Friday roundup: Oakland opens A’s land sale talks, Clippers arena down to two lawsuits, plus video vaportecture!

I know it’s not Deadspin — nothing is, or ever will be again, though we can dream — or even sports, but I have an article up at City Limits this week about another big-money public construction project that seems to be proceeding despite no one quite knowing how it will work or how it will be paid for. It’s probably only a matter of time before sports team owners figure out a way to do promote new stadiums as worthy of climate resilience funding, especially since local governments are already showing themselves willing to spend climate money poorly to benefit rich people.

Anyway, oodles of bonus news this week, plus more vaportecture, so let’s get to it:

  • The city of Oakland is starting talks with the A’s owners about selling the city’s half of the Oakland Coliseum property to the team for development — with the proceeds to be used to build a new stadium on the Oakland waterfront — but still hasn’t dropped its lawsuit against Alameda County for agreeing to sell its share to the A’s without consulting the city. Meanwhile, here’s an article by the mayor of Oakland about how baseball and port operations are both good things, let’s find a way to make them both work together!
  • The Federal Aviation Administration has ruled that the proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena in Inglewood poses no danger to aviation at nearby Los Angeles International Airport, and a judge has dismissed claims that the city was required to seek affordable housing uses for the site first. But the project still faces two more lawsuits over how Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was granted the land and whether the city illegally evaded open-meetings laws, so we could yet be here a while.
  • Paterson, New Jersey is asking the state Economic Development Authority for $50 million in tax credits to use on a $76 million project redevelopment of Hinchliffe Stadium, a crumbling (this term is way overused, but it’s actually crumbling) former Negro League stadium, into “a 7,800-seat athletic facility, with a 314-space parking garage, restaurant with museum exhibits dedicated to Negro League baseball, 75-unit apartment building for senior citizens and a 5,800-square-foot childcare facility.” The rest of the article doesn’t explain much about what the renovation will look like or how the money will be spent or who will collect revenues from the new facility or anything, but it does include Mayor André Sayegh opining that you could “have a big concert there. Boxing. Wrestling. It could all happen there,” and Councilmember Michael Jackson countering that “to spend money on this project is senseless” since it will only create maybe 50 jobs. Feel free to take sides!
  • The Arena Football League has suspended operationsagain — after getting sued for nonpayment by its former insurance company, but “may become a traveling league, similar to the Premier Lacrosse League, whereby all players practice in a centralized location and fly to a different city each weekend to play games.”
  • Nashville S.C.‘s MLS stadium is now on hold, with Mayor John Cooper suspending demolition to clear the site, amid a lawsuit charging that the project and its $75 million in public cash were approved improperly and will interfere with the annual Tennessee state fair. The Tennessee Tribune writes that “it’s only a matter of time before the MLS soccer stadium contracts will be voided and put out to bid again”; I am not a lawyer, but then, neither are the Tribune’s journalists, so we’ll see.
  • If you want to rent office space in the Texas Rangers‘ old stadium for some reason, you now can! Just realize that it won’t be air-conditioned when you go outside.
  • The Minnesota Vikings‘ stadium is killing more than a hundred birds a year, but other buildings kill even more birds, which means the Vikings clearly need a more state-of-the-art bird-killing building, that’s how this works, right?
  • Here’s a photo of how the new Los Angeles Rams (and Chargers) stadium looks in its current state of construction, and if you think that the “vertical design” will make it feel “intimate.” then you agree with one Rams fan! Another fan, who was sitting in the fourth row of seats behind the end zone, remarked, “I kind of expected the field (area) to be much larger, to take you away from the experience. But you’re going to be right in the game.” Two takeaways: There are reasons why teams never invite fans to sit in the cheap seats to see what the view will be like from there, and American sports fans really aren’t great with geometry.
  • Calgary is looking at cutting wages for city employees to balance its budget, and one local economist thinks maybe not building the Flames a new arena would be a better idea.
  • The five-county sales tax surcharge that paid for the Milwaukee Brewers‘ Miller Park is finally set to phase out in January, after 23 years and $577 million. This is not so good news if you’re upset about Wisconsin taxpayers spending $577 million to pay for a private sports owner’s baseball stadium, but good news if you were worried that the Brewers or some other sports team might see the sales tax money sitting around and want to propose a new project to spend it on, which is always a worry.
  • The Montreal Canadiens have gotten a reduction in their property tax bill for the fourth time since 2013, even while property valuations elsewhere in the city are soaring. No reason was given, but “they’re major players in the local business community and whined about it a lot” seems like a reasonable theory.
  • Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist John Steigerwald asks about public funding for the Pirates‘ now 18-year-old stadium, “If the Pirates were faced with paying for their ballpark, do you think they might have had more incentive to insist on real revenue sharing and a salary cap before they built it?” Answer: No, rich people have incentive to demand money everywhere they can find it, regardless if they already have money, which Pirates owner Bob Nutting totally does. Next question!
  • I promised you vaportecture, so here’s some vaportecture: a ten-second video of the entryway to the Phoenix Suns arena morphing into a somewhat snazzier entryway now that the city of Phoenix agreed to spend $168 million in renovations in exchange for a few tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations. (Actual quid pro quo not included, but you can picture it easily enough.) Yes, it’s mostly just a bunch of new video boards and some new escalators being enjoyed by a handful of beefy white people, but isn’t that what pro basketball is all about?

Friday roundup: Helicopter rides for rich fans, pricey bridge prices, and why Deadspin mattered

In case anyone hasn’t been following this week’s Deadspin drama, pretty much the entire staff has resigned over the past two days, following Tuesday’s decision by CEO Jim Spanfeller to fire acting editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky because the staff had responded to Spanfeller’s edict to “stick to sports” by posting a ton of excellent non-sports content. A few last posts have gone up the last couple of days, some to burn off features that were already scheduled to run and some to take classically Deadspinesque digs at management for burning down a popular website seemingly out of spite for continuing to do exactly what it had been doing for years before they bought it.

This is very bad news for journalism and America and humanity, and not only if you, like me, will miss the site’s potshots at our Big Wet President. There’s a popular notion that sports is just a fun diversion where the “outside world” of politics has no place — and that, as I hope the entire 21-year history of this site has made abundantly clear, is an extremely dangerous notion, because it means that concerns over what taxpayers are being charged for places to play sports or what athletes are being paid to play sports or who is allowed to speak out on what issues involving sports are dismissed with a Can’t we just watch the game? But games are serious — and lucrative — business, and can’t be divorced from the greater culture, any more than we should be just watching movies as pure entertainment without attention to the bigger issues involved. Deadspin was dedicated to erasing those lines and allowing its writers to address whatever they felt needed addressing at the moment, whether it was the meaning of who you’re seen sitting with at a football game or what we’re getting stuck in our rectums each year, and until and unless a successor emerges to pick up the torch, the world will be a sadder, dumber place.

(Already yesterday I read about Josh Hamilton’s arrest after his daughter said he threw a chair at her — a phrasing I owe to this excellent Deadspin non-sports article, incidentally — and wished I could read Deadspin’s analysis of it. Then I read about John Wetteland’s arrest for reportedly sexually assaulting a four-year-old child, and thought I wonder if maybe men’s sports should just be banned altogether at this point given the kind of behavior it encourages and realized Deadspin was probably my best bet for reading that take, too. It’s going to be a long however many weeks or months until something arises from Deadspin’s ashes, if that ever happens.)

Anyway, on to the weekly muddling of sports and politics:

  • The Indiana Pacers‘ arena will still be named after the bank that stopping paying for naming rights in June until the team has found a new naming-rights sponsor, which seems weird at first but actually makes total sense: It costs money to change the signage so why do it twice, and also the value of naming rights goes down with each new iteration of a corporate moniker that dilutes the name’s image for the public — quick, tell me what the Oakland Coliseum’s official name is these days — so calling it “Pacers Arena” or whatever for a few months might get fans to start calling it that permanently, and we can’t have that. And if you’re wondering why the Pacers get to sell naming rights to a building that was built entirely with public dollars and is owned by the public: It’s Indianapolis, Jake.
  • St. Louis’s new MLS stadium finally has a site picked out — Market Street near Union Station, if you’re scoring at home — and new renderings as well, though they look pretty much like the old renderings except for the one that is just a closeup of a kid riding on his parent’s (?) shoulders. The state of Missouri has received approval to sell 22 acres of land for the stadium to the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, which will then lease it to the MLS team for … oh, that doesn’t seem to have been reported. Just look at the pretty pictures and don’t worry your head about that nasty money business.
  • A public city database in Atlanta is indicating that the city’s $23 million pedestrian bridge for the Falcons actually cost $41.7 million, but the city insists it’s really just that they entered the same checks multiple times. I’m not sure “spent $23 million on a pedestrian bridge for a football team and also can’t do basic bookkeeping” looks much better, honestly.
  • The San Antonio Spurs — whose mascot is for some reason a kangaroo, is that a kangaroo? — have installed four new helipads so that fans can buy helicopter rides to games, which really tells you everything you need to know about 1) who sports teams are interested in marketing to these days and 2) just how ridiculously much money rich people in America have to burn these days.
  • Fresno FC owner Ray Beshoff has declared he “will almost certainly be relocating the team” because he hasn’t been provided with a new soccer-only stadium, unless “in the next two or three weeks if people come to the table with ideas or suggestions that we think are tenable.” This will come as a huge shock to fans who’ve been dedicated followers of the USL team since (looks up team on Wikipedia) March of 2018.
  • The San Francisco 49ers are raising ticket prices by 13% but giving season ticket holders free food and soda, which I guess means 49ers fans will be spending most of games from now on pigging out on all-you-can-eat nachos instead of watching the action on the field. Also, you can’t get the free food if you buy tickets on the secondary market, only if you’re the original season ticket holder. Or, I guess, borrow the season ticket holder’s free-food card? Or have a season ticket holder go up to the counter for you and get your nachos? I don’t live anywhere near Santa Clara and hate football, but I am very excited at seeing how fans figure out how to game this system.
  • Still nobody is sure which minor-league teams MLB will threaten to eliminate as part of its plan to restrict minor-league affiliates, or what criteria MLB will use for deciding who shall live and who shall die or whether MLB is even serious or just trying to scare minor-league players into not demanding they be paid minimum wage. I really should write about this for Deadsp — crap.
  • It rained at the Buffalo Bills game last weekend, so a local country music station ran a poll asking listeners: “Would you be in favor of a roof stadium or no?” Not included: any mention of what a roof would cost, or what WYRK has against the word “roofed.”
  • The corporate newspaper that helped gut a free daily by selling it to people who immediately laid off most of the editorial staff ran an article this week asking if the new New York Islanders arena will make it harder for the nearby Nassau Coliseum to draw events, but I’m not going to link to a union-busting-enabling outlet that put the article behind a paywall anyway, so let me just answer the question here: Duh, yes!
  • A former assistant to Inglewood Mayor James Butts has changed her testimony in the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Clippers‘ proposed arena, and Inglewood officials are asking that her revised testimony be rejected because they say she’s in “cahoots” with Madison Square Garden, which opposes the arena because it doesn’t want competition for its own arena nearby. Elephants, man.
  • The DreamHouse New Mexico Bowl has been canceled, because alleged film production company and title sponsor DreamHouse turns out not to exist, but rather to be a scam perpetrated by “a relentless self promoter who lies about nearly everything he says he does.”
  • A giant water droplet named Wendy has made a video suggesting that Washington’s NFL team should move back within city limits. Sorry, Sean Doolittle, this is actually the most 2019 Washington thing ever.
  • The Sunshine Coast Pickleball Association is seeking funding from the city of Sechelt for a new pickleball stadium. I don’t actually know where Sechelt is and am only dimly aware of what pickleball is, and I’m not going to ruin the perfect sentence above by looking either thing up.

Friday roundup: Lotsa soccer news, and oh yeah, saving the world

Happy global climate strike day! As kids (and their adults) take to the streets today, it’s important to keep in mind two not-contradictory-though-they-may-seem-so things: We are seriously screwed even if we act now, but there’s still a lot we can do to keep ourselves from being even more seriously screwed. (And by “we” here I mostly mean governments, because it’s almost impossible for individuals alone to significantly impact carbon emissions just by shutting off lights and avoiding air travel, not that those aren’t important things to do, too.)

Anyway, enough about the fate of humanity, let’s talk about sports venues (and not even about the carbon footprints of building new ones and flying teams from city to city, which would be a whole other article):

Oklahoma City soccer team owner wants tax money for new stadium, because “economic boost” and “diversity”

When I relayed the news last week that Oklahoma City’s fourth iteration of its MAPS sales-tax hike was being eyed to fund upgrades to the Thunder‘s arena that was already built and upgraded with previous MAPS sales-tax hikes, I neglected to note that USL team OKC Energy F.C. also wants some tax money for a new soccer stadium, because why wouldn’t they? Their existing stadium was entirely rebuilt way back in 2015, which is a lifetime if you’re a stadium or a mayfly.

Team co-owner Bob Funk, Jr. had this to say about why he’d like between $37 million and $72 million in public money for a new stadium for his minor-league soccer franchise:

“This is an opportunity to once again set our city on a global stage. It will connect and unify Oklahoma City’s diverse cross-section of cultures and provide a powerful economic boost to our urban core.”

Note that Oklahoma City already has a USL team, so that’s not enough to set it on a global stage. (Nor is the presence of the Thunder, apparently, though that “once again” implies that global stages expire about as often as mayflies.) Moving the soccer team from one stadium to another, though, would be a powerful economic boost, something that KFOR explains thusly:

The first option represented a $37 million to $42 million investment for an 8,000-seat stadium that would accommodate soccer, high school football, rugby, lacrosse, concerts and festivals.

Organizers believe it could host more than 60 events each year, which would bring $60 million annually to the city.

The second option was a $67 million to $72 million investment with 10,000 seats, shade structures and other amenities to improve the fan experience. Additional restrooms would be included, along with a larger stage and secondary stage. Organizers say this venue could host more than 80 events each year, which would bring over $79 million to the city.

Okay, so, just no. There is no way that the city is going to earn $79 million a year in rent (or sales taxes or whatever) on 80 events a year at a 10,000-seat stadium — that would be $100 a ticket, which would be a somewhat hefty fee for a team or stadium operator to pay.

Presumably what the “organizers” (which seems to mean Funk and a would-be stadium developer, though the article never says outright, because that would be committing journalism) mean here is $79 million a year in economic impact, which is a completely different thing adding up all the dollars spent in a region connected with a development project. That number is still almost certainly inflated — people attending minor-league soccer matches are unlikely to spend $100 total in the local economy, and even if they do they’d likely spend it just the same if the Energy F.C. were in their old stadium, or didn’t exist at all, because there are other things to do in Oklahoma City other than watch soccer — but saying “in economic impact” would have been at least marginally less misleading than “bring over $79 million to the city.”

Anyway, here‘s some vaportecture of the proposed stadium, which will apparently be used to watch dangerously over-capacity concerts involving fireworks displays at night, and to watch invisible football teams while wearing identical red floppy hats by day. Bonus points if you can spot any diverse cross-section of cultures getting unified!

F.C. Cincinnati releases new stadium renderings that remain unclear on exactly how soccer works

It’s been a bit of a slow news week so far, but fortunately F.C. Cincinnati is here to bail us out with some fresh vaportecture renderings of its new stadium that it’s building with somewhere between $81 million and $213 million in public money. You’ll recall that back in April, it was supposed to look like this:

But now, it’s going to look like this:

As you can see, there have been a lot of advances! The lighting system has been redirected to light the field rather than the roof, the ad boards have been removed from one sideline to make possible exciting plays where players actually tumble into the front row, the video board has been relocated from the corner to the upper end seats where it will block more fans’ views, someone has brought an enormous banner that is being spread out across the upper and lower decks despite it being the middle of game play, and somewhat fewer fans are excitedly raising their fists for good reason (possibly because the action has moved to the other end of the pitch, possibly because no one can see around all the checkerboard flags that were handed out, possibly because they’re all annoyed by vuvuzelas now being allowed in the stadium). Also the confetti mysteriously falling from above appears to have been gotten smaller, possibly because the previous size was considered a concussion hazard.

What else we got? Anything with some lens flare?

Now that’s what I’m talking about! I especially like the passerby in the last image excitedly pointing to the sky above the stadium, no doubt saying, “There are no fireworks or spotlights or mysterious colored clouds coming out of the top! Is it broken?”

F.C. Cincinnati president Jeff Berding also told Cincinnati Business Courier why the team chose to build a 26,000-seat stadium when right now they average 28,000 fans a game, and it was it was too expensive to build more seats (every additional thousand seats costing an additional $10 million) but also that by building more seats they can keep ticket prices lower, and 26,000 was the sweet spot where those two equations met, presumably, though he didn’t actually say. Just rest assured that your MLS team has two goals in mind: keeping ticket prices low and maximizing profits, and there’s no way those two things will ever come into conflict. Now wave your flag faster, you’re getting confetti on your head.

Tacoma plans $59.5m soccer stadium for NWSL and USL teams, with public’s share TBD

Yesterday a journalist asked me about the boom in new soccer stadiums, and replied that it was a function of a bunch of things, including MLS’s propensity to hand out new franchises like candy in exchange for new soccer-only facilities, as well as the fact that soccer stadiums tend to be relatively cheap as sports venues go. I wish that he’d waited a day to call me now, because:

The Tacoma City Council reviewed a feasibility study of a new $300 million soccer complex in Tacoma on Tuesday.

The project, called the Heidelberg Sports Complex, would be publicly and privately financed, a joint venture between the City of Tacoma, the Metro Parks department, and the Soccer Club of Tacoma (which includes the Reign FC and Tacoma Defiance).

Now, that $300 million is for a soccer stadium plus “eight recreational fields, shops, and 520 units of housing”; the actual stadium cost is listed at a somewhat more manageable $59.5 million, though it’s not immediately clear if that includes all the land and infrastructure that will be required for the stadium or not. In any event, this would all be for the Reign of the NWSL (that’s the women’s pro league) and the Defiance of the USL (that’s the top men’s minor league below MLS). The public’s share of the cost — and, one hopes, of any resulting revenues — won’t be revealed until the soccer team owners and public officials complete negotiations on the plan, which is expected to take place over the next month or two.

Tacoma officials did release a feasibility study on Tuesday, which I’m still going through, but aside from some requisite stadium renderings — featuring daytime fireworks, of course — and another rendering of, for some reason, Mount Rainier, there doesn’t appear to be a ton of useful detail in them. But I’m sure they were presented in a professional clear plastic binder, and that’s all that really matters.

NY Gov. Cuomo: Yeah I’m giving the Islanders owners $75m for a train station, but they’ll repay some of it eventually, so shut yer yaps

Well, that was confusing. After conflicting reports last week that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was set to announce the construction of a commuter rail station for a new New York Islanders arena which was going to either cost $300 million and mostly be paid for by the public, or cost $100 million and mostly be paid for by the arena developers, the answer turned out to be … neither! Instead, Cuomo canceled his own event, and substituted an emailed press release.

The press release, at least, spelled out the finances at last:

Constructing the new full-time station on the LIRR’s Main Line and upgrading the existing spur is estimated to cost $105 million. The arena developers will cover $97 million – 92 percent of the total cost – and the State will invest $8 million.

Nice and clear! Except that the governor’s statement came with an accompanying economic impact statement by the state-run Empire State Development corporation, and that contained a different set of numbers:

The total investment in the LIRR Improvements is anticipated to be $104 million, of which $30 million is to be funded by [New York Arena Partners, the Islanders owners’ development group] and $74 million is to be funded by the State of New York.

At this point, what the actual hell, man?

State officials were tied up all afternoon with a board meeting to approve the arena plan’s final environmental impact statement — an event that drew nearly three hours of public testimony, despite only having been announced late on Friday afternoon — but thankfully, someone at Newsday finally tracked down the explanation:

To build the LIRR station, state officials said the developers will initially contribute $30 million and the state will cover the remaining $75 million. The developers will then pay back the state $67 million of that figure over time, officials said. Details of that arrangement are not yet available.

Let’s ignore for the moment the missing comma that makes it appear that state officials are building a train station with their words. In terms of who’s paying for what, the upshot appears to be that the deal for the train station — which will benefit pretty much only the privately run arena, as there’s already another existing train station just a quarter-mile away — will include an $8 million grant and a $67 million loan. And that’s a “no-interest, multidecade” loan, according to the New York Post, meaning the present value of the repayment will only be worth … well, it depends on what “multidecade” means, but if it’s a 30-year loan with evenly spaced payments, for example, the Islanders owner stand to save about $33 million from the state loan deal.

(And that’s assuming, of course, that the repayment is in actual cash, not in, say, future tax revenues that anyone would normally pay, a dodge that’s been tried in other cities before.)

That $41 million gift would then need to be added to: the land discount Cuomo has given the Islanders owners (tough to calculate because comparable giant plots of land are so hard to come by, but $74-300 million is the best guesstimate so far); any tax breaks the arena will be getting (as it’ll be on leased public land, it won’t pay property taxes, but rather payments in lieu of taxes, amounting to a $10,000 per event fee for the arena with a minimum of $1 million per year, plus payments equivalent to regular taxes for the accompanying hotel and retail project that don’t kick in for 20 and 15 years, respectively, which I have no idea how much all that adds up to); any cost overruns the state may be on the hook for (your guess is as good as mine, since nothing was specified about who’d pay these); plus the “cost of additional services that may be required to support new economic activity in the local area (e.g. police, fire, water, sewer infrastructure),” which the state study specifially noted it didn’t even try to calculate.

That is a big pile of dunno, but it’s certainly worth asking questions about. Whether those questions will be asked is another story — state senators Leroy Comrie and Anna Kaplan, the two main previous critics of the arena deal, were both quoted in Cuomo’s press release as applauding the new train station plan — but they’re the kind of thing that somebody with better data and more processing power than me should be crunching the numbers on. Also, speaking of data, did anyone try to figure whether it would be more cost-effective to just run shuttle buses from the existing Bellerose Long Island Railroad station, instead of building a whole new one a quarter-mile away that will still require shuttle buses to the arena? And who’s going to pay to run those shuttle buses, anyway?

I’m starting to see why Gov. Cuomo decided not to subject himself to a press conference. More news hopefully later today, once I hear back from all the sources who didn’t return my calls yesterday afternoon. In the meantime, let’s all just enjoy the fresh vaportecture the governor’s office dropped on us, complete with a woman walking her child dangerously close to the edge of the tracks and what looks like an ad for what would have to be Billy Joel’s 73rd birthday tour, or maybe a show by Belly Jolie, the Angelina Jolie-Tanya Donnelly supergroup:

UPDATE: I’ve now talked to some state officials for this Gothamist article, and can answer a few of the above questions, and confirm that others have no answer as of yet:

  • The 30-year no-interest loan is confirmed by ESD officials, though they deny that it should be considered a no-interest loan, saying it’s just the state fronting $67 million and then the developers paying the state $67 million over 30 years with no interest, which is obviously a different thing entirely. So my $41 million subsidy estimate above stands, though state officials would clearly complain that they don’t consider it a subsidy.
  • The land lease is now for $50 million, not $40 million, and would go partly to cover some of the state’s LIRR station costs ($30 million) and partly for other unspecified infrastructure ($20 million). ESD argues that this means the state would come out ahead, which only works if 1) $30 million is more than $41 million and 2) you’re okay with the fair-market value of the land being $0.
  • Speaking of which, that appraisal that ESD was supposed to do by now? They’re checking to see if it’s still happening.
  • Also unknown, according to ESD: whether anyone looked at running shuttle buses from the existing Bellerose station as an alternative to building a whole new one 1300 feet away.
  • The developer will pay for the shuttle buses, hooray!
  • Nobody knows yet who’ll pay for cost overruns, boo!
  • The state doesn’t know how much the PILOT tax breaks will be worth, but also doesn’t agree that they’re tax breaks!

I think that’s it. I’ll try to calculate the total subsidy value of this at some point, but right now all the known unknowns are making my head a splode. Hand it to Cuomo for this: He learned from Atlantic Yards that the best way to stop people from talking about your spendthrift ways is to make the money trail too confusing to sum up in a single number.

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.