Oklahoma City voters overwhelmingly approved a 1% sales tax hike for the next eight years to fund $978 million worth of parks, social service centers, a new soccer stadium for the USL’s OKC Energy, and upgrades to the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s arena. The MAPS 4 plan — the fourth (duh) in a series of sales-tax hikes that have funded downtown development, school renovations, streetcars, and building the basketball arena in the first place — passed by a 72-28% margin.
As with any of these grab-bag proposals, it’s tough to judge from the results exactly what the public is supporting here: Do they think the city needs $140 million worth of new parks, or the Thunder need $115 million worth of arena renovations, or both? Do they think sales taxes — which are considered regressive because low-income residents pay a higher percentage of their income than high-income residents do — are the best way to do it, or is this just the only plan they’ve been presented with? We’ll never know, unless someone does way more detailed polling. (A guy on Facebook says residents should be allowed to vote on each element separately, but Mayor David Holt says that “something for everyone” is exactly how MAPS was designed, which you can see why it would be.)
Regardless, the latest iteration of MAPS means the public price tag of building and upgrading the Thunder arena now reaches a total of $325 million after its third installment of MAPS cash, and OKC Energy will be getting a new 10,000-seat $37 million stadium (expandable if the city wins an MLS expansion franchise, no doubt with MAPS 5 money) at taxpayer expense. Good thing private stadium funding is the trend, or we might be talking about some real money!
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?”
We have new renderings for the proposed Oakland A’s stadium at Howard Terminal, and they look slightly less doofy than the old renderings, or at least somewhat less angular. Odds that any ballpark will look remotely like this if a Howard Terminal stadium is ever built: two infinities to one. Odds that a Howard Terminal stadium is ever built: Somewhat better, but I still wouldn’t hold your breath.
The Calgary city council put off a vote on a term sheet for a new Flames arena on Tuesday, after a marathon meeting that the public was barred from. They’ll be meeting in private again on Monday, and still plan not to tell anyone what the deal looks like until they’ve negotiated it with the Flames owners, which Calgary residents are not super happy about.
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer still really really wants a new arena of his own by 2024, and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times show that he met with Inglewood Mayor James Butts as early as June 2016 to try to get Madison Square Garden to give up its lease on his preferred arena site before they found out he wanted to build an arena there. This is mostly of interest if you like gawking at warring sports billionaires, but if you do you’re in luck, because the battle seems likely to continue for a long time yet.
The Miami Marlins are turning the former site of their Red Grooms home run sculpture in center field into a “three-tier millennial park” with $10 standing-room tickets, because apparently millennials are broke and hate sitting down? They’ve gotta try something, I guess, and this did help get them a long Miami Herald article about their “rebranding” efforts, so sure, millennial park it is.
Building a football stadium for a college football team and hoping to fill it up with lots of Bruce Springsteen concerts turns out, shockingly, not to have been such a great idea. UConn’s Rentschler Field loses money most years, and hasn’t hosted a major concert since 2007, with the director of the agency that runs it griping, “The summers are generally slow, the springs are generally muddy, and the falls are UConn’s.” And nobody built lots of new development around a stadium that hosts only nine events a year, likewise shockingly. It still could have been worse, though: Hartford could have spent even more money on landing the New England Patriots.
Speaking of failed sports developments, the new Detroit Red Wings arena district is “shaping up to be a giant swath of blacktop,” reports Deadline Detroit, which also revealed that the city has failed to penalize the team’s owners for missing development deadlines, and has held out the possibility of more public subsidies if he ever does build anything around the arena. At least the Ilitches are finally paying for the extra police needed to work NHL games, though, so that’s something.
Here is an article that cites “an economic development expert” as saying that hosting a Super Bowl could be worth $1 billion in “economic activity” to Las Vegas, saying he based this on the results of last year’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Actual increased tax receipts for Minneapolis during the game: $2.4 million. It took me 30 seconds to research this, but apparently the Las Vegas Review-Journal is too high and mighty to use Google. Do not reward them with your clicks.
“Several dozen” Long Island residents marched in protest last week against the New York Islanders‘ proposed arena near Belmont Park, saying it would create too much traffic and construction noise. Those aren’t the best reasons to be concerned about it in my book — I’d be more upset about the crazy discount on land New York state is giving the team, if I were a New York taxpayer, which I am — but maybe the protestors are worried about that too but it didn’t fit easily on a sign.
Oklahoma City is looking for capital projects to spend the next iteration of its sales-tax hike on, and Mayor David Holt says if a maybe-MLS-caliber soccer stadium isn’t included, “the Energy won’t be here forever.” The Energy, if that name draws a blank for you, is the city’s beloved USL franchise that’s been there since … 2014? It’s only a matter of time before teams start threatening to move before they even exist, isn’t it?