NFL’s tax-exempt status could be providing tax breaks to teams, not just league

Timothy Lavin of Bloomberg View had an op-ed up last week on the NFL’s tax-exempt status, which I set aside before reading at first because while the league’s tax exemption is annoying, it doesn’t really amount to all that much of a tax subsidy. (Because individual teams, which are what actually earn the revenue, are still taxed.)

Except that Lavin has found some potential loopholes that the NFL may be exploiting to use that tax exemption as a more significant tax dodge:

  • “First, the league’s primary business these days is no longer football, it’s financing.” The NFL’s stadium loan fund — which is really more of a grant fund, since the teams get to pay it back with revenue they wouldn’t keep otherwise — appears to allow the league to borrow money on lower terms than it would otherwise, and pass the savings on to the teams that are building stadiums.
  • NFL teams pay more than $300 million a year total in dues to the league. If that money is then used to help teams pay for stadium costs, the team owners get to treat it as a business expense rather than a capital expenditure, which allows them to write it off much more quickly.

Lavin cautions that without looking at NFL teams’ books (ha ha ha ha!), we don’t know how much they’re actually saving by these methods, so it still may not be a huge deal. But this does potentially explain why the NFL is holding onto its 501(c)(6) status, which MLB voluntarily ditched in 2007.

Either way, the benefits for teams almost certainly pale in comparison to those from the IRS’s continuing acceptance of the tax-exempt bond dodge, which saves sports teams around $150 million a year, at the expense of the federal treasury. Maybe someday Congress will get around to doing something about all this, beyond staging the occasional hearing.

Dolphins stadium built on a Native American burial ground no really

There is absolutely no reason for me to post a link to this story, except that it is the perfect opportunity to make lots and lots of jokes:

A few months before the grand opening of [Joe Robbie Stadium], the Los Angeles Times wrote an article detailing the construction and unique funding of the Dolphins’ new stadium. The article also mentions the burial site discovery:
“Then there were the two acres that archaeologists claimed were an Indian burial ground more than 1,000 years ago. They said that the Tequesta Indians had used the site about 800 A.D., and the Seminole Indians in the mid-19th Century.”
The discovery threw a wrench into the Dolphins’ construction plans because they were faced with archaeological guidelines before they could continue digging. The Dolphins originally agreed to avoid clearing part of the southeast corner of the property where the remains where found but later received permission to remove the remains and artifacts. Because you don’t just not build a football stadium because Native Americans happened to use your land to bury their dead centuries ago.

Not only do the Miami Dolphins play there, but the Florida Marlins used to as well, so feel free to blame anything and everything on the stadium’s builders having violated the spirits of the dead. Or just make Poltergeist references, that works too.

Stop the presses! A’s, Raiders owners spotted in same room together!

This is news? Yeah, I guess this is news:

It was a rare sight indeed — A’s co-owner Lew Wolff, Raiders owner Mark Davis and their advisers in the same room with members of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, talking about building separate stadiums on the Coliseum site.

We don’t know what they talked about, or even that they talked directly at all. But it’s better than Wolff and Davis just firing public shots at each other about who will get control over the Oakland Coliseum land. Unless, that is, they start talking to each other about how to team up to get Oakland to cough up $750 million for new stadiums, which would be kinda bad.

Is there a term for news that isn’t doesn’t actually leave you better informed about anything? Maybe we could name it after Chuck Todd.

Buffalo News now obsessing over how to pay for new stadium that Bills owner hasn’t asked for

Sure enough, the purchase of the Buffalo Bills by Sabres owner (and fracking billionaire) Terry Pegula, who has said nothing about needing a new stadium, has finally gotten the Buffalo News to stop asking where the new stadium should go. Instead, today the News asks:

How to pay for a new Bills stadium?
Be prepared: The effort is likely to be a collective one

The article then goes on to say that nobody knows how much a stadium would cost or who would pay for it, but that taxpayers always end up putting in a lot. And also that in the NFL “it’s expected that every team will have a state-of-the-art stadium that can pull in money year-round,” because stadiums that cost undetermined amounts of money and that are paid for by who knows are always bound to make money. Year-round. By their state-of-the-artness. Have I hit my word count yet?

Raiders owner says stadium proposal is just a proposal, already

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis confirms there’s no deal in place for a new stadium, no matter what Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has proposed:

Wasn’t me, that’s all I know.

Bills stadium renovations win raves, county exec says building can “last for 30 years” now

Not everybody hates their team’s new stadium: The Buffalo Bills (okay, their stadium is the same old one, just renovated on the public dime) got rave reviews from fans, according to the Buffalo News, with plaudits for the new gates, bigger stairways and restrooms, and expanded scoreboards. One fan even suggested that the renovations had people swearing less than usual:

“There’s a lot less drunkenness. People have more respect,” said [Jennifer] Shanahan, whose gold Buffalo Bills earrings gleamed in the sun. “Everyone is so much happier.”

It’s football utopia! Except for the part where the NFL wants to tear all this down and build a new stadium, something that the News doesn’t actually get around to mentioning in this article.

There are hints, though, that everybody could be backing away from the new-stadium talk, at least for the moment. At the ribbon-cutting for the renovated stadium, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz made one of the strongest statements yet in favor of sticking with the Bills’ current home:

“I’d ask for everyone to kind of sit back and let’s take a look and see how we’re doing here in this next year or so, because we know the facility structurally can last another 30 years. There’s a difference between infrastructure viability and long-term economic viability. I feel very confident if we do this right, not only will the facility last for 30 years but the economic viability of this facility will last to for years to come.”

And Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has flip-flopped on this issue multiple times this year, added: “The Bills are staying. The stadium’s good. Let’s stay right here for a while. Let’s win today, and the future will take care of itself.”

Added to the recent Buffalo News article signaling that Sabres owner Terry Pegula’s purchase of the team makes stadium talks “less urgent,” and it certainly sounds like someone in the NFL has gotten the message that this is a bad time to be asking for a new stadium, and the Bills can just live with their $200 million in existing state subsidies for the time being. Clearly my work is done here.

Fans at 49ers home opener spend more time getting out of parking lot than watching 49ers lose

The San Francisco 49ers finally had their real, honest-to-god, official regular season home opener at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara yesterday, and according to the San Jose Mercury News, the traffic still royally sucks:

While post-game transit rides appeared smooth, some fans who drove reported huge waits to get out of the parking spaces, saying it took two hours or more just to leave their lot.
Some fans resorted to driving over curbs to get out and others said travelers looked so angry they were ready to fight the parking attendants. Others, in a fit of rage, claimed they wouldn’t return until the situation was fixed.

At least traffic getting to the game was a “non-issue,” according to NBC Bay Area, with — sorry, you weren’t finished, Merc News?

Fans going to the blue lots off Lawrence Expressway reported pregame waits of up to two hours.

“I have to say, it’s beyond frustrating,” San Jose resident Joey Windham, 35, said from his car before the game, where he had barely budged for two hours. “It pretty much has zapped the life out of everybody.”

 

Now, the 49ers’ old place had some traffic problems, too, so take all this with a grain of salt. (Especially the bit about fans refusing to come back.) But if nothing else, this is a sign that the preseason traffic woes can’t be cured by the Great America amusement park being closed on game days (as it was last night), or running a few extra commuter trains.

One improvement: No one died from the heat this time!

Buffalo News runs actual article saying Bills stadium possibly not needed right now, maybe

Well, lo and behold, I might actually owe the Buffalo News an apology for all the time I’ve spent poking fun at their atrocious coverage of the Bills stadium demands. The day after Terry Pegula won the bidding to purchase the Bills, here’s what the News ran today:

Pegulas’ winning bid makes stadium decision less urgent

ALBANY – The decision about whether the Buffalo Bills will get a new stadium, renovate their existing home or keep things as they are for now has become less urgent, now that Terry and Kim Pegula have been announced as the winning bidders for the team.

Okay, so it’s just recounting what some state leaders say, and is more “We don’t have to build a stadium just yet” than “Do we need to build a stadium at all?” (Sen. Charles Schumer says Pegula’s purchase provides a chance to “take a look at how we can collectively surmount the challenges to a new stadium that would strengthen the franchise for decades to come.”) But still, at least Buffalo residents are getting a break from the constant drumbeat of how a new stadium needs to be discussed immedi — sorry, what’s that, WGRZ-TV?

Pegula Purchase Re-ignites Stadium Talk

Never mind.

Cuomo now says Bills are fine in old stadium, but check back tomorrow

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo won his primary re-election battle on Tuesday, and was immediately asked to chime in again on the Buffalo Bills stadium debate. This time, the Pop-o-Matic landed on … not enthused!

“You know, uh, maybe I have a vested interest because I have kind of tight pockets, I’ve been accused of, but I think the stadium with the renovations is doing very well.”

Yeah, who do those people think they are, insisting that the Bills need a new stadium. Like that guy who said in August, “If we need a new stadium to keep the Bills here long term, that’s something that I’m interested in talking about.” What ever happened to him?

Sabres owner to buy Bills, Buffalo News still can only focus on where a new stadium would go

Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula has will be the new owner of the Buffalo Bills, winning the bidding with a $1.4 billion offer. This raises all kinds of interesting questions, like: Will Pegula continue to push for a new stadium, or will he be satisfied with the renovations just completed to Ralph Wilson Stadium? If the former, will he be willing (or able) to cover most of the costs via some of his $3.3 billion in fracking riches? When he said that the Bills and Sabres are “both here to stay,” does that mean he doesn’t plan on using NFL threats to move to the team to leverage a new stadium? As Sabres owner, could he get away with moving the Bills without being burned in effigy?

All interesting questions, that is, unless you’re the Buffalo News, which is dead-set on covering one and only one thing about the Bills stadium situation, which is where are we gonna build it already?

Pegula has not spoken publicly about his preferences for either a new or renovated stadium for the Bills.

But Pegula’s pending purchase of the team likely gives a leg up to potential stadium sites downtown, near First Niagara Center, where Pegula’s Buffalo Sabres play, and close to the HarborCenter hotel and hockey complex that now is under construction, sources said.

And in case that lengthy article (which does include one paragraph — number 14, if you’re counting — about the possibility of remaining in Ralph Wilson Stadium, with still more renovations) isn’t enough, there’s also a sidebar on six different sites that a stadium could be built.

It’s almost like the Buffalo News editors don’t read either me or the Columbia Journalism Review. Either that, or they’re covertly trying to wrest the satirical-journalism-site crown from ClickHole.

[UPDATE: I just realized I missed this article from yesterday, in which the News observes that Pegula's purchase of the Bills will give "clarity" to "the search for a new stadium site." Gotta give them points for consistency, anyway.]