- A plot of private land that Portland baseball backers were eyeing for a stadium has been sold to another developer, but they could still sell or lease it for baseball. Portland is definitely at the forefront of not just handing land to the local sports team for whatever price it wants, though of course it doesn’t hurt that there isn’t an actual local sports team in question right now, just the idle thought of one someday.
- The New York Islanders are requesting a $400,000 rebate on construction sales taxes on their new Belmont arena, which is 1) a super-common tax break to hand on on construction projects and 2) a drop in the bucket compared to the other subsidies they’re looking for, but still it ain’t nothing.
- Tampa Bay Rays chief development officer Melanie Lenz says the team will decide in six to nine months whether an Ybor City stadium will work; I’d think they’d want to know who’s going to pay for it first, but maybe that’s what they need the six to nine months for: bribery. (I typed “lobbying,” right? Pretty sure I did, note to self to go back and check.)
- D.C. United is about to open its new stadium with the help of $183 million in public money, and has belatedly noticed that its TV camera angles will be all screwed up because the sun sets in the west. Who could have known something like that?
- A group of Inglewood residents is suing to block the proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena project, which is not surprising; more surprising is that they attempted to serve Mayor James Butts with lawsuit papers during Tuesday’s city council meeting, causing Butts to abruptly call a halt to the meeting and run away.
- The Cincinnati Reds are asking for $88,000 in state tax breaks on bobbleheads, on the grounds that they’re included in the price of ticket packages and not being sold separately, even though the ticket package costs more specifically because it includes a bobblehead. I shoulda been a tax lawyer.
- The Philadelphia Phillies are asking for $40 million in hotel tax money from Pinellas County for a new spring-training stadium in Clearwater, but the county has run out of hotel tax money because it already spent it on other projects, including the Rays’ Tropicana Field and a spring-training facility for the Toronto Blue Jays, along with a bunch of museums and the like. Opportunity cost!
- A Spectrum News Charlotte headline asks the question: “Does Charlotte need a domed stadium? City leaders are trying to figure it out.” I got an answer for you, Spectrum News Charlotte! (Also, Spectrum News Charlotte, the Atlanta Falcons‘ stadium didn’t really involve a “public investment” of only $200 million. Your friends across town at Fox 8 got it right, you might wanna talk to them.)
Russell Wilson gets in helicopter with wannabe Portland MLB owner, struggling newspaper devotes precious staff time to covering it
I’m not honestly sure exactly what has sparked this sudden flurry of interest in applying for MLB expansion franchises that MLB isn’t even offering yet — I guess MLB commissioner Rob Manfred keeps vaguely talking about how expansion would be nice, but that seems a bit much to be basing entire development plans around — but if you want a summary of where the madness is leading in a nutshell, you could do worse than this photo caption from the Oregonian:
Russell Wilson and Ciara take a selfie Saturday after holding a news conference in Northwest Portland to discuss their investments into the Portland Diamond Project’s effort to land a Major League Baseball team.
Yes, this is where journalism is right now: The quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks and the singer of “Goodies” took a helicopter tour of potential stadium sites with potential MLB owner Craig Cheek, were “whisked in a Mercedes SUV to Saturday’s news conference” (per the Oregonian), then posed for some photos in front of an “MLB PDX” backdrop. And then some poor college football writer who is one of the few people left in the newsroom had to write the whole thing up for the Oregonian, probably with occasional breaks to check Indeed.com for alternative career opportunities.
If you were hoping for any word on what an actual Portland baseball plan would look like, or what MLB would demand for an expansion franchise (either in terms of a franchise fee or stadium amenities or whatever), or really any details at all, needless to say this was not the article for you. Art Thiel at SportspressNW made a slightly better attempt, but even he was forced to rely on speculation and a few hints dropped by Manfred over the years, because really there is no solid information at this point at all. When a news vacuum exists, it will apparently now be filled with selfies, which is as good an epitaph for our age as any.
Friday roundup: Panthers’ record sale price goosed by public money, Beckham stadium delayed yet again, Rams stadium really will cost $4B-plus
Google looks to have broken all of its RSS feeds, so if I missed anything important this week, drop me an email and I’ll play catchup next week:
- The Atlanta Hawks are now offering a “virtual tour” of the suites at their new arena, which team CEO Steve Koonin describes thusly: “It’s going to be a social place unlike anywhere else in the NBA. All of our research told us that people don’t want to sit down in a chair eating a hot dog out of aluminum foil and watch a game. They want a great night out. … Think Vegas pool meets sporting event.” Add another data point to the growing evidence that sports teams don’t want their fans to come to watch the game anymore, probably because they know that half the time your team’s games aren’t worth watching.
- Syracuse University is going to spend $118 million to, among other things, replace its stadium’s air-supported fabric roof with a non-air-supported fabric roof, as well as adding “the Wi-Fi.” Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack, according to Syracuse.com, noted that “there has been no money from the state or county promised at this point but indicated the school will continue to explore its options.” At least Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner managed to head off building a new stadium for the private university with public dollars, but still, watch your wallets, New York taxpayers.
- A part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers is buying the Carolina Panthers for an NFL record $2.2 billion, and the city of Charlotte has set aside $75 million in public money for stadium renovations for the new rich guy in town, on top of the $87.5 million the city gave the team for renovations five years ago. This undoubtedly helps make the Panthers worth $2.2 billion, which raises the question of whether Charlotte city subsidies are just helping to enrich a serial workplace sexual harasser.
- David Beckham’s Miami soccer stadium proposal has missed its window for an August public referendum vote and now will have to wait for November at the earliest, because of course it has.
- The $5 billion price tag for the Los Angeles Rams stadium development project has a bit more of a breakdown now, with Sports Business Journal reporting that the stadium and an accompanying 6,000-seat amphitheater alone will cost $4.25 billion to build. I still don’t get how Stan Kroenke expects to turn a profit, but at least it’s his money he’s throwing at this thing.
- If you live in Portland, Oregon and want to be part of a focus group about a potential new MLB stadium there, sign up here.
Friday roundup: Graceland seeks arena money, Marlins and Cards seek spring-training stadium money, guy in Raleigh seeks MLS stadium money
- 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.
- Preliminary designs for an MLB stadium in Portland look like a cross between a modernized Stade Olympique and the Jupiter 2. But there’s no reason to take these seriously as what an eventual stadium would actually look like if one is ever built, so, you know, don’t.
- 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.
- North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik say that if Raleigh spends $13 million a year to build a downtown soccer stadium, it will get an MLS expansion franchise. He also said that the public will be almost entirely repaid by new tax receipts from the stadium. It is left as an exercise for the reader as to which statement is less believable.
- The Connecticut state assembly has declined to approve $100 million in renovations to Hartford’s XL Center, seeing as the place is currently up for sale. That makes sense, but it’s slightly worrisome to think that the assembly might approve $100 million in renovations after the arena is sold, unless the sale price is more than $100 million.
The investors seeking an MLB franchise for Portland, Oregon say they won’t seek additional public subsidies beyond a $150 million kickback of team income taxes that was already approved, and now they’ve offered to pay market value, kind of, for a school headquarters building that they want to make the site of a new stadium:
The Multnomah County assessor’s office estimates the school district headquarters has a market value of $105 million…
Trammell Crow, acting on behalf of the baseball group, said it would pay the school district at least $80 million — and even more if an appraisal finds its market value to be higher than $80 million.
That’s not bad! Though the school district may not want to sell even at that price, since right now its headquarters is centrally located, and the baseball group is offering to move it to a site way on the eastern edge of the city.
At least this rules out (for now) a major land subsidy as has become common among team owners promising “no public funds for construction.” The bigger question remains that $150 million state kickback of income taxes paid by team employees, which 1) was only projected to raise about half that much money when it was first proposed 15 years ago, though average MLB salaries have almost doubled since then; and 2) wouldn’t actually be all new money, as some of it would be drawn from income earned on spending that would otherwise go to other local entertainment options in the absence of a baseball team. (Some of it would be drawn from income on things like national TV rights, which would indeed be gravy.)
Still, that’s not a terrible deal for the public, all things considered. Assuming all things are being considered, anyway — Portland Diamond Project hasn’t revealed how much it would spend on a stadium, how it would pay for it, where it would get a team, or even who its owners are, though it’s been revealed that former Nike VP Craig Cheek is one of them. Score this one for now as “reply hazy, ask again later.”
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.)
- The city of Richmond built an $11 million training facility for the Washington NFL team in 2012, and is paying the team $500,000 a year to hold three weeks a year of practices in it, costs it had to dip into its school construction budget to pay off. So now the city wants to renegotiate the deal so that it’s no longer a money suck, or else it will kick the team out once its lease expires in 2020. No response from the team yet, but this is a pretty good cautionary tale about why one should never spend lots of money on practice facilities and expect an economic windfall.
- Some Portland, Oregon businesspeople who want to bring major-league baseball to that city say they’ve put in bids for two potential stadium sites, which doesn’t actually promise anything — they can use the land for something else if an MLB bid doesn’t go anywhere — but is more than nothing, I suppose. There’s still legislation passed in 2003 authorizing $150 million in bonds for a new stadium, to be repaid by state income taxes on players — which wouldn’t have penciled out 15 years ago, but might now, though it still has the problem that much of that tax money would be diverted from income that would be earned by people working in other entertainment jobs in the absence of a team — but how the rest of the money would be raised, or what team exactly would play in Portland, remains a mystery.
- A chunk of ice fell off the CN Tower and smashed a three-by-five-foot hole in the closed Rogers Centre roof on Monday, frightening players in the adjoining hotel, causing that night’s Toronto Blue Jays game to be postponed, and causing minor damage to a roof membrane. Here’s some video of ice falling off the tower, though sadly you don’t actually see it hit the roof.
- A private equity firm wants to buy Hartford’s arena for $50 million and do up to $250 million worth of renovations on it … and then the state would have to pay 7.5% a year in “rent” on the renovation costs? This sounds less like a purchase offer than a loan-sharking plan, right?
- People in Boise are really steamed about plans for a new $40 million minor-league baseball stadium that would be funded partly by public money. The word “carpetbagger” was used; parental discretion is advised.
- Puerto Rico suffered another island-wide blackout this week, but the Minnesota Twins–Cleveland Indians baseball game in San Juan went off without a hitch, thanks to months of work by MLB and lots and lots of portable generators. I’m sure residents who weren’t able to cook or shower or charge their phones for months on end were cheered that the ballgame went on.
- The new Los Angeles F.C. stadium features a section of seats that are locked closed during games, with rails for diehard supporters to lean against instead, and a 34-degree rake to make fans look more intimidating to opposing players. Opening day isn’t until April 29, so no visual evidence until then.
- MLS officials have met with prospective owners in Columbus who want to keep the Crew in town, while also conducting “a review of potential local stadium sites for the team.” The Crew’s current stadium is 19 years old. This is your dystopian future.
- The New England Revolution are threatening to move their practice facility out of Foxborough, Massachusetts unless they get new practice fields built. See Richmond item above for how that’s likely to work out.
- Reminder: Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t own the Brooklyn Nets arena, he just owns operating rights to it, because property taxes, ew.
Okay, let’s do this thing:
- WTSP reporter Noah Pransky keeps trying to ask Hillsborough County commissioner Ken Hagan about how he plans to pay for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium, and Hagan keeps walking away, and the video of this is fricking hilarious.
- An Atlanta attorney has filed suit against Fulton County, claiming that the Atlanta Falcons are ducking $13 million in property tax payments a year by having the state own their new stadium in name only while the team collects all revenues from it. Which, absolutely that’s what’s going on, but since that’s how pretty much every other pro sports team does it as well, good luck getting a court to rule that it’s illegal.
- Baseball America’s Tracy Ringolsby, who in recent years has made a specialty of griping that MLB teams should just move if fans won’t come out to see them in sufficient numbers, is reporting that baseball could soon expand to Montreal and Portland, according to … “a building consensus.” A consensus of whom? That’s for Ringolsby to know and you to find out.
- The Golden State Warriors are trying to skip out on $40 million in debt still owed on their Oakland arena, on the grounds that their lease only requires the team’s owners to repay it if they break their lease, not if they let it expire in 2019. “This predicament is entirely of the OACCA’s own making, as it bargained for a 20-year term in the license agreement while issuing 30-year bonds,” wrote the team’s attorney. I really need to quit this whole blogging thing and hire myself out as a stadium lease beta tester, don’t I?
- California has approved covering up to $270 million in cost overruns from the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, if the city runs through its own $270 million first. Not that there will necessarily be this much in cost overruns, mind you, but that’s now $540 million that California taxpayers could be on the hook for; the idea that maybe L.A. should have said to the IOC, “Hey, you have no other options, we’ll happily host the games but no dice on that cost-overrun guarantee” is sounding better and better.
- Speaking of taxpayers, Splinter has an article on how we should all stop saying “taxpayer money” and say “public money” instead, since otherwise it implies that only rich people should have a say in how public money is spent, since they pay the most in taxes. I get their point, but given that we’re largely talking about state and local taxes here, and poor and middle-income people actually pay a way higher percentage of their income in those taxes than the rich, I’m going to keep using both terms, thanks.
- And since we’re on the topic of taxpayer money in general, I wrote an article for the Village Voice yesterday on how Amazon is trying to shake down cities and states for massive subsidies in order to be selected to host the company’s new second headquarters, and looks to be succeeding. Much like with the Olympics, everyone in the 100 or so cities vying for the prize should probably be hoping real hard right now that they lose, because the price of winning could just bankrupt you.
If you liked San Jose’s claim that it was trying to lure the Oakland A’s to play temporarily in a 4,200-seat minor-league stadium, you’ll just love this:
[Lynn] Lashbrook, president of Sports Management Worldwide, visited Hillsboro Ballpark and met with the architects who drew up plans for the Class A Hops’ 4,500-seat stadium, which made its debut last June.
The mission was to determine if enough temporary seating could be added to increase the capacity so the stadium could serve as an interim facility for the Oakland A’s, if they would choose to move, while a permanent stadium in Portland is built…
“I think we can get it to a capacity of between 15,000 and 20,000,” Smith says.
I’m trying to picture how this would play out in A’s owner Lew Wolff’s head: Let’s see, I’d be moving from being second fiddle in one of the biggest metro areas in the U.S. to a market that has doesn’t even have a triple-A team — sorry, wait, to a suburb of that market, in a stadium that would hold maybe half the capacity that an MLB franchise requires, if someone can find the money to build the temporary expansion. And then I could either hope that someone builds a full-size stadium in downtown Portland — something Lashbrook has been talking about for a decade but getting nowhere — or start all over again somewhere else. Where do I sign?!?
The only way this really makes sense — okay, there’s no way it makes sense, but the only way it’s even conceivable if you squint really hard and check your disbelief at the door — is if Wolff finds himself backed to the wall by intransigent lease demands by Oakland on the Coliseum, and then doesn’t want to try to rent from the Giants because they’re in the middle of a territorial rights battle with them and doesn’t want to move to the A’s already-14,000-seat-capacity triple-A stadium in Sacramento because, um, he’s afraid of floods, maybe?
My favorite part of this entire Portland Tribune article, meanwhile, is that the single-A Hillsboro Hops would continue to play at their stadium at the same time as the A’s, because what minor-league baseball team doesn’t love having to compete for fans with a major-league team in their same stadium? After all, that’s happened before … I’m pretty sure never, but there’s a first time for everything.
By my count, it’s been eight years since anybody seriously talked about Portland, Oregon, getting a major-league baseball team, and even then the only one serious about it was Florida Marlins president David Samson, who was just polishing his future Survivor bio. (The mayor at the time said of his citizens’ disdain for pro baseball: “That’s my very strong sense.”) Since then, Portland has renovated its only baseball stadium for the MLS Timbers, forcing its only minor-league baseball team to relocate; but, hey, if not even having a minor-league team isn’t stopping people in Montréal from trying to get an MLB team, why should it stop Portland, so away we go:
Portland’s backers of baseball have the blueprint for a state-of-the-art baseball-only stadium, which would have a retractable roof and seat 35,000. They have community support, including that of the current city administration. A site, endorsed by mayor Charlie Hales, has been chosen, next to Memorial Coliseum and the new Rose Garden, home of the NBA’s Trailblazers.
“We have the land and the infrastructure,” said architect Barry Smith.
The supporters believe they can find an ownership group, possibly a major Japanese firm, along the lines of Nintendo, which owns the Seattle Mariners.
All the folks in Portland need is a team.
Let’s see, a site, an architect, the mayor’s endorsement, a team, what else could they possibly need? Oh, right, money. Which was kind of a problem last time.
The MLB.com article reporting on all this (by Tracy Ringolsby, who used to work for actual newspapers, as did we all) is very hazy on who baseball’s “backers” in Portland actually are, but it looks like it’s mostly Smith, who’s designed several small buildings in the city, and Lynn Lashbrook, an NFL agent and sports management trainer. But they’ve managed to get people in Oakland starting to worry about the A’s leaving the Bay Area, which is half the battle. If you’re the owner of the A’s, that is.