Two stadiums on Oakland Coliseum site wouldn’t leave much room for actual money-making development

If you want to see why many folks are skeptical about the Oakland A’s and Oakland Raiders both being able to build stadiums as part of a redevelopment of the current Coliseum site, check out these images, both courtesy of Newballpark.org. First, the original, now-discarded “Coliseum City” plan, which would have covered 800 acres on and around the current stadium site:

And now the latest 120-acre plan:

Notice what’s missing there? The vast majority of the housing development, aka “the stuff that you can actually make money on in the Bay Area.” As Newballpark.org’s Marine Layer notes, there’s still room for two stadiums on the smaller site, but you have to ask yourself: “If capital wasn’t biting at 800 acres and two stadia, why would they bite at 120 acres and two stadia?”

What about 120 acres and one stadium? That’s slightly more feasible, but we still need to see A’s owner Lew Wolff’s and Raiders owner Mark Davis’s actual financial plans for those — if it’s “120 acres of rent-free land and property tax exemptions and one stadium,” that’s not so hot a deal for Oakland. New city mayor Libby Schaaf has asked the two team owners for competing bids, anyway, so hopefully soon we can see if either is less craptacular than the other.

No, there’s still no Super Bowl windfall for cities, no matter what you read in the paper

If you haven’t gotten enough of me griping about media coverage of sports economic reports here — or just want to read about it all in one place — hie thee to FAIR.org’s newly expanded website, where I’ve written all about how the media all too often parrot claims of economic windfalls from sports without even checking if they have any basis in fact.

There are occasional exceptions, obviously (I cite several), but as one journalist who has done time fact-checking his peers says:

“For every one good article you see, there are ten others that don’t bother to do it, and the good ones just get lost,” says Noah Pransky of WTSP-TV in Tampa Bay, who also reports on sports economics at his own website, Shadow of the Stadium. “An industry joke is that reporters have always been mathematically challenged, but the problem has been magnified in recent years by the 24-hour news cycle and staff depletion at traditional media outlets.”

Remember, kids: Just because you read it in the newspaper doesn’t mean it’s true! Blogs, though, are 100% accurate. I read a study that said so.

Inglewood to hold public vote on NFL stadium this summer so Kroenke can evade environmental review

Citizens for Revitalizing the City of Champions — I swear, that is honest to god the name that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke and his development partners came up with for their astroturf citizens’ group to push for a new stadium in Inglewood, California — has delivered 20,000 petition signatures to put a vote on the ballot this summer to approve their development plan. That’s more than double what they needed, and nearly 20% of the entire city population, which bodes well for getting this thing actually passed.

As the L.A. Times’ Tim Logan explains it, approving the plan through a voter initiative “would avoid the need for time-consuming, costly and potentially legally-risky environmental review,” which would be required by the normal planning process. The exact finances of the plan are still a bit hazy — as you may recall, Kroenke is seeking tax kickbacks that could be worth anywhere between a few tens of millions of dollars and $180 million — but hopefully this will all be explained before the vote. Though not that that’s required or anything.

Meanwhile, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon freaking out lawmakers in his state by asserting that he can sell stadium bonds without consulting them if he wants to. Not that he wants to:

At a state House budget hearing, Doug Nelson, Office of Administration commissioner, said a law passed more than 20 years ago allows the Nixon administration to issue such bonds. The law states that Missouri or any agency or department of the state can enter into a contract, agreement or lease to finance or develop a convention or sports facility.

“This is not an indication of what we’re going to do,” Nelson said. “This is an indication that we believe we have that authority.”

State Sen. Rob Schaaf immediately introduced a bill to say the governor does too have to ask the legislature’s permission before going and building a stadium. Today is truly a great day for democracy.

Do Chargers have secret deal with Goldman Sachs to build L.A. stadium? (SPOILER: no)

So on a podcast on Friday, a St. Louis radio reporter who covers the Blues said this about a San Diego Chargers stadium, for some reason:

“Spanos from the Chargers has a deal in place with Goldman-Sachs to build a new stadium and the NFL has asked him to hold off from accouncing those plans,” Strickland said, citing St. Louis officials.

Whoa, that’s news! Strickland also said he thought the stadium deal was in L.A., not San Diego, and you know what, let’s stop right there, because though the Strickland report was soon all over the news, immediately thereafter this was:

[Chargers general counsel Mark] Fabiani told 10News Friday night, “The story is untrue. Nothing to it, except that we have worked for years with Goldman Sachs. But the rest of the story is incorrect.”

Now, team execs can lie, of course, but usually they temper their words a bit more when they do so. And the idea that the Chargers have a secret stadium deal in place that has gone unnoticed by everyone except a St. Louis hockey reporter is … let’s just say I’ll believe it when I see it.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, U-T San Diego actually does some reporting today that could be construed as critical of the Chargers’ stadium plans, or at least skeptical that the team can get them funded: Fabiani has talked of raising hotel taxes to help pay for a stadium, but the hotel owners hate the idea, it would take a two-thirds vote to approve it, and the last time a referendum was attempted on hiking hotel taxes, it only got 41.6% of the vote. And that was to hike hotel taxes to fund police and firefighters, not a stadium. I guess it’s pretty hard to find a “cheerleader” spin on facts like that.

 

Buffalo poll finds voters want new downtown Bills stadium, neglects to ask about paying for it

The Buffalo News has conducted a poll of county voters on a new Bills stadium, and they asked — oh, come on, what do you think they asked?

55 percent of all the people surveyed said the new stadium should be located downtown, while 40 percent favor Orchard Park, the poll found.

Apparently having run out of ways to send reporters out to cover where are we gonna build a new stadium oh boy oh boy, the News is now crowdsourcing this story.

Okay, the News did also ask Erie County voters whether they think the Bills should get a new stadium, and respondents supported that as well, 54-36%. And that’s all that anyone could want to know about public opinion on the project, right?

The survey of 505 Erie County registered voters offered a far different take on the stadium issue than some of the public dialogue about it, which has centered on concerns about financing the facility and the potential loss of the Bills’ tailgating tradition if the team were to move downtown.

Right, these people didn’t express concerns about how to finance construction of a new stadium, because … hey, did we forget to ask them if they thought the public should help the Bills pay for a new stadium? Aw, crap. Well, it probably wasn’t important anyway.

Florida economic panel rules everybody should get tax money for stadiums they already agreed to build

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has issued its long-awaited (well, for a couple of months, anyway) ruling on which of the four finalists for state sales-tax subsidies are to get priority, and the answer is: all of them!

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity advised Jacksonville, Orlando, Daytona International Speedway and Sun Life Stadium that their applications met all “statutory criteria.” In a letter, the department also recommended that lawmakers could approve all four.

Daytona International Speedway and Sun Life Stadium are each seeking $3 million a year for 30 years for ongoing improvements to those facilities. Orlando has requested $2 million a year for three decades to help pay for a planned $110 million soccer stadium. Jacksonville, with its application supported by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has asked for $1 million a year for three decades.

This is jaw-droppingly dumb, since the whole point of this process of having teams seeking state subsidies to submit standardized forms to a state agency was to come up with a ranking for who’d get first dibs on the money; instead, the state legislature will now have to decide who gets what, which is exactly as it would have been anyway. It’s also dumb because, as an analysis of past state sports subsidies found, Florida has only received 30 cents of return on each dollar spent on stadium and arena projects. And finally, it’s dumb because all four of these projects — renovations to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins stadiums and to the Daytona Speedway, plus a new stadium for Orlando City S.C. — are already underway, meaning whatever economic benefit the state would get from them, it’ll happen regardless of whether the state decides to divert public money their way after the fact.
If there’s a bright side, it’s that the four sports entities have demanded $9 million a year in funding, and there’s only $7 million in the state’s available sales-tax fund, so the Joint Legislative Budget Commission will have to figure out somehow who’s going to see their subsidy demands trimmed. This is a bright side, however, only in the sense of “The bank just got robbed, but they ran out of money before the robbers’ bags were full.” Also, there’s nothing stopping the state from approving more money later, which means if these teams (and more) don’t get what they want this round, they can just come back for more. Congratulations, Florida — you appear to have just invented the first self-replenishing cat feeder of sports subsidies.

Warriors: We need a new $1B arena because we don’t like the restaurant manager at the old one

The San Francisco Business Times has a report out on the pressing matter of “Why the Raiders, A’s and Warriors want new homes” (verbatim headline), and the answer is: They all need to tear down their old venues and build entirely new ones at a cost of billions of dollars because they don’t like the concessionaires, duh!

Consider the recently opened BMW Club at Oracle Arena. BMW is a Warriors sponsor, but the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority contracts arena operations to Anschutz Entertainment Group. AEG, in turn, contracts arena restaurant management to Levy Restaurants.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge” to make customer service part of the overall game experience when food service and stadium operations aren’t in the Warriors’ control, team President and COO Rick Welts said.

Here’s a crazy idea: If your main complaint is the guys the county hired to run the arena operations, why don’t you offer to buy the arena operations rights from the county, and then pick your own operator? Sure, it might cost you something, but less than the billion dollars it will cost for a whole new building.

The real answer, of course, is that this is about the 74th most important reason for these teams wanting out of their old stadiums, but it’s what the Warriors president told the Business Times, so it’s what they’re going to report, dammit. Remember, kids: Friends don’t let friends read news stories that only include sports team execs and stadium developers as sources!

Super Bowls are a money suck, says mayor of city about to host Super Bowl

The Super Bowl will be held in Glendale, Arizona this year, which means it’s time for local officials to proclaim how much their city will benefit from having a bunch of NFL fans descend upon them for a week:

Jerry Weiers, the mayor of Glendale, Arizona, recently told me he doesn’t expect a windfall when his city hosts the big game in February. In fact, he says, “I totally believe we will lose money on this.”

Well, that’s different. Of course, Weiers is a different sort of mayor on the subject of sports spending: He fought to overturn the sweetheart deal that Glendale gave the Arizona Coyotes to stay in town, and Glendale won this Super Bowl before he won election, so he doesn’t have any stake in talking up the benefits.

It’s also not the first time Weiers has griped about the cost of hosting the Super Bowl. Last summer he said that the city had lost money hosting the 2008 Super Bowl as well, a claim that Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwell called “a bunch of malarkey.” ESPN The Magazine, though, reports that Weiers can back up that charge with numbers:

A study funded by Arizona’s Super Bowl committee found that visitors spent $218 million around the 2008 game, but some economists say the actual profits were much lower because football fans crowded out other tourists. Little of that money aids the city directly. Glendale said it 
spent $3.4 million in 2008, mostly on public safety, and earned only $1.2 million in taxes from direct spending at places like hotels and restaurants. (Tickets are not taxed.) One former councilwoman, Joyce Clark, who voted against hosting the 2015 game after witnessing the city’s losses seven years ago, scoffs at the idea that the publicity was worth it. “There has not been any corporation that moved to Glendale because the CEO came to the Super Bowl,” she says.

Prior independent estimates have shown that cities might be able to turn a profit of a few million dollars on a Super Bowl, even after paying for all the free police and billboards and cellphone towers and ATMs — though that’s probably more the case in a bigger city where a greater share of the money being spent stays local. (If Super Bowl attendees spend money in Phoenix, that doesn’t help Glendale one whit.) Anyway, if the public debate around this becomes a matter of whether the Super Bowl doesn’t mean squat for cities or might leave a handful of change scattered on the coffee table, that’s still a welcome step forward from where it’s been.

Buffalo News actually reports on Bills stadium funding plan, sky doesn’t fall

For anyone who’s read my coverage of the Buffalo News’s coverage of the Bills stadium plans, this will come as a bit of a shock, but: The News has actually run an article exploring how the stadium would be paid for! Not just where it would go! It’s a miracle!

Okay, so “explored” may be pushing things. The article in question mostly just runs down the projected cost of a stadium (“around $1 billion”), then how much other cities have spent on subsidizing stadiums (“direct public costs associated with those projects ranged from zero to 90 percent”), then alleges that “recent history” shows NFL teams and other private sources like PSL and naming-rights sales are starting to pay a bigger share of costs (not true according to Judith Grant Long’s figures, but maybe if you only count “direct public costs,” okay), and we get:

Unless the Bills’ new billionaire owner breaks with tradition, taxpayers in some way will be on the hook if a new stadium is built.

Still, this is an actual article that cites people on various sides of the stadium-funding question (including both E.J. McMahon of the conservative Empire Center for Public Policy and Ron Deutsch of the progressive Fiscal Policy Institute, both of whom oppose stadium subsidies for the Bills), and talks a bit about both the economics and politics of any deal. If this is the start of a new era in actual reporting by the News, then Buffalo citizens (and New York state citizens, since the state is talking about kicking in a chunk of the stadium cost) will be well-served. If it’s just a momentary blip and the News now feels comfortable going back to “Where will the new stadium go?” every other week … well, let’s try to stay glass-half-full, shall we?

NFL stadium chair says Rams don’t go anywhere until he says they do

The NFL may want St. Louis to think that it needs to cough up a pile of stadium money to have a shot at keeping the Rams, but that doesn’t mean the league — or at least, everyone in the league — is ready to let the team move, either. Here’s Pittsburgh Steelers owner and NFL stadium committee chair Art Rooney on Friday, explaining that any attempt to move the Rams will have to go through him:

“There are still cards to be played,” Rooney told The [Los Angeles] Times in his first public comments since Kroenke unveiled his vision for a state-of-the-art stadium on the Hollywood Park site. “There’s still a process that has to work its way out, and we don’t know what the outcome’s going to be yet. That’s why we have league committees and approval processes.”

Rooney’s words were measured but his message was clear that the NFL is going to make the decisions on stadiums and relocation.

“I think we’re comfortable that we could stop a team legally from moving if it didn’t go through the process,” Rooney said.

There’s nothing actually contradictory here: The NFL (or at least Rooney) wants to assert its power to decide who plays where, especially after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last week implied that Rams owner Stan Kroenke could pick up and go to L.A. without league approval if he wanted to. Plus, there does seem to be a message to NFL owners here: We’ll do the best we can to shake down cities for stadium subsidies, but if we succeed, you need to take the cash and stay put, or else nobody’s going to believe us anymore when we say we can deliver the goods.

That’s how it reads currently, anyway. It’s also always possible that the NFL league office, Rooney, Jones, and the other 30 NFL owners are each all angling to prop up their own specific interests, and the notion of “what the NFL wants” is a mere illusion. Just because they’re a billionaires’ club, after all, doesn’t mean that they can manage their affairs any better than any other group of people thrown together by circumstance.