I can’t believe none of you wrote in to ask why I hadn’t reported on a Toronto Blue Jays game getting postponed due to falling ice puncturing a hole in the stadium roof, but I guess you’re all acclimated to waiting for the Friday roundup now for that sort of thing. But wait no longer! (Well, wait a few bullet points for that one in particular.)
- The city of Richmond built an $11 million training facility for the Washington NFL team in 2012, and is paying the team $500,000 a year to hold three weeks a year of practices in it, costs it had to dip into its school construction budget to pay off. So now the city wants to renegotiate the deal so that it’s no longer a money suck, or else it will kick the team out once its lease expires in 2020. No response from the team yet, but this is a pretty good cautionary tale about why one should never spend lots of money on practice facilities and expect an economic windfall.
- Some Portland, Oregon businesspeople who want to bring major-league baseball to that city say they’ve put in bids for two potential stadium sites, which doesn’t actually promise anything — they can use the land for something else if an MLB bid doesn’t go anywhere — but is more than nothing, I suppose. There’s still legislation passed in 2003 authorizing $150 million in bonds for a new stadium, to be repaid by state income taxes on players — which wouldn’t have penciled out 15 years ago, but might now, though it still has the problem that much of that tax money would be diverted from income that would be earned by people working in other entertainment jobs in the absence of a team — but how the rest of the money would be raised, or what team exactly would play in Portland, remains a mystery.
- A chunk of ice fell off the CN Tower and smashed a three-by-five-foot hole in the closed Rogers Centre roof on Monday, frightening players in the adjoining hotel, causing that night’s Toronto Blue Jays game to be postponed, and causing minor damage to a roof membrane. Here’s some video of ice falling off the tower, though sadly you don’t actually see it hit the roof.
- A private equity firm wants to buy Hartford’s arena for $50 million and do up to $250 million worth of renovations on it … and then the state would have to pay 7.5% a year in “rent” on the renovation costs? This sounds less like a purchase offer than a loan-sharking plan, right?
- People in Boise are really steamed about plans for a new $40 million minor-league baseball stadium that would be funded partly by public money. The word “carpetbagger” was used; parental discretion is advised.
- Puerto Rico suffered another island-wide blackout this week, but the Minnesota Twins–Cleveland Indians baseball game in San Juan went off without a hitch, thanks to months of work by MLB and lots and lots of portable generators. I’m sure residents who weren’t able to cook or shower or charge their phones for months on end were cheered that the ballgame went on.
- The new Los Angeles F.C. stadium features a section of seats that are locked closed during games, with rails for diehard supporters to lean against instead, and a 34-degree rake to make fans look more intimidating to opposing players. Opening day isn’t until April 29, so no visual evidence until then.
- MLS officials have met with prospective owners in Columbus who want to keep the Crew in town, while also conducting “a review of potential local stadium sites for the team.” The Crew’s current stadium is 19 years old. This is your dystopian future.
- The New England Revolution are threatening to move their practice facility out of Foxborough, Massachusetts unless they get new practice fields built. See Richmond item above for how that’s likely to work out.
- Reminder: Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t own the Brooklyn Nets arena, he just owns operating rights to it, because property taxes, ew.
Busy (minor) news week! And away we go…
- Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins ownership group, facing a lawsuit by the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County over the team stiffing the public on the share of sale proceeds they were promised, are trying to stave it off by claiming that (deep breath) because one of the owners of an umbrella company of an umbrella company of the umbrella company that owns the Marlins is a business incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, the case should be arbitrated by a federal judge who handles international trade issues. Maybe the Marlins should quit trying to sell tickets to baseball games and sell tickets to the court proceedings instead.
- Tampa Bay Rays chief development officer Melanie Lenz, in response to concerns that a big-ass baseball stadium wouldn’t fit into the Ybor City historic district that it would be on the border of, said that “we expect to build a next-generation, neighborhood ballpark that fits within the fabric of the Ybor City community,” though she didn’t give any details. That’s vague enough to be reassuring without actually promising anything concrete, but it’s worth making a note of just in case the historic district ends up becoming a stumbling block in stadium talks, which, stranger things have happened.
- A guy wants to start a football league where fans vote on what plays to run via Twitch, and build an arena in Las Vegas for people to watch … the players? The voting? The Las Vegas Review-Journal article about it was a bit unclear, though it did say that the organizers want to “create the experience of playing a football video game with real people,” which isn’t creepy at all. It also reports that the league plans to use blockchain technology, which is how you know it’s probably a sham.
- Something called the Badger Herald, which I assume is a University of Wisconsin student paper but which I really hope is a newspaper targeted entirely at badgers, ran an article by a junior economics major arguing that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena will be a boon to the city because during the first few years “many will come from across the state to watch the Bucks play in this impressive new facility” and after that it will “continue giving the people of Milwaukee a reason to be optimistic.” The author also says that the arena was built after “the NBA gave the Bucks an ultimatum — either obtain a new arena, or the NBA would buy the Bucks and sell the franchise to another city,” which, uh, no, that’s not what happened at all.
- Here’s a really nice article for CBS Sports by my old Baseball Prospectus colleague Dayn Perry on the Chicago White Sox ballpark proposed by architect Philip Bess that never got built. Come for the cool pictures of spiders, stay for the extended explanation of why supporting columns that obstruct some views are a design feature that stadium architects never should have abandoned!
- The Los Angeles Rams are trying to pull a San Francisco 49ers, according to Deadspin, by making a run at a Super Bowl in the same year they’re selling personal seat licenses for their new stadium. More power to ’em, but prospective Rams PSL buyers, check how that worked out for 49ers fans before you hand over your credit card numbers, okay?
- The state of Connecticut has cut $100 million for Hartford arena renovations from the state budget, at least for now, so that it can use the money toward a $550 million bailout of the city of Hartford itself. Is that what they call a “no win-win situation“?
- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the New York Islanders need to move back to Long Island because Brooklyn’s Barclays Center “wasn’t built for hockey,” which he actually pointed out at the time they moved there, but did anybody listen?
- Alameda County is moving to sell its share of the Oakland Coliseum complex to the city of Oakland, which should make negotiations over what to do with the site slightly simpler, anyway.
- That Missouri governor who killed a proposed St. Louis MLS stadium subsidy, calling it “welfare for millionaires,” is now under pressure to resign after his former hairdresser claimed he groped her, slapped her, and coerced her into sex acts. Maybe we should just stop electing men to public office? Just a thought.
The state of Louisiana approved a $400,000 diagnostic architectural survey of the Superdome last week, and if that sounds trivial, it’s not: Apparently it’s the first step toward yet another renovation of the New Orleans Saints‘ home stadium on the state’s dime. Or rather, five billion dimes:
The $422,000 study, which was approved last May, proposed several options to modernize the Superdome and increase revenue streams for its anchor tenant, the New Orleans Saints. Among them: removal of the interior pedestrian ramps; installation of glazed windows to some parts of the Dome’s existing sides; installation of field-level bunker suites; and improving parts of the terrace seating.
Depending on the scope, the price tag for the potential renovation ranges from $150 million to $500 million.
If you’ve lost track of how many renovations of the Superdome this makes, I put together a handy scorecard last year:
$134 million to build it in the first place in 1975, then $54 million for emergency repairs after Hurricane Katrina, then $376 million in non-emergency repairs after that, including replacing the exterior and redoing the entire lower bowl of the stadium with new seating and club space. Along the way, the state paid Saints owner Tom Benson $186 million to keep the team in town through 2011, then another $392 million to keep the team in town through 2025.
So if Louisiana approves the full $500 million upgrade, that’ll be $1.508 billion it’s given to the Saints owners (in either renovation costs or straight-up cash) over the past 18 years, or $1.642 billion if you count building the dome in the first place. (That’s all nominal dollars; if you want to figure out the total value in 2018 dollars, go for it, there are plenty of calculators for that sort of thing online.) All in order to “increase revenue streams” for the Saints, without which they would presumably move to some other city that’s willing to give them a billion and a half dollars? Leave it to Tom Benson (and now his heirs): In a city of grifters, he may have come up with the most lucrative grift of all time.
Happy baseball season! Unless you’re a Miami Marlins fan, in which case it’s already ruined. But anyway:
- The Texas Rangers owners say they won’t tear down their 24-year-old stadium once they build their new one next door so they can have air-conditioning. What on earth will they use an empty baseball stadium for? “We will look for tenants to occupy the office building and now we’re entertaining ideas and how to retrofit the rest of the park,” says Rangers VP Rob Matwick. “What that will be, I don’t know. Right now we’re just fielding ideas and there has been a lot of interest.” Uh-huh.
- Morocco is touting its “very low gun circulation” as a plus for its 2026 World Cup bid against North America. Also it would spend $15.8 billion on new stadiums and infrastructure, which might actually be even crazier than U.S. gun laws.
- The Marietta Daily Journal says the Atlanta Braves‘ new stadium has been a huge success for Cobb County because the formerly undeveloped land is worth more now that the Braves owners have developed it, which isn’t how economic impact works at all. But I guess it’s nice that the traffic hasn’t been a nightmare, though you have to wonder how it’ll be once the Braves are good enough for people to start going to games again.
- The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s $1 billion expansion project is over budget and in financial trouble — in case you couldn’t have guessed that from “$1 billion expansion project” — and there have now been “discussions among local officials about potentially having to increase sales taxes to help fund the project.” Man, I gotta find me a way to become considered too big to fail.
- Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley still wants to build a soccer stadium in the West End despite everyone else considering that plan dead. A lawyer who fought against previous Cincinnati stadium deals calls this F.C. Cincinnati situation “madness,” which is about right.
- Building a football stadium creates stadium construction jobs, at least for a while! Hey, you know what else creates temporary jobs? Natural disasters. Clearly we need more of those.
- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can’t stop hoping that the Buffalo Bills owners will get with the program and demand a new stadium, saying the Pegulas are “in the very early stages” of stadium planning. The Bills lease has an opt-out clause in two years, but team officials say they have no plans to use it. Don’t tell Roger, it’ll only make him sad.
- A developer trying to buy county-owned land in Bayville, Long Island swears he’ll build a $120 million minor-league hockey arena there even though he doesn’t have any investors yet, apparently under the impression this will make people take him more seriously.
- “Will the $1.1 billion Vikings stadium look like a bargain?” asks the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Ian Betteridge has your answer!
Among the many, many things I don’t like about the 21st century is the way that the rise of Twitter as a reporting medium, while great for getting news out quickly, is decidedly less good at getting news out accurately or in any kind of detail. Which brings us to this tweet yesterday by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham:
That would be amazing, yes! Especially since the old record for a stadium cost is the new New York Yankees stadium (around $2 billion), and the last previous estimate for the Los Angeles Rams stadium (which will also be home to the Chargers) was $2.6 billion. What gives?
Wickersham later tweeted a single followup:
“Part of”? Which part of? And why is the NFL concerning itself with debt limits for an ancillary real-estate project that isn’t about football?
Okay, so fine, Wickersham is just writing the notes for the first draft of history, so let’s cut him some slack. Except that nobody seems to be editing that first draft — since then Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports and Bleacher Report and one of the unpaid bloggers that Forbes calls “contributors” have all repeated Wickersham’s assertion, with no context or further reporting. (And before you ask: I would make a call now, but it’s 5:43 am in Los Angeles, so I sincerely doubt anyone at the Rams office is going to be picking up. But I’ll try later.)
For now, all we know is that Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium complex is going to cost him a buttload of money, and we still don’t know how he plans to make it all pay off. Which is his problem, since he’s not asking for public money, but still, inquiring minds would like to know.
Former Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins, and Florida Panthers owner Wayne Huizenga died on Friday, and any time a soul passes from this earth there’s a sadness, and we pass long our sympathies to all of Huizenga’s relatives and loved ones.
And now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how Wayne Huizenga helped to make the sports world a worse place while he was alive:
- Huizenga bought the Dolphins and Joe Robbie Stadium (I’m not even going to start to look up whatever its corporate name is now) to go along with his fledgling baseball and hockey teams in 1994. He then used his ownership of the stadium to perform an accounting trick where he assigned all the revenue from luxury boxes and naming rights and parking to his stadium company, while charging his own teams rent — thus enabling him to evade league revenue sharing and to cry poor when it was time to spend money on players.
- Huizenga’s stadium may have been built with private money, but that didn’t stop him from extracting $2 million a year in sales tax kickbacks from the state of Florida, cash he kept receiving even after he sold the Marlins, threatening to sue if anyone tried to repeal the subsidy.
- When it came time to build an arena for the Panthers a few years later, he demanded at got $185 million from Broward County to do the deed.
- While Huizenga didn’t invent the player fire sale, he may have perfected it, unloading his team’s two best pitchers and almost its entire starting lineup within a year of the Marlins winning the World Series. This set a pattern for future Marlins teams, through Jeffrey Loria’s 2012 self-immolation to Derek Jeter’s Project Wolverine, all while cementing the Marlins’ place as a team that maximized profits by not trying to win games and instead focusing on collecting revenue-sharing checks.
- When Henry was demanding taxpayer money for a new Marlins stadium, Huizenga, by that time the team’s landlord, played along by threatening to evict them so he could have more room for cricket matches.
Does all this make Huizenga a bad man? First and foremost, he was a corporate businessman, trying to extract maximum value from the assets he owned, whether his sports teams or waste-hauling company or Blockbuster Video, even if at the expense of the public or his fellow team owners or his team’s on-field success. Whether this makes him a capitalist running dog or someone merely following his own rational self-interest depends on your political perspective, but it’s undeniable that his cash grabs were more innovative than that of most team owners, and had a more detrimental effect on the sports landscape. So while he may have exhibited “kindness and generosity,” as his former team tweeted last Friday, he also did all those other things too; and that, in all his complexity, is how he should be remembered by history.
All evidence to the contrary, spring (and the spring end-of-legislative-session season) must be getting nearer, because the stack of weekly roundup news items in my Instapaper is getting longer and longer each week. Better get down to it:
- The famed on-field flagpole that once stood in Detroit’s Tiger Stadium (and still stands on the site) will become an ad for a nut company, which will fly its flag from atop the pole. Is this more or less a tribute to craven greed and disrespect for humanity than flying the U.S. flag was? Discuss!
- The new tax bill does all sorts of terrible things, but it also finally eliminates tax deductions for corporate sports ticket purchases — something that has helped drive both high ticket prices and the demand for sports venues with lots of corporate-friendly seating — and also could force sports teams to pay taxes on trades. Plus, Congress is considering exempting minor-league baseball players from minimum-wage laws, and MiLB officials are threatening to contract teams if they’re forced to pay players a whole $7.25 an hour.
- Phoenix’s city administration wants to host the 2023 Super Bowl. God knows why.
- Carlos Monarraz of the Detroit Free Press thinks the reason behind all the empty seats at Pistons games is that fans would rather watch the game on TV from the arena’s bar, which is either a pathetic cover story or a pathetic reality or both, I can’t say which for sure. Discuss! (Bonus content: Article features a 69-year-old fan saying, “I used to cheer, ‘Rah-rah-ree, kick ’em in the knee!’ I don’t even feel comfortable shouting out anymore.” Not sure whether this means he’s Monty Burns or The Terror.)
- The Cincinnati Board of Education voted to approve an F.C. Cincinnati stadium in the West End, but only on the same terms (pay your property taxes!) the team owners rejected last week, so I don’t even know why we’re talking about this, frankly.
- The Denver Broncos are looking to build an entertainment district in their stadium parking lot and use the proceeds to pay for stadium maintenance and upgrades, because that always goes well.
- World hatred of Donald Trump could lead to Morocco getting the 2026 World Cup, which would cost that nation $16 billion, which just goes to show that Donald Trump can even ruin things in nations he’s probably never heard of.
- The Raiders stadium in Las Vegas will cost $1.8 billion in part so that it can have giant folding doors that open to give a view of the Strip. Wealth is wasted on the wealthy.
- Neither the NAACP nor the local councilperson wants Temple University to build a new football stadium in North Philadelphia.
- “Cincinnati Might Spend $300 Million for a Shot at Hosting Six NCAA Tournament Games.” Really, the headline says it all. That tide really can’t turn a moment too soon.
This week brought thundersnow that led to a fireball in a subway tunnel, but the stadium and arena news was reasonably exciting too:
- Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt says the lawsuit to force him to offer the team for sale to local owners before moving it to Austin is groundless, since he made “significant investments” in the team “both on and off the field” and yet the team isn’t making money hand over fist like he’d like it to. I would have gone with “fine, you can buy the team if you want, my asking price is one quattuordecillion dollars,” but that’s why Precourt pays himself the big bucks.
- Oakland Raiders management says it has identified room for 27,000 parking spaces within 1.5 miles of its Las Vegas stadium, and 100,000 spaces within three miles. “Now, obviously, people don’t want to walk three miles, so you have to have a pretty strong infrastructure program and transportation plan in place,” said Raiders president Marc Badain. “We’re working on all of that.” Cool, get back to us!
- Residents of the West End opposed to building an F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium on the site of a revered high school football stadium there are all about “maintaining disinvestment, maintaining the status quo and not closing racial and economic gaps but keeping them divided,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said this week. “I think that’s wrong.” But enough with the pandering to your constituents, Mayor Cranley what do you really think about them?
- Because no arena project can truly be cost-free for the public, the new Muni Metro stop being built at the Golden State Warriors‘ new San Francisco arena has now risen in cost to $51 million, and the city of San Francisco hasn’t figured out how to pay for $17 million of that yet. Not that a new mass transit stop isn’t a public benefit for people other than Warriors fans, but just saying.
- This is what Wrigley Field looked like as of a couple of weeks ago. There’s still time before opening day, so hopefully this renovation will go better than the Chicago Cubs‘ last big one.
- Does an “asteroid the size of a sports stadium” zooming past Earth count as stadium news? It does to my custom RSS feed for “stadium” news, so enjoy!
The Los Angeles Rams and Chargers have announced the impending start of personal seat license sales for their new stadium when it opens in 2020, which is always a fun moment because it lets you see how much teams think their fans will put up with paying just for the right to pay more money on top of that for actual tickets. So what do these two teams that have had trouble drawing flies at their temporary digs think Los Angelenos will spend to see games at their new one?
- For the Rams, PSLs will start at $1,000 for the cheap seats, and go up to $100,000 for the priciest ones.
- For the Chargers, PSLs will start at “we’re not saying yet, we don’t want to frighten off anyone who might actually consider themselves a Los Angeles Chargers fan” and run to a maximum of $75,000.
The Los Angeles Times describes these particular seat licenses as “an NFL first,” since it’s more a long-term low-interest loan than an actual purchase: After 50 years, the price will be repaid to whoever holds the PSL at that point. In practice, this isn’t much different from an outright purchase — if I’m using this present value calculator right, $100,000 in 2068 dollars is worth about $8,700 in money today, meaning it will cost the Rams and Chargers pennies on the dollar to “repay” the license fees shortly after first contact with the Vulcans. I’m not entirely sure why they’re going this route — marketing ploy or tax dodge are my two best guesses — but it’s not a significant departure from the traditional PSL route.
As for what fans will get for the “premium” seat-license experience, the Orange County Register has you covered, and it apparently will involve lots of sitting in oddly shaped chairs talking to no one while enjoying a view of the seats on the opposite side of the stadium:
And let’s not forget jumping up and down with glee in an almost entirely empty room while looking at who knows what, maybe a wall with a big-screen TV on it, maybe just a wall:
If nothing else, I’m glad to see that the L.A. stadium clubs will feature seating that is a full yard wide, to accommodate Americans’ growing rumps. Truly state of the art.