MLS to St. Louis: Sorry about your football team, you know we play “football” too, right?

It’s official: With the St. Louis Rams gone, every other sport in town (or not in town) is hoping to grab a piece of that $477 million in public stadium money that the NFL team turned down. Just ten days after the Rams announced their move to Los Angeles, MLS commissioner Don Garber sent a letter to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon expressing his sympathies and offering to provide St. Louis fans with some kind of football, anyway:

Garber in his letter, dated Friday, said he was surprised and disappointed at the Rams’ departure and “in the wake of recent developments” wanted to reaffirm his commitment to considering St. Louis as an expansion city.

“I look forward to working with you, your staff and local leaders to explore ownership candidates and to investigate viable stadium solutions to bring MLS to St. Louis,” Garber said in the letter.

Yeah, like Missourians are going to accept a whole different sport as a substitute for anoth —

A Florissant lawmaker who earlier offered up a sales tax financing plan for a new riverfront football stadium is now saying a similar idea could be used to bankroll a new soccer stadium in St. Louis.

State Rep. Keith English has introduced legislation that would put a tax of not more than one-tenth of one percent on the ballot in St. Louis and St. Louis County. A green light from voters could generate between $10 million and $15 million annually, he said.

Note that this plan would have to go before city and county voters, so would almost certainly fail, especially given that nobody thought a similar Rams vote could pass, and some people actually already liked the Rams. Still, mute those cheers that by losing the Rams St. Louis has at least saved $477 million — there are plenty of other sports leagues lining up for a shot at it. How long before the Cardinals‘ stadium is 20 years old?

Orlando soccer stadium to be built on land seized by eminent domain, happy ending canceled

Aw, man, and I was feeling so good about the Orlando City S.C. soccer stadium deal too! And now this:

[A] lawsuit claims that since the city of Orlando used eminent domain to acquire the land, it needed to follow certain steps before selling it.

They claim in the lawsuit the city owned the property less than 10 years, the city didn’t allow the original owners to repurchase their land and the city did not open up bidding for the land.

Orlando previously tried to use eminent domain to take land from a church for the soccer stadium, but instead gave up and moved the stadium a block over. One piece of the new property was acquired by eminent domain, though, and state law prohibits selling it to a private entity for ten years afterwards; Orlando officials claim they’re not selling that one parcel to the soccer team (presumably they’re just granting an easement to build the stadium on top of it), and anyway court rulings allow private development to be a public purpose, so neener neener.

It’s entirely possible that the whole transaction will be ruled legal, but still, this seriously harshes my buzz. Why oh why can’t we have nice things?

Orlando soccer team actually pays actual money for stadium land, this is actually happening

The city of Orlando has agreed to sell 12 acres of land to Orlando City S.C. for its new soccer stadium at a price of $18 million. Is that a fair deal? I’m going to indulge myself now by answering in a manner that I pretty much never have in almost 18 years of running this site:

Who the heck cares?

I’m sure that given enough time and data on land values in Orlando, I (or someone else) could pick apart fair market value for the city property that will now be turned over to the soccer club. (Not to mention the $11 million the city has spent on cleanup and site prep, and whether that’s typical or a special consideration for a project like this.) But for now, let’s just enjoy for a moment that a professional sports franchise is actually agreeing to pay to build its new stadium, and pay (something) for the land to build it on, and pay property taxes on the stadium once it’s complete — you know, like regular people do when they own property. It shouldn’t be remarkable, but it is, and we should bookmark it as an example that things can sometimes be different.

Why this happened in Orlando is complex — part city government that was resistant to coughing up public money, part rich foreign owners who just wanted to get a team in place and didn’t care much about dickering over a few tens of millions in subsidies — and not necessarily easily transferrable to other cities. But even a glimpse at a possible future where new sports stadiums are treated like private investments, not public necessities so that private owners can earn more profits, is enough for me, for today at least.

Falcons stadium to open three months late, cost even more than $1.4b projection

The Atlanta Falcons stadium slated to open next year is … under budget and ahead of schedule? Ha ha ha ha, guess again, foolish human:

Construction of the downtown stadium that will become home to the Atlanta Falcons and a new professional soccer team won’t be completed in time for a long-planned March 2017 opening.

The new target date for completion of Mercedes-Benz Stadium is June 1, 2017, Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons and Major League Soccer team Atlanta United, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview Thursday…

He said the delay will add to the cost of the $1.4 billion project but declined to say how much. He said he’ll bear the additional cost, as required by his stadium deal with the city and state.

For the Falcons, this doesn’t mean much, as I am told that football is not played in April and May anyway. (This is why I think of those months as “The time I can safely watch Sportscenter.”) For Atlanta United, though, it’s going to be a mess, because that’s the first three months of the MLS season, meaning they’re going to face the choice between launching its first season at a temporary site, or going on a Yard Goats-esque road trip.

The AJC has also reported (last week, but I just noticed it) that the Falcons have only sold about 27,000 PSLs for their 71,000-seat stadium, which the agency handling PSL sales says is “right on line” with what they expected. Still, it does leave open the possibility that the Falcons could have to offer price cuts for the less-desirable seats — all those except the cheapest and priciest ones, which is about as you’d expect given our current economic structure — which could be interesting to anyone who cares about the future capacity of PSL sales to pay for stadiums. Which might just be me and NFL owners, but I’ll be watching this closely, anyway.

DC United release new stadium renderings, hope no one remembers old stadium renderings

If it’s Wednesday, it must be time for vaportecture porn! Today, the latest renderings of the planned D.C. United stadium:

dcunited.imrs.phpOkay, nothing too fancy, and that triple-deck stand on one side is kind of weird (it’s a single-decker on the other side), but it looks like a pretty standard second-division soccer stadium, which is about right for MLS. But say, didn’t they release renderings of this once before?

I’m not actually bothered that much by the design change, but yeah, don’t believe the pretty pictures, people. The stadium isn’t set to open until 2018 and the seating capacity isn’t even decided on yet, so I wouldn’t get too attached to the new renderings, either.


St. Louis radio station has the real important story about the Rams’ move

I know what you’ve been worried about since it was announced that the St. Louis Rams would be moving back to Los Angeles, and take it from KMOX-AM in St. Louis, you can stop worrying:

No New Stadium Doesn’t Kill St. Louis’ MLS Hopes

I think we can all breathe easier now.

(Joking aside, a soccer-only stadium would be vastly cheaper than a $1 billion NFL stadium, and so wouldn’t require $477 million in public subsidies. And people in St. Louis likely wouldn’t be any more disinterested in MLS than they’ve been in the Rams — sorry, Rams fans, I’m not talking about you, just your neighbors — so this is maybe actually a legitimate news story and not just using the Rams as an excuse to make people read about a soccer franchise that may or may not ever exist? Okay, probably not.)

Beckham shows how to squeeze a soccer stadium into Overtown site by sucking in tummy

David Beckham’s MLS ownership group issued a rendering of its proposed stadium in the Overtown section of Miami this week — sort of. See if you can spot the qualifier:

beckham-stadium-renderingOkay, that wasn’t hard, as it’s right there in blue type: The stadium probably won’t look anything like this undulating-mesh weirdness, but it’ll be kind of that size, and look! There’s even room for sidewalks, kind of!

I’m not entirely convinced, frankly, given that from the looks of this one rendering, the back of the seating bowl is going to have to be cantilevered out practically over some lanes of traffic in order to make it work. But hey, as I’ve noted before, stadiums squeezed into tight spaces can make for fun, compact designs, so if Beckham’s architects think they can make this work, more power to them.

Meanwhile, on the funding front, it looks like Beckham really will pay all construction costs and applicable property taxes, which is a big improvement over his previous stadium plans, and a nice mini-trend after Orlando City S.C. recently made a similar decision around its new soccer stadium. (It’s still not entirely clear if Beckham will pay full price for the one-third of the site that’s owned by the county, but that’s a lesser issue than paying property taxes.) Is this a sign that cities really can get team owners to pay for their own buildings by pushing back on subsidy demands? Or just that MLS is weird? Stay tuned for more data points.

San Antonio spends $18m to buy minor-league soccer stadium, could spend more if MLS comes

The San Antonio city council and Bexar County agreed yesterday on a deal to buy the city’s minor-league soccer stadium and lease it back to a new minor-league team to be owned by the Spurs NBA team so that eventually it can seek an MLS franchise and — you know what, this would probably be easier in bullet points:

  • The city and county will each put in $9 million to purchase Toyota Field, an 8,000-seat soccer stadium that was built in 2013 by a local nonprofit that runs a special-needs-accessible theme park next door. For the last two seasons, it’s been home to the Scorpions NASL franchise.
  • The city and county agreed to a 20-year lease to rent the stadium for $100,000 a year to San Antonio F.C., a new Spurs-owned team that will, at least initially, play in the USL, a different minor soccer league that (kinda sorta, depending on who you ask) competes with the NASL to be considered the second-tier league behind MLS.
  • Eventually, the Spurs will try to obtain an MLS franchise. If this transpires, a countywide election would be held, not sooner than November 2017, to raise money for stadium upgrades. If an MLS team never arrives, the Spurs will eventually be on the hook for as much as $1 million a year in penalties.
  • The Scorpions and Spurs have a press conference scheduled for today to explain what exactly happens to the existing team.

On the face of it, this looks like a horrible deal for the city and county: In exchange for $18 million in cash, the public gets a pittance in rent (a little over $1 million total in present value), plus the possibility of maybe $3-4 million more in present value from the penalty clause. (Presumably the stadium will be exempt from property tax as well, though since it was owned by a nonprofit it didn’t pay any before, either.) If MLS does come, it gets even worse, since suddenly taxpayers would be on the hook as well for upgrades to expand the stadium to MLS capacity, which could easily amount to $100 million or more.

I guess you could argue that this is the price San Antonio needs to pay to get a chance at an MLS team — except that it’s way, way more than the price being paid by Orlando and probably Minnesota and a whole bunch of other MLS expansion cities, so what up, San Antonio?

Hennepin officials not giving up on plan to raid library funds for MLS stadium

Notwithstanding Minnesota United‘s announced agreement with St. Paul to build a soccer stadium there as soon as everyone figures out exactly how to do that, several officials in Hennepin County are reportedly still trying to lure the team back across the river to Minneapolis with the sweet, sweet smell of public cash:

Multiple sources confirmed that Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein, and businessmen Chuck Leer and Mark Oyaas discussed ideas on how to bring the new soccer stadium to downtown Minneapolis near the Farmers Market next to Target Field.

Sources said the four talked about using surplus tax money collected for the Minnesota Twins stadium as a revenue partner with the owners of the Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise.

This is the same plan that Opat and company had back in August to take money that’s currently going to libraries and youth sports and redirect it to an MLS soccer stadium. It would require votes of both the Hennepin County commission (which might happen) and the state legislature (which almost certainly won’t) to happen, so maybe if the St. Paul stadium plan ends up with huge unforeseen infrastructure costs … maybe. Anyway, it ain’t over until it’s over.

UPDATE: Asked if the group was still trying to push a Minneapolis soccer stadium plan, Stenglein replied: “Oh God, no… We lamented the fact that we didn’t get the stadium, and that’s kind of it.” So there’s that.

Hartford soccer developers wrote checks to selves with public money, stiffed players

More details are coming out in the case of the convicted embezzler who collected $1.8 million in Hartford city money to help plan a new soccer stadium, and they are exactly as you would expect given how this sentence started:

As unpaid bills piled up at Premier Sports Management Group, leaders of the effort to bring professional soccer to Hartford transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to themselves and companies they control, leaving the firm with a fraction of the money needed to meet its obligations, records now under investigation show…

Among the transactions under law enforcement investigation are a check for more than $13,000 that Premier Sports President Mitch Anderson wrote to himself for “legal fees” in October as the enterprise collapsed, and a $120,000 bank transfer in August to James Duckett, the owner of Black Diamond Consulting, which merged with Premier Sports months earlier. The bank records include several other five- and six-figure transfers to Anderson, Duckett and others, The Courant has learned.

Duckett, if you’re scoring at home, is the guy with the felony embezzlement conviction on his record, and at this rate he may be headed for another one.

Meanwhile, Hartford City F.C., the new indoor soccer franchise that was supposed to transmogrify into an outdoor soccer franchise through this deal, is now not a soccer franchise at all after the Major Arena Soccer League booted them out for the 2015-16 season. Among those who are being stiffed on payments, according to the Hartford Courant, are several players and a 20-year-old college student who never received her final $410 paycheck. It’s tough to imagine how this scandal could get any worse, but I wouldn’t want to bet against it.