Davis finds bank to lend him Vegas stadium cash, still needs okay for Raiders’ sweetheart lease

Looks like Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis may have finally found someone to lend him a pile of money so he can take advantage of an even bigger pile of public money and build a football stadium in Las Vegas:

Bank of America will back the $1.9 billion Las Vegas football stadium sought by Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis, paving the way for the team’s move to Southern Nevada, he told NFL owners Monday…

Bank of America’s $650 million stake will be a loan and will not include an equity stake in the team or the stadium.

So, advantage Davis in his ongoing battle with former partner Sheldon Adelson over the stadium they once dreamed of together. (I mean, not literally dreamed the same dreams while asleep, that would be freaky.) It was never entirely clear why Goldman Sachs backed out of lending Davis the money, unless it was out of solidarity with Adelson (which seems awfully non-profiteering of the vampire squid, but maybe), but having a bank that’ll let him borrow $650 million so that he can access $750 million in Nevada tax money is an important step for Davis.

It’s not the final hurdle, though, as he still has to get the Nevada legislature to approve a lease, and his initial proposal is terrible for taxpayers in that he’d keep all stadium revenues and pay only $1 a year in rent, (something that the stadium authority blames on needing to keep the stadium bonds tax-exempt, ha ha ha ow) and also terrible for them in that it has an open-ended “top-tier” state of the art clause that could end up costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars more. Not that either of these are likely to be the main stumbling block with the legislature — they’re more likely to get pissy that their pal Adelson is no longer involved — but it’s something Davis needs to work out before he can take advantage of his new Bank of America card, and it ain’t over till it’s over.

 

 

Investigation continues into bird death toll of serial bird-killing Vikings stadium

If you like “When did you stop beating your wife?” stories, you’ll love how things are playing out in Minnesota, where the debate is now raging over exactly how many birds the Vikings stadium is killing each year:

  • The original report found 60 dead birds in a two-month period last summer and fall, which would amount to 360 dead birds a year. But! That was during peak migration season, so maybe it’s fewer dead birds than that. But also! That figure does not include “birds removed by maintenance staff, security guards, and scavengers,” or birds that are stunned only to fly away and die later, so maybe it’s more dead birds than that.
  • The Vikings have issued a statement saying that the report isn’t fair, because “it is not possible to make this conclusion based on intermittent monitoring with no direct comparisons for the same time period at other buildings.” Sure, our building kills birds, but maybe other buildings kill even more birds. ARREST THE REAL BIRD-KILLERS!

More dead bird news as it becomes available, hopefully after someone completes a poll of area cats to ask their annual bird consumption.

Steelers owner: If you won’t pay for my Wi-Fi, maybe I won’t host the Super Bowl, nyah

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II has announced that he’s suspended efforts to get awarded the 2023 Super Bowl, and is blaming it on the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority not giving him enough money for stadium upgrades:

“I don’t know that there’s a real commitment here from our landlord to do what’s necessary and work with us in a way that’s cooperative,” Mr. Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s hard for me to explain what the reason is. It’s been something that’s becoming more difficult as the years have gone on in our lease.”

Rooney’s gripe is that he wants to expand capacity by another 2,000 seats (after already adding 3,000 in an expansion set to be completed this year), build a new scoreboard and expanded museum and concessions space, and pay for new sound and Wi-Fi systems that have already been installed, all using money from a capital reserve fund being paid into by ticket surcharges. The sports authority is pushing back on that, and Mayor Bill Peduto was even more vocal on the subject yesterday:

“What they’re asking for is tens of millions of dollars in public money, out of a fund that doesn’t have nearly enough,” Peduto said. “They want to have a state-of-the-art wifi system for eight games a year. I want a state-of-the-art wifi in every one of my schools for 180 days a year. I want to have the ability to reinvest in neighborhoods, not just reinvest in a Jumbotron.”

That’s a little unfair, as the capital reserve fund won’t be available to pay for schools funding if it’s not used on stadium upgrades. If the capital reserve fund runs dry, though, and the city ends up having to pay for other maintenance costs out of its own pocket because it used all the money on a new Steelers scoreboard, Peduto has a bit of a point. (It would take a deep dive into the Steelers’ lease to determine how exactly the capital reserve fund can and can’t be used, and all I can find at the moment is this summary, which doesn’t go into that level of detail.)

Peduto has played hardball with sports team demands before — he was elected in 2013 after campaigning against public funding being used for the last round of Steelers upgrades, and managed to successfully get the team owners to pay for them with increased rent payments. And the Pirates owners have threatened to sue the stadium authority over a similar issue about tapping a capital reserve fund for improvements to their stadium.

Ultimately, this is a minor squabble that mostly points up the importance of having good lawyers write up your leases so everyone doesn’t end up in court a few years later to determine what the heck they mean. Peduto and the stadium authority, though, are doing their job, which is to protect money controlled by the public from being used on anything that it doesn’t have to be. It seems a little harsh to report on that with headlines about “The dream of holding a Super Bowl at Heinz Field has come to a halt,” but I suppose it could be worse.

L.A. Rams stadium could cost county extra $150 million for train bridge, oopsie

So this isn’t good: A subway line under construction in Los Angeles had planned to have trains cross Centinela Avenue in Inglewood at street level — but planners are now worried that this could cause too many traffic tie-ups with crowds headed to and from the new Rams stadium. So they’re instead looking at building a bridge to take trains over the road, which would cost $100-150 million. Also, building a bridge could delay the opening of the line, unless the county-owned Metro Rail builds temporary tracks or puts in a temporary shuttle bus to get past the bridge site, of which Los Angeles Magazine notes, “It’s hard to imagine the transit agency opening a rail line that requires a bus to travel from end-to-end.”

This is more than a little reminiscent of the Atlanta Braves bridge fiasco, which resulted when Cobb County approved the stadium before putting together a transportation plan. Whereas when Inglewood okayed the Rams stadium:

The vote adopts a new redevelopment plan without calling a public vote, effectively kick-starting construction and sidestepping lengthy environmental review of issues such as noise, traffic and air pollution.

You know, sometimes red tape is there for a reason. Just sayin’.

Oakland group sends Raiders stadium plan to NFL, no you can’t see it, who do you think you are?

The would-be Oakland Raiders stadium builders led by Fortress Investment Group and former NFL star Ronnie Lott sent a formal proposal to the league yesterday, and it looks a lot like the $1.3 billion plan announced in November. Take it away, San Jose Mercury News:

The Fortress/Lott plan has called for a $1.3 billion, 55,000-seat stadium project at the current Coliseum site. The investors would contribute $400 million, the Raiders and NFL $500 million and the city of Oakland $200 million for infrastructure.

So that’s .. only $1.1 billion? (The November plan had the investors contributing $600 million.) Hey, Merc News, what’s up with your math? Any other news outlets have numbers that actually add up, or at least note the $150 million in free land that Oakland would give up in the deal? No? Damn.

The bigger question, in any event, isn’t who’ll front the money, but rather who’d receive which stadium revenues to pay themselves back. There doesn’t appear to be enough money to go around to make everyone — Fortress/Lott, Davis, and Oakland taxpayers — whole, so that remains the tricky part. It sure would be nice to see the actual proposal, what with the public on the hook for a $350 million chunk, but apparently it’s for NFL eyes only right now. If the league ends up taking it seriously, which doesn’t seem likely given their previous statements on the matter, maybe the hoi polloi will get a glimpse later on.

Vikings stadium is killing 500 birds a year and has no intention of stopping

When the Minnesota Vikings‘ new stadium was under construction, there were concerns that its giant glass windows would lure unsuspecting birds to their deaths. So now that the place is open, has the bird carnage been realized? You betcha!

Over the course of the monitoring period, volunteers found 60 dead birds. Another 14 were discovered stunned, laying on the ground.

Among the casualties were 21 white-throated sparrows, nine ruby-throated hummingbirds, and one snow bunting, a.k.a., “snowflakes,” an uncommon sighting for bird-watchers like [dead-bird-counting volunteer Jim] Sharpsteen, who says he’s never seen anything like this in downtown Minneapolis.

The findings, along with reports from maintenance staff and security guards, estimate that perhaps as many as 500 birds die annually as a result of the building. Even if the actual number is half that estimate, it would still make the stadium the most lethal structure for birds anywhere in Minnesota.

And if that’s not enough, Minneapolis City Pages also includes lots and lots of dead bird photos:

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(Full report here, with even more bird snuff porn.)

Sharpsteen and other bird-lovers would like to see the Vikings add a coating to the glass so that birds no longer mistakenly fly into it and break their little necks; the Vikings are instead conducting a formal study that is expected to be complete in 2019. By which time, if the estimates above are correct, another thousand bird corpses will litter the ground around the stadium. I sincerely hope that City Pages tweets out photos of all of them, or maybe honors them with a memorial mural.

Clippers mulling new Inglewood arena, this likely ends with Google owning all of sports, right?

And speaking of data points for an arena arms race, now Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is reportedly interested in building a new arena adjacent to the Los Angeles Rams‘ new Inglewood stadium, because they want their own L.A. Live or something:

Representatives of Steve Ballmer and Stan Kroenke, two of the richest owners in professional sports, have had multiple discussions about the Clippers joining the Rams and Chargers in the sports and entertainment district Kroenke is building in Inglewood…

“It’s too soon to say it would be L.A. Live lite, but if an arena were to bring 200 nights a year, that’s a tremendous amount of foot traffic that would benefit all the ancillary properties,” said a person familiar with the discussions who asked not to be identified in order to speak frankly about the situation.

To reiterate what I just wrote about a fifth arena in the New York City metro area: Building more arenas in an already well-served arena market doesn’t really make much sense, since you’re just squabbling over how to divide up the existing pie. (An L.A. Live Lite is only likely to get customers by drawing them off from the original L.A. Live district by the Staples Center, or maybe from other entertainment options elsewhere in the L.A. area.) And Ballmer making eyes at Inglewood could still very easily be a leverage tactic toward when his Staples lease is up for renewal in 2024. But then, this is after all how capitalism is supposed to work: Investors are so desperate to grab a slice of the market that they throw around whatever money it takes to enter the game, which ends up driving down windfall profits for everyone and benefiting consumers. It seldom works that way, sure, but it still can, on occasion, when corporations are more interested in fighting over the spoils than in colluding.

If there’s one thing that watching American capitalism has taught me, it’s that the likely outcome here is for one side to buy the other — Philip Anschutz couldn’t literally buy the Clippers since he already owns the Lakers, but some kind of Anschutz-Ballmer-Kroenke sports management consortium isn’t impossible, if you could get everyone’s egos out of the way. Now there’s a thought: The only thing stopping us from entering a complete monopolistic hellscape, now that the federal government has all but declared corporate consolidation a national priority, is the inability of the super-rich to get along. Strange days, indeed.

Virginia takes lead in willingness to overlook “Redskins” name to throw money at team owner

Legislators in D.C. and Maryland have proposed bills barring public money or land from going to Washington’s NFL team so long as it’s called the “Redskins,” and while both face uphill battles, the Washington Post has its eyes on the real story here: Ooh, boy, maybe this means Virginia will get the team now!

A bill proposed by Maryland and District lawmakers this week could give Virginia an edge in landing the Redskins’ next stadium…

Virginia may be the easiest jurisdiction to cut a deal with. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has no problem with the team’s name and has been talking to the Redskins since last summer…

[Team owner Daniel] Snyder needs to move quickly: McAuliffe’s term ends next January and who knows how his successor will feel about pledging $1 billion in public money or the team’s controversial name.

The Washingtonian, meanwhile, says that one bidder isn’t nearly enough, so really West Virginia and Delaware should get in on the action, so that Snyder can get the best deal possible:

Snyder will need at least three bidders to get the best deal for the consistently mediocre team, which has a racist slur for a name. Should the proposed legislation in Maryland and DC succeed, it would be an ideal time for some of the wider Washington area make a play for the Redskins.

Delaware is a summer base for many Washingtonians and a two-hour drive isn’t out of the question for rabid football fans (even if people who actually live in Delaware are more likely to follow the Eagles or Giants). It’s facing a tough budget crunch, but maybe there’s a little room for football on the books? And then there’s West Virginia, a state that belongs to the Pittsburgh Steelers but includes part of the same metropolitan statistical area as what most people consider to be Washington. It, too, is within the arguable limits for a Sunday drive, and it’s the closest red state, an increasingly important criterion for this team. That new stadium design could even work in Charleston, maybe!

The Washingtonian is joking, I think. I have no explanation for why the Post seems to think that a governor who is willing to spend $1 billion so that a team owned by an asshole billionaire who is at best an unrepentant apologist for racism can replace its stadium that’s just 20 years old is an opportunity for Virginia, and not a danger to be avoided.

Vikings ask people of Minnesota to build a fence to keep out people of Minnesota

The owners of the Minnesota Vikings want the state of Minnesota to help pay for a permanent fence around the $1-billion-plus new stadium that the state just helped pay to build, because why exactly?

Lester Bagley, the Vikes’ vice president of public affairs, says the fence would help maintain security. He cited the instance last season when protesters climbed the rafters to unfurl a banner denouncing the Dakota Access Pipeline.

When pressed by KARE 11 on how a new fence might have kept them at bay, Bagley admitted it wouldn’t, while noting that his argument sounded convincing at the time.

Ha ha ha, Minneapolis City Pages, very funny. What did Bagley really say?

Kent Erdahl: “Any indication that fencing was part of what (went wrong) in that last game?”

Lester Bagley: “No, it wasn’t but it still.. it showed that there are issues related to fan safety and stadium security that need to be addressed.”

Wow, okay, he pretty much did say that.

No price tag on the fence project yet, but Bagley did say he expected the state to share the cost of it, because “if it’s used for Vikings games and for non-Viking games, other events, it’s a shared cost.” I.e., the Vikings aren’t happy with their temporary fencing, and want a permanent fence, but if it’s permanent then just anybody who uses the stadium can use it, so you guys help pay for it, okay? Do you think this is the same argument Bagley used as a kid to get his parents to buy Pong “for the whole family”?

Proposed Vegas Raiders lease includes “top-tier” clause, this really is the worst ever

I almost included this in the last post, but then I figured it really deserved its own item, because oh man, they’re not really considering this, are they?

The Authority or its designees shall have the obligation to, and shall, provide, perform and take, or cause to be provided, performed or taken, such actions, at the Authority’s expense, either directly or through the Manager, as may be necessary or reasonably advisable to operate and maintain the Stadium and Stadium Infrastructure in a safe, clean, attractive, and first-class manner similar to and consistent with other premier, top-tier NFL facilities (the “Expected Facility Standard”) and in compliance with all Applicable Laws.

That’s from Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis’s proposed lease with Nevada for a Las Vegas stadium, and yes, it’s a state-of-the-art clause, requiring the state to maintain a stadium in “top-tier” condition on its own dime. I.e., the same kind of clause that let the St. Louis Rams escape their lease and move back to L.A. after 20 years.

Now, a couple of caveats. First off, unlike some other state-of-the-art clauses (cough Cincinnati Bengals cough), this one doesn’t spell out a wish list of items like “holographic replay systems” that the state would have to provide if other NFL teams got them. And it’s only about “operations and maintenance,” so doesn’t specifically talk about capital improvements (though it also doesn’t rule them out). And there’s no specified penalty for violating it that I can find, though being considered in breach of contract is never a good thing. And this is only Davis’s proposal, so there’s still room for Nevada’s lawyers to red-line through the worst bits.

That said, don’t ever sign open-ended state-of-the-art clauses, people! At best, this would be an invitation for Davis to, say, declare that he can’t possibly operate a top-tier stadium without a scoreboard that stretches to Utah, and threaten to sue to break his lease and move the team if taxpayers don’t build him a new one. One hopes that even if the local rich guy rejoins the deal, Nevada officials will still balk at agreeing to this — I mean, one doesn’t hope too hopefully, given how eager they were to approve $750 million in tax money for a stadium in the first place, but even that doesn’t justify a blank check for future upgrades, right? Right?