Friday roundup: Untangling NYCFC’s stadium plan, fighting over the Crew’s future, and what to do with a luxury suite

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!
  • The state of Maryland has luxury suites at the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles stadiums, and Gov. Larry Hogan mostly uses them for family members and political cronies. This should come as a surprise to no one, but it’s a reminder that getting government use of a suite as part of a stadium deal is less a public benefit than a, what do you call those things?
  • 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.
  • Glendale has extended its arena management deal with AEG through 2026, which will mean continuing to pay $5.6 million annual management fees, but also collecting about $1.6 million a year in shared arena revenues. That’s not good, but it is significantly better than the lease that had the city paying the owners of the Arizona Coyotes more than $7 million a year after revenue shares, so yay Glendale for tearing up that lease and bidding out the contract to at least cut their losses.
  • 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?
  • Former U.S. senator Barbara Boxer has thrown her weight behind Inglewood residents opposing a new Los Angeles Clippers arena because it could cause gentrification and displacement. Which, not all arenas do, but in hot urban areas like L.A. it doesn’t take much to cause gentrification and displacement, so I can certainly see why there’s concern.
  • 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.

NYCFC returns to old Bronx stadium site with new Rube Goldberg funding plan

NYC F.C. is back with another Bronx stadium plan, but this time it’s not the one alongside the Gentrification Death Star that was proposed and then pretty much shot down earlier this year. Instead, according to the New York Times’ Charles Bagli, the team’s owners (Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahayan of Abu Dhabi and the Steinbrenner royal family of New York) are working on a new stadium plan at another Bronx site just south of Yankee Stadium that was previously proposed and then dropped almost five years ago. And whereas that earlier plan would have involved a panoply of tax and land breaks — $60 million of foregone property taxes, $21.5 million in other city tax breaks, $25 million in free rent, and $100 million in foregone parking revenues — the new one involves so many moving parts that it would make Rube Goldberg’s head spin:

  • The Yankees owners, who got an agreement out of the city to provide 9,500 parking spaces for the baseball stadium they built in 2009, would reduce that requirement to 6,500 parking spaces, freeing up the old “triangle garage” and adjacent surface lots south of the old Yankee Stadium site.
  • Developers Jorge Madruga of Maddd Equities and Eli Weiss of Joy Construction would buy or lease the garage and the lots from the city, and buy the adjacent GAL Manufacturing factory from its private owners, all for undisclosed prices.
  • Madruga and Weiss would lease the GAL site to NYC F.C. for another undisclosed price, while building a hotel and conference center, retail and office space, a school, and “as many as 3,000” affordable apartments on the garage and parking lot parcels.
  • NYC F.C. would construct a stadium on the GAL site, reportedly for $400 million, which would be by far the most expensive MLS stadium yet built.

This, you will notice, cleverly manages to arrange that no subsidies go directly to NYC F.C. — the team’s owners would be leasing private land, which would continue to pay property taxes. This enables Bagli to note that the soccer stadium is “not asking for the avalanche of free land, tax breaks and public funding” that went into other New York–area sports venues.

However, until we know who would pay what for which land, and whether the developers would pay fair market rent and property taxes on the garage land, it’s still entirely possible that the developers would be getting significant subsidies, which they could then pass along to NYC F.C. via cheap stadium land rent in appreciation for the Yankees allowing the entire deal to be done in the first place. (Needing the Yankees to approve the reduction in parking spaces is the only way it makes sense for the developers to be involving NYC F.C. at all, since you’d think otherwise it would be easier just to buy the parking parcels and forget about the GAL land.) And there there’s still the estimated $100 million in parking garage payments that the city is still owed, which it would never get if it handed over the land for private development, but which it also might never get if it kept the parking garages because nobody wants to pay to park in them, so you tell me how to calculate the value of that.

That, needless to say, is a lot of ifs — and as Bagli is just going by what NYC F.C. told him (plus what the city told him, which appears to have been mostly “nothing is final yet”), there’s no way to put a number on how much if anything this would end costing taxpayers … yet. If nothing else, it appears that the Steinbrenners and Sheik Mansour are taking a page from the Brooklyn Nets playbook, and creating a financing plan that’s so complicated that even I can’t fully understand it.

It’s also worth noting that there have been a lot of NYC F.C. stadium sites floated over the years, and I mean a lot. By my count, we have had: Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, Pier 40 in Manhattan, the GAL factory site, someplace in the city, someplace not in the city, Aqueduct race track in Queens, someplace in Brooklyn, the site of Columbia University’s football stadium in northern Manhattan, Belmont Park in Nassau County, that Harlem River site in the Bronx, and now back to the GAL site. So while it’s certainly worth taking this report seriously, it was also worth taking all of those other ones seriously and they never happened, so for now consider this yet another medium-percentage shot on goal that might go in if it sneaks into a corner of the net, but still has to make it past the wall and the keeper. Who would be, I guess, local elected officials and the city council? I think I may have gone and made this metaphor even more complicated than the financing plan, sorry about that.

NYCFC: South Bronx waterfront stadium? What South Bronx waterfront stadium?

When somebody (presumably the developers) leaked plans last week for a South Bronx development plan that would include an NYC F.C. soccer stadium — and as much as $422 million in land subsidies — the state Empire State Development agency immediately disavowed any notion that it was a done deal, while the soccer team itself remained mum. They’ve broken their silence now, though, and appear to be backing away from the plan as fast as humanly possible:

New York City FC president Jon Patricof says that a tract of land at Harlem River Yards is not an area of focus for a proposed stadium site…

“We submitted something to the State [of New York] as part of a request for expressions of interest,” said Patricof about the Harlem River Yards site. “But that’s it. That site is not an active site.”

That’s not a definitive “no way, no how,” but it’s pretty close — after all, if Patricof just wanted to say that lots of sites were still under consideration including the Harlem River yards, he could have just said that. “Not an active site” is as much cold water as he can possibly throw on it without shrieking “No, no, a thousand times no!”

If I had to take a wild-ass guess, I would say that it sounds like the developers were looking to place a bid on the South Bronx land, thought, “Hey, I bet we could get some additional support for this if it looked like we were solving NYC F.C.’s stadium problem,” asked the team, “Mind if we include you in this?” and the team owners said, “Sure, what the hell.” But now that it looks controversial — in addition to the hugely discounted land price, local organizers have long sought this parcel to be part of a waterfront greenway — NYC F.C.’s owners (the Abu Dhabi royal family and the Yankees, pretty much) figure there are better places to cast their bets. Even if this plan did have some affordable housing to make the mayor happy and light-up bridges to please the governor.

NYCFC Bronx stadium plan could hit $422m in subsidies, isn’t even a formal proposal yet

I spent a good chunk of yesterday researching that report of a new NYC F.C. stadium to be built in the South Bronx for this Village Voice article, and uncovered a few more things:

  • Not only did developer Keith Rubinstein (who’s actually part of the development group behind the new plan, along with NYC F.C. and Stephen Ross) pay $58 million for five acres of adjacent land just three years ago, but he sold it again for $165 million earlier this month. At that price per acre, then, the 12.8-acre site being targeted for the soccer stadium should be worth $432 million — and yet the development proposal offers New York state a mere $10 million (in present value) worth of future lease payments.
  • And that’s not even counting any tax breaks the project would get from not paying property taxes, thanks to being built on state land. The state could always demand payments in lieu of taxes as part of any deal, but there’s no guarantee that would bring in as much revenue as if the land were delivered to private hands and put on the property-tax rolls.
  • Though the New York YIMBY article that leaked the stadium plan made it sound like all but a done deal, it’s far from that: The state Empire State Development agency has only issued a Request for Expressions of Interest, which is what it does while trolling for potential bidders for a formal Request for Proposals, and it doesn’t even have a timetable yet for issuing an RFP. So the Ross/Rubinstein/NYC F.C. proposal isn’t even really a proposal yet, more like a brightly colored press packet with delusions of grandeur.

And speaking of that press packet, I got it last night from ESD, and oh man, is it over the top. Some highlights:

  • The soccer stadium “is an essential element of our transformation plan, bringing an iconic, facility – unique in the City –that will give this too-often under-appreciated community a distinctive identity and widespread recognition.” (All weird-ass grammar and punctuation in the original.) I thought giving Port Morris/Mott Haven a “distinctive identity” was what the Piano District fiasco was supposed to be all about, but I guess you can’t have too many distinctive identities, or something.
  • Under “Stadium Benefits,” the proposal includes: “Stadium cost is estimated to be $75m more expensive than a stadium built on a development site without rail tracks to build over.” They’re building an extra-spendy stadium just so freight trains can keep passing through like they already do now! It’s like money in your pocket!
  • KidZania, a “miniature kids’ size city that combines inspiration, fun and learning through realistic role play for children 4-14.” And in case you don’t give a crap about kids, it would also “generate economic activity in all seasons, and local job opportunities.”
  • There will be no dedicated parking, thanks to all the subway stations within a few blocks; instead, fans who insist on driving “will be directed to park at the nearby Yankee Stadium and arrive via a dedicated stadium shuttle network, which could include rail, bus, ferry and bicycle.” Yankee Stadium is almost two miles from the proposed soccer stadium site.
  • This, whatever this is:

And there is so much more — the damn thing goes on for 159 pages, though many of them are just such things as photos of kids holding astronaut helmets. (See for yourself at the links to the full proposal below.)

It looks like ESD has only received one other proposal for the rail yards so far — from a housing developer that is interested in building there, but doesn’t give a proposed sale price for the land — but that’s not unexpected at this stage of the game, especially when the two biggest Bronx developers (plus NYC F.C., which is part-owned by the Yankees, who are the big dogs in the South Bronx) are already in cahoots on a single plan. Real estate monoculture is bad for taxpayers and other living things.

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NYC F.C. could get its own nine-figure state land gift, for a Bronx stadium

And then there’s this, via the real estate blog New York YIMBY:

YIMBY has the first look at an enormous project coming to the South Bronx waterfront, dubbed Harlem River Yards, submitted to the city by a Related-led partnership. The plans would rise adjacent to Somerset Partners’s assortment of new towers already in the works, adding another major affordable housing building, as well as the City’s first dedicated soccer stadium, with 26,000 seats, designed by Rafael Viñoly. The total cost is projected at $700 million.

The partnership is comprised of Related, Somerset Partners, and the New York City Football Club, which would be the occupying team for the new stadium.

The railyard RFP actually was open for expressions of interest more than a year ago, so if NYC F.C. and its partners — Related is the realty giant run by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross — have been secretly planning this, they’ve been secretly planning it for a while. The YIMBY report doesn’t say anything about any public money being involved, though it does say Related and Somerset would pay $500,000 a year on a ground lease for 12.8 acres of state land; developer Keith Rubinstein (of “Piano District” fame, and also the principal of Somerset Partners) spent $58 million for five acres just one bridge over a couple of years back, so if that’s any gauge, the state should be getting more like $10 million a year in rent, which would a total state subsidy of about $130 million in present value.

There’s also the question of whether an MLS stadium can even fit on the site without some major reworking of the Harlem River waterfront. Here’s the rendering of the site provided by YIMBY:

And here’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, pasted over the site by me via Google Maps and Photoshop:

I mean, maybe, if the architects are super-creative and trim the corners just right? But soccer pitches only come in one size, and Red Bull Arena is pretty compact already, so I’d like to see something with actual measurements before saying for sure that this wouldn’t require closing streets or moving navigable shipping lanes.

Plus, keep in mind this is only a proposal — the state Empire State Development agency still would need to approve it as the winner. In any case, expect lots more on this tomorrow once the rest of the New York media gets hold of it…

Islanders and NYCFC shed no light whatever on their Belmont bids

There was a public “listening session” yesterday on plans for redeveloping land alongside Belmont Park, and both the New York Islanders and NYC F.C. made presentations, and “details” were “revealed,” according to the New York Post headline, and oh boy oh boy let’s see what we’ve got:

Reps for the NYCFC soccer organization, which currently plays at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, say the team’s plans for a 26,000-seat stadium at the Elmont, LI, site would also include 400,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, 15.3 acres of open space, a 5-acre park and 2-acre soccer facility…

The Islanders’ plan calling for an 18,000-seat arena was revealed to include an entertainment hub, hotel and retail village.

Wait, that’s it? We already knew pretty much all that — not down to the tenth of an acre, sure, but “sports facility accompanied by other development” was both teams’ plan all along. No details about how this would be funded? No renderings? Come on, we gotta at least get some renderings!

That’s not a rendering! There aren’t even any fireworks or lens flare! This Monday sucks.

(Here’s a video of the Islanders’ developer talking about how he used to build snowmen with Mets co-owner Jeff Wilpon when they were kids, which is something, I guess.)

Friday roundup: Battles over Blues arena, Vegas bond subsidy, Belmont land for Islanders

Let’s get right to this week’s remainders:

Friday roundup: Raiders talk lease extension, Rams attendance woes may set record, and more!

Here’s what you missed this week, or rather what I missed, or rather what I saw at the time but left till Friday because there are only so many hours in the week, man:

NYCFC, Islanders to go head-to-head for Belmont Park land as potential new home

Today is the deadline for responses to New York state’s Request For Proposals for redeveloping a plot of land near Belmont Park racetrack just outside the New York City border, and it looks like the Islanders are going to have some sports competition for their arena plans after all:

New York City FC, the pro soccer team partly owned by the Yankees, is preparing the submit a bid to build a soccer stadium on the state-run property in Elmont, Long Island, near the Queens border, sources told The Post Monday night…

NYCFC would partner with developer Related Co. in its proposal, sources said. … The Islanders bid is expected to include teaming up with Sterling Project Development, which is controlled by the majority owners of the Mets; and Oak View Group, which is backed by Madison Square Garden, owners of the NHL’s Rangers and National Basketball Association’s Knicks.

The state Empire State Development Corporation told me it won’t be releasing the RFP responses, so we’re going to have to depend on whatever the Islanders and NYC F.C. tell us about their plans, which isn’t likely to be much. (Though I do eagerly anticipate some wacky renderings with lots of fireworks going off.) The prospect of two sports franchises going at it for the same land at least raises the possibility of a Seattle-style bidding war here, which could only be good for New York state taxpayers. More news, and pretty pictures, tomorrow, I hope.

NYCFC are terrible at home, terrible home to blame

As many of you are probably aware, I’m a strong proponent of finding ways to get use out of existing sports venues instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build new ones, mostly because they’re almost never worth it and so somebody (i.e., Mr. and Mrs. Q. Taxpayer) usually ends up having to foot the bill. I’m willing to admit, though, that NYCFC squeezing an MLS field into a baseball stadium may not have been the best idea of all time:

Unlike the NFL, where every field conforms to precise dimensions, a soccer pitch can vary within FIFA (and in this case, MLS) regulations. In the case of Yankee Stadium, that means a smaller field, which robs teams of their space to create — and the Stadium offers the smallest playing surface in the league. For a finesse club like NYCFC, that is the equivalent of the Yankees sending out a lineup devoid of lefty power to take advantage of the short right-field porch…

And at 110 yards by an MLS-minimum 70 yards, or a Hobbit-sized 7,700 square yards, the small field makes NYCFC easier to press and close down. The next-smallest fields are 8,250 square yards and eight are at least 9,000 square yards.

While all this is sad if you’re an NYCFC supporter and fairly entertaining if you’re not — they lost a game last year when an opposing player practically threw the ball into the goal from the sideline, which is hilarious — it’s important to note that this is no one’s fault but NYCFC’s own: They chose to place a team in New York with nowhere to play but New Yankee Stadium, and then chose to sign a bunch of finesse players with famous names who would be at a huge disadvantage playing on a small pitch. Talks about a new stadium in upper Manhattan have gone approximately nowhere, and there’s really no reason for the city to put itself out to solve a problem of the team’s own making, so NYCFC will likely just need to suck it up and rebuild its roster to play in cramped surroundings for the foreseeable future. To do otherwise would be like the Colorado Rockies demanding a pressurized dome to make up for the fact that they unexpectedly found the air thin in Denver — oh, crap, I’m giving people ideas again, aren’t I?