Friday news: Phoenix funds Brewers but not Suns, brewers float crowdfunding Crew, and more!

So, so much news this week. Or news items, anyway. How much of this is “news” is a matter of opinion, but okay, okay, I’ll get right to it:

  • Four of Phoenix’s nine city council members are opposed to the Suns‘ request for $250 million in city money for arena renovations, which helps explain why the council cut off talks with the team earlier this week. Four other councilmembers haven’t stated their position, and the ninth is Mayor Greg Stanton, who strongly supports the deal, meaning any chance Suns owner Robert Sarver has of getting his taxpayer windfall really is going to come down to when exactly Stanton quits to run for Congress.
  • Speaking of Phoenix, the Milwaukee Brewers will remain there for spring training for another 25 years under a deal where the city will pay $2 million a year for the next five years for renovations plus $1.4 million a year in operating costs over 25 years, let’s see, that comes to something like $35 million in present value? “This is a great model of how a professional sports team can work together with the city to extend their stay potentially permanently, which is amazing, and we’re doing it in a way where taxpayers are being protected,” said Daniel Valenzuela, one of the councilmembers opposed to the Suns deal, who clearly has a flexible notion of “great” and “protected.”
  • And also speaking of Phoenix (sort of), the Arizona Coyotes are under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board for allegedly having “spied on staff, engaged in union busting and fired two employees who raised concerns about pay.” None of which has anything directly to do with arenas, except that 1) this won’t make it any easier for the Coyotes owners to negotiate a place to play starting next season, when their Glendale lease runs out, and 2) #LOLCoyotes.
  • A U.S. representative from Texas is trying to get Congress to grandfather in the Texas Rangers‘ new stadium from any ban on use of tax-exempt bonds in the tax bill, saying it would otherwise cost the city of Arlington $200 million more in interest payments since the bonds haven’t been sold yet. (Reason #372 why cities really should provide fixed contributions to stadium projects, not “Hey, we’ll sell the bonds, and you pay for whatever share you feel like and we’ll cover the rest no matter how crappy the loan deal ends up being.”) Also, the NFL has come out against the whole ban on tax-exempt bonds because duh — okay, fine, they say because “You can look around the country and see the economic development that’s generated from some of these stadiums” — while other sports leagues aren’t saying anything in public, though I’m sure their lobbyists are saying a ton in private.
  • A Hamilton County commissioner said he’s being pressured to fund a stadium for F.C. Cincinnati because Cincinnati will need a sports team if the Bengals leave when their lease ends in 2026 and now newspapers are running articles about whether the Bengals are moving out of Cincinnati and saying they might do so because of “market size” even though market size really doesn’t matter to NFL franchise revenues because of national TV contracts and oh god, please make it stop.
  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says the proposed Oakland A’s stadium site has pros and cons. Noted!
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the Calgary Flames‘ arena “needs to be replaced” and the team can’t be “viable for the long term” without a new one. Not true according to the numbers that the team is clearing about $20 million in profits a year, but noted anyway!
  • Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is set to announce his proposal for city subsidies for F.C. Cincinnati today, but won’t provide details. (Psst: He’s already said he’ll put up about $35 million via tax increment financing kickbacks.)
  • The Seattle Council’s Committee on Civic Arenas unanimously approved Oak View Group’s plan to renovate KeyArena yesterday, so it looks likely that this thing is going to happen soon. Though apparently the House tax bill would eliminate the Historic Preservation Tax Credit, which the project was counting on for maybe $60 million of its costs, man, I really need to read through that entire tax bill to see what else is hidden in it, don’t I?
  • The owners of the Rochester Rhinos USL club say they need $1.3 million by the end of the month to keep from folding, and want some of that to come from county hotel tax money. Given that the state of New York already paid $20 million to build their stadium, and the city of Rochester has spent $1.6 million on operating expenses over the last two seasons to help out the team, that seems a bit on the overreaching side, though maybe they’re just trying to fill all their spaces in local-government bingo.
  • There’s a crowdfunding campaign to buy the Columbus Crew and keep them from moving to Austin. You can’t kick in just yet, but you can buy beer from the beer company that is proposing to buy the team and then sell half of it to fans, and no, this whole thing is in no way an attempt to get free publicity on the part of the beer company, why do you ask?

Arlington councilmembers upset that Rangers stadium design is too rectangular

Looks like we’re not the only ones complaining about the wacky renderings of the Texas Rangers‘ planned new publicly subsidized stadium, as some members of the Arlington City Council griped about them at their meeting last night. Specifically:

  • Councilmember Robert Shepard: “When I saw the slide of Lucas Oil Stadium [in Indianapolis], I thought, ‘Oh, no, that looks like a field house.”
  • Councilmember Charlie Parker: “This looks very much like our library that we’re building. There’s a lot of glass. It looks like you hit a home run with your design on the inside, but on the outside it seems that it is wanting for some other details.”
  • Councilmember Victoria Farrar-Myers: “It looks like a field house. If that’s what we’re going for, then perhaps we’ve hit it. I’ve just seen some of the other ballparks, and quite frankly, this looks like a cold place to me.”

I’m honestly not quite sure what they’re complaining about here — field houses are cold-looking compared to baseball stadiums? — and also don’t really think anyone cares much about what stadiums look like from the outside so much as what they look like when you’re inside watching a game. (Quick, what does the outside of Fenway Park look like?) Maybe by “shed” they just mean that it’s squared-off, but that’s going to be the case for just about any stadium with a retractable roof, and a retractable roof that allows for air-conditioning is the whole reason the Rangers are building this stadium, so what did they expect?

The Rangers also released a fan survey about the ballpark experience yesterday, and the Dallas Morning News noted that in included the finding that “the No.1 thing fans said they liked about Globe Life Park was the in-game entertainment. The game itself finished second.” Which either means that modern sports fans would rather watch Kiss Cams than the game on the field, or that they’d rather watch Kiss Cams than the Rangers finish 4th, which is maybe a more reasonable proposition.

Latest Texas Rangers’ stadium renderings don’t like geometry any more than last batch

The Texas Rangers released their latest round of vaportecture renderings yesterday, and their new taxpayer-funded building will apparently feature a retractable roof and oh so many power chords. I can’t figure out how to embed the video that the Rangers put together, but please click here to enjoy it on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s site. Then once you’re done with that, let’s spend some quality time with this particular rendering:

Several things about this:

  • Yup, it still looks an awful lot like the Houston Astros‘ stadium.
  • Whoever drew it either thinks stadiums are best viewed through a fish-eye lens or has some funny ideas about stadium geometry. Or maybe thinks the Rangers actually play pesäpallo?
  • For an image supposedly meant to illustrate how close fans will get to the game, “specifically in the upper deck,” this actually shows anything but: The players are tiny flyspecks from this vantage point, which if you look carefully is actually the middle deck — there are two more decks even farther from the action, which are both set back immensely far horizontally from the field and also cast up into the rafters by a big glass wall of luxury suites or restaurants or car dealerships or something.
  • The three levels of seating in left field unreachable by any human means have now been reduced to only one level suspended in midair. Improvement, I guess?
  • Somebody has just gotten their 3000th hit as a member of the Rangers, it looks like. Adrian Beltre already cleared that milestone, so it looks like next in line on the team roster is … Shin-Soo Choo, who is a mere 1656 hits away and on pace to reach 3000 at age 50, in 2033. No wonder beefy-arm dude is so excited!

I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on HKS architects’ illustrators, though. After all, it’s notoriously hard to draw air-conditioning.

Rangers release first unintentionally hilarious renderings of new $1B stadium design

The Texas Rangers have selected HKS, designers of the Dallas Cowboys‘ stadium, to design their new stadium set to open in 2020, which means we now have initial images of what a replacement ballpark for a 23-year-old stadium marked for death because it doesn’t have air-conditioning looks like. Take it away, HKS renderings department:

newrangers1-hks newrangers3-hks newrangers2-hks

Initial gripes from Rangers fans are that it looks a hell of a lot like the Houston Astros‘ stadium that opened just six years after the one that the Rangers are tearing down. Which it does, but hey, there are only so many ways you can design a stadium with a sliding retractable roof (the right-field seats are reminiscent of the Miami Marlins‘ new stadium, too), and they didn’t have much time to work up these preliminary drawings. More fun is to play “What’s wrong with this picture?” with them, because there sure is a lot:

  • Those three levels of seats suspended in the left-field archways are remarkable not just for seemingly having no structural support at all, but no way for fans to actually get to their seats. Maybe state-of-the-art stadiums will now include transporter technology?
  • There appear to be enormous bullpen areas in both left and right fields, which would seem to be overkill unless the Rangers want the ability to have four teams warming up at the same time.
  • That’s an awfully weird defensive shift that the road team is playing, what with the center fielder playing super-shallow and the left fielder extremely deep. Though maybe they’re just making up for the fact that the first baseman has apparently left to use the restroom.
  • The woman with the sleeveless shirt and purse in the outdoor promenade is awfully blasé for having just walked right through the guy checking his phone.
  • Judging from the number 10 and the five-letter name, that kid on the promenade (who photobombed two separate renderings, what the heck?) appears to be wearing a Michael Young jersey. If that’s the case in 2020, the Rangers are going to be in big trouble, such that they’re not going to be selling out the stands with people mysteriously raising their fists skyward when everyone around them is sitting still.
  • The couple in the final image are wearing their “Texas” and “Rangers” shirts backwards, no doubt in protest of the team not having any players worth celebrating since Michael Young.
  • All of these people are shown enjoying a baseball game outside in the open air in the daytime, when it’s been firmly established that nobody will go to baseball games in Texas without air-conditioning, how could you even think of such a thing?

I am 100% sure that the final stadium design will end up looking very little like this, so there’s time for HKS to fix their errors. In the meantime, though, if their renderings department wants to hire a fact-checker, I can recommend some people.

Man who should know better says $500m Rangers subsidy made sense because “things happening” is good

And here’s your epitaph for the Texas Rangers owners’ successful stadium campaign:

[UTA political science professor Allan Saxe] said he believes another factor that influenced voters was last month’s groundbreaking for the $250 million Texas Live! entertainment complex, being built next to Globe Life Park and the new stadium site.

“When people can see things happening, I think they’re willing to go along with other projects,” he added. “I know it impacted me.”

Read that again: A political science professor says he was swayed to vote for a half-billion-dollar subsidy to help two rich guys tear down their 22-year-old stadium so they could have one with air-conditioning because of an entertainment project next door that was already going to be built regardless.

I can see we’re going to be here awhile.

Rangers owners get $500m to tear down 22-year-old stadium for lacking a/c, oh democracy

So in those other election results:

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the [San Diego] Chargers received only 43 percent approval on Measure C, the team’s $1.8 billion downtown stadium and convention center annex that proposed raising hotel taxes from 12.5 percent to 16.5 percent to secure $1.15 billion in bonds to help pay for the project.

We already pretty much knew that was going to happen: That the Chargers stadium plan fell so far short was a slight surprise, but it never had any hope of getting close to the required two-thirds majority, and even 50% was probably out of reach. So anyway, what about the other stadium vote, the one whose outcome was still in doubt?

On Tuesday, voters in Arlington, Texas, approved a measure to contribute up to $500 million toward the cost of a new ballpark for the Texas Rangers. … The ballot measure passed by a margin of 60 percent yes to 40 percent no.

That’s also to be expected, once you take into account that the pro side (i.e., mostly the Texas Rangers owners) was outspending the anti side (a handful of volunteer activists) by more than 200-to-1, and anything over a 100-to-1 margin usually guarantees a victory. Still, as of just a few days ago it looked like a toss-up, and … nah, nobody wins against that kind of spending firepower, especially not in Texas.

So Chargers owner Dean Spanos will now be deciding whether to accept a lease from Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke to be tenants in Inglewood, or whether to try to fight an uphill battle to somehow get stadium subsidies in San Diego. (Or to stay in San Diego without subsidies HA HA HA HA just kidding.) And Texas Rangers owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson will be getting a half-billion-dollar check from Arlington taxpayers so they can tear down a 22-year-old stadium because it doesn’t have air-conditioning. The American experiment is going great.

Rangers owners hope new $1B stadium will solve attendance problem that doesn’t actually exist

This article by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Mac Engel is just weird:

For the record, I am a big fan of the Rangers remaining in Arlington but a staunch opponent of public financing for places of business that are open less than one-third of the year, especially when a perfectly good space is in fine working order…

It’s your money and if you are OK with that, then bring on what must be the last time for the next 100 years that the Texas Rangers ask the city of Arlington for another thing.

If a new stadium does not fix the problem, nothing will.

The “problem” here, Engel seems to be saying, is that not enough people are going to Rangers games, ostensibly because they’re not air-conditioned, a condition that a new $1 billion stadium would remedy. Engel cites a team estimate that they “lose hundreds of thousands of potential fans every season because of our heat,” something he deems “certainly plausible.”

Is it? Let’s check the records:

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-10-24-amThat all looks pretty good, except following years in which the Rangers were crappy on the field, which is as to be expected. (There’s invariably a one-year lag between win-loss record and attendance, as most tickets are sold early in the season before anyone knows whether the team will be good this year or not.) The Rangers drew 3,460,380 fans in 2012, a club record, coming off their two straight World Series appearances — a full season sellout would only have been 3,525,201, so the only way a lack of a/c could have cost the team “hundreds of thousands of fans” that year was if they’d been planning on seating them in each other’s laps.

In any event, only averaging between 2.5 million and 3 million fans a year is a “problem” that most other teams would be thrilled to have — the Rangers were 10th out of 30 teams in attendance last year, and are likely set for another ticket-sales jump following their 95-win season and first-place finish. Is it hot in Texas? It’s hot in Texas! Is the prospect of getting fans out of the heat likely to make it worth spending $1 billion to tear down a 22-year-old stadium and build a new one? Almost certainly not, which is why the Rangers owners are hoping to have the city of Arlington pay for more than half the cost. The only problem they’re looking to fix here isn’t about attendance figures or temperature numbers — it’s about having gone two decades without getting a city check with nine figures on it.

Chargers stadium measure falls even farther behind, Rangers vote too close to call

Tuesday is election day, when voters go to the polls to decide on funding new stadiums for the Texas Rangers and San Diego Chargers, and also some other stuff. But anyway, how are those stadium votes looking?

  • In Arlington, according to the we’re-not-editorializing-at-all Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “Despite warnings from city officials that the Texas Rangers could leave town unless the team’s owners get help to build a new ballpark, Arlington voters are evenly split on spending taxpayer dollars to subsidize construction of a $1 billion, retractable-roof stadium, according to an exclusive WFAA/Star-Telegram poll.” The current tally is 42-42%, with 16% undecided, which is pretty remarkable in a race where the pro-stadium side has outspent opponents by 200-to-1. ($1.47 million to $7,192, to be precise.) There’s still a good chance that all that campaign money will be a decisive factor with undecided voters over the next few days; nonetheless, it’s becoming clear that that whole “we need a new stadium because the old one doesn’t have air-conditioning” argument isn’t as convincing as the Rangers owners might have hoped.
  • In San Diego, where the ballot initiative to spend $1.15 billion on a new Chargers stadium plus convention center expansion already had no hope of getting the two-thirds majority necessary for passage, it now looks unlikely even to come close to a simple majority: “A Union-Tribune/10News poll released Thursday shows that Measure C is trailing 55 percent to 45 percent among actual voters and likely voters who are certain how they will vote, down from a 52 percent to 48 percent margin against the measure in mid-October.” And the Chargers owners, reports the U-T, have already spent “millions of dollars” on TV and radio ads, to no avail.

What does all this mean? That’s it hard to get voters to willingly give over hundreds of millions of public dollars to a private sports team owner. This isn’t really new — it’s been hard for decades, which is why owners like those of the Minnesota Twins and Miami Marlins had to spend 10 years or more trying again and again before winning subsidies — and is why most team owners usually like to deal directly with elected officials where possible, because you can win them over by horse-trading with only a handful of people.

Still, if both the Rangers and Chargers votes go down to defeat, I’m pretty sure this will be the first time that sports team owners were shut out by voters on subsidy demands in a single November. Yet another reason to stay up late on Tuesday to see how this all turns out.

Arlington evenly split on $500m Rangers stadium subsidy, Trump meltdown could sway vote

There’s a new poll out on the Texas Rangers‘ stadium subsidy vote in Arlington, and it implies that the vote could be defeated by, of all things, Donald Trump.

Bear with me here: The polling is evenly split, with 42% of Arlington voters saying they support the plan, an equal number saying they oppose it, and 16% not sure. But there’s a significant demographic skew to the results: Democrats oppose the plan 50-31%, people of color 52-32%, women 41-36%, and young voters 48-39%. Aside from young voters, who are more likely to stay home on election day because they’re disgusted by the available options, those are exactly the voters who are more likely to show up to the polls on November 8, since they won’t be at home trying to ignore the fact that their preferred party’s nominee is this guy.

Also interestingly, the WFAA poll finds that voters overwhelmingly don’t think that the Rangers need a new stadium (57-36%) and also largely don’t believe that the Rangers would move to Dallas if Arlington didn’t build them one (51-33%). So at least 10-15% of Arlington voters think that the Rangers don’t need a new stadium and don’t have leverage to demand one, but that Arlington taxpayers should give them half a billion dollars anyway because … maybe like their mayor, they can’t think of anything else to spend it on? The poll didn’t ask, so your guess is as good as mine.

Meanwhile, WFAA has another report out on hidden public costs of a Rangers stadium, and just like their last report, it’s well-researched but inflates its numbers way more than is really warranted:

The actual cost and lost revenues to the city of Arlington may be closer to $1.675 billion over 30 years — at least three times more than the $500 million price tag that city officials have told citizens.

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll have no doubt already noted one problem with the sentence quoted above: “$1.675 billion over 30 years” isn’t actually three times more than $500 million right now, any more than making $1.675 million in mortgage payments over the course of three decades would be three times as expensive as paying $500,000 for a house right now. (Money in the future costs less because you can invest present money now and earn interest on it to make future payments.) To compare apples to apples, economists will use present value, which depending on how you calculate interest rates would come to around $700-800 million in actual costs today.

Why is that more than the $500 million the Rangers owners are claiming this will cost taxpayers? In part because WFAA is including an anticipated $10 million a year in naming-rights fees that the team owners would keep (about $150 million in present value) and $2.5 million a year in personal seat license sales (about $37.5 million in present value). It’s legit to look at naming rights, at least, as money that Arlington is giving away to the team despite owning the stadium — PSLs are more dicey, since they’re really a function of ticket sales, which are part of the team’s usual revenue stream — but it’s more fairly looked at as an unequal share of revenues from the new stadium, not an additional cost.

For now, I’ll still stick with “more than $500 million” as the taxpayers cost, which has the advantage of being unassailably true which still being one of the largest MLB subsidy requests in history, all to replace a 22-year-old stadium because it doesn’t have air-conditioning. Which is no doubt why this vote is looking to be much closer than past stadium subsidy measures in Arlington, regardless of how much Trump continues to implode between now and election day.

Rangers owners outspending stadium opponents 264-to-1, with $500m at stake it’s chicken feed

The Dallas Morning News reports that proponents of a $500-million-plus subsidy for a new Texas Rangers stadium so they can have air-conditioning have raised 264 times as much money as opponents, largely by cashing checks from the Rangers owners:

Vote Yes! Keep the Rangers raised $617,707 and spent $564,479 in this latest campaign reporting period.  Of that amount, the Rangers donated $550,000, accounting for 89 percent of the campaign’s income in this latest reporting period. That was slightly more than the team paid this year for either closer Sam Dyson and second baseman and playoff scapegoat Rougned Odor. …

Stadium opponents Citizens for a Better Arlington reported $7,687.50 in donations and spent $2,264.04, according to the new campaign filing.

This is important not for what it says about levels of support for either side — it’s a lot easier to raise money when you can get $550,000 with one phone call — but because past experience has led to a rough rule that stadium referendums only pass when proponents outspend opponents by 100-to-1 or more. This doesn’t guarantee that Rangers owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson will be able to buy themselves an election — and generate a 1,000% return on their campaign spending in the process — but they’ve certainly given themselves a nice head start.