Miami stadium sites are “future Atlantis” thanks to climate change, teams to deal with this by ditching plastic cups

As you may have noticed, I’m slightly interested in the massive human-created changes to Earth’s climate that are going to make many major cities uninhabitable soon via increased heat or sea level rise or both, so this CNBC article on sports venues at risk from climate change promised to check all of my boxes:

  • Florida International University climate professor Henry Briceno predicts that the Miami Heat arena will flood with only two feet of sea level rise (expected as soon as 2060), while the Dolphins‘ stadium will flood at a three-foot rise. As for the site of David Beckham’s new Inter Miami stadium, Briceno remarked, “I don’t know if those guys know that they are building in the future Atlantis.”
  • The San Diego Padres‘ stadium flooded in 2017, and the Quad Cities River Bandits stadium was made inaccessible thanks to flooding last year, and while both of those were because of torrential rains and not sea-level rise, more and more severe storms are expected to be a consequence of a warmed planet as well.
  • Disappointingly, the article doesn’t talk much about what will happen to sports teams once the cities they play in are largely uninhabitable as a result of climate change — Phoenix isn’t going to be underwater ever, but it could be too hot to live in as soon as 2050.

And the article then pivots to what sports teams are doing to help combat climate change — including a long set of quotes from Allen Hershkowitz, the staff environmentalist the New York Yankees hired after he helped MLB come up with programs to claim “green” status and then called commissioner Bud Selig “the most influential environmental advocate in the history of sports” — though only one specific initiative is mentioned: The Dolphins are replacing disposable plastic cups with (presumably reusable) aluminum ones. That sounds great, but while plastics are indeed a pollution nightmare, in terms of carbon footprint they’re not all that much better for the planet than alternatives (reusability is more important than what cups are made of). And there’s no mention of what the carbon footprint was of these teams’ repeated building and upgrading of new stadiums, which is kind of a big omission when nearly a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions are related to construction.

The best way to keep sports from drowning themselves, really, would be for teams to play in whatever stadiums they already have and for fans to stay out of their cars and instead stay home and watch on the internet listen on the radio. Or maybe just play fewer games. Somebody ask Hershkowitz about that, maybe?

A’s vow stadium opening in 2023, not clear yet on how to get fans to it

The Oakland A’s proposed stadium at Howard Terminal may still have a lot of unknowns like how to pay for $200 million in new infrastructure, but team president Dave Kaval isn’t going to let that stop him from declaring “Get the shovels ready!” and saying he hopes to begin construction this summer and open the stadium by 2023. That seems 1) ambitious and 2) like the sort of thing team execs say whether or not such a timeline is realistic, but it’s certainly more possible now that the A’s owners have control of the Oakland Coliseum land that they want to redevelop to help pay for the Howard Terminal stadium, though exactly how they’ll develop it is also up in the air, and … you can see why maybe counting on spending Opening Day 2023 looking admiringly at cranes is jumping the gun a bit.

In other news about the A’s maybe-ballpark:

  • There may not be a gondola taking fans to the game from the nearby BART station, but there will be a “transportation hub” where fans will be dropped off by shuttle buses, then can walk or take rental scooters (because California loves its scooters) across a pedestrian bridge across Embarcadero West. That $200 million infrastructure price tag is making more and more sense, especially if a new bridge is involved.
  • The city of Oakland’s Department of Transportation estimates that half of all A’s fans would drive to games, and another 16% would take Uber or Lyft. (Currently 70% of A’s fans drive to games, but that’s with a stadium surrounded by a sea of parking.) Then they’d likely have to take a shuttle bus or walk a ways from their parking spots, presumably across that same proposed pedestrian bridge plus one other, meaning it’s going to need to be really wide if they don’t want hour-long backups after games (something that’s already sometimes a problem at the Coliseum, even with the bridge really only serving BART riders), which means it’s likely to be really expensive.

Map of all the proposed transit plans, including the ones that remain *proposed:

Or, you know, maybe they could just close Embarcadero West to traffic before and after games, which would be a hell of a lot cheaper than building two bridges, even if you had to hand out $20 bills to drivers to bribe them to take different streets. Totally nothing that needs to be decided before holding a city council vote and breaking ground on a major new development project!

Friday roundup: Panthers owner donated to Charlotte officials during stadium lobbying, St. Louis MLS didn’t need $30m in state money after all, and what time the Super Bowl economic impact rationalizations start

Happy Friday, and try not to think about how much you’re contributing to climate change by reading this on whatever electronic device you’re using. Though at least reading this in text doesn’t require a giant server farm like watching a video about stadiums would — “Streaming one hour of Netflix a week requires more electricity, annually, than the yearly output of two new refrigerators” is one of the more alarming sentences I’ve read ever — so maybe it counts as harm reduction? I almost linked to an amusing video clip to deliver my punchline, wouldn’t that have been ironic!

And now, the news:

Lawsuit could ask to undo Angels stadium deal for violating state transparency law

It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Angels heavily subsidized stadium land purchase deal was done largely in secret — the city didn’t even release details of the sale until ten days before its single public hearing on the matter, and even then a lot of questions were left unanswered — but now the sale is facing a potential lawsuit for violating California’s Brown Act requiring open government:

“The Council’s approval of this Agreement was a rubber stamp of the terms that had been improperly discussed, negotiated, and agreed upon outside of public view, in violation of the Brown Act (state transparency law),” reads the Jan. 19 letter filed by attorney Kelly Aviles.

Aviles letter alleges councilmembers violated the state’s transparency law because the 1953 Ralph M. Brown Act limits private discussion of any sale of public property to “price and terms of payment” for the sale of the land…

“If the Board fails or refuses to cure and correct or respond as demanded, my client will seek judicial invalidation of the challenged actions…” states Aviles’ letter.

That’s not a lawsuit yet, but it sounds like it’s going to be one unless the city council “corrects” its decision, which seems pretty durn unlikely. The success rate of these things at overturning city decisions isn’t all that great, but it’s not zero either, so it’s entirely possible that the $325 million land sale — which is probably at least a $175 million discount from what the land could have fetched on the open market — will have to be re-voted on, this time with more time for open debate. Hope springs eternal!

Friday roundup: Phoenix to maybe get soccer stadium/robot factory, Raiders roof is delayed, Def Leppard and Hamilton face off over who’s old and smelly

Happy Friday! I have no meta-commentary to add this week, but hopefully when you have Def Leppard getting into a flamewar with Canadian elected officials over arena smells, you need no prelude:

  • The Salt River Pima-Maricopa reservation, long rumored as the possible site of a Phoenix Rising F.C. soccer stadium, has released an image of a proposed “$4 billion sports, technology and entertainment district” that indeed seems to show a soccer stadium, though honestly it looks a little small just from the rendering. There’s also an amazing image of people testing out robots and what looks like robot dogs, which surely will be the growth industry of the rest of the century, because I bet robot dogs don’t have an enormous carbon footprint or anything.
  • The Las Vegas Raiders are now projecting $478 million in personal seat license sales for their new stadium, up from an initial projection of $250 million. (All this money will go to defray Raiders owner Mark Davis’s costs, not the state of Nevada’s, because why would revenues from a publicly funded stadium go to the public? That’s crazy talk!) Unfortunately, the stadium might not be ready on time thanks to its roof behind months behind schedule, which could cause damage to the already-built parts of the stadium if it rains, but all those Raiders fans in Vegas (or people in Vegas anticipating selling their seats to out-of-towners who’ve come to see their home teams on road trips) will surely be patient after shelling out as much as $75,000 for PSLs.
  • Charlotte is still up for giving Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper $110 million to renovate his NFL stadium to make it more amenable to hosting an MLS franchise, but may want Tepper to agree to a lease extension first. Given that the last time Charlotte gave the Panthers money for stadium upgrades it was $87.5 million for a six-year extension, the city could maybe keep the team in town through 2027 this way. At this point, it might have been cheaper for the city just to buy the Panthers outright, thus guaranteeing the team stays in town while not only avoiding all these continual renovation fees but also getting to collect all that NFL revenue for itself. (Ha ha ha, just kidding, the NFL outlawed that years ago, no doubt partly to avoid anyone from trying exactly this scenario.)
  • The Atlanta Braves‘ stadium got a new name thanks to a bank merger, and the bank got lots of free publicity when news outlets wrote about the new name, but hell if I’m going to participate in that, so google it if you really must know.
  • A Virginia state delegate wants to reboot Virginia Beach’s failed arena plans by setting up a state-run authority to attempt to build a new arena somewhere in the Hampton Roads region, which includes both Virginia Beach and Norfolk. “The hardest part is the financing mechanism behind it,” said Norfolk interim economic development director Jared Chalk, which, yeah, no kidding.
  • Denver is helping build a new rodeo arena, and as a Denverite subhead notes, “The city says it won’t reveal how much taxpayers could be on the hook for because that would be bad for taxpayers.”
  • Kalamazoo is maybe building a $110 million arena to host concerts and something called “rocket football,” which I’m not even going to google because it would almost certainly be a disappointment compared to what I’m imagining.
  • Anaheim is considering rebating $180 million (maybe, I’m going by what one councilmember said) in future tax revenues to hotel developers so that Los Angeles Angels and Anaheim Ducks players will stay in them? Don’t the Angels and Ducks players own houses locally? What is even happening?
  • And finally, what you’ve all been waiting for: A video from last summer has surfaced showing Def Leppard lead singer Joe Elliott complaining that Hamilton, Ontario’s arena is “old” and “stinks like a 10,000 asses stink,” to which Hamilton councillor Jason Farr replied that Def Leppard is “also old and stinks.” Clearly one of them needs to be torn down and entirely replaced! It worked for Foreigner!

Friday roundup: New stadium demands in Calgary, 90% shortfall in promised Raiders jobs, corporate subsidies found (yet again) to do squat-all to create jobs

Happy Friday! Is Australia still on fire? (Checks.) Cool, I’m sure we’ll be ready to pay attention to that again as soon as there are some more images of adorable thirsty koalas.

In the meantime, news on some slightly less apocalyptic slow-moving catastrophes:

  • CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie says the Calgary Stampeders deserve “a state-of-the-art, beautiful stadium” but he’ll “take my queues [sic, seriously, Montreal Gazette, you’re supposed to be an English-language paper]” from team execs for when “they think it’s time for me to be a guy who makes a little noise and tries to stimulate a positive discussion.” Yep, that’s a sports league commissioner’s job! Why a new stadium is Calgary’s job and not the Stampeders owners’ job is less clear, but given that the team owners did such a good job at extracting public money for an arena for the Flames (which they also own), you know they’re going to be jonesing for a sequel. (In fact, a Stampeders stadium was originally part of the Flames plan before Mayor Naheed Nenshi rejected it as too expensive and only would approve the Flames part, so maybe this is just a case of a team owner deciding it’s easier to get sports projects approved in serial rather than in parallel.)
  • It’s now been 100 days since Nashville Mayor John Cooper called a halt to Nashville S.C.‘s stadium construction, and Cooper is still not answering questions about when it may resume. Previous indications were that he’s refusing to issue demolition permits in order to renegotiate who’ll pay for cost overruns, but it would be kind of cool if he’s just realized that he can take advantage of MLS having approved a Nashville expansion franchise before everything was signed off on regarding public stadium subsidies by just declining to build the stadium and keeping the team. (Nashville S.C. will have to play in a 21-year-old NFL stadium until then, boo hoo.)
  • Las Vegas Raiders stadium proponents promised it would create 18,700 construction jobs, and now it’s only creating 1,655 jobs, and the stadium boosters say this doesn’t count off-site workers like “support staff at construction companies, architects and engineers, and equipment and service suppliers,” but really it’s more about how most of those 18,700 jobs were never full-time anyway. At least state senator Aaron Ford can sleep at night knowing he didn’t deny a single construction worker a job; guess he isn’t kept up by thinking of any of the people who were denied jobs by virtue of the state of Nevada having $750 million less to spend on other things.
  • 161st Street Business Improvement Director Cary Goodman has a plan for a new NYC F.C. stadium in the Bronx to benefit the local community by having it be owned by the local community, so that “when naming rights are sold, when broadcast fees are collected, when merchandising agreements are made, or when sponsorships and suites are sold, revenue would pour into the [community-owned] corporation and be distributed as dividends accordingly.” This sounds great, except that broadcast fees don’t go to a stadium, they go to the team that plays in a stadium, and also things like sponsorships and suites and naming rights are exactly the kind of revenues that the NYC F.C. owners would be building a stadium in order to collect, so it’s pretty unlikely they’d agree to hand it over to Bronx residents. We really gotta get over the misconception that stadiums make money, people; playing in stadiums that somebody else built for you is where the real profit is, and don’t anyone forget it.
  • Reporters in Kansas City are still asking Royals owner John Sherman if he’d like a downtown baseball stadium, and Sherman is still saying sure, man. (See what I did there? Huh? Huh?) This article also features a quote about how great a downtown ballpark would be from an executive vice president of Vantrust Real Estate, which owns lots of downtown properties; it must be nice to be rich and get to have your Christmas present wish lists printed on local journalism sites as if they’re news.
  • A new study of business tax incentives found that state and local governments spend $30 billion a year on them, with no measurable effect on job growth. Also, most of the benefits flow to a relatively small number of large firms (good luck getting a tax break for your pizzeria), and some states spend more on corporate tax breaks than they collect in corporate taxes, with five (Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming) spending an average of $44 per resident on tax breaks even though they have collect no state corporate income tax at all. (The biggest spenders on a per-capita basis: Michigan, West Virginia, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire.) Surely local elected officials will now take a hard look at the cost of these subsidies and ha ha, no, even when tax breaks are proven failures it takes decades before anyone might notice and do anything about them, so don’t hold your breath that anyone is going to see the light just because of one more study, at least not unless it’s accompanied by angry mobs with pitchforks.

County officially okays Coliseum land sale, leaves only umpteen hoops for A’s stadium plans to get through

Alameda County officially approved the sale of its half of the Oakland Coliseum complex to the A’s owners yesterday, eight months after the proposal was first announced. The price remains $85 million for 50% of the property, though it’s slightly more complicated than that — the team will make the payments over six years, but will also cover $5 million of operating costs a year, which should cancel out any loss from stretching out the payments. That looks to be pretty close to fair market value, at least per my back-of-the-envelope math, though county supervisor Nate Miley has said the actual value of the land could be more like $200-300 million, which would represent a discount of $30-130 million for the team owners.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s article on this says the sale agreement “all but securing the baseball team’s future in the East Bay,” which is not really quite right, as there are a bunch of hurdles remaining before the team’s stadium plans can be finalized: The city needs to agree to sell its half of the land (though that seems likely now that the city has dropped its lawsuit over the sale), and then lots still needs to be worked out about what the ballclub will build on the site (state law requires that there be some affordable housing, and the city is insisting on a community benefits agreement), and then the plan for a new stadium at Howard Terminal (partly funded by development of the Coliseum parcel, maybe?) needs approvals including of $200 million worth of infrastructure that could be funded via property tax kickbacks.

So while the Coliseum land sale is an important first step, we’re still a ways from the A’s stadium situation being resolved, or even resolving who’ll be on the hook for paying for it. Plus we still don’t know what’s up with all those gratuitous cranes.

Why the Angels’ now-approved (maybe, kinda) stadium land sale represents at least $175m in public subsidies

So yeah, the Anaheim city council voted 4-2 late Friday night (early Saturday morning if you were watching from the East Coast like me) to approve the sale of Angel Stadium and its surrounding parking lots to Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno, despite the concerns of some (well, two) on the council and many Anaheim residents that the deal was being rushed through without considering some of its very very many known unknowns. With the vote officials, the city and team will now move ahead on … well, that’s not entirely known, either.

Throughout Friday’s near-endless council hearing, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu and other backers of the deal insisted that the vote to finalize the sale was not actually final in any way, because either side can still walk away from the deal before it’s consummated, which could take up to five years:

Several other agreements are expected to come forward by spring: a commitment that the team would play in Anaheim through 2050, with another 25 years of extensions; and a separate agreement that commits SRB Management to renovate the stadium or build a new one without any public financing, describes what would be developed around the stadium, and lays out details and costs of affordable housing, park space and a labor agreement.

Those community benefit costs would be subtracted from the $325 million land price, so the final cost is not yet known. Closing the sale could take until 2025, so until then the current lease remains in place.

How the value of those “community benefits” would be calculated, or what would be included (Anaheim planning director David Belmer said during the hearing that it could also include things like transit upgrades paid for by the developers) remains a mystery, something that councilmember Jose Moreno asked about to no avail on Friday. The only thing really agreed upon in the vote, according to this argument, was the baseline sale price of $325 million — everything else remains TBD.

A little more information has seeped out about how that $325 million figure was arrived at, when some iterations of the city’s appraisal came up with a value for the parcel of $500 million, and comparable properties nearby have sold for even more than that per acre. The $325 million number is the value of the land “encumbered” by a stadium and parking spaces for one, which is a good bit less than its value if you could fill it from edge to edge with any kind of development you wanted.

Think about this for a second, and this seems reasonable: If you want the Angels to remain on the land, this is a condition of the sale, and so that’s how the land should be valued. Think about it for more than a second, and it comes to a significant public subsidy being handed to Moreno:

Let’s say you’re selling, I don’t know, an ice cream truck. The value of the ice cream truck is going to depend on how much ice cream you can sell out of it, which is going to depend on the demand for ice cream, how much ice cream it can carry, etc. However, the only person who is allowed to bid for the ice cream truck is someone who lives in another state during the summer months, so would only use it to sell ice cream when it’s cold out. You can see how the value of an ice cream truck to them would be far less than to someone who would use it year-round. If you calculate the sale price based on the value to our single bidder, then, they’re getting a significant discount compared to what anyone else would pay.

Dropping the metaphor and back to reality, Arte Moreno is getting a piece of land worth $500 million or more for only $325 million because he wants to keep playing baseball on it. You can certainly make a case that that’s a reasonable deal to make to keep the team in Anaheim — many, many people at the hearing talked about how terrible it would be for the Angels to leave Anaheim — but then be honest about what you’re doing in exchange for keeping the team: selling 153 acres of public land at a massive discount. That’s still absolutely a public cost, just as much as if Moreno saw the land for sale at the market price and said, “I’ll buy that, so long as you give me a $175 million rebate check as part of the deal.”

And that’s before even accounting for the “community benefits” discount, which would be like if you (sorry, back to the metaphor) agreed to allow your ice-cream truck buyer to deduct even more from the sale price for giving out free ice cream on Tuesdays, or something, without knowing how much that free ice cream would count against the final payment. (City officials testified on several occasions that it would not be impossible for Moreno to get so many credits that the city would end up having to pay him to take the land, though they didn’t hazard any guesses as to how likely that was.)

The good news is that it’s still possible for Anaheim (or Moreno, for that matter) to walk away from the deal if the two sides can’t agree on the community benefits discounts and other yet-to-be-negotiated elements of the deal — and if so, the Angels would presumably then be locked into their current lease through 2029, since their opt-out clause would by then have expired. The less-good news, if you’re rooting for that to happen, is that the council seems dead set on moving ahead with this plan full speed ahead: Five of seven councilmembers (one missed the hearing because he was in the emergency room for unexplained reasons) are solidly behind it, meaning the two council seats up for re-election next November held by deal supporters would have to flip to anti-stadium-sale, with deal critic Denise Barnes holding her seat, to change the voting calculus.

This is all, needless to say, a big mess, and hopefully makes clear why sports team owners are increasingly turning to things like discounted land prices as a way to get subsidies for their stadium projects: If Arte Moreno had walked up to the city council and said, “I’ll keep the Angels in Anaheim, but only if you pay me $175 million to do so,” he probably would have gotten “What the hell, no way” for an answer. (Probably; elected officials writing checks like that has been known to happen.) By couching the demand in terms of a discounted land sale, however, with its necessary accompanying talk of appraisals and fair market value and encumbrances and other words that tend to make laypeople doze off, Moreno effectively muddied the waters to where at times those testifying on Friday often seemed more upset about whether the team would still be called “Los Angeles Angels” rather than “Anaheim Angels” that whether the public was leaving $175 million on the table. It’s all about misdirection.

Liveblogging Anaheim’s vote on the Los Angeles Angels stadium sale (UPDATE: it passed)

After years of negotiations, the Anaheim city council is set to debate and vote on the plan to sell the Los Angeles Angels stadium and its surrounding parking lots to team owner Arte Moreno for development in just a single hearing, held naturally enough on the afternoon of the Friday before Christmas. I’m going to start by heading over to Twitter to do the play-by-play, so meet me over there, and open up your streaming video of the hearing if you want to watch along.

Going to re-paste the Twitter thread here as we go, because this hearing is dirt-boring (sorry: spoilers!) and I need to keep myself busy:



Land sales across street show Angels stadium site could be worth double what Anaheim is asking

It’s now 32 hours until the Los Angeles Angels stadium land sale vote, and here’s what’s happening:

  • The Voice of OC’s Spencer Custodio reports that some land across the street from the stadium site sold for twice as much per acre as team owner Arte Moreno is offering the city of Anaheim: A 3.8-acre plot that became the George Apartments sold for $4.5 million an acre in 2014; 6.48 acres that’s now the Gateway Apartments sold for $3.5 million an acre in 2012; and 3.72 acres that became condos on State College Boulevard sold for $8.06 million an acre in 2005. Moreno’s $325 million offer — if not reduced further by discounts for building parks and affordable housing — comes to just $2.1 million an acre. Land appraisals are more art than science, and pricing of comparable properties is just one method of figuring out land value (and finding comparable parcels can be nearly impossible, since most other sites for sale aren’t nearly so large and also don’t have a stadium sitting in the middle of them), but as I tell Custodio in his article, these figures are “probably a red flag that you should reevaluate the numbers.”
  • Some locals like the deal, some don’t, and some just want the Angels to get more pitching.
  • A majority of the city council appears set to vote for the deal, with councilmembers Trevor O’Neil and Stephen Faessel telling the OC Register that while the city is admittedly accepting less than top market value for the land, it’s worth it to lock in the Angels for 30 years and get the land developed now; and also that, in the Register’s words, “residents they’ve heard from want the team to stay in town and folks are not concerned with the minutiae of a deal to make that happen.”
  • Maybe they’ll be more concerned once they read the Register’s editorial declaring that “the devil is in the details, and city officials need to provide more crucial details before moving forward with the plan.” Though the paper’s editorial board doesn’t actually call for a “no” vote tomorrow, just saying that they’d like to get more information.
  • The Register has an explainer on what we know about the deal and what we still don’t know, with an emphasis on “don’t know.”

That’s a big mess, frankly, and I’d say we still don’t know enough to say where the land sale plan falls on the spectrum between “not too terrible” and “total ripoff.” Which is why taking a vote tomorrow seems bizarrely rushed — if the council puts off a vote, Moreno will have to choose between opting out of his lease and having nowhere to play in 2021 (not super likely, though he could always try it as brinksmanship) or getting locked into his current lease through 2029, which would give the council plenty of time to vet the deal properly. As I told Custodio: “You’re only going to be able to sell the stadium land once. You want to get it correct.”