Friday roundup: Spending on training facilities is a bad idea, Portland seeks MLB team, Jays game postponed after roof hit by falling ice

I can’t believe none of you wrote in to ask why I hadn’t reported on a Toronto Blue Jays game getting postponed due to falling ice puncturing a hole in the stadium roof, but I guess you’re all acclimated to waiting for the Friday roundup now for that sort of thing. But wait no longer! (Well, wait a few bullet points for that one in particular.)

Friday roundup: Warriors debt fight, giant American butts, and the blackout curtains that will eat Minneapolis

It’s laugh to keep from crying week! (Just kidding: It’s always laugh to keep from crying week.)

  • The 46-year-old Richmond Coliseum is “clearly past its prime” and “smaller and gloomier than many competing venues,” and the city should use “original thinking and strong leadership from the private and public sectors” such as tax-increment financing to help pay for a new arena, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Not included in the editorial: any indication of how much a new arena would cost or whether the benefit to the city would be worth it, because why think about such things when there’s new-car smell to be had?
  • Oakland and the Golden State Warriors owners are still fighting over who’ll pay for $40 million in remaining Oracle Arena debt once the Warriors move to San Francisco in 2019. It sure sounds like the team’s Oakland lease requires them to pay off remaining debt if they leave before 2027, but the city really would have had a much stronger case if it had refused to grant the team a lease extension without an agreement on debt payments, and made Steph Curry go play in the street for a couple of years.
  • The Texas Rangers‘ new stadium will feature seats that are 1 to 2 inches wider than in their old one, which is good for fans with wide butts (I stand accused, although not of being a Rangers fan), but less good for fans with butts of any size who will have to make do with seats farther down the outfield lines to make way for the butts of more well-off fans. Everything’s a tradeoff.
  • The Detroit Grand Prix owners, seeking to justify turning a public park into a private raceway for three months of preparation each summer, claim the annual event is worth $58 million to the local economy, and I told the Detroit Metro Times why that’s probably bullshit.
  • Here are some pictures of Los Angeles F.C.‘s new stadium in the final stages of construction that look disturbingly like pictures of stadiums in the first stages of demolition. At least season-ticket sales are going well, and those are way harder to fake than individual game ticket sales!
  • Derek Jeter may have gotten rid of anything not nailed down from the 2017 Miami Marlins, but he still can’t move Red Grooms’ horrific home run sculpture, because the public helped pay for it so now it’s public art. (Too bad Marlins fans couldn’t have tried the same argument about Giancarlo Stanton.)
  • The NCAA has awarded the 2019 men’s Final Four to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and now is demanding a giant blackout curtain to cover up the building’s windows for the event. Cost, according to Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Mike Vekich: “It will be expensive — obviously.” Crazy idea: Tell the NCAA, “You already awarded us the Final Four, if you want a giant venetian blind, pay for it yourself or go play in the street with Steph Curry.”
  • The cost of a pedestrian bridge to get fans to a new stadium in Atlanta — no, not that bridge to that stadium, a different bridge to the Falcons stadium — has nearly doubled from $12.8 million to $25.1 million, thanks in part to rush charges to get ready for next year’s Super Bowl. You know where next year’s Super Bowl would look great if the NFL won’t pay rush charges for a bridge? You guessed it!

L.A. seeks to use $22.5m in anti-poverty funds to help build MLS stadium (UPDATED)

When the Los Angeles city council approved a $250 million stadium plan for the Los Angeles F.C. MLS expansion team in May, I wrote that it looked like it would be entirely paid for with private money, “unless there’s some other shoe yet to drop.” And you know, sometimes I really hate being right:

Los Angeles City Hall is seeking to give a loan of up to $22.5 million to the developers of a new soccer stadium near downtown Los Angeles.

A motion submitted this week by City Councilman Curren Price asks for city approval for a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) loan for the backers of the Los Angeles Football Stadium.

Now, the HUD loan isn’t for the stadium per se — it’s for the “ancillary” construction, meaning a sports museum, conference rooms, and retail, i.e., all the parts of a stadium complex that don’t specifically involve watching the game. The excuse for using a federal housing loan program to build this is that it’s “economic revitalization,” which is the usual argument for this sort of thing.

If the government were just lending the money and the team repaying it, that wouldn’t be such a big deal. But HUD Section 108 loans are repaid by a local government’s federal Community Redevelopment Block Grant funding — meaning Los Angeles is considering taking $22.5 million in anti-poverty funds and giving it to the developer of a soccer stadium, because economic development.

MynewsLA reports that the city council voted on Friday to ask HUD for the loan, so presumably this is now up to the Obama administration (or its successor) to approve or deny it. I’m not sure what discretion HUD has to reject uses of its loans for really off-label purposes, but hopefully we’re going to find out.

UPDATE: A commenter who works in finance points out some fine print in the Section 108 program: The city’s CRBG funds are only used as security on the loan, but it’s still supposed to be paid off by the private developer. This is much better for the public than a straight subsidy, obviously — LAFC’s owners would be getting the benefit of a cheap loan rate, and there’s some risk to taxpayers if they default on the loan, but it’s not just handing over $22.5 million. You can still make a good case that HUD should be looking at this project with lots of skepticism — if building a soccer stadium is an anti-poverty program, then building pretty much anything is — but at least it’s less of a cash grab it appeared at first.

LAFC gets approval for new $250m stadium, looks like no tax money involved (fingers crossed)

The Los Angeles city council approved plans for a $250 million stadium for Los Angeles F.C. on the former L.A. Sports Arena site on Friday, and … that’s it. The documents approved by the council are just about rezoning the land to allow for a soccer stadium, with nothing about the tax incentives that LAFC’s owners had previously hinted at (and still hint at on their website). So unless there’s some other shoe yet to drop, it appears that this is like how stadium deals would work in a world without subsidies: A bunch of rich guys decide they want a team, decide on a place to build a stadium, ask for permission, and then start spending their own money.

There are also some renderings, which look about like a soccer stadium, and which if history is any guide won’t look much like the final stadium design anyway. The biggest controversy at the moment appears to be about whether the stadium will be open for the start of the 2018 season, or whether they’ll have to play a few games in one of the city’s other stadiums before moving into their own place. If that were all we had to worry about for every sports team, I could shut this site down.

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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.

Report: AEG interviewing PR firms for L.A. NFL team, Raiders may be out because their fans don’t own poodles

Okay! After a week of former NFL players and former movie executives and more former NFL players speculating wildly on whether the Oakland Raiders will or should move to Los Angeles, we finally have some actual sorta-kinda-almost news about a possible L.A. relocation. Jeanne Zelasko of KFWB-AM in Los Angeles says that AEG, which has been trying for years to pretend that it’s building an NFL stadium in L.A., is now looking to hire PR specialists to handle a team moving there next year, according to people who’ve interviewed for the job:

Over the last week to ten days, AEG has been interviewing people for a public relations gig to handle an NFL team coming to L.A. And these conversations they’re having with people, these interviews they’re having with people, they’re talking about a startup situation February 15th of 2015.

Okay, so this still isn’t much of news: Basically, a company that’s already stated its interest in bringing a team to L.A. may or may not be looking to hire someone to oversee media around getting a team next spring, if one materializes during the annual NFL relocation-announcement window. But it’s another small data point toward the argument that some teams, likely the Raiders and St. Louis Rams, may be considering at least ramping up a threat to move in February, whether or not they go through with it.Zelasko later added (wait past her long discussion of naps) that what’s going on behind the scenes is that the NFL is now at least actively looking to hear more from AEG on how their stadium plan would work, which is more than they’ve done in the past. She also said that one “stumbling block” could be that the L.A. Coliseum and Rose Bowl have balked at hosting the Raiders temporarily, because the image of a typical Raiders fan is “a thug – not a clean-cut mom and dad, two kids, and a poodle,” and so the league might want to force Mark Davis to sell the team before okaying a move to L.A. Leaving aside the racial subtext here: a poodle? There are NFL teams whose fans are poodles? Also, is there something about Mark Davis that means he doesn’t know how to market football to poodles? Is “poodles” going to be the new code word for white folk who aren’t threatening, at least to other white folk? Can it be, please?

LAFC launches as Chivas replacement, new owners crowdsource stadium plans

The new Los Angeles MLS team that will replace the now-disbanded Chivas USA in 2017 now officially has owners (Vietnamese venture capitalist Henry Nguyen, 21 other guys) and a name (Los Angeles F.C., though that’s subject to change if and when everyone decides it sucks). Now all they need is a place to play:

Nguyen said the group intends to scour the greater Los Angeles area for the perfect stadium site, with that search beginning immediately.

“Really, that home, that stadium, is going to be a critical part of our early work,” Nguyen told reporters…

According to Penn, the group has an early budget of $150 million for the stadium plan and is seeking development sites of between 15 and 100 acres.

L.A. already has a soccer stadium, of course — the StubHub Center in Carson, where Chivas played and the Los Angeles Galaxy still do — but Nguyen and his partners say they’re going to fund a new stadium on their own, so hey, it’s their money. Assuming it really is their money, of course: Plenty of sports team owners have said they won’t ask for public subsidies and then do anyway, so we’ll just have to wait and see on this one.

Meanwhile, Nguyen and friends have broken new ground in at least one way, becoming probably the first team owners ever to crowdsource their stadium plans:

The club has set up a website (www.lafc.com) and a Twitter account (http://twitter.com/lafc) where fans are encouraged to weigh in with site recommendations.

It’s probably mostly a gimmick to build interest in their as-yet-nonexistent team — “Hey look, our fans are telling us where to build a stadium, this must mean we have fans!” — but sure, why not? Random fans can’t do worse than whoever is running NYC F.C.‘s stadium planning process.

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.

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-asChivas-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.