Oakland offered $167m for Coliseum land, rejects bid because Raiders still might want it

Speaking of selling stadiums, turns out somebody does want to buy the Oakland Coliseum, so long as it comes with all the land that it (and the neighboring Oracle Arena) sits on:

A group of investors with ties to NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott is offering to purchase the Coliseum land with the hopes of keeping the Raiders in Oakland, according to a letter the group’s attorney sent to local officials last week…

The group proposes purchasing the Coliseum land — which includes Oracle Arena and other nearby properties — for $167.3 million, which accounts for bond obligations owed and prepayment penalties. The plan includes upgrading and replacing the site’s sewer and septic systems, which infamously have backed up during games, spewing raw sewage into dugouts and team clubhouses.

Note that Lott, who previously expressed an interest in developing the Coliseum site with a new Raiders stadium included, isn’t actually involved in the bid, though some of his partners are. The front man for the land bid appears to be Martin J. Greenberg, who is co-founder of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University Law School, which is just weird, but I guess everybody in the stadium world is tempted to jump in and be part of the game at some point.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf immediately rejected the bid, though it’s not immediately clear whether this was because she felt it was too low a price for 120 acres of downtown (well, sort of downtown) Oakland land, or because she doesn’t want to piss off Raiders owner Mark Davis and A’s owner Lew Wolff, each of whom would rather develop the land themselves. Schaaf told the East Bay Express:

“We did not recommend consideration of this offer at this time,” the mayor said. “We remain committed to a team-centered development. We want the Raiders and the NFL at the center of this future site.”

There are so many players here and so much potential jockeying for leverage that it’s hard to tell who’s trying to put one over on whom at any given point, but at least, unlike in Phoenix, there are actually some people who want the stadium land in Oakland. Actually wanting to pay for building a stadium without getting a cheap deal on development rights is another thing, but hey, baby steps!

Turns out nobody actually wants to buy Diamondbacks’ stadium, oops

The crazy-ass plan for Maricopa County to sell the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ Chase Field — which the Diamondbacks owners want either upgraded or replaced or they’re threatening to move — to some out-of-state investment bankers turned out to be even more crazy-ass than anyone expected, as the potential buyers haven’t even shown up to any meetings to discuss a sale price. Apparently a used stadium with an angry tenant who has to approve your purchase and probably won’t isn’t a hot commodity among real-estate investors, who knew?

Instead, the county may hire an outside firm to appraise the stadium and its surrounding land, to see if its $60 million asking price was reasonable. Which, sure, go for it, Maricopa County. But it’s still hard to see how shifting ownership of the stadium resolves the underlying problem, which is that D-Backs owner Ken Kendrick is demanding at least $187 million in stadium upgrades, mostly for things his lease says he has to pay for, a battle that is likely to end up in court. Maybe the county should sell the stadium to a bunch of lawyers — at least they’d guarantee themselves lots of billable hours.

Rangers owners say if city builds them new stadium, old one can be stores or something

And this is just bizarre:

In an letter released Sunday on WFAA/Channel 8 Inside Texas Politics, Rangers managing partner Ray Davis said the team is working with the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. to develop retail shops along the Randol Mill Road side of Globe Life Park: “It is the Rangers’ intent to preserve the beautiful exterior facade.”

So if the Texas Rangers owners get more than half a billion dollars in public money to replace their 22-year-old stadium with a new stadium so they can have air conditioning, they’re going to keep the old, un-air-conditioned building around to use as … shops? Or part of the building? And the field could be “refitted for another purpose” somehow? Possibly as “park and festival spaces”?

This is all extremely strange, since it’s unlikely anyone cares much about the Rangers stadium’s facade, unless this is meant to win people over with a “Hey, we’re not tearing down a perfectly good 22-year-old stadium, we’re just gutting it to use it for something it wasn’t meant for instead of for baseball!” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams also said the city could collect rent on any retail space leased out at the old stadium, which maybe could help offset construction costs, yes — but then, nobody’s saying how much it would cost to gut and redevelop the existing stadium, so who knows if there would actually be a net gain?

Supposedly there’s going to be a press conference about all this tomorrow, so we can boggle some more then. Stay tuned.

Angels owner gripes about incomplete review process for neighboring developer, irony is dead

Three years ago, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno asked the city of Anaheim to give him development rights to his stadium parking lot in exchange for him making stadium upgrades, only to be forced to back down when an appraisal revealed he’d be getting $245 million in land and spending only $150 million on renovations. Last year, Moreno griped that a Chinese developer, LT Global, was looking at building a privately funded mixed-use development on land it had bought across the street from the stadium, because he was afraid it would use his parking. On Wednesday, team officials intimated that they would sue unless the LT Global project went through a full environmental impact study:

The demand, contained in the second hostile letter from Angels lawyers to the city within two weeks, comes as the team and city have revived talks on a lease that would extend the Angels’ tenure at the city-owned stadium.

Last week, the Anaheim Planning Commission, over the Angels’ objections, unanimously endorsed a 15-acre complex of shops, restaurants, offices, residences and a hotel on the site next to Angel Stadium.

The Anaheim City Council has final say on the project and could vote to approve it as soon as Sept. 27. In the letter, Angels attorney George Mihlsten said the planning commission approved the project with “very limited environmental review and no opportunity for public review,” and he asked the council to order a new environmental impact report.

Couple of things here: First off, whatever the merits of the dispute (public review is a good thing), it remains hilarious to see a would-be developer complaining about the insufficiency of an EIS, given that you know Mihlsten would be saying the exact opposite if Moreno were the one looking to build this project. Second, that “revived talks on a lease” clause may not be just a news peg — when you’re at the lease negotiating table, everything is up for grabs, and trading off “we won’t sue the developers next door” for something is, at the very least, a bargaining chip that Moreno will want to explore. Mayor Tom Tait and his negotiators have their work cut out for them.

Yankees ask city to refinance stadium debt, because they’re not making enough money already

Like everyone else on the planet with a mortgage, the New York Yankees owners are looking around at record-low interest rates and considering refinancing, in their case on their stadium debt. The twist here is that it’s not actually their debt — in order to take advantage of an IRS tax dodge, the team had the city Industrial Development Agency issue bonds and pays them off with rent payments labeled “payments in lieu of taxes” — so they’d need the city to reissue the debt to take advantage of lower interest rates.

That could actually be tricky, since the IRS loophole was partly closed several years ago: Any new bonds would have to be paid back based on the actual year-to-year property taxes that the stadium would be paying if it paid taxes, not based on an annual flat fee. That would likely mean somewhat higher interest rates since bondholders like certainty in their bond payments, and could wipe out any benefit from a refi. Also, there’s a new mayor since the original stadium deal was put in place, one who might not rubber-stamp a new bond deal quite so quickly, at least not unless the Yankees, say, turn some of their unused parking garages into affordable housing that isn’t necessarily all that affordable.

And if you’re wondering why the Yankees need to save money on their bond payments, take it away, New York Post:

Shaving perhaps as much as $10 million annually from the stadium loans could make the team profitable, said a source familiar with the team’s finances…

The Yanks are roughly breaking even now. That’s just the team and doesn’t include other businesses, such as the YES Network or Legends Hospitality.

Now that’s what we expect from a business whose owner once hid profits by paying himself a consulting fee to negotiate his own cable deal. Keep on keeping on, Steinbrenners.

Oakland A’s co-owner to visit possible waterfront stadium site, everyone gets all excited

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf may be one of the Gang of Four mayors taking a hard line on stadium subsidies, but that doesn’t mean she can’t try to help the Oakland A’s owners by showing them properties they could buy with their own money. A’s co-owner John Fisher (and possibly co-owner Lew Wolff’s son and stadium point man Keith) will reportedly tour the Howard Terminal site today along with Port of Oakland officials to see if it can be made to work for a new A’s stadium.

This is only one of several sites the A’s owners are looking at, and they still prefer to stay at the Oakland Coliseum site, and really just going to kick the tires isn’t much of a commitment. But since Howard Terminal has been one of the alternate sites that has gotten more attention, this is getting lots of press attention today. Personally, wake me when somebody has a financial plan.

White Sox stadium actually getting even worse name than “U.S. Cellular Field”

Aw, jeez:

U.S. Cellular Field will change its name to Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox announced Wednesday afternoon.

The White Sox and Guaranteed Rate, a national mortgage lender, have signed 13-year naming rights deal, according to the Sox. But the name could last even longer — the Sox have an option of extending the deal past 2030.

There is nothing to say about this other than to make jokes. And the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal has already won that contest:

More seriously: You know, there’s nothing requiring any of us normal people (or even us abnormal people who are journalists) from using the corporate-assigned name for a stadium — we can still call it U.S. Cellular Field, or New Comiskey Park, or my preference, “the White Sox’ stadium” all we want. Which is no doubt why resold naming rights go for discount rates: Business owners know that there are plenty of other options for what to call the place, so they’re willing to pay less to slap their name on it. Which is also why you see so many smaller companies putting their name on used stadiums — American Airlines doesn’t need that kind of attention, but Monster Cables, sure.

Speaking of which, the White Sox and Guaranteed Rate didn’t reveal how much the new naming rights deal was for. I’m going with “not nearly enough to be worth the ridicule.”

County okays pursuing D-Backs stadium sale, lacks only all details about everything

Going into yesterday’s Maricopa County board meeting on the possible sale of the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ stadium to a private investment firm, two of the big questions were: Could the county craft a deal that the Diamondbacks owners, who have the right to block a sale, would approve? And would any public money be required?

Coming out of the meeting, the Arizona Republic reports:

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to move forward with negotiations to sell Chase Field, the downtown Phoenix home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, to private out-of-state investors…

But the county vote raised several key questions that went unanswered, including whether the team would support a sale and whether a taxpayer subsidy would be included.

Yeah, we’re cooking with gas now!

County supervisors told the Republic that the deal would extend the Diamondbacks’ lease through 2028, which sounds awfully presumptuous given that nobody’s actually talked to the team owners about this. The paper also reports that “the buyer would be required to reach a deal with the team within the first two years of the contract to pay for capital repairs over the life of the stadium,” which seems nuts — if the two sides just stare at each other saying, “You pay for it!” “No, you!”, what happens, do the buyers go back to the county for a refund?

On the subsidy front, supervisor Andy Kunasek, who you’ll remember from his profanity-laced “go to West Virginia” tirade in response to the D-Backs’ subsidy demands, raised the possibility of giving the private investors either a property tax exemption or a kickback of sales taxes, which apparently he doesn’t think would be “parasitic” if it’s someone other than the Diamondbacks owners getting it. (Maybe he’s still pissy over the Shelby Miller trade?)

Of course, all this is still in the very early stages, so it’s probably best not to think of anything as more than a harebrained scheme that somebody threw out there to see if it’ll stick. I mean, listen to this, from the Republic:

New shops, restaurants and hospitality services could spring up at the ballpark, as the buyer seeks to develop the site into a sports and entertainment “destination.” Among the ideas: Add retail and dining to the open plaza outside the stadium and within the stadium by reducing the seating capacity from 48,000 to 30,000.

This is for a stadium with a retractable roof, mind you, so it’s not like you can easily reduce the building’s footprint in order to jam in more steakhouses. I guess you could rip out all the seats down the left-field line and build a giant sushi bar or something, but that doesn’t seem like a much better idea. Besides, do you really want people eating raw fish before having to watch Shelby Miller?

County to D-Backs: If you’re going to be that way, maybe we’ll just sell your damn stadium

I learned long ago never to be surprised by anything that happens in the stadium world, but this is just bizarre:

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is contemplating selling Chase Field in downtown Phoenix to private, out-of-state investors, and will meet Wednesday to vote on initiating negotiations.

The starting point for the proposed deal, made public Tuesday, is a $60 million sales price. It would include keeping the Arizona Diamondbacks at the stadium through 2028 — the remainder of the team’s contract with the county — and potentially longer. A draft contract showed the county would retain a handful of perks like a stadium suite and premium parking, despite no longer owning the building.

Okay, let’s walk this back. Maricopa County, you may recall, is in the middle of a big-as fight over whether the public will pay for at least $187 million in improvements to the Diamondbacks‘ 18-year-old stadium, as the team owners want, or the team will pay for them if it wants them, as the county’s study that identified the wishlist spells out. Now, it appears, the county is preparing to wash its hands of the whole place and sell it to a shadowy investment group called Stadium Real Estate Partners II LLC, which has ties to investment banker Sorina Givelichian and Fannie Mae board chair Egbert Perry.

Givelichian and Perry don’t sound certifiably insane, so it’s hard to say why on earth they’d want to take on the stadium, since it’s unlikely they’d earn back even a $60 million investment, especially if the Diamondbacks make trouble with their lease, which they’re already doing. The investors issued a letter saying they hoped to create “a sports and entertainment district surrounding the facility [that] would further complement and enhance the downtown area and increase tax revenues within such sports and entertainment district,” which is a lot of nice verbiage but doesn’t exactly explain where the district would go or how big it would be — it’s a pretty tight squeeze around the ballpark, so does this mean them buying adjacent parcels or what? (The buyers’ letter of intent says the purchase would include stadium parking areas, but the page that’s supposed to show a map of the parcels is blank.) And does that “increase tax revenues” line presage a request for TIF tax kickbacks, or is it just a way to sweeten the pot for county board members voting on this?
It’s all extremely weird, and almost feels like a gambit by the county — keep threatening to sue us and we’ll just go ahead and sell your stadium — except then what’s in it for Givelichian and Perry? I really hope there’s more info after today’s county board meeting, because so far this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.