Friday roundup: Nashville saves (?) $75m by giving Predators $103m, South Carolina offers to give $125m to Panthers practice facility (?!), Oakland A’s shipping cranes are multiplying (?!?)

Since last week I went off-topic to discuss a review (kindly) poking fun at some of the ridiculousness of Marvel movies, I should note that there’s a TV series that manages to create a fun, exciting superhero universe while simultaneously poking fun at the entire genre in ways that expose not just its ridiculousness but also its fundamentally Manichean politics, and which has now been canceled by Amazon, a company that has been at the forefront of scheming to shake down cities for subsidies in exchange for building its own facilities. Coincidence?!?!?!? Well, okay, yes, almost certainly, but here’s hoping The Tick ends up picked up by a less ethically compromised corporate entertainment giant, if that’s even a thing.

Where was I? Oh right, stadiums, what’s up with those this week that we didn’t get to already?

  • The Nashville Predators have indeed agreed to a 30-year lease extension as first reported last week, and how good or bad a deal it is depends on your perspective: The team’s $8.4 million a year in tax kickbacks and operating subsidies will be reduced to just $4.9 million a year in tax kickbacks, which would be $75 million in taxpayer savings but on the other hand the tax kickbacks will be extended to 2049 now instead of 2028, so that’s $102.9 million in additional taxpayer costs. (Neither figure translated into present value.)
  • A South Carolina legislative conference committee has approved $115 million in tax breaks for a Carolina Panthers practice facility in Rock Hill. Yes, you read that right, a practice facility. State officials say that the 15-year tax kickbacks of all state income taxes will pay for themselves, a conclusion that state senator Dick Harpootlian determined was based on, in the words of the Associated Press, “every Panthers player and coach moving to South Carolina and spending their entire paychecks here and the team buying all the material for the new facility from companies in the state.”
  • Speaking of practice facilities, the Washington Wizards‘ new one is costing $1 million more a year for D.C. to run than anticipated, which is not good after the city already spent $50 million to build the thing for the team’s billionaire owner. D.C. officials recently booked three new concerts for the arena, but expects to lose money on each of them; an Events D.C. board member said they would let “people know that they have a place to go, that this is a fun place,” which I guess is another way of saying they’ll make it up in volume.
  • Omaha is spending $750,000 on hosting an Olympic swim meet, which on the one hand is a lot cheaper than $115 million for an NFL practice facility, and on the other is for a one-time Olympic swim meet.
  • Two unnamed sources tell The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal that New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft is “on the brink of securing a stadium site,” which tells us nothing about the state of the Revolution’s actual stadium plans since this could be a planted rumor to try to gain momentum, but does tell us lots about The Athletic’s poor grasp of the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics policy on use of unnamed sources.
  • I wrote a thing for Gothamist about how the New York Mets banned backpacks because they have too many pockets to easily search, but not other bags with lots of pockets, pretty much on the grounds of “the light’s better over here.” The best argument either of the security experts could come up with for the policy is that fewer bags means faster lines which means less time queued up outside stadiums as a stationary target for any theoretical terrorists, which is frankly mostly an argument for staying home and watching on TV.
  • Journalist Taylor C. Noakes notes in an op-ed for CBC News that bringing back the Expos might be nice for Montreal baseball fans, but probably won’t do much for the Montreal economy since “the economic impact of a professional baseball team on a given city [is] roughly equivalent to that of a mid-sized department store,” which, yup.
  • The latest Oakland A’s renderings show it still oddly glowing amid a darkened rest of the city. Plus now there are shipping cranes on both corners of the site! I am about to start working on a theory that this entire stadium plan is just a dodge for John Fisher to build lots of shipping cranes.

Indianapolis is considering upping its Pacers subsidies to a cool billion dollars

If you’ve been following the Twitters, you have probably already heard that Indiana’s Marion County Capital Improvement Board voted unanimously on Friday to approve a new lease and new subsidies for the Pacers. And what subsidies: Between cash for upgrading the Pacers’ arena and cash to cover the team’s year-to-year operating costs, Indianapolis-area taxpayers would be on the hook for an additional $777 million over the next 25 years. Coming on top of $384 million in public money that the Pacers owners have already received since 1999, this would bring the municipal region’s total spending to $1.161 billion — or almost as much as it would take to buy the team outright.

Facts have been flying fast and furious since Friday, so here’s what we know at present:

  • The new public expenditures would include $295 million to upgrade Bankers Life Fieldhouse, $362 million in operating subsidies (paid out in installments over 25 years), and $120 million on “technology upgrades” over the next ten years. Since some of that money won’t be paid out right now, we really should calculate it in terms of present value, which comes to around $600 million — making the total public expense just under $1 billion. A bargain! (And yes, I should really adjust that whole $1 billion into 2019 dollars or something, which would make the total slightly higher, but life is short and division is long.)
  • At $600 million for 25 years, the new subsidy would cost Indianapolis $24 million a year for the privilege of having the Pacers not threaten to leave town for another generation. That would blow the doors off the record for most lucrative lease extension per year, which I currently had scored as the Carolina Panthers‘ $14.6 million per year.
  • The deal isn’t final yet, as the Indiana state legislature hasn’t yet determined how to pay for all this. The state house approved a package of Pacers subsidies on Thursday (and also Indy Eleven subsidies, can’t leave them out), but the state senate still needs to vote on it.
  • The Pacers owners would have to pay a fee of “as much as $750 million,” according to the Indianapolis Star, if they wanted to break the lease and leave early. (That figure, interestingly, does not appear anywhere in either the CIB’s press release or its “fieldhouse agreement” PDF.) Of course, they’d also need to kick themselves in the head for giving up $14.5 million in annual operating subsidy checks, but the way Indiana elected officials like to hand out public dollars, it might not be the worst thing to restrict team owners from coming back for even more cash in a couple of decades — assuming that’s what this agreement would do, which we can’t tell until we’ve actually read it.
  • Local sportswriters are on the case justifying this massive public expense, noting that while “it doesn’t sit right” to give money to billionaires that could be spent on actual public needs, it’s nonetheless justified by the “financial” and “cultural” and “symbolic” and “most of all magnetic” benefits of keeping Pacers owner Herb Simon from moving the team, which he doesn’t want to do, but which he, you know, could.

In exchange for their boodle, the Pacers marketing department provided a whole mess of new vaportecture renderings, which include images of a couple touring the arena site while holding their adorable baby in the exact same position wherever they go, fans walking into mysterious glass walls, and people walking around on an ice skating rink in the snow while wearing street shoes and carrying identical handbags. If that’s not worth $600 million, I don’t know what is. 

That lady from the Worcester baseball stadium rendering has found her way to the Halifax CFL stadium rendering

The Halifax CFL stadium renderings are out, and are they ever the bestest!

It’s little hard to see the images when they’re that tiny, so let’s blow up, oh, the top right one and:

This is amazing for several reasons, several of which have been spotted by the Halifax Examiner’s Tim Bousquet, who just last week wrote an item wonderfully titled “We are eagerly awaiting the ridiculous architectural renderings that are certain to accompany the stadium sales pitch,” and who yesterday tweeted:

I also love that the end zone just turns into a pedestrian plaza, the better for Halifax’s lone bike rider (his name is Steve) to ride right out onto the field during a game, and that all the fans in the stands are choosing to watch from the concessions concourse instead of taking seats, and that the stadium lights appear to be on in the middle of the day. But mostly I really love that Cab-Hailing Lady (or her friends know her, Linda) is living out her dream of visiting every imaginary sports stadium in North America. And hailing a cab there.

Meanwhile, Bousquet’s final comment reminds me of a very old strip from Tug McGraw’s (and some unnamed cartoonist’s and ghost writer’s, I’m sure) very old comic Scroogie, which I still have around for some reason:

You know what they say: Comic strips plus time equals architecture. Or something like that.

Philadelphia to get $50m arena just to watch people shoot at things on a computer screen

Comcast Spectacor, owners of the Philadelphia Flyers, plan to spend $50 million to build the nation’s first esports arena for their Fusion Overwatch team, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Also not actually the nation’s first esports arena, notes Motherboard, because there’s already the Esports Stadium Arlington in Texas, which wasn’t built from scratch but was constructed in a converted event space. Also really not actually the nation’s first esports arena, because the Fusion, along with all the other teams in the Overwatch league, currently play at Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles, which is basically a TV studio (and also “a crucible where champions become legends” but mostly a TV studio).

Also really really not actually the nation’s first esports arena, since Engadget reports it will “double as a venue for other live events,” so arguably it’s just a theater that will host Overwatch games, though I guess you could argue that Madison Square Garden is just a theater that hosts basketball and hockey games, too. The whatever-it-is will be built in the parking lot of the Flyers’ home arena, which Comcast Spectacor currently controls via a ground lease, which I haven’t been able to figure out how much the company pays in rent on in the amount of research time I have this morning, but even if it’s a sweetheart lease deal, it’s a sunk cost for taxpayers, so this arena won’t increase it.

Anyway, let’s get to the fun part, which is making fun of the Fusion arena renderings, armed with the newfound knowledge about greeblies and such that we learned yesterday:

So let’s see: We have a whole bunch of (or at least a couple dozen) fans headed into the arena wearing Fusion shirts, which, yep, checks out. One is wearing a jersey of a Fusion player named “Carpe,” which also checks out — here is his “player profile,” which, trigger warning if you’re not familiar with Overwatch, mostly consists of him shooting things with automatic weapons.

Beyond that, the strangest elements appear to be the fan in the foreground throwing their arms in the air for no particular reason — which is very much a Thing People In Sports Renderings Do — plus the couple who appear to already be done for the evening and are stumbling back away from the arena, unless they’re posing for a selfie being taken with a video camera?

Anyway, that image isn’t too entertaining — not even any fireworks! — so do we have any others?

Now we’re talking! Thundersticks! Luxury boxes! Spotlights illuminating nothing in particular! A person whose right hand appears to have actually mutated into a cell phone! I especially like how the renderers appear not to actually know what goes on in an esports arena, so the fans are all cheering wildly for what looks like a bunch of empty chairs behind a podium and a giant team photo. Or maybe they know damn well what goes on in an esports arena, but didn’t want to show people cheering on automatic weapons fire.

My Deadspin guide to vaportecture got even better when some vaportecture designers showed up

I’ve written many times here about “vaportecture,” my term for the often-fanciful, sometimes-bizarre stadium and arena renderings that are rolled out when a sports team is looking to catch the eye of elected officials, voters, or journalists with pretty pictures featuring lots of fireworks and lens flare. On Friday, though, I got to put it all together in one place for the first time, with an essay in Deadspin where I presented some of vaportecture’s greatest hits (yes, the Washington NFL stadium moat features prominently), and even tried to draw some conclusions on why team owners seem so obsessed with pretty pictures even when they’re so often laughable (one, humans love visual information even if it makes no sense; two, it’s misdirection from the arguably more important questions of how it’ll be paid for and why it’s even worth doing in the first place).

Digging through the archives of surreal stadium renderings was lots of fun — I’m especially fond of the ones where the lens flare shows the sun in one part of the sky, while the shadows show it somewhere else — but the real fun began when the comments started to roll in. That’s because apparently a whole bunch of professional architectural renderers read Deadspin, and they were quick to chime in with some behind-the-scenes explanations of all those geometric impossibilities and oddly generic fans sprinkled about:

I’m an Architectural Draftsman. I work, primarily, in AutoCAD (2D drafting) and Revit (3D modeling and rendering specifically for the architectural field). I also spend an inordinate amount of time churning out renderings for various projects, which means I have a very contentious relationship with Photoshop.

All of the critiques about the images shown above are all valid and, for the most part, the things being critiqued were done intentionally. It all boils down to two very simple ideas: 1) The people these are geared towards don’t know enough to spot the mistakes, problems, or the big old middle fingers to physics AND 2) Shock & Awe..

1) I would say that a solid 95% of the time we deal with people who cannot or, at the very least, are not comfortable thinking in three dimensions. These people are generally barely capable of reading a 2D drawing so when you start pulling out sheets showing the various seating levels in a ballpark/stadium you see eyes glaze over or, in worst case scenarios, insecurities come to the fore. Generally people don’t like it when you demonstrate what they consider failings in front of other people. This is where the Shock & Awe comes into play.

2) We want the client to engage with the images we’re showing them, so they need to look slick and they need to look fancy. For the most part, empty buildings are neither of those two things which is why we draw from what you so kindly described as a, “Wacky People Clip Art package.” I, personally, have about 1,200-1,500 people (referred to as “entourage,” I didn’t make up the name) I can pull from to populate my renderings and even with all that I find myself needing to create my own on a regular basis. We also have to take into account what is essentially set dressing. This means we often times have to fill shelves, kitchens, bakeries, shops, etc… with all the stuff you’d normally expect to see in these kinds of places. When we do that we’re pulling from archives of 2D and 3D greeblies (non essential items).

Once we’ve generated the rendering, whether it’s from Revit or 3Ds Max, we inevitably end up have to do a lot of post processing. This usually means color correction, inserting 2D entourage or greeblies, shadow correction/creation, etc… Eventually resulting in the kinds of images you see above.

That all makes a tremendous amount of sense, especially to anyone who’s done graphics work on a deadline for a less-than-discerning client. (Another commenter whose father was an architect noted that one design a week used to be standard; now it’s more like four per day, leading to impacts on quality that journalists as well will be familiar with.) More important, though, it’s introduced the word “greeblies” to my vocabulary, where it will now be making regular appearances, I’m sure.

Over on Twitter, meanwhile, a Texas Rangers fan made an even more incredible observation:

If new posts are less frequent at this site in the future, it’s because I’ll now be dedicating all my free time to playing Where’s Waldo? with Mitch Moreland and Rangers stadium renderings. Also: Mitch Moreland and his wife got engaged on the field of an empty stadium while both wearing Mitch Moreland jerseys? Wouldn’t they have rather gone somewhere with air-conditioning?

 

 

F.C. Cincinnati says stadium will no longer glow, demands free land in exchange for parking rights

F.C. Cincinnati has released new renderings of its planned $250 million MLS stadium, and as tends to happen, now that the public money is secured and it’s more important to figure out how to cut costs, the designers are taking steps to drab it up. Here, as a reminder, is the original plan:

And here’s what the team is proposing now:

Note any differences? It’s subtle, but I bet you can spot it.

The orange glow, said team officials according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, was eliminated “to accommodate neighborhood residents who were concerned and to cut costs.” Instead, the entire stadium will now be in black and white, as well as the entire surrounding neighborhood. Sounds like somebody needs a magic basketball!

In other news, F.C. Cincinnati’s owners were seeking to get a city-owned parking lot on the stadium site for $1, while the city council was holding out for the site’s $1,632,384 appraised value. The solution reached yesterday: The team will give the city use of a whole bunch of parking spaces plus a $300,000 police investigative unit facility, but no actual money. Mayor John Cranley said that the proposed deal “in my opinion gets us more than double the city’s appraised value,” and is “frankly a no-brainer”; Cranley didn’t show his math, but clearly he puts a lot of value on free parking.

Friday roundup: More Raiders temporary home rumors, more MLB expansion rumors, and pro cricket (?!?) in Texas

Was this week longer than usual, or did it just feel that way? The number of browser tabs I have open indicates the former — personally, I blame the moon.

  • Or maybe the Oakland Raiders will play in Arizona next year? When you have a lame-duck team whose new stadium in its new city isn’t ready yet, no idea is dumber than any other, really.
  • The University of Texas is reportedly building a new $300 million basketball arena at no cost to the state or the university, though if you read the fine print it’s actually getting Oak View Group (the same people behind Seattle’s arena rebuild) to build the arena in exchange for letting OVG keep a large chunk of future arena revenues. So really this is no different from UT building the arena themselves and using future revenues to pay off the construction costs, except I guess that OVG takes on the risk of cost overruns. Anyway, this is a good reminder that it’s not just about the costs, it’s about the revenues, stupid.
  • Las Vegas wants an MLB expansion team. It shouldn’t hold its breath.
  • There are lots of ideas for what to do with D.C.’s RFK Stadium site, and not all of them involve a stadium for Washington’s NFL team.
  • Queens community groups are protesting possible plans to build a soccer stadium for a would-be USL team called Queensboro F.C. on the Willets Point site cleared of businesses for redevelopment (including affordable housing) several years ago. This is a super-weird story that I’m still trying to get to the bottom of, so stay tuned for a more in-depth update soon.
  • Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk now says he’d consider letting someone else own his team’s proposed downtown arena if they’d pay to build it, contradicting what he said two years ago. Here’s a fun list of other times Melnyk contradicted himself!
  • Lots of public meetings coming up in Phoenix on the much-derided $230 million Suns arena renovation plan. The city has also posted the actual arena proposal, which among other things notes that the Suns’ rent is projected to go up from $1.5 million to $4 million a year in a renovated arena, which would help offset some of the public’s $168 million in costs, though it doesn’t say whether the rent (which is based on revenues) would go up in an unrenovated arena as well, so really this wouldn’t offset it all that much.
  • Speaking of the Suns, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said this week that “it’d be a failure on my part if a team ended up moving out of a market.” Now that’s how you play the army protection racket non-threat threat game! Rob Manfred, take notes. (Actually, please don’t.)
  • And speaking of Manfred, MLB is reportedly considering letting teams take control of their streaming broadcast rights instead of running them all centrally through MLB.tv, which would be a huge deal in that it would allow teams in large markets to monopolize streaming revenue like they currently do TV revenue, forestalling an NFL-like future where TV money is a more level playing field. They could offset this through increased revenue-sharing, sure, but … you know what, let’s table this discussion until there’s more than an unsourced New York Post item to go on.
  • Allen, Texas, is talking about building a pro cricket stadium via a “public-private partnership,” leaving me with two big questions: 1) how much is the public kicking in, and 2) maybe would it be a good idea to wait until a pro cricket league actually exists before building a stadium for it to play in?
  • The Athletic has a strangely formatted article about how finished MLS stadiums seldom look like their renderings that’s a fun read if you’re an Athletic subscriber, which you probably aren’t. (I got the $1-for-90-days trial deal, so I can keep tantalizing you with paywalled stuff for another few weeks yet.)

Terrible Worcester stadium deal gets appropriately terrible renderings

We have new renderings of the Worcester Red Sox stadium set to open in 2021! Let’s see what one of the largest minor-league baseball stadium subsidies in history will get for the Paris of the 80s:

I’ve always assumed that people in architectural renderings come from some sort of clip art, but if so, the ones here appear to have been imported from the Wacky Poses collection. We have the kids in oversized t-shirts putting on shower caps, the woman hailing a cab on an empty street, the woman intently staring down a tree, the man with a beard down to his navel, the two guys not at all suspiciously wearing long overcoats when everyone else is dressed in shorts, and so, so much more! Really, you could make a good “Find the X things wrong with this picture” puzzle out of this image, except the answer would be “everything.” (Why are so many of the people subtly translucent, anyway?)

The stadium will have a diner! This is, I guess, one of those touches that’s supposed to show it will be a year-round economic catalyst, and not just a giant building that’s closed almost 300 days a year. I especially like how the renderers chose to add a big dorky pointer labeling the diner, rather than the way easier solution of making the diner signage say “Diner” instead of “Signage.”

They really want you to see that diner. It will, apparently, be filled with a toxic gas that will repel all potential customers and keep them at a safe distance, which is probably a good idea seeing that the customers will all be gray, featureless ghosts. (But not translucent! Only living, breathing people are translucent in WooSox world!)

WE GET IT THERE’S A DINER OKAY

Finally, the first image where we can see the inside of the stadium. Aside from being weirdly asymmetrical — is it modeled after Fenway Park, maybe, with its short porch in left and terrible right-field corner seats? — it has a rather large upper deck for a 10,000-seat Triple-A stadium. That’s not at all a bad thing, not is the fact that the upper deck appears to be cantilevered well over the lower-deck seats, but I am puzzled by what’s holding it up, since there are no columns underneath it and nothing behind it to serve as a counterweight.This image makes it ever more clear: That upper deck is just suspended off of the front of the concourse behind it by some mysterious force. Hey everybody, we may have found the location of the universe’s missing dark energy! And who can put a price on unlocking one of the fundamental puzzles of the universe?

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:

Rays owner proposes new $892m domed stadium, says he “hasn’t looked at” who’d pay for it

After what seems like a lifetime of false starts and saber-rattling and playing footsie with every locality in the Tampa Bay region, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg finally unveiled actual plans for a new stadium in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa yesterday, complete with renderings. And oh, what renderingsYep, Sternberg is proposing to build a giant glass trilobite, with the best seats right behind the plate removed to make way for some kind of triumphal entryway, and Tropicana Field’s much-hated fixed roof replaced by a different fixed roof, only this time translucent, because we know how well that worked at the Astrodome. (For those who don’t want to click through: Outfielders couldn’t see flyballs, the dome’s skylights were all painted over, the grass all died, and Monsanto had to invent Astroturf.) Also some gratuitous lens flare even though the shadows indicate the sun should be way off to the left, because nothing says “ooh, shiny” like lens flare. It may not be a Brancusi sculpture, but it’s certainly something.

And from there, the stadium details just get more … audacious? unexpected? wackadoodle? … let’s go with one of those:

  • The stadium would be by far the smallest in MLB, holding only 28,216 seats, while another 2,600 people could stand or sit in folding chairs or something. That sort of makes sense when you consider Rays attendance, which hasn’t topped 23,148 per game since their inaugural season, though less so when you consider that the whole point of this new-stadium exercise is to attract more fans in a better location.
  • In place of a retractable roof — or no roof at all — the stadium would expose fans to the elements with a retractable wall, which I guess would remind them that the outside world still exists by letting the occasional breeze in, without actually making them vulnerable to rain or sun or the sky or any nuisances like that. It’s still likely to sound like you’re inside an airport hangar, which in my experience is the worst part of domes, but maybe that next-generation translucent roof material will be permeable to sound, too, who knows?
  • A smaller capacity and a non-retracting roof could both be ways to keep costs down, but if so, they weren’t kept down very far: The price tag on this arthropod of dreams is an estimated $892 million.

And, all renderings that will invariably change later aside, here’s the part we’ve really all been waiting for: How does Sternberg expect to pay for this thing? Let’s listen in:

I mean … I mean … I mean … seriously? Rays execs had, depending on how you count, somewhere between five months and ten years to come up with some ideas, any ideas at all for how to pay for a stadium, Sternberg and friends came up with, well, this:

Reactions from the rest of the world were similarly nonplussed, as a trip down Noah Pransky’s Twitter feed shows:

https://twitter.com/noahpransky/status/1017015178079166466

Okay, so the Tampa Bay Times was enthralled, at least.

If you want tough questions from the Tampa press corps, here’s Pransky himself asking Sternberg himself about how on earth he actually plans to build this thing that he’s been dreaming and talking about for years upon years:

Pransky: 892 million. Can you afford it?

Sternberg: Well, potentially.

Pransky: What do you need from the public sector?

Sternberg: I haven’t even looked at it at this point really.

Pransky: You guys haven’t looked at it all?!?

Sternberg: Not to the point that’s necessary. We’ve been focused on what you saw today, which is in itself a huge, huge undertaking.

So we are supposed to believe that the owner of a pro sports team, who for years has been demanding a new stadium as a way of improving his bottom line, went into designing and pricing out a new stadium with no thoughts at all of how it would be paid for or whether it would make money. Or the other possibility is that he thought, Hey, asking for hundreds of millions of dollars is a bad look — let’s just give the public lots of pretty pictures and hope they’ll be distracted enough not to worry about where the money will come from. I bet it’ll work on those stenographers at the Tampa Bay Times, anyway!

This, needless to say, is only the beginning of what is sure to be a long, painful battle. I’ll be on The Beat of Sports with Marc Daniels at 10 am ET today to talk about the Rays’ announcement, and more if we have time — tune in here. I’ll try to have more to say than just leaving my jaw hanging open in flabbergastment for the entire segment.