St. Louis MLS owners unveil square-roofed stadium (actual contents may differ from images on box)

The wannabe St. Louis MLS team owners have released some renderings of their wannabe stadium:

So, that square roof is cool and all, but I’m not sure it works in terms of geometry, given that soccer pitches are longer than they are wide. It looks from that image like the seats at the ends are more stacked vertically than the ones on the sidelines, which could be one way of getting around that; let’s see another angle:

We’re looking from one end in the above image, so maybe. Still, it’s also possible this is some form of forced perspective, or the designers just decided to fudge the shape of an actual soccer field to get a cooler image, and the actual roof — if there ever is an actual roof — will be more rectangular. Which is actually what appears to be going on in this GIF:

Team co-owner Carolyn Kindle Betz did call the renderings “conceptual,” so I’m going to take that to mean “it won’t actually look like this, we just wanted something to distract you with.”

Which is fine, but can’t we get any renderings with the more usual fantastical stadium elements, like weird lighting effects and people cheering at nothing in particular? Please?

Ahhhh, much better. Judging from the keeper sprawled on the ground, it looks like somebody (the red team?) has just scored, which isn’t too surprising given that the black team has utterly failed to track back to play any defense.

The stadium — which you will recall is set to get something on the order of $60 million in public subsidies — is supposed to seat 22,000, with room to expand (maybe they can put temporary seating in those gaps in the corners, though the landscaping is going to get in the way), which will make MLS commissioner Don “really our stadiums should hold 27,000 people even though the league average attendance is only 20,000 and that’s with teams papering the house” Garber happy. And since making Garber happy enough to give St. Louis owners a franchise — sorry, sell St. Louis owners a franchise, for an expansion fee of at least $200 million and maybe more — really that’s how we should be looking at all of these pretty pictures: They’re profile pics, nothing more, nothing less.

Friday roundup: Jacksonville mayor says “whatever Jaguars want” on stadium renovations, that’s it, I’m done, I can’t even finish this headline

Running late on the roundup this week — I just published two new articles on the wastefulness of film tax credits and New York’s probably fruitless attempts to fight off sea level rise, plus I have another major writing deadline today — so let’s get to it:

MLS is adding St. Louis and Sacramento franchises (maybe), demanding bigger stadiums (possibly)

Eleven months after announcing its expansion to 28 teams, Major League Soccer has decided to expand to 30 teams with new franchises in St. Louis and Sacramento … okay, has decided to invite prospective owners in St. Louis and Sacramento to apply for franchises … okay, let’s let the Associated Press try to explain it:

St. Louis and Sacramento, California, have been invited to submit formal bids for franchises as Major League Soccer’s Board of Governors formally unveiled plans Thursday to expand to 30 teams.

Commissioner Don Garber made the announcement at the board’s meeting in Los Angeles, pointing to expansion as one of the key drivers of the league’s growth in North America in recent years.

“We continue to believe that there are many, many cities across the country that could support an MLS team, with a great stadium and a great fanbase and great local ownership that will invest in the sport in their community,” he told reporters following the meeting.

So that’s really just “St. Louis and Sacramento are front-runners for the next two MLS franchises, which we’re planning to award sometime this year.” Which is exactly what Garber said last month. So this is not actually news at all, just confirmation that those two cities will get teams if all their t’s are crossed — which mostly means having stadium deals in place. Both cities have given preliminary approval for new stadiums, with St. Louis promising about $60 million in subsidies and Sacramento about $33 million; these would not be the worst deals in sports history or even MLS history, but still, you know what Everett Dirksen may or may not have said about money adding up

In completely unrelated news but not really, F.C. Arizona, a team that currently plays at a high school field in Mesa in the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League, has announced plans to build a 10,900-seat stadium at an unspecified location in the Phoenix area, saying they’ll pay for the unspecified costs with their own unspecified private money. That’s an awful lot of seats for a team in what’s essentially a semi-pro league — not all players are paid — so you have to figure this is an attempt to get on the radar of either MLS or the second-and-third-tier USL to get a franchise. U.S. soccer may not have promotion and relegation where teams can move up to higher leagues just by winning games, but it does have a clear path by which owners can buy their way into higher leagues, and it’s clearly leading to a land rush for owners hoping to find an angle by which to enter into the major-sports ownership club without shelling out a billion for a big-four league expansion team.

If you consider MLS a major sports league on par with the big four, that is, which remains an open question. Garber also took time out to say that Minnesota United‘s new stadium is too small, asserting, “I wish the stadium wasn’t 19,000 and that it was 27,000 because I think at some point we are going to be thinking of how do we make the stadium bigger. I think we are going to be dealing with that in a number of different markets.” This is the same week that the New York Red Bulls announced that they’d begin tarping over some seats in the upper deck because they couldn’t sell them; team GM Marc de Grandpre recently remarked, “If we were to build the stadium today…we’d have built the stadium with a flexible capacity system,” meaning a way to reduce capacity from its current 25,000 seats, not increase it. Clearly there are still some bugs to be worked out of the MLS business model — those $150 million expansion fees from St. Louis and Sacramento, or whoever steps in if St. Louis or Sacramento falter, should help buy some time to figure them out.

Friday roundup: NYCFC turf woes, Quebec’s NHL snub, and why people who live near stadiums can’t have nice things

And in less vaportectury news:

  • NYC F.C. is having turf problems again, as large chunks of the temporary sod covering New Yankee Stadium’s dirt infield were peeling up at their home match last Saturday. There’s still been no announced progress on the latest stadium plan proposed last summer (which wasn’t even proposed by the team, but by a private developer), and I honestly won’t be surprised if there never is, though Yankees president Randy Levine did say recently that he “hopes” to have a soccer stadium announcement this year sometime, so there’s that.
  • Deadspin ran a long article on why Quebec City keeps getting snubbed for an NHL franchise, and the short answer appears to be: It’s a small city, the Canadian dollar is weak, Gary Bettman loves trying to expand hockey into unlikely U.S. markets, and Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson hates prospective Quebec Nordiques owner Pierre Karl Péladeau, for reasons having to do with everything from arena competition to Anglophone-Francophone beef. Say it with me now: Building arenas on spec is a no good, very bad idea.
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers arena has an even more terrible new name than the two terrible names that preceded it. “I know that sometimes [with] change, you get a little resistance and people say, ‘Why are they changing it?’ and ‘How’s that name going to work?'” team owner Dan Gilbert told NBA.com. The answers, if you were wondering, are “Dan Gilbert is trying to promote a different one of his allegedly fraudulent loan service programs” and “nobody’s going to even remember the new name, and will probably just call it ‘the arena’ or something.”
  • Inglewood residents are afraid that the new Los Angeles Rams stadium will price them out of their neighborhood; the good news for them is that all economic evidence is that the stadium probably won’t do much to accelerate gentrification, while the bad news is that gentrification is probably coming for them stadium or not. The it-could-be-worse news is that Inglewood residents are still better off than Cincinnati residents who, after F.C. Cincinnati‘s owners promised no one would be displaced for their new stadium, went around buying up buildings around the new stadium and forcing residents to relocate, because that’s not technically “for” the new stadium, right?
  • Worcester still hasn’t gotten around to buying up all the property for the Triple-A Red Sox‘ new stadium set to open in 2021, and with construction set to begin in July, this could be setting the stage for the city to either have to overpay for the land or have to engage in a protracted eminent domain proceeding that could delay the stadium’s opening. It’s probably too soon to be anticipating another minor-league baseball road team, but who am I kidding, it’s never too soon to look forward to that.

This week in vaportecture: Portland baseball, Miami soccer

The renderings for stadiums that may or may not ever be built are coming so fast and furious now that this week they need their own weekly roundup post: Both Inter Miami and Portland’s as-yet-unnamed (and as-yet-nonexistent) MLB team released fresh stadium images the last couple of days, and I am happy to report that they are very much in line with the laws of vaportecture.

Portland first:

This is actually a pretty sedate group of images — not even any daytime fireworks! — and improves on the non-Euclidean geometry of the previous batch. Sure, the shadows in the first image are a bit weird — the sun would appear to be coming directly out of the east, which means it’s sunrise, so you’d think the shadows would be longer, but maybe it’s the summer solstice or something — and the aerial tramway appears to have vanished from the overhead rendering — unless those little specks out past center field are gondolas, suspended in the air by nothing — and for some reason the parking lot has more trees in it than cars. And then there’s this image, which wasn’t included in John Canzano’s above tweet but was in his Oregonian article:

What exactly is that woman doing with her freakishly large hand? Brushing her hair forward to cover where her head has been poorly Photoshopped onto her body? Talking on one of those neck-phones that will be all the rage by the time Portland gets an MLB team? And why are all the fans looking through the glass window ignoring the spectacular play being made by the right fielder, who is contorting his body in impossible ways to make a catch, though probably no more impossible than the ways it will be contorted after he crashes at full speed into the foul pole. At least I’m glad to see that the Portland P’s will offer throwback uniforms hearkening back to the days of no jersey numbers, which is probably why souvenir shirts will just feature an enormous Old English “P” on the back.

On to Miami, where we got our first look at the stadium David Beckham and Jorge Mas’s ownership group may or may not be building at Melreese Park in Miami (not to be confused with the temporary stadium they may or may not be building in Fort Lauderdale). And hey, this one’s a video, which for some reason starts off with an egret? And a drum line?

https://twitter.com/InterMiamiCF/status/1115615132057575424

If I’m interpreting this right, the egret is somehow supposed to relate to the design of the stadium roof, which is vaguely bird-wing shaped, and also pink, unlike the egret, though maybe it’s meant to evoke an egret that pigged out on too many brine shrimp. But at least it shines with an unearthly glow!

And features lots of space for fans (and maybe a wookiee) to mill around bars or conference tables or something, with no pesky railings to keep from the excitement of possibly falling to their deaths:

And as a special bonus, there’s a weirdly cartoonish overhead view that features one goalkeeper fleeing his position because he’s belatedly realized there are one too many players on the pitch (and yes, I’m counting the referee):

I’m honestly not sure what purpose either of these sets of new images is supposed to accomplish, except maybe to get coverage showing that this thing must really be happening, look, here are pictures of what it would look like, no one in human history has ever drawn anything that won’t actually exist. In which case, mission accomplished, I guess. Far be it from me to denigrate the #freedomtodream.

Sacramento council votes to approve (but really not approve) MLS stadium that won’t (but really will) cost taxpayer money

Good morning, and let’s all read an article that contradicts itself constantly!

The place: Sacramento, California. The outlet: KCRA, which used to be just a UHF television station but is now also a website because everything is also a website (even books!) and broadcasts on something called “virtual channel 3.” The author: “KCRA Staff,” which either means a whole lot of people worked on it or one person who really doesn’t want to be held responsible.

Here is the first paragraph of the article:

The Sacramento City Council approved a public-private partnership to build a Major League Soccer stadium in the downtown railyards and develop the surrounding area.

Whoa, that was fast! Just Friday we were looking at new stadium renderings, and now the council has already approved a funding plan! How did that happen so quickly?

Here is the second paragraph of the article:

Councilmembers unanimously voted Tuesday night to approve a term sheet, a non-binding document that lays out ways the city, the Sacramento Republic FC and Los Angeles-area developer Ron Burkle plan to work together to fund and build the stadium.

Okay, Mr. or Ms. KCRA Staff, that word “non-binding” you used? It means the entities signing it are not “bound” to it, by which is meant that either side can back out. So the partnership isn’t so much “approved” as “planned,” with the actual vote to approve it still to come.

Anyway, how will the city, Sacramento Republic FC, and Ron Burkle (who is actually majority owner of Republic FC, so it’s not entirely clear why he’s listed twice) work together to fund the stadium? On to paragraph three:

The $252 million stadium would be privately funded by the Republic FC and Burkle. No taxpayer dollars will be used to build the stadium.

Great news! Especially since as of Friday the project was set to receive $33 million in tax breaks and other subsidies. But now there’s nothing at all about that, according to paragraph three, and paragraph four, and what’s this now paragraph five:

The term sheet also includes $33 million in tax refunds, waived fees and administrative costs for the stadium.

Look. I understand the difficulties of doing comprehensive reporting in the modern world when media outlets are mostly staffed by overworked, underpaid interns and grad students and maybe sometimes augmented Roombas. But seriously, Mr. and/or Ms. KCRA Staff, is it so much trouble to read the very thing you just wrote to see if it still makes sense, given what you’re writing now? Even if you’re suffering short-term memory loss — perhaps the stress is getting to you, or your expanded RAM chip has come loose from its socket — the words are right there for you to look at as a reminder. It would definitely make for a better article if all the words worked together to convey a consistent series of facts, as opposed to looking like they were assembled from a series of separate articles about separate things happening in separate universes.

Anyway, MLS still hasn’t approved an expansion franchise for Sacramento, and won’t until later this year at the earliest, and the time when the league approves an infinite number of franchises at the latest (which could also be later this year). And the deal that is really a term sheet doesn’t kick in until Sacramento gets a team, at least — this isn’t Indianapolis, for god’s sakes.

Indiana now looking at spending $112m on MLS stadium on spec

When we last checked in with Indy Eleven‘s stadium demands, the Indiana state senate had just voted to approve giving $112 million worth of tax money to team owner Ersal Ozdemir toward a new $150 million stadium. There was one string attached, though: Ozdemir had to obtain an invite to have his USL team join MLS before the money could change hands.

Now an Indiana state house committee has proposed cutting that single string:

The Indiana House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously Monday to allow the soccer team to negotiate with Indianapolis to build a $150 million soccer stadium without first attracting a Major League Soccer franchise…

Todd Huston, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, said the project may need to get started for MLS to take it seriously. Republicans and Democrats have increasingly emerged as united in the decision to create a way to make a deal happen.

“I think a lot of people see the excitement around the current team and see the momentum that soccer has in our society,” Huston said. “Our committee has felt like it’s an exciting new opportunity. There’s a general belief and excitement that professional soccer has got a lot of momentum and people want Indianapolis to be a part of it.”

Notwithstanding all that societal soccer momentum, this would be an awfully big gamble: MLS commissioner Don Garber hasn’t even mentioned Indianapolis on his short list for expansion, meaning Indiana could easily end up throwing $112 million at the promise of an MLS team and end up with the exact same USL team it has now. Unless the Indiana legislature figures that eventually MLS will just give expansion franchises to every city with a new stadium, which may well be true, but even then plenty of other cities have gotten MLS franchises on the “if you come, we will build it” plan, and the Indiana legislature doesn’t exactly have the best track record as a steward of the public purse, so I’m having a hard time giving them the benefit of the doubt.

The measure now goes to the full state house, and then to a house-senate conference committee, neither of which will have any obligation to pay attention to polls showing only 23% of central Indiana residents want their tax money spent on a soccer stadium at all.

Friday roundup: Sacramento soccer subsidies, Fire could return to Chicago, and a giant mirrored basketball

Did I actually write a couple of days ago that this was looking like a slow news week? The stadium news gods clearly heard me, and when they make it rain news, they make it pour:

Beckham’s Inter Miami okayed to tear down Fort Lauderdale stadium, replace it with whatever they can slap together by next spring

The Fort Lauderdale City Commission voted Tuesday night to give permission to David Beckham’s Inter Miami ownership group to tear down Lockhart Stadium and build a new facility that would serve as the team’s temporary home and long-term training ground. Though the “building a new facility” part is apparently just a suggestion:

Mayor Dean Trantalis suggested to the commission that the agreement should come with financial assurances that the Beckham group will not simply demolish the existing stadium and then walk away from the project without building something in its place. Other commissioners argued that given the extremely tight timeline — Beckham’s group wants to begin play there in less than a year — the project must be permitted to start as soon as possible.

The vote was unanimous, 5-0. Beckham’s group will have 180 days to complete the demolition.

Now, it’s pretty unlikely that the Beckham group will demolish the old stadium and build nothing in its place, precisely because of that timeline mentioned above — Inter Miami has to play somewhere next year, and Fort Lauderdale is pretty much their only option at the moment. Just what they’ll build is less clear: If it takes (up to) 180 days to demolish the existing stadium, that leaves less than six months to build a new one, which gives “aggressive timetable” a new meaning. Here, as a reminder, is what Beckham’s group says they’ll be building:

And here is what I think they’ll more likely have time for by next spring:

We’ll all find out together soon enough. Or, this being the franchise that seems destined to exist only in Beckham’s hopes and dreams, not.

The vaportecture watch never stops: Sacramento Republic and FC Cincinnati deliver latest stadium rendering knee-slappers

My vaportecture article at Deadspin appears to have unlocked some sort of floodgates, because now it seems like not a day goes by that some insane new stadium renderings aren’t unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace. Yesterday, for example, the owners of Sacramento Republic FC (currently a USL team, but in the running for an MLS expansion slot) released these:

There are some design oddities — why, for example, do all the fans in upper deck appear to be seated in love seats? — as well as some of our favorite vaportectural shtick: stadiums that mysteriously glow while all around them remains dark, athletes engaged in oddly unathletic endeavors (in this case a player taking a penalty kick by apparently engaging in a high jump), fans holding up scarves to obscure their fellow fans’ view during a key moment in the action. But a few eagle-eyed Twitter users went beyond that to look at the individual clipart people (“entourage,” we now know they’re called) and found, um:

I think it’s fair to say that, even if you by necessity have to populate your creation with stock images, it’s important to spread them around a little for at least minimal verisimilitude.

Then there’s this:

That was yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon, we got yet another round of F.C. Cincinnati renderings, which have previously provided some of the more hilarious moments in this field of study. The latest twist is apparently that the stadium will no longer have an unearthly glow — no, seriously:

Other new renderings show off such innovations as translucent scarves:

The stadium surrounded by a postapocalyptic wasteland of cut-and-paste identical buildings, where fans emerge from a portal from another dimension to arrive at the front gates (and also the stadium still glows somewhat, though not as much as the trees):

And still more, but I’m having trouble navigating the Cincinnati Enquirer’s terrible gallery layout, so please visit there yourself post your favorite items in comments, or on Twitter, or really anywhere.