It’s been a long, long week for many reasons, so let’s get straight to the news if that’s okay:
- Inglewood, California has now raised $328 million — $233 million in local sales tax revenue and $95 million from the California State Transportation Agency — toward the $1 billion cost of an “automated people mover” (read: an elevated trolley) to carry fans the 1.8 miles from the Inglewood subway station to the new Los Angeles Rams and Chargers stadium and proposed Clippers arena. On the one hand, this could be seen as a worthwhile public investment to reduce car use and provide a valuable service to local residents; on the other, spending a billion dollars in public money to build light rail on a route that’s already covered by city buses is pretty clearly mostly a benefit to the teams. We might have to add “free trains” to free land and tax breaks as among the more popular ways to subsidize sports venues in the 21st century while looking like you’re not.
- The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a motion by Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke to have a lawsuit over his move of the team out of St. Louis moved from a courtroom to arbitration. That’s bad news for Kroenke and good news for St. Louis, which is hoping for monetary damages from the team and league for skipping town in violation of its own relocation guidelines, but mostly it’s an opportunity for KMOV in St. Louis to employ such terrible football metaphors as “The Supreme Court’s response represents an incomplete pass on the Hail Mary heaved up by Kroenke and co.,” which really should win an anti-Pulitzer, if that were a thing, which it really should be.
- Two New York City baseball fans have sued MLB and several ticket agencies to recoup money they spent on 2020 tickets that the teams are refusing to refund on the grounds that the games are just “postponed,” not canceled. The pair sued in California, where the consumer laws are stronger, and are seeking class-action certification for their suit, which if successful could draw millions of additional plaintiffs (including me, since I have a pile of now-almost-certainly-useless Mets tickets for this season).
- Taiwan is playing baseball in front of cardboard fans, and South Korea has started exhibition games with umpires (but not players) wearing masks and gloves, but before you get any hopes up that this could mean the resumption of pro sports in the rest of the world, keep in mind that Taiwan used its experience with SARS to quickly use quarantines, testing, and face marks to contain the virus before it ever became widespread, and South Korea quickly snuffed out an outbreak using similar measures. South Korea saw only 14 new cases yesterday and Taiwan only one, so until the rest of the world is down to around that level, it’s unlikely we’ll see much in the way of sports.
- Back in pretend land, the NHL is talking about finishing its season in four empty arenas, and MLB could maybe play games in Dallas in addition to Phoenix and wherever, and college athletic directors think there will be some kind of football season this fall, and the independent minor baseball league American Association has a “target date” of starting play before paying fans in July, and European soccer leagues are slowly restarting practices while trying to figure out how to stage games with between 50 and 300 people (including players and staff) total in stadiums, but this is all just wishful thinking and reshuffling deck chairs for the moment — we could see some play resume starting in May, or July, or not until 2021, as the error bars on virus projections are still just too big to say for sure.
- Now that the XFL has folded, the Texas Rangers‘ old Globe Life Park is set to be used for high school football this fall, if anyone thinks that there will be high school football this fall and that if so it will take place before enough fans to fill a 49,000-seat stadium, or any fans at all. Financial terms for the Arlington Independent School District to pay the Rangers for using their 26-year-old stadium that Arlington replaced with a new one because it didn’t have air-conditioning were not disclosed.
- The Atlantic Schooners have put plans for a Halifax CFL stadium on the back burner, partly thanks to the pandemic but also because one of its three founding partners took a job with the Ottawa Senators and anyway they weren’t getting very far at getting money out of the Halifax regional council, so yeah. Looks like Cab-Hailing Purse Woman will have to find her sportsball somewhere else for the time being.
- Moody’s may downgrade Atlanta’s $150 million in bonds used to finance renovations of the Hawks arena because the car rental taxes scheduled to pay them off are through the floor thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. This doesn’t change my conclusion the other day that sports projects aren’t particularly threatened by the economic crash — bonds get downgraded all the time, and Atlanta is still extremely likely to pay off the arena debt in other ways if it can’t come up with enough car-rental tax revenue — but it’s a worthwhile reminder that sports subsidies are never free, even when elected officials insist that they can pay for themselves.
- Guangzhou Evergrande is building a new $1.7 billion, 100,000-seat soccer stadium, in part as a push for China to host the 2030 World Cup, and while I can’t find details on how it’s being funded (the Bangkok Post cited a local journalist as saying the team is “likely” paying for it), we do know that it’s going to have a roof designed to look like an enormous lotus flower and apparently with an unearthly red glow inside and the ability to project the score onto the inside, so enjoy these visions of pro sports’ stupid future: