Friday roundup: Sacramento soccer subsidies, Fire could return to Chicago, and a giant mirrored basketball

Did I actually write a couple of days ago that this was looking like a slow news week? The stadium news gods clearly heard me, and when they make it rain news, they make it pour:

The vaportecture watch never stops: Sacramento Republic and FC Cincinnati deliver latest stadium rendering knee-slappers

My vaportecture article at Deadspin appears to have unlocked some sort of floodgates, because now it seems like not a day goes by that some insane new stadium renderings aren’t unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace. Yesterday, for example, the owners of Sacramento Republic FC (currently a USL team, but in the running for an MLS expansion slot) released these:

There are some design oddities — why, for example, do all the fans in upper deck appear to be seated in love seats? — as well as some of our favorite vaportectural shtick: stadiums that mysteriously glow while all around them remains dark, athletes engaged in oddly unathletic endeavors (in this case a player taking a penalty kick by apparently engaging in a high jump), fans holding up scarves to obscure their fellow fans’ view during a key moment in the action. But a few eagle-eyed Twitter users went beyond that to look at the individual clipart people (“entourage,” we now know they’re called) and found, um:

I think it’s fair to say that, even if you by necessity have to populate your creation with stock images, it’s important to spread them around a little for at least minimal verisimilitude.

Then there’s this:

That was yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon, we got yet another round of F.C. Cincinnati renderings, which have previously provided some of the more hilarious moments in this field of study. The latest twist is apparently that the stadium will no longer have an unearthly glow — no, seriously:

Other new renderings show off such innovations as translucent scarves:

The stadium surrounded by a postapocalyptic wasteland of cut-and-paste identical buildings, where fans emerge from a portal from another dimension to arrive at the front gates (and also the stadium still glows somewhat, though not as much as the trees):

And still more, but I’m having trouble navigating the Cincinnati Enquirer’s terrible gallery layout, so please visit there yourself post your favorite items in comments, or on Twitter, or really anywhere.


Friday roundup: Vikings get $6m in upgrades for two-year-old stadium, Sacramento finds rich guy to give soccer money to, CSL screws up yet another stadium study

No time to dawdle today, I got magnets to mail, so let’s get right down to it:

  • The Minnesota Vikings‘ two-years-and-change-old stadium is getting $6 million in renovations, including new turf, and taxpayers will foot half the bill, because of course they will.
  • Billionaire Ron Burkle is becoming the majority owner of the USL Sacramento Republic, so now Mayor Darrell Steinberg wants to give the team “tens of millions of dollars” in infrastructure and development rights and free ad signage so that he can build an MLS stadium. “The richer you are, the more money we give you” is the strangest sort of socialism, but here we are, apparently.
  • Concord, an East Bay suburb until now best known as “where the BART yellow line terminated until they extended it,” is considering building an 18,000-seat USL stadium. No word yet on how much it’ll cost or how much the city will chip in, but they probably first need to wait to see how rich the team’s owner is.
  • Not everyone in Allen, Texas wants to live across the street from a cricket stadium, go figure.
  • Everybody’s favorite dysfunctional economic consultants Convention, Sports & Leisure have done it again, determining that Montreal would be a mid-level MLB market without bothering to take into account the difference between Canadian and American dollars. (Once the exchange rate is factored in, Montreal’s median income falls to second-worst in MLB, ahead of only Cleveland.) CSL explained in a statement to La Presse that it wanted to show “the relative purchasing power” of Montrealers, and anyway they explained it in a footnote, so quit your yapping.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers are going to change the name of their stadium from one corporate sponsor to another, and boy, are fans mad. Guys, you know you are free to call it whatever you want, right? Even something that isn’t named for a corporation that paid money for the privilege!
  • Local officials in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. are still working on an interstate compact to agree not to spend public money on a stadium for Dan Snyder’s Washington NFL team, though passage still seems unlikely at best, and the history of these things working out effectively isn’t great. Maybe it’ll get a boost now that team execs have revealed that the stadium design won’t include a surfboard moat after all. Nobody respects the vaportecture anymore.
  • The libertarian Goldwater Institute is suing to force the release of a secret Phoenix Suns arena study paid for by the team and conducted by sports architects HOK, but currently kept under lock and key by the city. (Literally: The study reportedly is kept in locked offices and is only allowed to be accessed by a “very limited number” of people. Also, a citizen group is trying to force a public referendum on the recently approved Suns arena subsidy, though courts have generally not been too keen on allowing those to apply retroactively to deals that already went through. And also also, one of the two councilmembers who voted against the Suns subsidy thinks the city could have cut a better deal. Odds on any of this hindsight amounting to anything: really slim, but maybe it can help inform the next city to face one of these renovation shakedowns, if anyone on other city councils reading out-of-town news or this site and ultimately cares, which, yeah.
  • Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke signed agreements to cover the NFL’s legal costs in any lawsuit over those teams’ relocations, and they’re both being sued now (by Oakland and St. Louis respectively), and NFL lawyers are really pricey. Kroenke is reportedly considering suing the league over this, which I am all for as the most chaotically entertaining option here.
  • Wilmington, Delaware is being revitalized by the arrival of a new minor-league basketball team, so make your vacation plans now! Come for the basketball, stay for the trees and old cars! Synergy!

Sacramento council approves MLS stadium term sheet, owner swears he can pay for it himself

The Sacramento city council last night unanimously approved Republic F.C.‘s stadium term sheet, which proposes building a new $180 million MLS stadium almost entirely with private money, once MLS deigns to give Sacramento a franchise.

Republic owner Kevin Nagle says he and his investment partners can pay for two-thirds of the $180 million construction budget with “equity” (I assume he means cash, unless he’s really going to give the stadium contractors shares in the team) and borrow the rest. Add in an expected $100 million expansion fee, and that’s $280 million Nagle and his partners will need to earn back before turning any kind of profit — so figure close to $20 million a year in revenues needed in order to make this a reasonable investment. How does that compare to other MLS franchises?


Value ($M) Revenue ($M) Operating Income ($M)1
Seattle Sounders 245 50 10
LA Galaxy 240 44 4
Houston Dynamo 200 26 5
Portland Timbers 185 35 4
Toronto FC 175 32 -7
Sporting Kansas City 165 29 4
Chicago Fire 160 21 -6
New England Revolution 158 25 7
FC Dallas 148 25 -3
San Jose Earthquakes 146 13 -1
Philadelphia Union 145 25 2
New York Red Bulls 144 22 -9
D.C. United 140 21 -1
Montreal Impact 128 22 -3
Vancouver Whitecaps 125 21 -6
Columbus Crew 112 18 -4
Real Salt Lake 108 17 1
Colorado Rapids 105 15 -3
FORBES estimates; revenue and operating income is for 2014 season
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization

Yeah, I have no idea how this is going to work out either, unless it’s a roll of the dice on MLS franchises making a whole lot more money in the future. Or rich people just think it’s fun to own soccer teams. Which, sure, so long as they’re spending their own money, it’s no skin off taxpayers’ noses.

Meanwhile, here are pretty pictures to look at. It sure does look fun, no? I don’t know about $280 million worth of fun, but then, I have no way of knowing what $280 million worth of fun looks like, so maybe I’m not the one to judge.

Sac stadium

Sacramento MLS stadium plan: Let us use city-improved rail yards land, we’ll pay for the rest

The Sacramento city council is set to vote today on a term sheet for a new Republic F.C. soccer stadium, which means that unlike all the past times Mayor “I Don’t Recall Being 100% Naked” talked about it, we have some actual numbers to evaluate. So let’s sit down with the term sheet, and begin.

First off, a term sheet is not a contract, or even a memorandum of understanding: It’s basically a sketch of how the financing and operations of a stadium will be worked out. So if the council approves it today, there will still be loads of details TBD.

That said, there’s a lot spelled out in the term sheet that rules out some of the more common hidden subsidies in these kinds of deals: The team owners would pay the entire $180 million construction cost, plus overruns, and would pay operating and maintenance costs. The team is even promising to pay property taxes, which as we’ve seen elsewhere isn’t always the case.

In exchange, Sacramento would turn over a chunk of land on the old railyards site that has received $46 million worth of infrastructure improvements to turn it into developable property. (This money has already been allocated, anyway; whether it’s all been spent is frustratingly vague in both the term sheet and the news articles about it, and Google Maps isn’t much help.) That’s not nothing — it’s land that could be used for something else otherwise — but since this is private land that’s gotten the public investment, the only taxpayer cost would be the money that the city has already committed to shelling out regardless of whether a stadium is built.

The last time the doctor prescribed me a pill called Ciprofloxacin (also known as Cipro). It is a broad-spectrum antibiotic at, which is very popular and time-tested. The effect is wonderful. After two days of treatment, angina disappeared without a trace. But to complete the course, it is necessary to take an antibiotic for at least 7 days!

So, tentative thumbs-up for a plan that minimizes public costs! There are still many steps to go before this is set in stone, obviously, but if this goes ahead as written in the term sheet, it’d be a better deal for the public than pretty much any other MLS stadium deal outside of the one that the crazy rich guy is building in Orlando. Friends, they’ll call it a movement.

KJ commissions Sacramento soccer stadium report, shockingly gets answer he wants

Think Big Sacramento, the private nonprofit set up to push for new sports facilities by Mayor Kevin Johnson as part of his secret city government, has commissioned a report from consultants Capital Public Finance Group on the economic impact of a new Sacramento Republic FC soccer stadium, and come on, what do you think it said?

A new soccer stadium could generate $1.25 billion of economic impact over 30 years, according to the study commissioned by Think Big Sacramento.

We’ve been over the problems with using “economic impact” as a metric before (short answer: just because money is changing hands in your city limits doesn’t mean anyone in your city is benefiting), as well as the problems of hiring these consultants who just plug some numbers into a formula without trying to account for money that’s cannibalized from other local entertainment spending, or for economic losses from any public money that’s dedicated to the project instead of to other local needs. CPFG looks to be a local Sacramento group, so doesn’t have much of a track record, good or ill, in such matters, and it shows in the report, which is all of 19 pages long, 14 of which are taken up with overviews of Major League Soccer (attendance is up!) and the proposed downtown Sacramento site (“at the threshold of a new era”!). There’s no source given for any of CPFG’s numbers, and they don’t appear even to account for the fact that some people are already going to see Republic FC games, so counting the money those fans spend at a new stadium would be double-counting, and —

Sorry, this is way more attention than a quickly thrown-together PDF deserves, even if the Sacramento Bee thinks otherwise. Suffice to say that KJ bought himself some 19-page campaign brochures for his plan to get a new soccer stadium next to the Kings‘ new basketball arena. Wake me when somebody’s finalized how to pay for it. I know the Republic owners are saying “privately financed,” but we’ve heard that before.

Kevin Johnson set up secret government, asked Kings, Republic for donations during arena and stadium push

If you regularly read this site’s coverage of the Sacramento Kings arena saga, you may have the impression that Sacramento mayor (and former NBA great) Kevin Johnson will stop at nothing to get what he wants, whether it’s assembling his own prospective team ownership groups or coming up with bizarro-named astroturf organizations. But now, according to a long exposé in Deadspin, it appears his ruthlessness is way, way more extensive than anyone ever realized. Among the lowlights:

  • Johnson tried to take over the National Conference of Black Mayors to use it for his own ends, then when that failed, ran it into bankruptcy and set up his own competing black mayors’ group.
  • When the Sacramento News & Review issued a public records request over the black mayors’ group scandal, Johnson sued the newspaper and his own city to block the release of emails from his office. That case is still pending.
  • In the latest twist, KJ took advocates for charter schools (the crusade he shares with his wife, “Waiting for Superman” antihero Michelle Rhee) and gave them fake City Hall titles so they could work on his behalf during the black mayors putsch.
  • On the sports venue front, Johnson solicited campaign donations from the owners of both the Kings and Republic F.C. while seeking to build a new basketball arena and new soccer stadium for those teams.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the bit about Johnson being accused of sexually molesting multiple teenagers back in the ’90s, which is old news but worth remembering both because there shouldn’t be a statute of limitations on remembering stuff like this, and because it involved amazing secret recordings like this one:

Girl: “Well, I was naked and you were naked, and it wasn’t a hug.”

K.J.: “Well, I felt that it was, you know, a hug, and you know, I didn’t, to be honest, remember if we were both naked at that time. That is the night at the guesthouse?”

Girl: “Yeah. … Why would I be upset if it was just a hug?”

K.J.: “Well, I said the hug was more intimate than it should have been. But I don’t believe I touched your private parts in those areas. And you did feel bad the next day and that’s why we talked about it.”

Girl: “Well, if it was just a hug, why were either one of us naked?”

K.J.: “Again, I didn’t recall us being a hundred percent naked.”

Deadspin illustrated its latest piece with an image of KJ with devil horns drawn on. The site is known for being a bit over the top, obviously, but in this case, it seems like they’ve got it just about right.

Every city in the U.S. still thinks it can get an MLS franchise, and you know what that means

Sacramento Republic FC has chosen a designer for a new soccer stadium if it makes it to MLS (not that it doesn’t already have design renderings — hope you know how to design magical purple glowing radio towers, HNTB!), and the mayor of San Antonio is looking to help bring an MLS team to an expanded stadium in her city even as the local NASL owner is selling his franchise, and some developers in Las Vegas want to convert the 51’s minor-league baseball stadium for an MLS team, and…

…you know what? I’m going to go watch some baseball at the place with the free tickets. If there’s any important stadium news the rest of this week I’ll check in. If it’s just more MLS expansion teams, it can wait till next week.

Meanwhile, enjoy your vaportecture porn:


Sacramento soccer team announces 20,000-seat stadium plan, says money will come from somewhere

Sacramento’s two-year-old USL Pro minor-league soccer franchise, Republic FC, announced plans yesterday to build a 20,000-seat stadium in the city’s downtown railyard if it’s admitted to MLS. And how would it be paid for?

Questions remain over how the stadium will be financed. Mayor Kevin Johnson has said no city money will be used to help build the facility. Nagle has said the Republic FC investor group will have the capacity to pay for the stadium, plus a league expansion fee of at least $70 million.

Sure, maybe? Larry Kelley, the developer who is planning to build a mixed-use district on the old railyard site, would be part of the Republic FC investment team, so it’s always possible he’d give them a break on the land as a kind of loss leader. Or “no city money to help build the facility” could really mean “city money, but only to help buy the land or provide tax breaks.” Nobody’s saying yet, but hey, pretty pictures!

Read more here: