Obama administration won’t allow Washington NFL stadium on RFK site unless team changes name

We all pretty much knew that the Washington NFL team wasn’t going to get a new stadium in D.C. unless it changed its racist nickname, but now it’s official:

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser this spring that the National Park Service, which owns the land beneath Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, was unlikely to accommodate construction of a new stadium for the Redskins unless the team changes its name.

Of course, President Obama is only going to be in office another year and a half, so it’s entirely possible that a new interior secretary would change the NPS policy on this come 2017. And D.C. officials were unlikely to approve a stadium without a name change anyway. But as far as sending a “Mr. Snyder, tear down that nickname!” message, it’s about as strong as they come.

Newspaper calls Raiders stadium plan “worst ever” because NFL’s paid stadium consultant says so

Matthew Artz of the San Jose Mercury News revealed some of the details of Floyd Kephart’s Oakland Raiders officially secret stadium plan on Saturday (full plan is here), and immediately turned to stadium experts to evaluate how good a deal it is. Well, one stadium expert. Actually, Marc Ganis, a paid consultant for the NFL who immediately declared Kephart’s plan to be “the worst stadium proposal I’ve seen … by far” — because the Raiders owners wouldn’t get many public subsidies:

The proposed $900 million, 55,000-seat facility adjacent to the O.co Coliseum would be financed entirely by the Raiders, the NFL and future stadium revenues. The Raiders would have to dip into sponsorship revenue and naming rights fees to help repay $300 million in loans needed to offset an estimated funding gap.

And, other than parking garages, the stadium would get no subsidy from the surrounding “live-work-play” technology campus Kephart plans to build on the rest of the sprawling Coliseum complex. The plan includes 4,000 homes, a shopping center, 400 hotel rooms and several office buildings.

“I can’t think of any sports team owner that would take a proposal like this even remotely seriously,” Ganis said, noting that San Diego has proposed a major public subsidy for a new Chargers football stadium. “It’s so one-sided and so bad, that it’s almost as if local leaders are saying ‘we can’t really do anything, so go ahead and leave.’ “

Finally, toward the end of the article, Artz gets around to explaining the Kephart proposal, which is this:

  • The Raiders would pay for a $900 million stadium via $200 million from personal seat license sales, $200 million in NFL G-4 funding, $100 million in cash, $300 million borrowed (from somewhere, paid back somehow, possibly from naming rights and other revenues), and $100 million from the sale of 20% of the team to Kephart for $200 million.
  • Kephart would buy 90 acres of the Coliseum site from the city and county for $116 million, then develop it into apartments, shopping, a hotel, and office buildings.
  • The city and county would spend about $80 million of that on new parking garages, while paying off $100 million in remaining Coliseum debt from … somewhere.
  • $100 million in infrastructure improvements would come from “grants.”
  • The A’s would have space (somewhere) reserved to build a new stadium until 2019.

Admittedly, that’s a pretty bad deal for the Raiders, though not an awful lot worse than the team’s one in Carson, which would likewise require the team to pay for the stadium with its own revenues. (The upside of Carson would mostly be that things like naming rights should bring in somewhat more money in the larger L.A. market.) It would also potentially be a bad deal for Oakland, which would sell 90 acres of land for only a little over $1 million an acre, which Newballpark.org notes is “ridiculously cheap” given how much other nearby parcels have gone for. In fact, the only clear beneficiary of Kephart’s plan would be, let’s see, who would end up with all the proceeds from development on land that he got a dirt-cheap price … oh, right, Kephart!

The real question here is why Oakland and Alameda County thought that a private developer could somehow come up with a way to turn a project with more than $1 billion in costs and nowhere near that much in potential new revenues into a win-win for all concerned, via elfin magic or something. Mayor Libby Schaaf’s whole “have the Raiders and A’s submit bids for the Coliseum site and take whichever one is more” plan is looking better and better.

Oakland developer provides city with Raiders funding plan, but you aren’t allowed to see it yet

The Raiders-A’s land war in Oakland is really heating up now, with developer Floyd Kephart providing city officials with a financing plan for a new Raiders stadium (which he can’t tell you about, and the city won’t release yet). Since A’s owner Lew Wolff still insists that he wants the Raiders to vamoose so he can build a stadium and surrounding development on the Coliseum site (and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred backs him up, because that’s what he’s there to do), looks like there’s gonna be a gum fight.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, meanwhile, only released an email statement that she is “analyzing the viability of the submission from Mr. Kephart,” and taking a “multipronged approach so we have as many options available as possible for stadium development without the use of City of Oakland general fund dollars.” Given that past Raiders plans have all involved the use of a heck of a lot of City of Oakland money, this doesn’t seem promising for Kephart’s plan, but we’ll know more when we know more.

Meanwhile, down in Carson, where a combined Raiders/San Diego Chargers stadium remains on the table — and which is currently embroiled in a crazy internecine government battle involving sexual assault charges against the current mayor and the city clerk calling a former mayor a “witch,” all of which is very entertaining but not really all that relevant to the stadium issues at hand — there was a public town hall meeting last night with Chargers and Raiders officials, and the Raiders officials failed to show up. Anybody who has a clue what Raiders owner Mark Davis is thinking in all this, please raise your hand, okay?

MLB commissioner: A’s owner wants new stadium on Coliseum site, so we want that too

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred visited Oakland on Friday, grinning terrifyingly and otherwise doing his job of backing up A’s owner Lew Wolff’s company line. Check it out:

“My information is that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have two facilities on the current Coliseum site,” Manfred said, indicating that a successful Raiders project could preclude the construction of an adjacent baseball stadium.

Despite that, the league is not pushing the A’s to consider alternate locations. Stadiums are a “peculiarly local” issue, and the league leaves decisions involving them to individual clubs, Manfred said.

“The A’s folks have been pretty clear that they believe the Coliseum site is the best site for a baseball stadium in Oakland,” Manfred said.

All of that’s true enough: While there’s plenty of room for both an A’s stadium and a Raiders stadium, there wouldn’t be much land left over for parking and residential development, and that’s the only way this plan has any hopes of paying for itself. (As much as Wolff hates the Oakland Coliseum, a new stadium wouldn’t actually bring in so much more money that it would justify its construction cost.) And Wolff indeed is focused on the Coliseum site, as are the Raiders, because this is fundamentally a battle to the death for who’s going to get development rights to the site.

So mostly what you have here is Manfred saying to Oakland, “Hey, get those Raiders offa the A’s lawn.” Which might actually work, given that the Raiders stadium plan is going nowhere fast and the team has a possible stadium plan in L.A. (or, the Rams move to L.A. instead, possibly the option of moving to St. Louis). But make no mistake: Manfred’s statements were about leverage, not information.

Talks over Chargers stadium now just involve both sides insulting each other

If San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer thought that proposing a Chargers stadium plan that nobody was really happy with and then calling for a public vote in order to avoid a more difficult public vote would at least be a productive starting point for negotiations — hey, it worked in Milwaukee, sort of — it’s not really working out that way at all. We already covered the Chargers owners’ statement on Tuesday that this voting thing doesn’t really work for them; since then, things have only descended further into everybody just yelling at each other:

  • Faulconer sniped on Twitter that “we can get this done if we have a willing partner,” while one of his political consultants snarked, “For the first time in seven months of incredibly hard work from the City, County, and the CSAG, the Chargers did something honest – walk away from the table.”
  • Faulconer said he’d next go straight to the NFL to convince the league that a public vote could be held without worries about holdups from environmental lawsuits, with city councilmember Scott Sherman adding approvingly, “They wouldn’t have a choice but to come back to the table.”
  • Chargers stadium czar Mark Fabiani told a KPBS interviewer that “we’re out of time for 2015″ and the only way the Chargers stay put in San Diego is if the NFL rejects their move to L.A. (Asked why the team had agreed to negotiate at all if it was too late, Fabiani replied, “We were hoping the city would come up with something we hadn’t thought of.”)
  • Fabiani told a 10News interviewer via email that negotiating with the city had been “a waste of five months,” that the L.A. market is “far more lucrative,” and that “we haven’t seen any evidence so far in our dealings with Mayor Faulconer that he is capable of managing such a complex project,” calling his approach “remarkably unsophisticated.”

Yep, that’s a lot of yelling. What it all seems to add up to is two sides each trying to make their pitch to the NFL: Fabiani is trying to tell the Chargers’ fellow owners, “Hey, we tried, the mayor’s a buffoon, we have no choice but to go to L.A.,” while Faulconer is sending the message, “We have a good offer on the table, kick these nuts in the butt and tell them to negotiate.” This is looking more and more like the endgame will be an NFL meeting in which the Chargers, St. Louis Rams, and Oakland Raiders owners all try to be the first to win approval to go to L.A.; I’m still skeptical that any of them should really want to, but NFL owners are as susceptible as the next person to wanting things that they’re told they can’t have. Maybe more so.

Missouri won’t disclose possible illegal Rams spending on grounds it’s getting sued for illegal Rams spending

What did St. Louis, which already has more Rams stadium lawsuits than anyone can keep track of, need most? Why, another lawsuit, of course:

The suit says the Dome authority is “attempting to avoid disclosure of records that would indicate the nature of planned public expenditures for a new football stadium,” and asks the court to force the Dome to hand them over.

The backstory, as explained in the above-linked St. Louis Post-Dispatch article: law professor John Ammann and former state rep Jeanette Mott Oxford, who are already suing over a bunch of other things around the proposed Rams deal, got curious as to whether the state-run dome authority was illegally spending money on a new stadium plan without a public vote. So they filed a public records request for all communications surrounding the stadium plan.

At which point the dome authority said it couldn’t turn any of them over because of — you can’t make this stuff up — “pending litigation,” citing one of the other suits it’s facing, this one from several state legislators, over illegally spending money on a Rams stadium. And promptly got sued again, this time by Ammann and Oxford. It’s not quite the classic definition of chutzpah, but it’s close.

 

Chargers to San Diego: No votes, please, just hand over stadium cash

If San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer was really proposing a public vote on a Chargers stadium deal because he thought it would be a way to make everyone happy, well, that sure didn’t work. The Chargers owners issued a statement yesterday saying they have no interest in any of this whole “people voting” nonsense:

he Chargers have concluded that it is not possible to place a ballot measure before voters in December 2015 in a legally defensible manner given the requirements of the State’s election law and the California Environmental Quality Act. The various options that we have explored with the City’s experts all lead to the same result: Significant time-consuming litigation founded on multiple legal challenges, followed by a high risk of eventual defeat in the courts. The Chargers are committed to maintaining an open line of communication with the City’s negotiators as we move through the summer and leading up to the special August meeting of National Football League owners. That meeting may provide important information about what is likely to occur during the remainder of 2015.”

In English, that translates as: Give us a plan that nobody can sue over, and give it to us by August, capisce? Also, possibly, We can’t sit around waiting for you when we have to beat Stan Kroenke to the treasure! Clearly none of us covering the NFL L.A. stadium move threat mess is going to get much of a summer vacation this year.

In America, we build things then tear them down then get sad about the ruins

It’s stadium demolition porn day at Deadspin, with photos of the ruins of Candlestick Park and a link to not-actually-all-that-new-but-still-cool photos of the ruins of the Pontiac Silverdome. They are sad and oddly beautiful.

Since we’re on the subject, one piece of the stadium debate that seldom comes up is that of waste. Not waste of money — that comes up all the time, of course — but waste of resources, of labor power, or energy, of carbon footprint, of all the stuff that you use more of by tearing down an existing building and erecting a new one. Not that nobody should ever build anything — and I’ll happily admit that the San Francisco Giants‘ new stadium is an awful lot nicer than the ‘Stick, for example — but there’s a predisposition in American political culture in particular to think of new development only for the jobs and economic activity it creates, without wondering if constantly building structures and then tearing them down again is the most efficient way to run a society.

Anyway, lookit the pretty pictures, but allow yourself a moment to think about the cost of constant upgrades to people’s sports experience, when it even can be considered an upgrade. Had your moment yet? Okay, we’re done.

St. Louis countersues Missouri to block Rams stadium, hopes to actually lose?

The city of St. Louis has countersued against the state of Missouri’s suit claiming that it doesn’t need the city’s permission to build a new Rams stadium with public money. The new counterclaim says that not only does an existing city law apply that requires a public vote on any new stadium expenditure, but the state stadium authority doesn’t have the right to build a stadium where it wants to anyway:

The state law that allowed for the building of the Jones Dome — and is being used to authorize construction of a new stadium — required the dome to be located “adjacent to an existing convention facility,” the counterclaim says.

But the proposed new stadium, the city’s filing argues, is “located on the other side of a road” from the America’s Center and the Jones Dome, where the city currently hosts conventions.

That’s a pretty hardball stance for the city to be taking, and maybe should be taken as an indication that the mayoral Gang of Four is starting to have influence in other cities as—

Mayor Francis Slay is publicly supportive of the new stadium. City Counselor Winston Calvert said this suit gives the city a chance to get answers sooner rather than later.

The counterclaim, he said, “is a reflection of the fact that everybody is ready to get these issues resolved and move on.”

Okay, or maybe not.

The concern that St. Louis officials aren’t really interested in fighting the state’s suit — even to the point of filing counterclaims just in hopes of getting them dismissed — is precisely why several St. Louis residents have filed a motion to intervene in the suit as defendents, fearing that the city isn’t really going to mount a defense. I spoke with one of those residents on Friday, former state representative Jeanette Mott Oxford, who explained that she has standing in this case because not only was she one of the original petitioners who got the referendum on the ballot, but she once stayed in a local hotel and paid the hotel taxes that would be diverted to fund the new stadium. The case should go to trial soon: Oxford mentioned a June 25 trial date, but that may have been a different lawsuit, there are so many. We haven’t yet seen the state or the city suing itself over this mess, but I expect it’s only a matter of time.

 

USA Today report on NFL LA move may violate own unnamed source rule, says source close to journalism

Stop the presses! USA Today reported on Friday that it’s heard the NFL is exploring where a team could play temporarily in Los Angeles, maybe, while a new stadium was possibly being built, if that happens, possibly, says some guy:

The league plans to soon begin talks with existing stadiums in the Los Angeles area in an effort to provide temporary housing for any team or teams that might relocate there, if any, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.

This is totally expected, since the league needs to do due diligence if it’s going to consider approving a move of either the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, and/or Oakland Raiders. And, for that matter, it’s also totally expected that the NFL might want to leak this to the papers for their own purposes, as a way of turning up the heat on St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland to get new stadium plans in gear already, instead of mucking around with whether it would be legal or whether it makes any sense. You might even wonder if USA Today is being used by the league here for PR purposes, with the whole “asked not to be identified” thing serving as cover so the NFL doesn’t have to answer any uncomfortable questions.

In fact, let’s see what USA Today’s editorial ethics policy has to say about basing stories on the testimony of unnamed sources:

The use of unnamed sources erodes our credibility and should be avoided.

Okay, that’s not a good start. But what about when, you know, you really really don’t want to avoid it?

The identity of an unnamed source must be shared with and approved by a managing editor prior to publication. The managing editor must be confident that the information presented to the reader is accurate, not just that someone said it. This usually will require confirmation from a second source or from documents…

Anonymous sources must be cited only as a last resort. This applies not just to direct quotes but to the use of anonymous sources generally. Before accepting their use for publication, an editor must be confident that there is no better way to present the information and that the information is important enough to justify the broader cost in reader trust. This is not to be taken lightly…

Unnamed sources should be described as precisely as possible. Additionally, reporters and editors should explain why the source could not be identified and if possible, add any information that establishes the credibility of a source on the subject matter in question.

Obviously, we as readers have no way of knowing whether USA Today’s managing editor signed off on this, whether a “second source or documents” was provided, and whether the information was “important enough to justify the broader cost in reader trust.” Still, at best, this seems like bending the “Don’t use unnamed sources unless absolutely necessary” rule for the sake of a juicy headline, even if it’s not a story that necessarily tells anyone much of anything. Which goes on all the time, of course, but that doesn’t make it any better a way of running a journalistic railroad.