Jeter can’t move Marlins sculpture, D-Backs suit kicked to arbitrator, and more stadium news

Extra-super-brief news roundup this week, regular programming to resume next Thursday:

That’s it for now. Que vagi bé, i fins ara.

A’s stadium plan wins friend, Vegas mulls Raiders transit, and other news of the (short) week

I’m going to be on a plane tomorrow to a faraway land, so let’s do the week’s news roundup a day early:

  • Peralta Community College District chancellor Jowel Laguerre now says he’s into the Oakland A’s tearing down his administrative offices in order to build a stadium, so long as they hire his students to work there: “The A’s are in the business of hiring people, and we’re in the business of developing people, so it makes sense to have these conversations.” I can see it now: Laney College, Your Gateway to a Career in Hot Dog Marketing and Sales! (Also the A’s still need to figure out how to squeeze a stadium onto a tiny site, but one battle at a time, I suppose.)
  • Clark County is smarter than Cobb County, it turns out: The Nevada county’s planning director, Nancy Amundsen, said this week regarding the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium: “If it’s determined that they need a pedestrian bridge at this location, or they need wider sidewalks on these streets, or they need streetlights here or there — any upgrade of the infrastructure based on the development on the site — we can request that in the development agreement.” The county commission still needs to do it, mind you, but at least thinking of it ahead of time puts them ahead of the folks who negotiated with the Atlanta Braves around their new stadium and its pedestrian bridges.
  • That El Paso court case over whether the city’s new arena can host sporting events or just concerts and such turns out to be due to the city’s project consultant, according to one neighborhood group opposed to the arena: “David Romo says sports consultant Rick Horrow is to blame for the city stripping the arena ordinance of the word ‘sports’ in favor of ‘multi-purpose performing arts facility.'” If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Horrow has been selling small cities on his “raise the sales tax and build an arena plus a whole of other stuff” model for decades now — he’s the man who talked Oklahoma City into building a new arena with public money (which worked out okay in that the Thunder eventually moved there) and tried to push the same model for such things as an NFL stadium in Birmingham, Alabama (which would not have worked out okay at all). Romo cites Horrow’s own book, which advises, “De-emphasize, even in triumphant cities, the sports model,” and “Each individual project, on its own, will have little chance of passage. together, bundled, is the most enticing way to present the idea to voters.” Except when you write yourself into a corner with bond paperwork that says your new building isn’t for sports; but then, Horrow will probably have collected his fee by then and moved on to the next town.
  • St. Louis’s MLS expansion bid, which pretty much disappeared after voters rejected spending $60 million on a soccer stadium this spring, may not be dead after all! According to alderman Joe Vaccaro, “I have been hearing rumblings and I have certainly no facts.” Or, you know, it might still be dead.
  • Pictures of D.C. United‘s new stadium set to open next year! Spoiler: They don’t look like much. Also spoiler: They don’t really look like the stadium will be ready by midseason 2018 as the plan is (United will start the year on a lengthy road trip to accommodate the construction schedule), but soccer stadiums are a bit simpler to build than those for other sports, so maybe?
  • “Colorful, glossy flyers urging residents to ‘Stop the Stadium!’ and ‘Take Action Now’ were left on doorsteps around the [proposed Miami MLS stadium] area late last week, paid for by a new group called the Overtown Spring Garden Community Collective.” David Beckham really can’t catch a break.

I’ll be back here … Monday? Later than that? It all depends on how well I can navigate whatever weird metric internet they have where I’m going. In the meantime, use the comments on this post as your open thread on any breaking news, and buy David Beckham a muffin or something, he’s probably needs some cheering up.

Consultant says $90m Brewers spring-training park would lose money, new consultant sought [UPDATED]

The Milwaukee Brewers are seeking a new $90 million spring-training facility in Gilbert, Arizona, and are generously offering to pay a whole $20 million of the cost:

According to emails among Gilbert staffers, [developer David] Sellers and financial consultants from April to June, the Brewers are willing to put $20 million toward the construction of the new facility.

The town would be on the hook for the other $70 million, which could be funded through bonds, development fees or a special taxing district…

LGE Design Build also proposed a 13-acre village next to the facility that would include 220 hotel rooms, 85,000 square feet of office space and 50,000 square feet of retail. It would cost an estimated $70 million to build, although it’s unclear who would front that cost.

We’ve been over the dismal economics of spring-training facilities before, so how do Gilbert officials justify this rather whopping expense? First by dodgy math — Sellers said annual tax receipts from baseball would only be $880,000, but there would also be added money spent at local restaurants and hotels (people are really going to stay at hotels in Gilbert rather than drive there from a more happening place?), writing that “the Brewers coming into Gilbert is Gilbert tapping into a $850 million … Valley economic impact. Just 10 percent of that would be $85 million being spent in Gilbert that isn’t happening right now.” If the Brewers played, say, 15 home spring-training games at a 7,500-seat ballpark, that would only require each and every fan to spend $755 per game to make those numbers work out.

And second, by ignoring the city’s own economic consultants, who, going against the grain in an industry where you generally tell your client whatever they want to hear, noted that the short spring-training season would limit any economic benefits. The accompanying hotel/office/retail village might bring in some money, Applied Economics concluded in an analysis obtained by the Arizona Republic, but it still likely wouldn’t be enough to make up for spending $70 million on a stadium: “the cost of investing in the stadium versus the value of the mixed-use development may not be justifiable.”

Only one thing left to do: Find some different economists who’ll provide a different answer!

Kathy Tilque, president and CEO of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, said the Applied Economics study was fairly limited in its scope and did not take into account the indirect economic benefits of a potential stadium.

The chamber is working with a different economic consulting firm to provide a broader economic analysis. That report should be completed soon and will be turned over to town officials for review, Tilque said.

“It would be a great thing not only for the East Valley but for Gilbert. We just need to make sure the numbers work,” she said.

Surely she meant “check that the numbers work,” not “make sure that the numbers work, by cooking them,” right? Right? Sigh.

IMPORTANT UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: The mayor of Gilbert, Jenn Daniels, just emailed me to indicate that my original headline (“Consultant says $90m Brewers spring-training park would lose money, town seeks new consultant”) was incorrect in one important aspect: The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce went and sought a new consultant without consulting or notifying town officials. “We had no knowledge that the Brewers and their development partner paid the Chamber to conduct a second study,” writes Daniels. “I found out that information with the rest of the public last Friday with the Chamber’s press release.” Since the Brewers were unable to show significant direct revenues from the stadium project, she concludes, “this deal is behind us.”

My apologies to Mayor Daniels, the people of Gilbert, and anyone else who may have been unfairly depicted by my original report. Not the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, though, because those guys are apparently weasels.

D-Backs CEO: We never threatened to move team if a/c didn’t work (but still could)

After the Arizona Diamondbacks lawyer’s statement in court this week that the team could be forced to move out of Arizona if the county won’t pay to fix leaky air conditioners was met with derision and people pointing out there aren’t exactly any better markets to move to, team CEO Derrick Hall attempted to walk the threat back yesterday. It was exactly as hilarious as you would expect:

“Over a month ago, we had a huge power outage with the heat downtown and, when the power came back on a Sunday before a day game, our chill system, our air-conditioning system, went down and we had huge gushing and rushing water leaks throughout the entire ballpark in major spots,” Derrick Hall told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station on Thursday.

Hall said the team was able to open the park and play that day, but it was a close call.

“That’s near-catastrophic and if we did not have air conditioning that day, we can’t play baseball,” he said…

The league’s plan could involve moving the team, but Hall said that would only be temporary.

“There’s nowhere to play in the marketplace if something like that happens indoors and in the summer, so I think Major League Baseball is talking about an emergency or a contingency plan and, again, they do have the ultimate authority,” he said.

Okay, so if the a/c didn’t work, the D-Backs might have had to postpone a game — something that only happens dozens of times over a typical season already. But supposedly MLB needs to have a “contingency plan” so that if the a/c doesn’t work on some future date, it would immediately fly the teams to another city and … yeah, this doesn’t make any sense at all. Just admit that your lawyer was trying to levy a ridiculous threat that the team would leave town without a county-renovated stadium and be done with it, okay?

“Obviously, [owner] Ken (Kendrick) and I would never want to leave Arizona. This is our home,” he said. “This is where we want to be.”

Sure, close enough. That’s the traditional paratrooper gambit, anyway.

D-Backs lawyer: If our stadium a/c keeps leaking, MLB could force the team to leave Arizona

Sports team owners trying to get other people — mayors, league commissioners — to make move threats for them is a time-honored tradition, but “if we don’t get a new stadium, the league might force us to move” is a rarely employed gambit. Which makes it all the more jaw-dropping that the Arizona Diamondbacks are now alleging that if Maricopa County doesn’t fix leaky pipes at Chase Field, MLB could force the team to leave Arizona:

Leo Beus, an attorney for the team, raised the MLB specter as he argued to a Superior Court judge that the case should be decided quickly because the team is “facing a crisis.”

“Major League Baseball … they’re very, very concerned,” Beus said, noting he has spoken with six of the league’s top lawyers. “If Major League Baseball decides they want to create issues for us, there might not be baseball at all in Arizona.”

“We’d like to keep the franchise in place, we’d like to make peace with Major League Baseball, not that we’re at war,” he continued. “We don’t know where that’s going to come out. They’re very concerned.”

Okay, so. Beus’s main gripes are over two incidents in June, one where a sewage pipe burst in an office (ew) and another where a power surge caused an air-conditioning system to flood suites and other areas of the stadium right before a game (less ew, but it meant the a/c was off for the game, which is pretty ew in Phoenix). But the D-Backs’ court battle with the county isn’t over whether the stadium needs to be maintained; it’s over who will pay for maintenance, which the team says is the county’s job (to the tune of $187 million), and the county says is on the team. (The latter is what the county’s agreement to the team appears to say, but I am not a lawyer, let alone a judge.)

All of which brings us to our quote of the day, from Maricopa County’s attorney, Cameron Artigue:

“This (lawsuit) has nothing to do with the water leaks and the merits of Chase Field,” he said. “The Diamondbacks are the facility manager. When a pipe breaks, that is a Diamondbacks problem. And that is, in fact, what happened. They got out the mops and they mopped it up, and life goes on. It’s a big facility and sometimes pipes break. So what?”

Anyway, if anyone really thinks there’s a chance that MLB is going to force only its second franchise relocation in 45 years because a couple of stadium pipes broke, I have some Mets World Championship bets for you to place. Chalk this up to “Lawyers Say the Funniest Things” — come to think of it, “we’d like to make peace with Major League Baseball, not that we’re at war” would make a pretty good quote of the week, too.

Sternberg: I’ll pick stadium site as soon as cities decide how much money to offer me

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says he’s all set to pick a new stadium site by the end of the year, as soon as he finds out what cities are willing to offer him to pick them:

The team is waiting for Hillsborough County officials “to completely weigh in” with a site and specifics of the project.

“When they do then we’ll be able to make a decision in a pretty quick time,” he said.

That makes it sound as if they already know what their Pinellas options are, but he said not quite.

“We have sites in mind, and it’s a question of what will get done around the site and how are they going to get paid for,” he said. “And once municipalities are able to line those things up, not completely buttoned up but at least to a good extent, then we’ll be able to make a decision.”

On the one hand, this is reasonable: You don’t want to pick a site if you don’t know, say, whether there will be enough highway access provided that fans can actually get to the game. On the other: Normal businesses of human scale that don’t have the entire back section of the paper dedicated to them usually figure out how to pay for stuff to “get done around the site” by going to their financial people and having them crunch the numbers, not by waiting for city officials to tell them what they’re willing to offer.

In short, this isn’t really much news — Sternberg didn’t even promise a site decision by the end of the year, just say it was his goal — but is a good reminder that the real issue here is less where Sternberg wants to put a new stadium, and more how he figures out a way to pay for it, which is almost certain to involve some kind of public subsidies. Stay tuned for any details of that, and pay no attention to anything else that might appear to be going on in the meantime.

Glendale’s $152m spring-training stadium only generating $160,000 a year in tax revenues

Continuing Glendale, Arizona’s bid to be the cautionary tale for more or less everything, KJZZ-FM has a long report on the disaster that has been the city’s construction of new spring training stadiums for the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers while hoping to pay them off with money from sales tax proceeds from a surrounding development. Operative word: “hoping.”

It’s impossible to predict how long [7-year-old William] Almazan will play baseball. But if he settles in Glendale as an adult, there’s a real chance he’ll have to help pay some of the roughly $331 million the city currently owes on Camelback Ranch.

“Possibly one would argue this was a high-risk transaction,” said Michael Bailey, Glendale city attorney…

Retail, hotels and a golf course were planned for around Camelback Ranch, which Glendale agreed to build in 2007. But the economy tanked in 2008. The venue opened in 2009, and developers failed to deliver sales tax generators needed to pay for the project.

Now the facility is only projected to bring in $160,000 over the next year, and there’s still no developer.

Yup, that’s bad! The city has already paid $96 million on debt service for the stadium, and according to KJZZ’s charts — which don’t exactly match that $331 million figure above — has more than $227 million to go (non-present-value numbers, mind you, so the true cost is going to end up closer to the $152.6 million that the city actually borrowed for the ballparks several years ago). And now all that money has to come from the Glendale general fund, because nobody’s paying sales taxes on an empty lot.

But! If we’re going to take into account the substitution effect when something new is built, we need to do so when something isn’t built as well. So maybe when the Camelback Ranch development failed to take place, developers chose to build something else somewhere nearby instead, and locals are spending money and generating sales taxes there instead, and maybe that place is even in Glendale! Slim silver lining, I know, but when you’re Glendale, you have to take them where you can find them.

FC Cincy mulling Kentucky tax kickbacks to pay its entire stadium cost, and other week’s news

All the news that wasn’t fit to print this week:

  • FC Cincinnati now wants the Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati to own its stadium since Hamilton County doesn’t want to. (Does “own” mean “pay for”? Reply hazy, ask again later.) Or maybe Newport, Kentucky, since, according to team president and former city council members Jeff Berding, that would allow the team to recoup its entire $100 million through tax increment financing kickbacks of property taxes paid on the property. How would it generate a whole $100 million in TIFs? Reply hazy, ask again later.
  • Would-be Seattle arena builder Chris Hansen hired University of Washington public finance professor Justin Marlowe in May to compare the economic impact of his Sodo arena proposal to that of the KeyArena renovation plan, and he has issued his report, which says that the Sodo plan would create three times as much tax revenue for Seattle ($103 million over 35 years vs. $34 million for Key). On the other hand, the Key plan would include some kind of sharing of arena revenues, though that wouldn’t kick in until the Key developers got their share, and, yeah, basically it’s a muddle. On the whole, it seems to give the edge to Hansen’s plan, if only because that arena would pay property taxes, but I’d need to sit and break down the math to say exactly by how much, and I’ve been waiting for time to do that all week, so clearly it’s not happening. Reader exercise!
  • Oakland A’s executive VP Billy Beane promised that once the team gets a new stadium, it will stop trading all its decent players once they start to get expensive: “There’s only one way to open a stadium successfully, and that’s with a good, young team. … Really what’s been missing the last 20 years is keeping these players. We need to change that narrative by creating a good team and ultimately committing to keep them around so that when people buy a ticket, they know that the team is going to be around for a few years.” Which could make sense if a new stadium draws enough fans that having a winning team boosts revenues enough to pay for player salaries, though we’ve heard this song and dance before elsewhere.
  • The Nashville Sounds‘ new stadium was supposed to cost taxpayers $37 million, but it ended up costing $91 million.
  • What does $74 million in public subsidies buy Minnesota Timberwolves fans and staff? New seats, new restrooms, new locker rooms, an ice floor that doesn’t leak, two new loading docks, and a big glass wall, because everybody’s gotta have one of those.
  • The athletes’ village from the 2016 Rio Olympics is now a wasteland of unsold condos, because everything the Olympics touches turns to trash.
  • A homeless camp has arisen on the site of the planned Las Vegas Raiders stadium. Make your own metaphors.

Miami is paying Jeff Loria’s share of All-Star policing costs, just because

And speaking of city officials lying down on the job and the All-Star Game, apparently Miami-Dade County got Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to promise to pay for security costs for this year’s game, but then the city of Miami went and paid for them anyway:

Under the team’s operating agreement for its heavily subsidized $515 million stadium, the Marlins are supposed to pay for off-duty police and fire services for “jewel events,” such as the All-Star Game…

Back in February, when the team asked the county to support the event by providing its police officers and firefighters free of cost, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the team that it would have to pay the bill due to the terms of its operating agreement…

But the team’s operating contract didn’t stop the city from agreeing early on to pick up the tab. Back in 2014, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado — who like Gimenez used his opposition to the Marlins’ controversial stadium agreement to help win his election — committed in a letter to then-Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig that the city would pay for public safety “subject to available resources.”

This is actually slightly different from Boston’s arena charity contribution gaffe, in that Miami city officials knew that the Marlins were on the hook for police and fire services, then decided to go ahead and pay for it with public funds anyway, because it would make MLB happy and get them to award the game to Miami. I’ll leave it as an exercise for readers to decide whether that’s better or worse, but one thing is clear: Getting something put in writing isn’t worth much if the people signing it can arm-twist the government to take it back whenever they like it.

WashPost says economists predict $100m in MLB All-Star Game impact (spoiler: they don’t)

Hey, look, it’s another headline — this one in the Washington Post — claiming that hosting a sporting event would have huge benefits for a city:

The 2018 MLB All-Star Game could bring $100 million to D.C., economists say

If you actually read the article, only one economist is cited — Anirban Basu of Sage Policy, a consulting firm — who says that the All-Star Game has averaged $60 to 100 million in “economic impact.” (Remember, “impact” isn’t actual public revenues, it’s just money that changes hands in your city.) That seemed high to me, so I checked in with College of the Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson to see if he knew of any other studies. And lo and behold, he actually co-wrote one in 2001. It’s a bit involved in terms of stats and regression analysis, but in short, it says: Once you control for all the other variables that you’d expect to cause economic growth (as seen in other comparable cities), the actual impact of the MLB All-Star Game appears to be negative:

Our detailed regression analysis reveals that during the period 1973 to 1997, All-Star Game cities had employment growth below that which would have been expected. Instead of an expected gain of around 1,000 jobs in the year a city hosts an All-Star Game, employment numbers in host cities have actually fallen more than 8,000 jobs below what would have been expected even without the promised $60 million All-Star boost.

Is this one study, which looked at All-Star Games from 1973 to 1997, absolutely conclusive? No, of course not. But if journalists are going to assert that “economists” think something, they might want to at least google for what economists think, or even put in an email to one who’s actually studied it. (Matheson replied to my query within a couple of hours. On a Saturday.) Instead, the Post’s Alex Schiffer appears to have only contact (or read a press release by) Basu, a guy who says this stuff about the All-Star Game every year, and who appears to come up with his numbers just by assuming every ticket sold is new money to the economy, and then slapping on a multiplier. But then, Schiffer appears to be on the reprinting corporate press releases beat, so maybe we should cut him some slack … nah.