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?

Angels owner waiting till last minute to bring stadium proposal to council for vote, this can only go well

After opting out of his lease last December and then un-opting-out and then spending all year on such matters as pretending he could move to Long Beach and waiting on a city appraisal of stadium land that was completed but never released, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno is finally ready to make a proposal to the city of Anaheim for stadium renovations! And with a whole six weeks to go before the next opt-out deadline, much of which will be taken up by negotiations!

Anaheim City Manager Chris Zapata told the council about the Nov. 15 sit down during Tuesday’s, Nov. 5, council meeting.

But officials declined to say whether the Angels might come with a concrete, formal proposal or a collection of potential deal points…

[City spokesperson Mike] Lyster said negotiators for the city, including Mayor Harry Sidhu, and the team would likely meet a few times behind closed doors before a possible deal is brought to the full council.

So that means council debate likely won’t begin until December, with a vote having to be taken by the end of that month. No wonder the council didn’t want to promise 30 days of public debate on an Angels stadium plan!

Now, under sane circumstances, that deadline would be hanging over Moreno’s head just as much as the city’s, if not more so: If no new deal is in place by December 31, the Angels owner faces a choice between 1) opting out of his lease again and leaving himself nowhere to play in 2021 (or at least without such perks as super-low rent on his current stadium) and 2) not opting out and being stuck with no leverage to demand a new stadium until 2029. In the world we live in, though, where the council already responded to Moreno’s last opt-out with Oh, please, sir, here is a fresh gun to hold to our heads next year, it’s likely that the council will treat Moreno’s deadline as a council deadline, and rush to approve the deal regardless of whether the city would be getting fair market value for its parking lot development rights.

That’s if we even know by then what fair market value is, as the city still won’t make its appraisal of the site public. It’s promised to do so “at the right time,” which hopefully means before the actual vote; also hopefully it means that the full appraisal and methodology will be revealed then, not just a napkin with “whatev team wants to pay, ‘s cool” scrawled on it.

And speaking of the appraisal of land for the New York Islanders arena that was approved back in August, I just got notice today of the second delay in my Freedom of Information Law request for the full documents; I’m now projected to get a response (or notice of another delay) by December 19. Anyone wishing to lay odds on whether the appraisal is released before the arena’s scheduled opening date in fall 2021 is welcome to place wagers in comments.

MLB and Nike team up to block Bronx stores from selling Yankees jerseys

Back when New York Yankees execs were trying to tear down Yankee Stadium and get a billion dollars or so in public cash and tax breaks to build a new one in a public park, one argument was that moving the Bronx Bombers across the street would be a boon for local residents via all the new jobs it would create. While this was dubious from the start — Yankees attendance actually went down at the new building, in part because it holds fewer fans, and in any event the added dining and shopping options inside the gates only draw off spending from the surrounding neighborhood — it’s doubly so now that MLB has cut a deal with Nike that will apparently prohibit much team merchandise from being sold at local souvenir stores:

The agreement only allows the sale of official league merchandise at Nike “premium distribution points”, and therefore, would prevent several local retailers from selling Yankees merchandise outside of the stadium, which accounts for the vast majority of their revenue, according to [Borough President Ruben] Diaz.

I actually heard rumblings about the implications of this Nike deal a couple of months ago, but wasn’t able to confirm at the time which products would be banned for independent sale, or at which stores. Nike’s deal with MLB is for all “on-field apparel,” so would include replica jerseys and caps; presumably other Yankees-themed shirts and such would still be allowed, though other reports say the ban would affect all “officially licensed Yankees merchandise.” Nike has partnered with the online retail giant Fanatics for sale of its products, and Fanatics presumably doesn’t want Yankee fans buying Aaron Judge jerseys at Stan’s Sports World when they can order them online, though if so that seems to betray a fundamental misunderstanding of where and why sports fans buy team merch. (The Yankees, meanwhile, undoubtedly would stand to gain if fans were forced to buy jerseys from them instead of across the street, as then they could monopolize the market, jack up prices, etc.)

Yankees management fired back with an open letter to Diaz saying they agree with his concerns (if not his decision to go public with the matter, which is just so gauche):

The team said they immediately reached out to MLB with similar concerns when they first learned of Nike’s plan last week.

Quoting an email sent to the MLB dated Oct. 25, the team wrote, “Yankee Stadium is located in a diverse and one of the poorest communities in the United States. As such, the local retailers expend substantial time in developing their businesses, especially with respect to their ability to sell MLB licensed product.”…

The Yankees said MLB feels similarly and wants Diaz and all elected officials to know that the league is “actively working with Nike to resolve the issue and is very confident that our respective concerns will be resolved in a matter that will allow local businesses to sell Yankees merchandise.”

There’s some definite weirdness there — the Yankees only learned of Nike’s plan last week, when even I’d heard about it in August? — but clearly team execs at least are being responsive to the controversy. (And it does seem like this deal was concocted at the MLB level, so it’s not like the Steinbrenners started it, even if it took them a while to address it; for that matter, this is likely to be an issue as well in other cities with lots of local independent souvenir stands, not that I can think of a ton offhand — the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, maybe.) The hope is that the local media will continue to shine a light on this issue as the 2020 baseball season approaches — that is, if New York still has any local media left by then.

St. Pete mayor says Rays owner asked about Montreal move before 2028, is maybe not world’s best negotiator

Yesterday was a no good, very bad day, but we can’t let that distract us from all the other no-goodness going on in the world. And yesterday that was news that St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said he’d received a “formal” request from Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg to play half their home games in Montreal before the team’s use agreement allows it starting in 2028. Sort of, maybe?

On Wednesday, city policy chief Kevin King said the team has made a formal request to play home games in Montreal before 2027.

“Yes, long ago,” he said by phone, before deferring to the mayor.

Kriseman, shortly thereafter, initially would not confirm the team made a formal request, saying only that the Rays have “clearly expressed their desire to explore a split season with Montreal.”

Later in the conversation, the mayor confirmed the request met the “formal” threshold.

“I guess you could consider it to be…” the mayor said before trailing off. “It was much more specific so I guess you could consider it to be a formal request.”

Kriseman said the request was oral and that nothing has been put in writing. He said he couldn’t remember at what point the request went from “informal” to “formal.” Nor would he say what exactly the team asked for, or any concessions the team offered.

Many, many questions here! First off, since that use agreement explicitly forbids Sternberg from talking to anyone about playing home games outside St. Peterburg before 2028 (not, as previously thought, from talking to anyone before 2028 about playing home games outside St. Petersburg, thanks to a late amendment to the terms made way back in 1995), did Kriseman demand anything in return for Sternberg not shutting his trap about it immediately? Are the two sides in negotiation over this? And most important, where the hell would Sternberg be playing games, since his original Tampontreal Ex-Rays plan required building two new stadiums, one in Canada and one in Florida, and if they’re really going to be playing in them by 2024 as Sternberg says he wants, they really better get on that?

The obvious suspicion, of course, is — here, let’s let Shadow of the Stadium’s Noah Pransky say it, he’s earned the right to be the interpreter of Sternberg’s madness:

If it’s leverage, though, it’s leverage of a weird kind: Everyone knows that Sternberg can leave in 2028 for nothing, so making demands about leaving earlier when your lease says you can’t and you have nowhere to play then anyway is an oddly empty threat. I suppose getting the Montreal talk back in the headlines increases pressure on both Kriseman and Tampa stadium backers (and, for that matter, Montreal stadium backers) to take action on funding a stadium — since that’s something Kriseman has made clear he’s not interested in doing himself — but then why on earth is Kriseman the one leaking this news about the move request, and not indicating that he’d shot it down? Even if he secretly wants the Rays to leave his city so he can redevelop the Tropicana Field property, as some have suggested, isn’t making Sternberg’s arguments for him in the media pretty much the opposite of savvy negotiating?

Anyway, the Rays playing home games in two countries at once still makes no sense except as an idle threat, but given that we’ve seen sports team owners make incredibly dumb moves before just to show they’re willing to carry out idle threats, we can’t entirely rule it out as a possibility. This is the kind of story that calls for a robust sports media with a keen sense of how politics works to ferret out what’s really going on, and … like I said, it was a no good, very bad day.

Anaheim council to public: No, we won’t tell you what Angels land is worth or promise time for open debate of stadium deal

Yesterday morning, Voice of OC reporter Spencer Custodio reported that the Anaheim city council was set to vote on finally releasing the Los Angeles Angels stadium land appraisal that it had promised to release to the public and then decided enh, maybe not. Last night, Custodio reported that the council had voted not only not to release the appraisal, but not to promise even 30 days for public review of any deal before it’s voted on:

Anaheim’s City Council is not interested in publicizing the value of their public stadium and also doesn’t want the public to have much time to look over potential stadium deals before they are approved.

On Tuesday night, the Anaheim City Council voted against releasing the Angel Stadium appraisal, despite repeated calls by the public and some Councilmembers to release it.

A council majority also voted against a potential 30-day review of a final lease proposal…

Councilman Jose Moreno, who successfully scheduled all the items on the agenda, kept trying to overrule [Mayor Harry] Sidhu’s motion [to table the votes] by calling for points of order.

“What the Mayor is doing is he is saying he does not want these issues discussed,” Moreno said.

The appraisal, in case you haven’t been following, is important because the deal being sought by Angels owner Arte Moreno is for the city to sell the stadium parking lots to Moreno for development, and Moreno to use the proceeds to upgrade the stadium. As we’ve seen in other sports venue deals, if the local government sells land at a discount price, that can be a way of funneling stadium subsidies to a team owner under the table — in fact, that’s exactly the concern that led former Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait to scuttle a previous plan that would have given the parking lots to Moreno for $1.

This is, needless to say, a worrying trend: not just that team owners and elected officials are trying to play hide-the-subsidy, but that they’re increasingly trying to limit public debate so that no one can figure out what’s going on until it’s too late. It’s especially troubling given that as opposition to straight-up cash grants to teams grows, we’re seeing more convoluted deals that involve land gifts or tax increment financing or other things that are tough to explain without a public comment period — something that the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin praises as the wave of the future:

Is there a way for a city that values sports to contribute to a venue without letting the team stuff its pockets full of taxpayer dollars? Sacramento believes it just made such a deal, as a way to lure a Major League Soccer team, and the city of Anaheim might do the same in helping build — or rebuild — a stadium for the Angels…

In Sacramento, announced last week as the home of the newest MLS franchise, the city is paying nothing toward the cost of the $252-million stadium, or the purchase of the privately owned land on which the stadium and surrounding entertainment district will be built.

The city agreed to divert the first $33 million in taxes generated by the developments — money that otherwise could be available for parks, libraries, police and other public services — to reimburse the team for the cost of infrastructure to support the developments: streets, sidewalks, sewers, a light-rail station and traffic management.

That is not paying nothing! Allowing a sports team owner or developer to keep their tax money on the grounds that the cash is coming from them in the first place is the Casino Night Fallacy, and is exactly the same, from the tax break recipient’s perspective, as getting a check from the public treasury. But it’s way more confusing, which is no doubt why sports team owners have learned to love it as a tactic.

Shaikin’s article also mentions, almost in passing, that an Angels spokesperson has said that “Long Beach is on the back burner” as far as relocating there is concerned. This should be no surprise given that Long Beach had a site too small for a stadium and no way to pay the $1 billion construction cost and that Moreno apparently only started negotiating with Long Beach to increase the pressure on Anaheim to get a deal done, so now that the Anaheim council is playing ball — including conducting negotiations in secret and promising to limit any public debate — of course Long Beach is on the back burner. If rich people wanting public officials to do their bidding know one thing, it’s how to leverage not-very-veiled threats to get what they want.

Councilmember credits new sports venues for D.C. not being like Detroit, which is lousy with new sports venues

Somewhere in the middle of this mess of a World Series media cycle — after the assistant GM berating female reporters scandal but before the booing of Donald Trump and flashing of Gerrit Cole — the New York Times ran a puff piece on Washington Nationals fans that came down to “86 years since a World Series, Baby Shark, our troubled times, blah blah blah.” But Pat Garofalo, in his Billionaire Boondoggle newsletter, noted one paragraph that stood out as exceptionally evidence-free:

When the ballpark opened in the Navy Yard neighborhood 11 years ago, the area was struggling to move past decades of drugs and violence. It was a wasteland of car repair shops, garbage truck parking lots and asphalt factories. But the ballpark led the way for restaurants, condos and hotels, and Audi Field, home of Major League Soccer’s D.C. United, down the street.

We’ve covered the Stadium Catalyst Fallacy in this space before: Look at a sports venue, look at development taking place around it, and declare “mission accomplished.” But when you have a sports facility being built in a neighborhood that is already ripe for development — which was absolutely the case in D.C., if only because there are few sites anywhere in the District that aren’t being eyed for development — then, as Garofalo notes, “We can’t know for sure what would have happened in the alternative universe in which the Nationals never came to D.C. and Nats Park was never built.”

Then Garofalo digs up another recent quote about the Nationals’ alleged economic windfall for D.C. that is even more bizarre:

“Where would we be without the arena, the convention center and hotel, the ballpark, Audi soccer stadium,” Evans asks and answers, “We’d be Detroit, a city still struggling in every respect.”

That’s D.C. city councilmember Jack Evans, the godfather of Nationals Park, in a recent Washington City Paper article about how the stadium deal “nearly fell apart.” (The article doesn’t really explain that bit, but if you want the fuller recap, it’s covered both in the later chapters of Field of Schemes and here on this site as well.) Notes Garofalo:

What a weird comparison for Evans to make: Detroit also has publicly-funded sports stadiums, as well as convention centers and hotels. The chief difference between the cities is that Detroit’s main industry — automaking — went bust, and D.C.’s — the business of government — didn’t. No soccer field or convention center changed that.

I would suggest that we all point and laugh at Jack Evans for being a doofus, but presumably everyone is already pointing and laughing at Evans’ ongoing ethics scandals, so to double down would be cruel, if fun.

Friday roundup: Ex-D.C. mayor says his $534m Nats stadium expense was worth it, Clippers arena stymied by car trouble, MLS franchise fees to go even higher

Shouldn’t posting items more regularly during the week leave less news to round up on Fridays? I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s supposed to work, but here I am on Friday with even more browser tabs open than usual, and I’m sure someone is still going to complain that I left out, say, the latest on arena site discussions in Saskatoon. I guess lemme type really fast and see how many I can get through before my fingers fall off:

 

D.C. and Houston both predict World Series windfall from visitors from opposing city, what could possibly be wrong with this logic?

With the World Series underway, Washington, D.C.’s tourist bureau has estimated that the city will see a $6.5 million windfall from hosting games, partly from added Nationals fan spending and partly from spending by visiting Houston Astros fans:

“We are going to be welcoming business that we would not have without the World Series here,” McClain said. “You can really feel the excitement throughout the city, whether you are watching with folks at local restaurants and bars or just walking down the street seeing all the Washington Nationals gear that people are wearing.”…

“New York is closer, and so people can make that decision to come to D.C. closer to the times of the games. … If it’s Houston, it’s really just a distance thing, in terms of people having to take flights here, and so that just becomes a little bit more limiting in terms of the visitation estimate,” McClain said.

Houston, meanwhile, is excited for the $9 million windfall that the Greater Houston Partnership estimates the city will receive thanks to visiting Nationals fans:

“It’s wonderful hosting the World Series because it gives us an opportunity to show businesses and people outside of Houston what a great place this is,” Jankowski said. “It gives an image of a winning team, a winning season and enthusiastic sports fans. Houston needs images like that — not the images we saw with [Tropical Depression Imelda].”

Okay, so here’s the thing about baseball games — in fact, about all sporting events: Only one of the two teams can be the home team. Depending on how long the World Series goes, Houston will host from two to four home games, and Washington from two to three; and each time fans from one city travel to the other, they leave their home city. So while there may be an influx of big-spending Washington fans in Houston for tonight’s Game 2, there will be that many fewer people spending money in Washington tonight (and, perhaps more the point, that many more Washingtonians returning to town tomorrow with drained bank accounts); and vice versa for Friday’s Game 3 in Washington. “Let’s boost our local economies by first us sending you a bunch of our fans and then you send us a bunch of your fans!” sounds more like a design for a perpetual motion machine than a legitimate economic argument.

There is some positive impact from a World Series game, obviously: A few locals probably do increase their spending somewhat instead of just reducing their other entertainment spending by the same amount, and there are visiting media crews and whatnot who rent hotel rooms and eat dinner the same as baseball fans do. But the numbers are fairly marginal: A 2005 study by economists Victor Matheson and Robert Baade determined that “any increase in economic growth as a result of the post-season is not statistically significantly different than zero,” though they also guesstimated the economic impact at $6.8 million per home game, which is actually quite a bit more than the D.C. and Houston studies are promising.

I just got off the phone with Matheson, who says that the issue is the $6.8 million figure wasn’t statistically significant, so “the answer could be zero,” or could be more. He added that any actual positive impact could come in the form of fans traveling into the city from the suburbs to see games — “you want to be in a Houston sports bar rather than a Galveston sports bar to watch the game” — or from, say, expatriate Astros or Nats fans driving down from Philadelphia to D.C. for games and bringing their spending with them. So the ultimate economic activity numbers being put forward by the D.C. and Houston groups may not be too far off, even if their explanation of them is kind of nutty.

In any event, though, that’s all “economic activity,” which Matheson once memorably defined to me as: “Imagine an airplane landing at an airport and everyone gets out and gives each other a million bucks, then gets back on the plane. That’s $200 million in economic activity, but it’s not any benefit to the local economy.” So really the lesson here for journalists and sports page readers alike is twofold: Take the claims of tourism booster agencies with an enormous grain of salt, and always ask what the tax revenue impact will be, not just the economic activity impact. Or just use your basic brain skills and understand that you can’t make two glasses of water more full by pouring them back and forth into each other, and you can save time on reading news coverage at all.

A’s owner offers Coliseum purchase offer carrot to go with Vegas move threat stick

The Oakland city council’s lawsuit against Alameda County selling its half of the jointly-owned Oakland Coliseum property to the A’s owners instead of offering it to the city first may be kind of impulsive and not even something Oakland’s mayor wants and pointless because Oakland can’t afford to buy the county’s share anyway and to have led to MLB lobbing threats to move the team to Las Vegas, but! It also, according to the San Francisco Chronicles Phil Matier, seems to have shaken loose a new offer from the A’s owners on the property:

In an effort to break the legal logjam that’s threatening their new ballpark, the Oakland A’s are offering to either buy out the city’s half share in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum site for $85 million or enter into a long-term lease, sources close to the negotiations say.

The proposed deal also includes a community benefits package and a provision that the team build a new ballpark elsewhere in town, which it’s already planning at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal.

In return, the city must drop the lawsuit it filed to block Alameda County from selling its half share of the site to the A’s.

That doesn’t seem like a terrible deal at all, or at least not a terrible starting point for negotiations. The $85 million price tag for half of 130 acres of land looks about right in terms of land value, and if A’s owner John Fisher is actually buying the land and not just development rights then presumably he’d have to pay property taxes on it, and the team would also take over paying operating costs on the Coliseum and accompanying arena and include a buyback option if the land goes undeveloped. All in exchange for dropping a lawsuit that probably isn’t going anywhere anyway.

While Mayor Libby Schaaf and councilmember Noel Gallo praised the offer, councilmember Dan Kalb still has concerns:

But Councilman Dan Kalb said he still had concerns:

“If they are not going to build a ballpark there, then why should the A’s get special consideration for the Coliseum site?” he said. “Shouldn’t they just submit proposals like everyone else after seeing what the city wants there?”

Which, sure, okay: Fisher is absolutely looking to jump the line and get to bid on developing the Coliseum before anyone else can, in exchange for building himself a new stadium at Howard Terminal and making this now decade-plus long relocation saga go away. But if it’s a fair price, and the main issue is that Fisher may not build “what the city wants there,” then ask to include some development criteria in the sale agreement, or something. And if the issue is that Kalb wants the A’s to build a stadium on the Coliseum site and not Howard Terminal — which seems to be what he’s saying — then just negotiate that directly, rather than engaging in some weird proxy war over who gets to buy the Coliseum land.

Anyway, there’s room for talks here, and even talks that could end up with a deal that is somewhere between not-awful and pretty-decent for the city of Oakland, which by the standards of the kind of stuff we discuss around here is cause for at least mild applause. And if city councils filing lawsuits against the mayor’s wishes proves to be what it takes to shake loose new offers from sports team owners, maybe there’s a lesson here for other municipalities: Two can play at the Madman Theory.

Anaheim failed to ask Angels owner for $8m fee for breaking lease, mayor waves it off as “distraction”

I’ve been trying to give new Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu and the newly elected members of the Anaheim city council the benefit of the doubt that they’re really intent on negotiating a new lease for the Los Angeles Angels that will benefit the public, even after they gave Angels owner Arte Moreno a ten-year lease extension while pretending it wasn’t one and promised to make public an appraisal of the stadium land Moreno wants then withheld it from the public once it was done. But it really doesn’t make it any easier when it’s revealed that the city could have collected an $8 million termination fee when Moreno terminated his lease last fall, but decided not to bother:

“As a condition of such termination,” the lease reads, “Tenant shall pay or cause to be paid to Landlord a termination fee.”

The amount was $8 million. Yet the city did not collect that $8 million, or even try to do so, or even mention it when the city council voted to reinstate the Angels’ lease three months later.

City officials apparently didn’t even tell the city council that they could have tried to collect the $8 million — this was revealed in questioning by councilmember Jose Moreno, who said he “absolutely” would have wanted to know what the city was passing up by allowing Moreno to reinstate his lease — and Sidhu now calls the termination fee a “distraction” from signing up the Angels to a new lease. Or, you know, it could have been a point of leverage — “we’ll waive that termination fee you owe us if you agree to pay more for our parking lots” — but as has been established, city officials tend to be terrible negotiators, especially those who have stated up front that their top goal is to get a deal done, not necessarily a good deal.