Friday roundup: Deadspin est mort, vive Deadspin (also baseball may be dead again, film at 11)

This was another shitty week in what feels like an endless series of shitty weeks, but with one undeniable bright spot: On Tuesday, the former staffers of Deadspin announced the launch of Defector, a new site that will be everything the old Deadspin was — sports and news reporting and commentary “without access, without favor, without discretion” — but this time funded by subscriptions and staff-owned, so safe from the threat of new private-equity owners decreeing that they stop doing everything that made the site both popular and worthwhile. I’ve already explained why I thought Deadspin desperately mattered for anyone who cares about sports’ role in our greater lives, or just likes great writing that makes you both laugh and think; you can read here my own contributions to the old site before its implosion (not sure why the article search function is listing every article as written by Barry Petchesky, who knows what the private-equity people are up to). Needless to say, launching a DIY journalism site in the middle of the collapse of the entire journalism business model is an inherently risky prospect, so if you want to give the Defector team a bit more of a financial foundation to work from, you can subscribe now. I already have.

But enough good news, let’s get on with the parade of sadness and horror:

Angels owner releases pictures of whatever stadium development idea is in his head this very second

After getting granted a one-month extension by the Anaheim city council, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno has come out with his redevelopment plan for the Angel Stadium land he got from the city at a bargain price last winter, and the whole thing is so handwavy that it makes you wonder why he couldn’t have just made a crayon drawing of some buildings and released that on time in May. Let’s see what Moreno’s planning team came up with:

That is indeed a bunch of numbers of things! Can we get any renderings that aren’t just bird’s-eye schematics?

That’s a little better, I guess, though still pretty generic, aside from somebody coloring in the roofs green because that what one does in 2020.

More to the point, there’s nothing that I can find in Moreno’s plans that indicates a timeline: Is he actually committing to building all this stuff, or just sketching out pretty pictures of what it might look like if he decides this is a good idea? (Past “ballpark village” concepts, it’s worth noting, haven’t always immediately panned out as planned, and have sometimes come with requests for more public money to make them happen.) Presumably if the city of Anaheim is selling him the land because they want it developed, there should be some rules about when it will be developed by — maybe that’s still in the “TBD” folder, but if so, what’s the point of releasing this plan now?

As for what will happen to the stadium itself, we learn this from the Los Angeles Times:

The Angels put off for now the decision to renovate Angel Stadium or replace it. If the Angels decide to build a new ballpark, the plan calls for it to be located immediately adjacent to the 57 Freeway, and closer to the Anaheim train station. If they renovate, they plan to open up the outfield and turn it into a grand entrance plaza.

Definitely one of those things! Maybe.

Let’s see, anything else remotely of note here? There’s a guy pointing randomly at the sky outside a bistro called “Bistro,” and oh hey check it out:

Yes, that is indeed Cab-Hailing Purse Woman, though someone has tried to disguise her true intent by placing a giant foam finger over her cab-hailing hand. If this clip-art woman is indeed the key to all sports-related economic development plans, maybe it would cheaper for cities just to buy her plane tickets (on clip-art airplanes, obviously) so she can bestow her presence on their populaces? Do you think she’s based on a real person, and if so does that person get royalties? Did anyone at the rendering software company think to shop around for a purse company that would pay for product placement? So very many questions, so few answers.

Friday roundup: Ohio could cut stadium funds, A’s could delay stadium plans, sports could return, world could end, anything’s possible

A little distracted this morning with a new work project and the usual pandemic stuff and the not-so-usual riots on TV, but there’s a passel of stadium and arena news I didn’t get to, so let’s get to ’em:

The Columbus Crew are here to cure your pandemic doldrums with fresh bonkers vaportecture

I know that it’s rough out there, with the economy in freefall, and much of the U.S. still seeing rising Covid case numbers even as governors (and judges) tell businesses they can reopen, and Netflix starting to run out of TV shows to keep us distracted. So I could not be more pleased to report that the Columbus Crew have got our backs with some brand-new vaportecture renderings of what their new stadium will (probably, maybe, almost assuredly not) look like when it opens next year, if there is a next year:

This shot is weirdly underlit, so it’s hard to tell exactly what all these late-arriving fans are carrying into the arena: U.S. flags? Liberian flags? There does appear to be at least one yellow-and-black striped Crew flag for sale that bears a passing resemblance to the American flag, but it doesn’t appear to be the most popular design, so maybe the renderers thought they could get away with some U.S. flag clip art and no one would notice if the scene was dark enough? Also, what’s up with the giant soccer ball hovering over the people on the sidewalk? If that’s a balloon, they’re not going to be allowed to bring it into the stadium and obstruct their fellow fans’ views, are they?

Moving on:

Just a bunch of soccer fans suspended midair along a drink rail while outside a spatially distorted pedicab cuts across traffic to prepare to mow down unsuspecting pedestrians, nothing to see here!

We’re all used to seeing all kinds of things added to the air above stadium renderings — fireworks, mostly — but this is the first time I can recall seeing a flock of birds. Do we think someone actually put those in to enhance the attractiveness of the image, or did they just find “flock of birds” in some pulldown menu and figured they might as well use it somewhere, if only to justify claiming the clip art expansion pack as a business expense?

This is a normal enough soccer scene — players contesting a ball, smoke bombs going off in the supporters’ section — unless you actually pay attention to the soccer. Number 6, mark your man! Somebody on the navy blue team, get open for a cross! And where’s the keeper? Was he so confused by the fact that the touchline wasn’t laid out at a 90-degree angle that he couldn’t figure out where to stand? Was he mowed down by a rogue pedicab? So many questions.

Now there’s some fireworks! Plus people pointing randomly at the sky and holding up scarves, because you know that’s what vaporfans love to do.

Feel better now? I sure do! MLS may be busy with wacky schemes to put up all 26 teams in Orlando for a summer tournament, but vaporsoccer is alive and well and, if those ecstatic fans are any indication, way more entertaining.

Friday roundup: Dolphins owner seeks Formula One tax break, Tacoma okays soccer subsidies, plus vaportecture from around the globe!

Happy coronavirus panic week! What with stadiums in Europe being closed to fans and stadium workers in the U.S. testing positive for the virus, it’s tough to think of much right now other than what song to wash your hands to for 20 seconds (this is my personal preference). But long after we’re done with our self-quarantines, the consequences of sports venue spending will live on, so to the week’s news we go:

  • Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is seeking a sales-tax exemption for tickets to Formula One racing events at his stadium, saying that without it, Miami might not get a Grand Prix. The tax break is expected to cost the state between $1.5 million and $2 million per event, but Formula One officials say each race would generate an economic impact of more than $400 million, and what possible reason would they have to lie about a thing like that?
  • The Tacoma city council voted 8-1 on Monday to approve spending on a $60 million, 5,000-seat stadium for the Reign F.C. women’s pro soccer team. According to a letter of intent approved by the council, the city will provide $15 million, while the city parks agency will provide $7.5 million more, with perhaps another $20 million to come from federal tax credits for investing in low-income communities. The parks body still has to vote on the plan on Monday as well; given that Metro Parks commissioner Aaron Pointer — who is also a former Houston Astro and a brother of the Pointer Sisters — said he doesn’t see “really any benefits at all” for the city or its parks, it’s fair to say that the vote there will be more contentious than the one in the city council.
  • Brett Johnson, the developer behind a proposed $400 million development in Pawtucket centered around a pro soccer stadium, says he has lots of investors eager to parks their capital gains in his project tax-free under the Trump administration’s Opportunity Zone program, but it might take a while to work out all the details because reasons. But, he added, “My confidence is very high,” and confidence is what it’s all about, right?
  • Nashville’s Save Our Fairgrounds has filed for a court injunction to stop work on a new Nashville S.C. stadium, on the grounds that no redevelopment of the state fairgrounds can take place without a public voter referendum. This brings the total number of lawsuits against the project to … umpteen? I’m gonna go with umpteen.
  • There’s now an official lawsuit against the Anaheim city council for voting on a Los Angeles Angels stadium land sale without sufficient public meetings. The People’s Homeless Task Force is charging that holding most of the sale talks in private violated the state’s Brown Act on transparency; the city’s lawyers responded that “there could be a myriad of reasons” why the council was able to vote on the sale at a single meeting in December despite never discussing it in public before that, though they didn’t suggest any specific reasons.
  • Wondering what vaportecture looks like outside of North America? Here’s an article on Watford F.C.‘s proposed new stadium, though if you aren’t an Athletic subscriber you’ll be stuck with just the one image, though given that it’s an image of Watford fans stumbling zombie-like into the stadium out of what appears to be an open field, really what more do you need?
  • There are some new renderings of the St. Louis MLS team‘s proposed stadium, and once again they mostly feature people crossing the street, not anything having to do with watching soccer. Are the clip art images of people throwing their hands in the air for no reason temporarily out of stock or something?
  • Here are photos of a 31-year-old arena being demolished, because America.
  • The Minnesota Vikings‘ four-year-old stadium needs $21 million in new paneling on its exterior, because the old paneling was leaking. At least the stadium’s construction contractors will be footing the bill, but it’s still an important reminder that “state of the art” isn’t necessarily better than “outmoded,” especially when it comes to new and unproven designs.
  • And speaking of COVID-19, here’s an article on how travel restrictions thanks to the new coronavirus will cost the European tourism industry more than $1 billion per month, without wondering what else Europeans (and erstwhile travelers to Europe from other continents) will do with the money they’re saving on plane tickets and hotel rooms. Where’s my article on how pandemics are a boost to the hand sanitizer and canned soup industries?

Friday roundup: More Carolina Panthers stadium demands, D-Backs explain Vancouver move threat, and giant soccer robots

Good morning, and thank you for taking a break from your coronavirus panic reading to patronize Field of Schemes. Please wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and we can begin:

Friday roundup: Nashville SC “disappointed” mayor upset at overruns, Miami paying Super Bowl teams’ hotel bills, and the return of Cab-Hailing Purse Woman

It’s been a long week and there is apparently some other stuff in the news and also I want to go read the new Deadspin writers’ temporary blog that is not Deadspin, so let’s get straight to this week’s roundup, which is long, because remember what I literally just said about it having been a long week?

I absolutely cannot wait for the first stadium report to calculate the projected economic impact of Cab-Hailing Purse Woman. Clearly she’ll go anywhere to see a game of baseball and/or soccerfootball! How can your city possibly turn up its nose at the spending on ride-hailing services she will bring?

UPDATE: Someone just forwarded me another article with more Royals stadium renderings, and OMG that sign:

If you’re having trouble reading it, the side facing the camera reads “HEY CDC KC HAS THE FEVER,” which is apparently a joke about the coronavirus epidemic now threatening to sweep the globe? And the other side, facing the field, reads “TODAY’S MY BIRTHDAY SURPRISE ME WITH A WIN” which is a way too on-the-nose reference to the fact that the Royals have lost more than 100 games the last two years. Forget any innovations in stadium design, I want to hear more about how the Royals can draw more fans by encouraging negging.

Friday roundup: Panthers owner donated to Charlotte officials during stadium lobbying, St. Louis MLS didn’t need $30m in state money after all, and what time the Super Bowl economic impact rationalizations start

Happy Friday, and try not to think about how much you’re contributing to climate change by reading this on whatever electronic device you’re using. Though at least reading this in text doesn’t require a giant server farm like watching a video about stadiums would — “Streaming one hour of Netflix a week requires more electricity, annually, than the yearly output of two new refrigerators” is one of the more alarming sentences I’ve read ever — so maybe it counts as harm reduction? I almost linked to an amusing video clip to deliver my punchline, wouldn’t that have been ironic!

And now, the news:

The year in vaportecture: What team owners stuck human Colorforms on in 2019

Back in March, when there was still a Deadspin, I wrote an article for them about vaportecture, my term for the dreamlike renderings that sports team owners (and other developers) use to sell their visions of publicly supported buildings to the public they need to support them. It was one of my most enjoyable pieces to write, not just because I got to take a microscope to hastily designed renderings to see just how crazy their details are — why is that man at the Tampa Bay Rays game pointing at the sky? why are so many people and trees translucent? why is the sun setting in the north? — but because it got at the point of all this madness:

There are a couple of ways of understanding these fantastical images. The simplest is that they’re ways to try to bypass all the qualms and intellectual objections we may have about whether a new building is necessary—visual information is much easier to process than textual, and therefore tends to sink into our cerebral cortexes without stopping to see if it makes any goddamn sense.

But the best explanation for all this—certainly the moat surfers, but really the entire Vaportecture package—is as misdirection. If you’re talking about moats or lens flare, you’re not debating who’s going to pay for the damn thing or why your team even needs a new stadium at all when the last one was only 22 years old.

Sadly, this conclusion did not cause the stadium-rendering industry to instantly dissolve in a fit of embarrassment at having its curtain ripped off. But as a consolation prize, it means we have another year’s worth of vaportecture to point and laugh at, while playing Where’s Waldo for Mitch Moreland’s engagement photos.

This rendering from the Halifax Schooners wannabe CFL team is possibly my favorite vaportecture image ever, featuring a near-empty stadium where soccer and football are being played at the same time, on a field where the few fans present could wander right into the game if they wanted. They show no interest in doing so, however, with one attempting to hail a cab that exists only in her mind, while another ignores the multisport mashup going on mere yards away to instead take a photo of the sky.

The Schooners owners later issued revised renderings, which were somewhat more realistic but remained a little unclear on what actual football being played looks like, or why it might not be a good idea to force fans in the end zone to walk onto the actual field to get to and from their seats.

I learned from the commenters on my Deadspin article, some of whom were actually employed in the renderings industry, that the people clip-arted into these images are known as “entourage,” and are indeed pasted in from image libraries to fill out scenes. If your scene is too crowded, though, you may run out of entourage and have to reuse them, which is why every picture of the Indiana Pacersrenovated arena plans seems to include the same couple with a baby in the exact same position.

Similarly, don’t spend too much time wondering why a stadium full of Oklahomans has shown up to watch players who appear to exist only on a video board, or you’ll miss the woman and her four clones who have seated themselves in the second at bottom right while wearing identical floppy hats. The future is truly wondrous.

Sometimes, as in the above image from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office of a new train station to support a new Islanders arena, the renderers aren’t too careful about where they drop their human Colorforms, resulting in a woman carefully leading her young child along the very edge of the tracks. Or, more disturbingly, contemplating jumping onto the tracks after learning that hundreds of millions of her tax dollars went to building this station a few hundred feet from the next station just so the Islanders could build a new arena.

“This image is boring, our clients will hate it.” “What if I add some men admiring each other’s fashionable suits?” “I dunno…” “And a cute kid wearing a souvenir jersey of some kind?” “Okay, but put him in the extreme foreground so as to obscure as much of the rest of the shot as possible.” “You got it.”

The most notable feature of the Oakland A’s new Howard Terminal stadium is how even after it displaces waterfront shipping, it will still be surrounded by shipping cranes for some reason.

Philadelphia’s new $50 million esports arena hasn’t broken ground yet at last report, but given how excited Philly esports fans are to look at empty chairs, maybe the owners can just set up some card tables in a parking lot in the interim and hand out flags.

YEAHHHHH FIREWORKS!!!

And finally, if that bizarro Halifax image up top has any competition for vaportecture of the year, it’s from the Worcester Red Sox, who followed up last year’s bonkers stadium renderings with ones featuring blank-faced fans wandering through mostly empty spaces — the bottom one is supposedly a “street fair” offering “year-round and nightly activities” — and no sense of perspective at all, making people in the background appear monstrously tall. Maybe the team ran out of marketing budget and was forced to design its stadium in Minecraft? Until some rendering whistleblowers show up in comments to explain things, it will likely remain a mystery — a joyous, schadenfreude-y mystery, to savor while remembering that all this is meant to distract you from all the money at stake, and how much of it is yours.

The vaportecture artists just aren’t even trying anymore, man

We’ve been over a lot of bad stadium renderings on this site — stadiums with two sports being played at once, stadiums with people walking on snow-covered ice rinks in street shoes, stadiums where fans stare at trees. But this latest from the Worcester Red Sox (previous home of the tree starer), just come on:

What… what is even happening here? At first glance, it looks like the WooSox are proposing a stadium where all of the seating is in the outfield, the better to protect fans from the horrific sight of 30-foot-tall toddlers rampaging across the infield. Or it’s possible that’s some kind of baseball-field-themed play park out in the outfield behind the scoreboard — this image suggests maybe that’s the case — but even so, the people walking on it are wildly out of scale, even with each other, and also there appears to be nothing stopping them from just tumbling onto the real field in the background. I’m also not sure what purpose those frosted-glass turnstiles are supposed to serve, or what happened to the feet (or eyes, nose, and mouth) of that poor woman in the foreground. It’s like someone was left in the rendering room with a bunch of Colorforms and no supervision, and then the results were sent directly to the press.

Then there’s this, which MassLive helpfully captioned “Polar Park will offer a berm seating location the left centerfield”:

From the other images, I’m guessing that’s supposed to be a grassy slope with the outfield wall at the bottom, a wall that’s made up of some kind of blue rocks topped with a divider from Atari Adventure.

Of course, it’s always possible that the MassLive caption editors are trolling us, when you consider that this image is captioned “The Summit Street Fair located in Polar Park will offer year-round and nightly activities for patrons visiting the area in Worcester”:

Look, we all know that renderers are overworked by clients with no particular interest in quality control, so I’m willing to cut them some slack here. But why on earth did MassLive choose to run all of these horrific images, under the uncritical (if possibly trolly, everything starts to look possibly sarcastic if you stare at it long enough) headline “New Polar Park details include a heart-shaped clock, smiley foul poles and year-round nightlife”? (Yes, I didn’t even get to the smiley-face-topped foul poles.) Is this the dystopian future we now live in, where everyone just sighs and does whatever the money people ask for, while hoping that readers will be smart enough to laugh instead of taking it seriously? Do they even care if people take it seriously, so long as the checks clear? I think we may finally have arrived at that Hobbesian grift of all against all that we’ve been waiting for, people.