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?

Goldman pulls out of Vegas Raiders deal, Davis now faces Adelson’s way or the highway

Remember way back yesterday, when I noted that billionaire Sheldon Adelson pulling out of the deal to build a Las Vegas stadium for the Oakland Raiders didn’t necessarily kill those plans, because Raiders owner Mark Davis had Goldman Sachs lined up as a backup financial partner? Well, that didn’t even last a day:

Goldman Sachs, the banking giant the Raiders told NFL owners would finance part of the $1.9-billion proposal even without Adelson’s involvement, pulled away from the project Tuesday.

The arrangement with Goldman Sachs was contingent on Adelson’s partnership with the Raiders in the development, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. Without Adelson, the person said, there isn’t any deal.

It’s not entirely clear here whether Adelson leaned on Goldman not to do the deal without him (he says he didn’t), or Goldman decided that retaining the support of Nevada elected officials was too dicey without Adelson, or Goldman never wanted to do the deal without Adelson and Davis was just an idiot for assuming they would. (Actually, most of the scenarios here involve Davis being an idiot.) Either way, though, this presents a huge stumbling block in the way of Davis cashing in on Nevada’s promise of $750 million in public money toward a stadium, which at least one legislator is threatening to revoke if the Raiders owner can’t work something out ASAP:

The political fallout Tuesday included a suggestion by Aaron Ford, majority leader in Nevada’s Senate, that public money for the stadium could be diverted for other purposes if the situation isn’t quickly resolved.

“If progress is not made toward financing the stadium project in a timely fashion, we will introduce legislation to create the jobs that were promised and contemplated by stadium construction,” Ford said.

All the leverage is back in Adelson’s court, in other words, if he wants to resume his demands for a large cut of team revenues and possibly of ownership as well. You have to figure he’ll at least try, because he’d be stupid not to — though there’s enough stupid already floating around this deal already that a little more wouldn’t be all that surprising.

Adelson backs out of Raiders deal, jeopardizing Vegas move either lots or not at all

And speaking of “you can’t fire me, I quit” ultimatums, squintillionaire casino baron Sheldon Adelson responded yesterday to Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis moving ahead with a Las Vegas stadium lease proposal without consulting him by saying fine, he doesn’t want to play Davis’s old reindeer games anyhow:

Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has backed out of a deal to help construct a $1.9 billion stadium for the Oakland Raiders, throwing the team’s proposed move to Las Vegas into jeopardy…

“It’s clear the Raiders have decided their path for moving to Las Vegas does not include the Adelson family,” Sheldon Adelson said in the statement. “So, regrettably, we will no longer be involved in any facet of the stadium discussion.”

Adelson blamed conditions named in a 117-page proposed stadium draft agreement, which the team presented at a meeting of the nine-member Las Vegas Stadium Authority last week. He said the draft proposal, which called for terms including $1 annual rent, control over field scheduling and exclusive naming rights for the team, sent “shockwaves” through the community and was a surprise to his family.

“We were not only excluded from the proposed agreement; we weren’t even aware of its existence,” he said in the statement.

This is not entirely unexpected, given that Davis had already indicated he was preparing to pursue the deal without Adelson, even going so far as to line up Goldman Sachs as a financing partner if need be. (Sure, he’d have to repay Goldman Sachs on their loan, but Adelson wanted a cut of revenues or maybe part-ownership of the team to repay his own investment, so potato-potahto as far as Davis’s bottom line is concerned.) And that proposed lease, released last week amid headlines about how Davis only wants to pay $1 a year in rent and keep all the stadium revenues for himself, didn’t mention Adelson at all, so there’s really no reason for anybody to flip out about this.

Flipping out, of course, is precisely what some people are doing:

Elected officials including Clark County Commission chair Steve Sisolak, who had spoken with Adelson earlier on Monday, said the development put the future of the move in jeopardy.

“This is not a wrench in the wheel, the wheel fell off,” he said. “This is an enormous setback in my opinion.”

(It’s “wrench in the works,” not in the wheel, which would be — oh, never mind.)

The issue here is less whether Davis can find somebody else to throw a few hundred million dollars in cash his way in exchange for future payments (that’s exactly why places like Goldman Sachs exist) than what it means politically to lose Adelson, whose connections were what enabled the Raiders to get their $750 million stadium subsidy offer from the state of Nevada in the first place. And while the subsidy legislation has already passed, Davis and the state still need to negotiate that lease, so it’s a bad time to be losing a powerful local friend — something you’d think Davis would have thought through, if you assumed that sports team owners think more rationally than the rest of us, which is probably a bad assumption.

In any event, this is a worthwhile time for Nevada elected officials to remind themselves that the Vegas Raiders stadium plan really is a godawful one, especially when you consider not just that $1 a year rent but that Davis would get all naming-rights, ticket, and even concessions revenue, while the state stadium authority would be on the hook for all operating expenses and even any property taxes, per the team’s proposed lease. While backing away from a deal because Sheldon Adelson isn’t involved in it is usually the exact opposite of what I’d recommend, this might be a good time to make an exception.

Raiders owner to Vegas: Thanks for $750m, how about I keep all revenues, pay $1 in rent?

If there’s one key point I’ve tried to hammer home about how elected officials should approach stadium deals, it’s: Don’t just focus on the headline number for construction costs! It’s the lease details, stupid! Otherwise you can end up giving up hundreds of millions of dollars on the back end, via lost parking fees or future maintenance expenses or what have you.

The Nevada legislature clearly hasn’t been listening to me, because Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis just revealed details of his lease demands for his new Las Vegas stadium, and they are, shall we say, the kinds of things you might have wanted to talk about before approving $750 million in subsidies:

  • The Raiders would pay $1 a year in rent.
  • The team would receive 100% of naming rights from the stadium.
  • The team would receive 100% of advertising sales at the stadium.

How much of an additional subsidy would this be? While there’s no established baseline for fair-market rent, let alone a fair-market split of naming rights, I’m told the state was expecting to get an $8.2 million cut of those revenue streams to help defray its own costs. Giving that up is worth about $130 million in present value, so if we consider that to be a new ask, then the Raiders’ total subsidy would now stand at $880 million.

Of course, if the state was really counting on that money, it might have wanted to ask for it, you know, before approving the first $750 million. The Nevada Stadium Authority is scheduled to begin discussing Davis’s lease demands next month; if they end up rejecting them and telling him to take his team and go play in the street — not likely, but could happen — that might be the best outcome for all concerned, except for Davis, obviously.

VA gov says he can build NFL stadium with no money, only land, which is just dirt, right?

Okay, cities and states offering up developable land instead of cash for stadiums and pretending this isn’t a public cost is officially the new thing:

Speaking to Fox 5 on Tuesday, [Virginia Gov. Terry] McAuliffe claimed that he has a plan to build the [Washington NFL] stadium without taxpayer dollars.

Instead, he said he’d pay for the project by selling development rights in the surrounding area. He compared the plan to how the Rams are financing their forthcoming stadium in Inglewood.

Yeah, okay, that’s not actually without taxpayer dollars, Terry. If development rights around a stadium site are a publicly owned asset, they’re one that the state could sell and use the proceeds for literally anything — public housing, new roads, a dirigible docking station — instead of a football stadium. This is what economists call an “opportunity cost,” and unless the value of the land accrues entirely from the existence of a stadium nearby (it won’t), it’s every bit as much a public cost as briefcases full of crisp twenties.

This is precisely the gambit that Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno tried with the city of Anaheim, whose mayor, Tom Tait, demanded an appraisal, which determined that the land rights were worth $100 million more than what Moreno was offering to spend on stadium renovations. Tait killed that deal, but other mayors and governors appear to have learned the wrong lesson, focusing solely on the “hey, people at large don’t seem to understand that public land has value” aspect. Looks like I’ve got a new mole to whack.

S.D., L.A moving companies lining up to refuse to haul Chargers’ stuff north

Chargers owner Dean Spanos’s grudging “I’d love to stay, I must be going” announcement that he was moving the team from San Diego to Los Angeles was sad enough, especially with the logo uproar and public message to stay home from one of L.A.’s top sports columnists that immediately followed. So what could he possibly do for an encore? Oh, how about not being able to find anyone to rent him a moving van:

[Ryan Charles of HireAHelper.com] said that more than 25 San Diego-based [moving] companies and 10 from the L.A. area have united via the wewontmoveyouchargers.com website to pledge not to participate in what Charles admitted would be a very lucrative series of jobs.

“We’re continuing to add more companies every hour,” Charles said. “We’re still actively calling companies, and companies are signing themselves up through the link on that site. So yeah, I think it’s definitely had an impact.”

It’s always possible that one day the Chargers will be ensconced in their new stadium, and they will win games again, and they will compete with the Rams for the hearts of L.A. football fans, who will actually be proven to exist (except in the sense of football fans who live in L.A., vs. fans of L.A. football). But this definitely isn’t getting off to a good start.

Raiders to file papers to move to Vegas, it is said (by someone [we can’t tell you who])

So on Saturday morning (updated again on Sunday), NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport had this to report:

The Raiders will file relocation papers to move from Oakland to Las Vegas, according to sources familiar with their thinking. … The stunning move, one that should be made official in the coming days, is expected to add a new city to the NFL’s ever-changing landscape. The Raiders would need 24 votes from the league’s owners to formally make the move, a vote that will come this spring…

As for the support from the room of owners, it’s described as making progress and gathering momentum. There isn’t nearly the opposition some anticipated originally. And it continues to build, with some of the most prominent owners vocally in favor of it.

Number of named sources cited: zero. Citations are to “sources familiar with [the Raiders’] thinking,” “sources,” and that passive-voice “it’s described as.” So what we know for sure is that somebody wants the world to know (or think) that the Raiders are all set to move to Las Vegas, and that the NFL is set to approve it.

Anyway, we’ve known for a long while that Davis wants to move to Las Vegas, or at least that he says he wants to. (Notwithstanding that he still doesn’t know who he’s going to build a stadium there with, after getting $750 million in public money to help with the costs.) Does this mean the move could be official in another couple of months? That this is an attempt to shake down Oakland, or even once-and-maybe-future Davis stadium partner Sheldon Adelson, for a more Davis-friendly deal? What kind of relocation fee would Davis have to pay for moving from an old stadium in a large market into a new stadium in a fairly small one? All good questions to ask Rapoport’s sources — here, go to it.

Raiders could have new evil billionaire to partner with on Vegas stadium

Wednesday’s NFL meeting about the Oakland Raiders‘ possible relocation to Las Vegas was a big bust as far as actual news goes, with the exception of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II’s cryptic statement that “the Raiders are looking at this potentially going without Mr. Adelson.” We now have some indication of what that was all about, though, as a Las Vegas stadium authority consultant reported yesterday that Raiders owner Mark Davis thinks he has another option for raising money if he can’t come to an agreement with casino baron Sheldon Adelson:

“The team’s presentation highlighted its research that the Las Vegas market can support the team, that bringing the NFL to the market aligns with the league’s strategic goals and that Goldman Sachs is committed to financing the project with or without a third party,” [Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis] said.

“The Raiders told the committees that there is no deal in place yet with the Adelson family and that the team is pursuing approval with no third-party involvement,” Aguero said. “However, if an accord with the Adelson family is reached later, the team would bring that back for league approval.”

This makes sense: If building a Las Vegas stadium (with $750 million of it paid for by taxpayers) is a good deal for Adelson, it’s likely to be a good one for Goldman Sachs as well. Though it’s important to note that Goldman would only be the financier here — Davis would have to borrow the money and repay it later. Still, if he’d rather make annual loan payments than share revenues and potentially team ownership with Adelson, sure, go for the vampire squid, or at least pursue it as an option so you have some leverage with your prospective partner.

The big question is whether that $750 million is still on the table if Adelson is no longer involved. I’ve looked at all the reports on the legislation and been unable to tell whether the money is contingent on it going to Adelson, or if it’s just free-floating money that can go to anyone looking to build an NFL stadium. It would certainly be ironic if Adelson ended up putting in all this lobbying effort, including buying the local newspaper, only to get shoved unceremoniously aside. Though if you believe the scuttlebutt that Adelson only did this to block hotel tax money from going to a convention center that would compete with his, maybe he won’t care so much, especially after the convention center got its money anyway.

And yes, all this is a dumb way to decide which cities get pro sports franchises. In case you were wondering.