And speaking of issues — if that’s not too inappropriate to compare the enslavement of an entire people with the siphoning off of tax dollars for sports, which it probably is, but segues gotta segue — here are a bunch regarding stadiums and arenas that reared or re-reared their heads in the last week:
Plans for a minor-league hockey arena in Palm Springs have “stopped” thanks to the pandemic, according to city manager David Ready, but it’s not immediately clear whether that means just the timeline has been delayed or the entire project is up in the air, if that’s even a distinction anymore.
Also up in the air: exact plans for David Beckham’s Inter Miami stadium complex, details of which were released this week but without any actual details. It looks like Inter will be playing in its “temporary” stadium in Fort Lauderdale for at least the next several years, if not indefinitely, which is absolutely par for Beckham’s Miami stadium campaign ever since he opened that cursed mummy’s tomb.
Over in Texas, meanwhile, which is seeing its own spike in virus cases, college football players are testing positive in bunches, which could put the season at risk, though I suppose there are always more people in Texas who want to play football if they wanted to go to 200-player rosters.
Also seeing a spike in positive coronavirus tests: construction workers at the new Los Angeles Rams and Chargers stadium. None of this should be surprising — obviously reopening work sites is going to increase the spread of the virus, and equally obviously more people are going to show up sick to work (whether they have symptoms yet or not) if there are more people in the general community who have it. The plan was supposed to be to first mitigate the number of infections through lockdowns, and then once cases were at a low level keep them under control via widespread testing and contact tracing, but since apparently most states have decided to reopen before waiting for that second part, it looks like much of America is going to have to prepare for the roller coaster.
Major League Baseball, meanwhile, is inching its way toward a late July restart, with games to be played at teams’ home stadiums, or in the case of the Toronto Blue Jays, probably their single-A ballpark, because Canada is still requiring two-week quarantines for anyone entering the country, though they did lift that for hockey. Location of the Blue Jays’ single-A ballpark? Florida, of course.
And yes, it’s looking more and more like outdoor transmission of the virus is a smaller risk than was initially feared so long as everyone wears masks — a conclusion reached in part from noting that there’s been no measurable spike in infections after last month’s police violence protests — but also note that Columbia University virus expert Jeffrey Shaman tempers that optimism by saying, “Beaches—you’ve got open air, sunshine, people spread out on blankets—that’s OK. A baseball stadium—people lined up shoulder to shoulder, semi-indoors, for hot dogs and beer and for crowded restrooms—I’m not so crazy about that.”
And as a reward for sitting through all that epidemiology news, here are a couple of fresh New York Islanders Belmont Park arena vaportecture images, which are mostly notable for conveying “loud” and “intimate” not through any actual innovations in arena geometry — the cheap seats still look a million miles from the action — but rather via having all the little CGI people raise their fists in the air in excitement! CGI people are so much easier to please than real people, even if they seem even less willing to wear their damn masks.
The Santa Clara city council voted unanimously to remove the San Francisco 49ers as managers of their stadium for both NFL and non-NFL events, on the grounds that the team owners were siphoning off lease payments that could have gone to the city. The vote is “just symbolic,” however, as the fate of the stadium’s management is already tied up in litigation ever since the council voted to remove the 49ers owners as managers for non-NFL events last year, so we’re not going to see the team forced to negotiate a lease to play home games just yet.
Washington NFL owner and full-time supervillain Dan Snyder is apparently using the promise of a new stadium in either Maryland or Virginia to press those states to legalize sports gambling, which sounds reasonable until you remember that whichever state wins the stadium likely “wins” a huge public subsidy tab as well. Maybe Snyder should threaten that he won’t go away unless the state legalizes sports gambling?
Next Tuesday’s planned groundbreaking for a planned Palm Springs arena — set to be the home of a new minor-league hockey team — was unexpectedly postponed this week, with no explanation. Nobody from either the the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, whose land the arena will be built on, or Oak View Group, which is building it, is commenting at all, so feel free to read the tea leaves however you want.
If that news item about the state of New Jersey paying $20 million a year to NBC to shoot a TV show in the vacant Meadowlands Arena got you wondering how much you the taxpayers spent to subsidize this year’s Oscar-nominated movies, Kasia Tarczynska of Good Jobs First has you covered. If I and my fellow New Yorkers helped pay $9.9 million toward The Joker, shouldn’t we at least get, I dunno, free Netflix?
In case you missed it, I revisited the question of MLB’s attendance decline for Deadspin this week, by way of picking apart a New York Times article on the topic that got a couple of things right and a whole bunch of things less right. The upshot is that team owners don’t really need lots of fans to show up, but they sure would like them to, but only if they can accomplish this without cannibalizing the luxury seat sales that are their bread and butter these days — all of which makes all the “Whither baseball?” handwringing even less justifiable. Lesson: Don’t try to measure the demand curve just by looking at product sales. (Okay, maybe that’s only the lesson I take from it, but it’s one lesson.)
San Francisco Giants execs are considering moving their fences in because their team hit better on the road than at home, and has anyone told them that if they move the fences in, it has to be for both teams? Doing otherwise has been illegal ever since Bill Veeck tried it.
Hamilton Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer has pledged $30 million toward a new arena, which sounds better before you notice that the total construction cost is projected at $126 million. Andlauer says he’d take over maintenance costs on the arena, whereas the city pays maintenance on the existing one, but he didn’t say how much money that would be or if there would be a different share of arena revenues or anything, so it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions on this one.
Anaheim city spokesperson Mike Lyster says that the appraisal of the city-owned land around the Los Angeles Angels‘ stadium that team owner Arte Moreno wants development rights to, which the city council voted last fall to release to the public as soon as it was ready, will be “share[d] with the community at the right time,” but right now “any release would be premature and potentially impact negotiations.” How does three and a half hours before the vote sound to you?
Here’s an interview with Tiger Stadium Fan Club stalwarts Bill Dow and Dave Mesrey on the 20th anniversary of the closing of that Detroit ballpark, which I haven’t listened to all of yet because ew podcasts, but Bill and Dave are both great so if you like obtaining information through your ears, give it a spin.
Sadly, there’s another loss to report this week: Rob McQuown, who for the past decade has been one of the core tech and admin guys at Baseball Prospectus, passed away on Tuesday. I never met Rob personally, but in my days writing and editing for BP we exchanged emails a ton, and he was always a sharp and good-humored presence keeping the site running behind the scenes. (He wrote some excellent fantasy baseball coverage for a while, too.) I haven’t heard the details of his death, but I do know it was way too soon, and my sympathies go out to all his friends and family and colleagues who are mourning him this week. Here’s a lovely podcast tribute by Ben Lindbergh to Rob’s multifarious and too-often underappreciated gifts.
And now, to the news:
The Indianapolis City-County Council gave final signoff to $290 million in subsidies for the Indiana Pacers, which along with new and past operating subsidies brings team owner Herb Simon’s total haul to more than a billion dollars. The team’s new lease lasts until 2044, but I’d wager that Simon won’t wait that long before going back to what’s been an insanely lucrative taxpayer well.
The city of Anaheim is still waiting on its now-overdue appraisal of the Los Angeles Angels‘ stadium land so it can open talks with team owner Arte Moreno on how much he should pay for development rights on the stadium parking lots. Mayor Harry Sidhu has appointed a negotiating team, though, which includes Sidhu himself, something that has drawn criticism since Angels execs donated to his election campaign. Sidhu also stated that “our theme parks, sports venues and convention center are a matter of pride, but their real purpose is to serve residents by generating revenue for public safety, parks, libraries and community centers and by helping us keep taxes and fees low,” which is not likely to help convince anyone that he understands sports economics like his predecessor did and isn’t just repeating what his funders tell him.
Oak View Group’s Tim Leiweke is trying to build a 10,000-seat arena in Palm Springs, and economists point out that this won’t help the local economy much because “you’re crazy if you think I’m flying to Palm Springs to see your minor league hockey team,” and Leiweke says Palm Springs is just different, okay, because so many attendees will be people who are already coming to town to play golf, gamble, or stay at local resorts. How this makes it a major economic plus when those people also see a concert when they’re in town Leiweke didn’t say, but who’re you going to believe, a bunch of people who study economics for a living or a guy who was once the youngest GM in indoor soccer?
A Cincinnati nonprofit is trying to raise $2 million to preserve affordable housing around F.C. Cincinnati‘s new stadium, and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority says that maybe building more market-rate housing will allow low-income residents of existing buildings to stay put. Yeah, that’s really not going to work.
And here’s another long article that quotes me, this one by Bill Shea of The Athletic on how stadium subsidies have changed since the Great Recession (some sports economists say it’s tougher to get public money now, I say “Bah!”).