Welcome to the first weekly news roundup of the fourth decade during which this site has been in operation — unless you’re one of those people — which is kind of scary and depressing! I know I didn’t expect in 1998 that there would still be a need for Field of Schemes in 2020, but no one likes to give up a good grift when they see one, and for the last few decades nobody’s been able to make rich people in the U.S. give up much of anything, so here we are.
Seeing as I don’t want to even think about whether we’ll still be having this conversation in 2030, let’s get right to the news:
In the midst of a long New York Times article about how cool the new Golden State Warriors arena is, because the future, Temple University economist Michael Leeds asserts that it’s an example of “a trend since the Great Recession that, with some notable exceptions, cities have been much less willing to open up a pocketbook and fund a stadium or arena.” While “some notable exceptions” is a large caveat, I’m still not convinced that cities were all that much less willing in the Teens than the Aughts to cough up sports venue money — in California, sure, but then what of Nevada and Arlington and Georgia and Milwaukee and Indianapolis? I’ve emailed Leeds to ask for his data, but really what the world needs is a fresh dose of updated Judith Grant Long spreadsheets.
Major League Baseball says its plan to stop providing players to 42 minor-league franchises is not actually a plan to “eliminate any club,” and it’s minor-league owners’ fault if they insist on going bankrupt instead of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps and joining unaffiliated leagues. Also, this latest missive was apparently prompted by objections by Sen. Richard Blumenthal to the elimination of the Connecticut Tigers, who are in the process of being rebranded as the Norwich Sea Unicorns, and now all I can think about is: What’s a sea unicorn? Is it just a narwhal? Is Norwich now on the Arctic Ocean? What ship is the sea unicorn the captain of that earned it its captain’s hat, and how is it going to fire that harpoon-bat with its flippers? And at what? Is it a whale that has turned against its own kind? Or is it turning against humanity in revenge for our destruction of its habitat? Maybe MLB is just trying to protect us from the animal uprising, which if so they really should have mentioned it earlier in their statement.
The owners of the San Diego Sockers, which are an indoor soccer team, implying that there must still be indoor soccer leagues of some sort, are looking at building a 5,000- to 8,000-seat arena in Oceanside, which would cost dunno and be funded by ¯_(ツ)_/¯, but which team execs swear would be more affordable than paying rent at their current arena in San Diego and arranging schedules for their 12 home games a year. I can’t see anything that could possibly go wrong with this business plan!
English League Two soccer club (that’s the fourth division in English soccer, for English soccer reasons you either already understand or don’t want to know about) Forest Green Rovers are planning to build an all-wood stadium that will supposedly be “the greenest football stadium in the world,” but even if the timber is “sustainably-sourced,” wouldn’t it have less carbon impact to leave both the trees and the oil to fuel the construction equipment in the ground and keep on playing at this place that is just 14 years old? The narwhals are not going to be happy about this at all.
And speaking of turkeys, how are our favorite stadium and arena deals faring this holiday week?
Add the Tri-City Dust Devils to the list of minor-league teams in the middle of getting publicly funded stadium upgrades that may now get eliminated by MLB’s push to slash the size of the minors. The U.S. House of Representatives has formed a task force to oppose the plan, which normally isn’t exactly the kind of thing that makes anyone quake in their boots, but since this move has managed to piss off both Democrats and Republicans with minor-league teams in their home districts, there’s at least a slim chance it may actually mean something.
Meanwhile, a Minnesota state representative wants to build a new $42 million minor-league baseball stadium in Shakopee just outside Minneapolis-St. Paul. The would-be Metro Millers would join the St. Paul Saints in the independent-league American Association, except that the MLB minor-league contraction plan would reportedly shift the Saints to being an affiliated team — except that Saints general manager Derek Sharrer says MLB hasn’t yet contacted his team about it. Happy not-thinking-things-through-before-announcing-them week, everybody!
59% of Washington, D.C. residents would like the city’s NFL team with the horrible name to build a new stadium on the old RFK Stadium site, but 52% oppose using city funds to pay for it. WTOP sports reporter Dave Preston sums this up pretty well: “Of course fans want to root for their home team at home but when it comes to paying for it, people don’t want to. Why would they?”
Speaking of the Bronx, 161st Street BID executive director Cary Goodman — who, full disclosure, when I was in high school I briefly worked for on a presidential campaign where our candidate dropped out before getting to the primary in our state, which was a valuable lesson in the frustrations of electoral organizing in a two-party system — is proposing that any new NYC F.C. stadium in the Bronx be owned by local residents, which sounds like a great idea until you realize that stadiums don’t make any money, teams that play in them do.
Canada’s federal government has no interest in paying for a new Ottawa Senators arena, which should come as no surprise, but props to Canadian Minister of Infrastructure Catherine McKenna for putting it very Canadianly: “Well that’s not something we normally fund.”
Also, a clause in Nashville’s lease with Nashville S.C. requiring the soon-to-be MLS team to play at least one game in Nashville in any 24-month period has the team’s financiers balking at loaning money for the stadium — presumably because they’re afraid MLS will up and disappear for a couple of seasons, maybe as part of a labor stoppage, who knows — so the city may just delete that clause. Seriously, lord grant me the negotiating powers of a mediocre rich man.
The U.S. Supreme Court has given a final dismissal to a case charging that the car rental tax used by Arizona to fund sports facilities was unconstitutional because the money wasn’t being used for transportation projects.
The city of Santa Clara has voted again to remove the San Francisco 49ers as manager of their stadium, after the first vote might have been illegal because it took place in closed session. Glad we worked that out!
The Hamilton County Commission approved a plan that will involve spending $30 million to relocate a concrete plant so the county can build a music venue next to the Cincinnati Bengals stadium, with the Bengals helping out by forgoing $30 million in future payments from the county, though the team will also now get free parking space on the land. The music venue is reportedly needed because the waterfront is “an area starved for attention outside of Bengals and Reds games,” which maybe is something to keep in mind the next time you hear that a sports stadium will be enough to revitalize an underused area.
In completely unrelated news, here’s an article about a Columbus bar owner who is hoping that the new Crew soccer stadium being built nearby will be a windfall for her business.
Happy last Friday of summer! You’re probably busy getting ready to go somewhere for the long weekend, but if you’re instead staying put (and enjoying the space left by all the people going somewhere for the long weekend), consider spending some time if you haven’t yet reading my Deadspin article on “What’s The Matter With Baseball?“, which interrogates the various theories for MLB’s attendance decline and determines which ones may not be total crap. Do I conclude that it’s all the fault of team owners who’d rather charge rich people through the nose for a lesser number of tickets than try to sell more seats to less deep-pocketed fans? No spoilers!
And now to the news, and lots of it:
A new rich guy is buying the Kansas City Royals, and already there’s speculation about whether John Sherman will demand a new stadium when (or before) the team’s Kauffman Stadium lease is up in 2031. The Kansas City Star editorializes that “Kansas Citians should reject any plan that significantly increases public spending for the Royals, either for a new downtown stadium or a ballpark somewhere else,” and further notes that there’s no guarantee a new stadium would even help the Royals’ bottom line (“Winning, it turns out, is more important than a new stadium”), which is all a nice first step; let’s see what happens when and if Sherman actually opens his mouth about his plans.
Miami has closed Melreese golf course after determining it had high levels of arsenic and reopened Melreese golf course after environmental officials determined there was nothing “earth shattering” about the pollution levels. And now there’s concern by at least one city commissioner (Manolo Reyes, if you’re scoring at home) that the release of the arsenic findings is part of a ploy by David Beckham’s Inter Miami to get a discount on the lease price of the land, which is still being hashed out. The Miami Herald reports that the team and city are at loggerheads over whether to take environmental remediation costs into account when determining the land value; this epic Beckham stadium saga may have a couple more chapters to go yet.
Buffalo developers Carl and William Paladino are really excited about the possibility of a new Bills stadium near land their own, because they could either sell it to the team at an inflated price or develop it themselves once people are excited to live or shop near a new football stadium. (No, I don’t know why anyone would be excited to live or shop near a football stadium only open ten days a year, just go with it.) Carl Paladino once ran for governor of New York, so it’s worth watching to see if he uses his political ties (or skeezy lobbyist friends) to try to influence the Bills’ stadium future.
A group trying to get an MLB team for Nashville may not have a stadium or a site or a team, but they do have a name for their vaporteam: the Nashville Stars. Guy-who-wants-to-be-an-MLB-owner John Loar tells the Tennessean he decided on the name “after reading a book on Nashville’s baseball history by author Skip Nipper,” which is presumably this one; the Seraphs, Blues, Tigers, Americans, Volunteers, and Elite Giants honestly all seem like better names than the Stars, which was last used by a franchise in the World Basketball League (the basketball league where tall players weren’t allowed, which, yes, was actually a thing), but it’s really not worth arguing over the name a team that may never exist in our lifetimes.
The editor of the San Francisco Examiner has penned an opinion piece saying the Golden State Warriors‘ new arena is overly opulent and expensive — premium lounges feature wine butlers and private dining rooms, so yeah — but is resigned to this as a necessity (or at least the headline writer is) that it’s “the price we pay for a privately-funded arena.” Which, does anyone really think the Warriors owners would have passed up the chance to charge through the nose for wine butler service if they’d gotten public money? This is the price we pay for rampant income inequality, and don’t you forget it.
How much is Kaiser paying for the naming rights? Matier writes that “the total for the naming rights and other costs could hit $295 million,” but also that Kaiser indicated that “expenses ‘associated with Thrive City would be about $2.5 million a year,’” which would come to a present value of about $31 million. Clearly that’s a big difference! The larger figure is apparently from a December 2016 meeting of the Kaiser board’s finance committee, which included a single line recommended “the expenditure in an amount not-to-exceed $295.58 million for the Golden State Warriors sponsorship strategy over a twenty-year period.” The smaller figure is what Kaiser’s PR officer is claiming. The truth is either somewhere in the middle, or off to either side, because neither of these are exactly watertight financial figures.
What will Kaiser get for its money? The name of the park and plaza, certainly, but “sponsorship strategy” implies that Kaiser is also buying arena ad signage or the right to be the official health insurer of the Warriors or uniform ad patches or god knows what. So it’s tough to put a number on the actual naming rights.
Why “Thrive City” of all things? “Thrive” is a Kaiser wellness program/branding strategy that involves cutting healthcare costs by promoting healthier living and, for some reason, running marathons dressed as a lobster. One hopes that the company was smart enough to include in its deals with the Warriors the right to change the name of the plaza to something else if Thrive is abandoned or rebranded in the next 20 years, which seems extremely likely given the shelf life of corporate subbrands.
Whatever the actual amount of money changing hands in exchange for what, this does hint at how on earth the Warriors owners are planning to make back their new arena’s $1.4 billion construction cost. They’re already getting about $15 million a year in naming rights from Chase Bank, so if you add in plaza naming rights and new ad signage and corporate logos on anything not nailed down, then … even in a white-hot real estate and consumer market like San Francisco, it still seems like a lot of money to spend, but it’s Lacob and Guber’s money, so more power to them if it’s what they want. Though do remember that Warriors president Rick Welts wants you to know that the fact his team is building its own new arena is no reason for other cities not to give public money to their teams’ new arenas, a thing that should keep happening because arenas “enhance the quality of life for residents.”
Of course, one could also wonder if these naming rights deals, especially to a big empty plaza that is unlikely to get a lot of free TV mentions or whatever naming rights deals are supposed to do for companies, are really worth the expense. That’s what the National Union of Healthcare Workers is complaining, saying that Kaiser would be better off spending money on patient care (money that would flow to union members in the form of paychecks, naturally) at a time when “some patients wait weeks, even months for mental health appointments.” Good thing there’s no such thing as bad publicity, or one might be tempted to conclude that Kaiser had just bought itself $295 million of exactly that.
Today is site migration day — cue the jokes about how Field of Schemes should be hosted half the time in Montreal and half the time in Tampa Bay — so if things look a bit weird after 2 pm Eastern or so, that’s to be expected. Rest assured that the site will be back to normal soon, hopefully later today but certainly entirely by Monday; or actually better than normal, because the whole point of this exercise is to have a zippier, more reliable platform so that you can get your immediate fix of stadium news without having to refresh or even wait multiple milliseconds for images to load.
And speaking of your immediate stadium fix, here’s the rest of this week’s news:
MLS commissioner Don Garber said that he “could see [Las Vegas] being on our list for future teams,” which is literally the most noncommittal thing he could say, but he still gets headlines for it, so he’s gonna keep saying it.
The Orlando city council approved the $60 million in renovation money for Camping World Stadium (née the Citrus Bowl) that they said they would last fall. Since the stadium doesn’t even have a regular sports tenant — it is only used for the occasional soccer friendly, college football game, or concert — it’s hard to call this a subsidy to anyone in particular, but it’s still probably a pretty dumb use of money, especially since the stadium was just renovated once already in 2014.
There is no actual news in this Page Six item, but if you thought I was going to pass up a chance to link to an article that begins, “Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder roared up to Cannes Lions in his $180 million yacht as ad sources speculated he’s in town to find a title sponsor for the team’s new stadium,” you’re crazy.
Construction on the Las Vegas Raiders stadium was momentarily halted last week when it turned out one of the parts didn’t fit, which probably isn’t a big deal in the long run — in fact, the ill-fitting steel truss was adjusted and reinstalled a few days later — but that doesn’t mean we can’t make Ikea jokes.
The Arizona Diamondbacks owners have hired architecture firm HKS, who designed the Texas Rangers’ new park, to design a new stadium for them if they choose to build one, and you know what that’s going to mean: lots of renderings with Mitch Moreland and his wife in them.
Jacksonville Jaguars president Mark Lamping declared that the team’s stadium is “a candidate for major renovations,” which led Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to respond with this remarkable statement: “I am not the expert on entertainment and sports stadiums, so whatever the organization thinks is going to be best for that district — for fans and best for taxpayers.” That’s not exactly grammatical English, but it seems to imply I don’t know nothing ’bout no sports stadiums, these guys are the experts so I guess let’s give them what they want, which is incredible even on the very low bar set by American mayors.
Wondering how the Golden State Warriors owners are going to pay back the cost of their $1 billion San Francisco arena opening in the fall? How about luxury suites that rent for $2 million a year? That’s $50,000 to watch a single Warriors game with a bunch of your friends, plus a “video wall” so you can watch the game on TV if you don’t want to look at the actual court, and a butler to bring you wine from your personal wine cellar during the game. In case you were wondering: Yes, rich people in the U.S. are officially too rich now.
David Beckham and Jorge Mas’s Inter Miami has hired Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s son as a lobbyist for their Melreese Park stadium project, but says since his dad is the county mayor and he’ll only be lobbying the city, this isn’t a conflict of interest at all. (Write your own Florida Man headlines.)
New rugby stadium opening in Houston! I bet the roller derby and ultimate frisbee leagues are wondering when it’s going to be their turn to get buildings designed just for their sports. (Over/under at this rate: 2025, right after the opening of the first Minecraft stadium.)
The Miami Marlins debuted some changes to their much-reviled stadium this week, including a standing-room-only section in right field that team owner Derek Jeter says is designed to appeal to young people: “A lot of times fans come to games and they don’t necessarily want to sit in their seats. They want to be able to move around, especially the millennial — the younger generation.” Uh, Jeets, there may be other reasons than millennial ADHD that Marlins fans don’t want to sit and watch the game.
The Milwaukee Bucks‘ new arena that opened last fall has already needed $3 million in upgrades, including bigger cup holders in the lower-level seats because the old ones “can barely hold a cup of coffee.” All together now: Just tear the place down and build a new one.
Here is a trash article in Bloomberg in which Golden State Warriors team president Rick Welts asserts that the team has already made $2 billion from its new $1.3 billion San Francisco arena “in the form of tickets, suites and sponsorships” before the doors have already opened. Is that for its first year, or does it include multi-year commitments? And how does it compare to what the Warriors would have brought in from those revenue streams in their old Oakland arena? Despite the article taking two people to write, neither of them seem to have bothered to ask those questions, because writing down what important people say and leaving it at that is what journalism is all about, right?
The Atlanta Bravesbrought in $442 million in revenue last year, for a profit of $92 million, but blamed the team’s debt payments on their new stadium in Cobb County for not leaving enough left over to spend big on free agents. After public subsidies, the Braves owners are on the hook for less than $20 million a year in construction debt payments, plus $6 million a year in rent, so, um, yeah.
And still more renderings, these of a USL stadium a would-be team owner wants to build in Fort Lauderdale on the site of Lockhart Stadium, the same site David Beckham has targeted as a training site for his Inter Miami MLS team. Are there spotlights pointing pointlessly into the sky? You bet! Is this, regardless of whether the USL stadium stands a chance of getting built, yet another reason to laugh at Beckham over how he can’t catch a break? Don’t you know it!
Here’s a video of what the chairs and shelving will look like at the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium. And here’s a picture of what the place settings will look like in the luxury suites at the new Golden State Warriors arena, but it’s just a still photo — come on, Ben Golliver, it’s 2019, don’t you know people want to see furniture in video form?
New York Islanders owner Jon Ledecky insists that the team’s proposed Belmont Park arena is still “on track for the 2021-22 season,” but what else is he gonna say?
Winnipeg will provide a total of $16.6 million in tax breaks and other operating subsidies this year to the Jets, Blue Bombers, Goldeyes, and Manitoba Moose, and bonus points to any non-Canadian who can name what sport each of those teams play. Economic Development Winnipeg CEO Dayna Spiring claimed that the public will make its money back — no, not through the taxes the teams won’t get breaks on, that’s a Wichita thing to say. Rather, Spiring said the public will earn its money back on exposure, via the value of Winnipeg’s name appearing on hockey broadcasts. Somebody please alert this Twitter account.
And finally, NBA commissioner Adam Silver want to make watching basketball at home more like being at the game, via “technology.” Wait, isn’t one main problem pro sports is facing that fewer and fewer people want to go to games because it’s just as pleasant and cheaper to watch games at home on their giant hi-def TVs? I mean, no complaints here if Silver really wants to replicate the smell of Madison Square Garden in my living room, but it seems a bit, I dunno, against their business model? Unless maybe this will be some kind of premium feature you only get by subscribing to their streaming service that will be described as “Netflix for basketball,” yeah, that’s probably it.
When it rains, it pours, and this week provided a deluge of stadium news:
Fox 10 Phoenix is reporting that Phoenix city officials and the owners of the Sunshave reached a “tentative deal” on splitting the cost of arena renovations, which would have gotten its own item here if anyone other than that one news outlet based on no named sources were reporting it. Also any deal would still require approval by the city council, so really this is just “Suns owners and lame-duck mayor of Phoenix have almost agreed on what to put in an arena renovations funding bill, but won’t tell us what it will be yet.” Meanwhile, lawsuits continue over Phoenix refusing to release any details of what the Suns are seeking in renovations or anything about the team’s finances.
Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg still has only until December 31 to tell St. Petersburg if he wants to move out before 2027, while Hillsborough County is telling county commissioners there won’t be any news about a potential stadium in Tampa until after the new year. This means Sternberg will almost certainly have to negotiate an extension on his opt-out clause; one hopes that St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman will demand a bigger payoff this time in exchange for doing Sternberg a favor, but maybe Kriseman figures his city will benefit enough from getting the Rays out of their hair and getting to develop the Tropicana Field site that asking for cash on top of that would just be greedy.
The Oakland A’s owners say they’ll announce their preferred stadium site by the end of the year, to which former A’s exec Andy Dolich replied, “I have no doubt that the A’s will announce their site by the end of the year. They did so in 2006 for Cisco Field, in 2009 for Diridon Station, in 2011 for Victory Court, in 2013 for Coliseum City and in 2017 for Peralta College.” Ouch.
Part of the Milwaukee Brewers‘ retractable roof was making a weird clicking noise, but don’t worry, they’re fixing it, this totally won’t turn into a demand for taxpayers to build them a new roof, not when the stadium is only … 17 years old? Okay, it won’t turn into a demand this year, anyway. Probably.
In case you’re wondering what lease extension extortion money looks like on the minor-league level looks like, the Binghamton Rumble Ponies just got $5 million in state and city money for stadium upgrades in exchange for signing a new lease through 2026, which is less than major-league teams have gotten away with, but still pretty damn sweet if you’re the owner of a Double-A team.