Now that D.C. United is getting a new stadium thanks to the generosity of the D.C. council, the list of teams without soccer-only stadiums is down to the New England Revolution, the new NYC F.C, the Vancouver Whitecaps, and the Seattle Sounders. NYC F.C.’s owners are actively looking for a new home, and the Revolution’s are at least thinking about it, but the Sounders owners have been happy to have their MLS squad sharing digs with the Seahawks — and why wouldn’t they, since they’re drawing more than 40,000 fans per game, far and away tops in the league. Why, there’s no possible reason why the Sounders would need a new stadium —
The Seattle Sounders are not happy with the state of the CenturyLink Field turf and are growing frustrated with what seems to be an increasing sense that they are secondary tenants at the facility they share with the Seattle Seahawks.
How frustrated? ESPN’s Taylor Twellman seems to think it’s to the point that a new home is something the Sounders are at least considering.
“Secretly I think Adrian Hanauer needs [Real Salt Lake GM] Garth Lagerwey because I think Adrian Hanauer is going to look for a stadium,” Twellman told ESPN700 when talking to the Salt Lake City radio station about the news he broke on Monday. “I know that’s a long shot and people may find that surprising but I think Adrian Hanauer wants Seattle to have their own stadium and I wouldn’t be shocked if that’s where his focus and energy then turns.”
I’d point out that it would be a lot cheaper to replace the turf every year than to build a whole new stadium, and that a soccer-only facility that seats 40,000 is going to be crazy expensive, and that the Sounders’ coach has worried that Seattle gets too much rain for grass to be a good option there, and that complaining about being second-class citizens to the Seahawks is nuts when they’re partly owned by the same people — but you know, let’s just stick with the fact that this is just some soccer reporter speculating wildly. For now, anyway.
And finally, Bill McGuire, the owner of the minor-league Minnesota United soccer franchise and hopeful MLS expansion team owner, was asked yesterday if he’d be looking for public subsidies for a new stadium — I can’t even imagine why that would cross anyone’s mind — and he had this to day:
“We’ll see when we confirm in our own minds the where’s and why’s of all of that. And depending, who knows? We haven’t asked. I mean, there’s no formal ‘ask’ out there.”
According to my ownerese-to-English dictionary, that means something like: “No, don’t bring that up now! First I have to convince MLS that I’d be a better soccer owner than the Vikings, then I have to convince them to give me an expansion franchise ahead of Las Vegas and wherever else, then I have to build excitement about a soccer-only stadium somewhere, and then I can start talking about what kind of public funding I need to make this beautiful vision a reality.”
Or as Minnesota Public Radio puts it: “That’s not a ‘no’, which usually means a ‘yes’ in the lingo of sports stadium efforts.”
The Washington, D.C. city council made it official yesterday, voting 12-0 to approve spending $140 million in city money on a new D.C. United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point, plus a 20-year property tax abatement worth $43 million. Of that, $33 million will come from money shifted from other, unspecified capital projects, while $106 million will come in the form of new city borrowing, to be repaid via … something. See, it’s all settled!
What is officially the “District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Emergency Act of 2014” — presumably called so because it had to be in order to get enacted on short notice, but it still betrays a certain irony deficiency among D.C. politicians — breaks the record for the largest MLS stadium subsidy ever. (The previous record holder depends on who’s counting, though it’s likely either the Colorado Rapids stadium in Commerce City, which got $120 million according to Judith Grant Long, or the Chicago Fire stadium in Bridgeview, which collected $98 million according to Robert Baade and Victor Matheson.) Though apparently irony isn’t the only thing the bill’s authors are deficient in: One clause extends the deadline for acquiring the stadium land to “September 31, 2015,” which is a pretty neat trick.
But forget all those “numbers” and that “money” — the important thing, as the Washington Post notes, is that the soccer stadium approval gives outgoing mayor Vincent Gray a “legacy” and a “signature economic development project, one that neither of the two preceding mayors were able to accomplish.” Or, looked at another way, Gray finally gave in to the demands for $183 million in subsidies for a private soccer team that earlier mayors had refused to cough up. Isn’t it great how in politics, everything has two equally valid sides?
The New York Times real estate section has a long piece up today about plans for a new D.C. United stadium, because … actually, I’m not sure why. The New York Times real estate section usually focuses on, you know, New York, and even if the D.C. council is voting on the United stadium plan today, it seems a bit outside the usual bounds, but, you know, whatever.
The article itself interviews the owner of D.C. United, the owner of the development company that owns the stadium land, D.C.’s planning director, D.C.’s incoming mayor, and one woman who lives in the planned stadium neighborhood, presumably for local color. My Vice Sports colleague Aaron Gordon has put together a Storify detailing all the flaws in this piece, but seriously, people, it’s a New York Times real estate section article. This is not, and never has been, journalism; it’s a service provided to realtor advertisers that dutifully identifies which neighborhoods real estate professionals are trying to hype as up-and-coming, enabling them to sell more housing there at inflated prices, and thus plow more money back into ads in the Times real estate section. It’s a win-win! Unless you 1) rent in a neighborhood thus targeted or 2) prefer to have news in your newspaper, but those people will be crushed like grapes by the tide of history, right?
Anyway, if you insist on reading the article beyond the “Real Estate” slug at the top, Gordon’s Storify is a worthwhile corrective. But really, you have better uses for your time. How about this article on how economic inequality is helping to drive the Uber economy? Or one about how ground squirrels are accelerating global warming? I never did like the look of those guys.
Outgoing D.C. mayor Vincent Gray and incoming mayor Muriel Bowser have reached an agreement on how to raise cash to fund land and infrastructure for the new D.C. United stadium, and it’s … “take the money from somewhere else and figure it out later”:
The details remain vague, but Gray announced on Thursday that he will send to the council a supplemental budget and a series of so-called “reprogrammings” — funding shifts from one pot to another — to cover the District’s anticipated $139 million share of the $300 million project.
(The council actually approved $150 million in spending, which should cover any additional money that developer Akridge wants for its property, unless it doesn’t.)
Sure would be nice to know what’s getting deprogrammed to find money for the stadium, but that’s one of the details Gray hasn’t revealed yet. The council holds its final meeting of the year on Tuesday, so presumably he’ll announce it by then, but maybe not much before then.
Okay! After a week of former NFL players and former movie executives and more former NFL players speculating wildly on whether the Oakland Raiders will or should move to Los Angeles, we finally have some actual sorta-kinda-almost news about a possible L.A. relocation. Jeanne Zelasko of KFWB-AM in Los Angeles says that AEG, which has been trying for years to pretend that it’s building an NFL stadium in L.A., is now looking to hire PR specialists to handle a team moving there next year, according to people who’ve interviewed for the job:
Over the last week to ten days, AEG has been interviewing people for a public relations gig to handle an NFL team coming to L.A. And these conversations they’re having with people, these interviews they’re having with people, they’re talking about a startup situation February 15th of 2015.
Okay, so this still isn’t much of news: Basically, a company that’s already stated its interest in bringing a team to L.A. may or may not be looking to hire someone to oversee media around getting a team next spring, if one materializes during the annual NFL relocation-announcement window. But it’s another small data point toward the argument that some teams, likely the Raiders and St. Louis Rams, may be considering at least ramping up a threat to move in February, whether or not they go through with it.Zelasko later added (wait past her long discussion of naps) that what’s going on behind the scenes is that the NFL is now at least actively looking to hear more from AEG on how their stadium plan would work, which is more than they’ve done in the past. She also said that one “stumbling block” could be that the L.A. Coliseum and Rose Bowl have balked at hosting the Raiders temporarily, because the image of a typical Raiders fan is “a thug – not a clean-cut mom and dad, two kids, and a poodle,” and so the league might want to force Mark Davis to sell the team before okaying a move to L.A. Leaving aside the racial subtext here: a poodle? There are NFL teams whose fans are poodles? Also, is there something about Mark Davis that means he doesn’t know how to market football to poodles? Is “poodles” going to be the new code word for white folk who aren’t threatening, at least to other white folk? Can it be, please?
Not only did the D.C. council approve the revised $177 million subsidy package (I know I said $168 million yesterday, but I added wrong, sorry) for a D.C. United stadium yesterday, they did it unanimously, which I didn’t think D.C. politicians were even allowed to do. The council still needs to vote on the deal a second time on December 16 before it receives the final okay, but that’s a mere formality at this point, unless Erick Thohir kills somebody in the next two weeks.
As for where to come up with the $99 million needed to buy the land for the new soccer stadium, the council still hasn’t quite figured that out, kicking the can down the road to future budgets. For the initial payment, since outgoing mayor Vincent Gray had a hissy fit and decided not to send in a revised budget for the new stadium plan since it wasn’t his plan, dammit, council president Phil Mendelson instead resurrected an old budget bill Gray has submitted in June but which was never passed. Gray cried foul, but said he’ll now submit a new budget bill that includes stadium funds, so everyone is happy, anyway. Unless you’re unhappy with giving $177 million in public money to an MLS team owned by a billionaire Indonesian media mogul, of course, but only naysayers would say nay to that, right?
The Washington Post’s coverage gave credit to Gray, Mendelson, and incoming mayor Muriel Bowser for “deft dealmaking” in crafting a stadium plan that “had changed considerably” from the original version, but really it’s almost identical to the original plan: The way that D.C. will come up with its money has changed (just raiding the capital budget instead of selling the Reeves Center), but the amount that it’s spending on the stadium is virtually unchanged, and still a record public subsidy for any MLS venue. D.C. United fans will at least now get the soccer-only stadium they’ve been waiting for pretty much forever, but D.C. residents will be doing without whatever else the District would have been spending its capital budget money on if not for this deal. Hope you guys really like soccer.
So we now know what the D.C. council is going to vote on as its revised D.C. United stadium funding plan today:
- Instead of swapping the city-owned Reeves Center office building for stadium land, the District would spend $37 million out of its existing capital budget, borrow an additional $62 million, and repay that … somehow. That bit would need to be figured out in a supplemental budget request, either by current mayor Vincent Gray, or by new mayor Muriel Bowser when she takes over in January.
- D.C. United would no longer get sales-tax kickbacks worth $7 million, but would still get property-tax breaks worth $43 million. “Cutting all of the abatements might be a wonderful idea, but what is before us is the result of negotiations,” explained council president Phil Mendelson, if you have a lenient definition of “explained.”
This, then, is pretty similar to the fairly crappy deal that the D.C. council was considering earlier this year: The city would still be spending $90 million on land, plus $35 million on infrastructure, plus $43 million on property-tax breaks, for a total public cost of $168 million, which unless I’m mistaken would be the biggest MLS stadium subsidy in history. And all of the risks of the old deal would remain in place, plus the added risks of what happens if an eminent-domain court rules that the city has to pay more than $90 million for the stadium land, plus how this would constrain D.C. in future uses of its capital budget.
That said, it may still be a crappy deal, but it’s this council’s crappy deal now, so expect that it will likely be voted in. (Then the council will have to vote on it again later this month, because that’s how they do things in D.C.) Watch the council debate live here way at the end of the hearing that starts at 11 am, once they’re done with the Marion S. Barry, Jr., Ceremonial Recognition Resolution of 2014 and the D.C. Rocks, So We Need One Act of 2014.
And hey, speaking of Florida and stadiums and job creation, somebody went to the trouble of actually reading Orlando City S.C.‘s application for state subsidies for their new $115 million soccer stadium, and found the number of permanent jobs the team is promising to create: 60. That’s six-zero. As blogger and frequent Orlando mayoral candidate Mike Cantone (who unfortunately doesn’t provide a link to the team’s application) puts it:
This is quite the contrast to claims made by Mayor Buddy Dyer and other elected officials during the controversial process of pushing through the stadium. In fact, Fox 35 News reported in October: “Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said this will create thousands of jobs, both during the stadium’s construction and with its operation once it’s built.”
“We’re going to use our blueprint program. And we are going to employee 3,000 people through that program, and we have a target ex-offenders, homeless and Parramore residents, but it’s not exclusive through that,” said Dyer in mid-October.
If the state tax kickback request is approved, the city, county, and state combined will be providing about $70 million in subsidies to the soccer project. Divide that by 60 jobs, and we get $1.17 million in cost per permanent job created. In terms of job creation, Orlando really would have been better off renting Allen Sanderson’s proverbial helicopter.
Check it out! The Washington Post editorial board, which usually has a hard time finding a stadium deal it doesn’t like, has actually called for the D.C. council to slow down on its D.C. United stadium plan and rethink the tax breaks that are set to go along with it:
Before blithely rubber-stamping the breaks, as has been the council’s tendency when it comes to providing this benefit to developers, council members should determine if there is a real need. As the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute pointed out in a recent blog post, “Every dollar in tax breaks for DC United is a dollar not going into the city’s coffers that could be used for education, public safety, health care, or other services.”
Now, maybe this is just the Post going along with the current political winds in city government, what with the council president openly calling for pulling back $8.4 million in sales tax rebates, at least. And yeah, they did run the editorial on the day after Thanksgiving, when maybe 12 people total read it. (The council is set to vote on the revamped United stadium deal tomorrow, so today would have been a good day to run the editorial, you’d think.) Still, it’s a significant shift from last month’s “can’t afford to dawdle,” and it favorably quotes the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, of all people. Mr. Serious Concerns must have been out of the office for the holiday.