Samson showed up in a shiny rich-guy sport coat and dress shirt. He walked onstage to a hail of booing from the sort of drunk bros who would hang out at a Dan Le Batard event…
So how did Samson respond to angry fans? He flipped them off and bragged that he and Loria’s cartoonishly evil antics helped the owner sell the team for $1.2 billion…
“Thank you so much; thank you very much,” a drunk-sounding Samson stammered into a microphone as Le Batard lumbered behind him. “Here’s why I love when you guys boo me. Right. I want you to keep booing me. Because guess what? One-point-two billion. Fuck you!”
Yes, a former sports executive actually bragged about how he didn’t care if people hated him, because he and his boss/stepdad walked away with piles of moneybags thanks to public largesse, and literally said “Fuck you!” while literally giving the audience the finger. If this seems way too on the nose to possibly be true, here is video evidence:
I guess this is just the way things are going to go from now on. I look forward to Henry Kissinger’s upcoming memoir, Yeah, I Helped Send Three Million People to Their Deaths, What Are You Gonna Do About It, Assholes?
“Several dozen” Long Island residents marched in protest last week against the New York Islanders‘ proposed arena near Belmont Park, saying it would create too much traffic and construction noise. Those aren’t the best reasons to be concerned about it in my book — I’d be more upset about the crazy discount on land New York state is giving the team, if I were a New York taxpayer, which I am — but maybe the protestors are worried about that too but it didn’t fit easily on a sign.
Oklahoma City is looking for capital projects to spend the next iteration of its sales-tax hike on, and Mayor David Holt says if a maybe-MLS-caliber soccer stadium isn’t included, “the Energy won’t be here forever.” The Energy, if that name draws a blank for you, is the city’s beloved USL franchise that’s been there since … 2014? It’s only a matter of time before teams start threatening to move before they even exist, isn’t it?
The world may be on vacation this week, but the stadium news decidedly is not:
The Nashville S.C. stadium squabble continues, months after the city council supposedly approved a $75 million public subsidy (plus free land), and it’s way more than I can recap right now, so please go read the Tennessean’s summary instead while we wait for a final vote next Tuesday.
In no particular order, or as we call it in New York, Mets style:
Elvis Presley Enterprises is looking for property tax breaks from Memphis and Shelby County to help build a $20 million, 5,000- to 6,000-seat arena at Graceland. This could violate a non-compete clause with the Grizzlies over tax breaks for their arena, and local officials aren’t too thrilled with the request anyway: “I don’t want this body to be looked at as a pawn to sweeten the pot,” city councilmember Berlin Boyd told WMC-TV, which is a reasonable sentiment if a somewhat confusing metaphor.
The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals are seeking $100 million in public hotel-tax money from Palm Beach County to upgrade their 20-year-old spring training facility, saying they need expanded clubhouses, more batting tunnels, an expanded team store, Wi-Fi, a new scoreboard, more shaded seating areas, and “agility fields” (presumably not this kind) in order to remain “competitive.” Neither team appeared to indicate why any of this is Palm Beach County’s problem.
Tampa Bay Rays chief development officer Melanie Lenz, in response to concerns that a big-ass baseball stadium wouldn’t fit into the Ybor City historic district that it would be on the border of, said that “we expect to build a next-generation, neighborhood ballpark that fits within the fabric of the Ybor City community,” though she didn’t give any details. That’s vague enough to be reassuring without actually promising anything concrete, but it’s worth making a note of just in case the historic district ends up becoming a stumbling block in stadium talks, which, stranger things have happened.
A guy wants to start a football league where fans vote on what plays to run via Twitch, and build an arena in Las Vegas for people to watch … the players? The voting? The Las Vegas Review-Journal article about it was a bit unclear, though it did say that the organizers want to “create the experience of playing a football video game with real people,” which isn’t creepy at all. It also reports that the league plans to use blockchain technology, which is how you know it’s probably a sham.
Something called the Badger Herald, which I assume is a University of Wisconsin student paper but which I really hope is a newspaper targeted entirely at badgers, ran an article by a junior economics major arguing that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena will be a boon to the city because during the first few years “many will come from across the state to watch the Bucks play in this impressive new facility” and after that it will “continue giving the people of Milwaukee a reason to be optimistic.” The author also says that the arena was built after “the NBA gave the Bucks an ultimatum — either obtain a new arena, or the NBA would buy the Bucks and sell the franchise to another city,” which, uh, no, that’s not what happened at all.
Here’s a really nice article for CBS Sports by my old Baseball Prospectus colleague Dayn Perry on the Chicago White Sox ballpark proposed by architect Philip Bess that never got built. Come for the cool pictures of spiders, stay for the extended explanation of why supporting columns that obstruct some views are a design feature that stadium architects never should have abandoned!
That Missouri governor who killed a proposed St. Louis MLS stadium subsidy, calling it “welfare for millionaires,” is now under pressure to resign after his former hairdresser claimed he groped her, slapped her, and coerced her into sex acts. Maybe we should just stop electing men to public office? Just a thought.
Former Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins, and Florida Panthers owner Wayne Huizenga died on Friday, and any time a soul passes from this earth there’s a sadness, and we pass long our sympathies to all of Huizenga’s relatives and loved ones.
And now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how Wayne Huizenga helped to make the sports world a worse place while he was alive:
Huizenga bought the Dolphins and Joe Robbie Stadium (I’m not even going to start to look up whatever its corporate name is now) to go along with his fledgling baseball and hockey teams in 1994. He then used his ownership of the stadium to perform an accounting trick where he assigned all the revenue from luxury boxes and naming rights and parking to his stadium company, while charging his own teams rent — thus enabling him to evade league revenue sharing and to cry poor when it was time to spend money on players.
Huizenga’s stadium may have been built with private money, but that didn’t stop him from extracting $2 million a year in sales tax kickbacks from the state of Florida, cash he kept receiving even after he sold the Marlins, threatening to sue if anyone tried to repeal the subsidy.
Does all this make Huizenga a bad man? First and foremost, he was a corporate businessman, trying to extract maximum value from the assets he owned, whether his sports teams or waste-hauling company or Blockbuster Video, even if at the expense of the public or his fellow team owners or his team’s on-field success. Whether this makes him a capitalist running dog or someone merely following his own rational self-interest depends on your political perspective, but it’s undeniable that his cash grabs were more innovative than that of most team owners, and had a more detrimental effect on the sports landscape. So while he may have exhibited “kindness and generosity,” as his former team tweeted last Friday, he also did all those other things too; and that, in all his complexity, is how he should be remembered by history.
It’s laugh to keep from crying week! (Just kidding: It’s always laugh to keep from crying week.)
The 46-year-old Richmond Coliseum is “clearly past its prime” and “smaller and gloomier than many competing venues,” and the city should use “original thinking and strong leadership from the private and public sectors” such as tax-increment financing to help pay for a new arena, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Not included in the editorial: any indication of how much a new arena would cost or whether the benefit to the city would be worth it, because why think about such things when there’s new-car smell to be had?
The Texas Rangers‘ new stadium will feature seats that are 1 to 2 inches wider than in their old one, which is good for fans with wide butts (I stand accused, although not of being a Rangers fan), but less good for fans with butts of any size who will have to make do with seats farther down the outfield lines to make way for the butts of more well-off fans. Everything’s a tradeoff.
The Detroit Grand Prix owners, seeking to justify turning a public park into a private raceway for three months of preparation each summer, claim the annual event is worth $58 million to the local economy, and I told the Detroit Metro Times why that’s probably bullshit.
Derek Jeter may have gotten rid of anything not nailed down from the 2017 Miami Marlins, but he still can’t move Red Grooms’ horrific home run sculpture, because the public helped pay for it so now it’s public art. (Too bad Marlins fans couldn’t have tried the same argument about Giancarlo Stanton.)
The NCAA has awarded the 2019 men’s Final Four to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and now is demanding a giant blackout curtain to cover up the building’s windows for the event. Cost, according to Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Mike Vekich: “It will be expensive — obviously.” Crazy idea: Tell the NCAA, “You already awarded us the Final Four, if you want a giant venetian blind, pay for it yourself or go play in the street with Steph Curry.”
I’ve pieced together this week’s news roundup via WiFi made from powdered limestone and gum-tree resin, so if I missed anything important, let me know and I’ll pick it up starting Monday. In the meantime:
That Koch Brothers–sponsored bill to ban sports subsidies in Arizona that got all the attention last week is now apparently dead after it was opposed by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, Arizona and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association. Maybe it’ll have better luck in one of the other 24 states where Americans for Prosperity said they were introducing it, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Politics Extra column says that the West End is going to get gentrified against its will whether it likes it or not, so shouldn’t it be by a local guy who wants to build an F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium as part of it, and not “a developer from, say, New York or Chicago who doesn’t know or care about you or your homes”? Yes, it really truly says that.
The Oakland Raiders‘ Las Vegas stadium-building company is proposing to provide a $5 million bond to restore the stadium land to its original condition in the event that construction has to be halted partway through if it goes bankrupt. This is simultaneously an excellent way to safeguard the public interest in all contingencies (except for the $750 million the public would be out either way, obviously) and also really not the kind of thing you want newspaper readers to be thinking about when your new multi-billion-dollar stadium project is about to get underway. Here’s hoping Roger Noll is wrong about this thing having a shot at working.
The Miami-Dade County lawsuit against the Marlins‘ former owner Jeffrey Loria and current owners Derek Jeter and Friends over not cutting the county in on a share of the team sale proceeds went to court yesterday, and probably something happened, but it’ll be next week before the latest news story loads for me, so somebody recap anything important in comments, okay? I’ll see you next week.
The 2008 county agreement that had Miami-Dade fund the bulk of the $515 million government-owned stadium in Little Havana gave Miami-Dade and Miami the right to 5 percent of any profits Loria and partners might reap if they sold the team within 10 years. But Loria could deduct team debt, certain expenses and taxes tied to a sale, and county officials and team executives privately predicted Loria wouldn’t agree to give up any of his revenue from the October sale to Derek Jeter and partners…
In a brief report sent by Loria’s lawyers, his organization said the terms of the deal resulted in a profit-sharing calculation of zero. The reason? About $280 million in debt that lowered the profits from the $1.2 billion sale, plus an agreed-to underlying value of the franchise of about $625 million, based on it getting more valuable each year. Add in nearly $300 million in taxes tied to the sale by Loria and partners, and Loria’s accountants claim the sale amounted to a loss of $141 million. Loria also deducted the $30 million fee paid to the financial advisors hired to negotiate the deal.
So on the one hand, Loria does have a case here that his windfall profits from selling the team weren’t mostly because of the new stadium, as we’ve covered before. On the other, “Sure I sold my team for a 650% profit, but inflation, and also taxes, so sorry you can’t have any even though I promised” is a spectacular display of chutzpah. Loria may have just cinched his membership in the Evil League of Evil.
New Miami Marlins owner Derek Jeter has a plan code-named Project Wolverine (for Jeter’s home state of Michigan, not the X-Man) that projects windfall profits by getting Fox to give the team a massive new TV deal and attendance to spike despite selling off all his best players. This has nothing to do with stadiums except to remind everyone that giving former owner Jeffrey Loria a new ballpark at taxpayer expense was a waste of close to a billion dollars, and getting Loria to sell to Jeter doesn’t seem to have raised hopes any of having management that isn’t delusional or focused solely on squeezing every last dollar of profit possible from a franchise that will forever be selling off any players as soon as they figure out how to play baseball. Miami might have been better off keeping its money and using it to buy residents plane tickets to go see a real baseball team.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says the league “wouldn’t rule out” the New York Islanders playing games temporarily at Nassau Coliseum while a new arena at Belmont Park is under construction, which makes sense, because why would they? Sure, the Coliseum now only holds 13,000 for hockey games after its renovation, but the Islanders’ current home of the Barclays Center only holds 15,795, and at least the Coliseum doesn’t have its ice all off-center. Plus, the Islanders aren’t drawing even 13,000 a game anyway, so it’ll just be a matter of fewer empty seats until the new arena is opened, which we still don’t know when that would be, do we? It’ll be interesting to see what kind of lease Coliseum owner Mikhail Prokhorov offers to the Islanders owners — on the one hand, they’re threatening to go off and build a new arena that will compete with his, but on the other, he pretty badly wants them out of the Barclays Center, so it’s anybody’s guess.