More 49ers fans dumping seat licenses, because 49ers’ new stadium sucks

The San Francisco 49ers‘ new stadium in Santa Clara has had some problems since it opened last year — the grass won’t stay put, it was brutally hot, getting in and out by car was often painful, and the stadium lights blinded nearby airline pilots. And now, according to KGO-TV, some seat license holders are fed up and want out of their season-ticket deals:

If you were hoping to get your hands on a San Francisco 49ers Season Builders License, or SBL, you’re in luck. Thousands are now available, but re-sellers say it has nothing to do with the team’s current record. Still, a growing number of fans are very dissatisfied…

“Half the stadium, we get beat up by the sun. So if you’re going to watch a game, you want to enjoy, drink a few beers. Here, you drink a few beers, and you get beat up, come home with sunburn, it’s just a bad experience,” [San Jose resident Tuan] Le said.

Other fans complained that the 49ers changed their ticket policy this year, sending only electronic tickets that can’t be printed until 72 hours before the game, making it harder to sell unwanted tickets.

Now, it’s only 3,000 licenses that are up for resale, up only slightly from last spring, and not all that much in a 68,000-seat stadium. And besides, the magic of PSLs (or SBLs as the 49ers call them) is that the team doesn’t have to give a crap about any of this: They’ve sold the licenses already, and it’s the fans’ problem if they made a bad investment.

The more interesting question is what this means for plans to finance stadiums in Los Angeles by similar means: Will L.A. fans, seeing the mess in Santa Clara, be more hesitant to plunk down for Rams/Raiders/Chargers PSLs? Nobody knows, but then nobody knows how viable those PSL sales projections were in the first place. This is a cautionary tale for somebody, that’s for sure, but whether it’s for football fans, for city officials in Inglewood and Carson, or for cities that think they have to outbid L.A. for the right to keep their teams is yet to be determined.

Buccaneers now seeking $100m stadium upgrade, “only” asking public for $26m

Remember when Tampa Bay Buccaneers owners the Glazer family said they wanted a bigger new scoreboard than the measly $18.7 million one the county was going to build for them, but they’d pay the difference? Well, almost two years later, the Bucs’ stadium upgrade plans are now in, and they’re a whole lot more ambitious, not to mention involve more complicated financing:

  • In addition to expanding the scoreboard from 2,250 square feet to 9,600 square feet and making them high-definition, the Glazers are seeking upgrades to luxury suites and to the sound system.
  • The public stadium authority would fund $26 million of the cost — as currently required under the team-friendly lease — while the team owners would kick in between $52 million and $75 million.
  • The Glazers are seeking permission to have the Bucs play a second home game outside of Tampa each year, possibly in line with the NFL now doing two games a year in London. In exchange, the county would get out of a commitment to put $11.6 million into a practice facility (also courtesy of that crappy lease) and get to keep more money from non-football events at the stadium. (Which the public owns, mind you, but the Glazers get cash from non-football events because — do I really need to say “crappy lease” a third time?)
  • In addition, Noah Pransky of WTSP-TV emails that the Glazers want the county to purchase construction materials for them so they can get out of paying sales taxes on them.

The immediate response from local public officials was not exactly positive:

“We thought we had a deal on the table last week. And then they kind of put out this whole new deal, which is quite different than what we were talking about,” said Mike Merrill, Hillsborough County administrator, whose staff is part of the negotiations because TSA is partly county-funded.

There are too many moving parts yet to say exactly how good or bad a deal this would be for Tampa. Mostly, it’s a reminder that leases that require the public to keep putting money into capital improvements even after giving a team a new stadium are a terrible, terrible idea. Also that people like watching football on giant video screens, because football is a terrible sport to watch live. I still say the future of the NFL is to build a stadium with only one really luxurious seat, and then charge a lucky billionaire tons of money to sit in it — though he’ll probably spend most of the game eating in the in-stadium steak house anyway.

NFL owners still can’t agree whether Rams, Chargers, or Raiders should move to L.A.

Whenever I’ve asked about the prospects for an NFL team moving to Los Angeles, I’ve tried to stress that we have no idea what’s going to happen, in part because this is something that will be decided by a vote of NFL owners, meaning it could be determined by personalities of 32 rich guys as much as anything. And guess what? It turns out that the 32 rich guys can’t agree on anything right now, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:

Neither the Inglewood project, spearheaded by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, nor the Carson project, led by Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis, has sufficient support to carry a vote…

Several ownership groups maintain that if the relocation came to a vote right now, there would be a sufficient split to hold up any move forward. The NFL will not bring the matter to a formal vote among the owners until enough straw polling has been conducted to ensure one of these projects has at least 24 votes in the affirmative.

Spanos is the more popular of the two owners among the general constituents, but Kroenke’s project is viewed by some as potentially the more lucrative for all the entire league — Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Patriots owner Bob Kraft chief among them. Some estimate Kroenke would have as many as 10 votes in his favor right now.

Now this is some quality tea-leaf reading here: The NFL is split between people who don’t like Stan Kroenke and people who don’t like the Carson stadium project. It would be nice to know why other owners think the Inglewood plan would be more lucrative for the league as a whole than the Carson one — why people might not like a guy who is known a “Silent Stanley” and who bum-rushed the line to move to L.A. is less mysterious — but La Canfora doesn’t say.

Anyway, all this is good reason to bet the over in any pools about when this whole L.A. situation is likely to be resolved, because looks like we the hoi polloi are not the only ones confused about which deal makes sense. At this point I’ll going to be increasingly surprised if any teams are approved to relocate for the 2016 season, if only because it seems like the league could use a little more time to see which cities are shakedownable for stadium funding. (Current scorecard: St. Louis maybe, San Diego possibly but don’t hold your breath, Oakland only if you squint really hard.) Something has to tip the balance for league owners, especially when a three-quarters majority is needed, and that something is still in the future.

Vikings stadium czar: Team was never moving to L.A., thanks for the $500m, though!

With stadium talks with the San Diego Chargers still going nowhere fast, this has left the San Diego sportswriters who’ve been pushing for a deal in a bit of a quandary for what to write about. On Friday, Mark Ziegler wrote about how Tijuana’s soccer team got a new stadium when San Diego isn’t (the trick: a total cost of a mere $125 million, plus an owner who was hoping to cash in by getting his team promoted to the top Mexican league, two things that aren’t options for the Chargers); today, it’s our old pal Kevin Acee pointing out that it took the Minnesota Vikings a good decade and a half to get a new stadium, so San Diego should be patient and — wait, hold on a second here:

Even as the Vikings were frequently mentioned from the outside as a possible relocation candidate in the years leading up to the 2012 approval of a new stadium here, [Vikings stadium point man Lester] Bagley said the team never used Los Angeles as a bargaining chip. He said he believes ownership would have sold the team before it moved the Vikings.

“Never used Los Angeles as a bargaining chip”? So when NFL VP Eric Grubman declared that the time was “getting ripe” for the Vikings to move and that “I think the Wilfs do not want to sell the franchise, but I think there is a point where they probably would be open-minded,” and then NFL commissioner Roger Goodell flew to Minnesota to scare the state legislature into coughing up half a billion dollars in public money, something it immediately did despite an electronic gambling scheme that ended up generating no revenue and having to be bailed out by other state cash, that was just, you know, a coincidence? Or he’s making a distinction that the owners never threatened to move to L.A. themselves, they just had league officials threaten that the team would be sold and moved to L.A., which isn’t a bargaining chip at all, right?

Oy. For a palate-cleanser, go read this NBC San Diego report on how the Chargers may be in violation of their lease for not meeting with the city often enough to discuss stadium plans. It doesn’t really make any more sense — San Diego would have nothing to gain by breaking its lease with the Chargers, unless you really think the Spanos family could be frightened into spending more money on a new stadium by the threat of being forced to play in the street — but at least it’s based on actual reality.

NFL owners are paying for their new stadiums by sticking players with the bill

Friday afternoon brought an especially weird headline from Bloomberg Business:

NFL Wants Players to Pay for Los Angeles Stadium

Say what, now? I know that the dueling Carson and Inglewood stadium proposals have a whole bunch of financial questions remaining, but really, asking NFL players to chip in? And why on earth would they want to?

The accompanying Bloomberg story isn’t exactly the clearest, but there are some nuggets of information buried in it. The financing vehicle is something called “stadium credits,” a provision of the league’s collective bargaining agreement that allows the league to exclude half of all private stadium costs — and 75% in the case of stadiums in California — from salary cap calculations. There are additional provisions for excluding naming rights revenues, PSL revenues, etc., though there’s also a cap on how much the league can deduct at any given time, equal to 1.5% of total league revenues.

That 1.5% cap is really all you need to understand, because it’s long since maxed out. In short, when NFL players signed the current CBA back in 2011, they agreed to set the salary cap at 1.5% less than they had previously, with the money set aside for stadium costs. ( had a good explanation of this at the time.) That’s money that goes back to the league overall, of course, not the specific teams building stadiums — but it’s what the NFL uses to generate funds for its G-4 program, which lets owners keep money they would normally share with the league and instead spend it on stadium costs.

The end result of all this money-shuffling, then, is that the players give up money to the league in the form of lower salaries, and the league then lets teams draw on it to pay for new stadium costs. It’s not additional money we didn’t know about — both of the L.A. stadiums have been counting on G-4 money all along — but it does clarify that when we hear talk about the NFL’s “contribution” to new stadiums, it’s less out of the goodness of their hearts than because they’ve ensured they can pass the tab along to the players.

Except that the Stadium Credit fund is now exhausted, so the league now has to go back to the players to ask for more concessions. (There’s also a clause in the CBA saying that L.A. stadiums can be excluded from the credit, but that’s at the league’s sole discretion, so it’s not clear why it’s even in there — unless maybe someone at the league offices back in 2011 was thinking of denying G-4 money to L.A. stadiums in order to leave more for other projects.) Why the players would even be considering this is an excellent question — sure, a new stadium could bring in new revenues and thus raise salaries, but that’s not going to help players any if they just have to turn around and give it back to the NFL — but union official don’t seem to be asking it, not publicly, anyway:

“When we signed the deal in 2011, we considered our role in growing the game and we review every investment opportunity and proposal carefully,” union spokesman George Atallah said.

In the grand scheme of things for L.A. stadium proposals, this doesn’t matter all that much, as the league has already promised G-4 money, so other team owners will just have to eat the cost of that if they can’t pass it along to players. Still, it’s a fascinating look at how the sausages get made, and a reminder that one of the main skills necessary for becoming rich enough to own an NFL team is figuring out how to make sure someone else always picks up the check.

Oakland fires Raiders stadium developer after it turns out he wasn’t good at developing stadiums

In a move that comes as no surprise to anyone anywhere, the Oakland city council and Alameda County board of supervisors have jointly agreed not to renew developer Floyd Kephart’s exclusive deal to build a new stadium for the Raiders after it turned out he didn’t have any better idea how to pay for one than anyone else did. Not that Oakland has any better ideas either, but now at least they aren’t stuck with Kephart’s non-ideas, like they have been for the last year.

Oakland can now seek to partner with other developers, if anyone thinks that’s a good idea, or try to come up with a stadium finance plan on their own, if someone has a way to make money grow on trees. The underlying problem here, as it is in most stadium deals, is that Raiders owner Mark Davis wants a new building but doesn’t want to be the one to pay for it, and there’s no way for a city to agree to that without taking a several hundred million dollar loss. So we get a years-long stalemate until somebody blinks and agrees to get out their wallets, and it’s never the team owner, because where’s the upside for him in that?

Anyway, the Raiders aren’t any closer to getting a new stadium today, but then they weren’t very close last week either, so. Also, they’re no closer to moving to L.A. than they were last week. This is officially becoming the most slow-moving game of chicken ever.

D.C. residents give resounding thumbs-down to mayor’s NFL stadium plans

Residents of the area around RFK Stadium really do not like Mayor Muriel Bowser’s idea to use the land for a new NFL stadium:

More than 150 residents of Capitol Hill filled a church gymnasium Wednesday night to propose ideas for re-use of the Robert F. Kennedy stadium property.

Most of the ideas centered around sports: playing fields, a pool, a boathouse, skating rinks, walking trails, even a velodrome.

There was one idea they widely and intensely opposed: building a new stadium for the Redskins. And almost every one of the more than 20 people who stood up to oppose a new NFL stadium did so without saying the team’s name.

Meanwhile, two former National Park Service workers who live near the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital site really do not like Mayor Bowser’s idea to use it for a new Wizards practice facility:

“I don’t think we need it over here,” said Alphonzo Walker, an unemployed 53-year-old who lives in Ward 8.

“I don’t know about this area,” said Eric Clark, also unemployed and in his 50s, though a few years older than Mr. Walker. “What’s going to happen to the homeless who live there?”

Okay, sure, small sample size. Still, the general principle is valid: If you have a plot of available land, and a plan to dedicate a few tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in city money towards it, what’s the best way to generate jobs and other benefits for the surrounding neighborhood, if that’s your goal? Think carefully before you answer.

San Diego misses deadline for January Chargers stadium vote, still plenty of other months in the year

San Diego officially isn’t holding a referendum next January on Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Chargers stadium plan that absolutely everybody hates including the Chargers owners: The deadline for scheduling a referendum was last Friday, and it wasn’t scheduled, because see above re: hate.

So now what?

“While it’s no surprise that the Chargers have allowed today’s deadline to pass for a January 12 special election,” said Faulconer, “San Diego can still hold a public vote on a new stadium during the normal election cycle in June or November – if Chargers ownership is willing to work in good faith with their hometown.”

Take out the passive-aggressive snipe at the Chargers ownership (Chargers execs responded with their own passive-aggressive snipe in return — this is what passes for negotiations in San Diego these days), and San Diego is basically in the same position as St. Louis and Oakland with the Rams and Raiders: If the NFL decides this winter to let teams move to L.A. if they don’t have stadium deals in place in their current homes, they’re probably screwed; if it decides to give everybody some more rope and kick everything back a year, there’s still plenty of time to work out a deal that their team can live with.

Though given that “deal that their team can live with” probably means “deal that costs local taxpayers ungodly amounts of money,” the city or cities that lose their teams to L.A. might end up the biggest winners, financially, at least. These things never end well.

D.C. mayor says she wants new NFL stadium at RFK site regardless of whether study says it’s a good idea

Brian Flahaven, the D.C. neighborhood commissioner who previously called out councilmember Vincent Orange’s crazy idea for a 100,000-seat NFL stadium on the RFK stadium site as crazy, now reports that Mayor Muriel Bowser has told him that she wants to pursue a new stadium on the NFL site as well — notwithstanding that the city’s stadium authority is in the middle of a study as to whether that makes sense:

When I asked Mayor Bowser to share her vision of the future of the RFK site during a recent meeting with ANC commissioners, she stated her desire to build a new football stadium at the site, calling the Events DC study a fallback plan.

Her rationale? Besides the site’s history of hosting football, Mayor Bowser noted the large size of the site and that a new stadium would not preclude other development activities. She also said that other cities have successfully built stadiums that have fit well into the surrounding neighborhood (though she didn’t mention specific cities or stadiums).

Flahaven doesn’t provide any direct quotes, so it’s impossible to know exactly what Bowser said here. Still, it’s an apparent shift from Bowser’s earlier position that she was looking to Events DC to determine whether the site should be developed “with a stadium or without a stadium.” Not that Bowser is likely to still be mayor when this is decided, given the way D.C. runs through mayors these days, but Washington NFL owner Dan Snyder sure must be happy to have at least one friend in a high place, even if actual D.C. residents seem to think it’s a terrible idea.

San Diego columnist blames Chargers stadium situation on Patriots’ cheating, wins sportswriting

I was on deadline yesterday (writing not about stadiums, but a different way wealthy corporations scam people out of money — look for a link at or via my Twitter in a couple of days), which meant I didn’t have a chance to go through all the day’s stadium articles as I usually do. Let’s see, did I miss anything?

So today we must wonder: Did the New England Patriots cheat the Chargers out of a ring, maybe two — or at least a chance at becoming Super Bowl champions?

And, with that, did they cheat them out of a new stadium?

Now, there are several reasonable responses I can think of to that, starting with:

  1. Whaaaaaaa?
  2. No. No, we really mustn’t wonder that.
  3. You know that the NFL doesn’t award new stadiums as a result of winning Super Bowls, right? Yes, it’s possible there would have been more support in San Diego for a new stadium if the Chargers had been champions — though how “support” would translate into finding the hundreds of millions of dollars in missing cash for a stadium project, I’m not entirely clear, but whatever — but then this could as reasonably be put as “Did Spygate save San Diegans from being suckered into paying for a new Chargers stadium?”
  4. Aw, man, who told Nick Canepa his computer login password?

The best part of this insane article, though, is Canepa’s followup to his own question:

Maybe, maybe not.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Newspaper sports columnist is the cushiest job ever. So long as you don’t have any qualms about filling space by just writing whatever pops into your head, you’re golden.