Bucks owner: I know where I want arena to go, and you don’t

Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry made Don Walker‘s heart go pitter-pat yesterday at a press conference by dropping hints that he knows where he wants to build a new arena:

“As soon as I know — well, I know, but I can’t say it so I apologize — but as soon as I can tell you, I certainly will,” Lasry said. “I think within the next 30 to 60 days we’ll know where the new arena is.”

Ooh, a tease! Time for everybody to hack into Lasry’s phone and see where it’s been the last month or so. Though it might be more useful to hack into his phone logs and see which bankers, or which city officials, he’s been talking to about where to get the money for this thing.

Lasry went on to talk about a bunch of other things, including a recent preseason game where he accidentally interrupted coach Jason Kidd’s postgame address, then decided, hell with it, I’m the owner, and went ahead and talked over Kidd anyway. This guy is fitting in already.

Bucks’ arena plans exactly where they always were, reports breathless Milwaukee newspaper article

Let’s see, what’s up with the Milwaukee Bucks these days, according to our old pal Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel?

With deadline looming, shortlist emerges for new Milwaukee Bucks arena

Oh my gawrsh, there’s a deadline looming! Circle the wagons! Scramble the jets! It’s only a matter of time before—

With a self-imposed year-end deadline, the Milwaukee Bucks and others involved in the search for a proposed new downtown arena are zeroing in on a few specific locations.

…before the Bucks owners have to give themselves more time. Okay, leave the wagons where they were.

The rest of the article is just rehashed stuff that’s been previously reported, about how the Bucks owners are trying to zero in on a site first, then figure out how to pay to build an arena, which still seems a little backwards to me, but then, I’m not a mega-rich sports owner. (Also, it’s the kind of backwards that can work to their advantage, if they can pull off the “We know where we’re going to build it, now we just need to figure out how this inevitability will be paid for!” trick.) The best part, though, is this quote from an unnamed source about the site selection process:

“There is no sexiness north of the Bradley Center.”

You want context? You really don’t want context. This is the best thing you’re going to read in a Journal-Sentinel article about the Bucks arena plans for years, so just savor the moment.

Oakland gives Raiders another 90 days to turn pockets inside-out hoping stadium money falls out

You’re going to have to hold your breath a little bit longer to see any start at a resolution of the Oakland Raiders and A’s bipartite stadium battle: After the Raiders brought in some new investors to their Coliseum City vaportecture project, the Oakland city council last night voted to give the team a 90-day extension in which to finalize plans for a new stadium on the Oakland Coliseum site.

And that should be no problem, because as Newballpark.org points out, here’s all that Raiders owner Mark Davis has to work out to make his vision a reality:

  • Sign at least one tenant, preferably the Raiders to start

  • Engage the A’s and Warriors (even though neither team is interested)

  • Provide deliverables and reports that haven’t been completed yet (deal terms, financing, 2nd phase market analysis)

  • Bring in a master developer

  • Line up needed capital for stadium phase and ancillary development phases

  • Figure out who pays for the remaining debt at the Coliseum and Arena (if necessary)

  • Gather support of the JPA and Alameda County

Piece of cake! Three months is way more than enough time to win $750 million at Powerball, right?

 

Ratner puts debt-ridden Brooklyn Nets arena up for sale after just two years

Bruce Ratner, the developer who spent ten years buying the New Jersey Nets and then fighting a bitter court battle to tear down houses in Brooklyn to make way for a new arena and brought in a Russian billionaire partner to help pay the bills, is celebrating his ultimate victory the only way he knows how: by putting the arena up for sale.

Developer Forest City Ratner is marketing its majority interest in the Brooklyn arena that is home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, seeking a buyer for some or all of its 55% stake in the building, according to people familiar with the matter.

An arena spokesman declined to offer details, but said in an email that “Our goal is to identify a strategic partner as we continue to capitalize on the great performance of Barclays Center.”

“Great performance” sounds nice when shopping the place around to buyers, but the fact of the matter is that the Barclays Center hasn’t done great in terms of its bottom line: It just about barely broke even in its first full year of operations, 2013, despite record-setting ticket sales. (The Wall Street Journal’s Eliot Brown, who earlier reported that the arena turned a tiny profit, now says that the arena reported a small loss in 2013.) And while arena revenues were up in the first half of 2014, they’re still well below projections, and not likely to improve significantly as the Nets honeymoon wears off and a trade war for concerts heats up with the newly renovated Madison Square Garden. (Yes, the Islanders arrive in 2015, but as we’ve seen elsewhere, sports teams often cost as much in lost concert revenue as they pay in rent.)

The reason for all this red ink? The $29 million a year in debt that Ratner saddled himself with, while turning over majority ownership of the arena’s biggest money-maker, the Nets, to Mikhail Prokhorov in exchange for more cash to feed the arena’s $1 billion construction budget maw. Even the most successful arenas don’t churn out that kind of profit margin year after year, which is no doubt one reason why Ratner is looking to cash out, though it’ll be extremely interesting to see what price he gets for a building saddled with $500 million in debt, not to mention Brook Lopez’s tender feet.

There’s much more, as you’d expect, at Atlantic Yards Report, including the observation that Ratner is really only selling operating rights to the arena, since it technically belongs to the state of New York in a complicated tax-dodge arrangement.

The big question remains, however: Why on earth did Ratner care so much about this project that he moved heaven and earth (and Daniel Goldstein), plus assumed half a billion dollars in debt, to make it happen? The man has never shown any interest in basketball, and ditched control of the team as soon as possible after the project was approved. There was the theory that the arena was a loss leader for getting hold of valuable Brooklyn land to develop with housing, but Ratner’s planned housing towers are doing even worse than the arena, though he’s still shopping around in China for investors. That leaves … wanting to drum up foot traffic for his mall across the street? Wanting to make even more of a name for himself in Brooklyn real estate, even if it’s not an especially positive one? Presumably he had something in mind all along — or maybe it’s just Hanlon’s Razor.

Milwaukee group says Bucks owners “don’t need our money” after getting cold shoulder on playground demands

Common Ground, the Milwaukee coalition that previously said it would support public funding for a Bucks arena if it would also provide $150 million for school athletic facilities and playgrounds, now says it is opposing public funding for the arena altogether. The reason, apparently: The Bucks’ owners refused to meet with coalition leaders to discuss their plan.

Common Ground leaders had sought a meeting with the new Bucks owners to discuss their plan but have been rebuffed so far. Bob Cook, the Bucks’ vice president of business affairs, had offered to meet, but Common Ground said it wanted Edens and Lasry to fulfill a commitment to meet with the group.

Common Ground has also targeted Bucks co-owner Wes Edens for holding mortgages on several abandoned foreclosed properties in Milwaukee, which … has nothing to do with anything, I can tell, except maybe that they’re trying to argue that Edens is a guy who doesn’t really care about the city, so doesn’t deserve public money.

All its new talk of moral outrage over arena subsidies aside — “They do not need our money,” declared Jennifer O’Hear, co-chair of the group’s Fair Play campaign for public recreational facility funding — this still seems to be less a matter of principle and more a matter of wanting to use holding back support for any arena subsidies as leverage to get funding for programs they want, too. Common Ground is affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation, the community activist umbrella group founded by Saul Alinsky, whose guiding premise was to focus on winnable battles over concrete local issues, not big-picture ideology. That certainly has strengths, but it also has weaknesses, one of which is that it can become easy to buy off Alinsky-style groups by throwing some money at their pet projects, as Brooklyn Nets developer Bruce Ratner did by offering the IAF-inspired ACORN control of affordable housing on the site in exchange for its support of arena subsidies. (And as the same ACORN group earlier attempted to do around a minor-league baseball stadium in Brooklyn.)

So, this is all presumably tactical for Common Ground, in order to get a seat at the negotiating table. Which may end up being good for Milwaukee playgrounds, but that’s not necessarily the same thing as being good for Milwaukee.

UW-Milwaukee on possible Bucks arena site: Um, guys? We’re still playing here?

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter Don Walker’s obsession with where to build a new Bucks arena is everlasting, but sometimes there’s actual news to be covered on the “Where do we put the arena that we don’t know how to pay for?” front. For example, this:

In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, interim Chancellor Mark Mone said building a new arena on the site would not just displace the men’s basketball program, but disrupt other university programming planned over the 10-year agreement to rebrand the arena.

“The larger reason for us to be there is really about more visibility and our brand image and making a statement,” Mone said. “We are not just the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, but the University of Wisconsin for Milwaukee.

“We want this to be a win-win for the community. We just don’t want to be displaced.”

So, basically, UW-Milwaukee doesn’t want to be evicted from its old arena to make way for a new Bucks arena. Whether this will hold any sway with lawmakers deciding on where (and whether — please, let someone remember that it’s also whether) to build a new Bucks arena, who knows, but it’s another small fly in a very, very large pool of ointment.

Pacers to get $59m a year extra from TV deal, will still keep $16m a year in city subsidies, thanks much

So now that every team in the NBA is set to get a $58 million a year windfall from the league’s new TV contract, does that mean that teams will stop complaining that they’re losing money and need operating subsidies from their home cities? Yeah, right:

City officials said the TV contract doesn’t change their view of a deal made six months ago to lock the team into Indy for 10 years. The Capital Improvement Board agreed to use $160 million in tax money to cover operating costs and upgrades at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The team keeps revenue from all fieldhouse events — basketball and non-basketball alike.

“We still believe that our current agreement … is in the best interest of the city and CIB,” Ann Lathrop, president of the CIB, wrote in an email response to questions.

The city agreed to pay the Pacers $16 million a year to play in their rent-free arena in order to keep the team from threatening to leave, so I guess it’s true that the TV deal doesn’t make that logic any dumber: The Pacers would still get their cut of the TV boodle in another city, so the move threat is just as viable (or nonviable) now as it was when the new lease was agreed to.

Still, given that the Pacers management insisted that the subsidies were needed because the team was losing money, and that even after kicking in for heftier player salaries that will result from the TV windfall and the money that the Pacers and other former ABA teams have to tithe to the old Spirits of St. Louis owners, the Pacers should clear about $25 million a year in added revenues, this does make Indianapolis’s subsidy agreement look even worse. Which is pretty bad, given that it already looked like the worst deal ever.

Downtown Sacramento traffic, already getting F grade, to get super-double-F once Kings arena built

The new downtown arena for the Sacramento Kings is going to cause lots of traffic in downtown Sacramento. I know, duh, but there are, like, official traffic guys saying this, so:

Jim Calkins, the head of freeway operations for the Sacramento area, wrote in one email, “I think the minimum number of vehicles would be 8,000 — not 3,600.”

In another email, a transportation planner for Caltrans wrote, “There was no feasible way to mitigate those impacts.”…

The Kings, as the developers of the new arena, are required to pay impact fees to mitigate the costs of traffic projects.

The initial calculations based on the building size required a $310,000 fee.

The Kings have agreed to pay more: $500,000.

But Caltrans officials said that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what any other transportation project would cost.

There are plans for a new streetcar line and expanded highway ramps, but neither will be in place by the time the new arena opens in 2016, so there are likely to be some decent-sized traffic nightmares, at least at the start. Think this is maybe something that Cobb County should be paying attention to as well?

NBA gets even more money from cable fees, setting selves up to seek even more money from everything else

So yeah, the NBA has a new cable deal that will pay them all the moneys starting in 2016, and people are already asking me what I think of it. Deadspin has already provided a good answer, but for those who are too busy to read an entire explainer, let’s boil it down to its most important sentence:

Your cable bill will increase a couple of dollars a month solely because of the NBA.

Also, a lot of NBA players and owners will become even richer. Capitalism!

I’ve also gotten questions (tongue in cheek, I hope) about whether this will mean that NBA owners will now have so much of the moneys that they won’t be demanding new arenas anymore, to which I say: If anyone thinks that the reason that owners are asking for subsidies is because they’re running too low on cash, and if they have bigger piles of cash then they’ll be happy and won’t need any more, then they probably haven’t been paying attention. In America, there is no such thing as “enough cash.”