Friday roundup: Cincy official wants soccer subsidies back, Hartford mayor wants arena spending now, and why billionaires are jealous of other billionaires

Just how far have we fallen in the last few weeks? Far enough that I wrote an article on how New York City is managing to feed at least a few of its millions of suddenly hungry people, and I considered this a positive article. I promise we’ll get back to more analysis of how rich sports people are attempting to steal a few billions in taxpayer money in short order, but right now it’s a little hard to focus on run-of-the-mill horrors when there are so many new ones every day.

But there was some news this week, not all of it pandemic-related! Enjoy, if enjoying is still a thing we do:

  • Cincinnati city councilmember Chris Seelbach says that in light of crashing city budgets in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, he plans to introduce a bill asking F.C. Cincinnati to return 25% of its $33 million public stadium subsidy, the same percentage that city social service agencies are being asked to cut. The bad news: City officials say it would be up to the team to voluntarily accept the funding reduction, so maybe don’t hold your breath on that.
  • Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin says it’s a great time for a $100 million renovation of his city’s XL Center since the arena is just sitting there right now doing nothing but losing money, so it’s a great time for construction! Connecticut is currently facing a projected $1.9 billion loss of tax revenues from the pandemic, in case you were wondering.
  • The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers would each lose more than $300 million in revenues if no fans were allowed to attend games in 2020, according to Forbes’ Mike Ozanian, while other teams like the Miami Marlins would lose only $47 million, since nobody goes to Marlins games anyway. But Ozanian notes tha teams would also cut back on their revenue sharing expenses, and while he doesn’t do the math on this, we can: With revenue sharing running at about 48% of local revenues (actually slightly less since even the Yankees get back a small share of the overall cut), this means those teams’ bottom-line losses will only be about half what Forbes is reporting. In other words, coronavirus will likely be only slightly more of a disaster for the Yankees than signing Jacoby Ellsbury.
  • Delaying the Tokyo Olympics for a year is expected to cost organizers $2.8 billion for things like additional rental costs on private venues and the athletes’ village — which already has private buyers who were expecting to move in in September — and the International Olympic Committee isn’t exactly saying whether it will cover these costs or the Tokyo organizing committee will be stuck with them, though you can certainly guess, based on past IOC behavior. And that’s assuming that the 2020 Olympics can take place in 2021, which is still not a sure thing.
  • And speaking of coronavirus shutdowns possibly lasting into 2021, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has told city agencies that “large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events may not be approved in the city for at least 1 year.” That doesn’t rule out TV-only sports with no fans, and also it’s important to remember that memos like these are just contingency plans, and no one knows what things will look like this fall (or, for that matter, in fall of 2021). Maybe hold off on buying your 2020 NFL season tickets, though, just to be on the safe side.
  • Amazon is reportedly considering bidding for naming rights to Tottenham Hotspur‘s new stadium, which given that naming rights are mostly good for boosting brand recognition and Amazon is already the world’s biggest brand is kind of weird. Though given that the company is now making $11,000 in sales per second what with everyone trapped in their homes, maybe they can afford to blow some money on something stupid.
  • And speaking of Amazon, Bloomberg reports that Jeff Bezos only asked for billions of dollars in subsidies for a new second headquarters because he was jealous of Elon Musk getting billions of dollars from Nevada for a new Tesla plant. Which we pretty much knew was Bezos’s inspiration, but it’s still a worthwhile reminder that corporate barons are just as much driven by envy of the next corporate baron down the block as they are by any rational economic motivations.
  • Here are some photos of the early years of the original Yankee Stadium, which are being reported as a sign of the team’s impact on its surrounding Bronx neighborhood, which is probably wrong since it’s more likely the impact of the new elevated subway line that opened in 1918 (and helped inspired the Yankees to move to the Bronx). Though they do give a sense of how teams used to build stadiums in phases — expand by a few thousand seats, then once those sell out use the proceeds to add a few thousands more — to make them more affordable with private cash, something you usually only see now in European soccer stadiums, which is surely just coincidental to the fact that European soccer stadiums mostly don’t get huge public subsidies.
  • And speaking of European soccer stadiums, here are some photos from what is described as an “insane new video” of Real Madrid‘s proposed $625 million stadium renovation, which leads me to believe that SportsBible, whatever that is, has never seen a truly insane video.  I do like the news, though, that “the capacity of the iconic venue will be reduced by one to 80,242,” which leads me to believe that at least the stadium architects have a sense of humor.
  • Since we haven’t featured any dumb sports news articles yet this week, how about this one from the New York Post that claims the New York Islanders moving to Brooklyn worked out well because it kept the team from moving to Quebec? Asked and answered, people!
  • Superstar Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout has declared MLB’s Arizona biodome proposal to be “pretty crazy” since it would keep players away from their families for months, but the Arizona Republic’s editorial page editor says there are “scientific reasons” for doing it like “MLB players are already guinea pigs” and “there is always risk in life” and anyway baseballllllllllllll! More science to drop soon on this, I sorely hope.

Life after death for Yankees garages?

Those privately run, publicly subsidized New York Yankees parking garages may be headed for bankruptcy by next April, but apparently they’re not totally worthless: Hedge funds are reportedly buying up the garage debt in hopes of seizing the garages once they go into default and turning them around.

“This facility seems meaningfully impaired, but there are some potential fixes,” said Laurence Gottlieb, chief executive officer of Fundamental Advisors LP, a private-equity firm in New York that buys municipal debt. “Costs can be reduced and it could be repositioned for commuter parking.”

That seems pretty optimistic, given that Yankees fans have much cheaper parking options nearby, and that any commuters parking there would face a long subway ride to Midtown once they parked. (The Metro-North commuter rail line would be faster, but if you’re going to ride Metro-North, there are already other park-and-ride options.) Of course, the Bloomberg News article doesn’t say how much the hedge funds are paying for the garage debt — if it’s pennies on the dollar, then suddenly even half-empty garages look a lot more profitable.

Either way, if the current garage owner goes under, city taxpayers presumably lose the $43 million in future rent payments they were supposed to be getting from them. But after $700 million in city subsidies, what’s another $43 million among friends?

Stadium demolition porn alert: “House of Steinbrenner” airs Sept. 21

For those who haven’t gotten enough of images of the demolition of Yankee Stadium, Barbara Kopple’s documentary “The House of Steinbrenner” debuts Tuesday, Sept. 21 on ESPN, and promises previously unseen footage of this spring’s carnage. Writes Richard Sandomir in the New York Times:

Kopple said that she received access from the city to film the stadium’s destruction, which the rest of the news media had to observe from rooftops and the subway platform.

She shot the upper deck being torn down, the seats being removed and Derek Jeter’s locker being taken apart — and the emotion of longtime team employees like Debbie Nicolosi as a beloved stadium died to give life to one that cost more than a billion dollars to build.

According to Sandomir, these are the only parts of the film worth watching. If you like, you know, that sort of thing.

Internets Celebrities debut “Stadium Status”

The fine folks at Internets Celebrities have released their latest video, titled “Stadium Status,” and I can say without hesitation that it’s the finest (and funniest) web video ever made on the subject of stadium scams.

Featured are myself (in the role of talking-head stadium expert) and Killian Jordan (as the angry Bronx resident), plus IC hosts Rafi Kam and Dallas Penn providing an 18-minute tour of the machinations behind the new Yankees and Mets stadiums and Nets arena. Find out why the the New York Times called them a cross between Michael Moore and Dave Chappelle! (Not that Moore has been funny in years. Or Chappelle, for that matter. Hey, wait, was the Times actually dissing them?)

Seriously, it’s a great video, and you couldn’t ask for a better primer on the ill effects of new stadiums on both our cities and sports fandom. At least, not until I finally get permission to upload video of the Shoddy Puppet Company’s shadow puppet play based on Field of Schemes. It’s hard to beat shadow puppets.

Yankee Stadium Gate 2 balconies saved, headed somewhere

Yankee Stadium’s Gate 2 may be rubble, but the campaign to save it did have one lasting effect: The New York City Parks Department has salvaged three vintage balconies and plans to display them somewhere, possibly in the public park that is supposed to open on the old stadium site late next year.

Apparently, Parks has planned on trying to save the balconies (which are not from the stadium’s “1923 opening” as the Daily News claims; the left-field grandstand wasn’t built until 1928) all along, but didn’t announce it, Parks planning official Josh Laird wrote to preservationist Michael Hagan, “because it was unclear if the balconies would survive the [demolition] process and we did not wish to raise false hopes.”

So there will be at least one fragment of the original Yankee Stadium that the public will be able to see and touch. That is, without going to Derek Jeter’s house.

Last of Yankee Stadium seating bowl demolished

The last section of the Yankee Stadium upper deck, the only remaining part of the seating bowl, was demolished on Thursday.

More photos here and here and here.

All that remains now is the exterior wall (and some scraps of interior concourse), including Gate 2, which some preservationists are trying to save as the most intact fragment of the original 1923-era stadium. The Save the Yankee Gate 2 Committee Committee to Commemorate Old Yankee Stadium this week asked the city Landmarks Preservation Commission for an emergency injunction against the destruction of the gate, citing a mayor’s office official who last month testified that the gate was an original 1923 structure. No word yet on any response from the commission. (The group says it’s also offered to pay for removal and preservation of the 1920s terra cotta medallions and balconies that are part of Gate 2; no word on the fate of that proposal, either.)

Gate 2 organizer Michael Hagan, meanwhile, passed along the city’s latest plans for memorializing Yankee Stadium, which include outlining the field dimensions in dark green grass (the original home plate site would be second base in a new public ballfield), keeping the smokestack “bat” and two pieces of the concrete frieze that ran atop the scoreboard in the renovated stadium, and installing “historical moments” embedded in the sidewalk and viewfinders in the park showing “photographic slides.”

It all sounds a lot like this.

More Yankee Stadium demolition porn

More photos of Yankee Stadium demolition, courtesy of FoS reader Cary Goodman, and a video, courtesy of some guy who sent it to CNN. The CNN “iReporter” says that “accoring to officials” the entire upper deck will be demolished in 3 weeks — I’ll see if I can confirm that.

[UPDATE: David Lombino of the NYC Economic Development Corporation confirms to me that the upper deck will be gone in three weeks. This means that all that will be left once fans arrive for Opening Day on April 13 will be a few exterior walls, which for better or for worse should spare them this kind of scene.]