Let’s get right to this week’s remainders:
- I read this headline from earlier in the week “Miami Open Moving to Dolphin’s Stadium” too quickly, and thought for a second “Yes! David Beckham has come to his senses!” But no, it’s the Miami Open tennis tournament that’s maybe moving to the Dolphins‘ stadium (and also not a single dolphin’s stadium as the punctuation might suggest), and anyway now the tournament probably isn’t moving to the Dolphins’ stadium because Miami-Dade County wants to get paid all that it’s owed for past tournaments first, and hell with that. The Miami Open could now move out of Florida or even the U.S., which … how does that even work? Can you just move a tennis tournament to Zurich or something and declare, “Now we’re the Miami Open of Zurich, everyone has to come play here instead”? Clearly I don’t understand tennis, which is just how I like it.
- St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green tried to stall the St. Louis Blues arena renovation subsidy agreement that she hates (with good reason) by signing the paperwork as a judge had ordered, but refusing to actually hand over the signed documents. That didn’t work.
- The Tampa Bay Times insists that giving the Lightning $61 million in tax money to upgrade their arena in exchange for a lease extension isn’t really a subsidy, because it’s tax money that couldn’t have been spent on teacher pensions anyway. Seriously, guys, how many times do we have to point out that money is fungible, so the hotel-tax money could be spent on some other tourism-related expense, and that could be used to free up cash for other things, including, sure underfunded teacher pensions? Didn’t the Iran-Contra affair teach you anything?
- One of the three contenders for Belmont Park property who is not the New York Islanders or NYC F.C. dropped out of the bidding this week, saying the requirements for the project “appear to create a selection process that has been predetermined.” That sounds like “too rich for my blood” to me, but Horse Race Insider insists it means the Islanders have this all but locked up, and who am I to question Horse Race Insider? If so, next question will be whether the team’s owners really go ahead with building a new arena there with their own money (presumably, since they haven’t yet hinted at asking for public funds), or just use it as leverage to shake down the Barclays Center owners for a sweetheart lease extension.
- A Nevada congressman is asking the conference committee deciding the final terms of the nightmare tax bill that if they won’t restore tax-exempt bond financing for stadiums (the House version would outlaw them, the Senate version wouldn’t), to at least include language grandfathering in the Las Vegas Raiders stadium on the grounds that “many communities across the country have benefited from the tax-exempt status of bonds for professional stadiums.” All the other kids’ moms let them!
- Things that didn’t pass the smell test this week: an affordable-housing deal in Brooklyn, Montana State University taking money from the Koch Brothers, the Edmonton Oilers losing a game to the Philadelphia Flyers, dog poop fines in Melbourne, Australia, opposition to marijuana legalization in Alberta, and Real Salt Lake‘s property tax assessment.
I’ve written almost nothing about the Real Salt Lake MLS team over the years, except for a brief mention of a minor-league soccer stadium the club at one point promised to build if given public land, a proposal team owner Dell Loy Hansen later backed out of, with the state later spending $10 million to build it as a rodeo arena instead. Anyway, this was mostly because Hansen wasn’t demanding the kind of public subsidies that get this site’s attention — or at least, wasn’t demanding any he was letting the public know about:
By asserting it was losing money, the Real Salt Lake soccer team quietly persuaded Salt Lake County officials to cut its property tax on Rio Tinto Stadium by nearly half starting back in 2012.
That off-the-field victory has saved the team more than an estimated $5 million in taxes since then…
Why are you only telling us this now, Salt Lake Tribune?
The tax cut happened so quietly that it never drew public attention until now. Even Salt Lake County Council members who approved it say they don’t remember the vote nor discussing it, noting it was buried among more than 700 revaluations proposed by the county assessor’s office in the same meeting.
Apparently a local commercial real estate agent, Joe Scovel, stumbled across the five-year-old tax break, and the Tribune then followed up. Hansen, it turned out, not only argued that his team was losing money, but that other local teams’ low stadium assessments meant that he should get a break too — including that one city-owned stadium wasn’t taxed at all, which, right, that’s how municipal ownership works.
Instead of taking this as a sign that maybe other stadiums were getting off scot-free, then-Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan agreed to devalue RSL’s Rio Tinto Stadium by 42% to save the team about $1 million a year in property taxes. Why he did this, I’m sure no one will ever know—
Dolan — who would receive a hefty $10,000 in campaign donations from RSL or Hansen in subsequent years — backed Hansen’s request and sought the City Council’s agreement.
The upshot of all this was that Salt Lake City, which was counting on the team’s property tax payments to pay off the $11 million in bonds it sold to help pay for the stadium, is now dipping into its general fund to make the payments instead. Nice work, everybody! Especially the county tax assessors who wrote the bill so that nobody noticed until Dolan was safely out of office. At least now Dell Loy Hansen gets something substantial in his category entry on this site — I bet that was really embarrassing before now when the sports team owners gathered to smoke cigars and sip brandy and whatever else they do.
The owners of Real Salt Lake are looking to build an 8,000-seat minor-league soccer stadium at the Utah State Fairpark, and say they will foot the entire $13 million bill themselves. Or, put another way, the owners of Real Salt Lake want a chunk of state land on which to build a minor-league soccer stadium, and for the state to foot the rest of the $80 million bill for renovating the Fairpark. Without more details about the proposed stadium lease and the rest of the Fairpark redo plans, we can’t really know for sure.
Either way, it’s interesting that RSL is looking to locate a minor-league USL affiliate in its home town, which unless I’m mistaken would be the first time an MLS team has attempted this. (There are several examples in baseball, including the successful Brooklyn Cyclones and the somewhat less successful Staten Island Yankees.) It seems tough to imagine that a USL team could be profitable enough to make a $13 million stadium pay off, but maybe when you add in the benefits of having your own developmental team within commuting distance? Either way, it’s a proposal that bears watching.