Friday roundup: OKC Thunder want their subsidies sooner, Indy Eleven want theirs later, let me repeat back your orders to make sure I have it right

I’ve already thanked everyone individually, but I’d like to give a collective shoutout to all the readers who signed up as FoS Supporters this membership cycle. The money you send translates directly into time I can spend covering stadium and arena news for you, and I remain extremely heartened by your support. If you sent me your mailing address, your magnets should be en route; if you didn’t, send me your mailing address already, these magnets aren’t going to ship themselves!

And speaking of covering stadium and arena news, let’s cover some stadium and arena news, why don’t we:

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Friday roundup: Jacksonville doubles down on $200m+ Jaguars subsidy, MSG replacement vaportectured, Norfolk arena sabers rattled

So, yeah, some stuff happened this week, and is continuing to happen now. But let’s not let rampaging Viking cosplayers distract us from the fact that the new year has also brought a resurgence in sports subsidy activity, with a whole lot of news that normally I might write individual posts about if I hadn’t been up too late refreshing Google News, so instead you’ll have to bear with me through some long bullet points:

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Jacksonville councilmember: We can’t demand Jaguars lease extension for Lot J approval, or how will they hold us up for more subsidies later?


Let’s take a break from trying to make sense of whatever the hell is going on here and instead look forward to the future. Namely, to later today, when the Jacksonville city council gets set to hold its first vote on Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s proposal for a massive development on his team’s stadium’s Lot J. The Lot J plan, you will recall, would require more than $200 million in city cash, interest-free loans, and tax breaks, but never fear! Some council members are proposing amendments!

City Council member Ron Salem said Wednesday he has worked with the Jaguars on an amendment saying that if the team were to leave Jacksonville before 2034 and Khan’s affiliate Gecko Investments sold its stake in the Lot J development, the city would get 50 percent of the proceeds from such a sale.

Salem said the amendment responds to concerns he’s heard that the Lot J deal should come with an extension of the Jaguars lease for TIAA Bank Field, which currently runs through 2030.

Ummmm, that doesn’t actually respond to those concerns at all, does it? The team could still leave Jacksonville, and so long as Khan held on to his stake in the development, the city would be squat out of luck. Not to mention that it would only cover an additional four years past the end of the existing lease. If the issue is wanting Khan to promise to keep the team in town for longer, why not, you know, make that part of the deal?

He said it’s not realistic to link the lease extension to Lot J because the city and the Jaguars will be talking in the coming years about TIAA Bank Field renovations and the lease extension will be tied to stadium improvements.

I mean. This is really quite something. We’ve seen local elected officials carry water for sports team owners before — lord, have we seen that — but I can’t remember a time previously when one has said, we can’t demand concessions from the local sports baron, because then what will he have left to trade with us when he comes back for more cash? Even if you give Councilmember Salem the benefit of the doubt and think what he really meant was Khan won’t agree to a lease extension now because he’s waiting to use it for Round Two, that’s still pretty remarkable, given that the council is totally within its rights to just sit on its hands and not approve anything until it gets what it wants.

There are other amendments on the table as well:

  • Council president Tommy Hazouri has proposed removing the city’s $65.5 million no-interest loan from the financing plan, which the Florida Times-Union reports “would drop the city’s total commitment to $167.5 million,” though if you look at the numbers the subsidy could still be close to $200 million even without the loan.
  • Hazouri and councilmember Randy DeFoor have proposed an amendment requiring that if the Jaguars leave Jacksonville, Khan would have to pay “liquifidated damages” (no, that’s not a word) of up to $152 million, though that figure would decline over time.
  • Councilmember Rory Diamond is seeking to prevent any city officials involved in the Lot J deal from going to work for Khan or his partners for five years after leaving their city jobs; current “revolving door” laws only prohibit jumping to companies you’ve voted to aid for a span of two years.

Today’s vote is just a committee vote to move the proposal to the floor of the full council, but because it’s the “committee of the whole,” everyone on the council will be voting, so it’ll be a good litmus test of how Tuesday’s final vote will go, if it happens. It’s possible that today’s vote could approve a vote Tuesday but that the one then will fail — Tuesday’s vote, unlike today’s, will require a supermajority of 13 out of 19 councilmembers since it requires a change to the city capital budget in the middle of the budget year. You can watch today’s hearing, starting at 10 am ET, via Zoom using the login information here. If, you know, you don’t have anything better to pay attention to today.

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Fort Myers considering spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” to turn one of its four baseball stadiums into a baseball stadium

Hum de dum, what do we have this morning? An article from Fox Southwest Florida headlined “Councilman says stadium plans are rushed,” about a sports complex in Fort Myers? That’s not one that was on my radar, let’s see what it has to say:

Pump the breaks.

Oh man, with an opening like that, this could be great! Let’s see where it goes from there.

Councilman Fred Burson introduced the idea of an amateur sports facility to council on November 16th. It would replace City of Palms Park, where the Red Sox had spring training, which is scheduled to get demolished later this year.

The Boston Red Sox indeed had spring training at City of Palms Park, but not since 2011, when they relocated to a new stadium out by the airport. (City of Palms Park was all of 18 years old at that point.) The old facility has mostly served for college baseball since then; Fort Myers has two other stadiums as well, one that hosts the Minnesota Twins for spring training, one that used to host the Philadelphia Athletics, and so should go without saying it’s a bit old, though it’s also being remodeled and currently heavily used for amateur sports.

Just three weeks later City Manager Saeed Kazemi had already recommended a contractor for the project. A process that could take six months. Burson says he thinks it’s all because the city manager doesn’t want a stadium there at all.

Er? No further explanation of why the city manager recommending a contractor would be a move to scuttle stadium plans, unless maybe Kazemi is trying to push for some alternate development plan that could be moved ahead with more quickly? Anyway, Burson said this, so just put it on the station website, that’s how journalism works, I’m almost definitely sure!

Burson wants the facility because he says it’ll bring more revenue to downtown Fort Myers.

“I’m wanting to make it something that will support the businesses, and the hotel industry in Fort Myers, and Lee County,” he said.

You may recall from past economic studies that spring training games themselves provide no measurable economic impact to Florida cities, likely because the number of people who travel to Florida in March just to see spring training is swamped by the number of people who go there because it’s warm and there are beaches, and maybe take in a baseball game while they’re there. It’s maybe possible that amateur sports, which can take place all year, would have more of an economic spinoff … for hotels? Would that many people really travel to Fort Myers just to have their kids play in amateur baseball tournaments? And that many more than would come for tournaments that could be held at the existing four stadiums? A previous article indicated that Burson said that “during the summer, Perfect Game, an amateur baseball organization, hosted tournaments that brought about 32,000 people to the region,” which even if you believe that number seems like maybe they don’t need a new sports complex to draw tournaments, but anyway:

Another hesitation for some – the cost, which Burson says ultimately could have a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I’m not talking about the city spending money to do it. I’m talking about coming up with a plan – a complete plan, and selling it to a development company,” he said.

Hundreds of millions of dollars. For an amateur sports complex. In a city with four baseball stadiums already. But don’t worry, a development company will surely pay for this, because it’s a can’t-lose proposition!

Councilman Johnny Streets said he supports the stadium, but the timing is off.

“Before we just rush into something, I think we need to take care of some of these other items,” he said.

Streets says the stadium should take a backseat to the pandemic and the city’s housing crisis for now. The city manager has not responded to Fox 4’s requests for comment on these claims as of Monday night.

And that’s the end of the article! Does Streets have any idea how to pay for the complex, if he supports it, just not now? Have any development companies expressed interest? Are there any other ideas for ways to use the old ballpark land, even if maybe they won’t bring throngs of high school travel teams and their families beyond the throngs that are already coming to Fort Myers?

So many questions, so few answers, because if Fox Southwest Florida doesn’t have time for copy editing, it really doesn’t have time for making more than two phone calls before writing an article about a project that would put hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. Sorry, three phone calls, there’s that one to the city manager that wasn’t returned. More news on this developing story as it becomes available, though given the state of reporting in southwest Florida, I wouldn’t exactly hold your breath.


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Support Field of Schemes to ward off our dystopian paywalled future

If you read much about the journalism and the people crossing their fingers tight in hopes of it having any kind of future, you’ve probably noticed lots of articles recently on how subscriber-funded newsletters are the wave of the future, with popular writers like Heather Cox Richardson and Matt Yglesias raking in big bucks by signing up thousands of subscribers at $5 a month a pop. You may also have noticed a spate of response articles, warning that requiring journalists to behave like influencers to earn a living maybe does not make for the best journalism, or the best lives for journalists.

I’ve thought several times about either turning FoS into a paid newsletter or adding a separate newsletter in addition to the website, and always rejected it for a bunch of reasons: it’s important to me that the information here continue to be a free resource to everyone from journalists to elected officials to casual sports fans, not be trapped behind a paywall for paid subscribers only; it serves FoS readers better if I write about events as they happen, not send out a text dump once a week; for every Matt Yglesias there are dozens of lesser-known Substackers churning out newsletter after newsletter without making a living wage. This site works well for me as it is, and I hope for you as well, and it seems silly to fix what ain’t broke in search of some payday that may or may not come.

To keep it working, though, I depend on an even weirder business model than paid email newsletters, which can best be summed up as you sending me money for no reason other than you like my work here. Sure, you can get some rewards as well — I still have a nice stock of the new series of refrigerator magnets to send out to anyone who donates even $25 a year, plus funders at the $50 for six months or $100 per year level get to place a rotating ad for absolutely anything they like in the site’s right-hand sidebar. But I’m continually surprised and gratified at how many readers turn down those goodies, saying they just want to support the work that this site has been doing for (gulp) almost 23 years.

So, if you can spare a small slice of your stimulus check, please consider becoming an FoS Supporter (or renewing your supportership) at one of the available levels. I’ve even freshly broken it down for you by cost per month, so you don’t have to do math! Such is the level of customer service I provide here for you, and which I will continue to do until the sun goes dark, doing this becomes financially unsustainable, or sports team owners stop trying to build fancier and fancier playgrounds to boost their own profits by sending the bills to taxpayers. (Not holding my breath for that last one, but we can always hope!)

Thanks, everyone, for your past and future support, and here’s hoping for a better 2021, or at least one with even more absurd vaportecture.



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Thursday roundup: Teams top off 2020 with added public stadium cash, look forward to more of the same in 2021

Welcome to the long-awaited season finale of 2020! What plot twists do you think they have in store for us? I was going to guess some musical numbers, but we already got that earlier in the season, so it’s really anybody’s guess.

One thing never changes year after year, though, even a year filled with unprecedented deaths and huge hits to local government balance sheets, and that’s rich people who own sports teams trying to get public officials to sign large checks to them. How successful were they this week? Let us count the ways:

  • The state of Ohio officially approved $16 million for F.C. Cincinnati‘s new stadium and a $25 million loan to the Columbus Crew for their new stadium, bringing the total public subsidies for those two projects to $97 million and … a loan at 3% interest isn’t actually a significant benefit to the Crew, so that’s probably still around the $98 million it was at before. Both are well short of D.C. United‘s MLS record $183 million in subsidies, but still Ohio taxpayers are looking at some real money here. And don’t forget the Crew owners are still maybe looking for additional tax breaks, so there could be more public costs to come in stoppage time!
  • Elsewhere in MLS, the New York Red Bulls owners may be looking to build a new training facility just seven years after opening their old one (and just expanding it in 2017), either because they need more room or because other teams have glitzier practice fields now, depending on which part of the SB Nation post you want to believe. Team execs have hinted they may be looking at Kearny, the next New Jersey town over from their home stadium in Harrison, but no details yet on where the training center might go or how it would be paid for.
  • Once indoor concerts are a thing again, there could be a short-term boom for venues like Nassau Coliseum that were otherwise having trouble booking shows, notes Newsday, since everybody is going to want to tour at once and everybody can’t play Madison Square Garden at once. The less good news is that this might not take place until 2022; in the meantime, I’m still very eager to see who’s going to get to play on New York City streets this spring and summer, because man oh man do I miss live music.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is allowing the Buffalo Bills to have limited attendance at their home playoff game, and local restaurateurs are griping that they can’t have indoor dining at the same time, even though indoors and outdoors are two different places with two different viral infection rates. (The article also mentions that less than 2% of new infections can be traced to restaurants and bars, apparently based on this spreadsheet released by Cuomo, but since the governor’s office hasn’t revealed whether that’s the percentage of all new infections or just those that can be contact traced — it’s way easier to tell if someone is living with someone who has Covid than if they sat near someone at a restaurant — major grains of salt apply here.)
  • Hawaii is still set to spend $350 million on building a new Aloha Bowl after the old one was condemned. No, I don’t know why Hawaii needs a $350 million football stadium either.
  • Most pro sports teams that applied for Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans back in the spring withdrew their requests when they realized how bad it looked for them to be scarfing up all the money that was meant to keep small businesses afloat, but that’s not the case with the Pittsburgh Penguins owners, who kept their $4.8 million in PPP loan money and say they needed it to pay their arena rent. On the one hand, the rest of the NHL somehow managed to pay rent (where teams are paying any rent) without the need for a government bailout; on the other, most of the PPP money went to places like giant restaurant chains anyway, so if the Penguins are just taking money out of the mouths of TGI Friday’s owners, I guess whatever.
  • The Metro Millers, an indie-league baseball team set to start play in 2022 in the Minneapolis suburb of Shakopee, have hit a couple of roadblocks on their planned $36 million stadium, namely that private investment is “on hold” thanks to the pandemic and crowdfunding only brought in $7,000 of the team’s $600,000 goal. But they’re still planning on opening in 2022, or maybe 2023, or whenever the money materializes. “It needs a lot of work, at least from the funding aspect of it,” Shakopee Mayor Bill Mars said back when the project was first announced in 2019, with a projected opening date of 2021. “It will be interesting to see how they progress over the next six months to a year as far as funding.” Not going too well! Paying for stadiums is hard when you need to do it out of actual venue revenues instead of finding some other sucker to stick with the tab.
  • The Las Vegas Review-Journal has ranked potential NBA expansion cities, mostly to assert that Vegas should be co-frontrunners with Seattle, the end.
  • There was an article earlier this week on how the Jacksonville Jaguars getting the first pick in next year’s NFL draft and the right to take quarterback Trevor Lawrence “could impact NFL and London to tune of hundreds of millions of dollars,” which really didn’t make much sense — something about how having a marquee player could give Jags owner Shad Khan more leverage to get stadium money from Jacksonville or move elsewhere, somehow. Instead let’s focus on how the New York Jets somehow fumbled away their near lock on the #1 draft pick by winning two games in a row, because #LOLJets is always fun even for someone like me who doesn’t watch football and thinks it should probably be replaced entirely by video games.
  • The city of Cleveland is tearing down two warehouses new the Browns‘ stadium so the team can have more room for hosting fans at the the 2021 draft in April, even though it’s pretty unlikely that large numbers of fans will be allowed to gather in one place, even outdoors, by April. The city says it’s only keeping “attic stock” in the warehouses, so those can be relocated at a cost of just — whoops, article is over, no time for that detail, sorry!
  • New San Diego mayor Todd Gloria told a radio show that he’d like to see a new arena built in his city, and you can listen to his interview at that link if you want, but meanwhile I’m transfixed by this arena rendering, which I had missed until now:
    What is happening here? Is there some kind of giant glass wall (fringed with plants, because plants) taking up an entire corner of the arena bowl so that people outside can see the people sitting inside and vice versa? Won’t that make it hard for people inside to see whatever is going on on the court or rink or stage, with all the light pouring in from outside? Why is there a streak of light in the foreground that passes right in front of (or through) all the people on the street? If it’s one of those time-lapse things where cars just look like streaks of light, does that mean all the pedestrians have been frozen in place by some calamity? Maybe this is the surprise that the last day of 2020 holds for us: the end of time itself? If so, go listen to that radio clip now, it may be the last thing you ever do!
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The year in vaportecture: The future is green and attacked by birds and spiders

It’s that time of the season again, when we look back on the year just past and count all the dead stacked up like cordwood and the life we missed out on thanks to — no, no, it’s time to look at silly pictures of sports venues and what underpaid renderers tried to pass off as the future of sports spectating! After a year in which actual sports spectating was largely reduced to robot fans and the occasional small groups of drunk people not wearing masks in states that decided to just say “fuck it, let’s sell some tickets,” what has that done to the visions of sports dancing in designers’ heads? Let’s take a gander:

The Columbus Crew celebrated getting $98 million in stadium subsidies by releasing some fresh vaportecture of what the resulting stadium would look like. It featured strange drink rails and giant soccer balls suspended in midair, fans throwing their hands in the air for no reason (as one does), and one shot of the stadium seemingly under attack by a flock of birds that, I must remind you, some human person put in the image on purpose:

So I didn’t notice this the first time around, but the stippled pattern on the roof of the stadium (which doesn’t seem to be shaped in a way to maximize coverage of the fans beneath, but never mind that just for now) actually looks a lot like a flock of birds, so maybe the real birds have been attracted by decoys? Or maybe part of the plan for the stadium is that actual birds will provide a structural element, in some kind of futuristic melded artificial-natural ecosystem? Maybe the players themselves will be replaced by birds, to save on payroll? So many questions.

Soon after this, ArchDaily, which is one of a seemingly endless number of websites dedicated to the wet dreams of starchitects and the people who for some reason idolize them, just straight-up ran a bunch of unrelated vaportecture images from around the world with no context, then declared this “the future of sports architecture.” A lot of them seemed to involve plants, or stadiums hidden under plants, or pretending to be plants:

Apparently the future is going to be mostly about plants, either because we’ll have learned that plants are key to preventing climate change or because we’ll have killed them all with climate change and will be busy erecting monuments to what they used to look like in the Before Times. (No, not those Before Times, the other Before Times.)

The Kansas City Royals owners haven’t formally demanded a new stadium yet, preferring to let downtown development interests do the dirty work for them. And early in the year, a local architecture firm released images of what they would build in downtown K.C., if only someone gave them a few hundred million dollars to pursue their dream:

That doesn’t look like much of anything in particular: an inclined donut with a donut-shaped roof sitting atop it, though the trees growing 50 feet up off the ground are a nice touch, lending it that all-important air of greenness without having to specifically address how much extra steel would be needed to support all those root systems. Front and center, though, is the real star of the show, our old friend Cab-Hailing Purse Woman, who had been previously sighted outside Worcester’s new baseball stadium and standing on a blank void in Halifax while athletes played various sports at the same time nearby. (She even brought her friend from Halifax, Taking A Picture Of The Sky In Green Shirt Lady!) Clearly somebody’s focus groups have shown that while people may like to go to sporting events to throw their arms in the air wildly and watch fireworks during the daytime, the real attraction is getting to hail cabs, and seeing that in action creates a subliminal reaction that is guaranteed to separate voters from their money.

A few months later, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno released renderings of his own new stadium development he’ll be building with the aid of $350 million in discounted land, and look who he invited to the party:

Somebody stuck a (badly deformed) foam #1 finger on her hand, but I would recognize that purse anywhere! Too bad she’s trying to hail a cab, or possibly exult that the Angels are #1 (pro tip: the Angels are not #1) to a bunch of people speeding away from her in a bike lane, but she gets points for trying! (Moreno’s people also included some green roofs, though with all the trees depicted as safely on the ground, this honestly feels like the old future.)

New Mexico United, not to be dissuaded by not knowing where it would build a stadium or how much it would cost or who would pay for it, released images of a soccer venue dominated by a giant Muffler Man robot and what appears to be a giant spider on its roof:

On the inside of these vaporstadiums, meanwhile, things don’t get much less weird. Some people, like in this Nashville S.C. stadium rendering, throw their hands in the air in excitement even though they can’t even seen the match from where they’re standing:

Others, as in this Hartford arena rendering, just go on their laptops and ignore the game entirely, or rather one basketball game and one hockey game, since even the arena’s internal video feed director can’t imagine that many people will be interested in watching the Wolf Pack when there’s a basketball game on somewhere:

And some fans watch a sport that is played by people lovingly depicted by a watercolor artist as 20-foot-tall homunculi:

And then, courtesy of Phoenix Rising F.C., there was, uh, this:

Finally, we have what is hands-down the worst stadium detail of the year, or maybe of all of recorded human history. Once again from that set of Royals stadium renderings:

Yep, it’s a clip-art fan holding up a handmade sign (check how the second line of text doesn’t even line up, they clearly used Letraset) reading “HEY CDC KC HAS THE FEVER.” In the year 2020. Sure, it was January 2020, but even then Covid was enough of a known entity that I cracked a joke about it at the time, so really, WTF? Even if the renderer was just trying to distract us from the fact that the base coaches had been raptured out of existence and taken the protective netting with them, this seems in extremely bad taste — but then, unveiling images of people packed in like sardines enjoying sporting events at stadiums requiring massive infusions of public cash during a pandemic that has put the world’s economy on hold and left millions of people and businesses at risk of eviction or bankruptcy is in extremely bad taste to start with, so maybe this is truly the most 2020 vaportecture image of them all.

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Thursday roundup: NBA mulls expansion to raise quick cash, 60-year-old community-owned team sold to local rich dude, Crew may seek more tax breaks somehow

Happy pre-Christmas, everybody! (That’s the name for today, right? I really should Google that.) Here’s the stray news for the short holiday week:

  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver has called expansion the league’s “manifest destiny” and said that “it’s caused us to maybe dust off some of the analyses on the economic and competitive impacts of expansion” (what “it”? shh, don’t ask questions, the important man is talking) but “not to the point that expansion is on the front burner.” The implication is after losing like $1.5 billion in revenue, some quick cash from expansion fees sounds real good about now, but Silver’s not going to be the one to say that out loud, not when it might make him look desperate, not when it’s expansion cities and prospective owners that should be begging him to expand, that’s just how this is supposed to work, you know.
  • The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, since 1958 run by a community-owned non-profit, have been sold to a local rich guy because, um, something about Covid. Also the non-profit’s chair, Tom Lehr, said “100% of the profits from the sale of the team to Third Base Ventures will be invested back into the team,” according to the Appleton Post-Crescent, which, what? This guy gets to buy the team, and also use the money he paid for it on the team as well? What is even happening.
  • The Columbus Crew‘s old stadium, which is set to become the team’s training ground plus public soccer fields, still belongs to the team while the land under it belongs to the state, and the team has to make $210,000 in payments in lieu of property taxes each year under a 2007 court settlement, but they’re working on a long-term lease now and a term sheet proposed by the team mentions “Ownership of existing MAPFRE Stadium to be discussed and examined in connection with real estate tax and other considerations,” and all this is a red flag but no one’s quite sure of what exactly. Maybe something that should have been considered before giving the Crew $98 million toward a new stadium? Ennnnh, that seems like a lot of work.
  • This year’s Rose Bowl is going to be played in Texas because that California has one of the nation’s worst coronavirus surges (Texas isn’t far behind, but Texas’s governor doesn’t care), and also this year’s Pro Bowl is going to be played on Madden, which warms my heart that our glorious future may finally arrive soon. If you’re wondering if the Pro Bowl had to be moved because its home stadium in Honolulu is on the verge of being condemned, nope, it was going to be in Las Vegas this year anyway, but, you know, Covid. Also, Honolulu’s outgoing mayor Kirk Caldwell warns that the city’s indoor arena is even older than the stadium and even though it’s getting a $43.6 million upgrade, “at some point you run out of life” and okay, yes, Caldwell’s plan for a $700 million replacement arena was already rejected and also he’s only mayor for another week, sorry, I don’t know why we’re actually talking about him.
  • There’s now an online petition against “any taxpayer funding being used to finance, construct, acquire, renovate, equip, enlarge, or operate a new baseball stadium within the City of Knoxville or Knox County.” Allow the debates over what counts as “taxpayer funding” to commence now!
  • If you want to work at F.C. Cincinnati‘s new stadium, they’re hiring! What about all the people who worked at the team’s old stadium, which actually averaged more fans per game than the new one will hold? Sorry, no room in the article for that!
  • The owners of the New York Yankees have agreed to provide ten $5,000 grants to local businesses suffering amid the pandemic — wait, seriously, $50,000? That’s roughly how much the Yankees pay Gerrit Cole for each batter he faces. “We are extremely appreciative of this support from the Yankees,” local bar owner Joe Bastone said, according to a statement issued by the Yankees, which ended up getting a bunch of media coverage out of it, all of it positive. Until now.
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The sad story of the stadium named Dr Pepper for no good reason

A reader this weekend sent me this otherwise-innocuous article from 2019, which halfway through veers into discussing a stadium naming-rights deal gone wrong. Or, depending on your perspective, gone very very right:

If nothing changes before opening day on April 4, for the second consecutive season the team will play in a Dr Pepper Ballpark that is no longer technically Dr Pepper Ballpark.

After a 15-year relationship, the Plano-based soft drink company didn’t renew its sponsorship with the RoughRiders when its contract expired Oct. 1, 2017. …

Though it stopped paying for the privilege 16 months ago, Dr Pepper’s signage remains up throughout the RoughRiders’ stadium and the “Dr Pepper Stadium” name and logo is still prominent on the team’s website and promotional materials.

The Dallas Observer omits a few details here, so let’s back up a second. The Frisco RoughRiders of the Double-A Texas League are the former Shreveport Swamp Dragons of the Double-A Texas League, whose owner, then-Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks, relocated them in 2003 after getting the city of Frisco to build him a new 10,000-seat stadium. The city put up $67 million in future tax kickbacks toward the project, with Hicks kicking in another $233 million, though a lot of that wasn’t for the stadium but rather for the mixed-use development Hicks built around the stadium. (And was later sued by one of his partners over, before ending up going bankrupt and selling all his sports teams, but that is one if not several other stories.)

Though the city of Frisco helped pay for the park’s construction and owns the building — the better for Hicks not to pay property taxes on it — Hicks kept the revenue for himself, including any cash raised by selling naming rights to the RoughRiders’ new home. (Selling naming rights to buildings you don’t own is standard business practice among sports team owners, apparently for no better reason than that sports team owners tell city officials that it’s standard business practice.) Dr Pepper/Seven Up, which had its headquarters in neighboring Plano, stepped up with a 15-year offer for an undisclosed amount of money to name the new ballpark Dr Pepper/Seven Up Ballpark, which was such a massively stupid name that it was quickly shortened to just Dr Pepper Ballpark.

When that naming-rights deal expired after 2017, the company, by now renamed Dr Pepper Snapple after a series of corporate shenanigans too boring to recount here, decided that maybe having a stadium named after your soft drink wasn’t the best marketing strategy after all, and declined to renew. RoughRiders officials quickly announced that they would be seeking a new $18 million, 12-year deal, and at least one local economist predicted they’d have no trouble finding a company to pay up.

That has not gone so well. Three years later, the naming rights have still not resold, yet the stadium is still called Dr Pepper Ballpark. This is, apparently, because the team can’t be bothered to take down the old signage. As an anonymous former team employee told the Dallas Observer, “It would cost money to pull all those signs down. We know money is pretty tight up there so, congrats Dr Pepper, free advertising!”

For reference, here is a photo of the main stadium signage, which looks like it would be pretty easy to dismantle and take down, or, you know, throw a tarp over:

There is probably much to be said about the shortsightedness of minor-league sports team owners or the effect on naming-rights value of having ingrained one name in people’s consciousness for 15-going-on-18 years, but really I just want to focus on this poor baseball stadium, which not only has to put up with being festooned with drab gray siding and outfitted with a lazy river to coerce people to brave the Texas heat watching Double-A baseball, but is stuck being named after a poorly punctuated soda designed to taste like the inside of a drug store even though no one is paying for it to be called that. This is either an indictment of modern sports or late capitalism or something, but it makes me sad and yearn for simpler times when ballparks were named after racist team owners or something. Allow me some gauzy nostalgia, no matter how ahistorical it may be!

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Hartford unveils $100m arena upgrade so fans can ignore the game in comfort

The city of Hartford is taking advantage of pandemic downtime to move ahead with $100 million in state-funded renovations to its arena, something that would otherwise require interruptions to … the minor-league hockey Hartford Wolf Pack, I guess some concerts, whatever else they use the place for these days. The 45-year-old arena was previously described by its director as “out of its prime” and “tired,” and today we get a bunch of rendering showing how untired it will be with $100 million thrown at it:

Okay, this is some kind of dining area, I think? At least, that looks like a steam table of some kind off to the right, though one without any actual food on it. The woman in the shiny new Adidas appears to be taking a photo of it, because in the future, Instagramming empty plates will be a way to, I dunno, express solidarity with climate famine victims or something?

And this is … a cafe? The two identical bearded servers look to be pouring coffee, anyway. Not that anyone is drinking coffee, or doing much of anything else, other than using laptops and talking on their phones, while both hockey and basketball games play on ignored screens in the background.

This is a “bunker suite,” which would be built below the lower seating level. (You can glimpse the actual arena bowl at the top of those stairs to the right.) There would be a seating area for four to eight people outside the suite, while everyone else could sit on a sofa and watch on TV, or maybe in a comfy chair arranged so they couldn’t see the TV at all, in case the game is too painful to watch.

The Hartford Courant says the goal of all this is to “bring spectators closer to the action,” but if there’s one common theme, it’s that none of the renderings actually show people being able to see the action at all, or even paying the slightest attention to it. The reasonable conclusion is that the state of Connecticut has decided that the way to get people to go to more sporting events and concerts is to make doing so as much like sitting at home or watching at a bar as possible — which is definitely not an uncommon strategy, but does seem a little weird given that watching at home or at a bar doesn’t require shelling out for a ticket. We’ll see how it goes, I guess — the state will need to bring in several million dollars more a year to recoup its $100 million expense, so Connecticut sports fans had better be ready to drink a whole lot of invisible coffee.

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