- A plot of private land that Portland baseball backers were eyeing for a stadium has been sold to another developer, but they could still sell or lease it for baseball. Portland is definitely at the forefront of not just handing land to the local sports team for whatever price it wants, though of course it doesn’t hurt that there isn’t an actual local sports team in question right now, just the idle thought of one someday.
- Tampa Bay Rays chief development officer Melanie Lenz says the team will decide in six to nine months whether an Ybor City stadium will work; I’d think they’d want to know who’s going to pay for it first, but maybe that’s what they need the six to nine months for: bribery. (I typed “lobbying,” right? Pretty sure I did, note to self to go back and check.)
- D.C. United is about to open its new stadium with the help of $183 million in public money, and has belatedly noticed that its TV camera angles will be all screwed up because the sun sets in the west. Who could have known something like that?
- A group of Inglewood residents is suing to block the proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena project, which is not surprising; more surprising is that they attempted to serve Mayor James Butts with lawsuit papers during Tuesday’s city council meeting, causing the council to abruptly call a halt to the meeting and run away.
- The Cincinnati Reds are asking for $88,000 in state tax breaks on bobbleheads, on the grounds that they’re included in the price of ticket packages and not being sold separately, even though the ticket package costs more specifically because it includes a bobblehead. I shoulda been a tax lawyer.
- The Philadelphia Phillies are asking for $40 million in hotel tax money from Pinellas County for a new renovations to their spring-training stadium in Clearwater, but the county has run out of hotel tax money because it already spent it on other projects, including the Rays’ Tropicana Field and a spring-training facility for the Toronto Blue Jays, along with a bunch of museums and the like. Opportunity cost!
- A Spectrum News Charlotte headline asks the question: “Does Charlotte need a domed stadium? City leaders are trying to figure it out.” I got an answer for you, Spectrum News Charlotte! (Also, Spectrum News Charlotte, the Atlanta Falcons‘ stadium didn’t really involve a “public investment” of only $200 million. Your friends across town the state at Fox 8 got it right, you might wanna talk to them.)
Friday roundup: Kraft tries to use World Cup to get new stadium, Roger Noll says Austin MLS subsidies are indeed subsidies, NC mulls new tax breaks for Panthers
Posting this while watching the first World Cup match at the crazy stadium with the seats outside the stadium. (I haven’t honestly even noticed who the teams are yet, I’m just watching the architecture.) Anyhoo:
- Las Vegas is reconsidering building a new highway ramp just for the Raiders stadium, not because it’ll cost too much (which it will) but because the Raiders stadium developers have decided they don’t actually want it. This is really all you need to know about the relationship between sports teams and elected officials in this country right now.
- Minneapolis’s tourism nonprofit overstated its economic impact figures by $200 million over the last three years, a city audit has found, figures that are used to determine things such as public stadium and arena spending. That’s bad, though given that “economic impact” is pretty much a bogus concept to begin with, the audit’s figures probably aren’t much more meaningful.
- The headline “Gondola From Union Station to Dodger Stadium Moves Forward” cracked me up, but maybe just because I spend so much time sitting on subway trains that don’t go anywhere.
- The Milwaukee Bucks have finally sold their last luxury suite, so hope you didn’t have your heart set on that suite butler.
- The Los Angeles Clippers owners want one of those get-out-of-environmental-review-free cards from the state legislature, because who doesn’t?
- Two out of 12 stadiums built by the Brazil for the 2014 World Cup are no longer undergoing corruption probes! If you’ve calculated that that means ten of the 12 are still under investigation, you get an A+ in math.
- If you’ve been waiting for the first MLS owner to use the 2026 World Cup as an excuse to try to get a new stadium, New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft has got you covered.
- Hey, lookit, somebody actually called Roger Noll after he was name-checked by the Austin city council, and asked him what he thinks of Anthony Precourt’s stadium proposal for that city. His answer: “It’s not accurate to say it’s going to be completely privately financed. It’s in fact going to have a significant subsidy built into it. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.” That’s fair! Adds Temple economist Michael Leeds: “If Austin feels that having a soccer team would give the city an identity, give the people of the city something they enjoy, that’s fine. … That’s different from saying this is going to boost the city’s economy.” Also fair! Short answer from economists: If you wanna help build a stadium because you think having a stadium would be cool, go for it, but don’t do it for the economic impact because bwahaha “economic impact.”
- The North Carolina legislature is considering a bill to give about half a million dollars a year in property tax breaks to the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Knights owners, apparently in exchange for nothing at all from the teams, not even a lease extension. Whether this bill goes anywhere or not, it continues to bode poorly for the upcoming stadium negotiations with the Panthers’ new owner.
- The Colorado Rockies owners have released renderings of the ugly building they want to build on a Coors Field parking lot they’re leasing from the state for $1.25 million a year. The renderings don’t even show any fireworks or searchlights. Sad!
An Inglewood citizen group with the best name ever — Inglewood Residents Against Taking and Eviction, or IRATE — is asking the Los Angeles D.A.’s office to investigate the Inglewood city council for violating open meeting laws in approving a new Clippers arena:
Residents learned about the project on June 15, 2017, at a special meeting of the city council. The documents suggest that backers of the arena may have purposely used a special meeting because it required just 24 hours public notice, while a regular meeting requires 72 hours notice. The meeting agenda didn’t mention the arena or the Clippers, but gave an obscure name of a related company negotiating the deal…
Residents would see only that the meeting involved Murphy’s Bowl LLC, an entity formed in January 2017 in Delaware. It has one member, Steven Ballmer, the owner of the Clippers, according to court records.
The Inglewood City Council’s regular meetings are held on alternate Tuesdays, but there wasn’t one on Tuesday, June 13. Instead, there was a special meeting on Thursday, which only required the agenda to be posted 24 hours in advance.
That is pretty bad, though still not quite as bad as Cobb County officials hiding in hallways to evade open meetings laws while negotiating an Atlanta Braves stadium deal.
The KCET reporting on the IRATE suit doesn’t make clear what the group hopes to accomplish by getting the D.A. to investigate — I mean, clearly it wants to block the arena, but would this be by forcing a re-vote by the city council or what? It all makes Mayor James Butts’ contention that no California residents are upset about the arena that much more laughable, though, and since the internet is driven pretty much entirely by outrage and schadenfreude, please, go ahead and laugh!
Friday roundup: Coyotes seek investors, Detroit MLS stadium deal maybe not dead after all, and new stadium fireworks renderings!
So much news! Let’s get right to it:
- Arizona Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway is looking for more investors in his team, and if I owned the Coyotes I’d be trying to find someone to take chunks of it off my hands, too. Barroway also said that the Coyotes won’t remain in Glendale long-term, but that he “wouldn’t focus on Arizona moving right now or any time soon, or maybe ever,” so apparently his plan is to stand around the Phoenix area holding his breath until he turns blue if no one else will give him a new arena.
- The owners of the Golden State Warriors say they shouldn’t have to pay off the remaining debt on their Oakland arena when they move to San Francisco, as their lease requires, because their lease expires after 20 years while the debt goes on for 30. Just thinking about this makes my head hurt, so good luck to whatever judge ends up with the case.
- The Rochester Rhinos aren’t getting evicted from their stadium after all! They’re still not fielding a team in 2018, though, and I’m not clear on whether it’s been decided who owns their office furniture.
- Michigan’s Wayne County has agreed to give its unfinished jail site to Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, meaning Gilbert’s plan to build a new MLS stadium there and a new jail on city land while getting $300 million in county subsidies may not be dead after all. Though the state still needs to approve the tax kickbacks, and the county commission and the Detroit city council both need to approve the land swap, so … reply hazy, ask again later.
- An appeals court in Arizona has ruled that the state’s car-rental tax to pay for building sports venues isn’t unconstitutional after all, overturning a lower-court ruling from 2014 that it was illegal because money from car taxes needs to be used to pay for highways, and stadiums aren’t highways. Next up: state supreme court!
- Arlington, Texas is offering to spend $10 million on an e-sports arena, because that’s just what Arlington does. At least the city claims the money would be repaid by lease and event revenue, but I’d like to see the actual lease, please, to be sure of that.
- Inglewood residents spoke out against a planned Los Angeles Clippers arena and fears that it would displace businesses and residents at a public meeting this week, to which Inglewood Mayor James Butts responded: “I don’t know of any residents that live in the state of California that are upset.” Oh no, it’s outside agitators!
- Phoenix Rising F.C. has released renderings of its proposed MLS stadium on Salt River reservation land in Tempe. Do they have fireworks? You bet they have fireworks!
MSG sues over Clippers arena, says Inglewood mayor used personal cell phone to cheat them out of land
And check it out, it’s another lawsuit, this one filed by Madison Square Garden (owners of the Forum in Inglewood) against the city of Inglewood over its plans to let the Los Angeles Clippers build a new arena nearby. Which sounds implausible — since when do you get to sue just because somebody else is building a competing arena nearby — until you get to this line:
MSG’s lawyers claim [Inglewood Mayor James] Butts tricked MSG into giving up the arena’s lease of the city-owned land and then tried to cover his tracks by negotiating with a personal email address and private cell phone.
Now we’re talking! MSG says that Butts got them to give up their option on the land the Clippers now intend to use by telling them he needed it for a “technology park,” which in their eyes constitutes breach of contract, fraud, and contractual interference. As a practicing non-lawyer, I have no idea whether this is a viable legal strategy, but as an unabashed fan of embarrassing public spectacles involving politicians and major sports corporations, I consider the mere existence of this suit a win.
The plan to fast-track any environmental lawsuits over any new arena for the Los Angeles Clippers (or transit projects for the 2028 Olympics) got off to a dud of a start last week, as the state legislature did not advance out of committee a bill that would have greased the skids for those projects:
Legislators on the Assembly Natural Resources Committee expressed concerns about giving well-heeled developers special treatment, and the bill failed to get enough votes to advance.
“There’s been a lot of angst as far as big CEQA exemptions for projects with individuals with tremendous means, billionaire justice, whatever you want to call it,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento).
Read further in the Los Angeles Times article, and you start to see maybe why the bill had such rough sledding: L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti opposed the Olympics provision as unnecessary, and AEG, owner of the Staples Center, opposed the Clippers clause as, well, helping their rivals and current tenants, and we can’t have any of that. The last time we saw two sports giants go up against each other was when the New York Jets and Cablevision, owners of the Knicks and Rangers, went toe-to-toe over a new football stadium in Manhattan. Cablevision ultimately prevailed and the project was killed; it’s way too soon to tell if AEG will pull off something similar over the Clippers arena, but expect an awful lot of lobbying money to be spilled in the interim.
So we have a partial answer to the question of what public aid billionaire Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer will be demanding for his proposed new NBA arena in Inglewood, and it’s “a bunch of stuff that’s worth money to him but isn’t a direct cash subsidy. Per the L.A. Times, which snuck a peek at the team’s draft legislation:
- Any lawsuits against the arena under the California Environmental Quality Act would get fast-tracked to be wrapped up within nine months, and a court would be unable to halt construction even if it found environmental review to be inadequate. (The Sacramento Kings previously got this get-out-of-lawsuits-free card for their new arena, as did Ed Roski for his never-built City of Industry NFL stadium.)
- The bill “would also allow the city to permit more billboards and other signage around the arena than otherwise allowed under the law.” No details in the Times report about how many more billboards, but clearly that’s a potentially large revenue source for Ballmer.
Things we still don’t know: Who would acquire the land for the arena, whether it would involve evicting current residents by eminent domain, if so who would pay for that, who would own the arena and would Ballmer pay property taxes and/or rent and/or money toward maintenance and operations, etc. If fast-tracking legal challenges and a bunch of free billboards is all Ballmer gets, it would hardly be the worst arena deal in history. But there’s still plenty of room to lard on more hidden subsidies as well, so everyone stay tuned.
The Inglewood city council, after voting last month to enter into an “exclusive negotiating agreement” with Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer for a new arena, voted again on Friday to do the same thing, after getting a claim filed against it by the owners of Madison Square Garden on Wednesday for — you know what, let’s take this one step at a time:
- Since February, there’s been talk that Ballmer wanted to build his own arena in Inglewood, possibly adjacent to the Los Angeles Rams’ (and Chargers‘) new stadium, so that he (and maybe Rams owner Stan Kroenke) could create his own entertainment district to compete with AEG’s L.A. Live next to the Clippers’ (and Lakers‘) current home at the Staples Center.
- Inglewood councilmembers voted in June to approve that three-year negotiating agreement, which has no funding or operating details beyond “We wanna build an arena, let’s figure this out.”
- Last Wednesday, MSG — which owns the Forum arena, formerly the home of the Lakers and now used mostly for concerts, and which is owned by James Dolan of New York Knicks and terrible singing fame — filed that claim for damages against Inglewood, claiming city officials asked them to give up their lease on parking lots across the street from the new football stadium site in April by telling them it was for a new “business-technology park.” Which, you’d think Dolan and his lawyers could have read the newspapers back in February to see this coming, but okay. MSG’s lawyers said if the city didn’t cancel the deal with Ballmer, they’d file suit.
- Inglewood doubled down on Friday by voting unanimously to reauthorize the agreement with Ballmer, to meet any concerns that the June vote had taken place without public notice (one of the charges in MSG’s claim).
- Friday’s vote was attended by 40 Inglewood residents protesting that the city was considering using eminent domain to force them off of their privately owned land to make way for the arena, or otherwise displace them by helping to gentrify their neighborhood.
- Inglewood Mayor James Butts said no one was being displaced, that the arena would be built entirely on public land.
- An MSG press spokesperson fired off an email to the Los Angeles Times saying that the land Ballmer is seeking contains hundreds of homes, apartments, and businesses, and “there is no question that residents would need to be displaced within this area.”
So, what the hell? The agreement itself includes this color-coded map by owner type:
The white parcels are the privately-owned bits of land, so, yeah, I’d say there should be some concern about eminent domain being used. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’d be impossible to build an arena, let alone a surrounding entertainment district, without obtaining some private land.
Here’s what it looks like on Google Maps:
This is shaping up to be a big-ass mess, and that’s before we’ve even gotten into the question of who’s going to pay for it. Ballmer and Butts are going to need all of those three years, I’m guessing.
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has been talking for a while about wanting to build an arena of his own — with maybe some kind of L.A. Live–style entertainment district around it — in Inglewood, and now it looks like he’s taken a step closer, with the city voting today on opening talks for a new arena to be built adjacent to the new Rams and Chargers stadium:
The Inglewood City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Clippers to build a state-of-the-art arena on city-owned land. The 18,000- to 20,000-seat arena would be fully financed by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, sources said. Ballmer, who is worth an estimated $31.8 billion, bought the Clippers for $2 billion in 2014.
So what does all that mean, exactly? “Exclusive negotiating agreement” means that Ballmer would have three years to work out environmental permits, which works well with his timetable in that he has a lease to play at Staples Center through 2024. As for how the financing would work, it sounds like Ballmer would pay for construction, while Inglewood would provide free land (some of which it may have to acquire, possibly by eminent domain), but there are many other variables — would Ballmer pay rent on the land? would this include land for the entertainment district as well? would he receive any tax breaks? who would pay to operate and maintain the building? — and the agreement itself doesn’t answer any of them, beyond a whole lot of legalese that comes down to “We’ll figure that stuff out later.” This is just the opening buzzer, in other words: Figuring out who’s actually winning, assuming this arena ever gets built at all, is still going to take a while.
And speaking of data points for an arena arms race, now Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is reportedly interested in building a new arena adjacent to the Los Angeles Rams‘ new Inglewood stadium, because they want their own L.A. Live or something:
Representatives of Steve Ballmer and Stan Kroenke, two of the richest owners in professional sports, have had multiple discussions about the Clippers joining the Rams and Chargers in the sports and entertainment district Kroenke is building in Inglewood…
“It’s too soon to say it would be L.A. Live lite, but if an arena were to bring 200 nights a year, that’s a tremendous amount of foot traffic that would benefit all the ancillary properties,” said a person familiar with the discussions who asked not to be identified in order to speak frankly about the situation.
To reiterate what I just wrote about a fifth arena in the New York City metro area: Building more arenas in an already well-served arena market doesn’t really make much sense, since you’re just squabbling over how to divide up the existing pie. (An L.A. Live Lite is only likely to get customers by drawing them off from the original L.A. Live district by the Staples Center, or maybe from other entertainment options elsewhere in the L.A. area.) And Ballmer making eyes at Inglewood could still very easily be a leverage tactic toward when his Staples lease is up for renewal in 2024. But then, this is after all how capitalism is supposed to work: Investors are so desperate to grab a slice of the market that they throw around whatever money it takes to enter the game, which ends up driving down windfall profits for everyone and benefiting consumers. It seldom works that way, sure, but it still can, on occasion, when corporations are more interested in fighting over the spoils than in colluding.
If there’s one thing that watching American capitalism has taught me, it’s that the likely outcome here is for one side to buy the other — Philip Anschutz couldn’t literally buy the Clippers since he already owns the Lakers, but some kind of Anschutz-Ballmer-Kroenke sports management consortium isn’t impossible, if you could get everyone’s egos out of the way. Now there’s a thought: The only thing stopping us from entering a complete monopolistic hellscape, now that the federal government has all but declared corporate consolidation a national priority, is the inability of the super-rich to get along. Strange days, indeed.