Garber, Beckham, to meet with soon-to-be-retired person to discuss joint soccer-football stadium

MLS commissioner Don Garber, former soccer star David Beckham, and University of Miami president Donna Shalala are scheduled to walk into a bar meet later today to discuss a possible joint project to build a stadium for Beckham’s MLS expansion team and UM’s football team. Here’s how it would work, per the Miami Herald:

[Shalala] said she would favor a 40,000- to 44,000-seat venue, which would be larger than the 25,000- to 30,000-seat stadium MLS officials prefer but probably a size the league could live with. Shalala also happens to be a huge soccer fan. She is a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors…

UM would be willing to consider contributing toward construction costs, [a] source said.

That’s somewhat promising — if UM and Beckham’s team were both getting use out of the same stadium, they might actually be able to cobble together enough money to build the thing. Not that anyone knows how much money it would take to build the thing. Or where it would go — the leading site is the spot next to Marlins Park that is currently the site of public ballfields, that may not have enough room for a soccer stadium let alone a larger football stadium, and that could require tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks and discounted land. Also, Shalala is retiring as UM president next month, so while it would no doubt be nice for Beckham and Garber to get her blessing, it’s not like she’s going to be around for negotiations. But hey, sometimes you gotta take your momentum where you can find it.

Clock running out on Minnesota United tax breaks, but pols lay groundwork for future deal

Today’s lesson in how to read newspaper journalism, courtesy of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Negotiators in Minneapolis may be making progress on a menu of mostly local tax breaks for a Major League Soccer stadium, even though the proposal appeared dead Monday in the closing hours of the legislative session.

On the face of it, that’s … what? A Minnesota United stadium tax-break deal “may be making progress,” but also “appeared dead.” That is not a particularly useful diagnosis, unless you’re Erwin Schrödinger.

If you read a little further, you find a bunch of stuff on how city officials and United execs are pushing for a package of tax breaks — a freeze on property taxes on the stadium site (which isn’t a full tax exemption, but given that it’s currently undeveloped land, it’s pretty close), plus extending the city’s 3% entertainment tax liquor/restaurant tax (thanks to longtime Minneapolis journalist David Brauer for the correction) to the stadium district and kicking that money back to pay for the arena — and then reporting on how nobody thinks there’s time to get this done before the state legislature, which would have to sign off on the breaks, adjourns on Monday.

What seems likely to have happened is that the Star Trib’s reporters collected a bunch of info on how United is preparing a new tax-break plan, but then got word that it probably couldn’t pass this session, so had to hurriedly piece together something that indicated both. So you get this mashup of a story, under a headline that doesn’t do a great job of explaining to anyone what’s going on (“Mpls. negotiates MLS stadium subsidy as lawmakers adjourn”).

A better way of putting this would be: “Clock running out on Minnesota United tax breaks, but pols lay groundwork for future deal.” In fact, I think I’ll use that one myself.

LAFC to build $250m stadium on Sports Arena site with no public money, also maybe with public money

Los Angeles F.C., the sort-of MLS expansion team that will be replacing Chivas USA, has announced that it plans to build a $250 million soccer stadium plus conference center on the site of the Los Angeles Sports Arena, to be paid for by the team’s owners:

Construction would be financed by the team and its ownership group, which includes former Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson; Mandalay Entertainment Chief Executive Peter Guber, co-owner of the Dodgers and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors; self-help author Tony Robbins; and women’s World Cup champion Mia Hamm and her husband Nomar Garciaparra, a former major league baseball all-star.

That’s certainly refreshing, and—

The project would be eligible for tax incentives.

Oh. How much in tax incentives, Los Angeles Times? What kind? Hello? Hellooooooo?

More to come, clearly.

MLS commissioner to stop by St. Louis, soccer fever erupts in local newsrooms

MLS commissioner Don Garber is dropping by St. Louis today to check out the city’s NFL stadium plans in person, and you know what that means: Lots of news reporting that Ohmygosh the MLS commissioner is coming to town we’re gonna get a team we’re gonna get a team! The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz actually wrote two articles about Garber’s visit, one a more straight-news rendition, the other a hyperventilating ode to the awesome depth of St. Louis’s soccer fandom:

Given the obvious hunger for the beautiful game in a city with a prestigious and celebrated soccer heritage, there’s little doubt St. Louis would embrace an MLS expansion franchise. The immense network of fans spans generations, with an enduring identity cultivated by amateur soccer and decades of participation and passion.

Total number of home games played to date by the minor-league Saint Louis F.C. franchise in its entire history: three. But those 15,000 people really like soccer. And lots of people went to indoor soccer games in the 1980s before the Steamers folded!

St. Louis actually probably has as good a shot as any city of getting an MLS franchise, less because of its rich soccer history than because Garber has already pretty much signaled that every city that can come up with a stadium and $100 million for an expansion fee is going to get one eventually. A new Rams stadium certainly wouldn’t hurt the city’s chances, but then it would depend on Rams owner Stan Kroenke wanting to cough up the $100 million expansion fee for a team (Garber don’t want no renters in his league), so it’s all still very much a ways down the road. Not that that should stop people from spinning theories about how Kroenke will sell the Rams and/or St. Louis stadium czar Dave Peacock will end up owning an MLS team himself, because the Internet, you know.

Indy Eleven exec to fans: Sorry we couldn’t get your tax money, we’ll try again next year

And in the least surprising news of ever, Indy Eleven president Peter Wilt confirmed that just because the Indiana state legislature failed to give his team a big pile of money for a new or renovated stadium, he and his owner aren’t going to stop asking for a big pile of money in the future:

Indy Eleven will continue to pursue the first-division-quality stadium that you deserve and will showcase Indiana’s fastest growing sport.

Historically, the only way stadium subsidy demands ever go away is if the team owner gets tired of waiting and pays for things himself, or maybe once in a blue moon if the team is sold and the new guy decides it’s not worth fighting over. Otherwise, why the heck not keep asking? Especially when you’re just a couple of loopholes away from getting what you wanted in the first place?

MN United owner: New stadium would lose money, please give us tax breaks so we can turn profit

Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire gave an interview to Minnesota Public Radio yesterday, and what he said was simultaneously not surprising at all (he really wants public tax breaks to help in building a stadium) and incredibly revealing:

Host Tom Weber asked McGuire if he would walk away if he didn’t receive sales and property tax exemptions from government entities this year.

“I can’t answer that. I think it would make it very difficult to build the stadium,” McGuire said.

McGuire followed that by saying, “We are not into threats.”

“Look, we are all people that live in this community,” he said. “We hopefully do good things for this community as part of our lives. We are not into threats. This isn’t a threat.”


“The people that are coming up with this money are making a significant investment into the community for something that, frankly, at this level at the beginning is not economically (profitable),” McGuire said. “It’s a lot of money to bring this here.”

MLS has said a number of its current 20 teams are not individually profitable. McGuire pegged $25 million to $30 million as an optimistic level of annual revenue for a franchise.

“Each one of these things (taxes) that cost money go against that and pretty quickly you run into the problem of financing this on an ongoing basis,” McGuire said. “So you are not asking for people to above and beyond the money that they’ve put in the beginning to write a check every year. That is just one of the elements.”

So put it all together and you get: United possibly could build a stadium without help from the public, but then their investors might lose money. So the only way to guarantee a profit — at least “at the beginning” — is for the city to let them out of paying property taxes.

Again, this isn’t an unusual argument: It’s common for developers of all types to say that without subsidies, they just won’t build anything. But with McGuire declining to even say that, what this comes down to is “We want a new stadium, but it may not make financial sense for us to do it on our own, so how about you taxpayers kick in a bunch of tax breaks and then everyone will be better off? Except you, of course.”

This is the fundamental logical conundrum of all stadium arguments: New buildings are needed for teams to be profitable, but building stadiums isn’t profitable, so subsidies are necessary to produce the profits. It’s really remarkable that fewer people never ask the obvious followup questions — If a new stadium doesn’t make money, why should anyone build one? and Why are you spending $100 million on an MLS franchise anyway if it’s such a terrible deal? — but welcome to 21st-century America.

Indy Eleven stadium reno bill dead, everyone to try again next year

You can stop wondering about who exactly is going to be asked to pay what in the revised bill to provide stadium renovations for Indy Eleven, because it ain’t happening, not this year anyway, reports the Indianapolis Star’s Mark Alesia:

A bill to renovate IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium for the North American Soccer League team didn’t make it through a conference committee on the last day of the legislative session.

“We just couldn’t get all the parties on the same page,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers. “Everybody was acting in good faith, willing to get something done. But it wasn’t going to work out this session.

“We were defining contributions and getting the right language with the state, IU, the team, the city. There were too many details from a financial standpoint for each of the parties. Honestly, we just ran out of time to nail everything down.”

That’s pretty definitely code for “nobody was happy with how much they were expected to pay,” but it’s also a clear signal that everyone involved is going to work on this some more and come back for next year’s session with an actual plan. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it means that the question of whether a minor-league soccer team really needs a $60 million stadium renovation, at least $20 million of it paid by taxpayers, gets a fair hearing in a public forum. If it just means everyone goes behind closed doors for a few months and hammers things out, less so. Mark Alesia, we’re counting on you to make sure it’s the former.

(And before anyone says anything: Yes, Indy Eleven has dreams of being an MLS franchise, and MLS commissioner Don Garber announced last week that the league would likely announce more expansion teams soon, bringing it to 28 franchises. That doesn’t mean that Indianapolis would necessarily get a team, but it’s another conversation piece to throw in the conversation hopper.)

NYCFC mulls tearing down Columbia football stadium, building most expensive MLS stadium ever

New York City F.C. has finally settled on a possible new stadium site, and it’s not way out in Queens, but actually in Manhattan. Barely:

New York City F. C., owned jointly by royalty from the United Arab Emirates and the Yankees, is considering a move to Columbia University’s Baker Athletics Complex, at the northern tip of Manhattan. … The proposal is to build a new, larger stadium that could be used by the soccer team and Columbia’s football team. …

The plan, according to an executive briefed by the soccer club, would be to demolish the 17,000-seat Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium and replace it with a 25,000-seat stadium that could be used by New York City F.C. and Columbia’s Lions. The new stadium could cost $400 million.

There is much that is crazy-sounding here — for starters, the site is a long, long subway ride from anywhere other than upper Manhattan, and doesn’t offer much in the way of parking — but nothing more so than that $400 million figure, which would be more than $100 million more than the most expensive MLS stadium ever built. I know that the NYC F.C. owners desperately want to get a soccer-only facility within city limits, and the UAE has money to burn, and potentially Columbia could be involved monetarily here too … still, this seems like a nutso amount of cash to spend on a soccer stadium in the U.S., and something the team is unlikely to recoup.

That’s NYC F.C.’s owners’ problem, of course, unless they decide to ask for public subsidies and make it New York City taxpayers’ problem. (They wouldn’t owe property taxes, for one thing, since the land is already tax-exempt by virtue of being owned by Columbia — the Chrysler Building, oddly, gets a similar tax break.) There’s a lot still to be worked out here, but at least we have a likely location where this next battle is going to play out.

This is the saddest of all stadium renderings

As friend of FoS Andrew Ross just remarked, “Is that a rendering or did they just stack some post-it notes on a printout of Google Maps?”

(For those wondering, it’s a “three-dimensional rendering” supplied by Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez of plans for a new soccer stadium next the the Miami Marlins stadium. Which may or may not be a bad idea, depending on how much the various subsidies team owner David Beckham would be demanding would come to. But man, does Suarez’s office need a budget for a better graphic designer. Or at least some fresh post-it notes.)

Minneapolis council could try to override mayor’s veto of $45m United soccer tax break

The Minneapolis city council could try to override a presumed veto from Mayor Betsy Hodges on granting a full property tax exemption to a new Minnesota United soccer stadium, reports Minnesota Public Radio:

With support for the stadium growing on the 13-member council, Blong Yang, who represents the north side, said he might be able to marshal nine votes needed to override a mayoral veto.

“That’s within the realm of possibility,” he said.

The city would still “likely” need the state legislature’s permission to waive property taxes as well, reports MPR. That’s a hurdle that the Twins managed to clear (narrowly) for their own stadium nine years ago, so you can bet that United’s owners are going to use the “hey, it’s not your money at stake” argument as well.

Meanwhile, MPR didn’t provide a figure for how much the property tax break would be worth, so I’m sticking with my $45 million guesstimate until further notice. If anyone has a more precise number, feel free to shout it out in comments below.