Anaheim plans public forums on sale of stadium land to Angels, but won’t tell public how much it’s worth

The city of Anaheim finally got back its long-awaited appraisal of the Los Angeles Angels stadium parking lots that Angels owner Arte Moreno wants to develop to fund upgrades to the stadium, and is ready to open negotiations on a new lease. And that appraisal says:

The appraisal, which city officials say is an incomplete draft, has not been made public.

Say what? The city spent nine months getting the property appraised, now has in hand a report that’s good enough to start talks with the team on a development deal, but it’s not good enough to share with anyone outside the negotiating room? Are they still waiting for the soundtrack to be added?

This is, let us say, a disturbing trend. You’ll recall that the state of New York similarly negotiated a land lease to the New York Islanders as part of a development project to fund a sports venue while keeping its land value appraisals secret, only releasing them hours before the final state board vote and even then releasing only summaries that didn’t show how the appraisal figures were arrived at. As things like sweetheart land deals increasingly subsidize sports projects — since handing over piles of cash is increasingly unpopular with the public — it’s vital to know whether a city is getting fair market value or gift-wrapping development rights for a team owner, and it’s hard to do that when the government’s own assessment is kept secret.

Anaheim councilmember Jose Moreno has announced two community forums on August 21 and 29 to answer questions about the Angels’ lease renewal plan; it’s going to be interesting to see how he ducks all the inevitable questions about “So how much is this land worth that you want to give to Moreno, and how much will he be paying us?” (Assuming that the appraisal is still secret by then, that is. We can always hope!)

In related news, it turns out that when Anaheim extended the Angels’ existing lease through the end of 2019 last year, it actually extended it through 2029, while giving Moreno a new opt-out through the end of 2019. This is even stupider than the lease extension sounded at the time — hey, everybody, now that the team owner has opted out of his lease, let’s give him another year to try to extort money from us, but give ourselves no leverage because if it doesn’t work he can just stay put for a decade under the terms of his existing lease where he pays no rent — especially since Anaheim councilmembers apparently didn’t understand that that was what they were voting on at the time.

Anaheim still has some leverage here: Moreno’s only current alternative stadium option is a plan in Long Beach that no one knows how to pay for and is on too small a site to fit a major-league stadium, so if he opts out again this December, he once again will risk making his team homeless. Though if the city plans to keep responding to Moreno’s “send money or I’ll shoot my team” threats by giving him another year of rope, the threats could literally go on forever. I’m starting to think that the Anaheim council could really use some lessons in haggling.

Friday roundup: Indiana and Missouri rack up another $390m in team subsidies, and other dog-bites-man news

Sadly, there’s another loss to report this week: Rob McQuown, who for the past decade has been one of the core tech and admin guys at Baseball Prospectus, passed away on Tuesday. I never met Rob personally, but in my days writing and editing for BP we exchanged emails a ton, and he was always a sharp and good-humored presence keeping the site running behind the scenes. (He wrote some excellent fantasy baseball coverage for a while, too.) I haven’t heard the details of his death, but I do know it was way too soon, and my sympathies go out to all his friends and family and colleagues who are mourning him this week. Here’s a lovely podcast tribute by Ben Lindbergh to Rob’s multifarious and too-often underappreciated gifts.

And now, to the news:

  • The Indianapolis City-County Council gave final signoff to $290 million in subsidies for the Indiana Pacers, which along with new and past operating subsidies brings team owner Herb Simon’s total haul to more than a billion dollars. The team’s new lease lasts until 2044, but I’d wager that Simon won’t wait that long before going back to what’s been an insanely lucrative taxpayer well.
  • The state of Missouri has reportedly approved $3 million a year for 20 years, coming to a total of $70 million, for upgrades for the St. Louis Blues, Kansas City Royals, and Kansas City Chiefs stadiums — yeah, I don’t get how that math works either, especially when this was previously reported as $70 million for the Blues plus $30 million for the K.C. teams, and has elsewhere been reported as $70 million for the Blues and $60 million for the K.C. teams, but I’m sure it was copied from a press release somewhere, and that’s what passes for fact-checking these days, right? This brings the teams’ total haul to … let’s see, the K.C. teams got $250 million previously, and the Blues owners got $67 million in city money, so let’s go with “around $400 million,” about which you can say that it’s at least cheaper than what Indiana taxpayers are on the hook for, and that is pretty much all you can say.
  • The city of Anaheim is still waiting on its now-overdue appraisal of the Los Angeles Angels‘ stadium land so it can open talks with team owner Arte Moreno on how much he should pay for development rights on the stadium parking lots. Mayor Harry Sidhu has appointed a negotiating team, though, which includes Sidhu himself, something that has drawn criticism since Angels execs donated to his election campaign. Sidhu also stated that “our theme parks, sports venues and convention center are a matter of pride, but their real purpose is to serve residents by generating revenue for public safety, parks, libraries and community centers and by helping us keep taxes and fees low,” which is not likely to help convince anyone that he understands sports economics like his predecessor did and isn’t just repeating what his funders tell him.
  • Oak View Group’s Tim Leiweke is trying to build a 10,000-seat arena in Palm Springs, and economists point out that this won’t help the local economy much because “you’re crazy if you think I’m flying to Palm Springs to see your minor league hockey team,” and Leiweke says Palm Springs is just different, okay, because so many attendees will be people who are already coming to town to play golf, gamble, or stay at local resorts. How this makes it a major economic plus when those people also see a concert when they’re in town Leiweke didn’t say, but who’re you going to believe, a bunch of people who study economics for a living or a guy who was once the youngest GM in indoor soccer?
  • A Cincinnati nonprofit is trying to raise $2 million to preserve affordable housing around F.C. Cincinnati‘s new stadium, and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority says that maybe building more market-rate housing will allow low-income residents of existing buildings to stay put. Yeah, that’s really not going to work.
  • Nobody in Miami-Dade County has studied the impact of building a new Inter Miami stadium right next to the city’s airport, and some county commissioners think that maybe that might be a thing they’d want to study.
  • Here’s a good, long R.J. Anderson article on three cities vying for MLB expansion teams (Portland, Montreal, and Raleigh) that should provide reading material for the inevitable endless wait for MLB to actually expand. (I’m also quoted in it, right before Jim Bouton.)
  • And here’s another long article that quotes me, this one by Bill Shea of The Athletic on how stadium subsidies have changed since the Great Recession (some sports economists say it’s tougher to get public money now, I say “Bah!”).

Friday roundup: Red Wings owner touts his “passion” amid sea of parking lots, cities are terrible stadium negotiators, newspapers are terrible newspapers

The cryptocurrency-based journalism startup Civil couldn’t have gone much worse, but it did spawn a couple of successes, none more welcome than Hmm Daily, the news commentary site from former Gawker and Deadspin editor Tom Scocca. Or as I will always think of him, the co-founder of Funny Paper, the now virtually unfindable-on-the-internet weekly(ish) political analysis of daily comic strips that was the greatest such enterprise until the great Josh Fruhlinger elevated it to an even higher art form. I’ve been enjoying Scocca’s excellent columns on the militarization of language and how big a giant bee is for months now, but I didn’t feel compelled to bite the bullet and kick in any money until I spotted this photo caption in an article by Scocca’s Funny Paper co-conspirator Joe MacLeod: “I have no beef with the M&M’s homunculus infesting the menu.” If you know me at all from reading this website, you know that I immediately pulled out my wallet and became a paying Hmm Daily subscriber (at the $5 a month level, though the reward at the $50,000 level is truly amazing).

Anyways, on to the sports stadium and arena newses:

  • The District Detroit development around the new Red Wings arena still consists mostly of some state-subsidized parking lots, but Red Wings exec Christopher Ilitch says that’s okay because “Our timelines may change. Our passion, the energy, the way we feel about this community has not.” And truly, who can put a price on feels?
  • The Voice of OC cites “experts” as saying that Anaheim may not be driving a hard enough bargain with Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno on a price for stadium parking lot development rights, and oh hey look, it’s me. Also Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson, who says, “Cities tend to be remarkably bad negotiators when it comes to professional sports,” which, yup.
  • Politifact Wisconsin did a fact-check on claims that the state of Wisconsin will get a “tremendous” payback on its Milwaukee Bucks arena subsidies and found that that’s only if you assume the Bucks would have moved without them, and assume that Bucks fans would have all stopped spending their money in Wisconsin without them, and assume that NBA salaries will quintuple by the 2040s, and further found that Villanova sports stadium researcher Rick Eckstein calls the revenue estimates “fantasy figures,” and concluded that this makes the claim Mostly True. It is just slightly possible that having staff members of the local newspaper that has a record of overarching credulity on the arena deal do fact-checking on it might not be the best idea.
  • The people trying to get an MLB franchise in Portland are running out of momentum as MLB waits for the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s to work out their stadium situations before considering expansion, but at least they got a meeting with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred — no wait, the news report has corrected itself, they didn’t even get that. Well, at least they have weirdly non-Euclidean renderings.
  • Speaking of MLB expansion hopefuls, Montreal’s would-be neo-Expos owner Stephen Bronfman has a deal in place on land for a new stadium … not on buying the land, mind you, but with a developer to help develop the non-stadium part of the land once they buy it. This could be a while.
  • And speaking of the Rays and of terrible newspapers, the Tampa Bay Times’ John Romano wants to know when St. Petersburg and Tampa officials will stop bickering and get to work on throwing money at Rays owner Stuart Sternberg already?
  • The New York Times is a significantly less terrible newspaper, but a profile on A’s president Dave Kaval with the headline “Can This Man Keep the A’s in Oakland?” is not only pretty sycophantic in its own right, but it assumes a lot about the team owners moving without a new stadium when they’ve already gone a couple of decades demanding a new stadium and not getting one and still not moving.
  • Henderson, Nevada, is giving $10 million to the owners of the Vegas Golden Knights to build a practice rink, which is dumb but less dumb than some other cities’ expenses on similar projects.
  • The Arizona Coyotes are getting a new majority owner and the Phoenix Suns are up for sale, according to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, who added, “as one NHL official told me yesterday, when I asked that very question, I said, ‘Does this new owner mean that there’s an arena closer to fruition?’ And the answer was, if you get a new owner, there’s a better chance of a new arena. So you can put two and two together, Steve.” Then the Suns owners and a report in The Athletic on the Coyotes completely refuted what Shannon said, so maybe you’re better off putting two and two together without his help.
  • I was about to write up this news story about a potential rezoning approval for Austin F.C.‘s new stadium, but then I saw that KXAN managed to write “Austin’s Planing Commission” and “this ammendment” in the first three paragraphs, and now I gotta go cry all day about the death of copy editing, sorry.

Is Angels owner Arte Moreno just playing Long Beach for leverage or what?

Yesterday’s Long Beach Post had the most detailed timeline yet of Long Beach’s flirtation with the Los Angeles Angels over a new stadium, and it goes something like this:

  • A Long Beach councilmember emailed an Angels vice-president in 2014, when the team was first talking about leaving Anaheim for someplace else in Orange County or environs, “but the conversation went nowhere.”
  • A Long Beach official had a meeting with an Angels lawyer in 2017, but a followup meeting never happened, city economic development director John Keisler explaining, “We called a bunch of times, but they never responded.”
  • In October 2018, when Angels owner Arte Moreno abruptly decided to opt out of his Anaheim lease, Long Beach started preparing a stadium site plan in earnest, and in January of this year there were high-level meetings between city and team officials, shepherded by local real estate developer Frank Suryan.

So the question now becomes: Did Angels execs finally start returning Long Beach’s phone calls because they were seriously interested in moving there, or because they were seriously interested in Anaheim officials thinking they were seriously interested in moving there? In other words, is this a genuine possibility, or just a savvy negotiator trying to create leverage?

Unfortunately, the two tactics look pretty much the same from the outside, and it could always even be both: There’s no reason Moreno couldn’t have said, “Sure, go talk to Long Beach, either it’ll pan out or at worst it’ll help me play hardball in my talks with Anaheim.” So we have to stare really hard at the tea leaves to try to suss this out:

  • The Long Beach stadium comes with a $1 billion price tag, and no plan yet for how to pay it off. That would take $60-70 million a year in new revenues just to break even on, and it’s hard to see how a Long Beach stadium would be that much more profitable than the one Moreno already has in Anaheim, especially with no room for housing or other development on the site.
  • About that site: It’s still really damn small. The Long Beach Post published its own image of Angel Stadium superimposed onto the site, as provided by “the architecture firm Gensler,” but weirdly made it a narrow banner image that can’t be viewed in its entirety. Viewing the page source reveals it to be this:

    Which would overlap two major roads and the Long Beach arena, plus part of a park and neighboring lagoon. The site isn’t quite unworkably small, but it would at best take some extremely creative design to get it to fit.
  • Angels spokesperson Marie Garvey said in response to queries about Long Beach, “We get approached by cities all the time. This is nothing new.” She then added: “Right now we’re only talking to Long Beach and Anaheim.”

It certainly has all the ingredients of a leverage move, but crazier ideas have happened, so.

Moreno is still reportedly set to make a decision — whatever such a decision would mean, as plenty of other team owners have made stadium decisions then later backed out of them when they proved unworkable — sometime this year. Maybe by then Long Beach will actually have a site plan and financing plan in place; even more likely, by then former Anaheim mayor Tom Tait’s parting gift to the city of a new appraisal of the Angel Stadium parking lot land value will be complete, and Moreno and new mayor Harry Sidhu will have a starting point for figuring out what Moreno should have to pay if he wants to develop the lots and use the proceeds for stadium renovations (or, I guess, just stuff the cash down his pants). Watching slow-motion jockeying like this can be very frustrating not just for fans and interested followers of stadium negotiations but also for journalists, which is why we get long articles about who was talking to whom when, and then long blog posts about the long articles; it’s fine to rubberneck at it all, so long as you keep in your mind that talk is cheap, and steel and concrete are expensive.

Long Beach Angels stadium would cost $1B, be paid for by ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The city of Long Beach’s plans for a Los Angeles Angels stadium may be hampered by a cramped site and lousy transit options, but apparently they’re serious enough to have priced out how much it would cost. The answer: a buttload.

A new baseball stadium on a proposed 13-acre site known as the “elephant lot,” just east of the Convention and Entertainment Center downtown, would cost $900 million, according to a report Long Beach staffers drafted on Oct. 25. That report presented officials with different bond options for financing the project — over 20, 30 or 40 years. Each option, the report said, would push the total cost to roughly $1.1 billion after interest.

In addition:

New parking garages would cost about $30,000 for each stall, according to recent estimates – or about $105 million for the 3,500 new spaces at the stadium alone, staff wrote in a report.

The 556 pages of documents turned over by Long Beach this week in response to public records requests also revealed that the Bay Area legal firm Quint & Thimmig LLP noted that the city could potentially avoid voter approval of any stadium deal by using “new financing districts [or[ public-private partnerships,” notes the Long Beach Press-Telegram, or such dedicated revenue streams as naming-rights fees or increased rates for parking at city lots. They also revealed that a Long Beach councilmember had first reached out to Angels execs way back in 2014 during the Great Tustin Footsie Episode, though talks didn’t kick off in earnest until last fall.

It’s not really fair to add in financing costs as if they’re cash being paid out now, but even assuming $900 million in present value for stadium costs, those parking garages (for only 3,500 cars, which is not a lot of cars for a 50,000-ish seat stadium) would push the total cost past $1 billion. And while it’s nice to suggest using naming rights or stadium revenues to pay off part of that cost, that’s all money that Angels owner Arte Moreno would be wanting to boost his own profits — otherwise why else move? Add in that his negotiations with Anaheim have all been about getting free or cheap land to build housing on, and the Long Beach site currently can’t have housing built on it because it’s designated “tideland,” and yeah, this is not looking like a great proposal.

If Moreno is mostly continuing talks with Long Beach to shake loose a sweet deal in Anaheim, though, then it doesn’t really matter how serious the Long Beach proposal is so long as headlines keep showing up about it. (Sorry about perpetuating that.) Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu at least seemed to take the Long Beach report in stride, saying Tuesday that “Anaheim has an incredible advantage as the best stadium site in Southern California, with great freeway access, integrated public transit, easy in-and-out and a proven experience for fans for more than 50 years now,” and snarking that “we certainly understand [Long Beach’s] ambition but do not envy the monumental task presented by financing, government approvals, traffic planning and environmental review.”

Six months after Sidhu’s election, though, we still have no idea what he’s offering to Moreno, something that Councilmember Jose Moreno, the hospitality workers’ union Unite Here Local 11, and the community group Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development this week called for remedying by making the negotiations public. City spokesperson Mike Lyster retorted that the model is the city’s Anaheim Ducks arena deal, which was made public about a month before it was voted on by the council — which is either just enough time to have a comprehensive public debate or just enough time to avoid one, depending on your perspective. It’s going to be very interesting to see what that new land appraisal for the Angel Stadium property comes in at, let’s just leave it at that.

Report: Long Beach could tear down its arena to clear room for an Angels stadium

And speaking of articles citing unnamed sources, or rather “people familiar with the discussions but who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to comment publicly,” here’s the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin with more rumors about the rumored Los Angeles Angels stadium project in Long Beach:

In Long Beach, the proposed ballpark site is a 13-acre parking lot adjacent to the [Long Beach Arena]. However, the Long Beach City Council last month authorized negotiations on a larger parcel that envelops the ballpark site and includes the city’s convention center, performing arts center, arena and a greenbelt between Shoreline Drive and the Pacific Ocean.

That would certainly help clear some room for a stadium, which was going to be a problem otherwise:

(The arena is the roundish thing in the center of the image.)

It would also help find room for the ancillary development that Angels owner Arte Moreno wants to build to help defray his stadium construction costs, whether in Anaheim or, presumably, elsewhere. Of course, then Long Beach wouldn’t have anywhere to host Paw Patrol Live or the Society of Vacuum Coaters Tech Con, but I guess they’d live.

Shaikin also notes another problem with the Long Beach site from the Angels’ perspective, though:

While Angel Stadium is surrounded by three freeways and a train station, the Long Beach site is close to only the 710 and 405 freeways and the only major public transit option — the Blue Line light rail from Los Angeles — does not serve the Angels’ primary fan base in Orange County.

I still predict that Moreno is just playing footsie with Long Beach to try to arm-twist Anaheim into going along with his stadium demands, just as he previously tried and failed to do with Tustin. A team spokesperson told the Times that they hope to make a stadium decision by the end of 2019, so we should know more by then, maybe.

Angels owner readying new bid to develop city-owned parking lots, not saying what he’ll pay yet

We’re still somewhat in the tea-leaf-reading stage, but all signs are pointing to Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno and the city of Anaheim rebooting their earlier plan to fund stadium renovations by letting Moreno develop the stadium’s city-owned parking lot. To wit:

After meeting with Angels baseball representatives Monday, March 18, Anaheim officials said they expect the team to make a proposal to stay in its longtime home stadium within two to four months.

And also:

Ahead of their negotiations with the city of Anaheim to sign a long-term lease, the Los Angeles Angels have hired a real estate consulting company to explore development options on the Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

Which is all fine! The problem with the previous plan — and the reason that then-mayor Tom Tait nixed it — is that Moreno wanted to pay all of $1 for the land, which turned out to actually be worth $245 million. Presumably you’d want Moreno to pay somewhere closer to, oh, $245 million as part of any deal, then; Anaheim is currently conducting a fresh appraisal of the parking lot parcels, which may be what Moreno is waiting for before presenting his new plan.

The wild card here is, as it often is, vague threats to move the team if the owner doesn’t get his way. A luxury housing developer is reportedly set to be part of a stadium plan for the Angels in Long Beach, though the Long Beach Post really might have wanted to ask him where on earth he would put luxury housing on a site that’s already too small for a baseball stadium. At least Anaheim councilmember Jose Moreno was appropriately dismissive of Long Beach as a threat — “Let’s not be fooled into believing that we’re negotiating against another city,” he said at a Tuesday council meeting — but you still have to worry that councilmembers will end up doing exactly that, and give away the store. Seriously, look at this Google Maps mashup, guys! If you tell Arte Moreno to pay full land value or else pound sand, he may have to literally pound sand if he wants to find another place to play.

Long Beach offers to talk about building stadium for Angels on tiny parking lot with no idea how to pay for it

It was only a matter of time after Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno opted out of his Anaheim lease that we were going to start hearing rumors about where he might move the team if he couldn’t get a stadium renovation deal, and now we have one, courtesy of NBC Los Angeles:

The Los Angeles Angels of Long Beach? Could Angels be Moving to the LBC?

Paging Ian Betteridge! But moving on, what’s actually in the article about Long Beach’s stadium plans?

The city of Long Beach publicly stated Monday night that it has approached the Los Angeles Angels to express interest and discuss the opportunity of moving the Major League Baseball team out of Orange County and into downtown Long Beach.

Okay, “expressed interest” just means somebody called Moreno and said, “Hey, let’s talk.” Does Long Beach have an actual site for a stadium, and more important, money to build one?

Long Beach is putting forth an effort to create a downtown waterfront development plan and exploring the feasibility of a downtown sports venue on the Convention Center parking lot, according to a city of Long Beach news release attributing quotes to Mayor Robert Garcia.

The statement went to say that the city of Long Beach has reached out to the Angels regarding the opportunity but categorized the status as “preliminary” and said discussions were ongoing.

This is getting us nowhere. Hey, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times has an article about it too, what does he have to report?

The city has not determined whether a ballpark would be feasible on the site or the best use for it, let alone whether taxpayers would contribute to a construction cost that could exceed $700 million and could approach $1 billion.

That would qualify as “preliminary,” all right. Add in that the Long Beach Convention Center parking lot appears to be too small to fit a baseball stadium on, and this thing has more questions than answers:

While it’s not clear what’s in it for Long Beach to make its pursuit of the Angels public — other than getting its name mentioned on the telly — for Moreno this is stadium extortion gold: a new city to use as a threat now that Tustin has told him unequivocally to pound sand. Ideally you’d want an actual offer to use as a threat, but sports venue shakedowns have worked with less.

Friday roundup: Calgary residents demand say on Flames arena, Indy Eleven asked to only accept public funding of 80% of stadium, Raiders could re-up in Oakland this week

Happy Friday! Here is your weekly fact dump of news that I didn’t get to earlier in the week, because I only got two hands, man:

  • Calgary residents who went to speak their minds at yesterday’s town hall on a new Flames arena say they want to be able to speak their minds on a new Flames arena. The city council is set to vote on an arena term sheet on Monday without public input — or even revealing to the public first what’s in the term sheet — though I suppose some councillors might read the press coverage of the town hall and learn how angry the public is. It’s worked before in Phoenix, for a few weeks at least!
  • The Indy Eleven stadium subsidy proposal has made it into a state senate bill, but “with some hefty strings attached,” reports the Indianapolis Star: the team’s owner would need to put up $30 million of his own money before getting to access $200 million in public tax money (more like $112 million in present value) for stadium costs. This does not actually sound like a big ask, but hey, Star sports columnist Gregg Doyel says it’s worth any price to keep the city’s sports teams (even if they’re not threatening to move) because, and I quote, “my job could depend on it,” so why quibble over a mere $112 million, right?
  • The city of Anaheim has hired a real estate consultant to conduct an appraisal of the value of the Los Angeles Angels‘ stadium site, as it first authorized last month, which is slightly weird in that they just did an appraisal in 2014 that found that the stadium parking lots sought by team owner Arte Moreno for $1 were worth $245 million, but whatever. It’s at least good that the city is apparently committing to ask something based on actual market value for the land, especially coupled with talk of basing any land deal on the Anaheim Ducks deal, which was a decently fair price for development rights to city land. Maybe this will not be awful, despite the new mayor talking about how eager he is to cut a deal even though Angels owner Arte Moreno has no real leverage? I’m almost afraid to hope — we’ll just have to see what happens when the assessment comes in, presumably a couple of months from now.
  • Oakland officials could vote soon to approve a new lease for the Raiders for 2019, with an additional option for 2020, which would put an end to talk of the team playing everywhere else on the planet this fall. Apparently Raiders owner Mark Davis is willing to let bygones be bygones and overlook that antitrust lawsuit the city filed that led him to insist he wouldn’t play in Oakland this season. Good successful bluff-calling, Oakland officials!
  • The New York Mets will not be moving their spring training home out of Port St. Lucie, after threatening to in order to secure a revised deal for $57 million in renovations to their stadium, $55 million of which will come from taxpayers. Bad bluff-calling, Port St. Lucie officials!
  • A rival developer is seeking the same land in Montreal that would-be Expos revivers want for a baseball stadium, to use for a “new smart development of office towers, housing, hotels and public space.” Looks like a fight is in the offing, and these guys have “smart” right there in the name, so watch out!
  • Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is hoping to save some money when the New York Islanders move out for their own arena eventually — the arena is losing about $12 million on guaranteed revenue payments to the team, and without hockey will be able to book more concerts — but more interesting to me from this article is that the building lost $21 million on operations in the 2017-18 season, plus another $33 million in debt and other expenses. Maybe the Nets owners are soaking up any profits, or the arena’s builders are earning their money on all the high-priced housing that went up next door, but still the whole project seems a bit like a waste of everyone’s time and money and eminent domain takings.
  • Also, work on the Islanders’ new planned arena by Belmont Park won’t begin this spring as planned, because the environmental impact statement required for the project won’t be ready until June at the earliest, but “state officials insist the project remains on schedule.” Hmmm.
  • And finally, your regularly scheduled Tottenham Hotspur stadium updates: It won’t be open until April at the earliest, it won’t have a VIP cheese room, and team officials are catching wild foxes and shooting them in the head with pistols. Exactly one of those things was something I expected to type this week.

Sports team owners say the craziest things, Los Angeles Angels edition

Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno addressed his team’s lease situation in Anaheim yesterday, if by “addressed” you mean “said some mumbly nothings meant to both keep up the pressure on local officials while reassuring everyone that so long as they play along, nobody will get hurt”:

The Angels’ lease runs only through 2020, and the team would like the city to make some upgrades to the ballpark before they commit beyond that.

Moreno said the talks with new Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu have been “very positive, a lot of good communication.” In past years, Moreno had not spoken as optimistically about the team’s relationship with the city.

I’d love to try to more closely read that wan bundle of tea leaves, but it looks like the OC Register was the only news outlet to report on Moreno’s press conference, so that’s all we’ve got. And we already knew that Mayor Sidhu has been way more amenable to meeting Moreno’s demands than former mayor Tom Tait, so really this doesn’t tell us much new.

Instead, I’d like to focus on something else Moreno said, about spending on player payroll, which may sound innocuous at first but which is actually pretty bizarre if taken at face value:

Owner Arte Moreno said Monday that the Angels base their budget on their revenue.

“Typically for us, we allocate about 50 percent of our revenue towards payroll, but I bust through that every year,” Moreno said. “A small-market team would go about the same. Sometimes the larger market teams would only use 40 percent. Every year is a little different with your needs.”

If you’re a fan concerned that your home team is chintzing on signing good players, or a player concerned that your employer is trying to lowball you on salary, that “50 percent of revenue” line sounds good — the more money you make, the more you share the wealth with players and invest in new talent! As far as any kind of rational economic decision-making goes, though, it’s insane: Just because you’re bringing in more money doesn’t mean you should rush out and overspend on players just to not have cash burning a hole in your pocket; and just because you’re not bringing in more money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out and spend more on players in the hope of winning more games, especially since that will bring in more money.

It’s not that it’s unusual — it’s the same logic companies use to meet revenue targets by cutting the employees who generate revenue, thus leading to a death spiral — and it’s the kind of bizarre logic there’s plenty of other evidence teams use in deciding how much to spend. And it’s not necessarily all bad, even, as the alternative is for owners to realize that how many games they win doesn’t have all that much effect on their bottom line, so might as well not try too hard to win at all.

But it’s still crazy, and should lend ammunition to anyone who would like to argue that if Moreno is deciding whether to give Albert Pujols way too much money to grow old and terrible based on how much cash he has lying around, maybe the Angels’ profitability shouldn’t be the city of Anaheim’s problem. Not that the Angels aren’t plenty profitable anyway — you know what, maybe the most insane part of all this is actually Moreno trying to demand stadium improvements as a condition of signing a lease to stay in the league’s second-largest market, as if he has any other real options. It’s so hard to tell with billionaires when they’re being crazy like a fox, and when they’re just being crazy.