MLS commissioner says without “the right stadium” in Miami, Beckham will take ball and go home

MLS commissioner Don Garber has for the first time stated openly that David Beckham’s Miami expansion franchise depends on getting a new stadium built:

“If we can’t get the right stadium, we can’t go to Miami. We have been challenged to find a site that we believe will be successful,” Garber told Reuters at the SoccerEx Americas Forum in Barbados last week.

“I’m neither optimistic [nor] pessimistic.”

That’s the kind of thing commissioners are expected to do for their owners, of course, and with Beckham’s troubles getting Miami officials (or even Broward County officials) to hand over the waterfront land that he desires, he no doubt appreciates all the leverage that he can get. And anyway, his option to pick up an MLS franchise on the cheap, negotiated as part of his agreement to join MLS as a player years back, doesn’t limit him to Miami, so presumably if his and Garber’s threats don’t shake loose a Miami stadium, he can go to Detroit or Juneau or some other city that has a waterfront and try again there.

Meanwhile, for anyone trying to discern a coherent policy here from Garber on when new soccer-only stadiums are needed, and when sharing with a football team is okay, and when sharing with a baseball team is okay, the answer is: coherent, schmoherent, it’s all about who wants it badly enough and how much money they’re putting up. If Beckham decides tomorrow that he’d be happy to share digs with the Dolphins, I’m sure Garber will declare that this is totally acceptable. It’s actually nice to see MLS growing up and joining the other big leagues that understand there’s only one principle worth standing on: money.

D.C. council ducks United stadium hearing until after election

D.C. council president Phil Mendelson yesterday abruptly delayed the release of a planned city report on the proposed D.C. United soccer stadium until a week from Wednesday. That’s the day after election day, which means that none of the people running for office will need to take a position on it before the vote.

The move puts the stadium plan on life support, according to one councilmember:

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who has forcefully opposed a key element of the plan — swapping the city’s Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW for land for the stadium near Nationals Park— said he reads the delay as probably meaning one thing: The stadium project is “dead.”

“There is no question that the political environment will be different. No question, the pressure will be off when everyone is reelected for four more years,” Graham said.

Also, it increases the chances that it will be approved, according to some human beings (I’m assuming they’re human beings, the article doesn’t say) that the Washington Post talked to:

But others said the controversial decision to dispose of the Reeves Center might be easier for lawmakers to make after the election. Several council staffers also speculated that it could simply be a first step toward mothballing serious consideration until January so that the next mayor could take credit for completing the deal.

If I’m allowed to do my own tea-leaf reading, it seems likely that everyone realized that there was no upside to holding stadium hearings before finding out who will be mayor and who will be on the council next year; this way, everyone can settle into the lame-duck period between election day and inauguration day and decide whether to rush through approval of a plan before the new folks take over, or just punt and let it be someone else’s problem. The only reason December is a deadline at all is because current mayor Vincent Gray (who didn’t make it through the primary process) has been the plan’s main proponent, so the assumption has been it needs to get done on his watch or not at all, but in D.C. time and electoral success has a funny way of turning opponents into proponents, so we’ll see.

Falcons owner to Beckham: Sharing digs with an NFL team can be fun and rewarding!

And finally, Atlanta Falcons and as-yet-unnamed Atlanta MLS expansion team owner Arthur Blank thinks that David Beckham’s MLS expansion team should share a stadium with the Miami Dolphins:

Here’s what Blank had to say when asked if Beckham’s team should stadium share with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami’s American Football team.

“Yes,” Blank told reporters. “It’s a challenge Beckham has to overcome. It’s important he finds a balance between the commercial side and the special, emotional atmosphere you want for a soccer stadium.”

Is Blank actually telling Beckham that he should throw in the towel on a new stadium and move into the Dolphins’ old place once it’s finished being renovated? Does he think maybe the Dolphins still want to build a new stadium, and could share with soccer? Has he completely forgotten that the Dolphins are doing renovations, and just assumes that every NFL owner is in the middle of building a new stadium, or will be soon? This is the guy who runs an organization that thinks London is in Spain, so anything is possible.

D.C. to Buzzard Point community on benefits agreement: We’re getting you a soccer stadium, that’s not enough?

Last month, a coalition of residents of D.C.’s Buzzard Point, where D.C. United wants to build a new stadium with about $178 million in city subsidies, presented their list of community benefits they’d like to see the city provide them as compensation for putting up with a whole lot of soccer fans landing on their doorstep, including traffic improvements, job development, a small business incubator, and housing preservation programs. Projected cost: $5 million or so.

Yesterday, it was revealed that the city and United had responded with a joint letter saying, in effect: The city already has programs for all that stuff, what makes you think you’re so special?

For instance, in response to the community’s request for a revolving $500,000 workforce training fund to benefit residents of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D, [City Administrator Allen] Lew and [D.C. United COO Tom] Hunt wrote that “it does not make sense to create a separate and standalone employment program for ANC 6D residents. The District is, however, committed to working with the CBCC to ensure that ANC 6D job-seekers are successful in accessing these existing programs.”

Similarly, in response to the request for a $750,000 small business incubator fund, Lew and Hunt wrote that “it does not make sense to develop a separate standalone program” from the city’s current small business programs.

On the one hand, sure, the city should be providing money to help all residents, not just those who happen to live in Buzzard Point. On the other hand, helping out residents of a specific neighborhood affected by a development project is pretty much the whole point of community benefits agreements — and if that sometimes leads to community groups just trying to get what’s in it for them instead of thinking of the big picture, the principle is still sound: If the community is going to put up with the headaches of a big construction project, it should get helped out in other ways in exchange.

Plus, maybe more to the point, this kind of response is a great way to build enemies. “For you to basically slap us in the face and tell us to go away…I don’t see where they’ve left us any type of room for negotiation by telling us no to every last thing that we asked for,” Felicia Couts, a coordinator of the horribly named Near SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council, told the Washington Post. Seems somebody really doesn’t get how this works.

AEG to LA: We will gladly give you NFL team Tuesday for a hamburger today (LA to AEG: Sure!)

And here’s superduperbrief:

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday granted developer Anschutz Entertainment Group another six months to find a team for its proposed downtown NFL stadium, while also giving it more influence over any backup plan for the site.

On a 12-0 vote, the council agreed to make AEG a participant in what city officials have been calling Plan B — the effort to figure out how to upgrade the Los Angeles Convention Center if no stadium is built.

Why? Because an AEG exec said they’d been engaged in a “renewed dialogue” with the NFL on a franchise, so that’s apparently worth another six months of rope. And dealing in AEG on what to do with the site if there’s no stadium, so that the next six months isn’t entirely spent twiddling everyone’s thumbs. Though really, they could have spent the time RFPing out the site in case the stadium doesn’t happen, but then AEG would keep sitting outside pressing its face against the window and making sad puppy eyes, so nah.

Red Bulls still don’t wanna pay arena taxes, nobody told them they’d have to, mommmmm!

The New York Red Bulls (aka Red Bull New York, aka whatever they’ll be called if Red Bull sells them) are still appealing that tax court ruling from almost three years ago that they have to pay property taxes on their arena in Harrison, N.J. The tax court ruled then (and an appellate court agreed) that because the team collects all the revenue from the arena, it’s effectively a private stadium regardless of who holds title to the building; in its appeal to the state supreme court, Red Bull’s response has been that that’s not fair, because nobody told them the rules ahead of time:

Red Bull Arena “was undoubtedly the victim of a ‘bait and switch’ in this case, as its promised tax exemption vanished into thin air,” says the Red Bulls’ successful petition for certification.

Red Bull should be aware that tax rules can change, right? Oh, sorry, wrong crappy food product ad campaign.


New MLS L.A. team has owners, not much else

There’s more information out today (okay, really late yesterday) on the artist-soon-to-be-formerly-known-as-Chivas-USA: The new owners will include the billionaire Malaysian owner of Cardiff City, a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Golden State Warriors, the owner of Vietnam’s first McDonald’s, and an ESPN basketball analyst; they’ll pay more than $100 million for an expansion team in L.A. to start play in 2017 or so, replacing Chivas, which will be dissolved immediately; and they’re looking at sites for a new soccer stadium, including, according to unnamed sources, ones “in downtown L.A. (‘not far from the Staples Center’) and near the Hollywood Park racetrack.”

One thing I can tell you right now: If the new owners plan on having a new stadium in place before they start play, no way in hell they take the pitch in 2017: It’d take about two years just to build a stadium, and they still have to decide on a site and a way to pay for it, let alone waiting out California’s environmental impact review process. They do have other options if they want to start play sooner — sharing digs with the Galaxy temporarily while a new stadium gets built, for example — but if they want to wait until stadium plans are finalized before actually launching the franchise, don’t be surprised to see that date slip. After all, David Beckham starting a team in Miami in 2016 was once considered a sure thing, and now it’s on the backest of burners.

Unless Los Angeles is considered such an awesome two-team market that nobody cares where the team plays, as happened with another large city not that long ago. But a new stadium by 2017? That ain’t happening.

ESPN says MLS to shut down Chivas after this year, wait for new L.A. stadium of its very own

Speaking of soccer, if you’ve gotten used to referring to NYC F.C. as MLS’s 20th team, recalibrate your ordinal numbers: According to ESPN, MLS will shut down Chivas USA after this season for a two-year “hiatus,” then bring it back as a new team, with a new name. In other words, as Deadspin puts it, “MLS is contracting, with plans to expand again with a new, second team in L.A.” It’s just not calling it that, because “contracting” sounds bad, whereas “rebranding” sounds all shiny and 21st century!

And in addition to a new name, the new L.A. team will apparently be seeking a new L.A. stadium so it no longer has to share digs with the L.A. Galaxy:

The club is expected to go dark for a minimum of two years until the new ownership group can plan and build a new stadium for the team. MLS has confirmed the land in Exposition Park where the L.A. Sports Arena sits as a potential site for the new venue.

That minimum could easily end up being extended, then, given that the current arena on the site is owned by the county L.A. Memorial Coliseum Commission, and managed by USC under a long-term lease. Add in that nobody, so far as I can tell, has actually figured out how to pay for building a new stadium, let alone how any payment for the land would work out, and this could be a very long drawn-out process.

It’s even possible, of course, that MLS would just throw the former Chivas franchise back in the expansion hopper, and offer it as another team to one of the eight billion other cities angling to join MLS. It’s not Plan A, obviously — MLS would clearly rather have two teams in L.A. as in New York City, which makes sense given that both are more than twice the size of some of the smaller wannabe MLS markets — but when your sports league has a seller’s market for franchises, having one more to put on the block is never a bad option to have.

No, new DC United stadium probably wouldn’t host 46 events per year

The District of Columbia has released a transportation management plan for its proposed D.C. United soccer stadium, which is meant to plan for traffic and transit impacts if the stadium is built. Naturally enough, the Washington Business Journal has missed this entirely, and instead focused on “Lookit all the stuff that the stadium will be used for!!!”

In addition to 23 United games, with an average attendance of 19,200 fans, five international soccer matches are expected to sell out the stadium, as will three annual concerts. Five community events will draw a projected 4,000 visitors each, and 10 “other events,” such as NCAA lacrosse games, will average 6,000 fans each.

Where, exactly, did these numbers come from?

D.C. United provided the District with a preliminary estimate of how the stadium will be used.

Uh, yeah, right. So let’s start with those 23 United home games. The MLS season includes 17 home games; the report notes that United has 20 home games scheduled for 2014, but that’s only because the team made the CONCACAF Champions League, which won’t happen every year. There’s no explanation of how they got to 23, but presumably if they make the playoffs (yeah, yeah, the MLS Cup, but Americans still think of it as the playoffs) then that would amount to 23 games — as a maximum, but in a down year it could be as few as 17.

The rest of the events — international friendlies, concerts, lacrosse, etc. — those are apparently made up out of whole cloth, though they’re reasonable goals to shoot for. But again, the numbers could end being lower, depending on how badly touring acts want to play in an outdoor 20,000-seat stadium, how much competition the stadium would get from other D.C. venues, and so on.

Finally, the report notes that the United stadium hasn’t been designed yet, and might hold as few as 18,000 fans, which would make an average 19,200 attendance a bit unlikely. (United also hasn’t drawn anywhere near 19,000 fans per game in recent years, though presumably they’re hoping that will change in a new stadium.) The 19,200 figure, it’s explained, is meant as a “conservative” estimate — which, since this is a transportation document, means it’s the likely top end, since you want to account for maximum usage when you’re thinking about traffic.

All of this is fine — for a transportation report. What it is not is an actual projection of what will take place at a United stadium. So what’s the Washington Business Journal’s lede?

The proposed D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point will be in use 46 times per year, and for much more than just soccer.

Sorry, but we have some lovely parting gifts…

Sacramento soccer team announces 20,000-seat stadium plan, says money will come from somewhere

Sacramento’s two-year-old USL Pro minor-league soccer franchise, Republic FC, announced plans yesterday to build a 20,000-seat stadium in the city’s downtown railyard if it’s admitted to MLS. And how would it be paid for?

Questions remain over how the stadium will be financed. Mayor Kevin Johnson has said no city money will be used to help build the facility. Nagle has said the Republic FC investor group will have the capacity to pay for the stadium, plus a league expansion fee of at least $70 million.

Sure, maybe? Larry Kelley, the developer who is planning to build a mixed-use district on the old railyard site, would be part of the Republic FC investment team, so it’s always possible he’d give them a break on the land as a kind of loss leader. Or “no city money to help build the facility” could really mean “city money, but only to help buy the land or provide tax breaks.” Nobody’s saying yet, but hey, pretty pictures!

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