Friday roundup: Indiana and Missouri rack up another $390m in team subsidies, and other dog-bites-man news

Sadly, there’s another loss to report this week: Rob McQuown, who for the past decade has been one of the core tech and admin guys at Baseball Prospectus, passed away on Tuesday. I never met Rob personally, but in my days writing and editing for BP we exchanged emails a ton, and he was always a sharp and good-humored presence keeping the site running behind the scenes. (He wrote some excellent fantasy baseball coverage for a while, too.) I haven’t heard the details of his death, but I do know it was way too soon, and my sympathies go out to all his friends and family and colleagues who are mourning him this week. Here’s a lovely podcast tribute by Ben Lindbergh to Rob’s multifarious and too-often underappreciated gifts.

And now, to the news:

  • The Indianapolis City-County Council gave final signoff to $290 million in subsidies for the Indiana Pacers, which along with new and past operating subsidies brings team owner Herb Simon’s total haul to more than a billion dollars. The team’s new lease lasts until 2044, but I’d wager that Simon won’t wait that long before going back to what’s been an insanely lucrative taxpayer well.
  • The state of Missouri has reportedly approved $3 million a year for 20 years, coming to a total of $70 million, for upgrades for the St. Louis Blues, Kansas City Royals, and Kansas City Chiefs stadiums — yeah, I don’t get how that math works either, especially when this was previously reported as $70 million for the Blues plus $30 million for the K.C. teams, and has elsewhere been reported as $70 million for the Blues and $60 million for the K.C. teams, but I’m sure it was copied from a press release somewhere, and that’s what passes for fact-checking these days, right? This brings the teams’ total haul to … let’s see, the K.C. teams got $250 million previously, and the Blues owners got $67 million in city money, so let’s go with “around $400 million,” about which you can say that it’s at least cheaper than what Indiana taxpayers are on the hook for, and that is pretty much all you can say.
  • The city of Anaheim is still waiting on its now-overdue appraisal of the Los Angeles Angels‘ stadium land so it can open talks with team owner Arte Moreno on how much he should pay for development rights on the stadium parking lots. Mayor Harry Sidhu has appointed a negotiating team, though, which includes Sidhu himself, something that has drawn criticism since Angels execs donated to his election campaign. Sidhu also stated that “our theme parks, sports venues and convention center are a matter of pride, but their real purpose is to serve residents by generating revenue for public safety, parks, libraries and community centers and by helping us keep taxes and fees low,” which is not likely to help convince anyone that he understands sports economics like his predecessor did and isn’t just repeating what his funders tell him.
  • Oak View Group’s Tim Leiweke is trying to build a 10,000-seat arena in Palm Springs, and economists point out that this won’t help the local economy much because “you’re crazy if you think I’m flying to Palm Springs to see your minor league hockey team,” and Leiweke says Palm Springs is just different, okay, because so many attendees will be people who are already coming to town to play golf, gamble, or stay at local resorts. How this makes it a major economic plus when those people also see a concert when they’re in town Leiweke didn’t say, but who’re you going to believe, a bunch of people who study economics for a living or a guy who was once the youngest GM in indoor soccer?
  • A Cincinnati nonprofit is trying to raise $2 million to preserve affordable housing around F.C. Cincinnati‘s new stadium, and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority says that maybe building more market-rate housing will allow low-income residents of existing buildings to stay put. Yeah, that’s really not going to work.
  • Nobody in Miami-Dade County has studied the impact of building a new Inter Miami stadium right next to the city’s airport, and some county commissioners think that maybe that might be a thing they’d want to study.
  • Here’s a good, long R.J. Anderson article on three cities vying for MLB expansion teams (Portland, Montreal, and Raleigh) that should provide reading material for the inevitable endless wait for MLB to actually expand. (I’m also quoted in it, right before Jim Bouton.)
  • And here’s another long article that quotes me, this one by Bill Shea of The Athletic on how stadium subsidies have changed since the Great Recession (some sports economists say it’s tougher to get public money now, I say “Bah!”).

F.C. Cincinnati releases new stadium renderings that remain unclear on exactly how soccer works

It’s been a bit of a slow news week so far, but fortunately F.C. Cincinnati is here to bail us out with some fresh vaportecture renderings of its new stadium that it’s building with somewhere between $81 million and $213 million in public money. You’ll recall that back in April, it was supposed to look like this:

But now, it’s going to look like this:

As you can see, there have been a lot of advances! The lighting system has been redirected to light the field rather than the roof, the ad boards have been removed from one sideline to make possible exciting plays where players actually tumble into the front row, the video board has been relocated from the corner to the upper end seats where it will block more fans’ views, someone has brought an enormous banner that is being spread out across the upper and lower decks despite it being the middle of game play, and somewhat fewer fans are excitedly raising their fists for good reason (possibly because the action has moved to the other end of the pitch, possibly because no one can see around all the checkerboard flags that were handed out, possibly because they’re all annoyed by vuvuzelas now being allowed in the stadium). Also the confetti mysteriously falling from above appears to have been gotten smaller, possibly because the previous size was considered a concussion hazard.

What else we got? Anything with some lens flare?

Now that’s what I’m talking about! I especially like the passerby in the last image excitedly pointing to the sky above the stadium, no doubt saying, “There are no fireworks or spotlights or mysterious colored clouds coming out of the top! Is it broken?”

F.C. Cincinnati president Jeff Berding also told Cincinnati Business Courier why the team chose to build a 26,000-seat stadium when right now they average 28,000 fans a game, and it was it was too expensive to build more seats (every additional thousand seats costing an additional $10 million) but also that by building more seats they can keep ticket prices lower, and 26,000 was the sweet spot where those two equations met, presumably, though he didn’t actually say. Just rest assured that your MLS team has two goals in mind: keeping ticket prices low and maximizing profits, and there’s no way those two things will ever come into conflict. Now wave your flag faster, you’re getting confetti on your head.

Analysis reveals FC Cincinnati stadium has $150m in hidden public costs, or maybe $17m, math is hard

Cincinnati’s WCPO has done a long analysis of the projected public and private costs of F.C. Cincinnati‘s new stadium, and determined that contrary to claims that contrary to claims it will cost taxpayers $63.8 million, the actual public price tag will be $213 million. That’s a lot more money!

Unfortunately, the charts that WCPO has used to accompany its article are not all too clear:

And even more unfortunately, WCPO has included 20-year costs as if they’re all payable now, meaning it’s impossible to figure out the cost in present-value terms. (Paying $10 million over 20 years isn’t really a cost of $10 million any more than paying $1 million in mortgage payments over 20 years means you bought a $1 million house.) So we’re going to have to break these down one by one:

  • It’s projected to cost $34.4 million over 20 years ($1.72 million a year) to pay for the construction of two parking garages, and while garage revenues are projected at $2.6 million a year, some of that needs to go to pay operating expenses. Net cost: unknown.
  • “The city of Milford is borrowing $3.5 million to cover the cost of purchasing land for FC Cincinnati’s training facility.” Net cost: $3.5 million.
  • The city of Cincinnati is “likely to finance up to $25 million in funding commitments for road improvements, a 750-car garage and other stadium infrastructure.” Net cost: $25 million.
  • The stadium and practice facility will be owned by Hamilton and Clermont counties, respectively, and to get around a law that private entities must pay property taxes on any port authority land leased for more than one year, the team will operate under a series of 360-day leases. The team will make a lump sum payment of $9.3 million to the Cincinnati public schools, which is estimated to be 25% of the present-value total of future property taxes, so if we assume the other 75% to be a tax break then we get net cost: $27.9 million.
  • The team will be exempt from sales tax on construction materials. Net cost: $7.7 million.
  • Cincinnati is providing $8.9 million in cash, and the state has committed to $4 million in cash and is expected to approve another $4 million. Net cost: $16.9 million.
  • There’s a bunch of land changing hands in complicated ways, and the WCPO article isn’t clear about what’s a cost and what’s a revenue, so net cost: unknown.

That gets us to a total of upwards of $81 million, which is definitely more than $63.8 million, but not nearly as much as $213 million. This is why it’s important to specify your units: There’s a massive difference between paying $213 million now and paying $213 million over 20 years, and headlines confusing the two are, well, confusing.

That said, there are still hidden costs to this deal, and upwards of $81 million is still a lot to pay for a soccer stadium for a team that was already drawing well in its existing stadium. The F.C. Cincinnati deal was a major taxpayer handout to begin with, and it’s only getting handoutier.

Friday roundup: Beckham proposes stadium lease, FC Cincinnati pays off evicted tenants, Florida city admits its spring training economic projections were bunk

Is anyone else hugely enjoying John Cameron Mitchell’s new semiautobiographical musical podcast “Anthem: Homunculus” but having a hard time listening because the Luminary podcast platform keeps freezing up mid-episode? Is there enough overlap in the Field of Schemes and John Cameron Mitchell fan bases that anyone here even understands this question? (If not, here’s a good primer by my old Village Voice colleague Alan Scherstuhl.) Is Luminary still offering podcasts on its pay tier without the creators’ permissions? How should one handle it when great art is only available on platforms that have some major ethical issues? Are we ever going to get to this week’s stadium news?

Let’s get to this week’s stadium news:

  • David Beckham’s Inter Miami has offered to pay $3.5 million a year in rent on Melreese Park land for 39 years, plus $25 million for other Miami park projects, as part of a stadium lease agreement. That still doesn’t sound like too bad a deal for the public to me, but as nobody seems to be linking to the lease proposal in its entirety, there could still always be some time bombs hidden in there that weren’t reported on. More news when the Miami city commission actually gets ready to vote on this proposed lease, hopefully!
  • The owners of F.C. Cincinnati have agreed to pay off the tenants they’re evicting to make way for an entrance to their new stadium, but one of the conditions of the payout is that no one can discuss how much it’s for. We do know, however, that “at one point pizza was ordered in during the eight hours of negotiations” — thank god for intrepid journalism!
  • Clearwater, Florida just cut its estimate of the economic impact of the Philadelphia Phillies‘ presence during spring training from $70 million a year to $44 million a year after realizing that it didn’t make sense to include spending by locals who would be spending their money in town anyway. Now let’s see them adjust their estimates to account for tourists who are visiting Florida already because it’s March and Florida is warm and happen to take in a ballgame while they’re there and maybe we’ll be getting somewhere.
  • Good news for Columbus: After a good year for concerts, the public-private owned Nationwide Arena turned a $1.87 million operating profit last year. The less good news: None of that was used to repay the $4.76 million in tax subsidies the arena received, because the profits were instead poured into improvements like “roof and concrete repairs, natural-gas line replacement, new spotlights, metal detectors, and renovations to corporate suites.” The maybe-good news: If this means that the arena managers won’t ask for new subsidies for renovations for a while because they’re getting enough from operations, yeah, no, I don’t really expect this will forestall that either, but here’s hoping.
  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred again said a bunch of things about the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays stadium situations, but as usual nobody read them to the end because it’s impossible to do so without falling asleep. I am not complaining when I note that Manfred is an incompetent grifter compared to some of his colleagues in other sports, really I’m not. (Well, a little.)
  • Speaking of the Rays, Minnesota Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven would like to blow up Tropicana Field because a fly ball hit a speaker, but the game broadcast cut to commercial before he could spell out his financing plan to build a replacement stadium.
  • A street in Inglewood near the Los Angeles Rams‘ new stadium is seeing stores close as a result of luxury blight, but Mayor James Butts says it’s just because of gentrification unrelated to the stadium. Which either way makes it hard to see how the stadium (or the arena that Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and Butts want) is needed to help the Inglewood economy, but mayors aren’t paid to think very hard about this stuff.
  • Washington, D.C., is spending $30 million to install three public turf ballfields near RFK Stadium, which sounds like a lot of money for just three turf fields, but still a better investment than some other things D.C. has spent money on, so go … kickball players? Kickball needs to be played on turf? The things you learn in this business!

FC Cincinnati tax subsidy worth $17m approved last year wasn’t actually approved last year, it turns out

Turns out the city of Cincinnati overlooked something last year when it approved its share of $63.8 million in subsidies for a new F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium: $17 million of the city’s share will come from local hotel taxes, which are controlled by the joint city-county Convention Facilities Authority, which now isn’t sure it actually wants to hand over the dough unless the city agrees to cover any shortfall created in paying maintenance and debt service on the city’s convention center.

If I’m reading this Cincinnati Enquirer article right, it’s the county holding up the shifting of the funds, which makes sense, since the county would be on the hook for any shortfall that the city didn’t fill.

There’s an authority meeting set for this afternoon, at which maybe a solution will be hashed out. Either way, it sounds like the hashing will take place between the city and the county, not the private team owners — heaven forfend anyone ask them to cover any shortfalls — though if there’s an impasse, it could force the team to either delay construction or borrow money at a higher interest rate. (The $17 million is meant to be seed money that F.C. Cincinnati’s owners would then borrow off of — if stadium finance doesn’t make your head hurt, you’re probably not doing it right.)

There’s also a city council vote set for this Thursday on rezoning the land the team owners want to use for a stadium entrance, which is opposed by the people who currently live in buildings located on the proposed entrance site and slated for eviction. The Enquirer says it’s “unclear” if the rezoning will pass, which is journalism code for “we either asked councilmembers how they’ll vote and they wouldn’t tell us or we didn’t get around to asking them before our publication deadline”; many answers remain hazy, in other words, ask again at the end of the week.

Residents of buildings set to be razed for FC Cincinnati walkway demand compensation for losing homes

The controversy over the residents of Cincinnati’s West End who are getting evicted by F.C. Cincinnati because of the team’s new stadium but not technically for the team’s new stadium is heating up, with tenants demanding that the team find them new housing and pay compensation for booting them from their longtime homes:

The letter, from Wade Street & Central Avenue Tenants United, was sent by Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition Executive Director Josh Spring, to the public Monday night.

“We should continue to live in 421 Wade and 1559 Central until this replacement housing is completed and each of us has suitable housing and FCC should pay all moving costs and proper compensation to tenants,” the letter said.

The twelve residents of the two buildings, which are set to be torn down to make way for not the stadium proper but for an entrance to the stadium, have been told they have to vacate the property by May 31, but according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, “team lawyers have publicly said nobody will be kicked out on that date, though people need to find new housing,” which hunnnhh? While lobbying for taxpayer funding for the stadium, team president Jeff Berding had promised that no residents would be displaced, but now says he only meant no residents of the City West development nearby, not no residents at all.

While it looks like the conflict will be resolved by settling on a compensation payout, the tenants made clear that the real issue is that they don’t want to move, and are being forced to just so a soccer team can have a walkway:

The letter said Berding and FC Cincinnati officials “must not understand the gravity of this situation.”

“They are threatening our homes, our stability and our physical and mental health,” the letter said. “We live where we live because we like our neighborhood, we like our streets, we have relationships with our neighbors, our kids go to school and play nearby, we have close family and friends nearby, we can financially afford our current homes, our jobs are close by, we have access to transportation and our medical care can easily reach us.”

Which, yeah, sure, people get forced to move from homes they like all the time for lots of reasons, including just the capitalist housing market. But that doesn’t make it any less tragic when it’s happening to you, especially when you have reason to believe there were other options available.

Friday roundup: Predators sign possibly non-sucky lease extension, NYCFC stadium rumors reach code orange, and why are we laughing at fat Thor, anyway?

Sorry if I’m posting a bit late this morning, but I started checking Deadspin for any last-minute news, and ended up having to read all of Anna Merlan’s best Avengers: Endgame review ever. If you’re tempted to click that and go read it now, please wait until after reading this post because it will make you forget all about wanting to know about soccer stadium zoning regulations or whatever, and anyway this week’s roundup is relatively short and will let you get back to thoughts on Thor fat-shaming in due haste; if you’re not tempted to click that at all and are wondering how this post went off the rails so quickly, just skip ahead to the bullet points already:

Friday roundup: Wild get $55m to extend lease, A’s seek to buy into Coliseum land, Calgary will own Flames arena (maybe, whatever that means)

Friday! Let’s see what else has been happening this week:

  • The owners of the Minnesota Wild have extended their lease for ten years, through 2035, in exchange for cutting their rent from $9 million a year to just over $3.5 million. That may sound like a $55 million gift (or an $88 million gift — the Pioneer Press wasn’t clear about whether the rent reduction starts now or in 2026), but St. Paul officials say it won’t cost the city any money, because they renegotiated the public arena bonds so that they can be paid off over a longer time. No, I don’t get it either, this is just what the newspaper says the unnamed city officials said, go ask them.
  • The Oakland A’s owners have a tentative agreement to buy Alameda County’s half of the Oakland Coliseum site for $85 million. (The public landowners previously turned down a purchase offer of $167 million when it looked like the Raiders might stay put there, and other indicators put the market value of the site in the same range, so the price looks reasonable, at least.) No, that doesn’t mean the A’s owners will necessarily build a stadium there — they say Howard Terminal is still their first choice for that — but they could, or they could just build other development there, or they could be prohibited from building anything, given that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has been complaining that the county selling its stake without consulting the city, which owns the other half, could be illegal. Check back again in about a month, when the deal is supposed to be finalized, maybe.
  • Calgary councillor Jeff Davison, the main proponent of a new arena for the Flames, says that “the City of Calgary will own” any arena, which could mean, well, anything really: Will the city own just the deed, or the revenues from the build as well? Who will control non-hockey events? Who will pay maintenance? Will the building pay property taxes? Rent? The Calgary Herald says that “an official with the Flames said there was ‘nothing to report’ when asked for comment,” so we’re flying blind here, at least until Davison drops some more hints about what he thinks is going to be approved, if he even knows what will be approved and isn’t just trying to boost his plan’s prospects by talking it up in the press. Stenography journalism is hard!
  • Eastern Illinois University is looking at building an esports arena in a second-floor classroom, and now I really don’t get why Comcast Spectacor needs to spend $50 million to build one in Philadelphia.
  • This week in vaportecture: One of the ghostly figures projected to attend Worcester Red Sox games has now wandered onto the imaginary field’s imaginary second base and is celebrating an imaginary double; the F.C. Cincinnati stadium will now feature a “grand staircase” that is supposed to echo the Spanish Steps in Rome and the front steps of the New York Public Library, which are 174 steps and (roughly, I can’t find a count online) 25 steps respectively, whereas these look like they’ll be seven steps max, but okay; and the Tampa Bay Rays stadium in Tampa that will never be built has finally turned around its field so the giant gap in the grandstand isn’t behind home plate but is now in center field, which is more reasonable but, remember, not going to be built anyway, so never mind.
  • And speaking of Tampa, newly elected mayor Jane Castor has declared, “I will do what I can to have the Rays move to Tampa.” Rays owner Stuart Sternberg can’t move anywhere until 2027 without the permission of St. Petersburg, and the term Castor was just elected to expires in 2023, so good luck with that one, mayor.

Friday roundup: NYCFC turf woes, Quebec’s NHL snub, and why people who live near stadiums can’t have nice things

And in less vaportectury news:

  • NYC F.C. is having turf problems again, as large chunks of the temporary sod covering New Yankee Stadium’s dirt infield were peeling up at their home match last Saturday. There’s still been no announced progress on the latest stadium plan proposed last summer (which wasn’t even proposed by the team, but by a private developer), and I honestly won’t be surprised if there never is, though Yankees president Randy Levine did say recently that he “hopes” to have a soccer stadium announcement this year sometime, so there’s that.
  • Deadspin ran a long article on why Quebec City keeps getting snubbed for an NHL franchise, and the short answer appears to be: It’s a small city, the Canadian dollar is weak, Gary Bettman loves trying to expand hockey into unlikely U.S. markets, and Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson hates prospective Quebec Nordiques owner Pierre Karl Péladeau, for reasons having to do with everything from arena competition to Anglophone-Francophone beef. Say it with me now: Building arenas on spec is a no good, very bad idea.
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers arena has an even more terrible new name than the two terrible names that preceded it. “I know that sometimes [with] change, you get a little resistance and people say, ‘Why are they changing it?’ and ‘How’s that name going to work?'” team owner Dan Gilbert told NBA.com. The answers, if you were wondering, are “Dan Gilbert is trying to promote a different one of his allegedly fraudulent loan service programs” and “nobody’s going to even remember the new name, and will probably just call it ‘the arena’ or something.”
  • Inglewood residents are afraid that the new Los Angeles Rams stadium will price them out of their neighborhood; the good news for them is that all economic evidence is that the stadium probably won’t do much to accelerate gentrification, while the bad news is that gentrification is probably coming for them stadium or not. The it-could-be-worse news is that Inglewood residents are still better off than Cincinnati residents who, after F.C. Cincinnati‘s owners promised no one would be displaced for their new stadium, went around buying up buildings around the new stadium and forcing residents to relocate, because that’s not technically “for” the new stadium, right?
  • Worcester still hasn’t gotten around to buying up all the property for the Triple-A Red Sox‘ new stadium set to open in 2021, and with construction set to begin in July, this could be setting the stage for the city to either have to overpay for the land or have to engage in a protracted eminent domain proceeding that could delay the stadium’s opening. It’s probably too soon to be anticipating another minor-league baseball road team, but who am I kidding, it’s never too soon to look forward to that.

The vaportecture watch never stops: Sacramento Republic and FC Cincinnati deliver latest stadium rendering knee-slappers

My vaportecture article at Deadspin appears to have unlocked some sort of floodgates, because now it seems like not a day goes by that some insane new stadium renderings aren’t unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace. Yesterday, for example, the owners of Sacramento Republic FC (currently a USL team, but in the running for an MLS expansion slot) released these:

There are some design oddities — why, for example, do all the fans in upper deck appear to be seated in love seats? — as well as some of our favorite vaportectural shtick: stadiums that mysteriously glow while all around them remains dark, athletes engaged in oddly unathletic endeavors (in this case a player taking a penalty kick by apparently engaging in a high jump), fans holding up scarves to obscure their fellow fans’ view during a key moment in the action. But a few eagle-eyed Twitter users went beyond that to look at the individual clipart people (“entourage,” we now know they’re called) and found, um:

I think it’s fair to say that, even if you by necessity have to populate your creation with stock images, it’s important to spread them around a little for at least minimal verisimilitude.

Then there’s this:

That was yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon, we got yet another round of F.C. Cincinnati renderings, which have previously provided some of the more hilarious moments in this field of study. The latest twist is apparently that the stadium will no longer have an unearthly glow — no, seriously:

Other new renderings show off such innovations as translucent scarves:

The stadium surrounded by a postapocalyptic wasteland of cut-and-paste identical buildings, where fans emerge from a portal from another dimension to arrive at the front gates (and also the stadium still glows somewhat, though not as much as the trees):

And still more, but I’m having trouble navigating the Cincinnati Enquirer’s terrible gallery layout, so please visit there yourself post your favorite items in comments, or on Twitter, or really anywhere.