DeKalb County subsidies for Atlanta MLS practice field could be worth as much as whole practice field

The Atlanta United FC MLS team struck a deal last week to build a practice facility in DeKalb County (that’s the other county that part of Atlanta is in, along with Fulton), and yawn, soccer practice facility, right? Except that today the indefatigable Atlanta Journal Constitution has dug up how much money and tax breaks the county would be providing for the project, and yowza:

  • The county would provide $12 million to United owner Arthur Blank for new parks department offices and demolition and land preparation.
  • The county would provide 41 acres of government-owned land for free.
  • The whole thing would be property-tax free.
  • The county would “” a pedestrian walkway to the nearby MARTA transit station.

Okay, that’s still not a huge amount as these things go — I don’t know how much property taxes would be (and the AJC doesn’t say) or how much a pedestrian walkway costs, but counting the cash, total maybe $20-30 million tops? How much is the practice facility going to cost, anyway?


On the bright side, the county would get a whole 15% of any naming-rights fees for the complex (which will include a 3,500-seat grandstand, because everybody wants to watch MLS players practice, right?), plus the county can use it when United doesn’t have dibs, which given that the MLS season runs March through November is likely to be not very often. And to think that some county commissioners aren’t convinced this is a great thing! Freakin’ NIMBYs.

Minneapolis pol proposes breaking deadlock over giving United public money by giving them more public money

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin has an idea for how to break the deadlock over giving Minnesota United $45 million in property tax exemptions for a new stadium: The state ballpark authority could buy the stadium from the team, thus taking it off the property tax rolls, and also the county could redirect sales tax money to infrastructure improvements once it’s done paying off the Twins stadium with it — hey, wait, that’s even more public subsidies! You’re going in the wrong direction, Peter! Don’t you know anything about deadlocks? Yeesh.

Best part of this article, meanwhile, remains the disclosure at the end: “McGuire’s investment partners include Glen Taylor, who owns the Star Tribune.” Not that I think this explains the paper’s failure to point out that McLaughlin’s idea doesn’t make any sense (or at least doesn’t actually solve the objections to the original United plan), but it certainly can’t help.

Minnesota United owner wants $40m worth of St. Paul land for “stadium, office, retail, housing, etc.”

I’m going to forgive Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press for implying that I compared St. Paul with Harrison, New Jersey — I brought up Harrison as an example of a place where development is happening as much in spite of a new soccer stadium as because of it, but it’s a very different place than St. Paul — because he also reported this tidbit about Minnesota United‘s stadium demands:

Minnesota United FC would need less than 10 acres to build a stadium in St. Paul for Major League Soccer, but city emails in June show team owner Bill McGuire saying an adjacent 25 acres “now is essential.”

“Concept would involve the stadium, office, retail, housing, hospitality, etc.,” wrote McGuire, who also inquired about the possibility of city or state government offices moving into the proposed spaces.


If I’m reading this map correctly, the adjacent 17.75-acre parcel is valued at about $20 million, so for 25 acres we’d be talking about $28 million in land value, or almost $40 million when counting the 10-acre stadium site. McGuire didn’t quite come out and say he wants this land for free, but then, he hasn’t really said anything about financial details of a St. Paul stadium. You know he’s going to ask for something, because he says he can’t make money without subsidies after paying a $100 million expansion team fee. “I spent all my money, can I have some more?” doesn’t work for my 12-year-old, but I guess no one ever taught McGuire that lesson.

Beckham tells Miami mayor he’s ready to talk about evicting people to make way for MLS stadium

David Beckham inched closer to building an MLS stadium next to Marlins Park yesterday, he and his co-owner sending a letter to Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado yesterday stating definitively that they wanted to “express our formal interest” in the site:

We have done a considerable amount of work to understand the requirements of the Site and its potential as the home of our Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise. While there is still work to be done, including completing the land assembly, we firmly believe that we can build a world-class stadium at the Site.

If that doesn’t exactly sound like a commitment, it’s as much as you’re going to get from a group of sports owners. (Or in this case, conditional expansion sports team would-be owners.) Essentially, Beckham & Co. are saying “Let’s talk about this, MLS says it’ll do,” while leaving plenty of room to back away if things go wrong.

But what could go wrong? They have the site picked out, so all they need to do is figure out funding details and what to do about the buildings currently occupying the — whuh-oh:

[Adelfa] Lopez at 70 years old will likely be forced to move, after spending almost four decades in her home next to the former Orange Bowl site.

“For us it’s an inconvenience. We have to look for a house that accommodates the animals, we have dogs and cats,” she said. “Whatever it is, it is, we don’t have nothing to say about it.”

Okay, so “completing the land assembly” may be more contentious than it at first sounded. As always, you want to keep your eye on these things well after the mayor and the team owner agree on what to sit down and talk about, since that’s when all the important stuff gets worked out. Miami news outlets, you’re with me on this, right?

Beckham agrees to talk with Miami about site next to Marlins, public subsidies still TBD

Stop the presses! Thirteen months after the city of Miami told David Beckham it wouldn’t give him prime waterfront land for a new stadium for his expansion MLS team, the two sides have come to an agreement on a new site! Sort of:

One of Beckham’s partners, Marcelo Claure, met with Miami mayor Tomas Regalado on Friday in what both sides hope will lead to a privately-funded soccer stadium located just west of  Marlins Park.

Okay, sure, Beckham had indicated that he was open to a Marlins Park site before. But this time there was an actual meeting! Well, a Skype chat. And a Beckham press release said “several viable options still exist, but our preferred stadium location is the former Orange Bowl site,” so, progress!

As for how that “privately-funded” would work (btw, South Florida Sun Sentinel, you don’t need a hyphen after an adverb there), there’s previously been talk of Beckham getting free land and a property tax exemption, and it sure sounds like that’s still on the table: Regalado told the Miami Herald he’s not looking for “traditional” ground rent (i.e., actual money) but rather “’community benefits’ that could include special programs for youth, free tickets for residents and other non-monetary offers.” And Miami-Dade County could be asked to own the stadium and lease it to Beckham (again, no actual price put on this) so that the team wouldn’t have to pay property taxes.

All told, it wouldn’t be a hugely expensive deal for Miami — I previously estimated the property tax exemption as being worth around $35 million, though free land would add a bunch to that as well — but it would still be a significant subsidy, possibly more than what Minnesota United has been trying and failing to get out of Minneapolis. And while there isn’t a whole lot on the site now, there are some public ballfields, a private apartment complex, and some commercial buildings, which means likely eminent domain proceedings (which Beckham’s group indicated it will repay the city for, at least). Add in that it would be a tight squeeze at best to fit a soccer stadium on the site, and it’s probably going to take a bunch more Skype meetings to figure out exactly what’s being planned here.

The lesson here: When newspaper reports say there’s a “deal,” it doesn’t so much mean there’s a deal as that there are elected officials and developers trying to create momentum for a deal. I’m not sure what it’ll take to get headline writers start saying “plan” or something similar instead, but if chiding them in the last paragraph of blog entries is the trick, I’m all over it.

Staten Island columnist wants to build hockey arena, because he doesn’t understand how cities work

New York City has already built several billion dollars of new sports venues for the Yankees, Mets, Brooklyn Nets, Brooklyn Cyclones, and Staten Island Yankees, much of it with public money, but why stop there? There’s still that talk of a $400 million NYC F.C. stadium at the most inaccessible tip of Manhattan, plus why even limit yourself to teams that actually exist?

The idea of a 5,000-7,000-seat indoor entertainment and sport facility with a harbor view hit a nerve with Staten Islanders.

Some folks loved the idea of an Island building large enough to house a minor league hockey franchise and also play host to big-time entertainment.

A few hated it.

Others thought it impossible.

But plenty are interested.

Admittedly, this appears to be less an actual plan than just a Staten Island Advance columnist with a crazy idea and a soapbox. I wouldn’t even have mentioned it, in fact, if not for this quote from a College of Staten Island finance and accounting professor:

“Why not an arena?” asks [Jonathan] Peters, who tried virtually single-handedly for years to get the city seriously interested in a revival of commuter rail service on the Island. “Staten island is the same size as Detroit and Miami. Would people in those cities be surprised if something like that was built in their town?”

Where to even begin? I could start with the fact that Staten Island (population 472,621) isn’t anywhere close to the population of metro the city of (sorry, you know what I meant, right?) Detroit (688,701), but that’d be missing the main stupid here. I hate to even have to point this out, but: The city of Miami (which is indeed about the same population as Staten Island) is at the center of a metro area population of six million people. Staten Island is at the center of a population of 20 million people, of course, but it’s an area that already has multiple sports arenas, and a couple dozen existing sports teams, all of which people can choose to go to instead of the hypothetical Staten Island Ice Weasels. In fact, let’s take a look at what happens when you drop a Staten Island baseball team into a market with five to ten other baseball options, depending on where you draw the lines for “market”:

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 9.10.50 AMThat’s a whole lot of meh, there.

Anyway, I mostly mention all this just to shake my head sadly at what can make it into the newspaper these days. So long as you can find some half-baked policy claims to point to (“Development drives down crime”!) and some local officials willing to say it’s not a totally crazy idea, that is. If you’re just a regular person who wants to build a space elevator in your backyard, don’t try this at home.

St. Paul mayor offers Minnesota United stadium site, launching latest War of Twin Cities

Looks like MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott got a bite on his appeal to other cities to enter a bidding war with Minneapolis to help build a new Minnesota United stadium: St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has proposed siting a soccer stadium on an old city bus parking lot near Snelling and University avenues. This would be funded by … by … okay, he didn’t say squat about funding. The closest we got was this response from state representative Rena Moran:

“We’ll see what kind of (tax) breaks they want, but I do believe it would bring us some economic development,” Moran said, adding that she’s open to feedback from business owners and residents.

United officials declined comment on the St. Paul proposal. But Minneapolis officials did not, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson said MLS’ focus on St. Paul will not stop Minneapolis.

“We have a superior site and a more vibrant downtown,” she said.

If all goes according to plan, the Twin Cities will now fight over United’s affections (ideally with tax breaks, though those can’t be formally approved until the legislature comes back in session next winter), and the soccer team owners will be left to sit back and decide which city it wants to settle down with. Isn’t that always the way?


MLS seeks more Minnesota United stadium offers, says this isn’t extending deadline because it just isn’t

And now we know what the July 1 deadline for a new MLS stadium in Minneapolis really meant: MLS is now going to … look for other cities in Minnesota more amenable to giving a stadium piles of tax breaks!

Mark Abbott, the MLS deputy commissioner, said in comments to a local radio audience that a July 1 deadline for a stadium plan to emerge in Minneapolis had passed and he would now meet with St. Paul officials — who recently expressed interest — before the league decides whether to abandon Minnesota…

While Abbott insisted that MLS was not extending its deadline, he left the door open for Minneapolis to put together an 11th-hour bid to save the proposed downtown soccer stadium that would be near Target Field.

Yeeeeeah, that’d actually be more of a 13th-hour bid, seeing that the deadline was July 1, and it’s now July 2. But we get the picture: MLS wants a bidding war between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and wants everyone to know that the clock is ticking, but not to actually say when it will hit zero because that might limit their chances of getting the best offer. So it’s still “send money or we’ll shoot this soccer team” for now, meaning the league has to hope that Twin Cities residents (or at least politicians) are afraid of losing out on the joy that comes from watching soccer, like … okay, they should probably hope that no one was watching last night’s game.

Bucks arena removed from state budget, film at 11

I’m on WiFi made of tin cans and string this morning, but wanted to update you briefly on today’s news:

  • There’s a Wisconsin state budget plan, and the Milwaukee Bucks arena proposal isn’t in it. That doesn’t kill the deal, but it does make passage even dicier, especially in the state senate.
  • The New York Post says there’s a deal to move the Arizona Coyotes to Las Vegas, which the NHL has denied in especially strong language, calling it “garbage.” (Unless they mean the Post itself is garbage, which, well, point.)
  • Minnesota United‘s owners are expected to ask MLS for an extension on their July 1 stadium deadline. Not that anyone ever said what would happen when the deadline was reached, so who knows what an extension would mean, but anyway.

And that’s it for now. Will try to provide further updates later, interweb connectivity willing.

MLS commish to Minnesota: You have five days to deliver stadium money, or else

With only five shopping days left until his deadline for Minnesota United to have a stadium deal in place and the Minnesota legislature no longer in session, MLS commissioner Don Garber spelled out what he’s actually expecting to get by July 1, sorta kinda:

“They have an upcoming deadline to hopefully finalize something with their stadium,” Garber said after New York City FC and New York Red Bulls held a press conference ahead of their match at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. “I’m not going to comment on it until that deadline has passed. I have a lot of respect for Bill McGuire and his partners. We love the market. We want to see something happen there. But we’ll wait and see. We really want to have a team in Minnesota, but they have to play in a downtown stadium because that’s the deal we cut.”

So that means that unless Minnesota officials “finalize something” by Wednesday, then MLS will definitely … do something. Maybe that’s pull the expansion franchise and award it to somebody else, maybe it’s issue another strongly worded statement. But you don’t wanna find out, Minnesota! Don’t make Don Garber come in there!

Garber also responded to a question about whether United could start out by playing at Target Field, the home of their co-owners the Twins, like NYC F.C. does with the Yankees‘ stadium:

“No, that wasn’t the agreement we made with them,” Garber said. “We’re going to make different decisions in different markets. That’s one thing being the boss allows us to do.”

Translated: We really wanted a team in New York, so we gave in there. But Minnesotas are a dime a dozen, so this time our deadlines really mean something. Whatever that is.