S.D., L.A moving companies lining up to refuse to haul Chargers’ stuff north

Chargers owner Dean Spanos’s grudging “I’d love to stay, I must be going” announcement that he was moving the team from San Diego to Los Angeles was sad enough, especially with the logo uproar and public message to stay home from one of L.A.’s top sports columnists that immediately followed. So what could he possibly do for an encore? Oh, how about not being able to find anyone to rent him a moving van:

[Ryan Charles of HireAHelper.com] said that more than 25 San Diego-based [moving] companies and 10 from the L.A. area have united via the wewontmoveyouchargers.com website to pledge not to participate in what Charles admitted would be a very lucrative series of jobs.

“We’re continuing to add more companies every hour,” Charles said. “We’re still actively calling companies, and companies are signing themselves up through the link on that site. So yeah, I think it’s definitely had an impact.”

It’s always possible that one day the Chargers will be ensconced in their new stadium, and they will win games again, and they will compete with the Rams for the hearts of L.A. football fans, who will actually be proven to exist (except in the sense of football fans who live in L.A., vs. fans of L.A. football). But this definitely isn’t getting off to a good start.

Raiders to file papers to move to Vegas, it is said (by someone [we can’t tell you who])

So on Saturday morning (updated again on Sunday), NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport had this to report:

The Raiders will file relocation papers to move from Oakland to Las Vegas, according to sources familiar with their thinking. … The stunning move, one that should be made official in the coming days, is expected to add a new city to the NFL’s ever-changing landscape. The Raiders would need 24 votes from the league’s owners to formally make the move, a vote that will come this spring…

As for the support from the room of owners, it’s described as making progress and gathering momentum. There isn’t nearly the opposition some anticipated originally. And it continues to build, with some of the most prominent owners vocally in favor of it.

Number of named sources cited: zero. Citations are to “sources familiar with [the Raiders’] thinking,” “sources,” and that passive-voice “it’s described as.” So what we know for sure is that somebody wants the world to know (or think) that the Raiders are all set to move to Las Vegas, and that the NFL is set to approve it.

Anyway, we’ve known for a long while that Davis wants to move to Las Vegas, or at least that he says he wants to. (Notwithstanding that he still doesn’t know who he’s going to build a stadium there with, after getting $750 million in public money to help with the costs.) Does this mean the move could be official in another couple of months? That this is an attempt to shake down Oakland, or even once-and-maybe-future Davis stadium partner Sheldon Adelson, for a more Davis-friendly deal? What kind of relocation fee would Davis have to pay for moving from an old stadium in a large market into a new stadium in a fairly small one? All good questions to ask Rapoport’s sources — here, go to it.

Raiders could have new evil billionaire to partner with on Vegas stadium

Wednesday’s NFL meeting about the Oakland Raiders‘ possible relocation to Las Vegas was a big bust as far as actual news goes, with the exception of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II’s cryptic statement that “the Raiders are looking at this potentially going without Mr. Adelson.” We now have some indication of what that was all about, though, as a Las Vegas stadium authority consultant reported yesterday that Raiders owner Mark Davis thinks he has another option for raising money if he can’t come to an agreement with casino baron Sheldon Adelson:

“The team’s presentation highlighted its research that the Las Vegas market can support the team, that bringing the NFL to the market aligns with the league’s strategic goals and that Goldman Sachs is committed to financing the project with or without a third party,” [Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis] said.

“The Raiders told the committees that there is no deal in place yet with the Adelson family and that the team is pursuing approval with no third-party involvement,” Aguero said. “However, if an accord with the Adelson family is reached later, the team would bring that back for league approval.”

This makes sense: If building a Las Vegas stadium (with $750 million of it paid for by taxpayers) is a good deal for Adelson, it’s likely to be a good one for Goldman Sachs as well. Though it’s important to note that Goldman would only be the financier here — Davis would have to borrow the money and repay it later. Still, if he’d rather make annual loan payments than share revenues and potentially team ownership with Adelson, sure, go for the vampire squid, or at least pursue it as an option so you have some leverage with your prospective partner.

The big question is whether that $750 million is still on the table if Adelson is no longer involved. I’ve looked at all the reports on the legislation and been unable to tell whether the money is contingent on it going to Adelson, or if it’s just free-floating money that can go to anyone looking to build an NFL stadium. It would certainly be ironic if Adelson ended up putting in all this lobbying effort, including buying the local newspaper, only to get shoved unceremoniously aside. Though if you believe the scuttlebutt that Adelson only did this to block hotel tax money from going to a convention center that would compete with his, maybe he won’t care so much, especially after the convention center got its money anyway.

And yes, all this is a dumb way to decide which cities get pro sports franchises. In case you were wondering.

Chargers announce move to Los Angeles, all that’s left is deciding who to be the most mad at

So the San Diego Chargers are moving to Los Angeles, owner Dean Spanos having dropped the other shoe yesterday by releasing this statement and changing their logo before announcing it wasn’t really their new logo after everyone, even the Tampa Bay Lightning social media director, made fun of them. Normally a relocation like this would require a vote of NFL owners to make official, but the league already gave Spanos a “good for one move to Inglewood” coupon last January, so this is a done deal.

There are many, many, many feels that one can have about this, depending on one’s perspective, so why doesn’t one sit down with us and run through them to see how reasonable one is being?

  • Rot in hell, Dean Spanos, for taking a team away from the fans who’ve supported it for a half-century! Spanos is definitely screwing over Chargers fans (who have responded by dumping their team gear outside the Chargers office and throwing eggs at the windows, and even trying to set fire to a team flag) in an attempt to make more money. Whether this makes him a greedy asshole or a savvy self-interested businessman is, wait, what’s the difference again?
  • Dean Spanos is an idiot for choosing to pay a relocation fee and be Stan Kroenke’s second fiddle in L.A. rather than working something out in San Diego! VERDICT: unproven. Yes, the relocation fee (reportedly $550 million payable over 10 years, which in present value is worth more like $425 million) is a lot, and Spanos is going to need to choose between either paying Rams owner Stan Kroenke a whole lot of rent (or shared revenues, which amount to the same thing) or putting up half the construction cost of the new Inglewood stadium up front, either of which is going to be really expensive. Maybe he thinks he can earn it back from increased revenue in a bigger market (though the NFL is limited in that regard since there are no local TV deals), maybe he was just pissy that San Diego voters didn’t want to give him $1.15 billion. Or maybe he’s an idiot.
  • Dean Spanos is an evil genius, now he can sell the Chargers for twice what he was going to get for them in San Diego! This is wisdom so conventional that people feel authorized to tweet about it like it’s true, but like all franchise value claims, it’s really just guesswork: Nobody knows how much more some theoretical billionaire would be willing to pay for the Los Angeles Chargers than for the San Diego Chargers, especially not until we see how popular they’ll be sharing that market with the Rams, and with that unfriendly lease that will saddle them with uncounted future costs. Only Spanos’s bean counters know for sure, and while it’s a fair bet that he’ll come out ahead since otherwise he wouldn’t be doing this (though see above re: pissy and/or idiot), it’s probably not going to be a double-your-money deal.
  • The NFL is going to regret this, nobody in L.A. wants to watch the dumb old Rams and Chargers! Certainly the Rams’ first season in L.A. wasn’t a raging success, with fans coming disguised as empty seats and TV ratings down relative to when L.A. football viewers were watching other cities’ teams. But the Rams and Chargers aren’t going to be pathetic excuses for football teams forever (probably), so maybe things will improve, and this won’t end up being a giant embarrassment for the league. Though that wouldn’t be any fun at all.
  • This is all San Diego’s fault for refusing to give Spanos a new stadium! To football fans’ credit, this viewpoint mostly seems to be limited to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who released a “Hey, we tried” statement following the announcement of the Chargers’ move. There were plenty of city officials willing to talk to Spanos about a new or renovated stadium (though they were limited in how much public money they were willing to/able to provide for one), but between the owner’s demand that the city fork over the lion’s share of the costs and the time limit on the relocation clause that meant Spanos had to move to L.A. now if he ever wanted to, there wasn’t time to work on that.
  • Wait, the Chargers are going to play in a soccer stadium for two years?! Yup. On the bright side, see above about nobody wanting to see the team play right now anyway.
  • At least San Diego taxpayers can still watch the team on TV if they want, without having to pay $1.15 billion in tax money as well! Also yup.
  • Sports is a festering cesspool of greed and extortion, less about putting out a good product than about an arms race among owners to build opulent stadiums with other people’s money! Well, duh.

If there’s a silver lining for wannabe haters, it’s that unlike in the typical stadium controversy, this looks set to be a tragedy in the Shakespearean sense, where all the major players end up dead on the battlefield thanks to hubris or stupidity or what have you. The San Diego Chargers may be dead, but San Diego Chargers schadenfreude is just beginning.

NFL meets to discuss Raiders, Chargers moves, doesn’t decide squat because why rush into things?

The NFL’s stadium and finance committees met yesterday as promised, and while nothing really was decided about either the Oakland Raiders‘ possible move to Las Vegas or the San Diego Chargers‘ possible move to Los Angeles, we have some hints of where things are headed. And as befits a league run by a bunch of rich guy who decide things by arguing about who has the biggest balls, the outcome looks to combine one helping of naked avarice with two of farcical train wreck.

Yesterday’s joint meeting was apparently mostly focused on the Raiders, with league VP Eric Grubman later telling the L.A. Daily News’s Vincent Bonsignore that team owner Mark Davis has made “impressive” progress on a stadium deal there. Which, yeah, we noticed, but has the NFL made any progress on deciding whether to approve the move?

Okay. Has Davis at least made up his mind about whether to take Vegas’s $750 million subsidy offer and go in with billionaire Sheldon Adelson on a stadium there?

Okay! So no news at all, really, other than “check back later.”

There are still two big unknowns in the Raiders-to-Vegas potential move: First off, the NFL needs to decide on what relocation fee Davis would be charged, which the league still hasn’t discussed, though they have hired the same consulting firm that picked $550 million out of a hat for the Rams‘ move to L.A. to figure it out. And second, Davis has to hash out a deal with Adelson on how to split revenues and costs, which they apparently still haven’t been able to put their heads together on. Adelson no doubt thinks he has Davis over a barrel since he has few other options for getting ahold of $750 million in public stadium cash, which is probably why the NFL deployed Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II to say this yesterday:

“I think the Raiders are looking at this potentially going without Mr. Adelson,’’ Rooney, chairman of the league’s stadium committee and one of the NFL’s most influential owners, told reporters in New York after league meetings on relocation and stadium issues.

Davis told the Review-Journal, “I have nothing to say right now.”

That sort of could make sense, maybe: If a Vegas stadium is viable for Adelson, then it’d be viable for some other developer as well, and Davis is the one with the rare commodity in an NFL team. Or he (or Rooney) could just be trying to drive a hard bargain with Adelson to get more money flowing into team/league coffers. Davis has until February 15 to decide on whether to file for relocation, and the NFL could always decide to extend that deadline if they want, so that leaves plenty of time for haggling.

On the Chargers front, meanwhile, the reason for the stasis is way more hilarious: It looks like team owner Dean Spanos doesn’t really want to move to L.A., and the other NFL owners don’t really want him to move to L.A., but the two sides are engaged in a massive game of chicken to decide whether the league will pay him to stay put. Per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora and his patented unnamed sources (though other outlets are reporting similar things):

There are some grave concerns among owners and the league office about the potential of having two teams in Los Angeles — the Chargers can exercise an option to move to L.A. next week, and sources said at this point they have no reason not to — and any subsidy offered to Chargers owner Dean Spanos would be born of those economic fears more than anything else…

The Rams have had a rough first season in Los Angeles and are already engaged in a coaching search, and the ratings in that market were not what some might have hoped for, as well. … Spanos has resisted leaving in the past and has his own concerns about the deal brokered with the Rams, one that would essentially make the Chargers a tenant to Rams owner Stan Kroenke at the stadium in construction scheduled to open in 2019, and there is sense among other owners that even a weak deal to stay in San Diego could carry the day.

There’s a lot to unpack there, but basically, if we believe La Canfora or whoever’s feeding him this stuff, Spanos doesn’t really like the deal being offered by Kroenke to move to L.A., but is trying to use the threat of taking it to extract some cash from the league to help him pay for a new stadium in San Diego. And the NFL can’t do much about it, as it already gave Spanos an option to move to L.A. last year when it approved the Rams move, and set the relocation fee to boot, meaning it can’t throw any roadblocks in the way of a Chargers move, just offer Spanos bribes not to go through with it.

Spanos’ option expires on Tuesday, which means something has to give really really soon. (He’s reportedly called a team staff meeting for this morning to discuss an undisclosed matter, which is presumably that he’s set to announce a move.) So, of course, yesterday’s meeting steadfastly avoided talking about the Chargers at all:

Just like the Rams decision did, it looks like this one is going to go down to the wire, and be decided by something stupid like egos or which NFL owners are Facebook friends. Both teams moving is still a likely scenario, but at this point I really wouldn’t rule anything out.

Atlanta mayor defends cost overruns for Falcons pedestrian bridge as “saving lives”

Just what exactly is it with the Atlanta area and forgetting to plan for ways for fans to get to new sports stadiums? In the wake of the Cobb County Braves pedestrian bridge fiasco, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed last month that a pedestrian bridge to the Falcons‘ new stadium could cost $23.2 million, almost double what Mayor Kasim Reed promised in July. And now Reed has fired back that okay, maybe, but it’s worth every penny, dammit:

In 21st Century America, a city’s connectivity and walkability are major factors in attracting and retaining young, skilled workers and the companies looking to hire them. The steady influx of businesses and new residents to the City of Atlanta in 2016 is directly related to this strategy. Moreover, this growth is strengthening our economy across all sectors, leading to lower unemployment and greater opportunities for our residents.

The new bridge over Northside Drive linking Westside neighborhoods to Downtown Atlanta is a major example of an essential infrastructure piece that will improve – and possibly save – residents’ lives. The bridge will offer a safe crossing of Northside Drive, which for years has been a dangerous barrier preventing easy passage from the Westside to Downtown’s economic and cultural opportunities.

Okay, yeah, I think everyone can agree that people like to be able to cross highways without having to run through traffic. The bigger point here is that the city is suddenly facing a previously unannounced $23.2 million cost for a project to support a pro football stadium. While Reed insisted that the bridge was part of a community benefits plan, the AJC found that “none of those claims are backed up by the public record,” and quoted one of the community plan’s architects as saying they’re a load of crap:

Rev. Anthony A.W. Motley, a major participant in helping craft the Community Benefits Plan, scoffed at the assertion.

“To try and justify the bridge on the basis of a connection to poor people in the community is an insult to everything that we have proposed, particularly as it relates to the Community Benefits Plan,” Motley said. “The bridge has nothing to do with the community, and to say that it does shows contempt for the community and a flagrant disregard for the truth.”

Back on the Braves bridge front, meanwhile, the latest report is that six months after construction started in June, and with four months to go to opening day, the bridge was 40% complete. That doesn’t seem like a very promising pace, but Cobb’s transportation director Jim Wilgus said he hopes it will be “operational” by opening day April 14, even if not “totally complete” until the summer. Everybody hold on!

NFL set to discuss Chargers-to-L.A. next Wednesday, as Spanos grubs for more stadium cash

We finally have a D-Day of sorts for the San Diego Chargerslong-rumored-by-Jason-La-Canfora move to Los Angeles, as the NFL’s finance and stadium committees will meet next Wednesday to discuss the relocation. On the surface, there wouldn’t seem to be much to discuss since the league already approved the terms of a Chargers move last January, but given that it’s the NFL, there’s always something to haggle about:

It’s believed that [Chargers owner Dean] Spanos could be seeking more money from the NFL to help him stay in San Diego. It appears that money is needed to bridge the gap between money already available from the league and the team, and public contribution from the city, county and San Diego State.

That’s completely unsourced, you’ll note — nice weasel wording with that “it’s believed,” Associated Press! — but if true, is kind of interesting: Apparently Spanos is holding out hope that the other NFL owners want him to stay put in San Diego badly enough that they’ll increase the $100 million offer they made to help him build a stadium there. That doesn’t seem all too likely, but you don’t get if you don’t ask, right?

The “gap” between money already available and what a stadium would cost, as a reminder, is pretty much “all of it,” given that in November San Diego voters overwhelmingly rejected funding $1.15 billion of a $1.8 billion stadium. Spanos needs to hope he’s better at last-second comeback attempts in the board room than his team is on the field.

Vikings stadium paneling keeps coming loose, because it’s windy

The Minnesota Vikings‘ new $1.1 billion stadium is only four months old, and already bits are falling off it:

Workers have repaired a missing strip of zinc paneling that fell from U.S. Bank Stadium’s western prow on Monday, prompting building contractor M.A. Mortenson Construction to reinforce the facade in hopes of preventing further damage from high winds.

Mortenson executive John Wood said Wednesday that the company, along with subcontractor McGrath, will install additional fasteners to exterior panels in the coming weeks…

Initially, the panels were bolted down only along the bottom edge. After heavy storms last summer, some panels came loose and flapped in the wind. Mortenson workers then reinforced the panels along the top edge.

None of this is a catastrophe or anything — the zinc panels turned out not to be fastened securely enough to hold up to severe weather, and the contractor will fix it under the building’s two-year warranty. But it’s a worthwhile reminder that buildings require upkeep, so something coming loose isn’t any more a sign that a stadium is in need of replacement when it’s four months old than when it’s 40 years old. Though if you want to go ahead and make “U.S. Bank Stadium is falling apart, time to build a new one” jokes, by all means be my guest.

Omaha mayoral candidate fantasizes that he can get an NFL team, also that he can be Omaha mayor

There is much stress and sadness in the world today, so let’s all laugh at this guy:

A 26-year-old political novice is entering the 2017 Omaha mayor’s race with a proposal to bring an NFL team to Omaha.

Taylor Royal, a Republican accountant who is an Omaha native, … proposes that the city build a football stadium and either petition the NFL to create a new team or recruit a current team to move to Omaha.

Royal believes that a team would broaden the tax base and create excitement in the city.

Now, this isn’t entirely crazy: As I’ve pointed out a million times before, thanks to those big national TV contracts that every NFL team owner gets a cut of, you could put a team in the Gobi Desert and still turn a profit, so why not Omaha? Except that the league would hate it (both because it would hurt at TV contract negotiation time and because an Omaha team wouldn’t bring in much in the way of ad sales or luxury suite money), and Omaha already doesn’t have enough money to fix its crumbling roads, and bwahaha “broaden the tax base.” Not to mention the fact that Omaha is the actual poster child for not having sports teams.

On the bright side, this “26-year-old political novice” managed to get some national news coverage for his campaign, just by declaring his commitment to a plan that was attention-getting, albeit not in a good way. On the less bright side, this is what he’s going with as his campaign photo:

584b973f9c68d-imageGood thing for him there’s no such thing as bad publicity, I guess?

SD councilmembers offer free land for Chargers stadium, team owner calls this an insult

What with San Diego voters having resoundingly rejected San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos’s request for $1.15 billion to build a new stadium and convention center, several city councilmembers have taken it upon themselves to make a counteroffer: We’ll give you the land for free if you’ll build the stadium your own damn self.

The current site is equivalent to over 60 downtown blocks that can be transformed from an empty parking lot to a state-of-the-art, one of a kind NFL experience. The development of the current site with a $1 per year 99-year lease would be a good starting point for a discussion.

This is not a terrible offer: The land itself is valued at $180 million, so that’s not chicken feed. On the other hand, it’s understandably a big comedown from a $1.15 billion subsidy ask, so Spanos is all pissy about it:

That conduct has been viewed by owner Dean Spanos as an effort to embarrass him and his family and to deflect blame for a relocation from the politicians via a last-minute proposal that will never survive scrutiny.

“If the goal was to infuriate the single remaining decision-maker in this process, mission accomplished,” the source said.

On the one hand, yes, this was clearly a PR move by the councilmembers, who know that Spanos is unlikely to accept the offer, but now can say “We offered him a $1 a year lease, what more does he want?” On the other, Spanos is now more clearly than ever saying, We need a new stadium in order to survive in San Diego, but we’ll only make money on a new stadium if someone else gives us the money to build it. That’s a pretty neat encapsulation of the stadium game, right there.