Yankees threaten to halt own soccer stadium project unless bankrupt company cleans up garages that would be torn down anyway

The City, the web publication with the ungoogleable name that was funded with Craig Newmark’s guilt money over accidentally destroying newspapers, ran an article last night headlined “Yankee Stadium Parking Lot Woes Block Soccer Field Goal, Cost Taxpayers Millions.” This is a subject that should interest FoS readers on a couple of levels — the New York Yankees garage fiasco is a sad tale that has been ongoing for more than a decade now, while the NYC F.C. stadium plans are now almost two and a half years in and threatening to compete with the garage story for long-running fiascos — so I’m sorry to say that the headline is mostly wrong, and the part that isn’t wrong is incomplete.

The actual story is kind of interesting, though, as is what we can divine from the fact that this article even exists, so let’s tackle it piece by piece:

The Parks Department is threatening to terminate its lease with Bronx Parking Development Company LLC over the outfit’s defaults on $237 million in bonds issued in 2007 by the city Industrial Development Agency, documents show.

None of this should be surprising. Bronx Parking Development Company LLC was a bizarre concoction in the first place, a nonprofit shell company set up to sell parking spaces at $25 a pop to Yankees fans when there was plenty of cheaper parking nearby, not to mention two subway stations and a commuter rail station right next door. The company soon went into default on those $237 million in bonds (which were used to build still more garages — for some reason, somebody in the Yankees hierarchy 15-20 years ago thought New Yorkers were going to start driving everywhere) and stopped paying rent to the city, causing bondholders and city officials alike to squawk about the money they were owed.

It’s the bondholders, though, that have more to squawk about. The rent payments to the city — $3.2 million a year for 100 years, because yes, IDA agreed to a century-long lease with these bozos — amount to about $43 million in present value, which while real money, is a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly $700 million the city is already on the hook for with the Yankees stadium project. As the city’s Independent Budget Office noted back in 2013, “While the bonds were issued by the city’s Industrial Development Agency, the city is technically not responsible for repaying the bondholders.” So if the parking garages go belly-up, which they’ve been doing in slow motion for a decade now, most of the $237 million bag will be held by those people foolish enough to buy Yankees parking garage bonds.

Then there’s the soccer project, which is being pushed by the Yankees, who are co-owners of NYC F.C., but apparently team execs are claiming it can’t move forward with the plan because the parking doofuses are such doofuses:

Meanwhile, Yankees officials contend the company is stalling a move that could help pull it out of the red: a deal that includes razing a four-level parking structure on 153rd Street to make way for a 25,000-seat soccer stadium for NYCFC…

In the July 20 letter to the president of US Bank, Yankees attorney Michael Mellis complained of dilapidated conditions and security lapses at the 11 sprawling lots and parking structures, which hold nearly 9,300 spaces.

The parking company “has materially failed on all counts” on its obligations to maintain its lots in a “safe, secure, clean and reputable manner,” Mellis wrote. Among the problems cited: poor lighting, out-of-order elevators, dirty surfaces and vermin running wild.

The Yankees lawyer wrote that the ballclub will not give its needed consent for the soccer stadium deal until the parking company cleans up its act.

Yes, you read that right: The owners of the New York Yankees are saying they won’t agree to tear down unused parking garages so they can build a stadium for their own soccer team unless the failed company that it maneuvered to have operate the garages cleans them before demolition.

Clearly there’s something more going on here than meets the eye. One likely theory is that the soccer stadium project still faces numerous other obstacles, from an elevator company that won’t vacate its building until a new home is found to a highway bridge that needs to be decommissioned and nobody wants to take responsibility for, and throwing the garage operators under the bus is a convenient way to blame somebody else for NYC F.C.’s problems. (One of the few people The City got to comment on the record for this piece was local city councilmember Diana Ayala (D-Bronx), who said of the soccer stadium plan, “I know that there has been interest but to date no proposal has been introduced, and I have not heard from anyone related to this proposal in quite some time.”) Or maybe even get somebody to kill all the rats that are lurking uncomfortably near the Yankees’ stadium. It’s a win-win, or at least a we’ve-got-nothing-to-lose.

So back to that headline: The parking lot woes are indeed woeful, but while they’re costing the city “millions,” it’s not the $237 million mentioned at the top of the article, and it’s money that the city has pretty much written off years ago anyway. And they almost certainly have nothing to do with “blocking” the soccer stadium. Also, a “field goal” isn’t a term in soccer, so that’s a terrible play on words. I like my headline a lot better, though it is a bit wordy — maybe “Yankees Threaten To Blow Up Own Soccer Stadium Deal Over Garage Filth”? “Yanks To City: Drop Rats”? No wait, that’s a different story.

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NYCFC exec reports “a ton of progress” on stadium, cites no actual specific progress

One of the more thankless tasks of being a CEO of any kind has to be trying to spin bad news or no news into a pretense that you have inevitable forward momentum for whatever project you’re desperately scrabbling to make work. This is obviously easier if you’re a natural scammer who even changes her voice to sound more authoritative, but it’s part of the job for everyone, even if you’re just a longtime sports exec who was hired to lead an MLS club that has been insisting for years that it’s about to build a new stadium, just as soon as it figures out the pesky financing details.

And so, we present NYC F.C. Brad Sims, telling YES Network (the sports cable network owned by his team co-owners the New York Yankees) how despite two years having passed since it first leaked news of a possible South Bronx stadium, and despite reports that the plan still faces numerous obstacles including decommissioning an entire highway ramp, things are going really super well:

“I think that’s something that remains a huge, huge priority of the club, something that’s extremely important to us. I know, I feel the fans’ pain. I know how badly they want it. I know how badly they want news on confirmation of it and I can assure all of our fans that there is no stronger sense of urgency possible than what we have right now to be able to deliver that to our fans. And we have a team that’s working on it full-time, 100 percent of the time.

“And we’ve made a ton of progress. We really have,” Sims continued. “And we’re very optimistic, as optimistic as we’ve ever been. Having said that, it’s a long process and for us arguably the most important part of that process is the community, the community input, working with community leaders and making sure that this project is something that reflects what they want and what’s important for their community. We feel that this is something — not just the stadium, but the overall project that we’re going to be working on — that’s going to be transformational for the South Bronx and we need to make sure that everyone is aligned with that vision.

“But we’re making progress, we’re feeling good about it and we’ve never been as optimistic as we are right now. And hopefully we’ll have some good news to share with our fans as soon as we can.”

That is an awful lot of words to expend on “nothing new to report,” but again, it’s not the content of the words that’s important but the tone: Progress! Optimism! Transformational! Those aren’t the words of a CEO overseeing a death ride to nowhere, but rather someone hard at work on a plan that takes time, you know these things do, but it’ll all work out in the end. I mean, look at David Beckham’s Inter Miami stadium, which took years but now … okay, maybe that’s a bad example. But anyway: Optimism! You gotta believe!

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NYCFC stadium plan remains a quagmire wrapped in a swamp wrapped in a morass

When last we checked in on NYC F.C.‘s never-ending quest for a new soccer stadium in the Bronx, it was going nowhere fast, weighed down by problems with everything from obtaining the necessary land to rezoning the site. And it hasn’t sped up any during Covid, but a report by The Outfield (no, not those guys) has used public record requests to shed a little light on what the team has been up to in the meantime:

  • Developer Maddd Equities, which is working with the team on the project, has hired lobbyists to work on getting state approval to decommission a ramp to and from the Major Deegan Expressway, since the street it leads to would now be buried beneath the stadium. A big sticking point: The state “would have no interest in owning or maintaining a bridge which is not open to public traffic” and neither does the city, so Maddd or the team would presumably have to buy the thing, which would end up being turned into a pedestrian bridge sticking weirdly out of the side of the stadium like so:


    The bridge would be used to provide access to the Bronx waterfront, which has been an issue ever since a bunch of recreational space was displaced when the new Yankee Stadium nearby was build atop a public park and moved to the other side of the Deegan. That would maybe be a plus for local residents, though the necessity of having to climb a flight of stairs to get to a deck outside the soccer stadium before walking across the bridge would put a bit of a damper on its utility.

  • Maddd and NYC F.C. still have to arrange to buy a large chunk of the proposed stadium land, which is currently owned by an elevator company called GAL. But first GAL needs to find another site to relocate to, which according to public records has involved hiring more lobbyists to pressure the Bronx Borough President’s office to help out, on the grounds that GAL’s current home is “the lynch pin” of the soccer development. (Note to lobbyists: While that spelling is allowed, you probably don’t want to use it.)

The headline that The Outfield put on all this is “Is NYCFC’s Stadium Ready To Ramp Up?”, to which the answer appears, as Ian Betteridge would predict, to be “nope.” Which isn’t to say that it won’t happen eventually — lots of stadium deals happen eventually, and “eventually” is a long time — but for now it should probably remain classified under “reply hazy, ask again later.”

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NYC F.C. Bronx stadium plans get muddier, could face long public approval process

The Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit that has consulted on other sports venue deals in the past, yesterday issued a report for Bronx Community Board 4 on the prospect of a new soccer stadium for NYC F.C. on the current site of city-owned parking garages being used by the New York Yankees, the soccer team’s part-owner. And while there’s nothing definitive in the report — both the city and NYC F.C. continue to say that no deal is in place, or imminent — it does make the case for ways in which a soccer stadium could be more beneficial to the surrounding neighborhood than the baseball stadium that was opened atop a former public park in 2009:

  • A new soccer stadium “could be the touchstone for enhanced community programming, the catalyst for improved pedestrian connections and walkable experiences, and the foundation upon which other community improvements may be built,” writes ULI. This seems to be a reference to the fact that a soccer stadium would require the neighborhood to be rezoned by the city — as confirmed in an article yesterday in the Commercial Observer — which ULI thinks could be an opportunity to add trees and more walkable sidewalks to the surrounding blocks, which could maybe happen, though the city doesn’t exactly have a long and glorious history of rezoning low-income neighborhoods in ways that benefit current residents.
  • The report further suggests that any soccer stadium plans take care (somehow) to meet the needs of local small business owners, noting that while Yankees-related retail outlets have opened around the baseball stadium, “these stores largely remain closed on the other 280+ days of the year when the Yankees are not playing. These closed storefronts leave the streetscape in a state of perceived desolation and interrupt what could otherwise be an active retail corridor.”

That Commercial Observer piece, meanwhile, sheds light (of a sort) on one important piece of the soccer stadium financial puzzle, which is how exactly NYC F.C. and its developer partners, Maddd Equities, would obtain the parking garage properties — and 153rd Street itself, which would be closed to make way for the stadium — from the city. While the New York Times reported last month that Maddd would pay $54 million for the land, the Commercial Observer cites the city Economic Development Corporation as saying that “the city will continue to own the land on which the garages and parking lots were developed, and the stadium development team will buy out the remainder of the 99-year leases for the garages” from the Bronx Parking Development Corporation, the nonprofit that was set up by the city to run parking for the Yankees and has since stiffed taxpayers and bondholders alike on expected payments. If the city continues to own the land, that would raise the possibility of Maddd getting to subsidize its proposed mixed-use development alongside the stadium by getting an exemption from property taxes — though it could also be asked to pay payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), though those have their own inglorious local history as well.

Reading tea leaves furiously, the mere fact of CB4 engaging ULI to find out what it can ask of a new soccer stadium indicates that the community board is eager to be more demanding than it was in 2005 when the Yankees came knocking for approval of their new home. (Though it’s worth noting that CB4 voted to oppose that plan, and the city summarily ignored them.) If the stadium becomes wrapped up in a larger rezoning effort, that would drag out the approval process by a year or more at minimum, especially in a climate where New York City neighborhoods and local officials are increasingly pushing back against rezonings that are seen as giveaways to developers, sometimes killing them outright. More on this story as it develops, but it looks like NYC F.C. fans should probably get used to attending home games at farflung sites for a while longer — while that’s no fun, nobody held a gun to MLS’s head and forced them to approve an expansion team without a guarantee of a stadium to play in, either.

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Friday roundup: More Carolina Panthers stadium demands, D-Backs explain Vancouver move threat, and giant soccer robots

Good morning, and thank you for taking a break from your coronavirus panic reading to patronize Field of Schemes. Please wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and we can begin:

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Saturday roundup: Manfred endorses Tampontreal Ex-Rays, NYCFC readies Bronx stadium plan (maybe), everybody in Nashville sues everybody else

Man, I sure picked the wrong week to get so sick that I couldn’t post for a couple of days! But even if it’s now the weekend and I’m only at about 80%, the news is at 110%, so let’s get to it:

  • First up is Thursday’s declaration by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred that he and baseball owners are “100% convinced” that having the Tampa Bay Rays play half their games in Montreal “is best way to keep Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay.” That’s not entirely surprising — I mean, it’s surprising that we have a major sports executive saying that the best way to keep a team from moving is to let it move half its games, but no more surprising than when Rays owner Stuart Sternberg first said it last June — since it’s very rare for sports commissioners and fellow owners to stand in the way of their fellow owners’ stadium or relocation plans, especially if it doesn’t infringe on their territories. (Speaking of territories, Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said, “We are supportive of them exploring it,” if you were wondering.) The plan itself remains, in the words of the great unemployed sports editor Barry Petchesky, “completely batshit,” not least because it would require getting not one but two cities to build not one but two new stadiums just to land half a team, but also for a billion other reasons. It still makes the most sense as a Madman Theory strategy by Sternberg to scare Tampa Bay or Montreal into competing to build him at least one stadium — can you imagine the headlines to come about “Montreal is moving ahead with its stadium while Tampa lags behind?” or vice versa? — but sports owners are just rich, not necessarily smart, so who the hell knows what Sternberg really intends to do? Whatever it is, though, he’ll have Manfred’s support, because Manfred knows who signs his checks.
  • NYC F.C.‘s plan for a new stadium just south of Yankee Stadium has been reportedly almost ready for more than a year and a half now, but now it’s supposedly really almost ready, according to a different New York Times reporter than the one who reported the initial rumor. The outline of the plan remains roughly the same: The Yankees owners, who are minority owners of the MLS club, would allow the city to demolish a parking garage that their lease otherwise requires remain in place, a private developer would take the garage and a parcel across the street and the street itself (plus a highway off-ramp) and build housing and a hotel and other stuff on part of it while leasing the rest to NYC F.C. to build a stadium on, which would — again, supposedly — allow the whole thing to move forward without public money being used for construction. Being used for other things is another story: The Times doesn’t mention whether the team or developers would pay the city anything for the section of East 153rd Street that would need to be demapped and buried beneath a soccer pitch, or how much the developers would pay to lease the garage site, or if either parcel would pay property taxes. (The Times reports that “Maddd and N.Y.C.F.C. [would] convey the [street] property to the city” then lease it back, which certainly sounds like an attempt to evade property taxes.) City officials said that “a deal has not been reached, and more conversations are needed,” so maybe none of these things have even been decided; tune back in soon, or maybe in another year and a half!
  • The lawsuit filed by Save Our Fairgrounds claiming that Nashville S.C. stadium project would take up too much public land needed for other uses is moving to trial, and Nashville S.C. has sued to intervene in their lawsuit, and everybody’s trying to figure out if NASCAR and soccer can coexist on adjacent parcels, and soccer fans are mad that that stadium isn’t getting built yet, and the community coalition that negotiated a community benefits agreement to go along with the stadium plan is mad that nobody’s consulting them about any of this. It’s only a matter of time before Jimmy Carter is called in to resolve this.
  • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has put $55 million into his state budget proposal over the next two years to renovate Hartford’s arena, with the rest of the cost — estimated at between $100 million and $250 million, depending on how extensive it is — to be paid off by private investors who would get … something. The state is studying it now! Get off their back!
  • A bunch of the Carolina Panthers fans who bought “permanent seat licenses” to help finance the team’s stadium back in 1993 have found that the “permanent” part isn’t actually so much true: About 900 seats in the front of one end zone are being ripped out to make way for luxury suites for soccer (or a standing-room “supporters’ section — the latter makes more sense, but the Charlotte Observer article on this is frustratingly unclear), so fans with PSLs there are being offered either to move to other nearby locations or to sell their licenses back to the team for 25% over what they initially paid for them. No wonder everyone else started calling them “personal” seat licenses!
  • Also, the Panthers are having their stadium property tax bill reduced by $3.5 million a year, because they asked nicely. Or just asked, and are a major sports franchise and therefore an 800-pound gorilla, with all the privileges that go with that. One of those two.
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to play two home games in London next year, which the team’s website says is “strategically aligned” with development in their Jacksonville stadium’s parking lot, somehow, though is one extra week of construction time really going to help them all that much? Or maybe this is some weird kind of brinkmanship, as in “approve our Lot J development, stat, or we’ll keep moving games to London?” Anyway, cue people freaking out about the Jaguars moving to London again now, which team owner Shad Khan can’t be unhappy about because savvy negotiators and leverage and all that.
  • A poll by the Oakland Athletics on where the team should build a new stadium found that Oakland residents backed the team’s preferred Howard Terminal site by 63-29%, but a poll by a group that opposes the Howard Terminal plan found that residents prefer the current Oakland Coliseum site by a 62-29% margin. Reminder: Polls are garbage!
  • This video of an entire Russian hockey arena collapsing during reconstruction work, with a worker clearly visible on the roof as it gives way, doesn’t actually have much to with stadium subsidies, but it sure is impressive-looking, in a horrific way.
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Friday roundup: New stadium demands in Calgary, 90% shortfall in promised Raiders jobs, corporate subsidies found (yet again) to do squat-all to create jobs

Happy Friday! Is Australia still on fire? (Checks.) Cool, I’m sure we’ll be ready to pay attention to that again as soon as there are some more images of adorable thirsty koalas.

In the meantime, news on some slightly less apocalyptic slow-moving catastrophes:

  • CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie says the Calgary Stampeders deserve “a state-of-the-art, beautiful stadium” but he’ll “take my queues [sic, seriously, Montreal Gazette, you’re supposed to be an English-language paper]” from team execs for when “they think it’s time for me to be a guy who makes a little noise and tries to stimulate a positive discussion.” Yep, that’s a sports league commissioner’s job! Why a new stadium is Calgary’s job and not the Stampeders owners’ job is less clear, but given that the team owners did such a good job at extracting public money for an arena for the Flames (which they also own), you know they’re going to be jonesing for a sequel. (In fact, a Stampeders stadium was originally part of the Flames plan before Mayor Naheed Nenshi rejected it as too expensive and only would approve the Flames part, so maybe this is just a case of a team owner deciding it’s easier to get sports projects approved in serial rather than in parallel.)
  • It’s now been 100 days since Nashville Mayor John Cooper called a halt to Nashville S.C.‘s stadium construction, and Cooper is still not answering questions about when it may resume. Previous indications were that he’s refusing to issue demolition permits in order to renegotiate who’ll pay for cost overruns, but it would be kind of cool if he’s just realized that he can take advantage of MLS having approved a Nashville expansion franchise before everything was signed off on regarding public stadium subsidies by just declining to build the stadium and keeping the team. (Nashville S.C. will have to play in a 21-year-old NFL stadium until then, boo hoo.)
  • Las Vegas Raiders stadium proponents promised it would create 18,700 construction jobs, and now it’s only creating 1,655 jobs, and the stadium boosters say this doesn’t count off-site workers like “support staff at construction companies, architects and engineers, and equipment and service suppliers,” but really it’s more about how most of those 18,700 jobs were never full-time anyway. At least state senator Aaron Ford can sleep at night knowing he didn’t deny a single construction worker a job; guess he isn’t kept up by thinking of any of the people who were denied jobs by virtue of the state of Nevada having $750 million less to spend on other things.
  • 161st Street Business Improvement Director Cary Goodman has a plan for a new NYC F.C. stadium in the Bronx to benefit the local community by having it be owned by the local community, so that “when naming rights are sold, when broadcast fees are collected, when merchandising agreements are made, or when sponsorships and suites are sold, revenue would pour into the [community-owned] corporation and be distributed as dividends accordingly.” This sounds great, except that broadcast fees don’t go to a stadium, they go to the team that plays in a stadium, and also things like sponsorships and suites and naming rights are exactly the kind of revenues that the NYC F.C. owners would be building a stadium in order to collect, so it’s pretty unlikely they’d agree to hand it over to Bronx residents. We really gotta get over the misconception that stadiums make money, people; playing in stadiums that somebody else built for you is where the real profit is, and don’t anyone forget it.
  • Reporters in Kansas City are still asking Royals owner John Sherman if he’d like a downtown baseball stadium, and Sherman is still saying sure, man. (See what I did there? Huh? Huh?) This article also features a quote about how great a downtown ballpark would be from an executive vice president of Vantrust Real Estate, which owns lots of downtown properties; it must be nice to be rich and get to have your Christmas present wish lists printed on local journalism sites as if they’re news.
  • A new study of business tax incentives found that state and local governments spend $30 billion a year on them, with no measurable effect on job growth. Also, most of the benefits flow to a relatively small number of large firms (good luck getting a tax break for your pizzeria), and some states spend more on corporate tax breaks than they collect in corporate taxes, with five (Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming) spending an average of $44 per resident on tax breaks even though they have collect no state corporate income tax at all. (The biggest spenders on a per-capita basis: Michigan, West Virginia, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire.) Surely local elected officials will now take a hard look at the cost of these subsidies and ha ha, no, even when tax breaks are proven failures it takes decades before anyone might notice and do anything about them, so don’t hold your breath that anyone is going to see the light just because of one more study, at least not unless it’s accompanied by angry mobs with pitchforks.
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Friday roundup: Congress gets riled up over minor-league contraction, Calgary official proposes redirecting Flames cash, plus what’s the deal with that Star Trek redevelopment bomb anyway?

Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. readers, who if they haven’t yet may want to read the New Yorker’s thoughtful takedown of the myths that the holiday was built on. Or there’s always the movie version, which has fewer historical details but is shorter and features a singing turkey.

And speaking of turkeys, how are our favorite stadium and arena deals faring this holiday week?

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Friday roundup: Ex-D.C. mayor says his $534m Nats stadium expense was worth it, Clippers arena stymied by car trouble, MLS franchise fees to go even higher

Shouldn’t posting items more regularly during the week leave less news to round up on Fridays? I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s supposed to work, but here I am on Friday with even more browser tabs open than usual, and I’m sure someone is still going to complain that I left out, say, the latest on arena site discussions in Saskatoon. I guess lemme type really fast and see how many I can get through before my fingers fall off:

 

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Friday roundup: Predators sign possibly non-sucky lease extension, NYCFC stadium rumors reach code orange, and why are we laughing at fat Thor, anyway?

Sorry if I’m posting a bit late this morning, but I started checking Deadspin for any last-minute news, and ended up having to read all of Anna Merlan’s best Avengers: Endgame review ever. If you’re tempted to click that and go read it now, please wait until after reading this post because it will make you forget all about wanting to know about soccer stadium zoning regulations or whatever, and anyway this week’s roundup is relatively short and will let you get back to thoughts on Thor fat-shaming in due haste; if you’re not tempted to click that at all and are wondering how this post went off the rails so quickly, just skip ahead to the bullet points already:

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