Also, a clause in Nashville’s lease with Nashville S.C. requiring the soon-to-be MLS team to play at least one game in Nashville in any 24-month period has the team’s financiers balking at loaning money for the stadium — presumably because they’re afraid MLS will up and disappear for a couple of seasons, maybe as part of a labor stoppage, who knows — so the city may just delete that clause. Seriously, lord grant me the negotiating powers of a mediocre rich man.
The U.S. Supreme Court has given a final dismissal to a case charging that the car rental tax used by Arizona to fund sports facilities was unconstitutional because the money wasn’t being used for transportation projects.
The city of Santa Clara has voted again to remove the San Francisco 49ers as manager of their stadium, after the first vote might have been illegal because it took place in closed session. Glad we worked that out!
The Hamilton County Commission approved a plan that will involve spending $30 million to relocate a concrete plant so the county can build a music venue next to the Cincinnati Bengals stadium, with the Bengals helping out by forgoing $30 million in future payments from the county, though the team will also now get free parking space on the land. The music venue is reportedly needed because the waterfront is “an area starved for attention outside of Bengals and Reds games,” which maybe is something to keep in mind the next time you hear that a sports stadium will be enough to revitalize an underused area.
In completely unrelated news, here’s an article about a Columbus bar owner who is hoping that the new Crew soccer stadium being built nearby will be a windfall for her business.
Deadspin’s Albert Burneko is a national treasure whether he’s writing about sports or movies or punctuation, and his takedown this week of a Fivethirtyeight article that asserts there are too many minor-league baseball teams is very much no exception. Drop whatever you’re doing — which is reading this post, so okay, drop whatever you were going to do after that — and read it now, whether you care about the purpose of sports as entertainment or the role of the media in management-labor relations or the increasing propensity to reduce human beings to measures of technocratic efficiency. With the demise of the alt-weeklies, there are fewer and fewer outlets eager to combine tenacious reporting and big-picture analysis and engaging writing toward the end of helping us understand the world we live in beyond “here are some potentially viral things that happened today,” so we need to cherish those that remain while we can.
And with that, here are some potentially viral (in the not especially infectious sense) things that happened this week:
The Arizona Diamondbacks signed a nondisclosure agreement with the city of Las Vegas in 2018, which the Las Vegas Review-Journal takes as enough evidence to run a headline saying that the D-Backs were talking with Vegas about relocation, so long as they add the word “apparently.” This is truly a new breakthrough in relocation threats, as team owners no longer even have to go through the trouble of hopping on a plane to get news outlets reporting that their team could move; now, you just have to sign some paperwork and wait until reporters notice. Why, this way, you don’t even have to answer any embarrassing questions like “Why would you want to move to a much smaller market?” or “Are you worried that D-Backs fans will burn you in effigy on Opening Day?” Truly a sign of disruptive efficiencies at work.
Sacramento is supposedly finalizing a deal to bring an MLS expansion franchise to town in 2022, and though there are no details yet, it’s only a matter of time before it happens, mostly because it’s only a matter of time before every census tract in America and maybe a few other countries gets its own MLS team.
The Voice of O.C. has calculated that the city of Anaheim has turned a $1.6 million profit on running the Los Angeles Angels‘ Angel Stadium over the past nine years, which isn’t much, but at least it’s not a sea of red ink. Though as sports economist Victor Matheson points out, “What are 155 acres of prime real estate worth in the LA metro area? That’s a gigantic opportunity” that’s being lost by using the land for a stadium instead. All food for thought in those upcoming public forums on the proposed stadium land deal that the city won’t tell the public basic facts about like how much the land is worth.
The Rolling Stones and San Francisco 49ers execs are mad that the city of Santa Clara told the Stones at the last minute not to set off fireworks on stage, and Mayor Lisa Gillmor has responded that it’s really the 49ers’ fault: “The 49ers should spend less time criticizing others and more time learning how to follow the laws like those governing workers wages and the curfew, which they agreed to when they opened the stadium in 2014.” Remember that hot minute when the Santa Clara stadium was supposed to be a beacon of how to successfully arrange a sports venue deal? Those were such simpler times.
Here are three options presented for Honolulu’s $350 million replacement of Aloha Stadium, none of which, weirdly, are “Keep the $350 million and spend it on something else, you do realize that you don’t have a pro football team and even the Aloha Pro Bowl moved to Orlando three years ago, right?”
Newballpark.org blogger Marine Layer has calculated that the cost of building a gondola to any new Oakland A’s ballpark at Howard Terminal will amount to $12.60 per each round-trip ride, which either means fans are going to have a huge extra cost or local government is going to end up subsidizing the rides, neither of which is a great solution.
The Columbus Blue Jackets owners, who have been criticized for being the main beneficiaries of a proposed 7% ticket tax in the city because their arena would get the lion’s share of the proceeds, surprised everybody this week by coming out against the tax, saying it “would materially harm our business.” Maybe this is reverse psychology to get residents to vote for the bill, since they’ll no longer think it’s a sop to the hockey team? Okay, probably not.
In non-electoral news, the University of Connecticut is building a $45 million hockey arena on campus even though its team will continue to play most of its games in Hartford’s XL Center, just because its new NCAA conference requires an on-campus arena. (It also requires that the arena have at least 4,000 seats, but UConn got a waiver to only build 2,500 seats.) Since UConn is a public university, this technically means that public money will go into the project (though the university says it can pay for it from its own reserves), but mostly it’s bizarre to see an entire arena being built just to meet a technicality — what do you think the carbon footprint will be for this?
Transit experts are worried that the 2020 Olympics will overwhelm Tokyo’s already-crowded subway system, though they may not be anticipating how much the Olympics tend to cause anyone not interested in the Olympics to stay the hell out of town. The government has been encouraging local businesses to stagger work hours and open satellite offices to accommodate Games traffic, since “everybody call in sick for three weeks” would be anathema to Japanese work culture.
Louisville is officially not bidding for an MLS franchise (yet), which unofficially makes it the only city in the whole U.S. of A. that isn’t. How is MLS ever going to meet its dream of a franchise for every individual person in North America if these keeps up?
That’s all for this week — go vote! And try to fight your way past the journalism extinction event to educate yourself about all those downballot races and initiatives and such, since as we cover here every week, they can have huge consequences.
A Las Vegas blogger has tweeted that the Rio hotel-casino could be demolished and replaced by a Major League Baseball stadium, so now everybody’s talking about Las Vegas getting an expansion team, along with Portland and Montreal and I forget who else. (San Antonio? Charlotte? Half of Mexico?) Just imagine how frenzied this would be if commissioner Rob Manfred were talking about expansion on a faster timetable than “in my lifetime,” or if he were older than 60 or suffering from a terminal illness or something.
Speaking of ticket taxes, a Nashville councilmember is proposing raising them at the new MLS stadium there and using the proceeds to help pay off the city’s share of construction costs. Nashville S.C. ownership is opposed, saying “this kind of after-the-fact tinkering would make the deal worse for soccer fans and set a bad precedent for the city,” neither of which is true (pssst sports teams already set prices as high as they can regardless of ticket taxes) but it’s totally what you’d expect them to say.
The projected cost of the Tokyo Olympics has now risen from $7.3 billion to $25 billion over the past five years .“It’s the most amazing thing that the Olympic games are the only type of megaproject to always exceed their budget,” Olympic finance expert Bent Flyvberg told the Associated Press. I would say that the fact that cities keep bidding for the Olympics despite this fact is even slightly more amazing, but they’re both pretty incredible.
The Oakland Raiders promised that their stadium project in Las Vegas would provide 18,700 construction jobs, but right now only about 650 workers are involved in construction at the site, and over its first year the project has employed the full-time equivalent of just 195 workers. Nevada really should have gotten that promise in writing.
The head of Mexico’s La Liga MX says that after the 2026 World Cup jointly hosted by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, maybe the three nations’ pro soccer leagues will merge to form one mammoth soccer league. This isn’t a terrible idea on the face of it — Mexico has the soccer talent, the U.S. has the fan spending money, and Canada has, I guess, donuts — but as it would require MLS owners to share their league with a bunch of other team owners who didn’t pay the $150 million expansion fee, and probably accept some kind of tiered promotion/relegation system as well to avoid having a 50-team league, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
The simmering Nashville S.C. existential crisis — MLS had approved an expansion franchise after the city council approved a new stadium with $75 million in public subsidies (plus free land), but it turned out they hadn’t actually approved approved it yet — was taken off the burner last night, as the council voted 31-8 to demolish existing buildings at the city’s fairgrounds to clear the way for the stadium, while also approving bills to rezone the land, approve the team’s ground lease, and sell $50 million in bonds to help fund construction. The council also voted 25-12 to reject a proposal for a public referendum on the stadium bonds.
All this happened by the skin of the council’s teeth, as even earlier in the day, it wasn’t clear if the stadium plan would must the necessary 27 votes for passage. But when the team and the community group Stand Up Nashville announced a community benefits agreement earlier in the day, that was enough to shake loose the deciding swing votes.
So what did Nashville get in the CBA? A minimum wage of $15.50 for stadium workers, a requirement that at least 20% of the new residential units be “affordable” or “workforce” housing (no details available on what income band this would need to be affordable to), the inclusion of a day care center, some soccer equipment for Metro schools, and a few other things. It’s not nothing, but it’s also going to cost the team owners a drop in the bucket compared to the $75 million (plus free land!) that the city is gifting to the team owners. So, classify it under “better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick,” which is where the vast majority of stadium deals end up.
Nashville S.C. is now all set to enter MLS in 2020 along with David Beckham’s Miami team, which will bring the number of teams in the league to an even 28. This is not large for a U.S. sports league, but is mammoth for a soccer league, which usually top out at 20; it remains to be seen whether the league’s policy of endless expansion will ever hit a wall, but for now, the owners can keep on cashing those $150 million expansion fee checks.
The world may be on vacation this week, but the stadium news decidedly is not:
The Nashville S.C. stadium squabble continues, months after the city council supposedly approved a $75 million public subsidy (plus free land), and it’s way more than I can recap right now, so please go read the Tennessean’s summary instead while we wait for a final vote next Tuesday.
Tottenham Hotspur‘s new stadium still isn’t ready, and their temporary home at Wembley is hosting an NFL game the same day as Tottenham’s scheduled home match against Manchester City, and it’s all a giant mess.
Forbes’ Mike Ozanian reports that “sources familiar with the [Arizona Coyotes’] situation” say the team lost a staggering $50 million last year, which seems to be partly debt that owner Andrew Barroway took out to buy the team? I dunno, you read the article and try to make sense of it, beyond “the Coyotes are a wreck,” which presumably you already knew.
Here’s a USA Today article on how Elon Musk is going to make it easier for Los Angeles Dodgers fans to get to the game by building a tunnel to carry giant electric roller skates under Dodger Stadium, and here’s a Deadspin response pointing out that since Musk hasn’t yet built any actual transit under L.A. despite digging lots of tunnels, and “has been on a seemingly life-long mission to brand himself as a real-life Tony Stark, but he’s really just a guy who made an electric car that rich people like to drive,” maybe it’s best not to get too excited about this one just yet. Back to the gondolas!
Sorry for the radio silence the last couple of days — it was a combination of not much super-urgent breaking news and a busy work schedule on my end — but let’s remedy that with a heaping helping of Friday links:
Part of that busy schedule was wrapping up work on my Village Voice article trying to unravel NYCFC’s latest stadium plan, and while the upshot remains what it was a month ago — this is a Rube Goldberg–style proposal with so many moving parts that it’s hard to say yet if it would involve public subsidies — it also involves city parks land that isn’t really parkland but is really controlled by another city agency that isn’t really a city agency and denies having control over it … go read it, you’ll either be entertained or confused or both!
Based on questions asked at a Monday hearing, The Stranger concludes that most King County council members aren’t opposed to the Seattle Mariners‘ demand for $180 million in future county upgrade spending on Safeco Field, in exchange for the team signing a new lease. That could still change, obviously, but only if all of you readers turn toward Seattle and shout this post in unison. Three, two, one, go!
MLS commissioner Don Garber says talks are “ongoing” with the city of Columbus about replacing the Crew if they move to Austin, and by “with the city of Columbus” he apparently means the local business council the Columbus Partnership. And even their CEO, Alex Fischer, doesn’t sound too in the mood to talk, noting that Garber has called for a new downtown stadium in Columbus while not requiring the same of Austin: “I find it extremely ironic that the commissioner wants a downtown stadium at the same time that the McKalla site is the equivalent of building a stadium in Buckeye Lake.” MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott retorted that Fischer’s remarks are “certainly a strange way to demonstrate an interest in working with us.” The lines of communication are open!
The owners of Nashville S.C. would have to pay $200,000 a year in city rent on their new stadium, which is … something, at least. Except, reports the Tennessean, “Parking revenue collected from non-soccer events at the new MLS stadium, such as concerts or football games, would go toward the annual base rent and could potentially cover the entire amount.” So maybe not really something.
Here’s Austin’s lead negotiator with Crew owner Anthony Precourt over a new stadium, Chris Dunlavey of Brailsford and Dunlavey. on whether the deal is fair to taxpayers: “All around, I don’t know how it could get characterized as favorable to [Precourt Sports Ventures]. I think the city of Austin has negotiated this to as favorable for a city as PSV could stand to do.” Uh, Chris, you do know that “good for the public” and “as least awful for the public as we could get” aren’t the same thing, right?
An otherwise unidentified group calling itself Protect Oakland’s Shoreline Economy has issued flyers opposing the A’s building a stadium at Howard Terminal because, among other things, it could displace homeless encampments to make way for parking lots. This is getting David Beckham–level silly, but also it’s getting harder and harder not to feel like the A’s owners should just give in and build a stadium at the Coliseum site, since at least nobody seems to mind if they do that. Yet.
A study by Arizona State University found that spring-training baseball was worth $373 million to the Arizona economy in 2018. I can’t find the actual report itself, but it looks like they came up with this number by interviewing a sample of out-of-town visitors at spring training games about how much they were spending on their trips — which would be a perfectly good methodology if not for the fact that lots of people travel to Arizona and then think “I’ll go see a baseball game while I’m there,” instead of traveling there just for baseball and thinking, “Sure, I’ll check out that big canyon, too.” Which is why when spring-training games have been canceled for labor conflicts, the observed impact on local economies has been pretty much zero. I wonder if the people who wrote this Arizona State report are actual economists, at least.
Nashville is getting an MLS franchise because it promised to build a soccer stadium, but it still might change its mind and not build a soccer stadium, and this is going to be great fun to watch if it does. (Not if you’re a Nashville MLS fan, I guess. But [insert requisite jibe about anything being more fun to watch than MLS soccer].)
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said last week that he hopes MLB expands by two more teams during his lifetime (or during his tenure as commissioner — he wasn’t exactly clear), specifically mentioning “Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver, in Canada. We think there’s places in Mexico we could go over the long haul.” That got people in those cities all excited, which is presumably the point in saying such things — of course, none of those cities have MLB-ready stadiums (unless you count Olympic Stadium in Montreal), so prepare for a stadium arms race sometime before Manfred dies.
The estimated cost of renovating Key Arena has risen from $600 million to $700 million, but the city won’t have to pay any of that because their deal with the developers says those guys have to pay any cost overruns. Kids, when signing your next arena deal, do that.