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.

 

Boston chosen as 2024 U.S. Olympic bid city, people who’ve actually been to Boston laugh and laugh

San Francisco’s 2024 Olympic committee made a last-ditch addition to their bid on Wednesday, adding a plan to build a main stadium in Oakland that could later be used for the Raiders … and you know what, we don’t have to give another thought to that, because San Francisco is not getting the 2024 Olympics. Yesterday, in a bit of an upset, the U.S. Olympic Committee picked Boston as its candidate to host those Summer Games, knocking out San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

At least in theory, Boston got the nod in part because its plan would rely less on building tons of new white-elephant stadiums and velodromes and such, which it has gotten a wee bit of flack for in the past:

Boston’s compact Olympic bid leans heavily on existing venues, such as TD Garden and college facilities, including Harvard Stadium, Boston College’s Conte Forum, and Boston University’s Agganis Arena.

Current plans call for a temporary Olympic stadium at Widett Circle, along Interstate 93 near Frontage Road south of downtown, for opening and closing ceremonies and track and field events. An Olympic village to house the athletes is planned for the former Bayside Expo grounds, with units converted to workforce housing or student dorms for the University of Massachusetts Boston.

That’s certainly all well and good, as is the Boston committee’s promise not to use “public money beyond what is already planned to be spent on infrastructure.” (Albeit that’s a bit of a worrisome fudge.) Even temporary stadiums cost money, though, and while Boston 2024 says most of the $4.5 billion budget would be paid for with Olympic revenues, history isn’t real promising there, even for cities like London that claimed they’d be keeping costs down by repurposing existing venues. The citizen group No Boston Olympics has projected that an actual Boston price tag could be anywhere from $5 billion to $20 billion, which is an awful lot of billions that wouldn’t be accounted for by sponsorships and ticket sales and the like.

The Olympic stadium could end up doubling as a new facility for the New England Revolution (it’s the same site as the team has targeted for a soccer-only building), though as USA Today Nate Scott points out, this could end up just taking Revolution owner Robert Kraft off the hook for building a stadium himself, while simultaneously delaying completion of the place for nine years. (Assuming Boston gets the Olympics; otherwise Kraft could always jump back in once the IOC tells Boston to take a hike.) Scott also includes some much better reasons to be fearful of a Boston Olympics, though, with one item in particular that stands out for me:

Boston sold itself as a frugal option to host the Summer Games, and part of that was by saying Boston would host a “walkable” games. That is all well and good, but if you know Boston, you know that the sites these events would have to be hosted at — Fenway Park, whichever colleges host gymnastics and other indoor events, TD Garden possibly, the new stadium they’re proposing in South Boston — are nowhere near each other.

Which means: Driving.

Driving in Boston is a harrowing experience. The roads, which are more or less the old cow paths in the city that they just paved over however many hundreds of years ago, make no sense. Streets are one way for a little while and then go one way the other direction. I know it doesn’t seem possible, but it’s a real thing in Boston. This happens frequently. 

For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of driving in Boston, this is, if anything, an understatement. The first time I tried to drive to Fenway Park, I ended up on a road that headed toward the ballpark just long enough for me to glimpse it, then curved gently away, steering me in any direction but the one I wanted to go in. The last time I tried it, I had plans to get off the Mass Pike and find a T stop to park-and-ride from, only to find myself unable to exit (Boston seems to have gotten a bulk discount on “NO TURNS” signs), driving all the way through downtown, into Cambridge, and back out again, finally parking at the distant Alewife station over an hour later and taking the T from there.

All of which is to say: As much as I, as a sports fan, would normally cheer a Boston Olympics as one that I could potentially attend without actually having to deal with the nightmare of having it hosted in my home city, there is no way in hell I’m going near Boston with an Olympics going on there. Not that I think the IOC will ever choose Boston in a million years, but at least they’ll always have their boarding passes to remember this by.

NE Revolution could seek South Boston soccer stadium, or not

The owners of the New England Revolution (and Patriots) are reportedly looking at a site in South Boston for a new soccer-only stadium, which would be paid for … nope, that’s not in the Boston Globe article. Okay, which would cost … nope, not that either:

At this stage, it is unclear how the stadium would be financed and whether any public funding would be needed to support the project or its infrastructure.

So we’re left with: The Kraft family may be looking at a city-owned site for a stadium, which would be paid for somehow, and somebody decided to leak that to the Globe, for reasons we do not know. That’s not much, but if vague rumors of the reports of rumors are you thing, now you have one. And if you’re wondering how the Globe art department would illustrate how a stadium there would look if built entirely out of red Legos, now you have that too:

Revolution such a success at old stadium, they clearly need a new one

The New England Revolution are in the MLS Cup and drawing well at Gillette Stadium, so naturally enough talk of a new soccer-only stadium has died down — no, wait, of course it hasn’t:

The Revolution soccer club is back in the MLS playoffs, has been drawing some of the biggest crowds in its 19-year history, and finally has a high-profile star in US national team member Jermaine Jones.

So how about that new stadium?

This is one of the weird … I guess “ironies” is the wrong word, but inconsistencies of the stadium game: When teams are doing poorly on the field and at the gate, the question is when they’ll get a new stadium to reverse their fortunes; when they’re doing well, the question is when they’ll get a new stadium to match their success. It’s a heads-I-win tails-you-lose argument that never seems to get noted by the news media, and certainly zooms right past Boston Globe reporter Callum Borchers.

Certainly, a new soccer-only stadium would be nice for the Revolution owners, and the Kraft family (which also owns the Patriots and Gillette Stadium) has been on record as wanting one for several years now. Yet as Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson told the Globe, the team’s success at their current stadium makes them less likely to want to kick in for a separate stadium of their own:

“The Krafts are already getting all the revenue streams, which is certainly why it’s been less urgent,” said Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross and former MLS referee. “They need a substantially better location than they have now to make it worthwhile.”

After privately financing Gillette Stadium, the Krafts have not pledged to do the same for a soccer stadium that probably would cost more than $100 million.

So: The Revolution are doing well playing in a football stadium that they own, so the only thing that would make them move would be if somebody hands them land in a prime location and, probably, subsidies. That would seem to be the definition of not actually so much needing a new stadium, but far be it from me to question the logic of the Boston Globe — no, wait, of course it isn’t.

Garber: MLS talks with Queens “at finish line,” otherwise known as starting gate

Lesson #367 in why it’s important to read the whole article, not just the headline: MLS commissioner Don Garber gave his state-of-the-league press conference yesterday in advance of Saturday’s MLS Cup, and declared that discussions with New York City over a new stadium in Queens are “at the finish line.” And what exactly did he mean by that?

“There’s a lot of work that needs to happen to finalize our agreement with New York City over our use of the land and our ability to lease that land to build a stadium,” he said. “I do believe that we will resolve that shortly. I can’t put any timetable on that, but we are at the finish line. Once we are there, we’ve got to go into a formal approval process that all developers have to go through in New York City. That will take some time. We need to reach an agreement with the city, with the local community and with the state of New York on replacing the land that we will be utilizing for the stadium.”

In addition, MLS is negotiating with the Mets to use the parking lots adjacent to Citi Field.

So basically, MLS thinks that it will soon arrive at an agreement with City Hall on a stadium proposal, which will then proceed through the ULURP process, which will involve nine months of public hearings before any deal can be finalized. So while getting Mayor Michael Bloomberg on board is an important step, it’s also arguably the easiest one, and a lot could still happen, especially in a year where city council speaker Christine Quinn is going to be involved in a tight race to replace Bloomberg as mayor.

Garber, meanwhile, went on to discuss possible expansion teams in Atlanta (“If [a new Falcons stadium] is able to come together, [we’ll] try to figure out how an MLS team could be part of their plans”) and Orlando (“at some point if they are able to finalize a stadium plan that makes sense, we would be very interested in working with them”), as well as stadium campaigns for D.C. United (“I believe there is new momentum in D.C.”) and the New England Revolution (“though there is nothing new to report, the family is focused on it”). So basically, every current or potential team wants a new soccer-only stadium to play in, and damned if he’s going to say anything negative about any of them.

As for who’d pay for them, Garber said of New England that “we are looking for public support up in that area because of the cost of developing a project there,” while saying that D.C. United’s owners have “the capacity to be able to put more private equity into a deal, and that makes the opportunity far more viable during these economic times than perhaps it would have been when [the team] was looking for an enormous amount of public support.” You can read something into that if you’d like, but it mostly just comes down to “We’re looking for as much public cash as we can get our hands on, but we realize we’re MLS and can’t throw our weight around as much as some leagues,” which has pretty much been his modus operandi all along.

So really, not much new here at all. We now return you to your regularly scheduled David Beckham wild rumors, already in progress.

Orlando and Revere, Massachusetts both vaguely talking about how cool soccer stadiums would be

It’s been six whole weeks since I reported on somebody wanting to build a new soccer stadium, so let’s remedy that with reports of two people wanting to build new soccer stadiums:

  • “There is growing consensus among local leaders that the Orlando City Soccer Club needs its own stadium, and that Orlando and Orange County could help pay for it,” reports the Orlando Sentinel. It would likely cost $90-95 million, says Orlando City President Phil Rawlins, who added, “I think it’s too early to say exactly where those funds would come from.” (If you have no idea what the Orlando City Soccer Club, it’s a minor-league United Soccer League team, though it could conceivably move up to MLS with a new stadium.)
  • The mayor of Revere, Massachusetts wants to buy the abandoned Wonderland dog racing track and use it for a new soccer-only stadium for the New England Revolution. It’s all part of a tangled mess involving casino licenses and it’s completely unclear who would pay for the stadium if it ever happens, but it’s worth reporting on if only for the Boston Globe’s description of how Wonderland “fell on hard times and closed in 2010, hurt by a state ban on live dog racing.” Understatement, thy name is Boston Globe.