It’s always sad when someone loses their life, especially at a too-young age, and it’s not the moment that anybody wants to hear arguments about not-so-great things that the person may have done in their time on earth, so let’s just leave it right there.
Hey, remember how the Detroit Free Press reported the week before last that the new Red Wings and Pistons arena had turned its neighborhood into “a dynamic, connected stretch that has grown and attracted new businesses and investment with the promise of much more to come”? Well, the Guardian actually sent a reporter to look at the arena district, and found that the reality doesn’t match up with the press release:
There are few places to live in the District, and little to eat. Vacant, decaying buildings make up entire city blocks. There are almost no lights, save for those illuminating surface lots and parking garages.
Okay, then! But what do Detroiters themselves think?
Sean Swierkosz, general manager of the longstanding sports bar Harry’s, watched the Ilitches make progress, “but then it stalled”, he said. “I feel like I’m looking over the fence at my neighbor’s yard at his half-finished project or garage.”
Sure, but, you know, it’s Detroit, right? Isn’t a half-finished project better than none?
Notably, the landscape looks much different just a few blocks across The District’s borders, where Detroit’s neighborhoods are alive with redevelopment. Lofts list for as much as $650,000, and large residential projects are under way in the adjacent historic Brush Park neighborhood. Further up Cass Avenue, new restaurants, bars, and shops flourish on streets resembling the Ilitches’ banners’ renderings.
Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson remarks that while it’s common for sports venues to have little or no impact on their surrounding neighborhoods, “it is extremely rare to see a stadium cause a neighborhood to go backwards.” But then, it’s also extremely rare for a new arena to replace all its seats just one year after it opened because the original ones made it too obvious when nobody was sitting in them.
Friday roundup: Chargers L.A. move still a disaster, Raiders still lack 2019 home, Rays still short of stadium cash
I’ve been busy getting my post-Village Voice life rolling this week — here’s my first article for Gothamist, on how to fight Amazon’s monopoly power, and I’ve also started a Twitter account for following ex-Voice news writers as we keep up our work for other outlets — but Friday mornings are sacred, for they are stadium and arena news roundup time:
- The Los Angeles Chargers are still doing a great job of selling tickets to opposing fans, with the San Francisco 49ers becoming the latest team this week to play a road game that felt more like a home game. “They can’t fill an MLS stadium with their own fans in Year 2 — how are they supposed to fill a 70,000-plus-seat stadium in a couple years?” remarks USA Today’s Andrew Joseph. “The move from San Diego looks worse and worse by the week.” But the team’s relocation decision was made for such well-considered reasons!
- Universities are spending a whole lot of money on college football stadiums, and here’s a list of the spendiest ones.
- Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was asked about building a stadium for the Buffalo Bills, and said it would cost about $1 billion, which is too expensive for either the team’s owners or the county to front. This should be obvious to anyone who reads the news, but I guess in a world where many elected officials pretend that stadium money can be spontaneously generated from rotting meat, it’s worth a reminder.
- The nonprofit that owns the Green Bay Packers is looking to get into real-estate development near Lambeau Field, something that a local real estate attorney says is part of a trend for needing to make “a destination out of the facilities” to keep people from sitting at home and watching on TV. (Bloomberg also reports that the Packers are envisioning for-sale apartments as being marketed as “second homes for Packers fans across the country,” which is either fabulously optimistic or a sign that capitalism has gone very, very wrong.) I’d say it’s more that real-estate development can be extremely lucrative, especially when your ownership of a sports team gives you a leg up on getting access to cheap land, but the “more people are sitting at home watching on TV” thing is definitely a thing — though increasingly more people are sitting at home looking at YouTube on their phones, which could present an even bigger challenge to sports marketers.
- The new arena of the Detroit Pistons and Red Wings will no longer issue or accept printed tickets, meaning you’d better have a smartphone and keep it charged when heading to a game. I guess this saves some trees, but it probably also makes it easier for the teams to track ticketholders’ data, which is what it’s all about these days.
- I missed it a couple of weeks ago, but the Texas Rangers have released a seating cross-section for their new stadium, and it’s somewhat misleading — as you can see, they make the new design look a bit better by moving the front row of seats closer to home plate, which doesn’t necessarily help depending on what the rest of the stadium geometry is like — but also somewhat instructive, in that the team is definitely moving the upper deck closer to the field by having it overhang the middle and lower sections more, which is a promising development. Not that this necessarily means Globe Life Field will have great cheap seats — Globe Life Park, its predecessor, has an insanely distant upper deck, at least from what I’ve been able to determine from watching games on TV — but at least it’s a move in the right direction. Of course, this is only a cross-section at one point in the stands — we still don’t know what’ll be up with the seating sections suspended in midair.
- John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times got out his calculator and realized that even if Tampa’s tax-district-surcharge stadium-funding plan for the Rays somehow works, the stadium will probably have about a $300 million funding hole, which is a lot. “So is the stadium in trouble?” writes Romano. “It sure seems that way. And I don’t see a simple way out.” Which isn’t news, but given that Romano has tended to be fairly sympathetic to Rays ownership’s stadium demands over the years, it’s notable that even he’s pointing out the Rays stadium’s new clothes.
- The Oakland Raiders definitely won’t be playing in Las Vegas’s Sam Boyd Stadium temporarily next year, and they probably won’t be playing in the Bay Area either, so that leaves maybe San Diego or San Antonio or who the hell knows. Road team! Road team!
Looks like Seattle is getting an NHL franchise, as the league’s executive committee voted 9-0 yesterday to forward the city’s bid for an expansion team to a full vote of owners in December. Assuming all goes according to plan, Seattle should have a team playing in a rebuilt KeyArena by the fall of 2020, unless—
[NHL commissioner Gary Bettman] said speculation that a potential NHL lockout in September 2019 might delay a Seattle launch until October 2021 was overblown.
“The focus for everybody is 2020,” Bettman said. “That’s what we’re focused on. There are a variety of factors that could impact that, including the construction timeline. The sooner construction can begin, obviously, the more likely an early start.”
It’s a tight construction timeline, admittedly, and it’s not like there would be an easy backup plan for hosting games if the arena rebuild isn’t ready in time. (The WNBA champion Storm will be playing at least next season at the University of Washington’s 10,000-seat arena, which isn’t equipped for hockey; the university’s hockey team plays at OlympicView Arena, which holds so few people the internet can’t even be bothered to count the seats.) But one of these years, Seattle will become the NHL’s 32nd franchise, which, as previously noted, is just fine.
The fight over an NBA team, on the other hand, is just beginning, and could yet end up involving proposals for relocation, not just expansion. So it’s still possible that somebody will end up getting screwed by Seattle’s new arena, even if it’s residents of some other city that gets shaken down for money via a “You don’t want us to move to Seattle, now do you?” threat. Everything’s a tradeoff — especially under modern predatory capitalism.
And in other news:
- MLB attendance is down 4.2% this year, something commissioner Rob Manfred blames on bad weather but which can more reasonably be blamed on bad teams — in particular bad teams in cities that were previously drawing well (Toronto, Baltimore, Detroit, Texas). The Oakland A’s have been good this year, but their attendance has barely risen, something team president Dave Kaval says he hopes a new stadium will fix by encouraging “new people to engage our product”; that has worked out extremely poorly for the Miami Marlins, but then, engaging the Marlins’ product right now will probably make you less likely to attend games, not more so.
- The Detroit Red Wings‘ and Pistons‘ new arena has turned its area of Detroit into “a dynamic, connected stretch that has grown and attracted new businesses and investment with the promise of much more to come,” according to a press release by the Red Wings’ ownership group that the Detroit Free Press seemingly just up and reprinted, seriously, are they even trying?
- German soccer fans protested high ticket prices this week by staging 20 minutes of silence at the start of games, as well as unfurling a giant banner reading (in English) “Football is for you and me — not for fucking pay-TV.”
- The government of Manitoba has written off the entire $200 million cost of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers‘ stadium, saying there’s no way the team (which is owned by a nonprofit corporation with no shareholders) will ever repay it. When the stadium was approved in 2010, I noted that “the public is taking on a fair bit of risk” by loaning the team the money; guess that was a bit of an understatement.
- The defunct Camden Riversharks‘ stadium is set to be torn down just 17 years after it was built, something we already covered here last year, but this gives the Associated Press the opportunity to run the headline “Baseball stadium built 17 years ago to boost tourism faces wrecking ball,” so more power to ’em.
- There’s a petition drive in Austin to block the new stadium for the soon-to-be-erstwhile Columbus Crew, which was already approved but not contractually finalized, so more power to ’em, too, I guess.
- Ha ha ha ha, Oakland Raiders execs are really considering playing a season in San Diego as part of their hissy fit over Oakland’s possible antitrust suit, though CBS Sports notes that it’s pretty unlikely given that the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers owners would almost certainly raise objections.
- People who want an NBA franchise in Louisville say they’d consider building a new arena for it, despite Louisville already having two perfectly good basketball arenas, which is arguably even more crazy than the idea of Louisville getting an NBA franchise at all.
- Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham F.C. owner Shad Khan has had his purchase of London’s Wembley Stadium from England’s Football Association for $800 million approved, but he says he’s not moving either team into it, he just wants to rake in the money from concerts and such. The stadium turned a £5.5million profit last year, which would be a dismal return on an $800 million investment, so who the hell knows what Khan is thinking, but “This will scare Jacksonville into giving me more stadium upgrade money” has to be at least part of it.
It must be September, because my TV is filled with Jim Cantore and Anderson Cooper standing ankle-deep in water. But anyway:
- Washington, D.C., is about to open its new Mystics home arena and Wizards practice facility, and Mayor Muriel Bowser says it’s a model of how the city would build a new NFL stadium as well. “We know [sports] can help our bottom line by attracting people to our city, but it also has a big impact when we’re winning on our collective psyche,” says Bowser of an arena that got $50 million in public subsidies for two teams that were already playing in D.C. anyway. Maybe she should go back to using her terrible soccer stadium deal as a model instead.
- People in Calgary are starting to ask whether, if the city is looking to spend $3 billion on hosting the 2026 Olympics, maybe it should build a new Flames arena as part of the deal? Camels, man.
- Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim Pegula says she’s going to wait until after the gubernatorial elections this November to start negotiating a new stadium with whoever ends up in charge of the state. It won’t be the lox-and-raisin-bagel lady.
- Speaking of the Pegulas and New York’s current governor, they’re planning an $18 million upgrade of Rochester’s arena that hosts the Rochester Americans minor-league hockey team (which the Pegulas also own), with costs to be split among the owners and city and state taxpayers. Split how? Sorry, no room in the Associated Press article, ask again later!
- The AP did find time to fact-check Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s claim that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena would return three dollars in new taxes for each one spent, and found that “Walker omits some of the state money spent on the 20-year arena deal and relies on income tax estimates that experts call unreliable.” I could’ve told them that — in fact, I did, three years ago.
- “‘Ticket tax’ proposal could lead to higher prices on movies, theater, sports in Columbus” reads a headline on WSYX‘s website, something that the station’s reporter asserts in the accompanying video without saying where he got it from. He’s at least partly wrong: Ticket prices are already set as high as the market will bear, so unless the ticket tax changes the market — in other words, unless people in Columbus are forced to spend more on movies and theater and such because the other options (staying at home and watching TV, going out to eat) aren’t good enough, mostly this will just mean prices will stay roughly the same but a bigger share will go to theater/team owner’s tax bills. (I could try to find an economist to estimate exactly how big a share, but isn’t that really WSYX’s job?)
- Former Oakland A’s exec Andy Dolich says the team owners may be looking at buying both the Howard Terminal site and the Oakland Coliseum site, and using the revenues from one to pay the costs of prepping the other for baseball, which, if the Coliseum site is such a cash cow and Howard Terminal such a money pit, wouldn’t they be better off just buying the Coliseum site and developing that? Or is the idea that Oakland would somehow give up the Coliseum site at a discounted price in order to get a new A’s stadium done? I have a lot of math questions here.
- With nobody wanting to spend $250 million on a major renovation of Hartford’s arena, the agency that manages the XL Center is now looking for a $100 million state-funded upgrade instead. Still waiting to hear whether this would actually generate $100 million worth of new revenues for the arena; if not, the state would be better off just giving the arena a pile of cash to subsidize its bottom line, no?
- Cobb County is only letting the Atlanta Braves owners out of part of the $1.5 million they owed on water and sewer costs for their new stadium. Yay?
The world may be on vacation this week, but the stadium news decidedly is not:
- The Nashville S.C. stadium squabble continues, months after the city council supposedly approved a $75 million public subsidy (plus free land), and it’s way more than I can recap right now, so please go read the Tennessean’s summary instead while we wait for a final vote next Tuesday.
- The Kansas City Royals had a game delayed by leaky fountains, and the Los Angeles Dodgers had a game delayed when the lights went out. Clearly those stadiums are both outmoded, tear ’em down and build new ones!
- The city council of Mobile, Alabama, decided not to build a new $72 million stadium for the University of South Alabama, and the mayor is worried this will send a message to the NFL that Mobile doesn’t care about the Senior Bowl college football exhibition game, which is put on by a local nonprofit and not the NFL, so I don’t even know, man.
- Tampa Bay Rays designers say they can keep flyballs from hitting the roof at a new stadium, because computers! (Actually because new statistics-keeping, but everybody likes a “because computers” story and statistics are for guys who live in their parents’ basements, so.)
- Did you know that the Indianapolis Colts‘ stadium was built atop the remnants of a once-integrated neighborhood largely demolished for a new interstate? If not, here’s a great, sad Indianapolis Star article all about it.
- The Miami Marlins are experimenting with lower ticket prices to lure back fans, and some NFL teams are experimenting with $5 beers. We could call this the natural order of price-setting in a free-market economy after owners went too far with price increases, or we could get all excited about how forward-thinking owners are, ha ha, it’s Derek Jeter, no one will ever accuse him of that.
- Jason Notte is writing his new Forbes column way too frequently for me to link to them all, but here’s a nice one about how Phoenix should drive a hard bargain with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Coyotes, and Phoenix Suns to get you started.
- Speaking of other sites you should read regularly, here’s some lovely historical stadium vaportecture from Uni-Watch.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers owners want $1.16 million in public money for stadium upgrades, because it never hurts to ask.
- Perpetually injured professional baseball player says Wrigley Field and Fenway Park “suck” because his dressing room isn’t palatial enough, film at 11.
- A former Sacramento Kings exec is suspected of embezzling $13.4 million from the team to spend on beach houses, which has nothing to do with stadiums except that the Kings got hundreds of millions of dollars in public arena funding because they said they needed to improve their bottom line, so actually it has a lot to do with it.
- King County councilmember Rod Dembrokski is proposing putting the Seattle Mariners owner’s proposed $180 million lease subsidy up to a public vote in February. This really doesn’t seem to be going the Mariners owners’ way, does it?
The Milwaukee Bucks‘ new arena had a ribbon-cutting and open house this weekend, and there are lots and lots and lots of slideshows and quotes from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar online if you’re interested in that sort of thing, but I would like to focus on just one quote, from NBA commissioner Adam Silver:
“I have to say government works in Milwaukee.”
Yep, that’s what the leader of North America’s most self-consciously woke sports league had to say about an arena approval process that involved spending around half a billion dollars in public money over the objection of pretty much everybody in the city by employing the promise of a magic basketball while hoping nobody would notice that the otherwise virulently anti-tax governor’s fundraising chair was a co-owner of the team, then giving additional subsidies to a company that then turned around and used the cash to buy naming rights for the arena, money that will all go to the Bucks owners, not the public. But it all ended with government building an arena for Adam Silver’s business partners with somebody else’s money, and that’s what democracy is all about, right?
Friday roundup: Worcester stadium subsidy snowballs, Rochester Rhinos look to abandon 12-year-old stadium, old rich white guys continue to control the media
TGIF, but please cut God some slack for this week in stadium facepalms:
- Members of the Worcester city council say they won’t rush to rubber stamp city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr.’s proposed $100 million stadium subsidy deal for the Pawtucket Red Sox, with public hearings scheduled for next Tuesday and September 5. Augustus, though, says he won’t accept proposed amendments to the deal, only a straight up or down “yes” or “no” vote, because any changes “would significantly impact our ability to deliver this project on time and could lead to unintended consequences.” So, basically, he’s asking for a rubber stamp, though the council still always has this one available.
- Worcester city councilmembers might also want to check out this article from WBUR about how throwing large sums of money at minor-league baseball stadiums has worked out in other cities like Nashville, Durham, and El Paso. Representative quote, from Nashville City Councilor John Cooper: “Our overall success as a tourist destination is clearly not part of this baseball project. Nobody here thinks of the minor league baseball park as driving much of that.”
- Meanwhile, the Worcester stadium deal has already created a cascade effect, with the owners of the Boston Red Sox‘ single-A team, the Lowell Spinners, asking when they’ll get some public money too. “I love Lowell, and I believe in Lowell,” Spinners owner Dave Heller said after meeting with Massachusetts state economic development officials. “I’m excited about the future in Lowell and investing here. I want to make sure we can take advantage of any incentives that are available from the state.” Spoken like a true Vercotti brother.
- The GM of the New York Islanders and the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers both say they’re optimistic about getting the arenas built that they are lobbying to get built, and they both got articles in major news outlets (Newsday and CBS Sports) about their optimism. Normal non-rich humans who would like to express their pessimism about the arena projects can write a letter to the editor — ha ha, just kidding, CBS Sports doesn’t publish letters to the editor, go write an angry tweet or something.
- The former owners of the USL Rochester Rhinos got $20 million from the state of New York for a new stadium in 2006, but now the new owners say they’re looking to move to a newer stadium in the suburbs, because people would rather watch the Premier League on TV than sit in a 12-year-old stadium or something? (And this after they narrowly avoided getting evicted!) Anyway, what the hell is it with upstate New York cities not thinking to lock their minor-league teams into long-term lease deals? Is it something in the water?
Friday roundup: Trump tariff construction cost hikes, Beckham lawsuit tossed, Elon Musk inserts himself into headlines yet again
Lots of news to report this week, and that’s even without items that I can’t read because of Tronc Troncing:
- Oak View Group’s costs on Seattle’s arena renovation are up about $100 million or 16%, and OVG CEO Tim Leiweke says Donald Trump’s tariffs on construction materials are partly to blame. Leiweke didn’t put a price tag on it, but it’s something to keep an eye on for future stadium and arena projects, at least through 2020.
- Two members of the Nashville Metro Council are trying to get that city’s proposed MLS stadium subsidy put to a public vote in November, which, good luck with closing that particular barn door.
- Tottenham Hotspur‘s new stadium still isn’t ready, and their temporary home at Wembley is hosting an NFL game the same day as Tottenham’s scheduled home match against Manchester City, and it’s all a giant mess.
- It’s hot at San Francisco 49ers games, and nobody knows what to do about it. This is going around, apparently.
- Forbes’ Mike Ozanian reports that “sources familiar with the [Arizona Coyotes’] situation” say the team lost a staggering $50 million last year, which seems to be partly debt that owner Andrew Barroway took out to buy the team? I dunno, you read the article and try to make sense of it, beyond “the Coyotes are a wreck,” which presumably you already knew.
- The lawsuit to block David Beckham’s Miami MLS stadium on the grounds that it was an illegal no-bid contract has been dismissed by a judge. I’m pretty sure this means the project is due to next be held up by a plague of locusts, or maybe a rain of toads.
- Here’s a USA Today article on how Elon Musk is going to make it easier for Los Angeles Dodgers fans to get to the game by building a tunnel to carry giant electric roller skates under Dodger Stadium, and here’s a Deadspin response pointing out that since Musk hasn’t yet built any actual transit under L.A. despite digging lots of tunnels, and “has been on a seemingly life-long mission to brand himself as a real-life Tony Stark, but he’s really just a guy who made an electric car that rich people like to drive,” maybe it’s best not to get too excited about this one just yet. Back to the gondolas!