Nevada pols could vote on Raiders stadium funds before transportation plan, here we go again

With all the hype about a new Las Vegas stadium to bring the Oakland Raiders to town, there hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about the process needed to actually approve $950 million in subsidies for any such deal. What it would take to approve a stadium this fall is a special session of the legislature, which would need to approve not only the subsidy itself, but transportation and security plans for a stadium site, once one is selected. (Raiders owner Mark Davis reportedly has an option to buy one site, but that’s just an option, and likely was only announced as part of Davis’s momentum-building campaign.) Or, hell, maybe they’ll just punt on all the other stuff and vote on giving Davis and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson a big pile of money:

“In this case, there’s an issue about transportation, and there’s also an issue about security, said Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West.  “Those are the two big pieces that you need to address as you get a stadium.”

Economist and Lang say those concerns would likely be cut out of the main bill that would fund the public’s portion of the stadium.

Oh yeah, this is going to go real well.

Stadium openings in Minnesota, Miami offer ear-splitting noise, fears of Zika and hurricanes

It’s almost football season, which means it’s time for the debut of new and/or newly renovated stadiums. In Minnesota, the Vikings‘ new $1.1 billion dome (nearly all of it funded with public money) opened for a preseason game on Sunday, and it was really really loud in there:

But several Vikings players compared its volume favorably to the Metrodome after a preseason game, and initial acoustic readings topped out at 114 decibels during the 23-10 win over the San Diego Chargers.

That’s up from 105 decibels at a soccer match the week before, and about the same as the team averaged at the old Metrodome. So not out of the ordinary, but still, that’s way louder than the average stadium, and potentially ear-damaging, says WCCO:

U.S. Bank Stadium could be the loudest stadium Minnesota has ever seen. The Minnesota Vikings website says the roof on U.S. Bank Stadium features more “acoustically reflective material” and “should make the stadium louder” than the Metrodome.

A local radio station measured the sound during the soccer match at U.S. Bank Stadium reaching over 105 decibels. HealthPartners says that is ten times louder than the volume at an average NFL stadium.

Dr. Geddes says any sound over 85 decibels can damage tiny cells inside the ear. Even if your ears stop ringing after a loud event, you could have problems down the line.

“It’s not necessarily that you go home with permanent hearing loss after one-time visit, but over an extended period you may have noise-induced hearing loss,” Dr. Geddes said.

Dr. Geddes says it’s important to wear ear plugs during loud games.

I can’t tell from the coverage whether this was loud crowd noise or loud amplified music and such. But either way: It’s loud, which is what the Vikings intended, so wear protection.

And speaking of protection, the Miami Dolphins unveil their $350 million stadium renovations on Thursday (most of privately funded by owner Stephen Ross, though he’s still trying to get more public money retroactively), and have spent the runup busily spraying everything in sight for Zika-carrying mosquitoes, and hoping they don’t get hit by a hurricane.

If anyone here went to the Vikings game or goes to the Dolphins game and has any less apocalyptic reviews, please share them in comments.

As Raiders unveil stadium pics, reporters told to ask subsidy questions, keep answers secret

I have a big stack of news items that I’m going to be playing catchup with all week, but I’m still on the road one more day, so that infodump will need to wait till Tuesday at the earliest. Instead, here’s the latest rendering released by the Oakland Raiders ownership of a possible new stadium in Las Vegas: raiders-vegas-stadium-frontAs stadium watchers and journalists alike immediately noticed, this bears a striking resemblance to the stadium that the Raiders and San Diego Chargers were going to build in Carson, California:
raiders-carson-rendering-08-26-16There’s even the return of the giant Al Davis eternal flame that was originally proposed for Carson, then scrapped because it was just so stupid:

raiders-stadium-vegas-flameWhy cut-and-paste old designs into a new site, especially when you don’t even know which Vegas site it might be? Momentum, duh: This enables Raiders owner Mark Davis and his investment partners Sheldon Adelson and Majestic Realty to make it feel like this thing is going to get built, look, we have pictures of it, rather than having the Nevada public’s main image be of a pile of burning money. It’s the same reason why Davis filed for the trademark “Las Vegas Raiders” and released new stadium spending estimates stressing his own share of costs, even if they were misleading (he’s still failing to mention the roughly $250 million in tax increment kickbacks that Majestic has insisted are necessary for the project) and failed basic math (of a now-$1.9 billion total cost, the state would kick in $750 million in hotel-tax revenues and the private developers would put up $1.25 billion, which wait, what?).

If this stadium does happen, those almost certainly won’t be the final spending numbers, and these almost certainly won’t be what the stadium looks like. But it’s a lot easier to make a deal look like a fait accompli when you have hard numbers and actual drawings, even if those are just things you made up knowing you’ll change them later. It’s the clear plastic binder all over again.

And all this is aided and abetted, meanwhile, by having one of the stadium developers own the biggest newspaper in town, which allows for media manipulation like this jaw-dropping one revealed by Ralston Reports:

Reporters for Sheldon Adelson’s newspaper have been told to ask candidates if they support public money for the stadium proposed by the Las Vegas Sands chairman but that the Las Vegas Review-Journal will not actually publish the answers.

This astonishing request was made in a memo two weeks ago from Assistant City Editor Don Ham:

All of you who are handling state Senate, state Assembly and Clark County Commission races for the tab should make sure to ask this very timely question of the candidates. This question is NOT going to be added to the question asked of candidates for the online election package, though. Should public money, in the form of room taxes, be used to build a proposed stadium in Las Vegas. Why or why not? Any questions, see me. Thanks.

The leading theory here is that Adelson, who owns the Review-Journal, is intent on using the paper’s reporters to gather intelligence on where candidates stand on his stadium subsidy proposal, without actually using any of that information to, you know, inform readers. This would be far from the worst abuse of power by Adelson involving his newspaper holdings, but only because he’s set the bar so very high.

Sen. Reid says sure, Las Vegas Raiders would be nice, it’s not my money

Speaking of misleading headlines, the Las Vegas Review-Journal asked soon-to-be-retiring U.S. Sen. Harry Reid what he thought of the possibility of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas, and mumbled something about how sure, that’d be nice:

“I think it would be great if the Raiders came to Las Vegas,” Reid said. “I think it would be great that the most successful convention and visitors authority got the help that they need. So I hope they both get help. We’ll see.”…

As to the public financing being sought for the 65,000-seat stadium — up to $750 million, financed by a proposed increase in Clark County’s hotel room tax — Reid noted that, to his knowledge, no federal money would be requested.

“So I think you leave that to the state Legislature and state and local governments,” he said. “I know it’s in dispute. Would I like to have a professional football team, an NFL team? Of course. That would be great.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, especially for the $950 million in public funds (when you count TIF tax kickbacks) that would be required, but it’s certainly vaguely positive. The Review-Journal’s headline:

Reid declares support for stadium, Raiders’ move to Las Vegas

The Review-Journal, of course, is owned by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate who is asking for the $950 million so he can build the stadium. I’d blame it on that, but as we’ve seen, plenty of newspapers without overt conflicts of interest have done just as crappy a job.

San Diego analyst: Hotel tax should cover Chargers stadium costs, unless it doesn’t

This is a bad headline:

Stadium measure would generate enough money if costs are right

This is the less-bad headline that the San Diego Union-Tribune later changed it to:

Chargers measure fiscally sound — if estimates are accurate

This is the actual story:

San Diego’s independent budget analyst says the Chargers proposed hotel tax hike would generate enough money to cover the team’s projected price tag for a combined stadium and convention center annex, but that the proposal may be underestimating those costs.

And this is what’s downplayed in the actual story: Whether the estimates are correct only determines whether the four-percentage-point hotel tax hike would generate enough money to cover the San Diego Chargers ownership’s requested costs. Either way, the city would be on the hook for $1.15 billion, it’s just a question of whether it would have to find more revenue on top of the hotel tax money.

Kids, always read the articles, not just the Facebook headlines, okay?

Old football team launches stadium campaign, yells at cloud

The San Diego Chargers owners yesterday launched their “Vote Yes on C” campaign to try to get two-thirds of San Diego voters to approve spending $1.15 billion on a football stadium/convention center expansion, which, good luck with that. They also unveiled what’s likely to be their main arguments for the plan:

“A yes vote on C will allow for the creation of a new facility that could host world-class events and conventions such as Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours, NCAA title games, professional soccer, concerts, the X Games and a host of other high-profile events.  And no general funds will be used to build this new venue as it will be paid for by the Chargers and the NFL as well as tourists and business travelers staying in San Diego hotels.”

That’s all technically true — the money would all come from a whopping four percentage-point hike in hotel tax rates — but it’s also extremely misleading to make it sound like raising hotel taxes and giving the money to the Chargers doesn’t cost San Diegans anything. First off, as NBC Sports’ Mike Florio notes, “plenty of hotel and motel rooms are surely bought and paid for by San Diego residents.” More to the point, though, raising hotel taxes comes with both an opportunity cost — once you give the money to the Chargers, you can’t then raise hotel taxes for other spending purposes — and an economic cost — tourists may love San Diego, but some could learn to love other cities once they see how expensive their hotel bills are after all the taxes are added in. Think about it: If this weren’t the case, every city on earth should be raising hotel taxes as much as possible, and giving the cash to its citizens, because hey, free money!

The other interesting bit here is that by the happy coincidence of the Chargers stadium vote being Ballot Measure C, team execs get to use the same slogan the Padres owners successfully used back in 1998 to get their own stadium, which maybe will bring back happy memories of Tony Gwynn or something? Again, good luck with that.

Meanwhile, one of the first actions of the Yes on C campaign appears, weirdly, to be trying to get voters not to pull the lever for their ballot measure, but to oppose a city councilmember who’s been critical of the stadium plan but who isn’t even up for re-election for another two years:

The team … has come out swinging against a local political opponent, City Councilman Chris Cate, who says the team’s proposal to build a new stadium is a bad deal for taxpayers.

The team’s campaign committee recently has circulated paid advertisements on Facebook that sic the dogs on him.

“Why does Chris Cate want the Chargers to leave San Diego?” the ad says. “Please call and ask him.”

It then publishes his office phone number.

This is kind of a weird strategy, needless to say. San Diego State political science professor Brian Adams (don’t start) tells USA Today that this could be a warning shot to other elected officials not to oppose the stadium campaign, which is entirely possible. It’s also a way to tell voters “The Chargers will leave San Diego if you don’t vote for this” without actually coming out and saying it, in the hopes that no voters will realize that it’s Chargers owner Dean Spanos himself ultimately making this threat, getting mad at him, and thinking, “Go to West Virginia already.” Good luck with that.

Three sports venues get new corporate names that you’re going to forget immediately

Lots of old sports venues getting new names this week!

The price tags on the Buffalo deal was $40 million for seven years; no money changed hands in Charlotte, obviously, while the Dolphins declined to say how much they got for 18 years of their stadium name. I’m guessing not much, since nobody is going to remember this corporate name any better than the last five or six, but maybe since they just did a renovation, people will think of it as a new building with a new name?

Anyway, the fact that naming rights are worth more for a brand-new, nameless venue continues to be an incentive for teams to demand them. It’s probably not the best thing from an environmental sustainability standpoint that teams and cities are building stadiums partly just to act as giant billboards, but I can’t complain too much so long as it does allow them to fob off some costs on another sucker.

Bills owners sell naming rights to publicly owned stadium, pocket cash

The Buffalo Bills owners have sold the naming rights to Ralph Wilson Stadium for an undisclosed sum to New Era Cap Company, and immediately took down the lettering with the old name:

This made many Bills fans unhappy that the stadium will no longer be named for the team’s founding owner:

We’ve seen this before in other cities, of course. What’s odd here is that Ralph Wilson Stadium isn’t the building’s original name: From 1973 to 1997 it was Rich Stadium, named for a local food company in one of the first naming-rights deals in pro sports. When that deal expired and Rich Products wouldn’t agree to an increased rights fee, Erie County instead named it after the Bills’ owner.

Wilson died in 2014, and somewhere along the way, so did the county’s ownership of the naming rights, as it appears new owners Terry and Kim Pegula will be pocketing whatever cash comes from this deal, even though Erie County still owns the building. It seems like that’d be more worth getting upset over, but there’s no accounting for football fans.


Report: Chargers stadium would create 3 cents of new revenue for every public dollar spent

Who hates the San Diego Chargers$1.15 billion stadium-convention center public subsidy demand? Not only most San Diegans, it turns out, but the hotel industry that would have to shoulder increased room taxes in exchange for all the new tourists who would be expected to come to town as a result, but it turns out, wouldn’t really:

The Chargers’ plan for a downtown stadium-convention center will not generate enough meeting business to justify an increase in the hotel tax, concludes a new study funded by the tourism industry…

The proposed center, the study says, holds only limited appeal to meeting planners and would generate just $2.3 million more a year in additional hotel tax revenue, compared to what it estimates are the $67 million in annual public costs for both construction and operation of the project.

Okay, sure, economic impact studies, which can be made to say pretty much whatever you want them to. Still, $2.3 million a year in return on $67 million a year in new costs is pretty horrible even as a worst-case scenario. And the report correctly points out that other NFL-convention center joint projects have worked out pretty terribly as lures for new convention business, though as I’m sure Heywood Sanders would point out if he were awake at this hour, that’s true of lots of standalone convention center expansions as well.

Anyway, the upshot is that Chargers owner Dean Spanos’s uphill battle to convince two-thirds of San Diego voters to approve this thing in November just got even steeper. I’d never say never, especially before all the campaign spending is spent, but if you’re looking to place bets on how the stadium vote will go, take the under.

Virginia governor says he’ll pay for NFL stadium by “being creative”

What with all the talk about the proposed crazy stadium-with-a-moat that Daniel Snyder wants to build in Washington, D.C. for his NFL team, it’s been easy to forget that the governors of Virginia and Maryland are itching to lure the team to their states as well. So it’s only understandable that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe made it a point on Friday to talk up how he’d love to build the team its second new stadium in two decades:

“I view this as a Virginia team,” the governor said on ESPN 980 on Friday morning, during an appearance at the team’s training camp facilities in Richmond. “I know they’re in Maryland right now. But a majority of the season ticket holders are Virginians, all the players live in Virginia, we have all of your [practice] facilities. . . . We’re in very serious negotiations, as I assume other jurisdictions are. Listen, we would love to have them.”

And how would this new stadium, located who knows where in Virginia, be funded?

The governor repeatedly cited the need to craft a deal that would be fair to Virginia taxpayers but said “if we can come up and be creative with a deal that works for everybody, then I think the team will be here. … What I always say is it’s got to make sense for the taxpayers of Virginia. We’ve got to negotiate a deal — my job as governor is to get economic activity — but you’ve also got to protect the taxpayer dollars. And we’ve got to be creative with this thing, so we’re protecting the taxpayers, it’s in the taxpayers’ best interests and it’s a win-win for the Redskins.”

That’s two uses of the word “creative,” so clearly McAuliffe is intent on some outside-the-box thinking that enables both taxpayers and Snyder to make a profit on a construction project that will almost certainly lose money. I’d suggest the traditional method, but to really get creative, maybe they should just do the financing in Modulo 1,000,000,000 and hope the construction costs wrap around.