Panthers owner gets giant statue of self, endless Pepsi machines, at least one from public

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson got an $88 million gift from Charlotte city taxpayers in 2013 — after being invited to sit in on closed-door council meetings on the subsidy — to perform upgrades to the stadium that he himself owns. The Panthers just revealed the latest batch of goodies they’re building with the money, and they include:

  • “Four new security posts around the stadium to account for people coming onto the property and to account for people once they are inside the property,” according to Panthers exec Lance Emory.
  • Ninety-five new walkthrough metal detectors.
  • More WiFi access points.
  • Improvements to the top 500 level deck, including digital menu boards and all-you-can-drink Pepsi stations.

None of that is terrible stuff to add, though why it’s the responsibility of the city of Charlotte to add it remains baffling. (In return for the money, Richardson only promised to keep the team in town until 2019, which by one accounting is the third-richest per-year subsidy in NFL history.) If you want terrible stuff to add, you have to turn to this:

According to the Charlotte Observer, the two panthers “represent both offense and defense and North Carolina and South Carolina.” But you’d surely figured that out already.

I can’t find any reporting on how much the statue cost, let alone what money was used to pay for it, but given that it’s described as a birthday present from Richardson’s corporate partners, at best it’s something that they could afford to give him because of the $88 million in city cash that he brought in by hanging out with the city council back in 2013. Maybe those two cats in the statue represent something else as well, which suggests an even better nickname for the thing.

Adelson says Vegas stadium cost could be $2.1B, does $1B in public cash sound better now?

The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee met yesterday as planned to discuss Sheldon Adelson’s proposed stadium to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, and discussed nine possible stadium sites and holy mother of God:

The estimated price tag has gone up, from an initial $1.4 billion to possibly as much as $2.1 billion. The rise in price would be in part due to land acquisitions, as well as the stadium now being proposed as a retractable dome.

(Props to NBC’s Mike Florio for noting that ESPN totally buried the lede on this one, though not nearly as badly as Adelson’s own Las Vegas Review-Journal did.)

Land acquisition money was expected to be a problem, though not $700 million worth of problem. (Adelson and his partners actually estimated the cost at between $1.7 billion and $2.1 billion, according to the Las Vegas Sun, apparently the only paper whose reporter  showed up at the hearing with a notepad.) A retractable roof — which Raiders owner Mark Davis now says he’d prefer — could add up to a large chunk of that cost, though, given how pricey those are to build.

This doesn’t change the estimated public price tag for the stadium, which is holding steady at right around $1 billion, but it does make a $1 billion expenditure seem slightly less exorbitant, maybe, if throwing a billion dollars in taxpayer cash at a $2 billion project sounds less wasteful than throwing a billion dollars at a $1.4 billion project. (There’s no reason it would be, but, you know, anchoring.) Why, you’d almost have to wonder if Adelson and Davis had that in mind when they released their new, bulkier cost estimates … but no, that would be devious and calculating, and billionaire casino owners/political kingmakers and sports team owners would never do a thing like that, right?

Chargers $1.15B stadium subsidy headed to November ballot, no one knows that that will mean

The San Diego Chargers have gotten enough signatures to put their $1.15 billion stadium-plus-convention-center-expansion plan on the November ballot — though they still don’t know how many votes they’ll need to pass it, and won’t until a judge rules on that matter, probably not until well after November — but for the moment I want to focus on how this was covered in the local media. The San Diego Union-Tribune:

If approved, the proposal could keep the team from moving to the Los Angeles area, where they’ve been approved by NFL ownership to join the Rams in a new stadium being built in Inglewood.

The Los Angeles Times:

If successful, the franchise would stay in San Diego, as opposed to exercising its option to relocate to Los Angeles as a tenant to Rams owner Stan Kroenke at the stadium he has under construction on the former site of Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood.

Is this really accurate, though? Sure, Chargers owner Dean Spanos says he has an agreement in principle to move to Inglewood if the San Diego stadium proposal fails, but he hasn’t provided any details, and for all we know this is just posturing to try to scare San Diegans into approving his stadium subsidy demands. I mean, probably not — Spanos would presumably rather be a renter in a new stadium in L.A. than top dog in his old one in San Diego — but that all depends on how much Rams owner Stan Kroenke is demanding in tribute to play in his stadium.

Either way, it seems a bit much to make “this will keep the team from moving to L.A.” the lede, as opposed to, say, mentioning that $1.15 billion public price tag, which doesn’t appear until the 5th paragraph in the L.A. Times article, and the 7th paragraph in the U-T article. (Both papers share ownership.) Spanos may be a long, long way from winning the vote, but he’s doing a great job winning the battle to frame the story being told in the papers.

New potential Vegas stadium site emerges, public price tag still near $1B

There’s a new contender to be the site of a new Oakland Raiders stadium in Las Vegas, according to the people who own the land:

Representatives of Red Rock Resorts Inc. on Thursday confirmed that the Wild Wild West Gambling Hall & Hotel, about a half-mile west of I-15, is in the running as a potential site for the stadium proposed as a public-private partnership by Las Vegas Sands Inc., Majestic Realty and the Oakland Raiders.

That could work, sure: It’s just across I-15 from the Strip, which would make the stadium’s planners happy, and it has 58 acres of space with nothing much more than a Days Inn (with casino) on it, so it could easily fit a stadium plus surrounding development. Of course, nobody knows what Red Rock would want for the property, but hey, it’s only money, right?

And speaking of only money, the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meets again today to debate whether to provide the $750 million in public subsidies that Sheldon Adelson and Mark Davis are asking for (really $1 billion) or the $550 million that the committee has proposed (really $950 million). Try not to get too excited over the outcome — the real decision will be when the Nevada legislature decides whether to throw whatever vast sums of money the committee has proposed at Adelson or Davis, which won’t be for a while yet.

Dolphins, Hurricanes say stadium will definitely be ready by opening day, unless it isn’t

Miami Dolphins execs say it’s categorically untrue that their renovated stadium may not be ready in time for opening day in September:

The reports that the stadium won’t be ready for football until November are incorrect. Getting a project of this scale done in this timeframe is unprecedented and the contractor is working diligently on a 24/7 basis to complete the canopy structure.  While we will still be doing some “non-football critical” elements and final touches into the season similar to Phase 1 last year, at this point in the process we still expect to be ready to play football September 1.

Note that this isn’t a “we’ll be 100% done” statement, more a “you’ll be able to watch football and we’ll be able to play it” statement, which leaves lots of possibility for a Wrigley Field 2015 scenario where the stadium is a partial construction site for a couple of months, though hopefully at least the Dolphins owners will make sure the first thing they finish is the restrooms. But at least nobody’s worried about having to actually move games to other venues—

You know, maybe it’s best not to assume anything. Good luck, Miami!

Guy on TV says renovated Dolphins stadium may not be ready until November

File this under “stuff that sports media personalities say when interviewed by other sports media personalities” for now, but former Miami sports talk radio host Hank Goldberg says the Miami Dolphins‘ stadium overhaul is in a “real dicey situation,” with renovations possibly not complete in time for the team’s home opener, and “there are some who say that the stadium may not be ready until November.”

Could we be looking at a potential Hartford Yard Goats situation here, but in the NFL? Dolphins execs have repeatedly insisted that the stadium work is on schedule and will be completed in time for the regular season opener; the team’s stadium website doesn’t offer a construction cam, so we can’t even try to eyeball it ourselves. The fallback plan would presumably be playing Dolphins (and University of Miami) games in Orlando for a month or two, which would be bad since that’s three and a half hours from Miami, but we’ll cross that bridge once this problem is sourced to someone other than “there are some who say.”

All the proposed sites for a Vegas Raiders stadium are pretty much unworkable

Billionaire casino baron Sheldon Adelson and not-quite-billionaire Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis may be successfully getting Las Vegas officials to ignore the fact that they’re demanding the largest NFL stadium subsidy in history and instead settle for haggling over the price, but even if they get the public cash — which is still to be determined — they have to find a place to build the thing. And somewhat surprisingly, given that Vegas is in the middle of a trackless desert, this is turning out to be a bit of a problem:

  • The top site, on Tropicana Avenue near McCarran Airport, is now pretty much off the table thanks to the opposition of Southwest Airlines, which would have seen its flights scaled back thanks to the stadium interfering with available airspace.
  • The former site of the Riviera Hotel and Casino could work, except that that’s also the proposed site of a convention center expansion. Though given that half the reason behind the stadium proposal is thought to be to block to convention center plan — Adelson runs a competing convention center, and is hoping to suck up hotel tax money so it can’t be used to expand his rivals — this probably won’t be a stumbling block for Adelson, it could be for elected officials.
  • There’s the Rock in Rio grounds, but that’s privately owned and would cost a ton to purchase, and the Las Vegas 51’s Cashman Field, which is way the hell out in the middle of nowhere and nobody likes it as a site.
  • The latest contender is a site adjacent to the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus, which was previously under consideration by Majestic Realty, yet another one of the partners on this latest stadium project, for an earlier planned UNLV stadium, before the university ditched it when other local casino operators griped. No recurrence of those gripes has re-emerged as of yet, but there’s still plenty of time left to go.

Undoubtedly, Adelson and friends will ultimately find a site — team owners always do — and the bigger issue will be the money. The two are tied together, though, not just because a purchase price for land may have to be folded into the stadium funding deal, but because there’s the question of that tax increment district that Adelson wants, which could kick back more or less tax revenue to the stadium’s private owners depending on where it ends up going, and how many people visit there on non-game days. This is normally the sort of thing you’d hope local elected officials would work out before considering whether to drop almost a billion dollars on a project, but the combination of the lure of an NFL team and the combined lobbying might of Adelson plus Majestic can sway a lot of politicians to overlook details like “where will it go” or “how will we pay for it,” apparently.

Broncos stadium name contract goes up for auction, no one bids even one dollar

Man, I hate when I get all excited about a news story and then it turns out to be a big ball of nothing. That appears to be the case with Friday’s news that the naming rights to the Denver Broncos stadium had gone up for sale, and nobody even bothered to bid:

The stadium in Denver is called Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, named after the eponymous sporting goods retailer in 2011. However, Sports Authority filed for bankruptcy in March and put the naming rights up for sale as part of a court-supervised auction.

No bidders for the rights came forward at an auction of the retailer’s assets held this week, Matt Sugar, the director of stadium affairs at the Metropolitan Football Stadium District, which is the owner of the stadium, said on Friday. Discussions are underway about launching a new auction for the naming rights.

Wow, really, nobody? I’ve argued before that naming rights for existing stadiums aren’t worth much, in part because after a couple of name changes everybody just gives up and calls it whatever it was called in the first place — and with “Mile High” stuck there in the name, that gives fans a great option to ignore whatever new corporate moniker got slapped on ahead of it. But you’d think somebody — some publicity-desperate tech startup, Peeple, anybody — would throw a token $1 at the bankruptcy auction, no?

Except then there’s this:

The contract for the naming rights up for grabs extends until 2021, and comes with a $3.6 million payment obligation due Aug. 1.

And there’s the catch: Sports Authority isn’t really auctioning off the rights to the Broncos stadium name — it’s auctioning off its contract to put a name on the Broncos stadium. And since the stadium name is almost certainly worth less than the $6 million a year the company agreed to pay back in 2011, the rights to take on those payments probably have a negative value, which is why nobody bothered to bid.

The more likely scenario now is that no one bids for the rights, Sports Authority misses that August 1 payment, and the Denver Metropolitan Football Stadium District gets to re-sell the rights to the highest bidder, of which there will no doubt be some, even if they won’t be offering $6 million a year. The Broncos and the district split the proceeds from naming rights, so Sports Authority’s bankruptcy could end up costing both the team owners and the public some money — though not as much as the naming-rights deal cost Sports Authority, since the move may have helped push the company into bankruptcy. You think maybe everyone might have thought this through better in the first place?

CA court rules tax hikes need two-thirds vote for now, Chargers stadium plan totally hosed, man

Sorry for neglecting this yesterday, because it’s big news, or at least small news that will make a big impact: The California Supreme Court has agreed to review an appellate court ruling that had lowered the threshold for citizen tax-increase initiatives from two-thirds to a simple majority. That’s just review, not overturn — but since it’ll take months if not years for a new ruling, that means the San Diego Chargers‘ plans for a stadium vote this November are hosed, since there’s no way they’re going to win a two-thirds majority. Why, just check out the headline on chief Chargers stadium cheerleader Kevin Acee’s San Diego Union Tribune column today:

Chargers’ stadium hopes take punch to gut

HOPES GOT GUTS! But do continue, Kevin:

California’s two-thirds requirement for tax hikes is a political Mount Everest. Here, given the current climate of some 60 percent of potential voters being opposed to public funds being used for a stadium, it is more like climbing to the moon on a stairway of pixie dust.

So what happens next? The Chargers owners continue their initiative campaign, no doubt (they’ve already submitted petition signatures), and then they lose in November, and then they decide by January whether to avail themselves of their NFL-granted option to bunk with the Los Angeles Rams in their new Inglewood stadium or stick around in San Diego while waiting out the Supreme Court ruling (and hoping the Oakland Raiders don’t then move to L.A. instead). It’s still entirely possible that team owner Dean Spanos doesn’t care, and has a secret plan to lose in November, say, “Hey, I tried,” and then move to L.A. without getting his existing San Diego fan base to come after him with pitchforks and torches, but we’ll find out in January, I guess.

 

Bills exec: New stadium wouldn’t help us, because Buffalo fans can’t afford pricey seats

Buffalo Bills president Russ Brandon gave a long interview to the Buffalo News yesterday in which he gave a good explanation of team owner Terry Pegula’s puzzling reticence to demand a new stadium like Roger Goodell and the rest of the league would like him to do. In short: A new stadium with luxury suites and all that wouldn’t help them much, because Buffalo.

“We have not met and discussed anything relative to all the noise,” Bills managing partner and President Russ Brandon said of the New Stadium Working Group, formed two years ago, that includes state and local political leaders. “We have not met since April (2014), right after (previous team owner) Ralph (Wilson) passed away, on a new stadium.

“We’re going to take a very slow, quantitative, objective view on what makes sense.”…

“We have made the model work on the Bills side, based on how we have built the business from a volume standpoint,” Brandon said. “So you have a lot of tickets in the building, general-admission seats in the building, 6,800 club seats, a lot of suites and price points have been fairly manageable, amongst the lowest in the league. As we go through market-condition studies and different things that you do when you look at things, like we’ve done previously with renovations, and as you update that information, you have to look and see what makes sense.

“The key is to realize that we are not LA. We are not Atlanta. We’re not Minneapolis. People say, ‘Oh, we’re very similar to Minneapolis.’ They have 28 Fortune 500 companies in that community. We have zero. We have to be a regional operation. We know that. That’s proven.

“But with a new stadium comes new economics. And with new economics comes a public-private partnership, (personal seat licenses), a lot of infrastructure cost. So we have to look at it in a very macro view and make sure that, as a community and as an organization, that there’s a partnership that exists that makes sense.”

There’s a lot to unpack there, but this is the first time I can recall a pro sports team owner arguing, Hey, our fans don’t have enough money to buy all the high-priced seats that a new stadium would give us, so what’s the point? Trying to make money on volume rather than by focusing on extracting as much money as possible from deep-pocketed fans goes against the sports tide in the post-Reagan economy, but it’s not hard to believe that Buffalo might still be a different world in this regard. (Though it’s also possible that Brandon and Pegula are just waiting for “a partnership that makes sense,” aka an appetite for more public money that would make a new stadium worth their while.)

The real question now is why Goodell keeps beating the new-stadium drum when the Bills owners don’t want him to. Is it because he thinks the league would somehow make more money even if the Bills owners are convinced they wouldn’t? Because having Buffalo in an old stadium hurts the argument of other team owners that they can’t possibly survive in their 20-year-old place? Because it doesn’t look shiny enough on TV? Because he’s just so used to playing bad cop that he can’t get out of character? All of the above? Your guess is as good as mine.