Friday roundup: Congress gets riled up over minor-league contraction, Calgary official proposes redirecting Flames cash, plus what’s the deal with that Star Trek redevelopment bomb anyway?

Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. readers, who if they haven’t yet may want to read the New Yorker’s thoughtful takedown of the myths that the holiday was built on. Or there’s always the movie version, which has fewer historical details but is shorter and features a singing turkey.

And speaking of turkeys, how are our favorite stadium and arena deals faring this holiday week?

Liveblogging that ginormous ESPN article about the Rams’ and Chargers’ new stadium

ESPN ran a major print feature yesterday on the difficult road the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers are facing since winning the right to move to L.A. from their previous homes of St. Louis and San Diego, respectively, touching on the teams’ attendance woes, bad blood between their owners, and pretty much everything else you could want to know if you’re a football obsessive. As a non-football obsessive myself, I mostly wanted to know what this all means for the present and future of sports stadium deals — Rams owner Stan Kroenke is famously funding the teams’ new Inglewood stadium out of his own pocket — and so the only way to approach this was to break it into bite-size chunks as I went along, because damned if I was going to read the whole thing twice.

And so, as a public service, here is me reading that ESPN article so you don’t have to:

It is a futuristic mass of steel and concrete that appears to have both risen from the earth and descended from space.

This is going to be really long, isn’t it? Normal-length articles don’t get to stop and milk their purple prose like that; I smell longform.

backers hope SoFi will mark the end of one NFL era in Los Angeles — defined by rotting venues and teams that have drifted in and out over 73 years

“Rotting venues” — everybody drink!

the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers, an arranged marriage of clubs whose high-level executives barely speak with one another

Okay, maybe this will be juicy! Getting interested now.

In the fourth quarter against the Steelers, the opening of the Styx song “Renegade,” a Steelers anthem, blared from the stadium’s sound system, the setup to a failed Chargers joke that got the visiting fans even rowdier. Overhead, as with most Chargers home games, a plane dragged a banner that read: “Impeach Dean Spanos.”

Look, I don’t have any rooting interest against the Los Angeles Chargers — I think the last football team I either rooted for or against may have been the New Jersey Generals — but it is very easy to hate Dean Spanos as a man who 1) tried to get his city to pay several hundred million dollars toward a new stadium even though residents were clearly massively against it, and 2) when that didn’t work, moved his team a hundred miles away without really considering the consequences, mostly so that nobody else could do it first. So schadenfreude, yep, that seems like the appropriate response here.

In 2015, the Rams’ Inglewood project, then estimated to cost $1.86 billion, was competing against a Chargers-Raiders $1.8 billion option in Carson. Few outside the NFL knew it, but Jones positioned himself to profit from either proposal. Concessions for either project — and the construction, in the case of Inglewood — would be managed by Legends, the company co-owned by Jones and the Steinbrenner family.

I mean, sort of? Legends manages concessions at all kinds of venues, so really Jerry Jones just profits from “sports existing as a thing people like.” But getting the construction management for Inglewood certainly had to be the cherry on the top for Jones.

Kroenke — one of the NFL’s wealthiest team owners, worth an estimated $9.7 billion — would pay to build the stadium, perhaps the only option in California, whose legislators and voters rarely approve a single public dollar for new stadiums. Spanos, a long-respected owner with a reputation for putting the league first, would be given the first option to be Kroenke’s tenant, for $1 a year, and if the Chargers decided to remain in San Diego, the Raiders could join the Rams in L.A. — an outcome nobody around the league wanted, owing to Al Davis’ burned bridges and the co-opting of team apparel by gangs…

Now these unequal partners are locked in a bitter fight, stoked by Kroenke’s fury over cost overruns exceeding $3 billion, questions over the Chargers’ long-term viability in the market, a lawsuit seeking billions over Kroenke’s departure from St. Louis that has engulfed the entire league, and an increasingly fractious and sometimes petty civil war between Rams and Chargers officials, according to documents and nearly two dozen interviews with owners, league and team executives, and lawyers.

First of all, of all the reasons NFL owners, or anyone, hates Al Davis, I’m sure “gang members wear his team’s jerseys” is wayyyyy down the list. But I’m down for the increasingly fractious and sometimes petty civil war. And tell us about those infuriating cost overruns!

A PHONE CALL between Kroenke and Goodell in the autumn of 2015 was a harbinger for the current impasse.

Aw hell, this is going to be one of those New Yorker–style “But first we must return to the beginning…” formats, isn’t it? Scroll scroll scroll.

On a whiteboard, the two options that had been on the table for a year — “STAN/LA” and “CHARGERS-RAIDERS/CARSON” — were crossed out.

Scroll.

“I don’t want to go to L.A.,” Spanos said. “I want to stay.”

Ha ha whiny rich boy! Scroll.

He was determined to do what was best for his club and for his family

For his family! Scroll!

Spanos and his executives surprised Rams officials by drawing a hard line, demanding a cut of all revenue streams, input over design elements, and approval over all decisions made by Legends and by StadCo L.A. LLC, the stadium company controlled by Kroenke. Rams officials tried to be cordial, but they seethed. The way they saw it, Spanos had the entire Southern California market to himself for 21 seasons with little to show for it, but now he felt entitled to a chunk of revenue on a project to which he would contribute one dollar a year.

Kroenke sort of had a point there, except that much of that revenue — seat licenses, suite sales, naming rights — would be generated by those extra eight home games a year played by the Chargers. Spanos ended up getting to keep 15% of revenues from suites, naming rights, and sponsorships, the story notes shortly afterwards, which had the unfortunate consequence that each team owner would benefit as much from the other’s luxury seating sales as his own. This was not a good start for two owners who didn’t much like each other to begin with, and liked each other even less after a contentious negotiating session.

All the revenue from both teams’ sale of SSLs would go to Kroenke to help defray the cost of the stadium. But per the term sheet, the Chargers neither had to meet a revenue target nor even sell a single SSL.

Anyone getting the sense yet that Stan Kroenke is maybe kind of a terrible negotiator?

When it was Spanos’ turn to speak, he surveyed the scarce and scattered Chargers fans. “This is surreal!” he said. A group of fans flipped him off.

Seriously, I will be just fine if this article is nothing but this the rest of the way down.

JERRY JONES HAS always believed in the transformative power of a new home

SCROLL!

“big balls”

Drink again!

Most teams hire at least a dozen staffers to handle SSL sales for a new stadium, in addition to hiring a company like Legends. The Chargers, which outsourced most of the work to Legends, were flying blind in L.A., with no analytics department or sophisticated method of reaching fans… All the Chargers had was “a couple of email addresses” of potential ticket holders, in the words of a team executive, and a slogan — “Fight for L.A.!” — that sounded less like a rallying cry and more like a schoolyard challenge to their future landlord, which did not go unnoticed by Rams executives, who mocked the slogan.

Well, you know, of course they did. Because of the way the agreement was written, no matter how many seat licenses the Chargers sold, the money would just go to defray Kroenke’s stadium costs. And while it would be no fun to not sell many tickets to Chargers fans, if you’re getting 15% of all the shared venue revenues, that makes the empty seats go down a lot easier.

I’ve had a bunch of conversations with Roger Noll where we’ve scratched our heads about what Kroenke was thinking by spending billions of dollars on a new stadium just so he could move into a bigger market in a league where market size means next to nothing thanks to the equally shared national TV contract, and I think we may have our answer: Hey, Roger, I think Stan Kroenke may just be an idiot.

Spanos and Chargers COO Jeanne Bonk then made a controversial decision. They slashed prices for 26,000 upper deck seats, lowering tickets to the $50 to $90 range, and dropped the SSL rate to $100 — up to 15 times less than the Rams were charging for the same seats. … Spanos insisted the price drop wasn’t a spiteful move but a reflection of weak demand.

Nothing saying it couldn’t be both!

Chargers executives were convinced the Rams were lashing out because stadium construction was billions over budget. In the eyes of Chargers brass, the Rams had every right to be angry. But blowing up at Legends was tricky for the Rams because Jones had delivered the L.A. vote — and Kroenke and Jones have become pals, a power clique of two. Still, Legends had never managed a project so massive — and it had “gone off the rails,” a source close to Legends says. It began in 2016, when the Rams realized that both initial estimates — $1.86 billion in early 2015, which rose to $2.4 billion by late 2015 — had been poorly calculated. Vendor costs ballooned because of competition with LAX’s $14 billion renovation. The infrastructure was unexpectedly pricey, with a massive retaining wall required 100 feet below grade for the field. A record amount of rain in early 2017 complicated matters even more, filling the hole of the field with up to 15 feet of water that needed to be drained and costing the Rams 40 work days. And so the Rams announced in May of that year that completion would be delayed until 2020. In March 2018, the project had hit a cost of $5 billion, but the price continues to go up. StadCo officials now refer to it to owners and executives around the league as “our $6 billion stadium,” although some executives insist it won’t be that high.

It’s tough to make apples-to-apples comparisons of cost overruns on the Inglewood stadium, because Kroenke has been sort of hazy at times about whether he was talking about construction costs for just the stadium or for the entire complex, which will also include a 6,000-seat theater, housing, office and retail space, a 12-screen movie theater, a luxury hotel, a brewery, and a lake with a waterfall fountain. Still, $4 billion in extra costs is a stupendous amount of money, and makes what was already a questionable deal for Kroenke look like a total disaster, no matter how many seat licenses the Rams and Chargers can manage to sell. And given NFL owner politics, “Kroenke can’t do anything about it because Jerry Jones’s company is in charge of construction and you can’t cross Jerry Jones” makes total, stupid sense.

There’s more, including the lawsuit against the NFL for violating its own relocation rules that’s demanding that NFL teams pay over the $1.1 billion in relocation fees received from Spanos and Kroenke as restitution, and more bickering between the two owners (“There have been spats over the types of golf carts the stadium will use”). Go read it yourself, but be forewarned, it is so very, very long.

And yet despite its length, it never really addresses the elephant in the room: Will the opening of the new Inglewood stadium solve anything, for Kroenke or Spanos or the NFL or anyone? It sure seems unlikely: The teams remain relatively unpopular in L.A. (though the article does raise the prospect that they could end up fighting to be everybody’s second-favorite team in town behind whatever out-of-town team fans adopted during the NFL’s long absence, and then maybe eventually drawing new fans from a younger generation), Kroenke and Spanos are still trapped in a marriage of convenience, and that $5-6 billion price tag is going to be super-hard to make pay off, even if the stadium and luxury hotel and movie theater and whatnot are all massive successes. If so, it’ll be great for schadenfreude purposes of laughing at the owners who thought they could make a bundle by hightailing it to greener pastures and abandoning existing fans, but maybe less so for providing a model by which teams can effectively fund new stadiums without resorting to public subsidies. Which maybe isn’t so bad — if new stadiums mostly don’t pay for themselves, maybe everyone should just stop pretending the world needs tons of new stadiums — but given the way development politics work, I have to be at least a bit worried about future NFL owners telling cities, You gotta help us with money for this, we don’t want to be the next Stan Kroenke. Schadenfreude and glasses half-empty, those are this site’s two mainstays, and they’ve served me well so far!

Friday roundup: Developers pay locals $25 each to hold pro-arena signs, a smoking and farting winged horse team logo, and do you even need a third thing after those two?

It’s been another week of pretty bad news, topped off by a private equity firm somehow buying the entirety of .org domains, meaning every nonprofit website will now have to be licensed from an entity whose sole mission is to squeeze as much money from them as possible. The stadium and arena news, by contrast, isn’t all terrible, so maybe it qualifies as cheery? You be the judge:

  • The Richmond city council voted Tuesday to put off a decision on a $1.5 billion downtown development that would include a new arena (public cost: $350 million), after a contentious hearing where both supporters and opponents held signs espousing their opinions. Or espousing somebody’s opinions, anyway: Some locals holding “yes” signs later reported that the project’s developers paid them $25 a pop to do so. City council president Michelle Mosby replied that if anything people were just reimbursed gas money, which 1) only makes sense if everyone there drove their own car and had to travel like 250 miles round trip to get to the hearing and 2) isn’t really any less corrosive of democracy anyway.
  • If you’ve been wondering how Inter Miami plans to build a temporary 18,000-seat stadium in Fort Lauderdale (later to be turned into a practice field) between now and March and figured it would have to involve throwing up a bunch of cheap metal bleachers, now there’s video of construction workers doing exactly that. Also laying down the sod for the field, which I thought usually takes place after the stadium is more or less built, but I guess if they can build the stadium without treading on the field, no harm in doing so now. This all raises questions of whether the stadium will feel excessively crappy, and if not why more soccer teams can’t just build cheap quickie stadiums like this without the need for public money; I guess we’ll know the answer by springtime one way or another.
  • When the state of Minnesota agreed to pay for the Vikings‘ new stadium with cigarette revenue after electronic pulltab gambling money didn’t come in as expected, it still kept collecting the gambling cash; and now that e-pulltabs (which are just lottery tickets, only on a tablet) have taken off, there’s debate over what to do with the cash that the state is collecting, about $5 million this year but projected to rise to $51 million by 2023. The Vikings owners want the money used to pay off their stadium debt early, while some lawmakers would like to use the revenue to fund other projects or reduce taxes on charitable gambling institutions now that it’s no longer needed — all are valid options, but it’s important to remember that the state already paid for most of the stadium, this is just arguing over what to do with the zombie tax that was left over after the financing plan was changed. (It would also be nice to know if e-pulltab gambling has cannibalized revenues from other gambling options, thus making this less of a windfall, but modern journalists have no time for such trivialities.)
  • The city of Wichita is spending $77 million (plus free land) on a Triple-A baseball stadium to steal the Baby Cakes from New Orleans, and have been rewarded with the Wichita Wind Surge, a name that’s supposed to reference the city’s aviation history or something but actually means “storm surge,” which isn’t a thing that they have in landlocked Kansas? It also features a logo that looks like a horse and a fly got caught in a transporter accident, which the team’s designer explained with “The nice thing about Pegasus, however, to me, was the fact that it’s got a horse in there.” A local designer responded with a sketch of a winged horse smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer, and farting, which by all accounts is much more popular with Wichitans. (The sketch is, I mean, though I’d love to see a poll asking Wichitans, “Which do you prefer, the name Wichita Wind Surge or farting?”)
  • San Diego State University’s plan to buy the city’s old football stadium and its surrounding land for $87.7 million has hit some “speed bumps,” namely that city economists have determined that the price could be below the land’s market value and $10 million of the sale price would have to be set aside for infrastructure improvements for the university’s development. “There’s also the matter of the $1-per-month lease that, as proposed, may not adequately protect the city from expenses or legal risk,” notes the San Diego Union-Tribune. Given all these uncertainties, the city’s independent budget analyst called SDSU’s proposed March 27 deadline “very challenging,” not that that’s stopped city councils before.
  • Saskatoon has enough room under its debt limit to finance either a new central library or a new sports arena, and regardless of what you think of how badly Saskatooners need a new library, it’s still a pretty strong example of how opportunity costs work.
  • The Phoenix Suns‘ new practice facility being built with the help of public money will include a golf simulator for players, because of course it will.
  • Speaking of Phoenix, the Arizona Republic has revealed what the Diamondbacks owners want in a new stadium; the original article is paywalled, but for once Ballpark Digest‘s propensity for just straight-up paraphrasing other sites’ reporting comes in handy, revealing that team owners want a 36,000-  to 42,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof and surrounded by a 45- to 70-acre mixed-use development and a 5,000-seat concert venue and good public transit and full control of naming-rights revenue and public cost-sharing on ballpark repairs. And a pony.
  • Will Raiders football hike your home value?” asks the Nevada Current, apparently because “Is the moon made of green cheese?” had already been taken.
  • And last but certainly not least, your weekly vaportecture roundup: The New Orleans Saints‘ $450 million renovation of the Superdome (two-thirds paid for by taxpayers) will include field-level open-air end zone spaces where fans have ample room enjoy rendered people’s propensity for flinging their arms in the air! The new Halifax Schooners stadium designs lack the woman hailing a cab and players playing two different sports at once from previous renderings, but do seem to still allow fans to just wander onto the field if they want! It should come as no surprise to anyone that even Chuck D can do a better job of drawing than this.

Could Jeff Bezos buy Dan Snyder’s football team, and should we care?

I’ve got to admit, despite following along as it happened, I’m pretty confused as to exactly how or why the sports media is all het up about the possibility of Amazon kingpin Jeff Bezos buying Washington’s NFL team from Dan Snyder, based on pretty much nothing. So let’s piece together what led to this state of affairs:

  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, who loves him some anonymously sourced rumors, wrote on Sunday about how Bezos is moving to D.C., and pals around with NFL owners including, and it’s all “creating a stir in that area.”
  • Everybody hates Snyder.
  • Other outlets took La Canfora’s four-paragraph story and spun it out into way more speculation, mostly comparing the size of the two billionaires’ bankbooks and theorizing that NFL owners would love to have Bezos in their club because it’d make them look cool. Also, everybody hates Snyder.
  • A Snyder spokesperson pointed out that the team is not for sale, and added that “Mr. Snyder hasn’t seen Jeff Bezos in nearly a decade,” which would seem to contradict La Canfora’s intel.

And … that’s pretty much it. Somebody somewhere told a reporter off the record something along the lines of man, that Jeff Bezos sure is a hoopy frood, he’d make a way less embarrassing owner than Dan Snyder, and next thing you know everyone, including me, is forced to write about it because it’s in the news media, so it must be news.

La Canfora also made mention of Snyder’s so-far stalled new-stadium dreams, opining that “some believe [Bezos] could aid Snyder’s pursuit of a new stadium, perhaps even with an Amazon sponsorship.” I mean, he could, sure — though if by “sponsorship” La Canfora means buying naming rights, Snyder presumably wouldn’t have trouble selling those, and Bezos presumably isn’t going to overpay to put Amazon’s name on a stadium just because he wants an excuse to hang out with NFL owners. (Does Amazon even need the name recognition that comes from a stadium naming rights deal? That’s really more for airlines who are afraid you’ve never heard of them.) The bigger problems for Snyder regarding a stadium have to do with getting permission to use land in D.C. and getting cash to build a stadium with and … you know, this is way more response than this rumor-of-a-rumor story of which hated billionaire might own a hated sports franchise deserves. Go read Mark Trail instead, he’s hitting an alligator with a big stick!

Friday roundup: Oakland opens A’s land sale talks, Clippers arena down to two lawsuits, plus video vaportecture!

I know it’s not Deadspin — nothing is, or ever will be again, though we can dream — or even sports, but I have an article up at City Limits this week about another big-money public construction project that seems to be proceeding despite no one quite knowing how it will work or how it will be paid for. It’s probably only a matter of time before sports team owners figure out a way to do promote new stadiums as worthy of climate resilience funding, especially since local governments are already showing themselves willing to spend climate money poorly to benefit rich people.

Anyway, oodles of bonus news this week, plus more vaportecture, so let’s get to it:

  • The city of Oakland is starting talks with the A’s owners about selling the city’s half of the Oakland Coliseum property to the team for development — with the proceeds to be used to build a new stadium on the Oakland waterfront — but still hasn’t dropped its lawsuit against Alameda County for agreeing to sell its share to the A’s without consulting the city. Meanwhile, here’s an article by the mayor of Oakland about how baseball and port operations are both good things, let’s find a way to make them both work together!
  • The Federal Aviation Administration has ruled that the proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena in Inglewood poses no danger to aviation at nearby Los Angeles International Airport, and a judge has dismissed claims that the city was required to seek affordable housing uses for the site first. But the project still faces two more lawsuits over how Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was granted the land and whether the city illegally evaded open-meetings laws, so we could yet be here a while.
  • Paterson, New Jersey is asking the state Economic Development Authority for $50 million in tax credits to use on a $76 million project redevelopment of Hinchliffe Stadium, a crumbling (this term is way overused, but it’s actually crumbling) former Negro League stadium, into “a 7,800-seat athletic facility, with a 314-space parking garage, restaurant with museum exhibits dedicated to Negro League baseball, 75-unit apartment building for senior citizens and a 5,800-square-foot childcare facility.” The rest of the article doesn’t explain much about what the renovation will look like or how the money will be spent or who will collect revenues from the new facility or anything, but it does include Mayor André Sayegh opining that you could “have a big concert there. Boxing. Wrestling. It could all happen there,” and Councilmember Michael Jackson countering that “to spend money on this project is senseless” since it will only create maybe 50 jobs. Feel free to take sides!
  • The Arena Football League has suspended operationsagain — after getting sued for nonpayment by its former insurance company, but “may become a traveling league, similar to the Premier Lacrosse League, whereby all players practice in a centralized location and fly to a different city each weekend to play games.”
  • Nashville S.C.‘s MLS stadium is now on hold, with Mayor John Cooper suspending demolition to clear the site, amid a lawsuit charging that the project and its $75 million in public cash were approved improperly and will interfere with the annual Tennessee state fair. The Tennessee Tribune writes that “it’s only a matter of time before the MLS soccer stadium contracts will be voided and put out to bid again”; I am not a lawyer, but then, neither are the Tribune’s journalists, so we’ll see.
  • If you want to rent office space in the Texas Rangers‘ old stadium for some reason, you now can! Just realize that it won’t be air-conditioned when you go outside.
  • The Minnesota Vikings‘ stadium is killing more than a hundred birds a year, but other buildings kill even more birds, which means the Vikings clearly need a more state-of-the-art bird-killing building, that’s how this works, right?
  • Here’s a photo of how the new Los Angeles Rams (and Chargers) stadium looks in its current state of construction, and if you think that the “vertical design” will make it feel “intimate.” then you agree with one Rams fan! Another fan, who was sitting in the fourth row of seats behind the end zone, remarked, “I kind of expected the field (area) to be much larger, to take you away from the experience. But you’re going to be right in the game.” Two takeaways: There are reasons why teams never invite fans to sit in the cheap seats to see what the view will be like from there, and American sports fans really aren’t great with geometry.
  • Calgary is looking at cutting wages for city employees to balance its budget, and one local economist thinks maybe not building the Flames a new arena would be a better idea.
  • The five-county sales tax surcharge that paid for the Milwaukee Brewers‘ Miller Park is finally set to phase out in January, after 23 years and $577 million. This is not so good news if you’re upset about Wisconsin taxpayers spending $577 million to pay for a private sports owner’s baseball stadium, but good news if you were worried that the Brewers or some other sports team might see the sales tax money sitting around and want to propose a new project to spend it on, which is always a worry.
  • The Montreal Canadiens have gotten a reduction in their property tax bill for the fourth time since 2013, even while property valuations elsewhere in the city are soaring. No reason was given, but “they’re major players in the local business community and whined about it a lot” seems like a reasonable theory.
  • Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist John Steigerwald asks about public funding for the Pirates‘ now 18-year-old stadium, “If the Pirates were faced with paying for their ballpark, do you think they might have had more incentive to insist on real revenue sharing and a salary cap before they built it?” Answer: No, rich people have incentive to demand money everywhere they can find it, regardless if they already have money, which Pirates owner Bob Nutting totally does. Next question!
  • I promised you vaportecture, so here’s some vaportecture: a ten-second video of the entryway to the Phoenix Suns arena morphing into a somewhat snazzier entryway now that the city of Phoenix agreed to spend $168 million in renovations in exchange for a few tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations. (Actual quid pro quo not included, but you can picture it easily enough.) Yes, it’s mostly just a bunch of new video boards and some new escalators being enjoyed by a handful of beefy white people, but isn’t that what pro basketball is all about?

NFL officials leak word that league could move Chargers to London, or at least threaten to

Man, no sooner do I go and post about rumors that the Jacksonville Jaguars could move to London than The Athletic (paywalled) goes and reports rumors that the Los Angeles Chargers could move to London:

The Athletic has learned through NFL sources that the possibility of the Chargers moving to London has been broached among league personnel. The Athletic also has learned that, while the team is fully committed to Los Angeles where it will move into the new $4.5 billion stadium with the Rams next year, the Chargers would at least listen if the NFL approached them about London as a possible option.

Finally, The Athletic has learned that NFL owners are concerned enough about the Chargers’ situation in L.A., where a crowded sports market and the presence of the more established Rams has resulted in a tepid embracement of the Chargers, that they would provide the necessary support for a relocation to London if the Chargers pursue it.

That’s a whole lot of completely anonymously sourced reporting, coming down to: People around the NFL are talking about what if the Chargers moved to London, and the Chargers owners would consider it, as would other NFL owners, given that the Chargers’ situation in L.A. is such a flagrant dumpster fire.

Of course, the problem with anonymously sourced reporting is that you never know what the motivation is of the people hiding behind anonymity — or to put it more bluntly, these people could be lying thanks to an ulterior motive. What could that be? Pretty much anything: Trying to scare Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke into modifying how much cash he wants from Chargers owner Dean Spanos to play in his stadium or into allowing them out of their deal to share digs entirely, trying to scare Chargers fans into buying more tickets to avoid having their team leave the continent entirely, trying to keep alive the London threat even though a full-time NFL team there still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (It makes sense if you’re the NFL maybe and want some sucker to take a travel hit in order to expand the league’s market, but less so if you’re that sucker.)

Regardless, if some within the NFL are openly (if not so open as to actually give their names) advocating for a London move to be considered, that’s a pretty blunt admission that approving the Chargers’ move from San Diego to L.A. was a complete catastrophe, and at least some league officials are looking for an exit strategy. London might or might not be it, but it certainly seems like somebody is ready to shake something up about the Chargers’ future plans, which can only mean one thing: More future ESPN articles where Jerry Jones talks about people’s balls.

 

Jaguars owner mumbles incoherently about Green Day and math, clearly he wants a new stadium

Ever since Shad Khan bought the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011 and moved one home game a year to London, there’s been talk about the billionaire car parts baron and Fulham F.C. owner either wanting to move the team there permanently, or use the threat of moving there to get upgrades to his now-24-year-old home stadium in Jacksonville, or something. This past weekend, Khan gave a long interview to his own website, as one does, and said a bunch of stuff about the matter that, well:

Khan … discussed the continuing trend of holding megaevents at TIAA Bank Field. The Rolling Stones played there in July, and Green Day is expected to play there as part of The Hella Mega Tour in 2020.

“What’s driven this for us is we want to give the community a different experience,” Khan said. “Obviously football … there is a limited demand for it. That’s why we’re playing the games here in London — that the community can’t support selling out eight games, so maybe there’s something else we can do there for the hot-dog vendors, the hotel rooms, all the stakeholders who make a living off the game.”

Won’t anyone think of the hot dog vendors? (No hyphen, incidentally: With a hyphen, it would be vendors who were hotdogging.) Khan isn’t trying to make more money by maintaining a foothold in London or anything so crass as that; he’s just trying to … leave more open dates for Rolling Stones and Green Day shows, I guess, because 355 days a year just isn’t enough?

And then:

“If we are playing a game away, we want to have one mega-experience. That kind of makes up for that from our viewpoint. If we’re playing more than one, we would want to have a couple or more.”

This last sentence may be my favorite quote about anything of all time. Does Shad Khan live in a mathematical world where there are cardinal numbers in between 1 and 2? What would football even look like in such a mathematical universe?

But anyway: News4Jax — look, you can’t expect me to stop and make fun of everything, there’s actual news to get to here — took these odd statements and summed them up with the headline “Jaguars owner Shad Khan hints at need for new stadium.” Did he, though? The closest the Khan interview actually came to mentioning a new stadium for Jacksonville was a mention that Jaguars president Mark Lamping “noted that three teams currently also in the bottom quartile in those rankings – the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders – are scheduled to move into new stadiums in 2020,” which seems a bit of an oblique way of demanding a new stadium yourself, but I guess it could qualify as “hints,” if you overlook the fact that Khan wasn’t the one saying it. Maybe he’s a car parts billionaire/sports team owner/groundbreaking mathematician/ventriloquist? I’m going with that.

Friday roundup: Helicopter rides for rich fans, pricey bridge prices, and why Deadspin mattered

In case anyone hasn’t been following this week’s Deadspin drama, pretty much the entire staff has resigned over the past two days, following Tuesday’s decision by CEO Jim Spanfeller to fire acting editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky because the staff had responded to Spanfeller’s edict to “stick to sports” by posting a ton of excellent non-sports content. A few last posts have gone up the last couple of days, some to burn off features that were already scheduled to run and some to take classically Deadspinesque digs at management for burning down a popular website seemingly out of spite for continuing to do exactly what it had been doing for years before they bought it.

This is very bad news for journalism and America and humanity, and not only if you, like me, will miss the site’s potshots at our Big Wet President. There’s a popular notion that sports is just a fun diversion where the “outside world” of politics has no place — and that, as I hope the entire 21-year history of this site has made abundantly clear, is an extremely dangerous notion, because it means that concerns over what taxpayers are being charged for places to play sports or what athletes are being paid to play sports or who is allowed to speak out on what issues involving sports are dismissed with a Can’t we just watch the game? But games are serious — and lucrative — business, and can’t be divorced from the greater culture, any more than we should be just watching movies as pure entertainment without attention to the bigger issues involved. Deadspin was dedicated to erasing those lines and allowing its writers to address whatever they felt needed addressing at the moment, whether it was the meaning of who you’re seen sitting with at a football game or what we’re getting stuck in our rectums each year, and until and unless a successor emerges to pick up the torch, the world will be a sadder, dumber place.

(Already yesterday I read about Josh Hamilton’s arrest after his daughter said he threw a chair at her — a phrasing I owe to this excellent Deadspin non-sports article, incidentally — and wished I could read Deadspin’s analysis of it. Then I read about John Wetteland’s arrest for reportedly sexually assaulting a four-year-old child, and thought I wonder if maybe men’s sports should just be banned altogether at this point given the kind of behavior it encourages and realized Deadspin was probably my best bet for reading that take, too. It’s going to be a long however many weeks or months until something arises from Deadspin’s ashes, if that ever happens.)

Anyway, on to the weekly muddling of sports and politics:

  • The Indiana Pacers‘ arena will still be named after the bank that stopping paying for naming rights in June until the team has found a new naming-rights sponsor, which seems weird at first but actually makes total sense: It costs money to change the signage so why do it twice, and also the value of naming rights goes down with each new iteration of a corporate moniker that dilutes the name’s image for the public — quick, tell me what the Oakland Coliseum’s official name is these days — so calling it “Pacers Arena” or whatever for a few months might get fans to start calling it that permanently, and we can’t have that. And if you’re wondering why the Pacers get to sell naming rights to a building that was built entirely with public dollars and is owned by the public: It’s Indianapolis, Jake.
  • St. Louis’s new MLS stadium finally has a site picked out — Market Street near Union Station, if you’re scoring at home — and new renderings as well, though they look pretty much like the old renderings except for the one that is just a closeup of a kid riding on his parent’s (?) shoulders. The state of Missouri has received approval to sell 22 acres of land for the stadium to the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, which will then lease it to the MLS team for … oh, that doesn’t seem to have been reported. Just look at the pretty pictures and don’t worry your head about that nasty money business.
  • A public city database in Atlanta is indicating that the city’s $23 million pedestrian bridge for the Falcons actually cost $41.7 million, but the city insists it’s really just that they entered the same checks multiple times. I’m not sure “spent $23 million on a pedestrian bridge for a football team and also can’t do basic bookkeeping” looks much better, honestly.
  • The San Antonio Spurs — whose mascot is for some reason a kangaroo, is that a kangaroo? — have installed four new helipads so that fans can buy helicopter rides to games, which really tells you everything you need to know about 1) who sports teams are interested in marketing to these days and 2) just how ridiculously much money rich people in America have to burn these days.
  • Fresno FC owner Ray Beshoff has declared he “will almost certainly be relocating the team” because he hasn’t been provided with a new soccer-only stadium, unless “in the next two or three weeks if people come to the table with ideas or suggestions that we think are tenable.” This will come as a huge shock to fans who’ve been dedicated followers of the USL team since (looks up team on Wikipedia) March of 2018.
  • The San Francisco 49ers are raising ticket prices by 13% but giving season ticket holders free food and soda, which I guess means 49ers fans will be spending most of games from now on pigging out on all-you-can-eat nachos instead of watching the action on the field. Also, you can’t get the free food if you buy tickets on the secondary market, only if you’re the original season ticket holder. Or, I guess, borrow the season ticket holder’s free-food card? Or have a season ticket holder go up to the counter for you and get your nachos? I don’t live anywhere near Santa Clara and hate football, but I am very excited at seeing how fans figure out how to game this system.
  • Still nobody is sure which minor-league teams MLB will threaten to eliminate as part of its plan to restrict minor-league affiliates, or what criteria MLB will use for deciding who shall live and who shall die or whether MLB is even serious or just trying to scare minor-league players into not demanding they be paid minimum wage. I really should write about this for Deadsp — crap.
  • It rained at the Buffalo Bills game last weekend, so a local country music station ran a poll asking listeners: “Would you be in favor of a roof stadium or no?” Not included: any mention of what a roof would cost, or what WYRK has against the word “roofed.”
  • The corporate newspaper that helped gut a free daily by selling it to people who immediately laid off most of the editorial staff ran an article this week asking if the new New York Islanders arena will make it harder for the nearby Nassau Coliseum to draw events, but I’m not going to link to a union-busting-enabling outlet that put the article behind a paywall anyway, so let me just answer the question here: Duh, yes!
  • A former assistant to Inglewood Mayor James Butts has changed her testimony in the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Clippers‘ proposed arena, and Inglewood officials are asking that her revised testimony be rejected because they say she’s in “cahoots” with Madison Square Garden, which opposes the arena because it doesn’t want competition for its own arena nearby. Elephants, man.
  • The DreamHouse New Mexico Bowl has been canceled, because alleged film production company and title sponsor DreamHouse turns out not to exist, but rather to be a scam perpetrated by “a relentless self promoter who lies about nearly everything he says he does.”
  • A giant water droplet named Wendy has made a video suggesting that Washington’s NFL team should move back within city limits. Sorry, Sean Doolittle, this is actually the most 2019 Washington thing ever.
  • The Sunshine Coast Pickleball Association is seeking funding from the city of Sechelt for a new pickleball stadium. I don’t actually know where Sechelt is and am only dimly aware of what pickleball is, and I’m not going to ruin the perfect sentence above by looking either thing up.

Friday roundup: Ex-D.C. mayor says his $534m Nats stadium expense was worth it, Clippers arena stymied by car trouble, MLS franchise fees to go even higher

Shouldn’t posting items more regularly during the week leave less news to round up on Fridays? I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s supposed to work, but here I am on Friday with even more browser tabs open than usual, and I’m sure someone is still going to complain that I left out, say, the latest on arena site discussions in Saskatoon. I guess lemme type really fast and see how many I can get through before my fingers fall off:

 

NFL owners trying to get L.A. stadium funding inserted into union talks, says Dan Patrick

I’m not sure what to do with this story because it’s so sketchily reported, but it’s also so damn weird that I can’t let it pass unremarked: Dan Patrick has said on his nationally syndicated radio show that with the cost of Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s new stadium having soared from $2.5 billion to $5 billion, the NFL is trying to use collective bargaining talks with the union to find a way to make the players help pay for it, sorta:

“The league is proposing that maybe they give players 49 percent of the revenue, but they want to use the extra money they get—a percentage [point] is about $150 million I was told—they want the players to then help finance the Los Angeles stadium. We’ll give you 49 percent of the revenue, but we want to use 2 percent of that revenue—so $300 million for the next couple years—to help finance the stadium.”

If you want to watch video of the relevant section of the radio show, as one does, it’s here:

The backdrop to all this is that NFL player payrolls are currently set at 47% of league revenues, and the players’ union wants to bump that up to perhaps 50%, but in exchange the owners want to play a longer regular season. If Patrick’s source is to be believed, though, there’s a proposal on the table to require that for the first couple of years, the players’ additional cut would be diverted to pay for Kroenke’s Folly, or at least a $300 million sliver of it.

This isn’t quite “getting players to pay for the Rams stadium,” but more like “okay, we’ll give you an additional couple percent of revenues like you’re asking for, but we want to keep it the first couple of years because man, that stadium sure is turning out to be expensive.” Which is effectively the same as giving the players a slightly smaller cut, or giving them a 49% cut but delaying its start for a couple of years, or any of a number of other asks that then reduce their ability to demand other things, like a longer season schedule.

Why would the other 31 NFL owners want to take a hard-won collective bargaining concession and use it to subsidize the Rams’ new stadium? It’s almost certainly not because it’s their only way of raising cash: Both the NFL and Kroenke have so much money flowing through their hands that skimming off $300 million (or using the revenue as collateral to borrow $300 million) would be trivially easy. Besides, even if the L.A. stadium is wildly over budget and in danger of never earning back its cost, that just hurts Kroenke, not the rest of the league — other owners will still get the same cut of any stadium revenue even if the construction debt hits $5 trillion — so what the hell?

Right now all we have to go on is Patrick’s statement, attributed to an unnamed source, so it’s pretty much at the wild rumor stage of verification. But if there’s actually been any attempt to insert L.A. stadium funding into league-wide collective bargaining talks, something very, very odd is going on, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

UPDATE: A sharp-eyed reader (see comments below) points out that an NFL.com article from earlier this month noted: “Sources say one important issue within a complicated economic discussion is how to divide revenue from the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, which will be home to the Rams and the Chargers. The roughly $5 billion price tag for the L.A. stadium project is much higher than others; by owners’ calculations, it also will bring in much more revenue than other stadiums and they want the new CBA to reflect that investment, while players have pushed back at the idea of altering the revenue-sharing calculation based on one project they had no role in approving.”

That would imply that the league is trying to argue that L.A. revenues shouldn’t really count toward the league salary cap, because they’re already committed to paying off that exorbitant price tag. Which I can see why they’d want to do that, but I can also see why the union would be responding: Hey, you’re the ones who set the cap based on gross revenues, if you’re not turning enough profit on your crazy-expensive stadium that’s not our problem.

It would also explain why the NFL labor negotiators are pushing this angle: It’s not that they’re really trying to help pay off Kroenke’s stadium debt, so much as they’re trying to carve out a bunch of Kroenke revenues and say “These don’t count.” You could actually make a decent case that all revenue sharing should be based on net revenues, not gross, but then you get into questions of net of what (owners’ failed real estate investments? Caribbean island getaways? massage parlor bills?), which would make for some tricky negotiations, as well as tricky audits down the line.