- A plot of private land that Portland baseball backers were eyeing for a stadium has been sold to another developer, but they could still sell or lease it for baseball. Portland is definitely at the forefront of not just handing land to the local sports team for whatever price it wants, though of course it doesn’t hurt that there isn’t an actual local sports team in question right now, just the idle thought of one someday.
- Tampa Bay Rays chief development officer Melanie Lenz says the team will decide in six to nine months whether an Ybor City stadium will work; I’d think they’d want to know who’s going to pay for it first, but maybe that’s what they need the six to nine months for: bribery. (I typed “lobbying,” right? Pretty sure I did, note to self to go back and check.)
- D.C. United is about to open its new stadium with the help of $183 million in public money, and has belatedly noticed that its TV camera angles will be all screwed up because the sun sets in the west. Who could have known something like that?
- A group of Inglewood residents is suing to block the proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena project, which is not surprising; more surprising is that they attempted to serve Mayor James Butts with lawsuit papers during Tuesday’s city council meeting, causing the council to abruptly call a halt to the meeting and run away.
- The Cincinnati Reds are asking for $88,000 in state tax breaks on bobbleheads, on the grounds that they’re included in the price of ticket packages and not being sold separately, even though the ticket package costs more specifically because it includes a bobblehead. I shoulda been a tax lawyer.
- The Philadelphia Phillies are asking for $40 million in hotel tax money from Pinellas County for a new renovations to their spring-training stadium in Clearwater, but the county has run out of hotel tax money because it already spent it on other projects, including the Rays’ Tropicana Field and a spring-training facility for the Toronto Blue Jays, along with a bunch of museums and the like. Opportunity cost!
- A Spectrum News Charlotte headline asks the question: “Does Charlotte need a domed stadium? City leaders are trying to figure it out.” I got an answer for you, Spectrum News Charlotte! (Also, Spectrum News Charlotte, the Atlanta Falcons‘ stadium didn’t really involve a “public investment” of only $200 million. Your friends across town the state at Fox 8 got it right, you might wanna talk to them.)
Friday roundup: Kraft tries to use World Cup to get new stadium, Roger Noll says Austin MLS subsidies are indeed subsidies, NC mulls new tax breaks for Panthers
Posting this while watching the first World Cup match at the crazy stadium with the seats outside the stadium. (I haven’t honestly even noticed who the teams are yet, I’m just watching the architecture.) Anyhoo:
- Las Vegas is reconsidering building a new highway ramp just for the Raiders stadium, not because it’ll cost too much (which it will) but because the Raiders stadium developers have decided they don’t actually want it. This is really all you need to know about the relationship between sports teams and elected officials in this country right now.
- Minneapolis’s tourism nonprofit overstated its economic impact figures by $200 million over the last three years, a city audit has found, figures that are used to determine things such as public stadium and arena spending. That’s bad, though given that “economic impact” is pretty much a bogus concept to begin with, the audit’s figures probably aren’t much more meaningful.
- The headline “Gondola From Union Station to Dodger Stadium Moves Forward” cracked me up, but maybe just because I spend so much time sitting on subway trains that don’t go anywhere.
- The Milwaukee Bucks have finally sold their last luxury suite, so hope you didn’t have your heart set on that suite butler.
- The Los Angeles Clippers owners want one of those get-out-of-environmental-review-free cards from the state legislature, because who doesn’t?
- Two out of 12 stadiums built by the Brazil for the 2014 World Cup are no longer undergoing corruption probes! If you’ve calculated that that means ten of the 12 are still under investigation, you get an A+ in math.
- If you’ve been waiting for the first MLS owner to use the 2026 World Cup as an excuse to try to get a new stadium, New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft has got you covered.
- Hey, lookit, somebody actually called Roger Noll after he was name-checked by the Austin city council, and asked him what he thinks of Anthony Precourt’s stadium proposal for that city. His answer: “It’s not accurate to say it’s going to be completely privately financed. It’s in fact going to have a significant subsidy built into it. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.” That’s fair! Adds Temple economist Michael Leeds: “If Austin feels that having a soccer team would give the city an identity, give the people of the city something they enjoy, that’s fine. … That’s different from saying this is going to boost the city’s economy.” Also fair! Short answer from economists: If you wanna help build a stadium because you think having a stadium would be cool, go for it, but don’t do it for the economic impact because bwahaha “economic impact.”
- The North Carolina legislature is considering a bill to give about half a million dollars a year in property tax breaks to the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Knights owners, apparently in exchange for nothing at all from the teams, not even a lease extension. Whether this bill goes anywhere or not, it continues to bode poorly for the upcoming stadium negotiations with the Panthers’ new owner.
- The Colorado Rockies owners have released renderings of the ugly building they want to build on a Coors Field parking lot they’re leasing from the state for $1.25 million a year. The renderings don’t even show any fireworks or searchlights. Sad!
It’s a full slate this week, so let’s do this!
- The proposed $180 million (or so) in public subsidies for upgrades to the Seattle Mariners‘ stadium would go to pay for such things as “new artwork, more club-level seating and a 175-seat brewpub that’s open to the outside with special access to the park for ticket holders and Diamond Club patrons,” according to Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat. He focuses on the brewpub, but at that price tag, I’m more worried about what artwork they’re considering.
- If you’ve been wanting to read an article that argues that a 76-year-old stadium is “old, a remnant from another era,” by comparing it unfavorably to a 106-year-old stadium, Bill Reynolds of the Providence Journal has you covered. Then he throws in a threat that the Pawtucket Red Sox could move to Worcester without a stadium at the end, either because he knew his main argument that McCoy Stadium is too old, not like Fenway, which is the good kind of old was kind of weird, or because he hadn’t written all the way to the bottom of the page yet.
- If you’ve been wanting an article about how small the carbon footprint is of modern stadiums without taking into account the carbon footprint of building another new stadium every 20 years, Ken Belson of the New York Times has you covered, because of course he does.
- And if you’ve been wanting an article arguing that Calgary shouldn’t foot the bill for a new Flames arena, This magazine has you covered, which is kind of cool because I wrote an article for This about how the SkyDome was a money suck for Toronto way back in 1999, though I think the only surviving online version of it is this strangely formatted one on some vestigial backwater of my own website.
- Actual Associated Press headline from this week about the old and new Milwaukee Bucks arenas: “Bradley Center closure to eliminate 650 jobs; new arena to support 620 jobs.” I can’t tell if this is intentional or unintentional irony, but at least it’s honest.
- The Buffalo Bills owners may not be super-psyched about building a new stadium, but everyone else seems to want them to, including not just NFL commissioner Roger Goodell but also the Buffalo News, which editorialized that “it has to get done eventually to secure the long-term viability of the Bills in Western New York.” Because otherwise the team could move, like the owners have absolutely not threatened to do in any way! Feel the urgency, already, people!
- Russia has built a bunch of soccer stadiums nobody really needs for the World Cup, just like Brazil did before them, but when it was Brazil the New York Times didn’t include a discussion of what Immanuel Kant would think of it.
- Finally, a news story that’s not about the news coverage itself! Nashville is proposing to swap out which state fairgrounds land would be handed over to Nashville S.C. for new private development alongside a new soccer stadium for land that would be kept as fairgrounds, while one city councilmember thinks maybe it’s kind of a dumb idea to give a pro soccer team’s owners free land and they shouldn’t do that at all. Three guesses which proposal is more likely to get voted on next Tuesday.
- The Atlanta Falcons‘s broken retractable roof may finally be in operation tomorrow for an Atlanta United match. So if you wanted a reason to watch an Atlanta United match other than the fact that the team is in first place, yeah, you’re apparently like most U.S. soccer fans.
- A Suffolk County legislative committee has endorsed building a $1.1 billion arena complex in Ronkonkoma, almost certainly because somebody told them, “Nah, that seems more like a Shelbyville idea.”
- MLS commissioner Don Garber took time out during his announcement that F.C. Cincinnati would be the league’s 9,813th team (all numbers approximate) to throw shade at the proposed Detroit expansion team for proposing to play in a football stadium, ew, instead of a soccer-only stadium. “They can talk about what those ideas might be, but they were really front runners when they were looking at the jail site,” sighed the commissioner, gazing off wistfully into the distance (all narrative descriptions approximate).
- The Pawtucket Red Sox owners haven’t yet said whether they’ll back House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s new stadium financing plan, either because they’re afraid they’ll somehow be on the hook for paying for their own stadium or just because they’re just playing hard to get.
- And finally, here’s a $70 million high school football stadium in Texas whose opening has been delayed because its concrete is cracking, because it’s been a few years since we had one of those. Happy June, everybody!
If you were running a business, how would you figure out how much money you made at the end of the year? You could do an estimate of how many customers entered your store each day, estimate how much you think they spent on average, subtract a theoretical number for your costs per item sold, and call that your best guess. Or you could, you know, actually look at how much cash you have at the end of each day, and count.
The latter method is how economists prefer to calculate the impact of sporting events: Add up the tax revenues during the big game or games, and compare it to tax revenues during a normal month. If you’re an economic impact consultant who’s paid more to come up with big numbers than accurate numbers, though, it’s often better to use the former method, since there’s a lot more wiggle room for truthiness.
Which brings us to yesterday’s headlines that hosting Super Bowl LII brought in $370 million in new economic activity for the state of Minnesota:
That was the net new spending from the 10-day event Jan. 26-Feb. 4, according to an economic impact report released Tuesday by Gov. Mark Dayton.
The results, which are in dispute, came in $50 million over pre-event projections by Rockport Analytics made years in advance. Rockport, based in Pennsylvania, also wrote the final report.
If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you’ve probably already spotted the first problem, which is that this is economic activity, not economic benefits. So part of that money includes $179 million in spending by the NFL’s broadcast partners, much of which likely went directly into the pockets of the NFL, never actually touching the Minnesota economy. As far as actual tax revenue goes, the report estimated $32 million in new receipts.
That number, though, was goosed by including increased property tax receipts, I guess on the grounds that hotels are worth more when they can sell Super Bowl stays once every couple of decades?
And then we have our old friend the substitution effect, where one has to account for any money that would have been spent locally anyway, either because it was spent by locals who’d be in town regardless, or because Super Bowl tourists displaced other tourists (and locals) who steered clear of town because they didn’t want the hassle of dealing with football fans. The study trimmed about 18% from its projected economic activity for substitution, a number that it arrived at thusly:
“The average visitor spent $608 per person per day,” said Ken McGill with Rockport Analytics, a consulting company that looks at the economics of big events and wrote the report on the 2018 Super Bowl. “We interviewed, and we literally intercepted visitors … and asked them where they were from, what they were spending in certain categories and whether they’d come back.”
This, needless to say, is not rigorous science, since people are terrible reporters of their own spending activities. And, on top of that, Rockport wasn’t able to intercept anyone who would have been in town if not for the Super Bowl, since they were off doing something else.
Fortunately, Minneapolis’s chief financial officer is calculating the actual changes to city tax revenues during the Super Bowl, and will present those numbers to the city council in June. While we wait, maybe we can pass the time by seeing how things went the last time tax officials fact-checked an economic consultants’ claims:
Ah, well. We’ll always have the excited headlines.
The Buffalo Bills stadium-replacement discussion has been taking a rather weird course, as NFL stadium talks go, with team owners Terry and Kim Pegula generally refusing to demand anything, even while other league owners and commissioner Roger Goodell insist that the Bills gotta have one. Now Kim Pegula has talked to the Buffalo News about her perspective on the matter, and she still doesn’t sound super-stoked:
“I don’t even know if we can get there,” the team’s co-owner told The Buffalo News while attending the NFL spring meeting. “I know fans in Buffalo don’t want higher ticket prices, they don’t want PSLs (personal seat licenses). The state doesn’t want to give you any money, the city doesn’t … We don’t have a billion-and-a-half dollars sitting around. We used it to buy the team.”
These are good reasons not to build a new stadium! If you’re not going to be able to charge fans more in ticket prices or PSLs, it’s kind of dumb to drop around a billion dollars on replacing the perfectly acceptable stadium you already play in, especially if it’s a billion dollars of your own money and not New York taxpayers. (And speaking on behalf of New York taxpayers, it would be even more dumb for us to pay for it.) Even if all the other kids have one.
Pegula said it could take a “couple of years” to reach a final stadium determination, and that ultimately “it may be nothing happens, it may be we make renovations, it may be that we build a new stadium. But we’ve got to get the information first.” Again, all very reasonable and honest about the decisions to be made. Man, Roger Goodell must hate her.
With the Charlotte Panthers being sold to hedge-fund billionaire David Tepper for $2.2 billion — and at purchase prices like these, you can sort of understand why NFL owners are freaking out about anything that might cause them to lose fans, even if the reaction might cause them to lose other fans — there’s been lots of talk about how Tepper could shake down his new home city for stadium cash, including a step-by-step manual in the Charlotte Observer. But now we’ve entered full-on move-threat-by-proxy mode; take it away, Associated Press:
The new owner of the Carolina Panthers is committed to keeping the team in the Carolinas.
And Charlotte is his clearly his first choice.
But David Tepper left a bit of wiggle room on his first day as owner of the team…
“What’s the name of the team? Carolina Panthers. It’s going to be the Carolina Panthers,” Tepper said. “And that means this team has to have some kind of presence in the Carolinas and last time I saw, how many are there? That’s right, there’s two of them.”
Oh, snap, Tepper’s going to move the Panthers to South Carolina! Except, you know, he’s probably not, but if hinting he’s going to move the team just across the state line (Charlotte is right on North Carolina’s southern border, which is likely one of many things you may not know about Charlotte) helps shake loose some stadium cash from Carolina the North, why, he’d be dodging his fiduciary responsibility to himself not to mention the other Carolina, now wouldn’t he?
Anyway, Tepper went out of his way not to say much of anything else about a new or renovated stadium, which either means he’s still getting his feet wet, or has seen enough as part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers to know that it’s best to let the sports media carry your water for you. Where he goes next with this is anyone’s guess, but you’ve gotta think waking up the first morning as owner of a $2.2 billion asset and seeing headlines like “NFL owners officially approve sale of Panthers, but will team stay in Charlotte?” has to warm the heart of any red-blooded money grubber.
Friday roundup: Panthers’ record sale price goosed by public money, Beckham stadium delayed yet again, Rams stadium really will cost $4B-plus
Google looks to have broken all of its RSS feeds, so if I missed anything important this week, drop me an email and I’ll play catchup next week:
- The Atlanta Hawks are now offering a “virtual tour” of the suites at their new arena, which team CEO Steve Koonin describes thusly: “It’s going to be a social place unlike anywhere else in the NBA. All of our research told us that people don’t want to sit down in a chair eating a hot dog out of aluminum foil and watch a game. They want a great night out. … Think Vegas pool meets sporting event.” Add another data point to the growing evidence that sports teams don’t want their fans to come to watch the game anymore, probably because they know that half the time your team’s games aren’t worth watching.
- Syracuse University is going to spend $118 million to, among other things, replace its stadium’s air-supported fabric roof with a non-air-supported fabric roof, as well as adding “the Wi-Fi.” Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack, according to Syracuse.com, noted that “there has been no money from the state or county promised at this point but indicated the school will continue to explore its options.” At least Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner managed to head off building a new stadium for the private university with public dollars, but still, watch your wallets, New York taxpayers.
- A part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers is buying the Carolina Panthers for an NFL record $2.2 billion, and the city of Charlotte has set aside $75 million in public money for stadium renovations for the new rich guy in town, on top of the $87.5 million the city gave the team for renovations five years ago. This undoubtedly helps make the Panthers worth $2.2 billion, which raises the question of whether Charlotte city subsidies are just helping to enrich a serial workplace sexual harasser.
- David Beckham’s Miami soccer stadium proposal has missed its window for an August public referendum vote and now will have to wait for November at the earliest, because of course it has.
- The $5 billion price tag for the Los Angeles Rams stadium development project has a bit more of a breakdown now, with Sports Business Journal reporting that the stadium and an accompanying 6,000-seat amphitheater alone will cost $4.25 billion to build. I still don’t get how Stan Kroenke expects to turn a profit, but at least it’s his money he’s throwing at this thing.
- If you live in Portland, Oregon and want to be part of a focus group about a potential new MLB stadium there, sign up here.
The Cleveland Scene has a long article up today about the Cleveland Browns‘ saber-rattling for a new stadium, most of which is about what the Browns are probably after in seeking to replace a 19-year-old stadium — a site with lots of land around it to develop, probably — and how likely that is to happen — not too likely, according to the Scene, unless the Browns owners can get Cleveland to decommission an airport, which is hard because the FAA would be involved. It’s an interesting read, but I mostly want to take a moment to appreciate this quote from Temple University economist Michael Leeds, explaining why teams keep upping the ante for what they “need” despite having stadiums that are barely out of the packaging:
“Every parent goes through this type of thing and knows the deal,” he said. “You ask your kid what they want for their birthday, and she might say, ‘I want a pony.’ You ask her why and she says the kid down the street has one. Most of us figure out a way to ignore what she wants and get her something else.”
Hamilton County may now have to fire sheriffs to afford payments to Bengals required by stadium lease from hell
Hamilton County, Ohio, has reached an agreement with the Cincinnati Bengals allowing the county to defer $2.67 million in payments to the team from this year to next. And if you’re wondering why the county is sending public money to the local pro sports team on a regular basis, you clearly haven’t been following the county’s lease from hell, which not only requires taxpayers to foot the bill for any future stadium improvements needed to keep the team on par with other NFL franchises (including, famously, holographic replay systems once they’re invented), but also has the team paying negative rent, with the county forwarding $2.67 million a year (rising by 5% each year) to the Bengals owners for “operating costs.”
County officials made noise late last year about simply refusing to make the payment and seeing what the Bengals owners would do — they could break the lease and threaten to move, but then they can do that when the lease runs out in 2026 anyway — but instead they seem to have settled on waiting a year to figure out where to come up with this year’s $2.67 million, plus next year’s $2.8 million. Which is going to be a bit of a problem, because the cupboard is pretty much bare:
The cash-strapped county can’t pay the Bengals this year because it faces $28 million budget deficit in 2019. The county is considering raising the sales tax to help keep the overcrowded jail running, pay for sheriff patrols and avoid deep cuts to staffing.
If Hamilton County ends up adding “laying off sheriffs” to “selling public hospitals” on the list of things it’s done to pay for this Bengals stadium over the years, it will truly cement its place as negotiator of the worst lease in the history of professional sports. If it hasn’t already, that is.
Friday roundup: Nevada gov candidate threatens Raiders’ roads, Phoenix sued over Suns arena plans, Rays stadium could seek Trump tax break
And the rest of the week’s news:
- The Seattle Center says it should have its new arena plans finalized by September, in time for the NHL to approve an expansion franchise to play in it. Which, sure, that makes sense, but counting chickens is always a bad idea in the sports-expansion business — just ask Sacramento.
- A Republican candidate for Nevada governor says if elected, he’ll refuse to build any roads to the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium unless the team gives back its $750 million in subsidies, which isn’t going to happen but is still pretty brilliant and hilarious.
- F.C. Cincinnati isn’t gonna get its MLS expansion franchise until it has all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted on its community benefits plan. We could be here a while.
- A Phoenix real-estate developer has teamed with the libertarian Goldwater Institute to sue the city to force the release of its plans regarding renovations to the Suns arena after it denied a standard public-records request. It’s pretty standard for cities to deny such requests — I get Freedom of Information Law requests rejected for this reason all the time — but hey, more power to the lawyers if they want to see if a lawsuit works any better.
- Esports arena operators say that the future of sports is people sitting in esports arenas watching people play video games, and the New York Times suggests this could save America’s malls. In my experience, kids mostly want to watch this, and can, by just looking at their phones, but far be it from me to stand in the way of saving America’s malls.
- Headline in The Oregonian: “Major League Baseball to Portland leaders: ‘We have a window and we can’t let this go.'” Actual quote in the accompanying article: “That’s why you have Mike and Jason and I and our team so excited, moving so quickly but methodically. We have a window that we can’t let this go to Vegas or San Antonio or Mexico City or somewhere else.” By Craig Cheek, who has no role in MLB, but is just part of a group of owners who want to bring a major league baseball franchise to Portland. Maybe somebody should work on bringing a major league professional newspaper to Portland.
- This is sourced to the Daily Mail so is almost certainly wrong like everything that publication publishes, but: Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham F.C. owner Shahid Khan may not be able to buy Wembley Stadium for a while as planned, if it turns out a clause in the agreement to put public money into the stadium requires the Football Association to retain ownership of it through 2057.
- Here’s a list of places the Arizona Diamondbacks might consider trying to build a new stadium, which the Arizona Republic used as an excuse to re-run that old photo of a guy almost falling out of the current stadium’s upper deck and being caught by fellow fans.
- Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn wants the proposed Tampa Bay Rays stadium site to apply for federal tax breaks being offered by Donald Trump for private developments in low-income areas, because of course he does.
- And finally, Noah Pransky’s Shadow of the Stadium blog is shutting down after nine years, which is a shame not only because it’s a great read, but because we’re just now getting to the most important part of the Rays stadium battle, where it’s decided who lives and who dies where a stadium may be built and who’ll pay for it. Pransky will still be reporting on the Rays stadium battles for his day job at WTSP-TV, which means we should see more stuff like this. But still, it’s a sad day — thanks for nine years and 1,500 posts of great work, Noah!