Friday roundup: Nashville saves (?) $75m by giving Predators $103m, South Carolina offers to give $125m to Panthers practice facility (?!), Oakland A’s shipping cranes are multiplying (?!?)

Since last week I went off-topic to discuss a review (kindly) poking fun at some of the ridiculousness of Marvel movies, I should note that there’s a TV series that manages to create a fun, exciting superhero universe while simultaneously poking fun at the entire genre in ways that expose not just its ridiculousness but also its fundamentally Manichean politics, and which has now been canceled by Amazon, a company that has been at the forefront of scheming to shake down cities for subsidies in exchange for building its own facilities. Coincidence?!?!?!? Well, okay, yes, almost certainly, but here’s hoping The Tick ends up picked up by a less ethically compromised corporate entertainment giant, if that’s even a thing.

Where was I? Oh right, stadiums, what’s up with those this week that we didn’t get to already?

  • The Nashville Predators have indeed agreed to a 30-year lease extension as first reported last week, and how good or bad a deal it is depends on your perspective: The team’s $8.4 million a year in tax kickbacks and operating subsidies will be reduced to just $4.9 million a year in tax kickbacks, which would be $75 million in taxpayer savings but on the other hand the tax kickbacks will be extended to 2049 now instead of 2028, so that’s $102.9 million in additional taxpayer costs. (Neither figure translated into present value.)
  • A South Carolina legislative conference committee has approved $115 million in tax breaks for a Carolina Panthers practice facility in Rock Hill. Yes, you read that right, a practice facility. State officials say that the 15-year tax kickbacks of all state income taxes will pay for themselves, a conclusion that state senator Dick Harpootlian determined was based on, in the words of the Associated Press, “every Panthers player and coach moving to South Carolina and spending their entire paychecks here and the team buying all the material for the new facility from companies in the state.”
  • Speaking of practice facilities, the Washington Wizards‘ new one is costing $1 million more a year for D.C. to run than anticipated, which is not good after the city already spent $50 million to build the thing for the team’s billionaire owner. D.C. officials recently booked three new concerts for the arena, but expects to lose money on each of them; an Events D.C. board member said they would let “people know that they have a place to go, that this is a fun place,” which I guess is another way of saying they’ll make it up in volume.
  • Omaha is spending $750,000 on hosting an Olympic swim meet, which on the one hand is a lot cheaper than $115 million for an NFL practice facility, and on the other is for a one-time Olympic swim meet.
  • Two unnamed sources tell The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal that New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft is “on the brink of securing a stadium site,” which tells us nothing about the state of the Revolution’s actual stadium plans since this could be a planted rumor to try to gain momentum, but does tell us lots about The Athletic’s poor grasp of the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics policy on use of unnamed sources.
  • I wrote a thing for Gothamist about how the New York Mets banned backpacks because they have too many pockets to easily search, but not other bags with lots of pockets, pretty much on the grounds of “the light’s better over here.” The best argument either of the security experts could come up with for the policy is that fewer bags means faster lines which means less time queued up outside stadiums as a stationary target for any theoretical terrorists, which is frankly mostly an argument for staying home and watching on TV.
  • Journalist Taylor C. Noakes notes in an op-ed for CBC News that bringing back the Expos might be nice for Montreal baseball fans, but probably won’t do much for the Montreal economy since “the economic impact of a professional baseball team on a given city [is] roughly equivalent to that of a mid-sized department store,” which, yup.
  • The latest Oakland A’s renderings show it still oddly glowing amid a darkened rest of the city. Plus now there are shipping cranes on both corners of the site! I am about to start working on a theory that this entire stadium plan is just a dodge for John Fisher to build lots of shipping cranes.

Boston Globe writes entire article about new $400m Revolution stadium based on fan’s tweet

It’s not every day that you have a story about a team’s stadium price tag going up when there’s no actual plan of what stadium to build or where, but that’s what we had this weekend with the Boston Globe’s report that New England Revolution owner and famed massage parlor enthusiast Bob Kraft is now looking to spend $400 million on a stadium … somewhere:

During a fan event last weekend, Revs team president Brian Bilello offered some reassurance that the hunt remains very much alive. Snippets from the event emerged on Twitter, including the mention of a new price tag. A spokesman confirmed that the Kraft Group is now willing to invest as much as $400 million in a roughly 20,000-seat soccer stadium. The location? Sorry, everyone. That remains a mystery.

This story was apparently entirely based on week-old tweets by Paul Foley, a “dad, oral care expert, soccer fan” and former contributor to a now-defunct sports talk radio show with a now-defunct Twitter account, who got to talk to Bilello (or at least transcribe his statements) at a pregame event. Foley responded on Twitter as one does:

I’m perfectly willing to believe that Bilello actually said “$400 million private investment supported by Krafts” as Foley says he did; what that means is another thing. Is Kraft really ready to build the most expensive MLS stadium in history on his own dime? How a new Revolution stadium would be paid for has been an official secret for even longer than where it might go — way back in 2015 he proposed paying for one with a ticket tax, which only would have worked with a ticket tax of around $40 — so you’d think Globe writer Jon Chesto would have asked the team for an official statement on this, but there’s no indication that he did beyond getting confirmation that Bilello used the $400 million figure. (Though he did get two sports economists, Victor Matheson and Andy Zimbalist, to say, in effect, “man, that sounds like a lot of money.”) As a Professional Editor of Journalism, I would have sent this back to the author with the note “needs comment from team on financial plan or indication that they refused to comment,” but I guess that’s not how the Globe rolls these days.

Friday roundup: Potential Raiders homes for 2019, ranked (okay, actually not ranked)

Man, who opened the stadium news floodgates this week? Here it is almost noon on Friday and I still haven’t gotten to the news roundup — okay, know what, less whining, let’s just get right to it:

  • The city of Oakland filed its antitrust suit against the Raiders as promised this week, which means it’s time for a list of places the Raiders could play next year if they are forced to leave Oakland in a huff. “Do a multi-week residency in London and play the rest of the season on the road” is one I hadn’t heard before, anyway.
  • New York’s Empire State Development Corporation approved its draft environmental report on a new New York Islanders arena at Belmont Park, and it basically comes down to “yeah, traffic is already bad and it’s going to get worse, we’ll try to figure something out but don’t hold your breath.” The state will also provide a whole two Long Island Rail Road trains to take fans to and from games, which will require new switches to deal with the massive mess that is that train interchange, for which “it is also expected that [the arena developers] will contribute to LIRR and MTA funding,” which isn’t exactly the same as saying the developers will pay for it.
  • Tottenham Hotspur‘s long-delayed stadium is still delayed, but at least now fans can enjoy drone footage of the place they’re not being allowed to set foot in.
  • The National Parks Conservation Association was “shocked” to learn that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wants to take 300 acres of federal parkland to use for a new Washington NFL team stadium. “I have talked to lower-level Park Service employees who are just as shocked as I am about this,” said the organization’s Chesapeake and Virginia programs director, Pam Goddard. “We are vehemently opposed.” Hogan has said that no public money would be used for the stadium plan, but public land and building out sewer and power lines into federal parkland, now that’s another story.
  • Residents of South Boston want the New England Revolution to stay offa their lawns with any stadium plans.
  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants more NBA-ready arenas in Latin America so the NBA can play occasional regular season games there, but didn’t offer to help pay for any, that’d be crazy, and does he look crazy?

 

Friday roundup: Kraft tries to use World Cup to get new stadium, Roger Noll says Austin MLS subsidies are indeed subsidies, NC mulls new tax breaks for Panthers

Posting this while watching the first World Cup match at the crazy stadium with the seats outside the stadium. (I haven’t honestly even noticed who the teams are yet, I’m just watching the architecture.) Anyhoo:

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.)

Revolution stadium plans being ruined by greedy teachers union, says pro-stadium columnist

Speaking of death notices for MLS stadium plans, New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft’s proposed Dorchester soccer facility is also being declared “all but dead,” at least by Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung. This, though, may be a slightly different story than in St. Louis:

The finger-pointing has begun, and if Kraft goes away, blame the Boston Teachers Union. At issue are the 2.7 acres the union owns on the site where Kraft would like to put his sports venue.

The union, I am told, is asking for a deal that Kraft, a billionaire who also owns the New England Patriots, thinks is too rich.

That’s the start of a long column that comes down to: Kraft wants the teachers union’s land, the union is driving a hard bargain, and Kraft may walk away from the site in response. The entire thing is completely unsourced, except for one reference to “according to people briefed on the matter,” and given that Leung writes that if the deal dies it would be “a shame,” that she goes out of her way to praise Kraft as “credited with saving football when he helped broker a deal with players that ended the NFL’s 136-day lockout in 2011,” and that she’s previously admitted in print that “some may say I have never met a stadium I didn’t like,” there’s a fairly high likelihood that this column was prompted by Kraft’s side griping to her about those damn union leaders refusing to come down on their land asking price. Leung writes that Kraft has “a reputation for being a tough negotiator” — if he can save a few million by getting a friendly journalist to paint his opponents as obstructionists, that’s a phone call well worth making.

Massachusetts governor on Dorchester stadium for Revolution: “Think of the children!”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker says he’d consider a proposal by New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft to build a soccer stadium in Dorchester in southern Boston, which, you know, that’s what governors say, so it’s to be expected. But then Baker went and said this:

“A facility like that could be used by kids and by UMass Boston and by the community at large,” he said. “If the rest of it could get worked out, I think it could be a plus.”

Um, what? The stadium, if built, would be on land owned by UMass-Boston, so they could certainly try to work out a deal by which their soccer team could use the stadium when the Revolution isn’t home. But “kids” and “the community at large”? Has Baker ever seen a pro soccer stadium? Unless it’s going to be surrounded by practice pitches (it won’t), no local kids are going to get to play on its field except maybe as halftime entertainment. While a Dorchester stadium wouldn’t necessarily be a terrible idea — it all depends on how much Kraft would pay for the site and who’d pay for construction, something that at last report was still being left to the magic funding fairy — building it under the pretense that it will benefit youth soccer is just daft.

Not to be left out, Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung added: “Some may say I have never met a stadium I didn’t like. But I really like this one. What’s most exciting is the opportunity to build something different in a part of the city that could use an economic jolt. It’s not another strip mall, big-box retailer, or luxury condo tower — and that’s a good thing.” Except that at least strip malls are open 365 days a year, whereas soccer stadiums are big dark boxes 90% of the time. Maybe Dorchester should just build a strip mall with a youth soccer field in the parking lot?

Kraft considering Revolution stadium at demolished mall site, and, yeah, that’s about it

Now that Boston’s Olympic bid is mercifully dead, New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft (he also owns some team in that other kind of football) is shopping around for a new site for a soccer stadium, and is considering the site of an abandoned shopping-mall-turned-convention-center in Dorchester:

Robert Kraft’s hunt for a new home for the New England Revolution has led him to hold talks about building a soccer stadium in Dorchester at the site of the former Bayside Expo Center, now owned by the University of Massachusetts….

UMass bought the Bayside Expo for $18.7 million in 2010, after the center went into foreclosure. The university is currently tearing down the exposition hall as part of its plan to expand the UMass Boston campus to that site.

The Bayside Expo site was earlier floated as a possible place for an Olympic Village, which could have been converted to campus space afterwards; if UMass goes for Kraft’s plan, it would presumably be in exchange for lease payments, which the school could use to fund other expansion plans.

That brings us back to how Kraft plans to pay for all this, since he’d now have lease payments to UMass (or outright land purchase payments) on top of construction costs for what could be a $200 million stadium. The last idea the team owner floated was to have Boston pay for the building and get repaid via ticket taxes, which would only work if the taxes were something on the order of $40 a ticket, so that’s not going to work. Picking a site first and then hoping for the magic funding fairy to arrive is a time-honored sports owner tradition, if only because it’s easier to hit up public officials for construction dough once there’s a plan in place, but this seems like it has a long way to go before it even hits the vaportecture stage.

Using ticket tax to fund new Revolution stadium in Boston would cost fans $41 a pop

In case you’re wondering, yes, New England Revolution (and Patriots) owner Robert Kraft still wants a new soccer stadium in Boston, whether or not it’s a converted Olympic stadium. In fact, the Boston Globe reports that Kraft has been talking to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh about it, and even has an idea for how to pay for one:

One scenario Kraft has floated with City Hall is having Boston build and own a $200 million soccer stadium, according to a person close to the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing. The debt would be repaid by a tax charged on tickets.

The Globe then goes on to lots of speculation about where a stadium would be built and whether Walsh would go for public funding, but let’s stop for a minute to explore another question: Does building a $200 million soccer stadium and paying for it with a ticket tax make a damn bit of sense? Selling $200 million in construction bonds would cost something on the order of $14 million a year to pay off, depending on interest rates and financing charges. Let’s give the Revolution the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ll sell 20,000 tickets per game (they average maybe 15,000 now, but MLS attendance figures are famously squishy), or 340,000 per year. That means a simple ticket tax of a mere $41.18 per person would be enough to pay off the stadium debt. Easy-peasy!

Okay, add in a few soccer friendlies and other exhibition games and maybe you could get the tax down to $30 or so, and maybe selling naming rights could knock off a few more dollars, but you get the point. This, in a nutshell, is why it’s so damn hard to get the numbers on new stadiums to work out: They’re really expensive to build, and there’s only so much more you can charge fans above what they’re already paying. Which raises the question: Why build a new stadium in the first place, as nice as it would be for Revolution fans in Boston to take the T to games, if it would be a massive money-loser? That’s another question to be addressed in future Globe articles, I guess.

Converting Boston Olympic stadium for soccer would cost as much as building soccer-only stadium

Boston Magazine has published the complete bid book that Boston 2024 gave to the United States Olympic Committee in December, and it includes a bunch of details on the proposed Olympic stadium that were not in the previous public document. In particular, the cost for a temporary stadium that would be torn down after the 2024 Summer Games is estimated at about $521.3 million ($436.3 million for construction, $85 million for land); designing a stadium that could be converted for later soccer use by the New England Revolution would add another $134.5 million in construction costs, plus $59 million for the actual conversion.

That’s $193.5 million total, plus land costs, which could get you a pretty decent standalone soccer stadium to begin with. Why the Boston Olympic committee would want to roll that into its own budget — or even whether it really intends to, since this is still just an options document — is unclear, but the situation remains worth keeping an eye on.