Friday roundup: Neo-Expos seek public land for stadium, Hawaii mulls new stadium to host nothing, D-Backs spend bupkis fixing supposedly crumbling stadium

So very, very much news:

  • Would-be Montreal Expos reviver Stephen Bronfman has reportedly settled on federally owned land in Peel Basin near downtown as a prospective stadium site once a franchise is obtained, through expansion or relocation. Mayor Valérie Plante called the idea “interesting”; other than that, there’s been no word of what Bronfman would pay for the land or how the stadium would be paid for or really anything involving money, so sure, “interesting” is a fine evaluation of this news.
  • Charles Allen, the D.C. councilmember whose district includes RFK Stadium, calls the site “a very wrong choice for an NFL stadium,” and instead would like to see housing and parks there. Mayor Muriel Bowser disagrees, so this is going to come down to a good old council fight. Too bad Marion Barry isn’t around anymore to make things interesting.
  • Hawaii is considering spending $350 million in public money on a new football stadium to replace Aloha Stadium because, according to state senator Glenn Wakai, “It’s kind of like driving a Datsun pickup truck that is just being run into the ground. At a certain point, time to get a new pickup truck.” Given that Aloha Stadium currently hosts nothing much at all other than University of Hawaii football, it’s more like spending $350 million to replace your pickup truck that just sits in the driveway with a new pickup truck, but far be it from me to interfere with Sen. Wakai’s attempts to bash Datsun for some reason.
  • Halifax is still considering whether to spend $120-140 million on a stadium for an expansion CFL team, maybe via the magic of tax increment financing; University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe points out that a TIF isn’t magic but just “makes the subsidy less transparent, less obvious that it indeed even is a subsidy” — but then, pulling the wool over the public’s eyes is a kind of magic, no?
  • The Oakland Raiders have a “very real” chance of playing 2019 at the Oakland Coliseum, according to … this Bleacher Report headline, but nothing in the actual story? What the hell, Bleacher Report?
  • Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick has claimed that the team’s stadium would need $8 million in upgrades over the winter, but has only spent $150,000. Which isn’t totally a gotcha — team execs say they’re conserving the stadium maintenance fund to spend on future repairs — but it does poke a bit of a hole in their argument that the stadium is in such bad shape that MLB could order the Diamondbacks to leave Arizona.
  • Austin residents will get to vote in November on whether the city can give public land to a pro sports team owner without a public vote, but it’ll probably be too late to affect the deal to do that for Austin F.C. owner Anthony Precourt. It’ll come in handy next time Austin is in the market for a pro sports team, I guess, though then the owner will probably just figure out a different way to ask for subsidies. “Better late than never” doesn’t work that well when it comes to democracy.
  • Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’s “not sure that there’s much space for public consultation” on a redevelopment project to include a Flames arena, though he added that “it would be very interesting to hear from the public on what they think the right amount of public participation in this should be, and certainly there will be an opportunity for the public to have their voices heard but it might not happen until there’s something on the table.” It’s hard to tell whether that’s a justification or an apology — and keep in mind that Nenshi was deliberately shut out of the committee negotiating any deal — but there you are.
  • MLS commissioner Don Garber just got a five-year extension, and — quelle coincidence! — the league is now talking about expanding to 32 teams by 2026. Whether this is really a Ponzi-esque attempt to paper over weak financials with a constant influx of expansion fees won’t be entirely clear until the expansion finally stops and we see how the money looks then, but one thing is increasingly clear: It’s kind of crazy to throw stadium money around in hopes of landing an MLS franchise when it’s increasingly clear every reasonably large city in the U.S. is going to get one sooner or later.
  • And finally, Amazon pulled out of its $3 billion tax break deal with New York yesterday, and it sounds like it’s because its execs were tired of taking a PR beating around the company’s anti-union stance and contracting for ICE. Some New Yorkers are celebrating victory, others are retreating into the Casino Night Fallacy, and as always, The Onion has the final word.

Maryland governor says he doesn’t want to build NFL stadium for Dan Snyder after all

Daniel Snyder’s plan to play off the three local governments in the D.C. area to extract land and money for a new stadium for his NFL team took another blow last night, as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he was stopping his pursuit of building a stadium on federal land south of D.C., at least “at this time”:

“We are not continuing discussions with the Redskins regarding this site at this time, however we are moving full steam ahead with acquiring state control of the Maryland Gateway in Prince George’s County from the federal government,” [Hogan’s communications director Amelia] Chasse wrote in response to an email from The Washington Post asking whether Hogan had withdrawn support of a new Redskins stadium in Maryland. “We believe this site holds significant potential benefits for the region and the state, as does the proposal to expand protected federal parkland in Western Maryland. We are working closely with our federal partners to finalize the transfer.”

Deadspin reported this as “Dan Snyder’s Sleazy Stadium Scheme Is Crumbling Around Him,” which is probably overly optimistic: Hogan can always resume negotiations with Snyder later, after he’s gotten control of the land, after all. But it is undeniably true that Snyder’s machinations haven’t gotten off to a whiz-bang start, what with his main backer on the D.C. council facing possible ethics charges and local officials in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia working on an interstate pact not to bid against each other, and now this. It only takes one win for a sports team owner to go home with a shiny new stadium, and this can take anywhere from months to a decade or more, but if you’re placing wagers on when Snyder’s team will be playing in a new home, I’d bet the over.

Report: Maybe Raiders can play 2019 in (rolls dice, looks at chart) Birmingham and Tucson?

Oh, man, do I want to believe this latest rumor about where the Oakland Raiders will play in 2019:

And that’s it! Burger is a “3x Emmy-nominated Sports Anchor/Reporter at (NBC),” Parker is a Birmingham city councilmember, and “an effort” just means that somebody is proposing it, so really, there is neither smoke nor fire here, at least not yet. Playing in college stadiums in two smallish non-NFL cities separated by 1600 miles while turning up your nose at similar options either in your current home or your future one makes zero sense, but it does make sense for Mark Davis to be shaking as many trees as possible as the date to set an NFL schedule looms, so why not? Though personally my money’s on (fires up GeoGuessr) … a dirt road just outside Chistopol, Tatarstan? Don’t say it couldn’t happen!

Florida man proposes eliminating world’s most confusing sports subsidy slush fund

The history of Florida’s state-level sports subsidy program is a weird one: Back in 2014, the state legislature, tired of dealing with constant competing asks from all of the state’s sports owners, set up a ranking system for teams to request a cut of $12 million a year in sales tax money. The next year, the panel doing the ranking approved all of the applicants, which totally defeated the purpose because there wasn’t enough money in the sales tax pool to fund all of them; the year after that, the state was asked to fund three projects that were already underway regardless of whether they got the money. It’s such a mess that no money has ever actually been approved, which while kind of a silver lining if you believe the numbers showing that the state massively loses money on these subsidies.

Anyway, that all brings us to today, with some Florida legislators trying to just eliminate the sports subsidy program once and for all, and presumably reclaim the money for other uses:

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, with little comment Monday, backed the latest proposal (SB 414) by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, to repeal a controversial 2014 program that — despite never being used — lays out steps for the stadium money to become available.

“Should the Legislature decide at some point it did want to fund a particular facility for a particular purpose, the Legislature could always go back and do it the way they’ve always done it, and that is through a direct appropriation,” Lee said. “But to use this process as cover for an appropriation from this Legislature for a facility that can’t prove economic benefit, to me is just kind of a ruse.”

Lee noted that the first four applicants way back in 2015 — the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Orlando S.C, and the Daytona International Speedway — all continued with their stadium projects even after the state rejected approving funding, which has “done the best job of anybody to make the point that these aren’t really economic development incentives,” since any economic development happened exactly the same even without the subsidies.

Of course, as Lee also noted, Florida can always approve stadium funds on a case-by-case basis, as it has done in the past. It’s hard to know what to think of this: Eliminating a stadium slush fund normally sounds positive, but if the sheer stupidity of the state funding process has dissuaded team owners from even asking for money … it’s a tough call. If I were a Florida state legislator, I’d probably call Stu Sternberg and ask what he thinks of the bill, and then vote the opposite.

Friday roundup: Suns referendum campaign fails, Panthers owner floats roof, Inter Miami and Raiders both still need temporary homes

The stadium news does not care if I am having a busy week, it just keeps happening! And I am, as always, here to catch it in a bucket and dump it out for you:

Raiders not playing 2019 in Giants’ stadium, back to drawing board

So barely 24 hours after news broke that the Oakland Raiders might be looking to play the 2019 season at the San Francisco Giants‘ home park, this happened:

San Francisco Mayor London Breed [joined] KTVU on Tuesday to explain why she’s opposed to the Raiders using San Francisco as a temporary home.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Oakland Raiders should play in Oakland,” Breed said. “In San Francisco, we have a number of challenges that we need to address with the Warriors coming to the new Chase Arena, the housing –1,400 units — that’s going to break ground in that area, our transportation system, our ferry landing. We have a number of things for years that we’ve been working to prepare for, and we don’t need another layer to add to what we already have in terms of an area that’s really congested, filled with construction, and will host a number of concerts and games for both basketball and baseball over the coming months.”

And then, arguably even more importantly, this happened:

What the hell exactly happened here? Either Raiders owner Mark Davis jumped the gun by opening talks with the Giants owners before checking in on whether Mayor Breed and the 49ers owners would be okay with NFL games at the Giants’ ballpark, or Raj Mathai jumped the gun by reporting that the move was a done deal, or both. Either way, it’s an important lesson that “talks” don’t mean much until you have the approval of everyone necessary, and a lot can still go wrong until you do.

If Rapoport is correct and it’s really the Oakland Coliseum or the 49ers’ Santa Clara stadium for the Raiders, man oh man is Davis between a rock and a hard place: The 49ers will almost certainly want to charge him through the nose to share their digs after cutting off all other options, and Davis is desperate not to give Oakland the time of day after officials there sued him for announcing he was moving the team to Las Vegas. And the clock is ticking: The NFL usually likes to release its schedule no later than April. It looks like the Raiders owner is going to have to pay dearly in either cash or dignity or both in order to find a place to play next season — maybe at least some of that $750 million check from Nevada taxpayers will go to a better cause than burning barrels of fossil fuels in order to get a haircut.

Raiders to play 2019 in Giants’ stadium, maybe, possibly, not sure yet

I’m honestly kind of tired of reading and reporting rumors about where the Oakland Raiders will play in 2019, but this one seems like it has at least a little more legs, so what the hell:

Raj Mathai is the news anchor (and former sports anchor) for NBC’s Bay Area station, so he may well have some sources. And the Associated Press added that it had heard talks between the Raiders and San Francisco Giants owners are ongoing, so sure, maybe. Or maybe they’re just toying with the Raiders in order to get their stadium’s new corporate name lots of mentions, a cause which I will not be helping with, not even with a link!

Meanwhile, San Francisco Supervisor Mark Haney, one of the elected officials who’d previously said they’d try to block a Raiders temporary move to S.F. in solidarity with their Oakland elected-official siblings, has remarked that “there’s a lot to figure out” about any Raiders residency, though it’s still not clear how much say San Francisco had over the Giants owners’ use of their privately owned and operated stadium. More news if the rumors pan out!

Friday roundup: What time is the Super Bowl article rush going to be over?

It’s too cold to type an intro! I miss the Earth before we broke it. But anyway:

Seattle arena builders ask for a tax break, nothing is pure and innocent in this world

You know, it never fails: No sooner do I praise a sports venue deal for being the rare case that doesn’t screw over taxpayers than it turns out the team owner actually plans to screw over taxpayers at least a little. So I should have known that my Deadspin article a year and change ago about how the Seattle arena deal is an exceptionally good deal would beget this:

With costs climbing on the KeyArena renovation, members of the Los Angeles-based Oak View Group were in Olympia on Wednesday seeking to defer at least $80 million in sales tax payments related to that project and an NHL training facility

“We want everybody at the legislature to hear from us that we are not asking for any special consideration,’’ Leiweke said of the Olympia visit. “We’re not asking for a tax break. We’re not asking for a waiver. We’re not asking for a rebate. We’re simply working through the payment structure and we’re going to pay 100 percent of our taxes.’’

Well, no: If you require legislation to be passed just for you, then by definition you’re asking for special consideration. Even if the Mariners and the Seahawks owners got similar special consideration before you did.

The gain from the tax deferral is likely to be small: As the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker explains it, OVG will even pay interest to the state on about $90 million in deferred construction sales tax payments. The main benefit would be shifting the cost from its capital books to its operating expense books, which would allow the arena builders to save money on its federal taxes by deducting them all at once rather than depreciating them over time:

“In effect, it’s a tax scheme that is designed to make sure you get your money back quicker,’’ [College of the Holy Cross sports economist Victor] Matheson said. “That all being said, it’s a small subsidy and it is not a subsidy from the taxpayers of Seattle and Washington, but a subsidy from federal taxpayers. And it isn’t a huge one. Even a stadium critic like me would have a hard time getting too worked up over it.’’

Me too! But it’s still a subsidy, even if a small one, and also one that as a U.S. federal taxpayer I’m going to help kick in for. So even if it’s not as bad as the Kansas City Chiefs owners trying to demand a full sales-tax break on the purchase of a bronze sculpture of late Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt Sr., it still makes me a little sad that we can never have nice things.

Atlanta bridge that cost $27m to be ready for the Super Bowl will be closed for the Super Bowl

It got a bit overshadowed by Cobb County’s Atlanta Braves bridge fiasco, but the Falcons got their own crazy-expensive pedestrian bridge as well as part of their new stadium deal with the city, at a crazy price tag of $27 million. That was up from an initial, marginally less crazy, price tag of $12.8 million, with the increase thanks to rush charges to get to bridge ready for this year’s Super Bowl:

At the council’s Transportation Committee meeting earlier this week, Katrina Taylor-Parks, deputy chief of staff to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, requested that the committee approve an additional $12.3 million in funding quickly because of next year’s NFL Super Bowl, which will be played at Mercedes-Benz.

“It is time sensitive,” Taylor-Parks said at the committee meeting. “You know Atlanta is planning on hosting a huge event in early 2019, actually several.”

Fortunately, the bridge was completed on time. Less fortunately, it will be closed for Super Bowl week, because security:

“The bridge is considered inside the stadium security perimeter,” said Alison Blue, spokeswoman with AMB Group LLC, the parent company of the Atlanta Falcons. “It will be used by only credentialed staff/media after they’ve gone through a security checkpoint.”

On the bright side, Northside Drive, the road that the bridge spans, will be closed during the Super Bowl itself, so nobody will need a bridge to get across it. On the significantly less bright side, what the heck was that extra $14.2 million for, then? Hopefully at least the Falcons will turn the bridge lights on, so football fans can admire it as really pricey artwork.