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.

Syracuse officials: Stadium may be on back burner, but we still love subsidies, really!

It looks like that $500 million Syracuse University football stadium (with $300 million paid for by New York taxpayers) may be on hold for the moment, as Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s public questioning of the project’s funding has led Gov. Andrew Cuomo to put off formally proposing the plan. And this has two Syracuse city councilmembers freaking out that developers might think this means their city isn’t interested in throwing money at them anymore:

“Don’t turn your back on the city of Syracuse just because we weren’t able to launch this project,” Councilor-at-Large Kathleen Joy said today in an hour-long editorial board meeting at syracuse.com / The Post-Standard.

“Take a chance on us,” Councilor-at-Large Jean Kessner said….

Conversations about the stadium may continue, Kessner said, though Joy held out less hope. Moreover, they worry that the lack of agreement among local officials about the possible deal may send a message that Syracuse isn’t ready to take on large-scale developments that could mean new jobs and more property tax payments in the city.

Remember, people: They can smell desperation.

Cuomo to propose $300m in public money for new Syracuse college football stadium

I really do try to steer clear of college sports on this site, because I have to draw the line somewhere, but HOLY CRAP NEW YORK STATE IS TALKING ABOUT GIVING SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY $300 MILLION TOWARD A NEW STADIUM!

[Onondaga County Executive Joanie] Mahoney and other county officials this week expressed dismay that [Mayor Stephanie] Miner would not endorse the project in time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include it in his upcoming state budget, which he will unveil Jan. 21. Cuomo had signaled his willingness to provide some $200 million in state money for the deal, Mahoney said. The county was prepared to provide $100 million or more.

The bulk of the Syracuse Post-Standard article linked above is about a squabble over a feasibility study that Mahoney got a taxpayer-funded nonprofit to do for the university — which Syracuse then refused to share the result of with lawmakers, because they said they were afraid then the public might get to see it. That’s pretty bad in itself, but seriously, $300 million in public subsidies? For a college football stadium? For a private university? I’m not completely sure that’s a record, but I’ll be surprised if it isn’t.

Syracuse University has been talking about replacing the Carrier Dome, which has an old-fashioned inflated fixed roof, with a new 40,000-seat stadium with a totally modern and shiny and stuff retractable roof, for a few weeks now, because, duh, shiny! I haven’t seen a price tag for the entire project mentioned, so it’s impossible to say how much of a share the state and county’s $300 million would kick in, but given that the most expensive college stadium ever cost only $450 million, even adding a retractable roof couldn’t get you much past $600-700 million. So we’re likely talking about New York state taxpayers being asked to put up around half the cost of a new stadium to benefit a private university’s sports teams. Criminy.

Colorado State thinks a $246m football stadium will help balance its budget

I’m not sure what to say about this that isn’t already covered by the included quote from an opponent to the plan: “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Faced with declining state funding, [Colorado State University] is raising money to build a $246 million, 40,000-seat football stadium on its Fort Collins campus. University President Tony Frank says the new facility will help build a winning football team while advancing one of the school’s highest priorities: attracting more out-of-state students paying higher tuition.

You can sort of understand why CSU is desparate: Its state funding has been slashed in recent years, and it now only gets 10% of its budget from the state, so bringing in higher-paying students sounds like a solution. Frank notes that the University of Oregon built a whole bunch of new athletic facilities and doubled its share of nonresident students — though neither he nor the Wall Street Journal article attempts to determine if that’s the main reason, or even whether the increased tuition payments at Oregon have been enough to pay off the athletic facilities (which in any case at Oregon have mostly been funded by donations from Nike founder Phil Knight).

Then there’s this little problem:

No academic research exists to support the notion that a new stadium helps a college football team win, experts say. Nor will it necessarily attract more fans. The universities of Akron and Minnesota both moved from off-campus to new on-campus stadiums in 2009. Both saw initial attendance bumps before attendance dropped below pre-new-stadium levels.

Maybe if Colorado State thinks that out-of-state students will come based on a winning football team, it should skip all this stadium-building nonsense and just pay for some better players. Oh wait.

Things we missed during PoopGate

Just when things in the stadium and arena world seemed to be quieting down for the summer, we had a bit of a crazy week, thanks to all those sewage leaks and threats to move teams to various places. As a result, a few things fell through the cracks this week, so let’s catch up with a quick roundup post:

Mississippi Division I-AA school wants to build $200m dome

I try not to spend too much time on college sports — there are only so many hours in the day, so let’s just say this: Jackson State University wants to build a $200 million domed college football stadium. Yes, Jackson State of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, part of the secondary tier of college football formerly known as Division I-AA. The money is supposed to come from “private donors, sponsorship sales, the Mississippi government and money from selling Veterans Memorial Stadium and the surrounding land,” and (you knew this was coming) it’s not just for college football:

The stadium would not be strictly for football use, either, as Jackson State’s basketball team would play home games there and concerts and other events would take place in the new stadium as well. The plan would be to have the stadium in use for about 200 days a year.

Two hundred days a year, people. For a domed football stadium in a city with 170,000 people and shrinking. About the most you can say for it is that it’d give Jackson State something to be known for other than having city police fire shotguns indiscriminately into a dorm and killing two students.

GEO Group tries to quiet stadium name uproar by erasing Wikipedia records

The controversy over Florida Atlantic University selling its football stadium naming rights to a for-profit prison company being sued for human rights violations just gets better and better: Now it appears that the GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut) has had one of its corporate relations executives edit the company’s Wikipedia page to eliminate all mentions of mistreatment of prisoners at its facilities:

A section on the Wikipedia page entitled “controversies,” which listed state and federal investigations and lawsuits claiming mistreatment of prisoners in GEO facilities, had disappeared. In its place was a new section, headlined “Quality of Operations,” which duplicated language in company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This being Wikipedia, the offending “Controversies” section was soon restored. And what exactly did GEO Group want hidden from the public? Some samples:

  • “Between 2005 and 2009, at least eight people had died at the Geo Group-operated George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, the state’s only privately run jail. Several of those deaths resulted in lawsuits by family members who say the facility did not provide adequate medical care or proper supervision for offenders. On December 31, 2008, Geo pulled out of operations at this facility, ‘citing underperformance and frequent litigations’ as the reasons.”
  • “In November 2010 plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit against the agencies that operate and own the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, saying that the prison authorities allowed abuses and negligence to occur at the facility. The lawsuit states that prison guards engaged in sexual intercourse with the prisoners and smuggled illegal drugs into the facilities, and that prison authorities denied education and medical care. As of that month the prison has about 1,200 prisoners ages 13–22; the lawsuit says that half of the prisoners are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses.”

Also, from the Huffington Post article reporting on the Wikipedia mess, we learn that

The company has been at the center of several controversies across the U.S., including at a youth detention center in Texas, which was shut down after state inspectors said they found “filthy” and “unsafe” conditions that included feces on walls. Several riots erupted at a GEO-operated federal prison in west Texas that housed mostly undocumented immigrants in 2008 and 2009, following the death of an epileptic inmate who had been left in isolation despite pleas for help.

All charges that weren’t getting much attention until GEO pulled its one-two punch of trying to buy a higher profile via stadium naming rights, and trying to expunge its record on the web. It’s always possible that five years from now, everyone will have forgotten this and just think of GEO as “that company that has its name on the stadium of some minor Florida college’s football stadium,” but right now the whole deal is testing the proposition that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

University sells stadium name to prison company, because there’s no such thing as shame anymore

I know somebody’s going to ask about the university that sold its stadium naming rights to a for-profit prison company, so: A university has sold its stadium naming rights to a for-profit prison company. Namely Florida Atlantic University, which completed a new $70 million football stadium in 2011, has agreed to rename the building GEO Group Stadium for the next 12 years in exchange for a $6 million, ahem, “philanthropic donation.” GEO Group runs $3 billion worth of prisons in the U.S., Australia, South Africa, and the U.K., and is current being sued for human rights abuses against inmates.

The obvious jokes and student protests aside, the most interesting things here are that Sun Belt Conference naming rights aren’t worth much ($500,000 a year is a pittance compared to pretty much any pro sports naming-rights deal), and that this opens up a whole new realm of companies buying stadium names not so much as a way of getting publicity, but as a way of countering bad publicity. (Recall that GEO changed its name from Wackenhut ten years ago, in part to get away from the stench associated with that company name.) I hope we can now look forward to the Goldman Sachs Dome, Kim Jong-Un Stadium, and the Oscar Pistorius Bowl as people realize the benefits of distancing yourself from accusations of wrongdoing by associating yourself with something more wholesome like … American college football?

College football realizes it’s been missing out on shaking down cities for championship game money

The secret cabal that controls college football (officially the B.C.S. Presidential Oversight Committee, but “secret cabal” sounds more exciting) has finally approved a four-game four-team playoff system for the NCAA football championship, with two semifinal bowl games leading to a championship game that will shift cities each year. And some of the stated reasoning for this is, shall we say, a bit familiar:

The championship game will be held at a neutral site, and cities will have the opportunity to bid to host the event. The game will be played on the first Monday in January, unless it falls on Jan. 1.

“It will be much like the Super Bowl,” said Jim Delany, the Big Ten commissioner. “You’ll be dealing with civic communities, and I think it’ll be a national process and people have to be very energetic about it. I think it’s going to be great for the sport.”

Translation: Wait, the NFL gets cities to fight with each other for the right to spend millions of dollars on hosting the Super Bowl — how can we get in on that game? The new tiered playoff structure may or may not end up fairer than the old BCS system, but if by “great for the sport” Delany means “great for college football’s revenues,” then it’s a fair bet he’ll be proved right.

Rumors and the report of rumors in California NFL stadiums

Lots of news today among the various California locales considering new or renovated NFL stadiums — though actually, “news” might be pushing it. Here, you decide for yourself:

  • Majestic Realty, the developers who want to build an NFL stadium in the City of Industry, now say they’ll redesign their stadium to be able to fit World Cup soccer there. “Because we’re building a new stadium, we could incorporate anything FIFA could want,” Majestic stadium architect Dan Meis told the Associated Press. Or to put it another way: This is still vaportecture for now anyway, but we can change it round if you like.
  • The Oakland Raiders are talking to city officials about a new stadium on the site of the Oakland Coliseum that would be, according to team CEO Amy Trask, “an anchor for, or a catalyst for, an urban redevelopment that provides economic stimulus for the whole region.” From the sound of it, this is code for “ballpark village,” but Trask didn’t provide specifics.
  • NFL commissioner Roger Goodell chimed in that he’s concerned about low attendance at Raiders games, and that he’d like the Raiders and San Francisco 49ers to consider a shared stadium. (Oakland claims it can build an $880 million stadium with no public money, though it apparently doesn’t count property and hotel taxes as public money.) He also said that the NFL needs to do a better job selling the stadium experience compared to staying at home and watching on HD TVs,, and specifically cited how great it is to watch in person at … a Raiders game: “It’s a great experience being there feeling that passion and excitement. It’s something you don’t get at home.” (Make your own joke about how “at home, it’s more crowded.”)
  • The city of Pasadena, meanwhile, actually made real news, approving a $152 million renovation of the Rose Bowl to take place over the next three football offseasons. The Pasadena Star News reports that “the project is expected to generate enough revenue to cover the debt service 1.475 times,” though it doesn’t provide details of whether this is via a more lucrative lease with UCLA or higher ticket prices or added tax revenues or what. The project would also be subsidized by the use of federal stimulus bonds, so taxpayers across the U.S. will each be tossing in a few cents for the Rose Bowl’s newly widened access tunnels.