Friday roundup: Tons of news, but you’ll forget it all once you see that Houston is spending public money on a pro rugby stadium

And in other news that doesn’t involve proposed Tampa Bay Rays stadium sites:

  • United Airlines is spending $69 million on naming rights to the Los Angeles Coliseum in advance of the 2028 Olympics, but IOC rules prohibit corporate names during the Olympics, oops. Hope you enjoy the most expensive college-football naming rights deal in history, United!
  • Hotel revenue fell 16% in San Diego last year after the Chargers left town, but went up 0.2% in St. Louis after the Rams left. I’m not honestly sure what if anything this means — you’d really have to look at hotel revenue on football weekends to do this right, and it doesn’t look like this study did — but feel free to speculate wildly.
  • Did I mention the Yahoo Finance article yet that compares the Amazon HQ2 chase to the competition to host the Super Bowl, and cites me saying that while Amazon will bring more jobs, “that said, there’s almost no way it’s worth the kind of money that cities are talking about”? Well, now I have, enjoy!
  • has recalculated the public costs of a proposed University of Alabama-Birmingham football stadium and come up with a total of $18.2 million a year — $10.7 million from a bunch of county taxes, $3.5 million from a new car rental tax surcharge, $1 million from other county funds, and $3 million from city funds — not the $15.7 million I had previously reported. UAB and a naming rights sponsor and other private contributors, meanwhile, would only put in $4 million a year, and only for the first ten years. Out of his goddamn mind, I tell you.
  • Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report filed a Freedom of Information Law request to see the competing bids for the Belmont Park site that eventually got awarded to the New York Islanders, and was shot down on the grounds that it would “impair present or imminent contract awards.” Wait, wasn’t the contract already awarded? Will it be okay to ask again once it’s too late to do anything about it?
  • The WNBA’s Chicago Sky are moving to the new DePaul basketball arena that the city of Chicago helped pay for, which I guess is marginally good for Chicago in that it gets to steal a tiny sliver of economic activity from Rosemont, screw those guys, right? (Actually, Rosemont is apparently a gated community, so maybe screw those guys.)
  • A New Orleans Pelicans game was delayed because the arena roof leaked. No one is demanding that a new arena be built just yet that I’ve heard, but given that the current one is 19 whole years old, it’s gotta to be a matter of time, even if this one does have a fire fountain.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates are threatening to sue the city-county sports authority over who’ll pay how much for $10 million in improvements to their stadium, because apparently the people who write these stadium leases are idiots.
  • If you enjoy this site but were thinking, “Wouldn’t this be better as a YouTube video with lots of animated charts?”, Vox has got you covered.
  • The Houston city council has approved spending $3.2 million in tax dollars on a pro rugby stadium for the Houston SaberCats, who are a pro rugby team that is going to play in a pro rugby league, which councilmember Jack Christie calls “a beautiful example of public-private partnerships that we ought to look at in the future, because as far as I have heard, there’s not been one city tax dollar used for this development.” I’m done. Have a good weekend.

Shreveport, Pensacola duking it out to throw $30m or so at minor-league Pelicans affiliate

I have a pretty good system of Google alerts (and helpful readers who send me links — thanks, helpful readers!) to let me know about stadium and arena battles large and small, but somehow the New Orleans Pelicans‘ bid to start an NBA D-League* team somewhere in the south in 2018 slipped through my net. Fortunately, Deadspin’s Patrick Redford has the scoop, courtesy of the Shreveport Times:

The Pelicans will apparently announce the winner in September, which is also when Shreveport will decide whether or not to go forward with one of the saddest and dumbest arena financing deals in recent memory.

As the Shreveport Times reported, Mayor Ollie Tyler announced plans to move forward with a $100 million complex in downtown Shreveport. More details will be revealed at a city council meeting tonight, but the complex is a mixed-use deal, which will include a 3,000-seat arena as well as condos, shops, and a sports complex. Tyler’s plan calls for the city to kick in $30 million of public money.

The plan actually calls for the city to sell $30 million in revenue bonds, with the revenue to come from … hang on, I’m sure it’s in the proposal somewhere … scroll, scroll … okay, it doesn’t actually indicate that at all. Maybe the team will pay lots of rent! Or maybe, considering that the Pelicans are owned by the guy who has a 13-foot statue of himself outside the stadium that he successfully got the state of Louisiana to both pay to renovate and to pay his team an annual fee to play in, it’ll just be tax revenue that the city would get anyway.

From what I can tell from this very uninformative TV report, the Shreveport city council voted 5-2 last night to approve … something, though whether it actually commits the city to go through with it if the Pelicans select it as a D-League site isn’t entirely clear. Meanwhile, Pensacola is pitching its own $80-100 million arena and mixed-use complex, with a “not specified” amount of public money. This is the problem with minor-league sports venue deals: With no shortage of small cities thinking this is just what they need to put them on the map, but a minuscule economic impact even by the usual not-very-impressive sports standards, it’s a perfect recipe for a costly bidding war. C’mon, Shreveport and Pensacola councilmembers, be like Nashville and read Deadspin before discussing your local sports venue deal!

Meanwhile, here’s an image of the Shreveport arena rendering. Do we think that there’s some kind of sports-pedestrian clip art that renderers use for these? If not, why is that woman in the sunglasses chewing her fingernails?

*Yeah, I know the D-League has a new name thanks to a corporate naming-rights deal, but neither Deadspin nor I play that game.

Smoothie chain that bought Pelicans naming rights tests positive for steroids, no really

I don’t even know what to say about this, except that it’s incredibly not a joke:

Before New Orleans Arena naming rights deal, Smoothie King had to pass a banned substance test

To save you the trouble of scrolling through and boggling, as I did, here’s the key section:

Smoothie King CEO Wan Kim, who purchased the company from founder Steve Kuhnau in July 2012, said the NBA wanted to make sure its athletes could eat and drink Smoothie King products and still pass the association’s mandatory drug tests.

“Say we become the official smoothie of the NBA,” Kim said. “If a player consumes one of our products and then fails the drug test, he could go to the NBA and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ All of a sudden it’s the NBA’s fault.”

That sort of makes sense, I guess, but what the hell kind of smoothie contains banned substances? None, it turns out, but Smoothie King does sell certain “nutritional substances” that turn out to contain two steroids: dehydroepiandrosterone and androstenedione. The company says it will now stop selling them. presents all this as a sort of amusing sidelight to the Pelicansalready-plenty-amusing naming-rights deal, but really the big news should be you can fail a drug test by consuming stuff you buy at the local smoothie outlet. This is something we all might want to consider before decrying as evil any athlete who now uses or has ever used (or is rumored to have used) banned substances. Except for A-Rod, anyway, because you just have to hate that guy, right?

Rangers, Pelicans cut deals to make you call their buildings by ridiculous names

The Texas Rangers announced yesterday that they’d sold the naming rights to the Ballpark at Arlington (formerly Ameriquest Field, until Ameriquest broke the economy and went belly-up) for an unknown sum, and that the stadium would henceforth be known as “Globe Life Park in Arlington.” Which is one of the worst names for anything ever — the Fort Worth Star Telegram helpfully noted that “fan reaction to the new name on social media sites ranged from unimpressed to outraged, with comments such as ‘barf,’ ‘lame’ and ‘at least they kept Arlington in the name’” — or at least was, until this a couple of hours later:

The New Orleans Pelicans and Louisiana-based Smoothie King have reached a 10-year agreement to rename the New Orleans Arena as the Smoothie King Center.

On the bright side, at least it’s clear what a Smoothie King sells, unlike a Globe Life. Still, it’s getting increasingly hard to see why anyone should be using these branded names for buildings, since they change about as often as soccer jersey logos. (Thankfully, no one has tried to insist that we call them “Qatar Airways FC Barcelona.” Yet.) It’s easy enough to call the Rangers’ ballpark “the Rangers’ ballpark” (in fact, it’s officially been “The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington” the last few years, not that I’ve noticed), call the New Orleans arena “the New Orleans Arena,” and so on. At least until the teams give us a cut of the product-placement moolah. Hey, New York City’s transit agency does it!

Pelicans arena subsidies buying wine room, fire fountain for well-heeled fans

The freshly remonikered New Orleans Pelicans hold their preseason home opener tonight, which will give Pelican fans their first chance to see the just-completed renovations to the New Orleans Arena:

Now there are 16 new loge boxes in the lower bowl, which are already sold out for the upcoming season, that includes swivel seating and LED monitors. There’s a party perch in the upper bowl where fans can order drinks and mingle at a bar and the Pelicans are considering adding live entertainment that could include a band playing during games.

Most of the new gimmicks, though, are for fans in the expensive seats: a 12,000-square-foot “Chairman’s Club” that will allow 150 courtside season ticket holders to see into the hallway outside the Pelicans’ locker room, plus another club expanded to include a wine room and fire fountain. (Editor’s note: No, I have no idea what a wine room and fire fountain are. And I’m not going to Google them either, as I prefer to stick with my mental image, which looks a lot like this.)

Pelicans owner Tom Benson no doubt hopes to make a bundle on selling high-priced tickets via the lure of these glitzy amenities, but even if he doesn’t, no worries: It’s all being paid for by the state of Louisiana, as agreed to as part of a ten-year lease extension when Benson bought the team last year. Plus he gets $3.65 million a year in tax breaks, in case he can’t boost his profits by his own self. Which is just as you’d expect Benson to negotiate, given that as owner of the Saints he pretty much invented pay-to-play leases.

Hornets’ new round of tax subsidies to total $78 million

The Louisiana state house has slightly reduced the tax breaks being considered for the New Orleans Hornets (now in the process of being sold to Saints owner Tom Benson) from 15 years of $3.65 million tax rebates to 10 years. Though if you read the articles at the time it was first announced, it’s only a ten-year lease extension, so giving 15 years of tax breaks never made sense in the first place.

Anyhoo, the Hornets’ new round of taxpayer subsidies will now amount to only the ten years of tax breaks (worth about $28 million in present value, by my Excel calculations), plus $50 million for renovations to the New Orleans arena. In exchange, the Hornets promise to remain in town through at least 2024, which means that there should be no talk of new arenas and move threats for at least the next year or two. The state will also be required to file annual reports on the number of jobs created or retained by the tax rebate, which should at least make for some entertaining reading.

Louisiana to pay $50m to keep Hornets, get out of old subsidy deal

The New Orleans Hornets have been a rumored relocation target ever since owner George Shinn bailed out in 2010 and left the team league-owned, but it looks like that’s off the table now that the NBA and state of Louisiana have agreed to a ten-year lease extension that will keep the team in town at least through 2024. The details, such as can be determined from the truly execrable reporting turned in by local Louisiana news outlets:

  • The state will supply $50 million for renovations of the 13-year-old New Orleans Arena, funded mostly by capital bonds (repaid out of general state revenue, I believe), which should supply the Hornets with additional revenue from new ad boards and the like.
  • The Hornets will keep on getting $3.6 million a year in tax breaks that they received under the old deal.
  • The state will no longer have to kick in subsidies if Hornets ticket sales fall short of the team’s desires, as was the case under the old lease. That could be as much as $6.8 million a year in savings over ten years, or it could be nothing, if the Hornets draw well enough that the subsidies wouldn’t have kicked in.
  • The Hornets no longer get an out clause to break the lease if attendance doesn’t reach certain benchmarks.

All in all, it looks like a relatively small price to pay to lock up the team for another ten years, though this is more in the “no worse than the old crappy lease” category than actually qualifying as a good lease. The deal is still tentative pending the Hornets’ sale to local owners and approval of the tax breaks by the state legislature, but both of those are expected to occur soon. All of which likely means: No Hornets for you, Seattle.

Hansen hopes for Seattle NBA arena deal by summer

Chris Hansen, the hedge-fund rich guy (I keep wanting to write “millionaire” or “billionaire,” but his net worth doesn’t appear to be public record) who says he’ll build an arena in Seattle with mostly private money, says he’s still committed to the project even if the Sacramento Kings are taken off the board as a relocation target. It’s “somewhat inevitable that we will eventually have a team out here,” said Hansen (is “somewhat inevitable” like “pretty unique”?) last week, adding that he hopes to have an agreement in principle with the city and county by “late spring, early summer.” At which point he hopes to go after an NBA franchise to play there.

It’s not a terrible strategy — as Hansen notes, the NBA is more likely to approve a team for Seattle if there’s a set arena funding plan already in place — and not a terrible deal for Seattle if Hansen’s promises are accurate, though the tax kickback provision would likely still end up costing Seattle and King County taxpayers something, albeit something less than in most other arena deals. (How this gets around the Initiative 91 requirement that the city turn a profit on any arena plan remains to be seen.)

It’s worth noting, though, that at this point all we have is a guy with a bunch of unnamed investors and a piece of paper with some numbers on it — including, apparently, a total private investment for team and arena of $500 million, which since the private arena cost is set at $290 million would imply a team purchase price of $210 million, which seems optimistic, to say the least.

Meanwhile, the talk has already begun about which teams might be ripe to lure to Seattle, with talk focusing on the league-owned New Orleans Hornets and the Milwaukee Bucks, assuming the Kings get their new arena. “I think it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process,” cautions one stadium expert too humble to mention himself by name, but not too humble to quote himself in the third person. “I would not be surprised to see Seattle get a team in five to eight years, maybe. But I would be surprised to see it happen more quickly than that.”

New Orleans running out of stadium money, too

Indianapolis isn’t the only city whose sports facilities are hemorrhaging red ink: The Superdome Commission, which runs both the New Orleans Saints‘ dome home and the Hornets‘ arena, is looking at a $27.5 million shortfall for the next fiscal year, according to the New Orleans Times-Picuyune. Of course, this may have something to do with the ridiculous leases the state agreed to with its teams, where Louisiana taxpayers actually pay the Saints and Hornets more than $46 million a year combined just to play in their state.

“There are not enough monster truck shows in the universe to make up” for the losses, Superdome VP told the state legislature in asking for more tax money to bail out the agency’s budget. While it wouldn’t be quite as simple as underprivileged college students subsidizing the Saints and Hornets profits with their tuition money, that’s pretty close as shorthand.