Friday roundup: A’s pollution woes, Falcons roof woes, Hansen email woes, and more!

Whole lot of news leftovers this week, so let’s get right to it:

  • It’s not certain yet how serious the environmental cleanup issues at the Oakland A’s proposed Peralta Community College stadium site are, but anytime you have the phrases “the amount of hazardous materials in the ground is unclear” and “two possible groundwater plumes impacted by carcinogens” in one article, that’s not a good sign. Meanwhile, local residents are concerned about gentrification and traffic and all the other things that local residents would be concerned about.
  • There’s another new poll in Calgary, and this time it’s Naheed Nenshi who’s leading Bill Smith by double digits, instead of the other way around. This poll’s methodology is even dodgier than the last one — it was of people who signed up for an online survey — so pretty much all we can say definitely at this point is no one knows. Though it does seem pretty clear from yet another poll that whoever Calgarians are voting for on Monday, it won’t be because of their position on a Flames arena.
  • The Atlanta Falcons‘ retractable roof won’t be retracting this season, and may even not be ready for the start of next season. These things are hard, man.
  • Nevada is preparing to sell $200 million in bonds (to be repaid by a state gas tax) to fund highway improvements for the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium, though Gov. Brian Sandoval says the state would have to make the improvements anyway. Eventually. But then he said, “I just don’t want us to do work that has to be undone,” so your guess is as good as mine here.
  • Pawtucket is preparing to scrape off future increases in property tax receipts for a 60- to 70-acre swath of downtown and hand them over to the Pawtucket Red Sox for a new stadium, an amount they expect to total at least $890,000 a year. Because downtown Pawtucket would never grow without a new baseball stadium, and there’s no chance of a shortfall that would cause Pawtucket to dip into its general fund, and nobody should think too hard about whether if minor-league baseball stadiums are really so great for development, this wouldn’t mean that property tax revenues should be expected to fall in the part of the city that the PawSox would be abandoning. Really, it’ll all be cool, man, you’ll see.
  • Somebody asked Tim Leiweke what he thinks of building a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays for some reason, and given that he’s a guy that is in the business of building new stadiums, it’s unsurprising that he thinks it’s a great idea. Though I am somewhat surprised that he employed the phrase “Every snowbird in Canada will want to watch the Toronto Blue Jays when they come and play,” given that having to depend on fans of road teams to fill the seats is already kind of a problem.
  • The study showing that spending $30 million in city money on a $30-million-or-so Louisville City F.C. stadium would pay off for the city turns out to have been funded by the soccer team, and city councilmembers are not happy. “There’s something there that someone doesn’t want us to find,” said councilmember Kevin Kramer. “I just don’t know what it is.” And College of the Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson chimed in, “I expect for-profit sports team owners to generate absurdly high economic estimate numbers in order to con gullible city council members into granting subsidies.” I don’t know where you could possibly be getting that idea, Victor!
  • Congress is considering a bill to eliminate the use of federally tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities, and … oh, wait, it’s the same bill that Cory Booker and James Lankford introduced back in June, and which hasn’t gotten a committee hearing yet in either the House or the Senate. It has four sponsors in the House, though, and two in the Senate, so only 263 more votes to go!
  • A Miami-Dade judge has dismissed a lawsuit charging that the sale of public land to David Beckham’s MLS franchise illegally evaded competitive bidding laws, then immediately suggested that the case will really be decided on appeal: “I found this to be an extremely challenging decision. Brighter minds than me will tell me whether I was right or wrong.” MLS maybe should be having backup plans for a different expansion franchise starting next season, just a thought.
  • The New York Times real estate section is doing what it does best, declaring the new Milwaukee Bucks arena to be “a pivotal point for a city that has struggled with a decline in industrial activity,” because cranes, dammit, okay? Maybe somebody should have called over to the Times sports section to fact-check this?
  • And last but not least, Chris Hansen is now saying that his SoDo arena plan missed a chance at reconsideration by the Seattle city council because the council’s emails requesting additional information got caught in his spam filter or something. If that’s not a sign that it’s time to knock off for the weekend, I don’t know what is.

MLS still set to announce two new teams in December, unless it needs the stadium leverage

MLS has been dead set on announcing two expansion franchises this December, with two more getting the nod next year. But on Thursday, commissioner Don Garber hedged on that timetable just a bit:

A league spokesperson later texted, according to ESPN, that “MLS remains on track to name two teams in December, with an announcement ‘likely around Dec. 19-20.'” But that’s still hedging, in a way that could probably best be taken as We’re planning an announcement the week before Christmas, but we reserve the right to change our minds.

What could be going on here? Soccer Stadium Digest thinks that MLS wants to be sure that David Beckham’s Miami franchise will actually get stadium approval in time to begin play next year — the stadium won’t be done by then, mind you, but MLS will award a team so long as it has a stadium deal in place — or else award a franchise to a fallback city in order to keep an even number of teams. That’s certainly possible, though MLS has operated with an odd number of franchises before, so it could always just push back Miami’s entry another year or three if necessary.

Equally possible is that MLS may want to wait out the legislative process in some potential expansion cities to see what they can shake loose in terms of public stadium funding. Of the four frontrunners declared by Soccer Stadium Digest, Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s $300 million plus free land and I’ll build Detroit a new jail to replace its already half built one plan still needs both city and county approval, Nashville S.C.‘s $75 million subsidy demand requires approval of the regional Nashville Metro council, F.C. Cincinnati‘s gambit for that city to pay for half of a new $200 million stadium hasn’t seen much action in recent months (other than a new Cincinnati citizens’ group petitioning Garber to let the team move up to MLS while still playing at Nippert Stadium, where it’s setting attendance records), and Sacramento F.C. has already started clearing land for a new stadium, though with actual construction not scheduled to begin until 2018 the team owners can always slam on the brakes if they don’t get awarded an MLS franchise by then.

That’s a whole lot of uncertainty, and could easily be a reason why the league doesn’t want to set an expansion announcement date in stone. When running a bidding war, it’s a fine line between wanting to scare the participants with a countdown clock, and wanting to make sure they always have enough rope to up their bids.

A’s stadium plan wins friend, Vegas mulls Raiders transit, and other news of the (short) week

I’m going to be on a plane tomorrow to a faraway land, so let’s do the week’s news roundup a day early:

  • Peralta Community College District chancellor Jowel Laguerre now says he’s into the Oakland A’s tearing down his administrative offices in order to build a stadium, so long as they hire his students to work there: “The A’s are in the business of hiring people, and we’re in the business of developing people, so it makes sense to have these conversations.” I can see it now: Laney College, Your Gateway to a Career in Hot Dog Marketing and Sales! (Also the A’s still need to figure out how to squeeze a stadium onto a tiny site, but one battle at a time, I suppose.)
  • Clark County is smarter than Cobb County, it turns out: The Nevada county’s planning director, Nancy Amundsen, said this week regarding the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium: “If it’s determined that they need a pedestrian bridge at this location, or they need wider sidewalks on these streets, or they need streetlights here or there — any upgrade of the infrastructure based on the development on the site — we can request that in the development agreement.” The county commission still needs to do it, mind you, but at least thinking of it ahead of time puts them ahead of the folks who negotiated with the Atlanta Braves around their new stadium and its pedestrian bridges.
  • That El Paso court case over whether the city’s new arena can host sporting events or just concerts and such turns out to be due to the city’s project consultant, according to one neighborhood group opposed to the arena: “David Romo says sports consultant Rick Horrow is to blame for the city stripping the arena ordinance of the word ‘sports’ in favor of ‘multi-purpose performing arts facility.'” If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Horrow has been selling small cities on his “raise the sales tax and build an arena plus a whole of other stuff” model for decades now — he’s the man who talked Oklahoma City into building a new arena with public money (which worked out okay in that the Thunder eventually moved there) and tried to push the same model for such things as an NFL stadium in Birmingham, Alabama (which would not have worked out okay at all). Romo cites Horrow’s own book, which advises, “De-emphasize, even in triumphant cities, the sports model,” and “Each individual project, on its own, will have little chance of passage. together, bundled, is the most enticing way to present the idea to voters.” Except when you write yourself into a corner with bond paperwork that says your new building isn’t for sports; but then, Horrow will probably have collected his fee by then and moved on to the next town.
  • St. Louis’s MLS expansion bid, which pretty much disappeared after voters rejected spending $60 million on a soccer stadium this spring, may not be dead after all! According to alderman Joe Vaccaro, “I have been hearing rumblings and I have certainly no facts.” Or, you know, it might still be dead.
  • Pictures of D.C. United‘s new stadium set to open next year! Spoiler: They don’t look like much. Also spoiler: They don’t really look like the stadium will be ready by midseason 2018 as the plan is (United will start the year on a lengthy road trip to accommodate the construction schedule), but soccer stadiums are a bit simpler to build than those for other sports, so maybe?
  • “Colorful, glossy flyers urging residents to ‘Stop the Stadium!’ and ‘Take Action Now’ were left on doorsteps around the [proposed Miami MLS stadium] area late last week, paid for by a new group called the Overtown Spring Garden Community Collective.” David Beckham really can’t catch a break.

I’ll be back here … Monday? Later than that? It all depends on how well I can navigate whatever weird metric internet they have where I’m going. In the meantime, use the comments on this post as your open thread on any breaking news, and buy David Beckham a muffin or something, he’s probably needs some cheering up.

Friday roundup: Beckham sued over MLS land purchase, Browns’ flammable stadium, and more!

It’s Friday roundup time! Let’s get started:

  • A local Miami landowner is suing Miami-Dade County over its plan to sell land to David Beckham’s would-be MLS ownership group for a new stadium, arguing that the no-bid deal violates state law requiring public land to be sold to the “highest and best bidder.” Bruce Matheson, who owns land nearby the planned stadium site in the Overtown neighborhood but “spends most of his time aboard his 72-foot Argosy yacht,” according to Miami New Times, has previously blocked the use of a public park for expansion of the Miami Open tennis tournament, so he might just know what he’s doing here. Also, David Beckham is clearly cursed, so that can only help Matheson’s case.
  • In case it wasn’t clear that Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center subsidy deal was a complete disaster from last October’s report that the city was losing almost $10 million a year and the arena was in danger of going bankrupt, Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center is a complete disaster. One big reason why: sales-tax projections were based on past sales-tax growth, which included a sales-tax rate hike in 1990, which wasn’t going to happen again. Whoops! The latest plan is to have the city bail out the arena by taking on an extra $100 million in debt, which tenants the University of Louisville could pay off with less than four years’ worth of the profits they’re making on running the place, but won’t because finders keepers, losers weepers.
  • Wichita is about to spend $60 million on a new stadium for the indy-minor-league Wichita Wingnuts — slogan: If You’re Gonna Go, Then Go Nuts! — and the manager of nearby Picasso’s Pizza is excited about it: “People from all over the Wichita area love some Picasso’s,” says Efrain Ramirez. “Because we’re Picasso’s, you gotta make it look cool, it’s gotta be artistic. You gotta put your flair on it.” Well, excited about something, anyway. Spare a thought for the poor small-city reporter who has to wring a quote about economic development out of a pizzeria manager, okay?
  • Speaking of sports venues and local businesses, some bar owners near the Detroit Red Wings‘ new downtown arena are excited about it, while others are worried they’ll get “trampled” by the “big guys.” No interviews were conducted by the Detroit News with bar owners near the Red Wings’ old downtown arena, which will now close. This has been your moment in 21st-century journalism.
  • The Cleveland Browns‘ stadium is covered in the same flammable cladding that caused the deadly Grenfell Tower fire, but Cleveland’s top building official promises this poses “zero risk to the fans.” Presumably because if you’re watching a Browns game, death will come as sweet release.
  • The turf at the San Francisco 49ers stadium in Santa Clara continues to suck.
  • The Roma soccer club is owned by Americans, so they are naturally inclined to levy stadium threats. It also plays in Italy’s Serie A, which like all soccer leagues outside the U.S. works by promotion and relegation, so if the team threatened to move, Rome could just start a new team to replace it. So instead team president James Pallotta is threatening that if the ownership group doesn’t get approval to build a new stadium, they’ll sell the team to … someone who won’t demand a new stadium? You may not have thought this entirely through, James.
  • A Russian farmer has built a stadium out of straw to poke fun at the $700 million St. Petersburg is spending on a new World Cup soccer stadium. Cost of the straw stadium: $675. Be sure to click the link above for a truly bizarre Russian video for 2016 with a giant straw bear and a straw sphinx and … watermelons? Guys, I am slightly worried about whoever’s in charge of media links for ESPN.

Miami-Dade ready to sell land to Beckham, MLS stadium may actually get built this century

David Beckham’s interminable quest for a new Miami soccer stadium “won a crucial endorsement” this week, according to the Miami Herald, when local county commissioner Audrey Edmonson endorsed the plan to sell Beckham three acres of county-owned land for $9 million. Which really shouldn’t come as that much surprise, given that when last heard from Edmonson was bragging about having gotten Beckham to provide local residents with a whole 50 jobs, half of which will pay more than minimum wage, but I guess actually getting her formal endorsement is a hurdle of a kind, so congrats to Becks for pulling that off?

The land sale is expected to go before the county commission next Tuesday, where it will likely pass. Then the stadium deal still needs approval from the Miami city council, where it’s likely to run into strong opposition from local residents fearing a traffic nightmare stemming from Beckham’s decision not to build any parking garages (likely because he has no land on which to put them): “I think it’s terrible for the neighborhood,” nearby resident Amanda Hand told the Herald. “You either have zero people or 25,000 people. It isn’t like a standard commercial use.”

Either way, unless you count selling him some county land as a steal, Beckham’s plan would be remarkably subsidy-free — he’d even pay property taxes on the land he acquired — largely because he got shot down every time he proposed a deal that would have gotten him any special benefits. He still needs to figure out where to get the money to pay for actually building the thing — he’s slowly added a few other private investors, but nobody’s saying how much money they’d put up or what they’d want in return — but that’s his problem. Here’s hoping he works it out soon, and is able to open a new chapter in Miami’s glorious history of supporting pro soccer … oh.

Beckham unveils new Miami stadium design, promises to create a whole 25 living-wage jobs

David Beckham’s gang of stadium negotiators descended yet again on Miami yesterday, to present the latest iteration of his long-delayed MLS stadium plans. He’d gotten raked over the coals of late by a local neighborhood group for proposing a plan that includes no parking, so how’d he do this time?

That’s less crazy than the last rendering, in that it doesn’t have sidewalks sloppily pasted over parked cars, though it still seems to rely on cantilevering some of the seating over the surrounding streets via support beams with all the structural integrity of a toothpick sculpture. But we’ll leave it to the engineers to figure that out — what about that whole parking issue?

“We’re going to be encouraging the use of Metromover, Metrorail, water taxis, ride-sharing,” said Spencer Crowley, a lawyer and lobbyist representing Miami Beckham United in its talks with Miami-Dade to buy a parcel needed for its nine-acre stadium site near the Miami River. “We view this as a paradigm shift for the county as to how people get to large events.”

Sure — when life serves you no-parking lemons, might as well make alternate-transit-ade. And it might even work, though proposing that your fans won’t need to park their cars anywhere because they can take “water taxis” is a bit out-there. (Beckham’s stadium czar Tim Leiweke also promised a “dinner-cruise boat to deliver fans to the Miami River a few blocks away.”)

And speaking of out-there, dear lord, this:

As part of the deal, the Beckham group promised to create 50 permanent jobs at the stadium. Half would be required to pay Miami-Dade’s living wage of about $15 an hour.

That’s right, 50 new jobs! And 25 of them would pay at least $15 an hour! And local Overtown residents should be grateful, said Audrey Edmonson, the Miami-Dade commissioner for the neighborhood:

“I heard some groans when it came to 50 jobs,” Edmonson said. “Guaranteeing 50 permanent jobs, that is a lot of jobs when it comes down to a stadium. … Believe me, I had a difficult time getting that out of them.”

She tried, people. Life is hard.

Miami officials to Beckham: Build stadium or get off the pot already

No, David Beckham still hasn’t figured out who’s going to finance his proposed new MLS arena in Miami yet. And yes, Miami officials have noticed, and are starting to wonder how long they should be expected to wait on this stadium plan:

“How long are we going to negotiate for the use of that [county-owned land] before we decide that maybe that ought to be made available for some affordable housing?” Commissioner Xavier Suarez asked Monday during a meeting of the county’s Housing and Social Services committee. “Are we going to wait for these folks forever before we use that property for something more?”

He’s got a point! As does commissioner Audrey Edmonson, whose district includes the proposed stadium site, and who griped that the commission has gone months since last hearing from Beckham’s ownership group: “Are they bringing a stadium there? I haven’t heard anything.” Team Becks, meanwhile, has resorted to having their PR firm defensively tweet that they hope to have a team in place someday, maybe:

It’s not entirely clear what the holdup is, but “no banks think that investing in a soccer stadium in Miami just because a famous guy would run the team is a hot idea” is a likely candidate. There’s no reason this standoff can’t continue forever — or at least until Beckham loses interest or MLS runs out of expansion franchises to dole out, and the latter seems likely to happen never — so gird yourself for more of these headlines for the foreseeable future.

 

Beckham identifies “potential investors” for Miami stadium, still needs actual investors

Hey, what the heck has been going on with David Beckham’s proposed Miami soccer stadium? At last report in June, he was reportedly shopping around for some private investor to actually pay to build the thing; now, it turns out, he’s, uh, still working on that:

David Beckham’s representatives Thursday moved to jump-start a stalled effort to build a Miami soccer stadium by bringing potential investors to a pitch by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

The investors weren’t identified, but the sales pitch apparently involves a new set of potential financiers in a project that has been courting deep pockets since the start…

Thursday’s meeting suggests Beckham’s team has found a new group of investors to court, but it’s not known how far along in the talks they are.

Despite having released poorly Photoshopped renderings of a stadium on a nine-acre site in Overtown last winter, Beckham still needs to acquire another three acres of county land, plus city rezoning approval and the closure of a city street. And, apparently, to find somebody who thinks all this would be a good investment of their private dollars. Making money building fancy new sports stadiums without gobs of public cash to boost your profits is hard.

Beckham seeks to hook up with Bucks owner for Miami stadium cash

Now that David Beckham’s proposed Miami MLS team finally has a site where a stadium can fit, sort of, the negotiations have entered a weird phase, with Beckham shopping around for somebody with the cash to actually build the thing. Or lend to him to build the thing. Or give to him to build the thing in exchange for a share of the team, or the stadium revenues, or something. David Beckham seeking rich partner for stadium play, is what I’m saying here.

Back in February, there was a rumor that Beckham was looking to sell a chunk of the team to Qatar Sports Investments, owners of the French soccer giants Paris Saint Germain, but those talks apparently went nowhere. Now, the Miami Herald (citing unnamed “sources familiar with the talks”) says Beckham has approached Wesley Edens, co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks and co-chair of real estate giant the Fortress Investment Group, about being an “investor” in the stadium project, whatever exactly that means. The easiest way would still be for Beckham to just sell Edens a share of the team, though there are plenty of other options for structuring a deal where Beckham gets cash now to build and Edens gets revenue down the line.

Regardless of how this all works out, the Miami stadium is still looking like it’s mostly going to be a deal indirectly subsidized by MLS — in that the league gave Beckham an 80% off coupon for one expansion franchise as part of his contract to play in the league, and now Beckham needs to do whatever it takes to cash it in. That’s all well and good, if a bit odd, but it’s interesting to see that even with an $80 million head start, Beckham is having to shop around to find investors interested in being a part of his project. Making money by starting sports teams and building stadiums for them with your own money is hard, which is no doubt one reason why so many rich people looking to own sports teams try to skip the “with your own money” part. (The other reason being that skipping the “with your own money” part is always a nice way to make even more money, even if you could turn a profit doing it yourself. Really, there’s no downside to having other people spend money on you, except for having to live with yourself in the morning.)

Miami MLS stadium deal now held up while Beckham thinks about local hiring goal

Whuh-oh, the Miami Herald is reporting that David Beckham’s proposed Miami soccer stadium has “hit a snag”:

Already months behind schedule in assembling a nine-acre site in Overtown for a 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium, Beckham and his partners have yet to sign off on a string of hiring goals, employee benefits and local-business perks that Miami-Dade is demanding as part of the sale…

Among the benefits sought by Miami-Dade from the Beckham group: job training for local residents; free transit passes for stadium employees; a goal of 65 percent of construction jobs going to local residents; and an agreement that Beckham’s group won’t disqualify applicants or subcontractors “based solely on a prior incarceration.”

Those are the sorts of terms that are technically referred to as “piddly,” and indeed, a source on Beckham’s side told the Herald that they just need to look over the terms more closely. Still, it’s been a while — long enough that a county attorney wrote an email to Beckham’s lawyer two weeks ago saying, “It’s been awhile” — so you have to wonder why they’re taking so long instead of sitting down to do some quality haggling. It’s still extremely likely that this stadium will happen as planned, but it’s also extremely likely that it won’t happen without at least a bit more drama, even if it’s only local doctors and business leaders arguing about whether Miamians are willing to walk for ten minutes to get to the game.