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: CFL calls its owners “philanthropists” who need bailout, plus actual sport with actual fans takes place in actual stadium!

And how is everyone out there? Going stir-crazy? Waking up early to watch Korean baseball? Starving to death? All good options!

I personally have been watching this 1988 game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Montreal Expos (spoiler: Randy Johnson is, as the announcers keep noting, very tall), while continuing to keep tabs on what passes for sports stadium and subsidy news these days. Let’s get to it — the news, I mean, not the Phils-Expos game, I have that paused:

 

Friday roundup: Stadium trends, phantom soccer arenas, and the inevitable narwhal uprising

Welcome to the first weekly news roundup of the fourth decade during which this site has been in operation — unless you’re one of those people — which is kind of scary and depressing! I know I didn’t expect in 1998 that there would still be a need for Field of Schemes in 2020, but no one likes to give up a good grift when they see one, and for the last few decades nobody’s been able to make rich people in the U.S. give up much of anything, so here we are.

Seeing as I don’t want to even think about whether we’ll still be having this conversation in 2030, let’s get right to the news:

  • In the midst of a long New York Times article about how cool the new Golden State Warriors arena is, because the future, Temple University economist Michael Leeds asserts that it’s an example of “a trend since the Great Recession that, with some notable exceptions, cities have been much less willing to open up a pocketbook and fund a stadium or arena.” While “some notable exceptions” is a large caveat, I’m still not convinced that cities were all that much less willing in the Teens than the Aughts to cough up sports venue money — in California, sure, but then what of Nevada and Arlington and Georgia and Milwaukee and Indianapolis? I’ve emailed Leeds to ask for his data, but really what the world needs is a fresh dose of updated Judith Grant Long spreadsheets.
  • Major League Baseball says its plan to stop providing players to 42 minor-league franchises is not actually a plan to “eliminate any club,” and it’s minor-league owners’ fault if they insist on going bankrupt instead of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps and joining unaffiliated leagues. Also, this latest missive was apparently prompted by objections by Sen. Richard Blumenthal to the elimination of the Connecticut Tigers, who are in the process of being rebranded as the Norwich Sea Unicorns, and now all I can think about is: What’s a sea unicorn? Is it just a narwhal? Is Norwich now on the Arctic Ocean? What ship is the sea unicorn the captain of that earned it its captain’s hat, and how is it going to fire that harpoon-bat with its flippers? And at what? Is it a whale that has turned against its own kind? Or is it turning against humanity in revenge for our destruction of its habitat? Maybe MLB is just trying to protect us from the animal uprising, which if so they really should have mentioned it earlier in their statement.
  • The owners of the San Diego Sockers, which are an indoor soccer team, implying that there must still be indoor soccer leagues of some sort, are looking at building a 5,000- to 8,000-seat arena in Oceanside, which would cost dunno and be funded by ¯_(ツ)_/¯, but which team execs swear would be more affordable than paying rent at their current arena in San Diego and arranging schedules for their 12 home games a year. I can’t see anything that could possibly go wrong with this business plan!
  • Remember that $60 million soccer stadium for the NWSL Seattle Reign and USL Tacoma Defiance that was proposed for Tacoma last July, with negotiations expected to be completed by the end of the summer? The Tacoma News Tribune does, and notes that such details as how it would be paid for “all still remains to be seen,” though city sales tax money and hotel tax money could be on the table. This is clearly going to require more renderings.
  • English League Two soccer club (that’s the fourth division in English soccer, for English soccer reasons you either already understand or don’t want to know about) Forest Green Rovers are planning to build an all-wood stadium that will supposedly be “the greenest football stadium in the world,” but even if the timber is “sustainably-sourced,” wouldn’t it have less carbon impact to leave both the trees and the oil to fuel the construction equipment in the ground and keep on playing at this place that is just 14 years old? The narwhals are not going to be happy about this at all.
  • Should Syracuse build an esports arena? A gaming industry exec is given op-ed space to say: maybe!
  • How can anybody say that sports stadiums don’t create an economic spinoff effect when local residents can charge $10 a car to let people park on their lawns? That’s it, I take back everything I’ve said the last 22 years.

Friday roundup: Remembering Jim Bouton, and the latest in stadium shakedown absurdities

One day maybe 16 or 17 years ago, I was sitting at my computer when my phone rang and a voice at the other end said, “Hi, this is Jim Bouton. Can I speak with Neil deMause?”

Once I’d picked my jaw up off the floor that the author of Ball Four (and winner of two games in the 1964 World Series) was calling me, we got down to business: Bouton was in the midst of writing a book about his attempts to save a nearly century-old minor-league baseball stadium in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and had some questions about how attempts to save old ballparks (and save the public’s money on building new ones) had gone in other cities. We soon fell to chatting amiably about the nuances and absurdities of the stadium game — I’m pretty sure Jim had only one setting with people he’d just met, which was “chatting amiably” — and eventually ended up having a few conversations about his book and his work as a short-term preservationist and ballclub operator. (The preservation part was successful — Wahconah Park is still in use today — but he was eventually forced out from team management.) I got to meet him in person for the first time a couple of years later when he came to Brooklyn to talk with local residents then fighting demolition of their buildings to make way for a new Brooklyn Nets arena, an issue he quickly became as passionate about as everything else that touched his sense of injustice; when I learned (at a Jim Bouton book talk, in fact) that the initial edition of Field of Schemes had gone out of print, he enthusiastically encouraged me and Joanna Cagan to find a publisher for a revised edition, as he had never been shy about doing for his own books, even when that meant publishing them himself.

The last time I talked to Jim was in the spring of 2012, when he showed up at a screening of the documentary Knuckleball! (along with fellow knuckleball pitchers R.A. Dickey, Tim Wakefield, and Charlie Hough) to help teach kids how to throw the near-magical pitch. We only got to talk briefly, as he was kept busy chatting amiably with everyone else who wanted a moment with him. Soon after that, he had a stroke, and eventually developed vascular dementia, which on Wednesday took his life at age 80.

I’m eternally grateful to have had a chance to spend a little time with one of the nicest, smartest, funniest world-famous authors and ballplayers you could ever hope to meet, especially when we crossed paths on a topic that was so important to both of us. The image I’ll always retain of Jim, though, was of getting ice cream with him near his home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and him looking at my cup and exclaiming, “Sprinkles! That’s a great idea!” and then sprinting back into the shop to get some added to his as well. To the end, Jim Bouton remained boyishly intense about things that were truly important, whether fighting General Electric to save an old ballpark or eating ice cream, and that’s a rare and precious gift. My sympathies to his wife, Paula, and to all who loved him, which by this point I think was pretty much everybody.

And now, to the nuances and absurdities of this week’s stadium and arena news:

Friday roundup: Rangers fans don’t like nice weather after all, Orlando re-renovating renovated stadium, Dan Snyder has a $180m yacht

Today is site migration day — cue the jokes about how Field of Schemes should be hosted half the time in Montreal and half the time in Tampa Bay — so if things look a bit weird after 2 pm Eastern or so, that’s to be expected. Rest assured that the site will be back to normal soon, hopefully later today but certainly entirely by Monday; or actually better than normal, because the whole point of this exercise is to have a zippier, more reliable platform so that you can get your immediate fix of stadium news without having to refresh or even wait multiple milliseconds for images to load.

And speaking of your immediate stadium fix, here’s the rest of this week’s news:

  • The Texas Rangers are building (read: mostly having the citizens of Arlington build for them) a new stadium just so they can have air-conditioning so that fans will go to games, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram points out that the team has been winning and the weather has been nice this spring, and fans still aren’t showing up.
  • MLS commissioner Don Garber said that he “could see [Las Vegas] being on our list for future teams,” which is literally the most noncommittal thing he could say, but he still gets headlines for it, so he’s gonna keep saying it.
  • Here’s an article about how building a whole real estate development that will turn a big profit will help the Golden State Warriors make more money, if anyone wasn’t clear on that concept already.
  • The Orlando city council approved the $60 million in renovation money for Camping World Stadium (née the Citrus Bowl) that they said they would last fall. Since the stadium doesn’t even have a regular sports tenant — it is only used for the occasional soccer friendly, college football game, or concert — it’s hard to call this a subsidy to anyone in particular, but it’s still probably a pretty dumb use of money, especially since the stadium was just renovated once already in 2014.
  • There is no actual news in this Page Six item, but if you thought I was going to pass up a chance to link to an article that begins, “Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder roared up to Cannes Lions in his $180 million yacht as ad sources speculated he’s in town to find a title sponsor for the team’s new stadium,” you’re crazy.
  • Construction on the Las Vegas Raiders stadium was momentarily halted last week when it turned out one of the parts didn’t fit, which probably isn’t a big deal in the long run — in fact, the ill-fitting steel truss was adjusted and reinstalled a few days later — but that doesn’t mean we can’t make Ikea jokes.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks owners have hired architecture firm HKS, who designed the Texas Rangers’ new park, to design a new stadium for them if they choose to build one, and you know what that’s going to mean: lots of renderings with Mitch Moreland and his wife in them.

Friday roundup: Raiders’ Oakland deal still not done, A’s stadium plan gets rounder edges, Flames arena vote delayed

Let’s get right to the week’s news roundup:

  • NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis was on the verge of an agreement with Oakland officials to stay put in Oakland for 2019 and possibly 2020, and four days later, they still appear to have moved no closer than the verge. More news as events warrant, if they ever do.
  • We have new renderings for the proposed Oakland A’s stadium at Howard Terminal, and they look slightly less doofy than the old renderings, or at least somewhat less angular. Odds that any ballpark will look remotely like this if a Howard Terminal stadium is ever built: two infinities to one. Odds that a Howard Terminal stadium is ever built: Somewhat better, but I still wouldn’t hold your breath.
  • The Calgary city council put off a vote on a term sheet for a new Flames arena on Tuesday, after a marathon meeting that the public was barred from. They’ll be meeting in private again on Monday, and still plan not to tell anyone what the deal looks like until they’ve negotiated it with the Flames owners, which Calgary residents are not super happy about.
  • Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer still really really wants a new arena of his own by 2024, and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times show that he met with Inglewood Mayor James Butts as early as June 2016 to try to get Madison Square Garden to give up its lease on his preferred arena site before they found out he wanted to build an arena there. This is mostly of interest if you like gawking at warring sports billionaires, but if you do you’re in luck, because the battle seems likely to continue for a long time yet.
  • The Miami Marlins are turning the former site of their Red Grooms home run sculpture in center field into a “three-tier millennial park” with $10 standing-room tickets, because apparently millennials are broke and hate sitting down? They’ve gotta try something, I guess, and this did help get them a long Miami Herald article about their “rebranding” efforts, so sure, millennial park it is.
  • Building a football stadium for a college football team and hoping to fill it up with lots of Bruce Springsteen concerts turns out, shockingly, not to have been such a great idea. UConn’s Rentschler Field loses money most years, and hasn’t hosted a major concert since 2007, with the director of the agency that runs it griping, “The summers are generally slow, the springs are generally muddy, and the falls are UConn’s.” And nobody built lots of new development around a stadium that hosts only nine events a year, likewise shockingly. It still could have been worse, though: Hartford could have spent even more money on landing the New England Patriots.
  • Speaking of failed sports developments, the new Detroit Red Wings arena district is “shaping up to be a giant swath of blacktop,” reports Deadline Detroit, which also revealed that the city has failed to penalize the team’s owners for missing development deadlines, and has held out the possibility of more public subsidies if he ever does build anything around the arena. At least the Ilitches are finally paying for the extra police needed to work NHL games, though, so that’s something.
  • Oklahoma City is considering using up to $92 million to build a 10,000-seat USL stadium that could later be expanded for MLS, because of course they are.
  • Here is an article that cites “an economic development expert” as saying that hosting a Super Bowl could be worth $1 billion in “economic activity” to Las Vegas, saying he based this on the results of last year’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Actual increased tax receipts for Minneapolis during the game: $2.4 million. It took me 30 seconds to research this, but apparently the Las Vegas Review-Journal is too high and mighty to use Google. Do not reward them with your clicks.

Friday roundup: Leaky fountains, cheap stadium beer, and the magic of computers

The world may be on vacation this week, but the stadium news decidedly is not:

Friday roundup: Panthers’ record sale price goosed by public money, Beckham stadium delayed yet again, Rams stadium really will cost $4B-plus

Google looks to have broken all of its RSS feeds, so if I missed anything important this week, drop me an email and I’ll play catchup next week:

Rose Bowl nixes hosting NFL team, L.A. temporary stadium options down to Coliseum or playing in street

The Pasadena-controlled board that owns the Rose Bowl voted this week not to bid to provide a temporary home to an NFL team in Los Angeles, saying they would rather host an annual music festival instead. (The music festival wouldn’t be during the NFL season, but its environmental impact statement requires that the Rose Bowl not host pro football if the festival takes place.)

This still leaves the NFL with a bunch of options, but as the Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer and Nathan Fenno report, they’re all problematic. Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium are baseball stadiums, and not only does the NFL hate playing in baseball stadiums, but baseball teams hate sharing digs with football, which messes up their schedule and tears up the grass. The Los Angeles Galaxy‘s StubHub Center in Carson only holds 27,000 — though NFL stadium consultant Marc Ganis tried to put a happy face on this to the L.A. Times, saying, “There’s something interesting about playing in a smaller facility, to start with creating a scarcity of tickets and increase the level of interest early on,” yeah, right — and is run by AEG, which already has no love for the NFL after having its own downtown L.A. stadium plan shot down.

That leaves the L.A. Coliseum, which would be fine but for two things: First off, USC’s lease on the Coliseum only allows it to host one NFL team, which would be a problem if, say, both the Raiders and Chargers needed temporary homes while waiting for a new stadium to be completed. Second, it’s really hard to get a bidding war going with only one serious bidder, so any team wanting to bunk at the Coliseum temporarily likely just saw its prospective rent go up.

This probably isn’t enough to be more than a speed bump en route to a new L.A. NFL stadium (and team), but given that the finances of such a project already look shaky enough, you never know which is going to be the speed bump that breaks the camel’s back. (Yeah, I know the metaphor doesn’t really make sense, work with me here.) The fight to be the future home of the Raiders, Chargers, and Rams still seems like a battle that no one can possibly win — it’s one reason I don’t expect any resolution soon, but I guess we’ll get some hints, maybe, following the August owners’ meetings.

State-funded Syracuse stadium would cost $495m, plus land and parking lots

Syracuse University has provided more details about its proposed new state-subsidized football stadium, which are:

  • Cost would be $495 million plus parking structures and land acquisition, the cost of which aren’t outlined.
  • The stadium would seat 44,000 (down from the Carrier Dome’s 49,000), with a retractable roof so it could host basketball and other indoor events while also events that need to be outdoors, like, um, professional snowball fights?
  • “Additional development of a 250-room hotel, over 160 apartments and 150,000 feet of retail space.” No word on how that would be paid for, or whether there would be penalties if it didn’t happen; the university said it would require “additional discussions.”
  • “The facility’s operating budget would pay for the extra police, fire and other public services needed.”
  • Whether the site would pay property taxes is undecided, but in any case the university wouldn’t pay any, since it would just be a tenant.

That’s clear as mud, but at least it’s something. Also noteworthy: The SU consultant who wrote the letter demanding public funds is Irwin Raij, the same guy who New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hired two years ago to be his state stadium negotiations czar. It’s always more profitable when you can work both sides of the street.