And speaking of issues — if that’s not too inappropriate to compare the enslavement of an entire people with the siphoning off of tax dollars for sports, which it probably is, but segues gotta segue — here are a bunch regarding stadiums and arenas that reared or re-reared their heads in the last week:
Plans for a minor-league hockey arena in Palm Springs have “stopped” thanks to the pandemic, according to city manager David Ready, but it’s not immediately clear whether that means just the timeline has been delayed or the entire project is up in the air, if that’s even a distinction anymore.
Also up in the air: exact plans for David Beckham’s Inter Miami stadium complex, details of which were released this week but without any actual details. It looks like Inter will be playing in its “temporary” stadium in Fort Lauderdale for at least the next several years, if not indefinitely, which is absolutely par for Beckham’s Miami stadium campaign ever since he opened that cursed mummy’s tomb.
Over in Texas, meanwhile, which is seeing its own spike in virus cases, college football players are testing positive in bunches, which could put the season at risk, though I suppose there are always more people in Texas who want to play football if they wanted to go to 200-player rosters.
Also seeing a spike in positive coronavirus tests: construction workers at the new Los Angeles Rams and Chargers stadium. None of this should be surprising — obviously reopening work sites is going to increase the spread of the virus, and equally obviously more people are going to show up sick to work (whether they have symptoms yet or not) if there are more people in the general community who have it. The plan was supposed to be to first mitigate the number of infections through lockdowns, and then once cases were at a low level keep them under control via widespread testing and contact tracing, but since apparently most states have decided to reopen before waiting for that second part, it looks like much of America is going to have to prepare for the roller coaster.
Major League Baseball, meanwhile, is inching its way toward a late July restart, with games to be played at teams’ home stadiums, or in the case of the Toronto Blue Jays, probably their single-A ballpark, because Canada is still requiring two-week quarantines for anyone entering the country, though they did lift that for hockey. Location of the Blue Jays’ single-A ballpark? Florida, of course.
And yes, it’s looking more and more like outdoor transmission of the virus is a smaller risk than was initially feared so long as everyone wears masks — a conclusion reached in part from noting that there’s been no measurable spike in infections after last month’s police violence protests — but also note that Columbia University virus expert Jeffrey Shaman tempers that optimism by saying, “Beaches—you’ve got open air, sunshine, people spread out on blankets—that’s OK. A baseball stadium—people lined up shoulder to shoulder, semi-indoors, for hot dogs and beer and for crowded restrooms—I’m not so crazy about that.”
And as a reward for sitting through all that epidemiology news, here are a couple of fresh New York Islanders Belmont Park arena vaportecture images, which are mostly notable for conveying “loud” and “intimate” not through any actual innovations in arena geometry — the cheap seats still look a million miles from the action — but rather via having all the little CGI people raise their fists in the air in excitement! CGI people are so much easier to please than real people, even if they seem even less willing to wear their damn masks.
So how’s everyone out there, you know, doing? As the pandemic slowly feels less like a momentary crisis to be weathered and more like a new way of living to be learned (I refuse to say “new normal,” as nothing about this will ever feel normal), it’s tempting to occasionally look up and think about what habits and activities from the before times still make sense; I hope that FoS continues to educate and entertain you in ways that feel useful (or at least usefully distracting) — from all accounts the entire world being turned upside down hasn’t been enough to interrupt sports team owners’ important work of stadium shakedowns, so it’s good if we can keep at least half an eye on it, amid our stress-eating and TV bingewatching.
So get your half an eye ready, because a whole bunch of stuff happened again this week:
There’s a new plot of land open near the Carolina Panthers‘ stadium now that Charlotte Pipe and Foundry is getting $50 million in tax breaks to move to a neighboring county, and billionaire Panthers owner David Tepper should demand a new stadium there because Tepper “has influence and credibility” and the current 24-year-old stadium is “outdated because it lacks the suites the new stadiums offer and because it lacks a dome” and “all great stadiums should be built downtown” and “there’s a price to doing business, and we accept it,” writes Charlotte Observer sports columnist Tom Sorensen, whose Twitter bio calls him “occasionally retired” but apparently he comes out of retirement when there is important reporting like this to be done.
And speaking of the spoils going to whoever has the most lobbyists, both Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have been lobbying Congress for pandemic relief loans, even as the former makes plans to wipe out a good chunk of the latter and/or force a takeover of the minor leagues, because why let a good pandemic pass without taking advantage of the opportunities it affords to consolidate your monopoly power?
The Miami Marlins debuted some changes to their much-reviled stadium this week, including a standing-room-only section in right field that team owner Derek Jeter says is designed to appeal to young people: “A lot of times fans come to games and they don’t necessarily want to sit in their seats. They want to be able to move around, especially the millennial — the younger generation.” Uh, Jeets, there may be other reasons than millennial ADHD that Marlins fans don’t want to sit and watch the game.
The Milwaukee Bucks‘ new arena that opened last fall has already needed $3 million in upgrades, including bigger cup holders in the lower-level seats because the old ones “can barely hold a cup of coffee.” All together now: Just tear the place down and build a new one.
Here is a trash article in Bloomberg in which Golden State Warriors team president Rick Welts asserts that the team has already made $2 billion from its new $1.3 billion San Francisco arena “in the form of tickets, suites and sponsorships” before the doors have already opened. Is that for its first year, or does it include multi-year commitments? And how does it compare to what the Warriors would have brought in from those revenue streams in their old Oakland arena? Despite the article taking two people to write, neither of them seem to have bothered to ask those questions, because writing down what important people say and leaving it at that is what journalism is all about, right?
The owners of the Chesapeake Bayhawks are proposing that Anne Arundel County, Maryland provide $278 million in county bonds and free land for a 10,000-seat … lacrosse stadium, really? I know lacrosse is unaccountably popular in Maryland, but that still seems pretty remarkable. (Some of the money would go to build retail and hotel space that the Bayhawks would own, which doesn’t actually make this better. The team owners have previously said they’d pay off the bonds over time, which does if they’d actually make the county whole, but there would still be lost property taxes and tax-exempt bond subsidies and that free land to account for.) The Bayhawks currently play at the Naval Academy’s lacrosse stadium in Annapolis, which was last renovated in 2004; team owner Brendan Kelly seems to consider this a crisis, saying, “I would ask the question: Do you want to fix the problem? Or are we going to kick the can down the road further.” There is a lacrosse team that does not have its own state-of-the-art lacrosse stadium, people. Won’t anyone think of the lacrosse children?
Here’s a thing New York Yankees president Randy Levine said this week about NYC F.C.‘s soccer stadium plans: “We are in active negotiations to get a new stadium here in New York. We hope to have an announcement this year.” That was enough to set off a string of self-admittedly overly hopeful soccer blog posts, so it’s worth remembering that 1) the latest NYC F.C. plan has all sorts of problems, and wasn’t even proposed by NYC F.C. but by a private developer; 2) saying overly hopeful things is literally team presidents’ job. No doubt Levine & Co. hope to have something more to report ASAP, but hope and $2.75 will get you a ride on the 4 train to get to an NYC F.C. match at Yankee Stadium.
If you’re jonesing for demolition porn of excavators going at arena seats, Oak View Group has you covered with a new video of reconstruction work at Seattle’s KeyArena. They’re keeping the roof, though, which will be good news for all your vintage roof fans.
The Wichita city council has approved giving the owners of the relocated New Orleans Baby Cakes four acres of land to develop at a price of $1 an acre, along with $77 million in tax money for a new stadium, despite public criticism that this is an unconscionable giveaway. Councilmember James Clendenin defended the deal on the grounds that “normally when we have developers come from out of town, they want millions upon millions upon millions of dollars in incentives,” and I guess this is just millions upon millions, so shut yer yaps, wouldja?
We have new renderings for the proposed Oakland A’s stadium at Howard Terminal, and they look slightly less doofy than the old renderings, or at least somewhat less angular. Odds that any ballpark will look remotely like this if a Howard Terminal stadium is ever built: two infinities to one. Odds that a Howard Terminal stadium is ever built: Somewhat better, but I still wouldn’t hold your breath.
The Calgary city council put off a vote on a term sheet for a new Flames arena on Tuesday, after a marathon meeting that the public was barred from. They’ll be meeting in private again on Monday, and still plan not to tell anyone what the deal looks like until they’ve negotiated it with the Flames owners, which Calgary residents are not super happy about.
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer still really really wants a new arena of his own by 2024, and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times show that he met with Inglewood Mayor James Butts as early as June 2016 to try to get Madison Square Garden to give up its lease on his preferred arena site before they found out he wanted to build an arena there. This is mostly of interest if you like gawking at warring sports billionaires, but if you do you’re in luck, because the battle seems likely to continue for a long time yet.
The Miami Marlins are turning the former site of their Red Grooms home run sculpture in center field into a “three-tier millennial park” with $10 standing-room tickets, because apparently millennials are broke and hate sitting down? They’ve gotta try something, I guess, and this did help get them a long Miami Herald article about their “rebranding” efforts, so sure, millennial park it is.
Building a football stadium for a college football team and hoping to fill it up with lots of Bruce Springsteen concerts turns out, shockingly, not to have been such a great idea. UConn’s Rentschler Field loses money most years, and hasn’t hosted a major concert since 2007, with the director of the agency that runs it griping, “The summers are generally slow, the springs are generally muddy, and the falls are UConn’s.” And nobody built lots of new development around a stadium that hosts only nine events a year, likewise shockingly. It still could have been worse, though: Hartford could have spent even more money on landing the New England Patriots.
Speaking of failed sports developments, the new Detroit Red Wings arena district is “shaping up to be a giant swath of blacktop,” reports Deadline Detroit, which also revealed that the city has failed to penalize the team’s owners for missing development deadlines, and has held out the possibility of more public subsidies if he ever does build anything around the arena. At least the Ilitches are finally paying for the extra police needed to work NHL games, though, so that’s something.
Here is an article that cites “an economic development expert” as saying that hosting a Super Bowl could be worth $1 billion in “economic activity” to Las Vegas, saying he based this on the results of last year’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Actual increased tax receipts for Minneapolis during the game: $2.4 million. It took me 30 seconds to research this, but apparently the Las Vegas Review-Journal is too high and mighty to use Google. Do not reward them with your clicks.
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.