacramento has scored. It’s now a Major League Soccer city.

…and so on.

Aside from this kind of stuff being the journalism equivalent of dad jokes, it’s also really dangerous for the way it conflates sports fandom (rooting uncritically for your team) with sports business reportage (informing readers about how industry decisions affect them and their pocketbooks). If landing an MLS team is like scoring a goal, then the appropriate response is to throw your hands in the air and cheer, and maybe taking off your pants and putting them on your head, not to ask questions about what the costs and benefits will be of the deal to land the team.

That deal, which involves $33 million in public subsidies plus some free billboards, finally shows up way down in the 28th and 29th paragraphs of the article. The 30th and 31st paragraphs are about how the Sacramento city council may end up fronting the money to the team and letting team owner Ron Burkle “repay” it with his own future property taxes on adjacent development, instead of having to wait and skim off the property taxes himself later — at least I think that’s what they’re about, as the way it’s written (the new “development would produce new property tax revenues that could be used to supplement Burkle’s loan repayments to the city”) doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but if you’ve scrolled down this far in the article you’ve probably lost track of anything other than “Wooo! Soccer!” anyway.

This still isn’t the most egregious misplaced sports metaphor headline — that record is still held by the Hartford Courant, for headlining a plan to build a publicly funded stadium to lure the New England Patriots to town with the single word “Touchdown!” — but it’s pretty bad, and also pretty commonplace. There are reasons why news outlets treat sports as the “toy department,” but that doesn’t make it any less aggravating to watch.