Friday roundup: Bad MLB attendance, bad CFL loans, bad temporary Raiders relocation ideas

And in other news:

Friday update: Bad D.C. arena math, bad Bucks arena math, bad Columbus ticket tax math

It must be September, because my TV is filled with Jim Cantore and Anderson Cooper standing ankle-deep in water. But anyway:

  • Washington, D.C., is about to open its new Mystics home arena and Wizards practice facility, and Mayor Muriel Bowser says it’s a model of how the city would build a new NFL stadium as well. “We know [sports] can help our bottom line by attracting people to our city, but it also has a big impact when we’re winning on our collective psyche,” says Bowser of an arena that got $50 million in public subsidies for two teams that were already playing in D.C. anyway. Maybe she should go back to using her terrible soccer stadium deal as a model instead.
  • People in Calgary are starting to ask whether, if the city is looking to spend $3 billion on hosting the 2026 Olympics, maybe it should build a new Flames arena as part of the deal? Camels, man.
  • Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim Pegula says she’s going to wait until after the gubernatorial elections this November to start negotiating a new stadium with whoever ends up in charge of the state. It won’t be the lox-and-raisin-bagel lady.
  • Speaking of the Pegulas and New York’s current governor, they’re planning an $18 million upgrade of Rochester’s arena that hosts the Rochester Americans minor-league hockey team (which the Pegulas also own), with costs to be split among the owners and city and state taxpayers. Split how? Sorry, no room in the Associated Press article, ask again later!
  • The AP did find time to fact-check Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s claim that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena would return three dollars in new taxes for each one spent, and found that “Walker omits some of the state money spent on the 20-year arena deal and relies on income tax estimates that experts call unreliable.” I could’ve told them that — in fact, I did, three years ago.
  • “‘Ticket tax’ proposal could lead to higher prices on movies, theater, sports in Columbus” reads a headline on ‘s website, something that the station’s reporter asserts in the accompanying video without saying where he got it from. He’s at least partly wrong: Ticket prices are already set as high as the market will bear, so unless the ticket tax changes the market — in other words, unless people in Columbus are forced to spend more on movies and theater and such because the other options (staying at home and watching TV, going out to eat) aren’t good enough, mostly this will just mean prices will stay roughly the same but a bigger share will go to theater/team owner’s tax bills. (I could try to find an economist to estimate exactly how big a share, but isn’t that really WSYX’s job?)
  • Former Oakland A’s exec Andy Dolich says the team owners may be looking at buying both the Howard Terminal site and the Oakland Coliseum site, and using the revenues from one to pay the costs of prepping the other for baseball, which, if the Coliseum site is such a cash cow and Howard Terminal such a money pit, wouldn’t they be better off just buying the Coliseum site and developing that? Or is the idea that Oakland would somehow give up the Coliseum site at a discounted price in order to get a new A’s stadium done? I have a lot of math questions here.
  • With nobody wanting to spend $250 million on a major renovation of Hartford’s arena, the agency that manages the XL Center is now looking for a $100 million state-funded upgrade instead. Still waiting to hear whether this would actually generate $100 million worth of new revenues for the arena; if not, the state would be better off just giving the arena a pile of cash to subsidize its bottom line, no?
  • Cobb County is only letting the Atlanta Braves owners out of part of the $1.5 million they owed on water and sewer costs for their new stadium. Yay?

Friday roundup: Untangling NYCFC’s stadium plan, fighting over the Crew’s future, and what to do with a luxury suite

Sorry for the radio silence the last couple of days — it was a combination of not much super-urgent breaking news and a busy work schedule on my end — but let’s remedy that with a heaping helping of Friday links:

  • Part of that busy schedule was wrapping up work on my Village Voice article trying to unravel NYCFC’s latest stadium plan, and while the upshot remains what it was a month ago — this is a Rube Goldberg–style proposal with so many moving parts that it’s hard to say yet if it would involve public subsidies — it also involves city parks land that isn’t really parkland but is really controlled by another city agency that isn’t really a city agency and denies having control over it … go read it, you’ll either be entertained or confused or both!
  • The state of Maryland has luxury suites at the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles stadiums, and Gov. Larry Hogan mostly uses them for family members and political cronies. This should come as a surprise to no one, but it’s a reminder that getting government use of a suite as part of a stadium deal is less a public benefit than a, what do you call those things?
  • Based on questions asked at a Monday hearing, The Stranger concludes that most King County council members aren’t opposed to the Seattle Mariners‘ demand for $180 million in future county upgrade spending on Safeco Field, in exchange for the team signing a new lease. That could still change, obviously, but only if all of you readers turn toward Seattle and shout this post in unison. Three, two, one, go!
  • MLS commissioner Don Garber says talks are “ongoing” with the city of Columbus about replacing the Crew if they move to Austin, and by “with the city of Columbus” he apparently means the local business council the Columbus Partnership. And even their CEO, Alex Fischer, doesn’t sound too in the mood to talk, noting that Garber has called for a new downtown stadium in Columbus while not requiring the same of Austin: “I find it extremely ironic that the commissioner wants a downtown stadium at the same time that the McKalla site is the equivalent of building a stadium in Buckeye Lake.” MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott retorted that Fischer’s remarks are “certainly a strange way to demonstrate an interest in working with us.” The lines of communication are open!
  • The owners of Nashville S.C. would have to pay $200,000 a year in city rent on their new stadium, which is … something, at least. Except, reports the Tennessean, “Parking revenue collected from non-soccer events at the new MLS stadium, such as concerts or football games, would go toward the annual base rent and could potentially cover the entire amount.” So maybe not really something.
  • Glendale has extended its arena management deal with AEG through 2026, which will mean continuing to pay $5.6 million annual management fees, but also collecting about $1.6 million a year in shared arena revenues. That’s not good, but it is significantly better than the lease that had the city paying the owners of the Arizona Coyotes more than $7 million a year after revenue shares, so yay Glendale for tearing up that lease and bidding out the contract to at least cut their losses.
  • Here’s Austin’s lead negotiator with Crew owner Anthony Precourt over a new stadium, Chris Dunlavey of Brailsford and Dunlavey. on whether the deal is fair to taxpayers: “All around, I don’t know how it could get characterized as favorable to [Precourt Sports Ventures]. I think the city of Austin has negotiated this to as favorable for a city as PSV could stand to do.” Uh, Chris, you do know that “good for the public” and “as least awful for the public as we could get” aren’t the same thing, right?
  • Former U.S. senator Barbara Boxer has thrown her weight behind Inglewood residents opposing a new Los Angeles Clippers arena because it could cause gentrification and displacement. Which, not all arenas do, but in hot urban areas like L.A. it doesn’t take much to cause gentrification and displacement, so I can certainly see why there’s concern.
  • An otherwise unidentified group calling itself Protect Oakland’s Shoreline Economy has issued flyers opposing the A’s building a stadium at Howard Terminal because, among other things, it could displace homeless encampments to make way for parking lots. This is getting David Beckham–level silly, but also it’s getting harder and harder not to feel like the A’s owners should just give in and build a stadium at the Coliseum site, since at least nobody seems to mind if they do that. Yet.

Friday roundup: Grading Mariners subsidies on a curve, Cobb County could close parks to pay off Braves debt, Beckham punts on another stadium deadline

Congratulations to the team that had never won the hockey thing winning it over the other team that had never won the hockey thing because it was a new team! And meanwhile:

Friday roundup: Senators owner stalling on arena commitment, Jaguars owner wants to buy Wembley, and gondolas, forever gondolas

As late as Wednesday, I thought this was turning out to be a slow news week. Then the news made up for it in a hurry:

  • The New York Islanders owners held a question-and-answer session for residents near their planned new arena on Tuesday, and when asked about how they plan to increase Long Island Railroad service to avoid tons of auto traffic, a state development official said, “We are in very active discussions with the LIRR — meeting with them once a week — and those talks are ramping up.” Hopefully they’re involving Dr. Strange in those discussions, because they badly need to find some new topological dimensions.
  • Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he plans to talk to Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk about whether he actually plans to pursue the LeBreton Flats arena development he won rights to last year, after Melnyk called it “a huge project with tremendous risk” and said, “If it doesn’t look good here, it could look very, very nice somewhere else, but I’m not suggesting that right now” and “Something’s got to break somewhere and I mean a positive break.” Melnyk has made threats like this before, but you’d think now that he has an agreed sale price for the land he’d be happy; it sure sounds like he’s angling for some additional public subsidies now that he has his mitts on the land, which you can’t really blame him for, since Watson opened the door to that already. Come on, mayor, haven’t you learned yet not to get the can opener out when the cat is around?
  • Tampa Bay Rays 2020, the group started by the Rays to push for business support for a new stadium, is signing up plenty of members, but DRaysBay notes that “the real test of commitment will come when businesses are asked to make clearer financial commitments to a stadium plan.” Yeah, no duh. (The subhead here, “Business leaders line up behind stadium plan, but financing questions linger,” is also a masterpiece of understatement.)
  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says that the Toronto Blue Jays‘ Rogers Centre “needs an update to make it as economically viable as possible,” noting that other stadiums “have millennial areas, things like that that have been built and become popular more recently.” So, like, an Instagram parlor?
  • Here’s a story about how 25 years ago the NHL handed Norman Green the rights to move the Minnesota North Stars to any open market as consolation for putting an expansion team in Anaheim, where he’d wanted to move, and he ended up going to Dallas. Also it has Roger Staubach in the headline for some reason.
  • And here’s a story about how 50 years ago NHL expansion inadvertently kicked off the rise of arena rock, which is probably overstated but it has links to vintage Cream videos in it, if you like that sort of thing.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan is in talks with the Football Association to buy London’s Wembley Stadium for £600 million, which is certain to raise eyebrows about the possibility of the Jags moving to London, but is probably for right now more about Fulham F.C., which Khan also owns, being about to get promoted to the Premier League and wanting a bigger place to play. Khan also said, “I think it needs investment and updating. Compared to American stadiums the video boards are something that need to be looked at. The lounges are a little bit dated.” The current Wembley Stadium was built in 2007.
  • The son of former disgraced Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt wants to build a gondola to take fans from Union Station to Dodger Stadium to avoid traffic. “It’s not actually crazy,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti insisted on Thursday, which, given that this is a city considering allowing Elon Musk to build a network of tunnels to whisk residents about via some unknown technology, maybe we should take that with a grain of salt.
  • San Diego State says its stadium plans could eventually be expanded to fit an NFL team, for a mere additional $750-$850 million. Most San Diegans responding to an internet poll (which means some San Diegans, some non-San Diegans, and some dogs) don’t think they’re getting an NFL team anytime soon, anyway.
  • The Port of Oakland has approved giving the Oakland A’s owners exclusive negotiating rights to develop Howard Terminal, which now gives the A’s exclusive rights to two possible stadium sites. As DRaysBay would say, financing questions linger.
  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver has toured the new Milwaukee Bucks arena and says it has “unique sight lines.” Hopefully he means that in a good way, though I’m still wondering about that “sky mezzanine level.”

Oakland A’s think they can get fans to a Howard Terminal stadium by gondola, are probably wrong

I have a bad cold and had been hoping to just leave everything for tomorrow’s news roundup, but then Village Voice transit reporter Aaron Gordon sent me this:

The Oakland A’s are exploring using a gondola ski lift to transport fans from downtown to the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, where the team is thinking of building a new ballpark…

And though it would hardly top direct BART service to the ballpark, a gondola system could carry anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 passengers an hour — delivering them to and from either the 12th Street BART Station or from a couple blocks to the south, near Oakland’s City Center and Housewives Market.

Okay, so, several things. First off, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross seem to have confused trams and gondolas, which are different technologies, something we’ll return to in a minute.

The bigger issue I have is with that “4,000 to 6,000 passengers an hour” figure. First off, that sounds really ambitious. There are two urban aerial trams in the U.S.: the Roosevelt Island tram in New York City (which you’ll remember as the thing Spider-Man saved people from while the Green Goblin talked like Gilbert Gottfried for some reason) and the Portland Aerial Tram in Oregon. The Portland tram holds 78 passengers per car, and runs every six minutes; that’s 780 people per hour, which not anywhere near 4,000 to 6,000.

But! As this guy who cares a whole lot about gondolas notes, you could run smaller ski-lift type gondola cars that hold six to ten passengers around every ten seconds. That gets you a somewhat more respectable 2,160 to 3,600 passengers an hour.

Which is still nowhere near enough to get people to an A’s game. You’re going to need to transport at minimum ten times that many passengers — and they’re not going to arrive conveniently spread out over an hour, but will all queue up right around game time, see the long lines for the gondola, and then say “Screw this, I’m walking across the train tracks.”

Or as Gordon summed it up to me, “It is arguably the dumbest plan I’ve ever heard.” It honestly makes more sense as leverage to try to keep the Howard Terminal site on the table while negotiating for a better deal for the Oakland Coliseum site, though given that the A’s owners are negotiating with the same city and county in both places, it’s not really that much of a threat. For now, let’s file it under Sports Team Owners Propose the Craziest Things — if it ever becomes more real, there’ll be plenty of time to make fun of it later.

Tesla, USL team owner make their own problematic bids for Oakland Coliseum land

Looks like there are other people interested in bidding on the Oakland Coliseum site after all:

One is Elon Musk’s Tesla, which has sent a letter of interest to the city about the 130-acre Coliseum parcel. Exactly what the company would build there is a closely guarded secret.

The other is a proposal that arrived at City Hall just hours after Schaaf suggested talking with the A’s alone. It came from Mark Hall, a real estate investor from Walnut Creek who has won the rights for a United Soccer League expansion franchise.

He’s pitching a plan for a 44-acre mega-sports and recreation center on the Coliseum site that would include a stadium for his team and sports fields. He would use Oracle Arena, which the Warriors are about to vacate, for concerts, pro lacrosse games and foosball competitions. (Yes, foosball*, the arcade game when little players on hand-manipulated metal rods kick a ball up and down the table.)

The rest of the property would go to the A’s for their new ballpark.

Musk isn’t saying publicly what he’d offer for the land, and anyway he may be broke before long so maybe not best to count on him. Hall is offering to pay $85 million, which is less than the A’s owners offer of $135 million, but would only be for part of the parcel, with room left for an A’s stadium.

This isn’t actually all that exciting either, because as we’ve covered many times in the past, baseball stadiums aren’t especially lucrative use of land — Hall is in essence saying, “Give me all the good bits where I can build whatever I want, and the A’s can have just enough room to spend half a billion dollars or so on a baseball stadium but nothing else.” With offers like these, exclusive negotiations with the A’s might not be so bad, though if Oakland can keep soliciting bids in the time before any exclusivity window kicks in, if only to get a sense of the market value of the Coliseum land, this could work out well after all.

*Disappointingly, probably not foosball, but rather futsal. See comments below.

Oakland mayor and A’s agree to exclusive negotiations for stadium sites (if city council and Port of Oakland approve)

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Oakland A’s president Dave Kaval announced yesterday that the two parties have approved an exclusive negotiating agreement to explore building a new stadium at either the Howard Terminal site or the Oakland Coliseum site. This means … okay, let’s figure out exactly what this means:

  • Nobody seems to be reporting how long the exclusive agreements will remain in place, but this may be yet to be worked out. (More on that in a moment.)
  • Will the A’s owners be asked to pay more than their $135 million offer for the Coliseum property? “Price is part of what will be hashed out,” said Schaaf.
  • Kaval says he’s hoping for a resolution by the end of this year so a stadium can open in 2023, which, sure he is, but target dates like these change all the time.
  • Kaval called this “a 50- to 100-year decision for having a long-term home,” and Schaaf echoed that “we also want a 100-year plan” for a stadium, all of which is a nice thought but flies in the face of trends in planned ballpark obsolescence.

None of this is final: All Mayor Schaaf has done is proposed that the city council and Port of Oakland enter into exclusive negotiating agreements with the A’s, so presumably it’ll be up to those bodies to determine how to write the actual language. One hopes that, even if it gives the A’s some time to be the only bidders at the table (as team execs demanded earlier this week), it won’t preclude Oakland from doing due diligence on what those parcels are actually worth, since that’s going to be key to determining how much the A’s owners should be paying for them. Given that it’s a step that could end up costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars if you get it wrong, they’ll want to be sure they don’t leave it out.

A’s owners offer to buy Coliseum site for $135m, which is better than nothing, but how much better?

The first news came yesterday, as it so often does these days, in the form of a tweet:

On first glance, this sounded like a pretty good offer: The Oakland A’s owners would take the Coliseum and its debt off the public’s hands, and put it into private ownership where it would actually pay property taxes? Where do I sign? (Okay, I don’t sign because I’m not an Oakland or Alameda official, but you get my point.)

Read the fine print in that small-type attachment, though, and it becomes clear that there’s a rather large catch:

This letter serves as an indication of the A’s desire to assume control and purchase the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex in exchange for paying all remaining debt service on the more than $135 million of debt ultimate owed by the City and County against the Coliseum complex.

Wait, the entire complex? Including the Oracle Arena and all the parking-lot land that has been eyed for development in the red-hot East Bay real estate market? (Admittedly the Coliseum isn’t exactly the most desirable location in the East Bay, but anything west of Nevada is considered commuting distance from San Francisco these days, so.) How much land is that exactly, anyway?

Matier and Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle (warning: page may not load properly thanks to the Chronicle’s weird-ass paywall) have the answer: 130 acres, including “the stadium where the A’s have played since 1968, the arena soon to be vacated by the Warriors, the parking lot — everything.”

The average sale price of land in Oakland, according to my new favorite study ever (thanks, correspondent who sent it to me!) was $1,412,000 per acre from 2005 to 2010, which would price the Coliseum site at $183 million — plus any inflation over the past decade. If you want more direct comps, here’s a seventh-of-an-acre vacant lot right across the road from the Coliseum that’s on the market for $150,000, which is about $1 million per acre, pricing the site at about $130 million.

So this looks to be a better offer than the New York Islanders‘ deal with New York state, and the Los Angeles Angels‘ rejected proposal to Anaheim, and probably the Denver Broncos‘ plan for their parking lot land as well. Though I would still want confirmation that the A’s owners would take title to the land and pay full property taxes, and to be sure that $135 million is a fair price for the site.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to figure this out, which is to open the Coliseum site up to competitive bids:

A number of outfits, including Fortress Investment Group — a money management firm in San Francisco that boasts billions in assets — have approached the city and county about purchasing the land and possibly turning it into something besides a ballpark. The A’s fear they could quickly find themselves shut out.

City Council President Larry Reid, who sits on the city-county Coliseum Authority board, called the A’s offer “a pretty big deal. But other players have expressed interest in the property.”

He added, “The mayor, and I assume a majority of the Board of Supervisors, would like to have some control on what happens to that 130-acre site that the Coliseum sits on.”

The A’s owners, though, are trying to avoid this, proposing an “exclusive negotiating agreement” that would preclude taking other bids. Is finally ending the long A’s stadium saga — they’re not promising to build a stadium on the Coliseum site, but it would at worst be a viable Plan B if other sites don’t work out — worth giving up a shot at a possible better payday from another developer? Is estimating the value from other comparable properties good enough for government work? It’s a classic Monty Hall problem, only without Monty Hall there to know which door has the goat, which makes it a whole lot tougher to solve. Good luck, Oakland and Alameda officials!

A’s may prefer Coliseum site if it’s less likely to be underwater in a few decades

Ever since the Oakland A’s owners’ plans for a new stadium at the Laney College/Peralta Community College site were rejected by the college’s governing board, team execs have been saying it’s back to the drawing board, with that site, the Oakland Coliseum site, and Howard Terminal all still in the running. And team president Dave Kaval, who’s spearheading the stadium plans, said it again over the weekend, though he kinda sorta hinted that the Coliseum site might be the least problematic:

Team President Dave Kaval spoke in more positive terms about the Coliseum on Saturday than he has previously, and he said Howard Terminal is still getting a strong look. The team hasn’t totally given up on the Peralta/Laney College site, but with the talks over that location called off in December, the other two possibilities are clearly at the forefront.

“We have the three sites in Oakland we deem as viable,” Kaval said. “Peralta was obviously our preferred site. … We’ve kind of taken stock and we’re really spending a lot of time on the other two sites to determine their feasibility. And that includes: technically, can you build it there, especially on the waterfront?”

Kaval mentioned twice that the Howard Terminal site would have to take into account sea-level rise and transportation concerns.

Congratulations, Oakland A’s, on being the first pro sports team that I’ve noticed acknowledging that building on a waterfront might not be the smartest long-term plan when the waterfront is moving at a historically rapid pace. From what I can tell from this map, the elevation of Howard Terminal is between 3 and 7 feet, and it’s somewhat protected from storm surges by the island of Alameda and the San Francisco Bay itself, so sea-level rise probably isn’t as urgent an issue as it for, say, the Miami waterfront. (Also, the Coliseum itself is only 7 feet above sea level, so hmm.) Still, that Kaval thought to mention elevation with regard to Howard Terminal is at least a hint that the team is taking the Coliseum site seriously, which, as noted many times before here, isn’t a bad idea at all for all concerned.

We’re still a ways away from hearing about funding plans — the A’s owners say they’ll pay to build the stadium, but there’s still lease terms and land prices to be discussed — but as (almost) always, these kinds of conversations start on more reasonable terms when they take place in California. The place is almost like Canada or something!