Angels owner says team will stay through 2029, was totally pwned by Anaheim mayor

This was hinted at last September, but Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno has officially thrown in the towel on using his opt-out clause on his lease at Anaheim Stadium, telling reporters that his team will remain there at least through 2029:

”It’s going to take some time to get ourselves prepared to see which direction we’re going to go,” Moreno said of the possibility of building a new ballpark. ”We have flexibility, but acquiring land and getting a proper partner and getting prepared in California is a three-, four-year process.”

This can only be seen as a major victory for Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait (and his constituents), who blocked attempts by Moreno to threaten his way into a major stadium renovation subsidy. The timetable of events, you will recall: The Anaheim council gifted Moreno with a 2019 opt-out for no damn reason, then the owner demanded a whole bunch of free land to compensate for him doing renovations on his own behalf, then Tait conducted an appraisal that pointed out that the land was worth nearly $100 million more than the renovations, then Moreno threatened to move to an air base in Tustin, then nobody in Tustin thought that was a good idea, then Moreno slunk back to Anaheim.

This is exactly how it should work: If a team waves around move threats, city leaders should say, “Yeah, get back to us when you have a real offer, and maybe we’ll talk.” And then if the owner is just bluffing, you get away without having to pay him $250 million in taxpayer cash.

Not that Anaheim Stadium won’t ever need renovations (though recall that it just had renovations 20 years ago, which isn’t a lifetime no matter what some other teams may think). But now both Moreno and Anaheim can sit down and figure out what it makes sense for each side to spend on them, if anything, without worrying about the pretend threat that the owner is going to move to an invisible stadium elsewhere in SoCal or move out of the nation’s second-biggest media market entirely. All of which could have been the case all along if the council hadn’t been daft enough to hand out that lease opt-out clause, but at least victory has been grasped from the jaws of defeat for once.

Arizona senators push to give Coyotes, Suns, D-Backs up to $1.1b for new arenas and stadium

Arizona Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc may not have any idea where he wants to build a new hockey arena now that Arizona State University pulled out of a planned venue in Tempe, but that’s not going to stop members of the Arizona state senate from pushing legislation to give him $170 million in sales- and hotel-tax kickbacks to help build one. And hey, while we’re at it, let’s make it easier for the Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns to get state subsidies, too:

The bill would allow creation of “community engagement” districts of up to 30 acres. Within them, up to half of the state’s share of sales taxes generated from retail sales and hotel stays would be dedicated to paying the bond debt for new sports or entertainment facilities. It also would allow an additional 2 percent district sales tax to be applied to all purchases within the district, with those revenues also dedicated to defraying the cost of facility construction.

In the case of the Coyotes, the plan envisions public funding covering 57 percent of a new arena’s cost, with new sales taxes covering $170 million and the host city contributing $55 million. The Coyotes said the team’s portion would be $170 million, amounting to a 43 percent contribution toward the $395 million total cost.

This is a bit of a hybrid bill, combining super-TIFs (where half of existing sales and hotel taxes would be kicked back to pay teams’ construction costs) with a new sales tax surcharge in the area around the new sports venue. The math on how much of a subsidy this amounts to gets dicey — virtually all of a TIF would be cannibalized from sales and hotel tax receipts elsewhere in the state, but a slice of a sales tax surcharge could come out of a team owner’s pockets, depending on how big the surcharge area is — but the vast majority of it would be a straight-up gift to team owners, all to allow cities in one part of Arizona to steal teams from cities in another.

You’ll note that I said “teams,” not just the Coyotes. That’s because the new super-TIF districts could be applied to help build any new sports and entertainment facilities. The only limit is that state money would only be allowed to pay for half of construction costs up to $750 million — meaning that if the Coyotes, Suns, and Diamondbacks all availed themselves of the legislation, as you know they would love to do, Arizona taxpayers could potentially be on the hook for $1.125 billion. (If the Coyotes stick to their $170 million demand, the max would be only $920 million, but as we’ve seen before, sports construction costs only tend to go up, and there’s nothing stopping LeBlanc from revising his ask as time goes on.)

Now, the bill has so far only passed one committee in one branch of the Arizona legislature — Sen. Bob Worsley of Mesa used one of those “gut an unrelated bill and insert your own language” tricks to get it on the agenda of his own transportation and technology committee — and none of the teams involved have identified places where they’d like to build new facilities, or how to pay for their halves. Still, it’s a pretty remarkable response to a “crisis” started by the Coyotes’ need to leave their nearly-new arena in Glendale because … hey, Coyotes ownership, why do you need to leave again?

“It does not work in Glendale,” Ahron Cohen,the team’s general counsel, told the Senate panel. “In 2013, our ownership group bought the team. The previous ownership chose to go out there.”

Oh. Well, if it “doesn’t work,” then it doesn’t work. I thought you were going to say something about how you couldn’t bear to be forced to compete for the rights to operate the arena instead of just being handed $8 million a year by Glendale in a no-bid contract. Good thing it’s not that, because asking the state of Arizona to pay you a couple hundred mil to get you out of that pickle would be chutzpah in the Nth degree, and only complete morons in state government would actually consider it.

Loria mulls selling Marlins to Ivanka Trump’s brother-in-law, our dystopian future is now

Miami Marlins fans and baseball followers in general have been waiting for decades to get rid of Jeffrey Loria, the evil mastermind who got Miami taxpayers to give him half a billion dollars for a new stadium so he could afford to buy better players and then said, Crap that, I’d rather keep the new stadium and still get the cheapest players I can so I can collect revenue-sharing checks from MLB. So any deal that removes this guy from the owner’s chair would be good, right? How about if it means Loria walking away with up to $1.6 billion and the team being run by Ivanka Trump’s brother-in-law?

The Kushners — led by Joshua Kushner, a venture capitalist, and Joseph Meyer, his brother-in-law and key lieutenant for the family’s investments — have pursued the Marlins for several months, devising a complicated financial arrangement that would include bringing in partners later, these people said. Mr. Kushner is the younger brother of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law.

Neither Jared Kushner, who married Ivanka Trump in 2009 and is a top White House adviser, nor Charles Kushner, the family patriarch who spent over a year in prison for illegal campaign donations, tax evasion and witness tampering, is participating in the effort, these people said.

While I don’t want to judge the son on the sins of the father, this is a somewhat problematic family to consider inviting into MLB, to say the least. And according to the New York Times, MLB has qualms about it as well:

The deal has already prompted questions within Major League Baseball, according to the people briefed on the conversations, about what kind of relationship Mr. Trump would have to the team and whether that would be a benefit or a disadvantage. Would fans or sponsors boycott or embrace the team or league based on a comment or Twitter post by Mr. Trump? And would Mr. Trump attend games?

(And if he did attend games, would he insist that they were really sellouts? <rimshot>)

The one silver lining of a Marlins sale to the Kushners: Taxpayers would get a cut of any sale price, according to its stadium deal, though given the complex formula for calculating that, Miami Dade County’s chief financial officer says he’d have to figure out what the county would have coming to it, guessing only that it would be “several million dollars.” This does not seem like proper compensation for getting out of the frying pan only to enter the Trump family fire, but the decision is in Loria’s hands. And we know that we can trust him to … okay, never mind.

Braves say their spring-training subsidy demand is a trade secret, because Pitbull

Not content with the $355 million they’re getting from Cobb County taxpayers for their new regular-season stadium, the owners of the Atlanta Braves are also seeking public money to build a new $80 million spring-training complex in Sarasota, Florida. (They apparently gave up on Gary Sheffield’s insane plan for $662 million sports complex just north of St. Petersburg.) As Shadow of the Stadium reports, the Braves are hoping to put in a total of diddly-squat towards the cost, while the city, county, state (using its demented sports tax rebate program that a local legislator is trying to repeal), and a private developer split it four ways.

I’d tell you more about the funding details, but as SoS’s (and WTSP-TV’s) Noah Pransky discovered when he filed a public records request on the proposed deal, both the Braves owners and Sarasota County say they shouldn’t have to tell anyone about it because of the Pitbull Precedent:

When 10Investigates requested the public records that had been prepared to this point, county spokesperson Jason Bartolone responded that the Braves “have asserted confidentiality rights” under Florida State Statute 288.075, which aims to protect proprietary business information and trade secrets in public-private economic development deals.

FSS 288.075 is one of the same exemptions used by rapper Pitbull and public agency Visit Florida to deny 10Investigates’ 2015 public records request into the artist’s taxpayer-funded tourism contract. The secrecy and controversy surrounding the deal, later disclosed to be worth $1 million, wound up costing three of the agency’s top executives their jobs.

If, like me, you didn’t follow the Pitbull scandal at the time, it went like this: Visit Florida, the state tourism agency, hired the Cuban-American rapper to make a promotional video called “Sexy Beaches,” which if you’ve ever heard Pitbull is pretty much his entire musical wheelhouse. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran called the result “reprehensible,” and demanded to know how much the state was paying Pitbull for his services. Pitbull and Visit Florida refused, saying their contract was a “trade secret.” Corcoran sued. Pitbull then tweeted out the details of his contract, which included $1 million in payments for this autotuned slice of hell, among other things.

That went so well that the Braves and Sarasota County have decided that their contract is a trade secret too, even if it doesn’t involve meeting sexy strangers in the lobby. (I mean, I really hope it doesn’t.) It’s not clear yet whether Pransky is preparing a lawsuit, but I’d keep an eye on the Braves Twitter feed just in case.

Yankees say they’re redoing stadium so fans have more places to take selfies

The New York Yankees are spending tens of millions of dollars to upgrade their eight-year-old stadium to have better places to take selfies, because of course they are:

In April, they will join this budding ballpark trend, unveiling what owner Hal Steinbrenner described as more “family friendly” and “socially oriented” spaces at Yankee Stadium.

Those spaces include play areas for young children and different vantage points for ticket holders to mingle and, most important, take pictures, videos and selfies they can share on social media. The Yankees declined to say how much they have spent on the project, but, for other teams, it has ranged between $10 million and $60 million.

The actual changes are what we reported on here back in October: finally removing those notorious obstructed-view bleacher seats, adding some more places to drink alcohol and eat “specialty food,” and adding a “SunRun Kids’ Clubhouse” on the third level in right field that Steinbrenner said is meant to make “our youngest fans to feel as if Yankee Stadium is an extension of their local park or backyard.” If their backyard were on the third story of a giant shopping mall, indoors, and contained a six-foot replica World Series trophy to climb on.

What all this has to do with taking selfies isn’t clear, though I suppose people drinking at Yankee-themed bars are more likely to do that than to actually watch the game. Go read ESPN’s full report if you’re interested, as it also has info on what teams like the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies have done in a similar vein, and throws around terms like “FOMO” and “FOBO,” so you can learn to talk like marketing executives think young people do.

Braves demand $14m more for roads, because county didn’t say “Simon Says” in spending first $70m

Looks like having Mike Boyce running Cobb County instead of Tim Lee is already having some consequences: The Atlanta Braves just demanded an extra $14 million for roads and sidewalks around their new stadium opening in April, and the Cobb County Commission is telling them to get lost:

The dispute has been on-going since December, with origins that date to the earliest agreements forged by the county and team in 2013 and 2014. Those contracts require that $14 million in public funds be spent on transportation improvements, and are vague as to the exact projects covered by the money.

Cobb transportation director Jim Wilgus wrote in a Dec. 2 memo to County Manager David Hankerson that taxpayers have already spent $69.5 million on nine road projects for the stadium and privately owned, mixed-use development.

“We feel this satisfies Cobb County’s transportation improvement contribution,” Wilgus wrote in the memo.

The Braves think otherwise.

What appears to have happened here: When the county agreed to build the Braves a stadium back in 2013 without specifying a transportation plan, it threw $14 million into pot for unspecified future transportation needs. The Braves owners now say that the stuff the county built shouldn’t count toward that because the county was going to build that stuff anyway (though the county says $17 million worth of that stuff only came up as a result of the stadium deal), and is instead demanding reimbursement for $14 million worth of stuff that the team has already built.

This is almost certainly going to get resolved in court based on whatever crappy contract language Cobb County agreed to in 2013, not based on fairness or anything like that, and either way it shouldn’t interfere with getting transportation improvements like that bridge to the parking lots sort of working by opening day. It’s nice to see public officials not just signing any checks they’re asked to, though, even if it’s shutting the barn door way, way late.

Washington Post doesn’t understand basic stadium economics, free agent spending, Twitter

If you read this site at all regularly, you should already be familiar with Betteridge’s Law of Headlines. So you know what to do when you see this in the Washington Post:

Could the Nationals’ spring training project be affecting their offseason spending?

The genesis of this story appears to be that Jim Bowden, former GM of the Washington Nationals who is now an ESPN analyst, tweeted that the team may hold off on signing free agents this winter because they “are way over budget on [their] Spring Training Complex, making [their] decision difficult.” A Nats spokesperson immediately countered that “one has nothing to do with the other,” but still, Washington Post story.

Basing an entire article on one stray remark from a guy paid to come up with bulk-size opinions on camera is bad enough, but this report also displays a stunning failure to understand the concept of sunk costs. Think of it this way: You’re about to buy a new computer because you’ve determined it will increase your productivity and allow you to earn enough money that it will pay for itself. Then you find out that your roof has a leak, and you need to spend more than you thought to repair it. Unless you’re short on cash — which is unlikely since you have a net worth of $5.4 billion — you’d be foolish to skimp on one investment just because another cost arose that you’ll need to pay regardless.

For the Nationals to cut back on free agent spending because their spring training complex is running over budget, in other words, they’d have to be incredibly stupid. Which isn’t to say it’s impossible — teams all the time set “budgets” for payroll based on little more than how much the next guy is spending, even though player salaries are sunk costs as well once you’ve signed them. But taking it this seriously is a sign that the Post not only is jumping to write articles based on off-handed tweets, but has a serious misunderstanding of economics. Good thing there isn’t anything happening soon that’s likely to exploit those weaknesses.

St. Pete mayor says “no bidding war” for Rays, as counties launch big ol’ bidding war

The minute that St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman handed the Tampa Bay Rays the right to buy out their lease clause in St. Peterburg and seek a new stadium elsewhere in the local area, it was clear that team owner Stuart Sternberg would be seeking to set up a bidding war between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties over who’d get to throw public money at the team. And how’s that going? Really well, reports Shadow of the Stadium, if you’re Sternberg, with Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan most recently setting up meetings with his county’s bankers to discuss stadium financing, in addition to helping the team narrow down a site.

Kriseman, for his part, seems shocked, shocked that a local sports baron would try to play off two governmental bodies against each other just because you told him he could:

“When we start getting into detailed conversations about financing,” Kriseman said, “what we set ourselves up for is a bidding war, and then the taxpayers are the losers when that happens.”

Yep, that’s the way it works! Kriseman seems to want Sternberg to settle on a site first, then talk about funding plans once all his leverage is gone, which is not how savvy negotiators operate. One way of getting around this would be for the two counties to team up and tell the Rays owner, “We’re not going to bid against each other, pick a site and then we’ll talk” — or even “Hey, go try to hit up the other county for money if you want, all the better if we get to watch games and somebody else gets stuck with the cost.” But that’s not how unsavvy negotiators operate.

Rangers release first unintentionally hilarious renderings of new $1B stadium design

The Texas Rangers have selected HKS, designers of the Dallas Cowboys‘ stadium, to design their new stadium set to open in 2020, which means we now have initial images of what a replacement ballpark for a 23-year-old stadium marked for death because it doesn’t have air-conditioning looks like. Take it away, HKS renderings department:

newrangers1-hks newrangers3-hks newrangers2-hks

Initial gripes from Rangers fans are that it looks a hell of a lot like the Houston Astros‘ stadium that opened just six years after the one that the Rangers are tearing down. Which it does, but hey, there are only so many ways you can design a stadium with a sliding retractable roof (the right-field seats are reminiscent of the Miami Marlins‘ new stadium, too), and they didn’t have much time to work up these preliminary drawings. More fun is to play “What’s wrong with this picture?” with them, because there sure is a lot:

  • Those three levels of seats suspended in the left-field archways are remarkable not just for seemingly having no structural support at all, but no way for fans to actually get to their seats. Maybe state-of-the-art stadiums will now include transporter technology?
  • There appear to be enormous bullpen areas in both left and right fields, which would seem to be overkill unless the Rangers want the ability to have four teams warming up at the same time.
  • That’s an awfully weird defensive shift that the road team is playing, what with the center fielder playing super-shallow and the left fielder extremely deep. Though maybe they’re just making up for the fact that the first baseman has apparently left to use the restroom.
  • The woman with the sleeveless shirt and purse in the outdoor promenade is awfully blasé for having just walked right through the guy checking his phone.
  • Judging from the number 10 and the five-letter name, that kid on the promenade (who photobombed two separate renderings, what the heck?) appears to be wearing a Michael Young jersey. If that’s the case in 2020, the Rangers are going to be in big trouble, such that they’re not going to be selling out the stands with people mysteriously raising their fists skyward when everyone around them is sitting still.
  • The couple in the final image are wearing their “Texas” and “Rangers” shirts backwards, no doubt in protest of the team not having any players worth celebrating since Michael Young.
  • All of these people are shown enjoying a baseball game outside in the open air in the daytime, when it’s been firmly established that nobody will go to baseball games in Texas without air-conditioning, how could you even think of such a thing?

I am 100% sure that the final stadium design will end up looking very little like this, so there’s time for HKS to fix their errors. In the meantime, though, if their renderings department wants to hire a fact-checker, I can recommend some people.

Atlanta mayor defends cost overruns for Falcons pedestrian bridge as “saving lives”

Just what exactly is it with the Atlanta area and forgetting to plan for ways for fans to get to new sports stadiums? In the wake of the Cobb County Braves pedestrian bridge fiasco, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed last month that a pedestrian bridge to the Falcons‘ new stadium could cost $23.2 million, almost double what Mayor Kasim Reed promised in July. And now Reed has fired back that okay, maybe, but it’s worth every penny, dammit:

In 21st Century America, a city’s connectivity and walkability are major factors in attracting and retaining young, skilled workers and the companies looking to hire them. The steady influx of businesses and new residents to the City of Atlanta in 2016 is directly related to this strategy. Moreover, this growth is strengthening our economy across all sectors, leading to lower unemployment and greater opportunities for our residents.

The new bridge over Northside Drive linking Westside neighborhoods to Downtown Atlanta is a major example of an essential infrastructure piece that will improve – and possibly save – residents’ lives. The bridge will offer a safe crossing of Northside Drive, which for years has been a dangerous barrier preventing easy passage from the Westside to Downtown’s economic and cultural opportunities.

Okay, yeah, I think everyone can agree that people like to be able to cross highways without having to run through traffic. The bigger point here is that the city is suddenly facing a previously unannounced $23.2 million cost for a project to support a pro football stadium. While Reed insisted that the bridge was part of a community benefits plan, the AJC found that “none of those claims are backed up by the public record,” and quoted one of the community plan’s architects as saying they’re a load of crap:

Rev. Anthony A.W. Motley, a major participant in helping craft the Community Benefits Plan, scoffed at the assertion.

“To try and justify the bridge on the basis of a connection to poor people in the community is an insult to everything that we have proposed, particularly as it relates to the Community Benefits Plan,” Motley said. “The bridge has nothing to do with the community, and to say that it does shows contempt for the community and a flagrant disregard for the truth.”

Back on the Braves bridge front, meanwhile, the latest report is that six months after construction started in June, and with four months to go to opening day, the bridge was 40% complete. That doesn’t seem like a very promising pace, but Cobb’s transportation director Jim Wilgus said he hopes it will be “operational” by opening day April 14, even if not “totally complete” until the summer. Everybody hold on!