Beckham reportedly discusses new Miami MLS site at party, doesn’t cough cake all over his shirt

This slipped past me last week, but apparently David Beckham is sorta kinda maybe willing to consider a site near the Miami Marlins‘ stadium for a new MLS stadium:

Monday night he was sitting next to Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at a birthday party for fashion magnate Tommy Hilfiger. The two chatted about soccer, and Levine said Beckham gave a tacit thumbs-up to the idea of building a professional soccer stadium next to Marlins Park.

“He mentioned it,” Levine said. “I think he has a sense of openness and willingness to anything.”

Why, that’s positively … hearsay, but I guess it’s more than anybody else has been saying about Beckham’s stalled Miami stadium plans, so sure, let’s call it news!

On the plus side, the Marlins stadium site is already set up for pro sports, with those expensive parking garages the city agreed to build and then almost also had to pay the Marlins’ property taxes on already in place. (It’s also used to hosting major events, as the former site of the Orange Bowl — in fact, there’s so much bad blood about the Marlins stadium deal that everyone involved is now calling it the “Orange Bowl site,” which is kind of hilarious.) But how much would Beckham be expecting the city to contribute to the project? According to the Miami Herald:

  • Beckham wants access to city land without paying market rate rent.
  • Miami-Dade County would likely be asked to take over ownership of the land, to exempt Beckham from paying property taxes.
  • Bruno Barreiro, the county commissioner pushing for a soccer stadium on the Marlins site, wants to create a “special taxing district” around the stadium to pay for expanding monorail service to the site, though the Herald isn’t clear whether this would be a tax surcharge or redirection of existing taxes.

How much in public money would that come to? Hard to say exactly: Those Marlins garages that cost $92 million would have owed $1.2 million a year in property taxes, so if an MLS stadium costs roughly double that, we’re talking maybe $2.4 million a year, which would be maybe $35 million in present value? And how much of a rent discount Beckham would want is completely unknown, so hard to say how much the access to city land would be worth.

That’s assuming, of course, that Beckham is actually considering this plan, and wasn’t just being polite at a party. It looks like the only deal he’s likely to get, though (that or a site in Overtown, which is even less far along), so if he really wants to own a team in Miami, he should probably at least consider it. See, cities do too have some leverage when it comes to stadium demands!

MLS commissioner says no new Minnesota stadium, no new Minnesota team, see?

Remember way back on Wednesday when MLS announced that it would give Minneapolis an expansion franchise if it built a new soccer-only stadium, and commissioner Don Garber didn’t specify what would happen if the stadium wasn’t built? Apparently Garber couldn’t stand the suspense, because yesterday he said this:

“We would then, as an ownership group, take a step back and decide whether we wanted to come to Minnesota,” Garber said.

“We have other options around the country, some of which with very detailed soccer-stadium plans, and we would have to make that decision at that time.”

In other words, this.

Garber may have decided he needed to drive home the message because Gov. Mark Dayton has been busily insisting that he has no intention of approving using any public money to help build a new stadium just for Minnesota United, even going so far as to say that “stadium fatigue” has set in after the public had to build new homes for the Twins and Vikings. You know, that Vikings stadium that got built in large part because Dayton made it a personal crusade to get it done, even if it meant promising to pay for it with a wacky gambling scheme that ended up generating zero revenue and having to be supplemented from the general fund. I suppose coming up with ideas like that can be tiring.

If nothing else, this is a message to MLS that while Garber may think it’s the next big player in the U.S. sports world, local elected officials aren’t quite going to jump to attention like they do when the NFL makes demands. Though if your business model is “give a team to any city with an ownership group willing to pay our expansion fee and which will give us a stadium,” I suppose there are always more fish in the sea. Hello, Albuquerque?


MLS grants expansion franchise to Minneapolis, if stadium demands are met

Minnesota United FC was officially announced as the next MLS expansion franchise yesterday, to start play in 2018 — assuming a plan for a soccer-only stadium is in place by then.

And if not? MLS commissioner Don Garber made sure not to address that yesterday, saying only that “we believe our league is going to be built, and ultimately be more successful, if we can play in stadiums that are our own.” But it’s certainly a possibility that, if a stadium doesn’t happen promptly, the franchise could be held up, a la David Beckham’s Miami morass.

United owner Bill McGuire is still hedging about what he’ll ask for in terms of public subsidies for a stadium, telling Minnesota Public Radio that “we haven’t asked anybody or laid anything out yet and it’s premature to talk about any of that stuff.” Gov. Mark Dayton, for his part, said, “They need to fully realize that it is something they are going to have to pay for out of their own private resources,” but also said he might be willing to help build roads and infrastructure to support a stadium. It certainly smells like a “team pays for construction, state pays for everything else” scenario, which especially if you get into things like tax breaks can start to add up to some real money, but with a formal stadium proposal not expected until July 1, it could be a while yet before we know exactly what he United owners are asking for, and what MLS is willing to do to ensure that they get it.

Indiana senate committee rejects new Indy Eleven stadium, okays $20m in renovation cash

The Indiana state senate means business with this Indy Eleven stadium renovation thing: The senate tax and fiscal policy committee headed by Brandt Hershman voted 13-0 yesterday first to reject spending $82 million on a new stadium, then voted unanimously as well to put $20 million in renovations of IUPUI’s stadium, where the NASL team currently plays, instead.

So how would this work, exactly? The state’s money would come mostly from a 10% ticket tax on events at the stadium, which according to projections for a new stadium could maybe just about barely be enough to pay off $20 million in state costs. Not that Hershman came up with that $20 million figure by seeing what the team could generate, either — he indicated that the number came from “rough estimate from IU for improvements,” so it’s more about the university’s wish list than what new tax revenue could actually pay off. Also, the city of Indianapolis could be asked to kick in some renovation money, as would Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir, if he wants more extensive upgrades.

In exchange … you know, I can’t find anything in the Indiana house bill that the state senate just amended to indicate what, if anything, Indy Eleven would be committing to. Presumably they’d have to sign some lease on the place, but it seems like the number of years they’d be signing up for, and whether they could demand further subsidies by threatening to leave town, would be key. Not that Indiana would ever sign a lease letting a team get away with anything like that.

So, in short: Much smaller public cost? Good! Reusing existing buildings when possible? Good! Throwing more than $20 million at your local one-year-old minor league soccer team just because they asked for four times that amount, without knowing what if anything they’re promising in return? Still not so good even at that price, so state legislators have some work to do to make sure this is actually worthwhile, not just less wasteful — but I’m sure we can trust Indiana elected officials to do the right thing, right? (Stop giggling.)

Indy Eleven exec doesn’t dismiss renovated IUPUI stadium out of hand, pigs seen airborne

Indy Eleven president Peter Wilt has responded to Indiana state senator Brandt Hershman’s proposal to renovate IUPUI’s stadium for $20 million instead of building a new one for $82 million, and … he doesn’t hate it!

“Our partnership with Indiana University and IUPUI has been a critical part of our initial success, and having the campus option as a possibility for the stadium is one that we support,” Wilt’s statement said…

“We understand that the legislative process is a long journey and we look forward to continuing this dialogue … on Tuesday,” Wilt’s statement said.

Okay, that’s not exactly jumping for joy, and may well be nothing more than an acknowledgment that they know they have to work with the state senate on any stadium deal, not dismiss its proposals out of hand. Still, it does open up the possibility of renovation as an alternative, which is both 1) a possible way to save the state a ton of money and 2) the kind of thing that sports team owners typically dismiss out of hand with some statement about needing a “state of the art” facility. (Or, as a New York City development official once said of the Yankees‘ demands for a new stadium, renovations couldn’t provide “an adequate number of ladies’ rooms.”)

So, would $20 million for stadium upgrades for a minor-league soccer stadium be a good deal? That all depends on what the state would be getting back: If it’s some actual rent payments or revenue sharing, or a long-term lease for the team (as much as any NASL team’s signature on a lease can ever be said to be “long-term”), or something that IUPUI will actually be able to get some use of, then sure, maybe. In any case, $20 million would be a lot less of a heavy lift to make work than $82 million, and not building a whole new stadium when you have an old one that is already drawing well is always a good idea for everyone’s budget and carbon footprint. It’s bad for construction workers, I guess, but they can work on the renovations, and that extra $62 million will end up being spent on something. You see why I’m not generally a fan of new stadiums at all when it can be avoided? It’s really not just that I don’t like cupholders.

Indiana senator proposes ditching $82m Indy Eleven stadium plan, renovating IUPUI stadium instead

As predicted, Indiana state senator Brandt Hershman waited until the Friday media dead zone to announce his plan to fund a new $82 million stadium for the Indy Eleven NASL minor-league soccer team — which is a shame because everyone missed the surprise twist, which is that Hershman doesn’t plan to fund one at all:

Indiana University would issue up to $20 million in bonds to renovate IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium in an amendment being introduced by Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, chair of the committee that’s handling the stadium bill.

The team would have to pay for expenses beyond the $20 million and whatever the city of Indianapolis contributes. The team would also have to sign at least a 20-year lease. A senate committee vote on the plan is scheduled for Tuesday.

Well, sure, that makes plenty of sense to look at: $20 million is a lot less than $82 million, and if the team isn’t a long-term success at least the local public university would have a shinier stadium to play in. (Not that that’s probably what it needs the most, but that’s another story.) And Indy Eleven is already drawing well there, so if any economic benefits you’d get from the team playing in a new stadium would probably accrue from them playing in an upgraded old stadium as well.

We’ll see tomorrow what the exact details of the plan are and how it would all be paid for, but for now, nice thinking outside the box, Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek! Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir will no doubt not be pleased, but $20 million in free renovations would still be nothing to sneeze at.

Garber on future expansion: Let a million MLS teams bloom

MLS is finally on the verge of filling up its 24 franchise slots, which is four more than pretty much any other soccer league on earth, but hey, American exceptionalism and all, and league commissioner Don Garber says

“We never thought we would get, when we were at 10, to 14, then at 16, then we have a goal for 24. We’re really evaluating going past that. We’ve got a couple more decisions we need to make. I imagine some time in, you know, the next year or so, we’re going to lay out the plan for how large this league can be.”

Really, what else is he going to say? There’s no real reason MLS can’t go to 26 teams, or 28 or 30, when it’s already at 24, and with everybody and their sister clamoring to get into the league, might as well rack up a few more expansion fees (and publicly subsidized soccer-specific stadiums) while you can, right? Everyone who thinks that the problem with MLS is that the quality of play is too watered down already, as opposed to those who think that the problem is that it would be watered down even with only 12 teams, commence to wailing and rending your garments.

Indiana senator has plan to fund MLS stadium, won’t say what — hey, didn’t we just do this headline?

Looks like Wisconsin isn’t the only state senate that can announce new sports venue finance plans without actually saying what they are: Brandt Hershman, chair of the Indiana state senate’s tax and fiscal policy committee, announced yesterday that he’d be introducing an amendment today to rework the Indy Eleven stadium financing plan, which has twice passed the state house but never made it through the senate. And Hershman’s new plan would be:

Hershman declined further comment.

Okay, then! Nothing yet on Hershman’s website or his Twitter, but it’s only 2 pm — maybe he’s planning one of those special 5 pm Friday announcements so that it makes the 6 o’clock news but nobody’s around to answer questions. (Note to any Indiana journalists: I’ll be around late this afternoon to answer questions.)

MN senate leader to MLS: Don’t come asking us for money for your stadium

Minneapolis’s not-yet-officially-announced MLS team hasn’t yet officially announced its desire for public subsidies, either, but state senate majority leader Tom Bakk isn’t waiting around, declaring that he’ll oppose any plan to use public money for a private pro soccer stadium:

“The league ran into this problem in Miami,” Bakk said. “They gave a franchise out two years ago, and they don’t have a field to play on. So I don’t know if they’re going to make that mistake twice or if this group of owners is going to figure out how to finance a $150 million soccer stadium or not.”

That’s a line in the sand, anyway, or a shot across the bow, or one of those things. The Minnesota legislature eventually gave big piles of public money to the Vikings and Twins owners for new stadiums (or voted to allow the county to give its money without a public vote in the Twins case, anyway), but not until after decade-long public battles, so MLS could actually be in for a tough slog here. Or face the choice between playing for years in a temporary home vs. announcing a franchise and then having to de-announce it if they can’t get the subsidies they want. This shaking down the public for money thing is hard, guys!

Minneapolis to get 23rd MLS team, if they can get new stadium, so open your wallets, Minnesotans!

According to multiple reports, Minneapolis has been chosen by MLS as the site of the league’s 23rd franchise. And the winning ownership group will reportedly be the current owners of the NASL’s Minnesota United, which includes the owners of the Twins and Timberwolves as investors, over the owners of the Vikings, who also were in the running.

That’s significant because unlike the Vikings plan, which would have seen an expansion soccer team sharing the new football stadium, the United plan would involve a new soccer-only stadium being built downtown near the Twins’ Target Field, though how to pay for it remains an open question. It’s an open question that will need to be resolved soon, though — the reports are that MLS is making the expansion team contingent on getting a stadium approved — so expect lots of “If you want a team, cough up some public dough” rhetoric in the near future.

This is not surprising, given that it’s how MLS has handled things in the past (and how it’s now apparently handling David Beckham’s planned Miami franchise, which is getting booted to the back of the line until it gets a stadium plan that both Beckham and the league are happy with). After NYC F.C. and whatever the new Atlanta franchise ends up being called were granted franchises without soccer-only stadium deals in place, it seemed for a minute like the league might be willing to let in anyone with a big enough check without playing some stadium brinkmanship first, but it’s nice to know that everything is apparently back to normal in the sports blackmail game.