Outgoing owner promises A-Rod won’t move T-Wolves to Seattle, everyone immediately wonders if A-Rod will move T-Wolves to Seattle

Glen Taylor, the billionaire former Minnesota state senator who owns the Minnesota Timberwolves, is in the midst of selling his team to online marketing billionaire Marc Lore and not-billionaire-but-pretty-wealthy former disgraced baseball star Alex Rodriguez for around $1.5 billion, and given that neither of those guys are locals, it’s immediately sparked heightened speculation about whether the team could move, maybe to Seattle, which is still on the hunt for a replacement for the Sonics. In response, Taylor told WCCO-AM that his sale agreement contains language to keep the team in town; as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which Taylor also owns:

“We have it in the contract, they have signed the contract to do that,” Taylor said…

Taylor said in his interview with Chad Hartman that the NBA does not want to see the Wolves moved out of Minnesota to another city like Seattle.

“The real agreement is with the NBA. The NBA will make the decision if somebody’s going to move or not move,” Taylor said. “The NBA will not approve of the Timberwolves moving from here to Seattle. It’s in the NBA’s interest that in Seattle, that a new team is formed. It’s an economic decision that’s in the interest of all of the owners.”…

He also said the new owners “are not going to pay” $1.5 billion to buy the Wolves then another $2 billion or so to move the team.

“That’s the assurance that I have that they aren’t going to move it out there,” Taylor said.

So, we have: Lore and A-Rod won’t move the team because they signed a contract saying they won’t; the NBA won’t let them move; and the NBA might let them move, but would charge the owners so much money to do so that it wouldn’t be worthwhile. That’s totally clear and not at all inconsistent!

In response, the Star Trib linked to an article it ran last July wherein several legal experts said it would be difficult to make a permanent non-relocation agreement in a sale contract enforceable, or to get one approved by the league:

“You could have some contingencies … and I’m sure there could be a provision that relates to keeping the team in place,” said Eldon Ham, an author and professor of sports law at Chicago-Kent College of Law. “But I don’t think it would be able to extend forever.”

At the crux of any guarantee to keep the Wolves in Minnesota would be how long that guarantee would last or how harsh the financial penalty would be for breaking it. Ham said any kind of agreement that makes outlandish demands, like a 30-year promise to keep the team in Minnesota, might not make it past league approval, which requires a $1 million fee just to apply, he said.

“The league itself has to approve all this,” Ham said. “So if you have a ridiculous contract, they’re just going to tell you: ‘We’re not approving this stuff.’”

So, what’s really going on here? Clearly, Taylor, who still needs to maintain his local cred if only to keep Minnesotans from threatening to burn his newspaper in effigy, is trying to do all he can to say that if the Timberwolves ever move, it’s not his fault. So he’s putting in some kind of clause in the sale agreement, but also noting that the NBA would want a ten-figure payoff to let Seattle back into the league, something the new owners are unlikely to put up just to move from one mid-size city to another mid-size city — all of which is true.

But as we’ve seen here time and again, move threats aren’t just about actual threats to move, but ways to (say it all with me now) create leverage for owners to extract concessions from local elected officials. The T-Wolves’ Target Center just got a $140 million renovation in 2017, helped along with $74 million in public money, but at 31 years old it’s also the second-oldest arena in the NBA, and you just know how shiny new sports team owners hate not having the shiniest new buildings to go with their freshly acquired baubles. Hence how there’s somehow only one remaining NBA arena built before 1990, seriously, what kind of planned-obsolescent world are we living in, people?

Anyway: There’s no reason to think that Lore and A-Rod will move the Timberwolves, but there’s also every reason to suspect that they would not be unhappy for the possibility of the Wolves moving to continue to be front-page news in, oh, say, the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Especially if talk of a new arena, or another round of renovations to this one, begins making the rounds. This is all conjecture, mind you — maybe A-Rod will declare “Today, I am a Minnesotan!” and vow that the team will only leave over his dead body — but it’s conjecture informed by a whole lots of sports shakedown history, so let’s just say that if this isn’t the last we hear about Wolves-to-Seattle rumors, don’t be surprised.

Friday roundup: How to tell a dump of a stadium from a marvel, and why “stupid infrastructure” should become a term of art

I have nothing introductory to say this week other than that I’m wondering if you kind FoS supporters would give me $2 million in 24 hours if I made more robots out of lacrosse masks. So on to the news:

Friday roundup: Georgia man holds no truck with numbers, new stadiums falling apart already, plus a guy who spent three years living in a Phillies concession stand

Happy Friday! Still recovering from the double whammy of my second shot on Sunday plus learning that birds aren’t real, so I’ll keep the intro short this week and get right to the news:

Friday roundup: Terrible economic impact studies, terrible renderings, but one smart mayor, at least

It’s been a long year of waiting, but the moment we’ve been looking ahead to is finally within sight, and only one thing seems to be on everyone’s minds: What songs are we going to request that Yo La Tengo perform for pledges tomorrow afternoon on the WFMU fundraising marathon? I already requested “Better Things” the year after Hurricane Sandy, but I’m hoping I can find something equally appropriate for 2021.

Here’s some stadium and arena news to tide you over while you wait:

  • Economic impact studies of sports venues are usually pretty terrible, given that they generally start out by measuring “impact” (i.e., all money spent in or around a stadium or arena whether it benefits anyone but the team owner) and ignore spending that’s just shifted from one part of town to another, and so on. But the projection that a new $228 million arena in Augusta will generate more than $600 million in economic impact by adding up “$436 million in new spending” plus “$208 million in new sales taxes” breaks new ground in bonkers: Doesn’t the Augusta Downtown Development Authority know that sales taxes are already part of “spending”? Plus, is the sales tax rate in Augusta really 48%? The full “market analysis” is here, but it doesn’t provide details on its methodology and the $208 million sales-tax figure doesn’t seem to appear anywhere in it, so we’ll just have to trust that the Augusta Chronicle’s fact-checking department was on the job and, oh dear. Maybe the “applause editor” does some fact-checking in her spare time?
  • Also in economic-impact-study news, various studies have projected anywhere from $200 million to $600 million in impact from a new arena in Palm Desert, but Mayor Kathleen Kelly says, “Sports arenas are pretty notorious for over-promising and under-delivering positive economic impacts for the surrounding community. So, I do have to look at the proposal with some skepticism.” She adds an arena could draw off spending from area restaurants to arena concessions, and take up hotel rooms that otherwise could be occupied by longer-term visitors — hey, somebody’s been reading this site, or maybe just the mountains of data showing that arenas haven’t had a large measurable impact in the past! Warms my heart, it does.
  • The Florida House Ways & Means Committee voted 16-1 yesterday to repeal the state’s program that allows sports team owners to request up to $2 million a year apiece in sales-tax money to repay their private stadium and arena construction or renovation costs, and, yes, this was just proposed a couple of years ago, but maybe one of these days it’ll actually pass. Especially given that it’s a program that has allowed team owners to demand public money for venues they’ve already built, making the economic impact of the subsidies an easy-to-calculate zero.
  • Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena is gone, but you can still park in its parking garage, which is about to become “much more than just a place to park in the morning” as it is converted to a “mobility hub” that is … a place to park in the morning and buy coffee.  It’s all privately funded, at least, so far.
  • If you want to read an article about sad Sacramento soccer boosters appealing for a billionaire to come and bring $500 million for an expansion fee and a new stadium after the old billionaire backed out, here you go! Features Sacramento mayor and former Kings water-carrier Darrell Steinberg saying of the plan that ended up leaving the city cutting services to pay down arena debt, “We didn’t give up on the Kings and we’re not giving up on Major League Soccer.” Adds Steinberg: “What we need is a plug-and-a-play from an investor to then help us finish the last piece of this.” In related news, I only need $6 billion as the last piece of the puzzle for building my space elevator, please apply within.
  • Not to be topped, News 4 Nashville has a “first look inside Nashville’s new soccer stadium,” which is actually someone clicking around on computer renderings of the place, complete with a visible cursor. We had that already back in November, and with creepy shambling Sims!
  • And if you want to read an article about Cleveland Cavaliers owner and Quicken Loans magnate Dan Gilbert and his gajillions of dollars in public subsidies that starts out describing how he “was raised by a pair of Century 21 real estate agents” and “went to Michigan State University—where he was arrested for running a sports gambling operation,” Defector has gotcha.

Friday roundup: Miami ripped off again by Loria, Rays roof removal proposed, America’s journalists snookered

I’ll keep this short today, in deference to any Texas readers who may be trying to save battery life thanks to that state’s power outages. Once your bandwidth is back, here’s a good reminder from the New York Times that climate change is expected to cause unseasonable cold snaps and winter storms as well as insane summer heat, so you have lots more of both to look forward to. Or, if you prefer, here’s an article on a similar theme from the Village Voice a few years back that I wrote a much snappier headline for.

Stadiums, right, that’s what you came here to read about! Let’s see what we’ve got:

Friday roundup: More crazy stadium subsidy demands than can fit in one headline, you call this a lull?

Every couple of weeks, it seems, someone in the comments predicts that we are about to see the end of sports’ 30-year surge in stadium and arena subsidies, either because of Covid-depleted budgets or legislators smartening up or just everybody already having a new place. To which I say: If the stadium scam is slowing, why are my Friday mornings still so #$@&%*! busy?

Ahem. And now, the news:

  • A lawyer for the South Bend Cubs, saying the team owners were “shocked” to discover that a law allowing them to siphon off up to $650,000 a year in sales and income taxes for their own purposes had expired in 2018, has asked the state legislature to renew it. Oh, and also increase the cap to $2 million a year. You know, while they have the document open on their screens. “South Bend and every other city that has retained their relationship with Major League Baseball have to get to a certain level by 2025,” said attorney Richard Nussbaum. “If they don’t, they risk losing the team.” It’s an epidemic, I tells ya.
  • Speaking of which, Hudson Valley Renegades owner Jeff Goldklang got his $1.4 million in stadium renovation cash from Dutchess County, after emailing residents and fans warning them that the team could move if it was denied the subsidy.
  • Fort Wayne F.C., which I had to look up to be sure it actually exists and which turns out to be a “pre-professional” (much in the way that kids are “pre-adults”) USL League Two club, is seeking to move up to League One in 2023 and wants a $150 million soccer-stadium-plus-other-stuff project, to be paid for by mumble mumble hey look over there! It also features an instant classic in the field of fans-throwing-their-hands-skyward-while-fireworks-go-off-over-soccer-players-not-playing-anything-recognizable-as-soccer renderings, which is worth $150 million if it’s worth a dime:
  • The Oakland A’s owners (not the Oakland A’s, I still remember when I was an intern at The Nation Christopher Hitchens lecturing us on how one should always say “the U.S. government” and not “the U.S.” because just because the government approved something didn’t mean the populace did, but anyway) won their lawsuit to allow their Howard Terminal stadium project to have challenges to environmental impact reviews reviewed on a fast track, which is a big thing in California. “This is a critically important decision,” said A’s president Dave Kaval, who indicated he hopes the Oakland city council will be able to vote on a stadium bill this year, presumably after it’s figured out who the hell would pay for what.
  • Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin wants to talk about building a new hockey arena to keep the Carolina Hurricanes in town long-term — their “old” one opened just over 21 years ago — and Sougata Mukherjee, the editor-in-chief of the Triangle Business Journal, points out that maybe now is not the best time what with 7% of the state not having enough to eat, small businesses on the brink, and, oh yeah, a pandemic still going on. Cue Hurricanes execs or their political talking about how a new arena will mean “jobs” in three, two…
  • While we wait, here’s San Diego Union-Tribune sports columnist Bryce Miller saying that San Diego should build a new arena to lure a nonexistent NBA expansion franchise because it would be “catalytic.” In the sense of the Oxford dictionary’s sample sentence for meaning 1.1, maybe?
  • Twenty years ago this week, the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ and Steelers‘ Three Rivers Stadium was blowed up real good, only a little over 30 years after it was first opened. I went to a couple of games at Three Rivers over the years, and I agree with former Pirate Richie Hebner’s review that “the graveyard I work in during the offseason has more life than this place,” and the Pirates’ new stadium is one of my favorites. Still, it and the Steelers’ new stadium deserve the blame for popularizing tax kickbacks in the stadium financing world, after Pittsburgh voters passed a referendum barring any new tax money from going to new stadiums, and the state legislature responded by “loaning” the teams stadium money that would be “repaid” by taxes the state would be collecting anyway — prompting Pittsburgh state rep Thomas Petrone’s timeless comment: “It’s not a grant. It’s not a loan. It’s a groan.”
  • Phoenix restaurants are hoping that having partial attendance at Suns games will provide more happy hour customers, something that seems not only ambitious given the proven not-so-robust spinoff effects of sports stadiums, but also slightly heedless of whether it’s such a great idea to encourage basketball fans to congregate indoors and take their masks off to drink and then go directly to congregating indoors to watch the Suns. In entirely unrelated news, restaurants around the new Los Angeles Rams and Chargers stadium in Inglewood are afraid of being driven out of business by new high-priced options gravitating to serve well-heeled football fans.
  • Finally a partial explanation of how funding for that new Des Moines Menace soccer stadium would work: In addition to city funds, it would be up for state hotel-tax funds designated for projects that “improve the quality of life for Iowa residents.” Other projects proposed to dip into the hotel-tax pool include a Des Moines Buccaneers junior hockey arena, a private indoor amateur sports facility, and a new mall; is it just me, or does “quality of life” seem to have been interpreted as “ways to put money in the pockets of Iowa business barons”?
  • Hey, remember the $200 million highway interchange that Las Vegas is building, totally coincidentally, near the Raiders‘ new stadium? It is now a $273 million highway interchange. But the city needed to build it anyway, because traffic was too bad at the old interchange and, shh, don’t tell them.
  • Okay, here’s one way in which maybe the pandemic has delayed some stadium spending: The Baltimore Orioles owners have signed a two-year lease extension on Camden Yards, while also working with the Maryland Stadium Authority “to establish a new long-term agreement that includes upgrades to the facility,” according to WJZ-TV. So it’s possible some 2021 and 2022 sports subsidies will end up getting pushed back to 2023 or so — yay?
  • If you wanted a live webcam of construction on the new Knoxville stadium for the Tennessee Smokies that hasn’t even been approved yet, let alone started construction, the team’s new stadium promotion website has got you covered.

Cuomo allows sports venues to reopen on February 23, because money

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared yesterday that sports and music venues that hold more than 10,000 people — both outdoor stadiums and indoor arenas — will be allowed to reopen to fans at 10% capacity starting February 23. Each building will first have to have its ventilation systems approved by the state department of health, but once that’s complete, the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, New York Mets, and New York Yankees could all soon be playing before paying crowds.

The announcement came as a bit of a surprise in a state that, even with falling coronavirus rates, still has the fifth-highest positive test rate in the country, as new more transmissible variants threaten to create a renewed surge in coming weeks. But Cuomo said that with reduced capacities, improved ventilation, requiring mask wearing, and requiring a negative test result in the previous 72 hours, he could “get this economy open intelligently and in a balanced way.”

All that is well enough — if you’re going to start putting fans back in seats, it’s clear, keeping them masked and distanced is key. But the negative test certification — which Cuomo called “the key” to reopening — is what begins to paint this as hygiene theater: As we learned last year during the Miami Marlins fiasco, 40% of people will still test negative four days after being exposed to the virus, and 20% will test negative even three days after symptoms have started. Plus there’s the problem of people who get tested on a Monday and then contract the virus by Thursday. As one infectious disease expert put it to the New York Times:

“A test 72 hours prior to a game will help identify some cases, but that’s also three days in which an individual can become infectious,” [Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist from George Mason University,] wrote in an email.

Coming just one week after Cuomo announced that restaurants would be allowed to open to indoor dining, something that can’t be done while masked until chefs develop food that can be absorbed through diners’ skin, the sports reopening is a clear signal that New York state is prioritizing “getting the economy open” over actual safety concerns. As the Times editorial board wrote just hours before Cuomo’s sports announcement:

Too many leaders — not just Mr. Cuomo — are ignoring that call. Massachusetts and New Jersey are allowing businesses, including restaurants, to expand capacity for indoor services, and Iowa just lifted its mask mandate. The impulse behind these moves is understandable. Restaurants and the people who earn their living through them are in dire straits because they have not received sufficient government assistance. State and local economies are hanging by a thread, and everyone is exhausted by restrictions and desperate to return to some semblance of normal life.

But the number of people who get sick or die from Covid-19 in the coming year will depend on the outcome of a desperate race that’s underway, between human vaccination and viral mutation. … By relaxing restrictions now, state and local leaders are undermining their own vaccination efforts. To get a sense of what this looks like to scientists and public health experts, imagine a military general leading the fight against a foreign enemy — and then selling that enemy deadly weapons on the side.

Meanwhile, food critic Ryan Sutton of Eater came out against the restaurant reopening, noting that choosing Valentine’s Day weekend to resume indoor dining “feels chosen less for any health milestones and more for the fact that it is historically one of the biggest nights for restaurants.” While restaurant workers will soon be allowed to sign up for vaccinations, the slow pace of vaccine production means they could be waiting for appointments well into the spring or summer. (Cuomo didn’t say whether stadium and arena workers will be added to the vaccine priority list.)

Speaking as a New Yorker and a Mets fan eager to see how the team will screw up its winter of big-name acquisitions, I’m dying to get to a ballgame as much as anyone. But “dying” only metaphorically: If allowing a couple thousand lucky fans to witness the Knicks and Nets firsthand leads to an uptick in cases that allows new viral variants to take off, sickening and killing people across the city who have no interest in basketball, Cuomo’s sports reopening move could go down as one of the most poorly timed decisions in governmental history. And even if we get lucky and limited-capacity indoor sports turn out not to become superspreader events, seeking a “balanced” reopening — presumably between the full reopening many businesses would want and the continued shutdown of indoor activities that scientists recommend, meaning between profits and deaths — is, let’s just say, a telling reminder of how most elected officials see where their bread is buttered.

Friday roundup: Inglewood to seize land for Clippers arena, half-assed Rays stadium renderings, plus maybe an MLS lockout!

I should probably have something to say about a week in which hedge-fund operators and day traders went to war over who could outgrift each other, but you know, I think let’s just leave that right there. On to the news!

Friday roundup: Tokyo Olympics back on, NFL doesn’t understand vaccines, and other hygiene theater stories

It was yet another one of those weeks, where you finally look up from the news that’s obsessing everybody only to find that while you weren’t looking, monarch butterflies had moved to the verge of extinction. There doesn’t seem to be an end to this anytime soon — which is pretty much the motto of this website, so let’s get on with it:

Friday roundup: OKC Thunder want their subsidies sooner, Indy Eleven want theirs later, let me repeat back your orders to make sure I have it right

I’ve already thanked everyone individually, but I’d like to give a collective shoutout to all the readers who signed up as FoS Supporters this membership cycle. The money you send translates directly into time I can spend covering stadium and arena news for you, and I remain extremely heartened by your support. If you sent me your mailing address, your magnets should be en route; if you didn’t, send me your mailing address already, these magnets aren’t going to ship themselves!

And speaking of covering stadium and arena news, let’s cover some stadium and arena news, why don’t we: