Missouri senate fails to ban Rams stadium funds, threatens to refuse to make bond payments instead

The question of who can authorize taking tax revenue currently going to pay off the Edward Jones Dome and using it to fund a new St. Louis Rams stadium has gotten ultra-crazy, with these latest developments in the state legislature:

  • The state senate passed a bill banning using the money to pay for a new stadium.
  • House leaders got the funding ban stricken from the bill in conference committee.
  • Senate leaders said the governor would go ahead with selling bonds based on the Jones Dome money at his own risk, because “we’re not technically obligated to pay” and could just refuse to appropriate funds to pay off the bonds, and bondholders wouldn’t like that much, now would they?

The plan to use the Jones Dome payments for a new stadium is in plenty of trouble as it is, because then somebody would still have to pay off the Jones Dome, and in the governor’s current plan that somebody is the city of St. Louis — which has a law prohibiting new stadium funding without a public vote, and lawyers willing to sue to enforce that provision. But state senators threatening not to pay the governor’s IOUs are a nice added touch. At this point, Nixon might want to just hold a referendum already, and pull out all the stops trying to win it — though it’d undoubtedly help if Rams owner Stan Kroenke were showing any interest in helping to do so, since he’s the guy with the money for a big-bucks ad campaign. What’s the world coming to when you can’t even count on the local billionaire to buy votes?

Oakland stadium honcho gets mad at NFL for Raiders move threats, must be new at this game

On Tuesday, NFL VP for stadium extortion Eric Grubman called in to an L.A. radio show and talked smack about Oakland’s stadium plans for the Raiders, because that’s what he does. In particular, Grubman said that over the past three years, “I visited with public officials, and I feel like we’ve gone backwards. So I feel like we’ve lost years and gone backwards. And that usually doesn’t bode well.”

Floyd Kephart, the financier trying to put together an Oakland stadium deal, however, apparently failed to read Grubman’s resume, and so yesterday freaked the hell out at the NFL capo:

“Every time he comes, there is a backward step,” Kephart said of NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman, who was in Oakland last week. “And if he would just stay the hell out of here, we might actually get a deal done.”…

Kephart peppered his remarks before the Airport Area Business Association with one-liners Wednesday but said afterward that he took umbrage with Grubman’s tone at last week’s meeting. “You don’t come to a city and threaten it with ‘I’m going to take your team away. We’ll move to Carson if you guys don’t do something,'” he said.

Floyd, Floyd, Floyd. When you’re the NFL, that’s exactly what you do. It’s not something you need to take umbrage over, it’s something to shake your head sadly at, and try to defuse by talking about all the great progress you’re making, blah blah blah. Sure, I guess that can be tough when you’re not really making much progress, but then just point out how the folks in Carson don’t know how they’re going to pay for their stadium, either. But resorting to petty name-calling is … way more entertaining, actually, so by all means, keep it up!

Carson council approves NFL stadium rezoning without public vote, because it can

Yeah, the Carson city council went and done did it:

A local City Council on Tuesday night unanimously voted to clear the path for a proposed $1.7 billion stadium near Los Angeles that could become the shared home to the NFL’s San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders…

Council members could have opted to put the issue before Carson voters, but instead chose to approve it outright themselves as state law allows.

As covered here yesterday, most of the project details still fall into the “reply hazy, ask again later” category; what the Carson council approved yesterday was the ballot language approved earlier in a petition drive, which voters now won’tget to  vote on because the council did it on their behalf. From the looks of it — it’s 309 pages, which makes you wonder how many petitioners actually read the whole thing, let alone city council members — it mostly approves a bunch of rezoning of land targeted for the stadium, plus some “stadiums are cool” language to make clear the intent of the initiative. Everything else will get worked out later, though it’s been promised that the city will only be on the hook for police and traffic costs, which the teams (the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, under the current plan) would reimburse them for.

There is one cost that isn’t being mentioned, and that’s foregone property taxes: Under the plan, the entire 157-acre site that would be home to the stadium — and parking, and presumably some other development, since a stadium don’t need no 157 acres — would be transferred to a public authority, which pretty much always means exempting it from property taxes. As we’ve seen before, property tax exemptions can add up to a whole lot of money, so it’s worth asking questions about how much this would amount to for Carson — in fact, that would have been a good question to ask before voting to move ahead with this deal, but meh, there’s always time to figure stuff out later, right?

Carson could approve Chargers, Raiders stadium plan tonight despite not knowing how it would work

The Carson city council is meeting tonight, and could be about to follow the lead of its neighbors in Inglewood and approve a stadium funding plan without a public referendum, via the mechanism of having petitions signed for a referendum, then voting to waive the whole “residents actually voting” thing. And if that doesn’t sound like the greatest idea, the L.A. Times’ Tim Logan and Nathan Fenno today report just how many things will get swept under the rug by the hurry-up approval scheme:

The 26-page initiative petition proposing the stadium says little about how it would be paid for, other than a promise that city tax dollars won’t be used. Leases need to be worked out. Personal seat licenses — which developers say could fund nearly half the project — must be sold. And there’s no mention of the three-way land swap, creation of a new city agency or 10-figure investment led by Goldman Sachs that are all key to the deal.

Also, if Carson can’t get two NFL teams to move in, there might be a huge shortfall in tax revenue to pay the city’s share of costs, the city could lose $1.4 million a year in federal housing aid if it can’t find a new site for the 1,500 housing units that were originally planned for the stadium site, and nobody has figured out where to put 16,000 off-site parking spaces.

This is why one traditionally holds stadium negotiations before voting on the plan — and, for that matter, why California law normally requires environmental impact studies and a long public process before approving these kinds of deals, which is what Carson officials could be voting to skip over tonight. Instead, everyone will have to hope that Carson’s mayor and city council can hash out a funding plan behind closed doors with the teams involved. And surely nothing could go wrong with that, right?

SD columnist says Chargers deal needs Hail Mary off flea flicker [metaphor overflow, please retry]

Last week we had the perfect example of an “assuming the premise that funding a new arena is the public’s problem” article, and this week it’s the archetypal “using sports metaphors to paint building a stadium as victory” piece, courtesy of “star” UT San Diego sports columnist Kevin Acee. I mean, this guy really emptied the sports metaphor bowl:

[Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group] Adam Day is the Doug Flutie in this stadium game.

He and his team were handed the ball in the fourth quarter and told to win with a Hail Mary off a flea flicker.

But how much time is left in the fourth quarter, Kevin?

As the seconds trickle off the clock, with no timeouts remaining, San Diego’s only hope is a delay of game being called and eventually getting to overtime.

This metaphor is getting confusing. Who would call a delay of game, exactly?

For the Chargers to not make that request [to relocate for 2016], they are going to need to get their way. They are the clock operator, the referee and quarterback.

I’m … pretty sure that’s against the rules? Also, wasn’t Doug Flutie the quarterback? Help!

Anyway, the guy that UT San Diego kept as sports columnist over the guy who actually asked questions wants you to know that San Diego has to meet the Chargers’ demands, and soon, or else, and is going to use every football reference in his arsenal to drive this home. It’s still not quite the time Connecticut approved funding a new stadium to lure the New England Patriots and the Hartford Courant reported on this by splashing “Touchdown!” across their front page, but it’s a valiant attempt nonetheless.

NFL VP delivers a master class in San Diego on shaking down cities for stadium cash

Hey, Rob Manfred, you want some pointers in how to shake down cities for stadium deals? You might want to talk to NFL VP Eric Grubman, because he has this stuff down:

“It’s obvious that no proposal has gained the support and enthusiasm of the Chargers — that’s obvious,” Grubman said in [a] press conference with reporters after the meeting [of the San Diego mayor’s citizens’ stadium advisory group]. “So you don’t need me to tell you that.”…

“If you start out with the key parties that have to support these things on different pages, it’s certainly a recipe for delay,” Grubman said. “It’s probably a recipe for failure.”…

“At this point of time, I think it’s more likely that we would move it up than leave it the same or delay it, unless something happens to knock one or more of the projects off of its pace,” he said. … “To wait until the end of next year to get the vote it seems to me to be very risky.”

Vague threats about “failure” and “risky” behavior, a message that no deal is a deal until the local team owners have been made happy, the general tone of a scolding dad — now that’s why they pay commissioners, and their henchmen, the big bucks. Not that this solves any of the problems that San Diego is having in finding a way to fund a new Chargers stadium that makes the team owners happy (key to this being “somebody who is not us paying for a large chunk of it”), but it turns up the perceived heat on city officials, and that’s all that league officials are expected to do, really.

Idiotic lease clause could force Houston to spend $50m on upgrading Texans stadium for Super Bowl

To the list of crazy things that the NFL demands in order to allow cities the honor of hosting the Super Bowl (free billboards, free police officers, free bowling alleys), add spending $50 million to make the luxury suites more luxurious at your 13-year-old stadium. That’s what Houston was told for its plans to host the 2017 Super Bowl:

Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice president of events, said Monday that upgrading the stadium’s WiFi is something the bid committee has agreed to do. In terms of sprucing up the seating, he said he noted on a recent visit that NRG “is in a very good place at this stage in its stadium life, but there are opportunities to upgrade that are common across Super Bowl stadiums as they prepare and continue to make sure they are state-of-the-art.”

So far, no Houston government officials have stepped up to offer $50 million to the cause — in fact, Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack swore earlier this week that “I’m not about to vote to spend a single dollar of county money updating these luxury suites” — and it doesn’t appear that the Super Bowl bid committee actually committed to it as a condition of hosting the big game. So the NFL seemingly doesn’t have a leg to stand on, unless there’s something in the Texans‘ stadium lease:

A clause in that lease agreement says the county must maintain the facility in “first class” condition and “a manner comparable to other stadiums.”

Noooooooooooo! Don’t you people ever learn?

Glendale proposes $46m garage for Coyotes, Cardinals, because they already got them everything else

Believe it or not, the Arizona Coyotes have found yet another way to get more subsidies out of Glendale: The city council will vote in June on whether to approve a $46 million parking garage to serve the Coyotes, the Arizona Cardinals, and the local mall. The garage bonds would be paid off by Glendale’s 235,000 residents, which on the face of it is only $20 $200 [EDIT: sorry, early-morning math] apiece (plus interest), but coming on top of a $220 million arena and $275 million in operating subsidies for the NHL team, it’s adding insult to injury, if nothing else.

To be precise, the parking garage would actually still be part of the original terrible deals with the Cardinals and Coyotes, which requires the city to provide 6,000 parking spaces for the football stadium and 5,500 for the hockey arena. (The new parking deck would hold 4,000.) And it would save the city a few hundred thousand dollars a year that it’s been spending on renting spaces to meet that obligation.

Still, it’s another expense that hasn’t previously been accounted for in the subsidy totals, so update your scorecards appropriately. And shake your head sadly for the poor citizens of Glendale, who are paying a record price for the presence of a hockey team that hardly any of them are actually interested in going to watch.

Falcons stadium cost hits $1.5B, everybody acts like this is totally normal and sane

Speaking of stadiums replacing other stadiums that weren’t even of legal drinking age, the price tag of the Atlanta Falcons‘ new stadium is now $1.5 billion, which is up from $1 billion less than two years ago. The reason? “Financing costs,” which you’d have thought Falcons owner Arthur Blank would have worked out long ago since he already started construction on the place, but I guess this is just how rich guys who own NFL owners roll: Sometimes you need to cut another $100 million check to the bankers, whatcha gonna do?

Anyway, this does not increase the amount of money that Georgia taxpayers will be putting in, which is a good thing, since that’s already almost $600 million. It does make you wonder if building modern NFL buildings is really worth these insane price tags — are owners like Blank just chasing the increased franchise values that come with new stadiums, more so than actual revenues? Is this all a giant bubble that will collapse once the NFL concussion cascade collapse hits? Is the Falcons’ crazy sphincter roof really a clever homage to tulipomania? If not for that $600 million in public funds, these would all be fun questions to ask and kibitz on.

D.C., Maryland, Virginia ready three-way race to throw money at Washington’s next NFL stadium

It’s early yet, but it looks like Washington’s NFL team is setting up for a three-way bidding war to see who’ll get to build the replacement for FedEx Field, which is 18 years old already, why is this taking so long? According to the Washington Post:

[Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe] has pitched multiple sites for a stadium in Loudoun County along the unbuilt second leg of Metro’s Silver Line, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations. Those people say that Virginia officials have also begun discussing infrastructure costs and legal agreements with the team.

Maryland, where the team has played for nearly two decades, has just begun its own effort to keep the Redskins, led by new Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who proclaimed support for the team’s moniker during his campaign. Hogan said he recently pitched Redskins owner Daniel Snyder on staying in Maryland during a two-hour meeting.

D.C., meanwhile, hasn’t had any talks lately with Snyder since people finished laughing at councilmember Vincent Orange’s laughable 100,000-seat stadium plan, but it’s still always on the back burner, especially now that D.C. United will be leaving RFK Stadium, making that site available for a possible future football stadium. Snyder undoubtedly knows that bidding wars are the best way to get politicians to open taxpayers’ wallets with alacrity — it worked amazingly for the Nationals, after all — so he’s starting early.

And in case you’re wondering whether Snyder signed a lease at FedEx Field when it opened in 1997: Sure he did, and it runs through 2027, but that’s not going to stop him from talking about building a new stadium now — especially if he thinks that he can either get a new suitor to help him buy his way out of the end of that lease, or get Maryland to let him break the lease in exchange for not hopping across the state border. This is why “no talking about new stadiums” lease clauses are so important, and why the St. Petersburg city council is absolutely justified in not wanting to let the Tampa Bay Rays out of theirs for cheap.