David Beckham actually won something, world to end on Friday

And in yesterday’s stadium- and arena-related election results:

  • David Beckham’s Inter Miami stadium plan will move forward after 60% of Miami voters approved building a soccer venue atop city-owned Melreese golf course. Though as the Miami Herald notes, it will only move forward as far as the city commission, and “those votes were far from assured,” with a four-out-of-five-vote supermajority required for passage. There’s still time for Beckham to grab defeat from the jaws of victory here!
  • San Diego voters appear to have approved San Diego State University’s expansion plans to the site of the old Chargers stadium, with 55% in favor as votes continue to be counted. Only 29% are currently in favor of the competing plan to build a “Soccer City” MLS complex on the site.
  • Inglewood Mayor James Butts was reelected in a landslide, so the Los Angeles Clippers‘ arena plans will continue to move forward, though it still faces a legal challenge.

Next up: Next Wednesday’s big Calgary vote on whether to support the city’s 2026 Olympic bid. Remember to double all results and add 30!

Miami, San Diego to vote on MLS stadium proposals today, also fate of nation or somesuch thing

Happy U.S. election day, when Americans will be waiting up to learn the fate of a bunch of stadium and arena proposals! And the direction of an entire nation, but this site doesn’t have time for that, so on with tonight’s sports venue scorecard:

  • Miami voters will decide on Referendum 1, which would allow the city of Miami to waive competitive bidding and give David Beckham the right to negotiate a 99-year lease on the city-owned Melreese golf course, for the purpose of building a stadium there for his Inter Miami MLS club. Polls close at 7 pm Eastern; this being Florida, however, there’s always a good chance no one will know the results until December.
  • In San Diego, voters will be faced with two competing ballot initiatives: Measure E, which would have the city lease 253 acres of land on the Chargers‘ former stadium and practice sites to developers of the proposed Soccer City, which would include a soccer stadium and other stuff; and Measure G, which would have the city sell the land to San Diego State University for a new campus, including a new college football stadium. Polls show Measure G winning and Measure E trailing; if both measures get a majority, whichever gets more votes will win; if neither measure wins, it’ll be left up to the mayor to determine what to do with the site. The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board has declared that neither measure is worth voting for, while letter writers to the paper — yes, there are still people who express their opinions by writing letters to newspapers, in 2018! — are all over the place in how to best game the system. San Diego polls close at 8 pm Pacific, so expect to wait up for this one.
  • Inglewood will elect a mayor today, and with incumbent James Butts in favor of a new Los Angeles Clippers arena and challenger Marc Little opposed, the outcome will be important for the city’s sports future. Polls close at 8 pm Pacific here as well, but a mayoral race is high-profile enough that we could see earlier projections.
  • Contrary to what I implied on Friday, Columbus voters will not be deciding on a 7% ticket tax that would apply to all large sports and entertainment venues — but maybe not Ohio State University football, nobody’s actually sure — and use the proceeds to fund arts programs and the Blue Jackets arena, because while a vote is indeed coming up, it’s a council vote, not a public referendum. A completely unscientific poll of Columbus Business Journal readers shows massive opposition to the measure, but even if that were a valid measure, the city council can still do whatever it wants, because representative democracy, yay!

Vote early and vote often!

Friday roundup: More MLS expansion drum beating, more wasteful non-sports subsidies, more bonkers Tottenham stadium delay stories

Getting a late start this morning after being out last night seeing Neko Case, so let’s get to this:

Charlotte won’t get county money for MLS stadium, expansion race now bigger mess than ever

The Mecklenburg County commission voted 5-3 on Wednesday to hand over the site of 83-year-old Memorial Stadium to the city of Charlotte for a new soccer stadium for a potential MLS team — but no money for building it, which is what the ownership group had been hoping for. Commissioners said they wanted to see a soccer stadium built, but, you know, by the city, not them:

“They manage stadiums and they have a division in the city that deals with pro sports teams,” [Commissioner Jim] Puckett said. “They have a dedicated tax revenue stream that’s for entertainment and can be used for pro sports. They have the expertise and funding stream to deal with that.”

The team’s original plan was for a $175 million stadium where $101.25 million of the costs would be paid off by the county, with the team repaying the public via $4.25 million a year in rent payments. (Note to readers who can do math: No, $4.25 million a year is not enough to repay $101.25 million in bonds unless you get a 1.5% interest rate, which I know they’re low but get serious.) Now they’ll instead have to try to hit up the city of Charlotte alone, which has already indicated that its maximum contribution is $30 million.

That would leave the team to shoulder $145 million of the cost, plus MLS’s nutso $150 million expansion fee, which is a hefty chunk of change. On the other hand, the team wouldn’t have to make those rent payments, so maybe it could just go to a bank and borrow the cash, and make mortgage payments instead? Or maybe the rich NASCAR track heir who wants to launch the MLS team would rather have somebody else on the hook for loan payments if his team, or MLS as a whole, went belly-up at some point as a result of its pyramid-scam spree of handing out expansion franchises like candy to anyone who wants to pay $150 million for candy? Yeah, probably that.

If you’re keeping score, the MLS expansion candidates are now:

That’s a whole mishmash of stuff indeed, and I don’t envy the job of the MLS officials tasked with having to pick two winners this fall (and two more next fall, because they can’t cash those $150 million expansion-fee checks fast enough). You have to wonder if commissioner Don Garber doesn’t think to himself sometimes, maybe it’d be easier just to stick the expansion franchises on eBay and take the highest bids. It would mean giving up on the pretense that they’re actually selecting the best soccer cities or something, but get real, nobody believes that anyway.

San Diego council tries to block MLS stadium referendum by refusing to pay for it

While Cleveland sues itself in a mockery of jurisprudence to get out of public oversight of its NBA arena subsidy plan, the San Diego city council is trying to avoid a proposed public referendum on an MLS soccer stadium (as well as one for a convention center expansion) for different reasons — it wants the vote delayed a year to give more time to figure out what the heck is being voted on — and by different means — the council just up and refused to put money for staging the referendum in the city budget:

Councilwoman Barbara Bry, who chairs the council budget committee, introduced a budget resolution stripping out the $5 million election cost, saying the two measures should wait until the November 2018 general election.

“I want to see a well-crafted measure on the November 2018 ballot,” Bry said, referring to the convention center measure that would increase the hotel room tax that would also fund street improvement and homeless programs. She also prefers a delay on SoccerCity to give time for competing plans to be considered…

But Mayor Kevin Faulconer immediately vowed to veto the council’s action.The mayor has until June 13 to modify the budget as he sees fit, and the council would need six votes to override.

“A City Council majority is supporting the unprecedented step of blocking a public election by stripping funding from the budget,” Faulconer said in a statement. “This short-sighted move results in denying the public a vote and getting nothing accomplished for our city. I intend to use my veto authority to restore the special election funding, while still retaining the added funding for our police, so the City Council can take an up-or-down vote on these urgent ballot measures.”

All this is very exciting, and means exactly squat, so far as I can tell, since the council still needs to vote a week from Monday on whether to put the soccer stadium plan on the November ballot. They could change their minds by then, of course, but given that they just voted overwhelmingly against holding a vote this fall even after MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott warned them last week that if the vote is delayed to 2018 it could cost San Diego an expansion franchise (this round of expansion, anyway), that doesn’t seem too likely. Unless, of course, some councilmembers are just trying to induce Mayor Faulconer to haggle more. Gosh, representative democracy is fun!

SDSU drops out of San Diego MLS plan, would rather use stadium land itself

How’s that whole plan going to build a San Diego soccer stadium on the site of the Chargers‘ old stadium that would double as San Diego State University’s football stadium, using no public money except for, oh yeah, about $240 million in public money? Not well at all, if the SDSU part was important to anybody:

San Diego State made their position clear Tuesday afternoon, releasing a statement that announced that they will no longer engage in discussions with FS Investors, whose plans are to build an MLS stadium that would be shared by the SDSU football team…

“While SDSU’s current campus footprint of 238 acres is sufficient to support the University’s aspirations in the short term, we have long-articulated the need for more space for the advancement of the University over the next 50 years. The Mission Valley opportunity is a once-in-a-generation chance for SDSU to expand its research, tech transfer, collaboration space and other future needs, as we continue to ascend toward becoming a top 50 public research institution.

Translated: That’s a nice piece of property you’ve got there, and we’d way rather have it for ourselves rather than having to share with a soccer team. Which, maybe that’s a better use of land, maybe it’s not — we’d need to see, and hopefully the San Diego city council will demand to see, some kind of cost-benefit analysis to determine what’s the best use of the site. This doesn’t necessarily kill the soccer plan by any means, but it’s certainly not going to help the push for a public referendum in favor of it this fall when voters ask, “So this will give SDSU’s football team a place to play, too, right?” and canvassers have to reply, “Um, have we mentioned that soccer is growing in popularity among well-off millennials?”

San Diego pulls large number out of butt, calls it SoccerCity economic impact

So last week this happened:

SoccerCity could deliver an annual $2.8 billion economic boost to the region at full buildout of the Qualcomm Stadium site, according to projections released Thursday by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.

I’m not going to go to the trouble of showing you all the EDC’s calculations, because it’s easy enough for you all to join me in hollering, “NO IT WON’T!” Adding up all the future wages paid at a complex and calling that an “economic boost to the region” only makes sense if all of those jobs would only exist in the region with the complex, and nobody believes that.

This proposal started out really promising, with a soccer stadium and housing and light industry all for no public money, but between the possible $240 million infrastructure and land cleanup cost and this overblown economic impact study, it’s starting to look less like the exception than the rule. Not that it would necessarily be a disaster for San Diego, but it requires a hard, hard look before it goes before voters for approval.

San Diego MLS stadium with “no public money” pledge could demand $240m in infrastructure cash

One of the key attributes of the plan to build an MLS stadium on the site of the San Diego Chargers‘ old stadium was that it would not only require no public money, but also the developers would pay “fair market value” for the 80 acres of land involved. So how much would that be? How about maybe … $10,000?

The sale price would be linked to the fair market value, yet to be determined, but it would have to take into account the cost of demolishing Qualcomm, estimated at perhaps $15 million, and other environmental issues and other problems, such as flooding and habitat preservation. Also taken into consideration would be the potential of setting aside room for an NFL stadium, and other “extraordinary costs.”

If these conditions reduce “the fair market value…(to) a negative number,” the initiative says, then FS would be required to pay the city $10,000 as a one-time lease payment.

In effect, then, the soccer developers are asking the city to pay for the cost of prepping the land for new development, which could eat up the entire $240 million market value of the parcel. If that sounds crazy to you, that’s exactly the word one real estate expert uses to describe the proposal:

“If I was the city, I’d say this is crazy,” [real estate development consultant Gary] London said this week. “The city is selling the property as if it was distressed property (under the FS initiative).

“This is not distressed property,” he said. “This is almost an empty piece of land, with the exception of one stadium, that is practically flat. This is in the center of San Diego and is probably the most valuable land asset, public or private, in the city of San Diego right now.”

And then there’s this:

Greg Shannon, chairman of Sedona Development and current chairman of the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute, said a private landowner would “never sell” land the way the FS initiative proposes.

“From what I can tell, it’s a huge giveaway from the city to the developers,” Shannon said. “They’re saying there’s no taxpayer subsidy. That’s a huge taxpayer subsidy.”

One hopes that this is just a butt-covering clause to indicate what happens on the off chance that infrastructure costs get out of control, and not something the team actually anticipates. Even so, though, this is a potentially whopping hidden public cost that the developers really should have mentioned when they first announced their plan, though I guess then people might not have been quite as excited about it. We’ll see how excited voters are if and when this thing goes up as a ballot initiative later this year.

Every concentration of humans on earth now bidding to build MLS stadiums

Nashville is looking to build a new MLS stadium, and Indianapolis is looking to build a new MLS stadium, and San Diego is looking to get a new MLS stadium, and Detroit is considering providing free land for an MLS stadium, and St. Louis is still looking to build an MLS stadium after rejecting it once, and a guy in Charlotte is still looking to have an MLS stadium built for him, and Tampa is looking to get an MLS franchise but already has a stadium.

These are mostly terrible ideas, notes the Guardian, at least where they involve public money. And if the newspaper slightly overstates the case that there’s growing pushback on MLS subsidies (truth is, they’ve never been an especially easy sell as sports subsidies go, mostly because MLS isn’t as popular yet as the Big Four sports), it does contain a classic defense of them from Peter Wilt, the Chicago Fire founder who now heads later headed the Indy Eleven NASL team and wannabe expansion franchise:

“It is about image and plays into making a city cool to live in, a good experience for young professionals, and reducing the brain drain on a community. Things like that are sometimes not taken order ativan online overnight into account. If Oakland loses the A’s and the Raiders, which is a possibility, then no one will hear about Oakland in any positive terms for the foreseeable future.”

Things like that actually are taken into account in economic studies of teams and stadiums, which overwhelmingly find that if sports teams make cities “cool,” it doesn’t show up in things like per-capita income or jobs or economic activity or tax receipts. Plus you’d then have to explain how a city like Portland, for example, which until recently had only basketball as a major-league sport and famously turned down a domed stadium in the 1960s that would have brought an NFL team, nonetheless became one of the hippest cities in America. (It has MLS now, but the hipness predated that.)

Anyway, with MLS set to announce four more expansion franchises in the next year or so, the league can probably count on some cities stepping up to throw money at new stadiums, so long as they’re not too picky about which ones. (Cincinnati, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, and San Antonio are also in the mix.) Bulk-mailing extortion notes is kind of a strange business model, but hey, whatever works.

San Diego group says it can build MLS stadium and housing at Qualcomm site with no public money

Apparently this is just the way it goes now: Your NFL team leaves town, and immediately thereafter somebody proposes building an MLS stadium as a booby prize. Next up, San Diego:

$1B soccer redevelopment initiative announced for ‘Q’ site

Mmm, not quite, San Diego Union-Tribune. First of all, the redevelopment was just proposed, not announced — there will have to be a ballot initiative, and then either a city council vote or a public referendum to make the thing happen. And only about $200 million of the money would be for the soccer stadium, which would be shared by an MLS expansion franchise (everybody thinks they’re getting an MLS expansion franchise, and everybody is probably right) and San Diego State University’s football team; the rest would go for a mixed-use development on the rest of the property currently taken up by the Chargers‘ now-former stadium, and is only estimated at $1 billion.

Still, the plan sounds promising, at least the way its boosters describe it: The developers, a group called FS Investors that has helped build everything from real estate projects to small-batch popcorn, say they would pay for all construction, buy the land at fair market value, and even set aside room for a new NFL stadium if San Diego ever got the chance to bring in a team to replace the Chargers. There’s no word about any public money involved, which could mean they’re not asking for any, or it could mean they’re not mentioning that part yet. (Involving a public university, for one, seems like a potential route to requesting state funds.)

This plan certainly seems worth exploring, though — and if it can work without taxpayer cash, it would be a sign that the problem with past Qualcomm Stadium redevelopment plans wasn’t the redevelopment part, it was the expensive-ass football stadium that was being required to go at the center of it. Soccer stadiums may not be any better as economic anchors than football stadiums, but they are a hell of a lot cheaper, which has its advantages.