Miami’s deal with Marlins gives Loria right to dictate terms for Beckham’s soccer stadium

So it turns out there are some problems with the Miami soccer stadium site next to Marlins Park, beyond any possible need for public subsidies and evicting old people from their homes. And, surprise, surprise, these stem from the horrible Marlins stadium deal, which keeps on being horrible. As uncovered this week by Miami Today’s Michael Lewis:

  • A soccer team in a stadium next door to the Marlins facility wouldn’t be allowed to sell naming rights until the Marlins had done so first. And Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria hasn’t sold naming rights to his building yet because it is a monument to waste with a hideous sculpture and gets rain delays despite a costly retractable roof.
  • If allowed to sell naming rights, the soccer team wouldn’t be allowed to conflict with the Marlins’ sponsor — so, no two competing banks or airlines or what have you.
  • “No soccer exterior ads may conflict with a major Marlins sponsor. But if soccer sells an exterior ad that doesn’t conflict, the Marlins can then sign a conflicting sponsor and the soccer sponsor can’t renew.”
  • Neither soccer games nor soccer stadium construction can take place before, during, or after Marlins games, and the Marlins can set their own schedule as they see fit. And can change it at will, and the soccer team has to lump it.

Clearly, somebody in the Marlins’ lease-writing division was thinking ahead to having a soccer team as a neighbor, and the city and county lease negotiators decided to sign off on whatever the baseball team wanted. Which should come as no surprise, since it’s pretty much what they did with the entire stadium deal, but it’s going to create some headaches for David Beckham’s stadium plans. One can only hope that Miami isn’t asked to kick in public money to make up for some of these obstacles, but I wouldn’t hope too hard, given Miami’s track record here.

A’s owner now says MLB wouldn’t actually help pay for new stadium, world makes sense again

So that San Jose Mercury News report that Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff said MLB would help him fund a new stadium? Now the San Francisco Chronicle says Wolff says it’s not so:

Just this week, Wolff let it be known that new Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred was fully behind the A’s effort. However, he dismissed reports that MLB would kick in some money to get it done in Oakland.

“Dismissed reports”? But the reports came from you, according to the Merc News? Why … oh, never mind.

Meanwhile, Wolff is continuing to explore parts of the Oakland Coliseum site where a new stadium could be built while the A’s play in the old one. As for the Raiders, their execs continue to talk with the city of Oakland and Alameda County, though county officials would rather just the city buy them out of the Coliseum entirely so they don’t have to deal with it. The general assumption seems to be that the A’s are closer to a deal than the Raiders are, but that could just be social media getting ahead of itself; anyway, it’s always better to wait until we see actual funding plans, not just site preferences, before declaring anything set in even wet concrete.

Braves bridge may go way over budget, leave fans stranded on wrong side of highway for five months

Hey, how’s everybody’s favorite pedestrian-and-bus bridge that no one knows how much it will cost but that without which Atlanta Braves fans won’t be able to get to games? The good news is that the Cobb County Commission approved a preliminary design last night, one that involves side-by-side lanes for pedestrians and shuttle buses. The bad news is, as Dan Klepal of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, everything else:

The 1,100-foot bridge, which is meant to help fans walking or riding a circulator bus to the games from remote parking areas, likely won’t be completed until September 2017 — five months later than county officials originally planned, according to a document obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through Georgia’s Open Records Act.

Okay, that’s not good, considering that the stadium is supposed to open in April 2017 — five months is a long time to be late for the game.

And any news on how much this bridge is going to cost, and who’ll pay for it and how?

The county has not updated its $9 million cost estimate, despite its contractor working on the project since April. The AJC has previously reported that the county’s estimate is for construction costs only and does not include things such as moving utilities, buying land for right-of-way, or the $804,000 being paid to the contractor.

So that would be a lot more than $9 million, in all likelihood—

Outside bridge experts have previously expressed skepticism to the newspaper that the county can even construct the bridge for $9 million.

Okay, a whole lot more than $9 mil—

And now there’s a new expense: the top level of the parking garage, to which the bridge will connect, will have to be reinforced to support the circulator bus, according to documents reviewed by the newspaper.

The deck needs to be strengthened to support the buses that will drive across it to access the bridge, the document says. It does not specify what materials will be used or how much it will cost, but it is clearly an unexpected development.

Okay, clearly nobody has any idea how much this bridge will cost, or when it will be open, but they’ve gotta build it or half the fans attending every game will end up standing on the wrong side of a highway, because they went ahead and approved the stadium before finalizing the transportation plan. I’m going out on a limb here and saying maybe that wasn’t the greatest idea, guys?

Wolff says MLB would help pay for Oakland stadium if public unwilling, film of sky falling at 11

The San Jose Mercury News dropped a weird little bombshell into its report on the Oakland A’s trade deadline moves:

A’s owner [Lew Wolff] said Major League Baseball would likely kick in some money to help the A’s get a stadium done at the Oakland site, public money not being available.

Really? That’s not something MLB has done for any other team — aside from allowing teams to deduct stadium costs from income for purposes of revenue-sharing, which has been standard operating procedure for a while now. But if MLB actually gives in and throws additional cash the A’s way, that would be a huge departure for a league that so far has depended on the kindness of taxpayers for new construction.

Newballpark.org, meanwhile, speculates that the easiest way for MLB to funnel some money to Wolff would be to allow the A’s to keep receiving revenue sharing money once they move into a new stadium. (MLB changed its revenue sharing rules a few years back to prohibit teams in big markets from getting checks, but exempted Oakland from this prohibition until a new stadium is built.) It’s certainly something that the league could do, though you have to wonder if MLB commissioner Rob Manfred would have to twist some  arms to get other owners to agree to kick in to dispense with the Coliseum. He doesn’t seem a very arm-twisty guy, but we’ll see.

A’s owner Wolff almost sorta kinda says R-word about Oakland Coliseum

Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff is interviewed in the new Athletics Magazine — man, wonder how they got that scoop, huh? — and had this to say about the team’s stadium demands:

We continue to respect the desire of the Raiders for a new football-only venue, while we of course would like to play in a new or vastly improved baseball-only venue.

That’s tantalizingly close to saying he’d consider a renovated Oakland Coliseum, though he doesn’t actually say the word “renovated.” But you don’t say “or vastly improved” to your own house organ if you don’t want to at least leave a door open.

What could possibly be done to the Coliseum to improve it? Newballpark.org proprietor Marine Layer has some ideas, including either tearing down the Mount Davis seats installed for the Raiders or incorporating them into a new seating bowl. (I think ML has neglected the setting sun being in batters’ eyes in that plan, but maybe the geography isn’t quite what I think it is.) I’ve previously noted that I’m an unabashed fan of the Coliseum, particularly if Mount Davis were removed, so it’d be interesting to see what, if anything, Wolff has in mind here. Mayor Libby Schaaf, can you ask him next time you see him and report back? Thanks, we’d all appreciate it.

The punchline missing from last night’s great John Oliver segment on stadium scams

I don’t want to in any way criticize Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’s outstanding segment last night, which did a terrific job hitting all the highlights of the stadium subsidy game. But I did want to add a side note to one of Oliver’s examples:

Teams are shameless in manipulating cities’ fears. In 1997, the Minnesota Twins even ran an ad showing a player visiting a child in hospital with cancer, and the tagline: ‘If the Twins leave Minnesota, an 8-year-old in Wilmar undergoing chemotherapy will never get a visit from Marty Cordova. Which is less like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and more like the Make-A-Threat Foundation.

All true! But it actually turned out to be even worse than that, as the Minneapolis City Pages reported at the time:

Then there was the TV ad aimed at prodding fans to rally the legislature, which depicted Twins outfielder Marty Cordova going to see a sick child at the Minneapolis Ronald McDonald House. “If the Twins leave Minnesota, an 8-year-old from Willmar undergoing chemotherapy will never get a visit from Marty Cordova,” the announcer intoned, as the screen faded to black. To make matters even more repulsive, it turned out that by the time the ad aired, the patient had died.

Also, nobody had bothered consulting Twins outfielder Cordova, whose charity had sponsored the hospital visits, and who objected vociferously to being used for owner Carl Pohlad’s stadium shakedown. The ad was quickly pulled, the Minnesota state legislature declined to fund a new Twins stadium, and the team moved to — er, that is, kept on plugging away at getting public stadium money out of Minnesota, until finally the legislature gave in. That’ll show those lousy dead-cancer-kid-mongers, right?

Owner says Red Sox will move out of Fenway by 1972

I hate Throwback Thursday to the extent that I’ve made a Social Fixer tab to hide all references to it in Facebook, but someone sent this along on Twitter, so I thought I’d share:

“I don’t care who you are or how much money you have- you can’t lose a million or so each year.”

“Sometimes I wonder why I have continued (to take losses) for as long as I have. Maybe it’s been too long,” he said with a slight smile, “I really don’t know.”

“When I look at it from a business standpoint a man would have to be:

“A. Crazy

“B. Like to lose money

“C. Like to continue to lose more money.”

“And no one — at least that I know of — is like that.”

That was Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, in 1967, explaining why there was no way the Red Sox would still be playing in Fenway Park by 1972. In addition to saying it would be “almost impossible to exist financially in Fenway Park,” Yawkey dropped a reference to the Braves moving out of Boston to Milwaukee, and was described (by longtime Boston Globe reporter Will McDonough) as having exhibited “tremendous generosity in all phases of his operation over the years,” which will come as a surprise to all the African-American ballplayers he refused to employ on his club.

Anyway, go read it, it’s a great blast from the past. And then have a look at this.

Stadiums can be anchors for related development, say newspapers in search of cheap headlines

You know what I missed while I was away? Having the time to read long, misinformed articles about new stadium projects and how they’re just totally different from those old bad stadium projects of a couple of decades ago. Got anything like that for me, Google News?

With the era of standalone, isolated stadiums largely over, sports team owners increasingly are taking on the role of developer and using their stadiums as anchors for entertainment districts or retail and residential developments.

Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff.

The article in question is from the Tampa Tribune’s Christopher O’Donnell, and argues that this newfangled stadium-plus-other-development model being used by teams like the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Red Wings (or “Redwings,” as he calls them) could be used by the Tampa Bay Rays for a new stadium as well. It ignores the fact that these stadium-plus projects aren’t especially new, going back well over a decade (the St. Louis Cardinals‘ “ballpark village” was one of the earlier ones, but I’m sure I’m forgetting others), and mostly ignores, aside from a comment by stadium architecture consultant Philip Bess (who O’Donnell calls “Phillip” — fired all the copy editors, did you, Tampa Tribune?), the problem that if development around a stadium were profitable enough to pay off a stadium, teams would be able to pursue this strategy without public subsidies. Not to mention that if stadium-related development is profitable it could be pursued without the money suck of a new stadium attached, that it could just end up displacing development that otherwise would have taken place somewhere else in town, that development around stadiums has typically appeared years late when it shows up at all, etc., etc.

Anyway, good to see that these articles still pop up every once in a while for me to throw rocks at, and — whoa there!

The new Minnesota Vikings football stadium, to be completed a year from now, is helping draw nearby office towers, upscale housing and other developments, according to its supporters.

Guys! One article at a time, please! I’m still getting back up to speed here.

Court blocks mall on former Shea Stadium site, because oops, it’s still city parkland

If you’ve been to a New York Mets game ever, you’ll have noticed that the area right around the stadium is pretty desolate — there’s the parking lot, which includes the site of the former Shea Stadium (the old diamond is helpfully marked off in concrete), and the auto shops across the street in the neighborhood of Willets Point. New York City has long planned to redevelop Willets Point, most recently by building a shopping mall in the Mets parking lot and razing some of the auto shops for replacement parking. But that plan was unexpectedly shot down last week by an appeals court ruling noting that the Mets parking lot is still technically city parkland, and so can’t be used for commercial development:

The construction of a mixed-use, mall-anchored development on the former site of Shea Stadium in Queens, without the state Legislature’s approval, would violate the doctrine restricting the use of public lands for private purposes, a Manhattan appellate court ruled Thursday…

Justice Angela Mazzarelli said that purposes for the use of the subject law—”considered in vacuum”—are not necessarily related to a stadium, but that the law contains specific examples of purposes that are traditionally associated with a stadium, including athletic events, concerts and assemblies.

“Its focus is on the stadium, and the stadium only,” Mazzarelli wrote. “There is simply no basis to interpret the statute as authorizing the construction of another structure that has no natural connection to a stadium.”

In short, the city was trying to use a 1961 state law authorizing the construction of Shea Stadium on city parkland (which also was used to justify the later construction of Citi Field next door) to build a mall there as well, on the grounds that the old law said that a stadium would promote “trade and commerce,” so anything that promotes trade and commerce should be fair game, right? The appeals court told the city to stick it in its ear, though it did note that the state legislature could still amend the 1961 law to allow the mall to proceed.

This is good news for fans of parkland being protected space, certainly, though in the short run all it means is that people will still get to run the old bases in an asphalt parking lot for the foreseeable future. (Not that that’s not legitimate public recreation — it’s fun for all ages!) Also, there’s nothing stopping the city and developers, presumably, from switching up their plan and building the mall in Willets Point and leaving the parking where it is. That would be good for Mets fans wanting to buy whatever it is people buy at malls before games, I guess, and bad for merchants in the rest of the city that have been selling turkey sandwiches to fans to cart on the subway to games.

But hey, either way we can cheer the principle of the thing, right? After all, Mets fans are used to cheering pyrrhic victories.

Georgia court rules that baseball stadiums are a public purpose because they just are, duh

The court ruling is in for Cobb County’s use of public bonds for the Atlanta Braves‘ new stadium, and did the judge buy the team’s argument that stadiums are a public purpose because they just are? Did he ever!

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 9.15.03 AMScreen Shot 2015-06-30 at 9.15.31 AMIn other words, sports are a public good, and anything that says it will create economic benefits is a public good, so the government has every right to fund it, so there. That’s pretty sweeping, albeit not unexpected. Anyway, if you were hoping that the Braves funding plan would somehow get tossed out by a court, throwing all of sports finance into disarray, the Georgia supreme court isn’t going to give that to you.