Friday roundup: Spending on training facilities is a bad idea, Portland seeks MLB team, Jays game postponed after roof hit by falling ice

I can’t believe none of you wrote in to ask why I hadn’t reported on a Toronto Blue Jays game getting postponed due to falling ice puncturing a hole in the stadium roof, but I guess you’re all acclimated to waiting for the Friday roundup now for that sort of thing. But wait no longer! (Well, wait a few bullet points for that one in particular.)

Friday roundup: Marlins claim British residency, video football with real humans, and the White Sox stadium that never was

Busy (minor) news week! And away we go…

  • Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins ownership group, facing a lawsuit by the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County over the team stiffing the public on the share of sale proceeds they were promised, are trying to stave it off by claiming that (deep breath) because one of the owners of an umbrella company of an umbrella company of the umbrella company that owns the Marlins is a business incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, the case should be arbitrated by a federal judge who handles international trade issues. Maybe the Marlins should quit trying to sell tickets to baseball games and sell tickets to the court proceedings instead.
  • 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!
  • The Los Angeles Rams are trying to pull a San Francisco 49ers, according to Deadspin, by making a run at a Super Bowl in the same year they’re selling personal seat licenses for their new stadium. More power to ’em, but prospective Rams PSL buyers, check how that worked out for 49ers fans before you hand over your credit card numbers, okay?
  • The state of Connecticut has cut $100 million for Hartford arena renovations from the state budget, at least for now, so that it can use the money toward a $550 million bailout of the city of Hartford itself. Is that what they call a “no win-win situation“?
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the New York Islanders need to move back to Long Island because Brooklyn’s Barclays Center “wasn’t built for hockey,” which he actually pointed out at the time they moved there, but did anybody listen?
  • Alameda County is moving to sell its share of the Oakland Coliseum complex to the city of Oakland, which should make negotiations over what to do with the site slightly simpler, anyway.
  • 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.

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.

Prospective Expos co-owner vows only to pay for stadium with tax breaks and free land, not suitcases full of public cash

Whoa, this is big news! One of the prospective co-owners of a prospective revived Montreal Expos MLB team just promised to build a new stadium entirely with private dollars! On Twitter and everything!

That is a huge promise by the Cirque de Soleil owner, and should come as a great relief to Montreal baseball fans who are also taxpayers (or vice versa), assuming, of course, that Garber didn’t mean—

Oh. I would say “at least they’re only asking for land costs and tax breaks and not construction costs,” but the New York Yankees did the same thing and ended up with almost $1.2 billion in subsidies, so that’s not really much reassurance. It’ll help that Canada isn’t nearly as stupid about these things as the U.S. — they don’t have tax-exempt bond subsidies that I know of, for one — but basically this comes down to being a promise only to take public money under the table, not over it.


New book on Tiger Stadium includes chapter by meeeeeee

This has literally been years in the making, and the website still (mistakenly) says “not yet published,” but I am here to tell you that it is in fact available for purchase: “Tiger Stadium, Essays and Memories of Detroit’s Historic Ballpark, 1912–2009,” edited by Frank Rashid, John Pastier, Bill Dow, Michael Betzold, and John Davids of the Tiger Stadium Fan Club. And included among the remembrances and historical essays on the home of the Detroit Tigers for 97 years is a chapter by me, titled “The Mallparking of America: Tiger Stadium and the Subsidy Game,” which you can pretty much guess what it’s about.

I haven’t actually received my copy yet, so that’s literally all I can tell you about the book, except that with the talent assembled I’m super-excited to read it. I’ll post a fuller review once I have it in hand, but don’t let that stop you from ordering it right now.

Friday roundup: Warriors rail stop turns pricey, West End stadium undead again, Montreal mayor meets with would-be Expos owners

Superbrief mode today:

  • Expanding light-rail service to the Golden State Warriors‘ new arena is now expected to cost at least $62 million, which is a lot for Muni Metro, though not for some other transit systems. The Warriors owners are kicking in $19 million, but the rest will be funded by tax money from the arena district, which may or may not be enough to cover the entire nut. Tim Redmond saw this coming.
  • F.C. Cincinnati owners are officially pivoting back to the West End stadium site that it had declared dead last month after not getting offered enough property-tax breaks on the land. How come? Team CEO Jeff Berding said of the other two options, Oakley is “not as close to the urban core as desired,” and the team couldn’t secure land in Newport, Kentucky. Sounds like the West End has the club over somewhat of a barrel, which it should be able to use to ensure the team pays full property taxes, at least, though some residents may be more concerned about keeping out a stadium entirely over fears it will further gentrify their neighborhood.
  • The mayor of Montreal is meeting today with an ownership group that wants to bring a new Expos MLB team back to town. “We don’t need a cent from the city of Montreal, but we need a little help,” prospective co-owner Stephen Bronfman said earlier this week; your guess is as good as mine what that actually means.
  • Minnesota taxpayers have spent $1.4 billion on new or renovated sports venues over the past 20 years, if anyone is counting.
  • The Pawtucket Red Sox‘ stadium demands continue to be stalled, if anyone is keeping track.
  • “A deputy in one of Russia’s 2018 FIFA World Cup host cities has claimed that a latest inspection by the world’s footballing body has neglected a missing column at a newly built stadium.” You’ve just got to read the whole Moscow Times article now, don’t you?


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.

Rays owner says if he gets enough naming-rights cash, maybe he’ll only demand $400m in public subsidies

Tampa Bay Rays owner said on opening day Thursday that he might increase his contribution to a new stadium from $150 million to $400 million — sort of. What Sternberg actually said:

Sternberg reiterated that a new stadium likely would cost around $800 million, but added that the price could go up with each passing year. Last November, Sternberg told the Times that the Rays would be willing to chip in $150 million, but said again Thursday that the number was just an “estimation” and a “signpost.” …

“If somebody wants to walk in with $25 million naming rights tomorrow my number of $150 (million) goes up dramatically,” Sternberg said. “So, yeah, I’ll get you to $400 (million). You get me $25 million a year in stadium naming rights and get me to $400, I’ll go halfsies.”

So what Sternberg really said, to the extent he said anything that should be taken as a commitment, is that the $150 million figure didn’t include naming rights money. This is actually a big deal — the difference between $150 million and $150 million plus naming rights proceeds is, duh, the value of the naming rights money — but is not so much a promise to pay $400 million, given that only six stadiums ever (football stadiums in New Jersey, Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston and baseball stadiums in New York and Atlanta), all in bigger markets than Tampa Bay, have cleared the $250 million mark for naming rights. And even then, that’s $250 million in nominal payments over time, not necessarily enough money to pay off $250 million in stadium expenses right now. And while we’re at it, the New York Mets only got $20 million a year, not the $25 million that Sternberg said they did, though it’s a deal for 20 years so is probably worth $250 million total.

Anyway, all this is no doubt meant to help create momentum for a new stadium, what with local business leaders (and Sternberg) launching a nonprofit this weekend to solicit promises of corporate ticket sales and generally drum up public support for a stadium, preferably without mentioning the at least $400 million in public money that would be required. Presumably Sternberg announced all this on Opening Day to capitalize on excitement about the Rays’ season driving his campaign, which, uh, maybe wasn’t the best plan thus far.

Friday roundup: Rangers to keep empty ballpark, football Hall of Fame seeks bailout, Goodell dreams of a new Bills stadium

Happy baseball season! Unless you’re a Miami Marlins fan, in which case it’s already ruined. But anyway:

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.