Bills owner says he’ll wait to ask for new stadium until it’s less embarrassing to do so

Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula was asked yesterday about his demands for a new stadium right after getting $130 million in state-funded renovations for his old one, and said, in essence, Shh, not so loud:

“The only answer to that question is the state and county, there’s been a lot of money put into Ralph Wilson Stadium,” Pegula said. “We’re in no hurry. We realize that if that work was just done, how foolish would you look if you start looking around for a new stadium when we’ve just renovated the one we have? We have time. We have an existing lease on the current stadium.”

Yeah, what kind of schmuck would demand a new stadium right after collecting a pile of state subsidies for renovations? I mean, really

“Well, there’s going to be a new stadium somewhere, that’s all I know,” Terry Pegula said. “The league was pretty emphatic that Buffalo — we’re a small market — needs to be as competitive as we can.”

It’s all about the timing.

A’s owner now says MLB wouldn’t actually help pay for new stadium, world makes sense again

So that San Jose Mercury News report that Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff said MLB would help him fund a new stadium? Now the San Francisco Chronicle says Wolff says it’s not so:

Just this week, Wolff let it be known that new Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred was fully behind the A’s effort. However, he dismissed reports that MLB would kick in some money to get it done in Oakland.

“Dismissed reports”? But the reports came from you, according to the Merc News? Why … oh, never mind.

Meanwhile, Wolff is continuing to explore parts of the Oakland Coliseum site where a new stadium could be built while the A’s play in the old one. As for the Raiders, their execs continue to talk with the city of Oakland and Alameda County, though county officials would rather just the city buy them out of the Coliseum entirely so they don’t have to deal with it. The general assumption seems to be that the A’s are closer to a deal than the Raiders are, but that could just be social media getting ahead of itself; anyway, it’s always better to wait until we see actual funding plans, not just site preferences, before declaring anything set in even wet concrete.

Missouri proposes $50m Rube Goldberg funding scheme for Rams so no one notices it’s spending $50m

The state-run St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority is set to ask for $50 million in state tax credits for a new St. Louis Rams stadium tomorrow, something that isn’t entirely a surprise, given that this has always been part of Gov. Jay Nixon’s stadium funding plan. Way down at the bottom of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, though, there’s a tidbit that’s worth exploring further:

Under one option to be presented to the finance board, the Dome authority would donate $100 million raised for the project to a nonprofit entity, which would then contribute $100 million to the board’s Infrastructure Development Fund.

In return for this contribution, the board would issue $50 million in tax credits to the nonprofit, which in turn would sell the credits and donate the proceeds to the Dome authority. The application says it expects to get about 95 cents on the dollar for those tax credits.

That’s a whole lot of paper-shuffling, but the interesting bit is at the end, where the state would be issuing $50 million in tax credits, but the Dome authority would only be getting $47.5 million in proceeds. That’s not a huge difference, but $2.5 million is $2.5 million, which raises the question: Why not just have the state give $50 million to the project directly, instead of mucking around with funneling money through tax credits and nonprofits?

I’m guessing here (Missouri locals and/or public finance experts, correct me if I’m wrong), but my assumption is that it’s so the headlines read “Dome authority to ask for $50 million in state tax credits” and not “Nixon proposes giving $50 million more to Rams.” It comes to the exact same thing, but for whatever reason some people think of tax expenditures as different from public spending, so apparently it’s worth $2.5 million to keep up this charade.

SD mayor doesn’t know what his Chargers plan is, declares full speed ahead regardless

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has called for spending $2.1 million on an environmental impact study of his dead-in-the-water Chargers stadium plan, which, whatever, mayors spend that kind of money on stupid stuff all the time. The weird thing, though, is in the EIS fine print:

California law requires people who are building things to study not only the projects they plan to build but also to reasonably foreseeable expansions or additions. If they don’t do this, and they later announce plans for condos or development on the side of the stadium, they will very vulnerable to a lawsuit alleging they piecemealed the environmental study to make sure it was easy to approve.

The mayor’s office doesn’t disagree. It has simply dropped the idea that real estate development around the new stadium will help pay for the new stadium.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s spokesman, Craig Gustafson, told me in an email that the mayor’s task force (otherwise known as the Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group, or CSAG) did recommend ancillary development but it was just that: a recommendation.

“The City/County plan does not rely on ancillary development for a stadium to be financed,” Gustafson wrote. “The plan the City/County team is developing is based on negotiations and discussions with the Chargers and the NFL.”

Um, what? Here’s the CSAG funding plan:

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 9.00.30 AMOkay, maybe they intend to sell 75 acres of the Qualcomm Stadium site to a developer for $225 million just so he can stroke and hum to it, but I’m guessing there would be an expectation of actually building something there. Which means that Faulconer just blew a $225 million hole in his own plan, with nothing identified to replace it beyond “we’re negotiating.”

If you want to be truly cynical, it’s possible that Faulconer is trying to figure out a way to rush through an EIS by making it stadium-only — thus pleasing the Chargers owners’ desire for a quick deal — while maybe figuring out a way to sell the land to the Chargers or somebody on a “we’ll figure out how to let you build on it later” basis. Not that this seems likely to work — Chargers stadium czar Mark Fabiani already called the EIS a “misbegotten scheme” — but at least it makes Faulconer look like he’s doing something, I guess? Not anything that makes sense, mind you, but people do tend to like action even when it’s dumb.

Minnesota to spend $40m on park that will be reserved for Vikings during football season

If you stopped counting the exact amount of public subsidy that was going toward the new Minnesota Vikings stadium once it passed $1.1 billion, yeah, pretty much so did I. But Minneapolis City Pages has uncovered an additional subsidy that’s worth reporting on if only because it’s exceptionally sneaky.

Here’s the way it works: The state legislature is to vote on a bill to allow both Minneapolis and St. Paul to implement parking surcharges in certain parts of town. The revenue from the surcharges would be used to build “public plazas… designed to promote enjoyment of the city for Minnesotans and tourists of all ages.” In this case, that means Downtown East Commons Park, a planned public park next to the new Vikings stadium. Looks nice, doesn’t it?

home-imageAnd Minnesotans had better hope that it’s perpetual springtime in the park, as in this photo, because they’re not going to be able to enjoy the park in the fall without a ticket:

Part of the stadium giveaway brokered by those representing the people gives the Vikings and other VIPs exclusive use of the park for almost a third of a year.

Is this a huge deal? No, it’s not — the park will cost maybe $40 million to acquire and build, plus whatever it takes to maintain the place (pretty sure Vikings owner Zygi Wilf isn’t chipping in for that), and it’ll at least be available to the public part of the year. Still, it’s one of the growing list of examples of ways that team owners tack on additional costs that often don’t show up in the official figures — at least, not until after it’s too late to do anything about them.

And speaking of the Vikings stadium, it’s not only going to be a huge presence on the skyline, it’s going to have a huge U.S. Bank ad at the top, something that University of Minnesota design professor Tom Fisher calls “corporate graffiti,” though he adds that it may be “the only way to afford such expensive buildings.” Of course, that would be a better argument if the naming-rights fees from the bank were going to either the taxpayers who are putting up virtually all the money for the stadium or the residents whose eyeballs will be afflicted with this ad — but who can truly put a price on humans’ visual surroundings?

Rose Bowl nixes hosting NFL team, L.A. temporary stadium options down to Coliseum or playing in street

The Pasadena-controlled board that owns the Rose Bowl voted this week not to bid to provide a temporary home to an NFL team in Los Angeles, saying they would rather host an annual music festival instead. (The music festival wouldn’t be during the NFL season, but its environmental impact statement requires that the Rose Bowl not host pro football if the festival takes place.)

This still leaves the NFL with a bunch of options, but as the Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer and Nathan Fenno report, they’re all problematic. Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium are baseball stadiums, and not only does the NFL hate playing in baseball stadiums, but baseball teams hate sharing digs with football, which messes up their schedule and tears up the grass. The Los Angeles Galaxy‘s StubHub Center in Carson only holds 27,000 — though NFL stadium consultant Marc Ganis tried to put a happy face on this to the L.A. Times, saying, “There’s something interesting about playing in a smaller facility, to start with creating a scarcity of tickets and increase the level of interest early on,” yeah, right — and is run by AEG, which already has no love for the NFL after having its own downtown L.A. stadium plan shot down.

That leaves the L.A. Coliseum, which would be fine but for two things: First off, USC’s lease on the Coliseum only allows it to host one NFL team, which would be a problem if, say, both the Raiders and Chargers needed temporary homes while waiting for a new stadium to be completed. Second, it’s really hard to get a bidding war going with only one serious bidder, so any team wanting to bunk at the Coliseum temporarily likely just saw its prospective rent go up.

This probably isn’t enough to be more than a speed bump en route to a new L.A. NFL stadium (and team), but given that the finances of such a project already look shaky enough, you never know which is going to be the speed bump that breaks the camel’s back. (Yeah, I know the metaphor doesn’t really make sense, work with me here.) The fight to be the future home of the Raiders, Chargers, and Rams still seems like a battle that no one can possibly win — it’s one reason I don’t expect any resolution soon, but I guess we’ll get some hints, maybe, following the August owners’ meetings.

NFL to play two games a year on Tottenham Hotspur’s crazy hidden turf field

Looks like that Tottenham Hotspur retractable field — which would apparently actually be a retractable grass pitch over permanent fake turf, something that’s hard to picture, especially since there’s no obvious place for it to retract to, but anyway — has done the trick, as the Premier League club announced a deal yesterday to host two NFL games per year at its new London stadium, once it opens in 2018.

In exchange, Tottenham will get … hang on, there’s got to be something in the long NFL.com statement that says what the NFL will be paying in rent or revenue sharing … nope, apparently not. But the NFL will provide Tottenham with something, in addition to the warm glow of hosting the kind of football that people in the UK don’t actually care about. (As my Vice collleague Aaron Gordon discovered last year, the Super Bowl got beat in the British TV ratings by both The Simpsons and a competitive tourism reality show called “Coach Trip.”)

Meanwhile, the new Tottenham deal has lots of folks speculating that this is the precursor to a full-time London NFL team soon, which it really isn’t, for all the reasons I went over back in April. For now, Tottenham just gets a bit of undisclosed cash, and the NFL gets some more chances to beat out Harry Shearer for the hearts and minds of the British public.

Stadiums can be anchors for related development, say newspapers in search of cheap headlines

You know what I missed while I was away? Having the time to read long, misinformed articles about new stadium projects and how they’re just totally different from those old bad stadium projects of a couple of decades ago. Got anything like that for me, Google News?

With the era of standalone, isolated stadiums largely over, sports team owners increasingly are taking on the role of developer and using their stadiums as anchors for entertainment districts or retail and residential developments.

Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff.

The article in question is from the Tampa Tribune’s Christopher O’Donnell, and argues that this newfangled stadium-plus-other-development model being used by teams like the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Red Wings (or “Redwings,” as he calls them) could be used by the Tampa Bay Rays for a new stadium as well. It ignores the fact that these stadium-plus projects aren’t especially new, going back well over a decade (the St. Louis Cardinals‘ “ballpark village” was one of the earlier ones, but I’m sure I’m forgetting others), and mostly ignores, aside from a comment by stadium architecture consultant Philip Bess (who O’Donnell calls “Phillip” — fired all the copy editors, did you, Tampa Tribune?), the problem that if development around a stadium were profitable enough to pay off a stadium, teams would be able to pursue this strategy without public subsidies. Not to mention that if stadium-related development is profitable it could be pursued without the money suck of a new stadium attached, that it could just end up displacing development that otherwise would have taken place somewhere else in town, that development around stadiums has typically appeared years late when it shows up at all, etc., etc.

Anyway, good to see that these articles still pop up every once in a while for me to throw rocks at, and — whoa there!

The new Minnesota Vikings football stadium, to be completed a year from now, is helping draw nearby office towers, upscale housing and other developments, according to its supporters.

Guys! One article at a time, please! I’m still getting back up to speed here.

Obama administration won’t allow Washington NFL stadium on RFK site unless team changes name

We all pretty much knew that the Washington NFL team wasn’t going to get a new stadium in D.C. unless it changed its racist nickname, but now it’s official:

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser this spring that the National Park Service, which owns the land beneath Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, was unlikely to accommodate construction of a new stadium for the Redskins unless the team changes its name.

Of course, President Obama is only going to be in office another year and a half, so it’s entirely possible that a new interior secretary would change the NPS policy on this come 2017. And D.C. officials were unlikely to approve a stadium without a name change anyway. But as far as sending a “Mr. Snyder, tear down that nickname!” message, it’s about as strong as they come.

Newspaper calls Raiders stadium plan “worst ever” because NFL’s paid stadium consultant says so

Matthew Artz of the San Jose Mercury News revealed some of the details of Floyd Kephart’s Oakland Raiders officially secret stadium plan on Saturday (full plan is here), and immediately turned to stadium experts to evaluate how good a deal it is. Well, one stadium expert. Actually, Marc Ganis, a paid consultant for the NFL who immediately declared Kephart’s plan to be “the worst stadium proposal I’ve seen … by far” — because the Raiders owners wouldn’t get many public subsidies:

The proposed $900 million, 55,000-seat facility adjacent to the O.co Coliseum would be financed entirely by the Raiders, the NFL and future stadium revenues. The Raiders would have to dip into sponsorship revenue and naming rights fees to help repay $300 million in loans needed to offset an estimated funding gap.

And, other than parking garages, the stadium would get no subsidy from the surrounding “live-work-play” technology campus Kephart plans to build on the rest of the sprawling Coliseum complex. The plan includes 4,000 homes, a shopping center, 400 hotel rooms and several office buildings.

“I can’t think of any sports team owner that would take a proposal like this even remotely seriously,” Ganis said, noting that San Diego has proposed a major public subsidy for a new Chargers football stadium. “It’s so one-sided and so bad, that it’s almost as if local leaders are saying ‘we can’t really do anything, so go ahead and leave.’ “

Finally, toward the end of the article, Artz gets around to explaining the Kephart proposal, which is this:

  • The Raiders would pay for a $900 million stadium via $200 million from personal seat license sales, $200 million in NFL G-4 funding, $100 million in cash, $300 million borrowed (from somewhere, paid back somehow, possibly from naming rights and other revenues), and $100 million from the sale of 20% of the team to Kephart for $200 million.
  • Kephart would buy 90 acres of the Coliseum site from the city and county for $116 million, then develop it into apartments, shopping, a hotel, and office buildings.
  • The city and county would spend about $80 million of that on new parking garages, while paying off $100 million in remaining Coliseum debt from … somewhere.
  • $100 million in infrastructure improvements would come from “grants.”
  • The A’s would have space (somewhere) reserved to build a new stadium until 2019.

Admittedly, that’s a pretty bad deal for the Raiders, though not an awful lot worse than the team’s one in Carson, which would likewise require the team to pay for the stadium with its own revenues. (The upside of Carson would mostly be that things like naming rights should bring in somewhat more money in the larger L.A. market.) It would also potentially be a bad deal for Oakland, which would sell 90 acres of land for only a little over $1 million an acre, which Newballpark.org notes is “ridiculously cheap” given how much other nearby parcels have gone for. In fact, the only clear beneficiary of Kephart’s plan would be, let’s see, who would end up with all the proceeds from development on land that he got a dirt-cheap price … oh, right, Kephart!

The real question here is why Oakland and Alameda County thought that a private developer could somehow come up with a way to turn a project with more than $1 billion in costs and nowhere near that much in potential new revenues into a win-win for all concerned, via elfin magic or something. Mayor Libby Schaaf’s whole “have the Raiders and A’s submit bids for the Coliseum site and take whichever one is more” plan is looking better and better.