Georgia Supreme Court to hear appeals of Falcons, Braves bond sales

The Georgia Supreme Court has set oral argument dates for the lawsuits against the stadium deals for the Atlanta Falcons (Monday) and Braves (next February). And … that’s about all I can tell you, because the Atlanta Journal Constitution story is behind a paywall, but if you’re an AJC subscriber, you can no doubt read more.

Okay, I can give you a little background: The two suits are actually appeals of the bond issuance for the stadiums, which means the bonds can’t be sold until they’ve been cleared.

None of this appears to have stopped construction from moving ahead — check out the Falcons’ construction photos, with all those, um, whatever they are already having been built — presumably because the teams have enough cash on hand to start things off with the bond money. But if either appeal is successful, then we’re entering uncharted waters, to say the least.

Rays-to-Montréal rumors heat up after some guy says Sternberg said something about it once

Here we go again: After longtime Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon abruptly quit on Friday, New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden dropped this into the tail end of an item about Maddon’s future and his former team’s:

After last year’s disappointing 77-85 fourth-place finish, they both realized they’d done all they could do in Tampa, and despite consistent 90-win seasons with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, the Rays played to a half-empty (or worse) stadium night after night. That, more than anything, wore on Maddon and his players, the manager told confidants. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has been frustrated in his efforts to get out of Tropicana Field in St. Pete and move to a new stadium in Tampa, but there is growing belief that the economically depressed Tampa Bay area won’t support the Rays no matter where they play. And according to sources, Sternberg has had discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal, which has been without a major-league franchise since the Expos were transferred to Washington in 2005. As one major-league official put it to me Friday: “Say what you will about Montreal, but the Expos drew well over two million fans four times there in their heyday, while the Rays did that only once, their first year.

We’ve heard this rumor before, though this is the first time I’ve seen claims that Sternberg has actually had discussions about Montréal as an option. And Montréal is by far the biggest North American market without a team, ever since the Expos left in 2005. Still, it has a big problem in that its only major-league-ready stadium is even less loved than the Rays’ Tropicana Field, and there are no immediate plans for a new one. And you have to consider the source — Bill Madden loves to predict things, many of which turn out not to be true — and that the phrasing could mean just about anything: “discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates” could just mean that while shooting pheasants over sherry at the club, Sternberg sighed forlornly, “Some days I think I’d be better off in Montréal. I hear they have really good bagels there.”

Anyway, everybody and their sister has now been reporting on this unsourced rumor, and Sternberg is sure to try to use it as leverage for a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, even though it’s pretty weak leverage when your lease says you can’t move for another 13 years. And Bud Selig, in his final week as MLB commissioner, is eager to help, saying he’s never heard from Sternberg about a Montréal move threat, but adding:

“The team has to have a ballpark that makes them competitive,” Selig said before Game 4 of the World Series. “It doesn’t produce the kind of revenue they need.”

Does Selig consider Tampa Bay a viable major league market?

He paused — a long pause — then declined to answer. He said he prefers to leave that judgment to the owner in each market.

We’re going to miss you, Bud. Nobody does passive-aggressive threatmongering like you.

A’s owner extends San Jose stadium land option, because $175k is chump change to a guy like that

Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff has signed a seven-year extension on his option with the city of San Jose to build a new stadium there, and … yeah, that’s about it. MLB still isn’t ready to approve an A’s move into what it’s designated as San Francisco Giants territory, but $175,000 is a pittance for Wolff to pay to keep his right to buy San Jose land at below market value for a few more years, just in case MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and Giants CEO Larry Baer have a big fight that ends with Manfred shouting, “Fine! If you’re going to be that way, I’ll just let the A’s move to San Jose! I’ll show you who’s commissioner around here!”

As Wolff himself explained it, no doubt knowing that the media and public would be looking to this as a sign of which Bay Area city he loves best: “It’s an option, and we want to keep our options open.” A savvy negotiator creates leverage.

Oakland gives Raiders another 90 days to turn pockets inside-out hoping stadium money falls out

You’re going to have to hold your breath a little bit longer to see any start at a resolution of the Oakland Raiders and A’s bipartite stadium battle: After the Raiders brought in some new investors to their Coliseum City vaportecture project, the Oakland city council last night voted to give the team a 90-day extension in which to finalize plans for a new stadium on the Oakland Coliseum site.

And that should be no problem, because as Newballpark.org points out, here’s all that Raiders owner Mark Davis has to work out to make his vision a reality:

  • Sign at least one tenant, preferably the Raiders to start

  • Engage the A’s and Warriors (even though neither team is interested)

  • Provide deliverables and reports that haven’t been completed yet (deal terms, financing, 2nd phase market analysis)

  • Bring in a master developer

  • Line up needed capital for stadium phase and ancillary development phases

  • Figure out who pays for the remaining debt at the Coliseum and Arena (if necessary)

  • Gather support of the JPA and Alameda County

Piece of cake! Three months is way more than enough time to win $750 million at Powerball, right?

 

Hey, the Cubs finally found something worth watching at Wrigley Field!

Yes, obvious joke headline. But yeah, anyway, the Wrigley Field bleacher teardown really is becoming a minor spectator attraction:

And that visual is drawing crowds of Cubs fans, with cameras in hand, interested in seeing a piece of Chicago history.

“I was coming down the L, I saw the Addison stop and I thought to myself, Wrigley Field… Once in a lifetime chance to see this construction going on,” Chicagoan Doug Karsten said.

Chicagoan Rob Lafrentz added, “I think it’s amazing to watch come down.”

No word yet from the Chicago mayor’s office on how much economic activity the bleacher demolition gawkers are generating.

Palm Beach County gives Astros, Nats $135m for spring-training complex, says now go find a place to build it

The city of West Palm Beach may have voted to take the land that the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals wanted for a spring-training site and hand it over to developers who are actually willing to pay for it, but that’s not stopping the Palm Beach County Commission, which voted yesterday to give the two teams $135 million in hotel tax money to build a new stadium complex … somewhere.

The new $135 million proposal to build another stadium calls for the county to pay for about half of the costs, with the Astros, Nationals and the state paying for the rest.

The latest version of the deal trims $5 million from construction costs in a prior proposal. But the deal would also leave the county responsible for about $17 million more in public money than once envisioned.

The hotel tax is already being used to pay off the county convention center, support local arts programs, and other ways of promoting tourism, but hey, maybe hotel tax receipts will rise by $135 million if these stadiums are built, right? And if not, they can always raise the hotel tax. Because surely that won’t do anything to cause tourists to choose to stay in a different county.

In any event, the Astros and Nationals owners now just have to drive around Florida looking for a place to spend their $135 million, which they’re promising to do within the next couple of weeks. It’s a tough life, running a pro sports franchise.

This is what “renovation” of Wrigley Field looks like

It’s what Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said he was going to do, but still, ouch:

The happier thought is that these are simple bleachers, they’ve been rebuilt a bunch of times before, and the hope is that Ricketts will be able to put up new ones that look pretty much the same (he did hire an architect to focus on maintaining historical details like the right kind of railings) except with enough supports underneath to hold up a big-ass video board. Still, in the meantime, those with a squeamish nature around wrecking balls and landmarked structures should probably avert your eyes.

 

Detroit moves ahead with plans to preserve Tiger Stadium field, surround it with buildings

Pictures are in of what the Tiger Stadium site could look like under a redevelopment plan from the Detroit Police Athletic League:

And also this one:

That seems sorta okay, I guess, in that the field (which is still heavily used for softball) is preserved, and the buildings around it aren’t too ugly. I don’t know what’s up with the video projection system in that second image, but maybe kids today like watching their YouTube videos on the sides of buildings now.

The Detroit city council still needs to sign off on the deal, and I believe the PAL and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy still need to finalize using the conservancy’s old $3 million federal earmark for youth baseball to help finance the plan. Yes, that’s public money, but a public ballfield isn’t the worst way to spend $3 million.

West Palm votes to pursue alternate plan for Astros, Nats spring site, and what’s up with that graphic?

The West Palm Beach city commission voted Tuesday to pursue the other offer for land that the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals want for a spring training site, since that proposal wouldn’t require piles of public subsidies, and … you know what, while this is all very interesting, I’m more concerned with what’s going on with the image illustrating the South Florida Sun-Sentinel article on this:

Seriously, what exactly happened here? Did graphics staffer Cindy Jones-Hulfachor supply two alternate images, one with a bluish stadium site and the other in straight greyscale, and then the web production staff mistakenly used both? If so, why are both images cut off at the outside edges? It’s been a day and a half since this went up — isn’t anyone paying attention at the Sun-Sentinel to what’s actually on their site?

Anyway, Nats and Astros still want stadium subsidies, West Palm Beach is still saying no, blah blah blah. That graphic sure is strange, though.

Cobb chair really did hire secret lawyer on Braves deal, says email from Cobb chair

Hey, remember when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee had secretly hired a lawyer to negotiate with the Atlanta Braves to move to his county, without even telling his fellow commissioners? Last week, Lee denied having hired attorney Dan McRae, a defense that would have worked out much better if not for the AJC then uncovering an email from Lee to McRae appointing him the county’s project and bond counsel on the stadium project. From a Cobb Chamber of Commerce email account, so it would be harder to trace. Oops.

“I am passing on to you the following provided by Chairman Tim Lee on behalf of Cobb County and its entities, ” the email says. “The county confirms the attorney-client relationship between it and Seyfarth Shaw as its project counsel/bond counsel for Project Intrepid.”…

The email from Mathis to McRae does not specify a limited role or how long the arrangement would continue. And in making the deal, Lee unilaterally waived a stated conflict of interest — Seyfarth was representing the Braves’ parent company on an unrelated legal issue in California.

(Project Intrepid, seriously? Because he could hear the screams of hundreds of minds dying, perhaps?)

Lee has now responded by saying he’s going to refuse all interview requests from the AJC, because a newspaper looking at the emails of an elected official just isn’t fair. Especially when he went out of his way, you know, to hide them.

Too soon to say whether this opens up the Braves stadium plan to any additional legal challenges, but it sure isn’t good news for Lee, who — you will be shocked to learn — is currently the subject of an ethics investigation.