- A plot of private land that Portland baseball backers were eyeing for a stadium has been sold to another developer, but they could still sell or lease it for baseball. Portland is definitely at the forefront of not just handing land to the local sports team for whatever price it wants, though of course it doesn’t hurt that there isn’t an actual local sports team in question right now, just the idle thought of one someday.
- Tampa Bay Rays chief development officer Melanie Lenz says the team will decide in six to nine months whether an Ybor City stadium will work; I’d think they’d want to know who’s going to pay for it first, but maybe that’s what they need the six to nine months for: bribery. (I typed “lobbying,” right? Pretty sure I did, note to self to go back and check.)
- D.C. United is about to open its new stadium with the help of $183 million in public money, and has belatedly noticed that its TV camera angles will be all screwed up because the sun sets in the west. Who could have known something like that?
- A group of Inglewood residents is suing to block the proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena project, which is not surprising; more surprising is that they attempted to serve Mayor James Butts with lawsuit papers during Tuesday’s city council meeting, causing the council to abruptly call a halt to the meeting and run away.
- The Cincinnati Reds are asking for $88,000 in state tax breaks on bobbleheads, on the grounds that they’re included in the price of ticket packages and not being sold separately, even though the ticket package costs more specifically because it includes a bobblehead. I shoulda been a tax lawyer.
- The Philadelphia Phillies are asking for $40 million in hotel tax money from Pinellas County for a new renovations to their spring-training stadium in Clearwater, but the county has run out of hotel tax money because it already spent it on other projects, including the Rays’ Tropicana Field and a spring-training facility for the Toronto Blue Jays, along with a bunch of museums and the like. Opportunity cost!
- A Spectrum News Charlotte headline asks the question: “Does Charlotte need a domed stadium? City leaders are trying to figure it out.” I got an answer for you, Spectrum News Charlotte! (Also, Spectrum News Charlotte, the Atlanta Falcons‘ stadium didn’t really involve a “public investment” of only $200 million. Your friends across town the state at Fox 8 got it right, you might wanna talk to them.)
Friday roundup: Kraft tries to use World Cup to get new stadium, Roger Noll says Austin MLS subsidies are indeed subsidies, NC mulls new tax breaks for Panthers
Posting this while watching the first World Cup match at the crazy stadium with the seats outside the stadium. (I haven’t honestly even noticed who the teams are yet, I’m just watching the architecture.) Anyhoo:
- Las Vegas is reconsidering building a new highway ramp just for the Raiders stadium, not because it’ll cost too much (which it will) but because the Raiders stadium developers have decided they don’t actually want it. This is really all you need to know about the relationship between sports teams and elected officials in this country right now.
- Minneapolis’s tourism nonprofit overstated its economic impact figures by $200 million over the last three years, a city audit has found, figures that are used to determine things such as public stadium and arena spending. That’s bad, though given that “economic impact” is pretty much a bogus concept to begin with, the audit’s figures probably aren’t much more meaningful.
- The headline “Gondola From Union Station to Dodger Stadium Moves Forward” cracked me up, but maybe just because I spend so much time sitting on subway trains that don’t go anywhere.
- The Milwaukee Bucks have finally sold their last luxury suite, so hope you didn’t have your heart set on that suite butler.
- The Los Angeles Clippers owners want one of those get-out-of-environmental-review-free cards from the state legislature, because who doesn’t?
- Two out of 12 stadiums built by the Brazil for the 2014 World Cup are no longer undergoing corruption probes! If you’ve calculated that that means ten of the 12 are still under investigation, you get an A+ in math.
- If you’ve been waiting for the first MLS owner to use the 2026 World Cup as an excuse to try to get a new stadium, New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft has got you covered.
- Hey, lookit, somebody actually called Roger Noll after he was name-checked by the Austin city council, and asked him what he thinks of Anthony Precourt’s stadium proposal for that city. His answer: “It’s not accurate to say it’s going to be completely privately financed. It’s in fact going to have a significant subsidy built into it. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.” That’s fair! Adds Temple economist Michael Leeds: “If Austin feels that having a soccer team would give the city an identity, give the people of the city something they enjoy, that’s fine. … That’s different from saying this is going to boost the city’s economy.” Also fair! Short answer from economists: If you wanna help build a stadium because you think having a stadium would be cool, go for it, but don’t do it for the economic impact because bwahaha “economic impact.”
- The North Carolina legislature is considering a bill to give about half a million dollars a year in property tax breaks to the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Knights owners, apparently in exchange for nothing at all from the teams, not even a lease extension. Whether this bill goes anywhere or not, it continues to bode poorly for the upcoming stadium negotiations with the Panthers’ new owner.
- The Colorado Rockies owners have released renderings of the ugly building they want to build on a Coors Field parking lot they’re leasing from the state for $1.25 million a year. The renderings don’t even show any fireworks or searchlights. Sad!
With the Charlotte Panthers being sold to hedge-fund billionaire David Tepper for $2.2 billion — and at purchase prices like these, you can sort of understand why NFL owners are freaking out about anything that might cause them to lose fans, even if the reaction might cause them to lose other fans — there’s been lots of talk about how Tepper could shake down his new home city for stadium cash, including a step-by-step manual in the Charlotte Observer. But now we’ve entered full-on move-threat-by-proxy mode; take it away, Associated Press:
The new owner of the Carolina Panthers is committed to keeping the team in the Carolinas.
And Charlotte is his clearly his first choice.
But David Tepper left a bit of wiggle room on his first day as owner of the team…
“What’s the name of the team? Carolina Panthers. It’s going to be the Carolina Panthers,” Tepper said. “And that means this team has to have some kind of presence in the Carolinas and last time I saw, how many are there? That’s right, there’s two of them.”
Oh, snap, Tepper’s going to move the Panthers to South Carolina! Except, you know, he’s probably not, but if hinting he’s going to move the team just across the state line (Charlotte is right on North Carolina’s southern border, which is likely one of many things you may not know about Charlotte) helps shake loose some stadium cash from Carolina the North, why, he’d be dodging his fiduciary responsibility to himself not to mention the other Carolina, now wouldn’t he?
Anyway, Tepper went out of his way not to say much of anything else about a new or renovated stadium, which either means he’s still getting his feet wet, or has seen enough as part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers to know that it’s best to let the sports media carry your water for you. Where he goes next with this is anyone’s guess, but you’ve gotta think waking up the first morning as owner of a $2.2 billion asset and seeing headlines like “NFL owners officially approve sale of Panthers, but will team stay in Charlotte?” has to warm the heart of any red-blooded money grubber.
Friday roundup: Panthers’ record sale price goosed by public money, Beckham stadium delayed yet again, Rams stadium really will cost $4B-plus
Google looks to have broken all of its RSS feeds, so if I missed anything important this week, drop me an email and I’ll play catchup next week:
- The Atlanta Hawks are now offering a “virtual tour” of the suites at their new arena, which team CEO Steve Koonin describes thusly: “It’s going to be a social place unlike anywhere else in the NBA. All of our research told us that people don’t want to sit down in a chair eating a hot dog out of aluminum foil and watch a game. They want a great night out. … Think Vegas pool meets sporting event.” Add another data point to the growing evidence that sports teams don’t want their fans to come to watch the game anymore, probably because they know that half the time your team’s games aren’t worth watching.
- Syracuse University is going to spend $118 million to, among other things, replace its stadium’s air-supported fabric roof with a non-air-supported fabric roof, as well as adding “the Wi-Fi.” Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack, according to Syracuse.com, noted that “there has been no money from the state or county promised at this point but indicated the school will continue to explore its options.” At least Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner managed to head off building a new stadium for the private university with public dollars, but still, watch your wallets, New York taxpayers.
- A part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers is buying the Carolina Panthers for an NFL record $2.2 billion, and the city of Charlotte has set aside $75 million in public money for stadium renovations for the new rich guy in town, on top of the $87.5 million the city gave the team for renovations five years ago. This undoubtedly helps make the Panthers worth $2.2 billion, which raises the question of whether Charlotte city subsidies are just helping to enrich a serial workplace sexual harasser.
- David Beckham’s Miami soccer stadium proposal has missed its window for an August public referendum vote and now will have to wait for November at the earliest, because of course it has.
- The $5 billion price tag for the Los Angeles Rams stadium development project has a bit more of a breakdown now, with Sports Business Journal reporting that the stadium and an accompanying 6,000-seat amphitheater alone will cost $4.25 billion to build. I still don’t get how Stan Kroenke expects to turn a profit, but at least it’s his money he’s throwing at this thing.
- If you live in Portland, Oregon and want to be part of a focus group about a potential new MLB stadium there, sign up here.
So I know I’ve poked fun before at the Charlotte news media for wondering aloud about how to meet the new Carolina Panthers owners’ demands for a new stadium when the new owners haven’t even been selected yet, let alone have they made any stadium demands. But, guys, this is getting seriously nuts.
Here, for your perusal, is an article from today’s Charlotte Observer, an actual newspaper, about all the ways that a prospective Panthers owner could extort stadium money from taxpayers, and which ones would work best:
- “We need a new stadium built outside Uptown Charlotte.” Unlikely to work, says Tom Regan, graduate director of the University of South Carolina’s sport and entertainment management department, because it’s too hard to get to the outskirts of town, just look at how the San Francisco 49ers are suffering in Santa Clara. (Which probably isn’t actually the reason for the 49ers’ woes, but whatever.)
- “A new domed stadium will draw frequent major events.” They only play the Super Bowl and Final Four once a year each, so they wouldn’t be in Charlotte very often regardless.
- “A major retrofit on Bank of America Stadium is necessary.” The place is only 22 years old and just got a significant taxpayer-funded upgrade, seriously?
- “If you don’t give us what we want, we’ll find a city that will.” “Given the current ownership structure of the Panthers and ongoing renovations (and lease agreements) at BOA,” says Vanderbilt sports economist John Vrooman, “the new majority ownership partner will probably be from or have strong financial ties to sweet home Carolina, and the Panthers are not likely to engage a credible franchise-relocation stadium-extortion game for at least another decade.”
- “We’ve upgraded, but there are still things city could help us do.”
Add more suites at public expense, maybe, suggests Regan? Who could say no to that, right?
None of this specific analysis is incorrect, per se — in fact, it sounds like the Observer polled a bunch of stadium experts and got back, “The Panthers don’t really have much reason to complain or much leverage.” But the thrust of the article itself — trying to figure out which arguments for getting public stadium money might work best, like you’re a consultant to the team’s new owners rather than, you know, a journalism outlet — remains nuts, and is even more so when you consider the headline:
‘Stadium extortion’ arguments for Panthers ‘folly,’ industry experts say – except one
Except even Regan didn’t say that demanding more upgrades like suites wasn’t “folly” — in fact, he said, “When I look at stadiums on the East Coast – outside of the domes — Charlotte has one of the nicer stadiums.” So the Observer is really bending over backwards here to find some way to spin this as “Charlotte needs to do something for the Panthers.” I’d expect better from a major newspaper, but then, I’d also expect a headline that doesn’t make it sound like “one industry expert” is the exception, not one stadium extortion argument, so clearly I’m not hep to the ways of 21st-century journalism.
I’ve often said that cities should calculate what sports teams are actually worth to them before writing a blank check for a stadium or arena — you know, like Naheed Nenshi has tried to do in Calgary — so when Andrew Dunn, editor-in-chief of something called the Charlotte Agenda (“Charlotte Agenda exists to make Charlotte the smartest, most human city in the world”! Also: “We believe in drinking beer at work”!), set out to do just that today for a Carolina Panthers stadium deal, gotta give him at least some props, right? Let’s see how he did:
- “Economists generally agree that the costs to taxpayers outweigh the benefits of all the additional spending on construction, hotels, restaurants, tickets and concessions.” He can read! Good start!
- Notes that Charlotte paid $87.5 million in 2013 for a six-year lease extension for the Panthers, which means “the going rate is at least $13.75 million per year to make a team stay put.” He doesn’t note that that was one of the worst returns on a stadium subsidy in history, so maybe his reading doesn’t extend to this site.
- “I believe that the Panthers are worth public money.” That’s kind of assuming your conclusion there, but in case he means “something, even if it’s only a penny,” I’ll allow it.
- “I’ll grant that Charlotte’s government will never be able to directly recoup in employment and sales taxes the money it puts toward the Panthers. But putting public money toward pro sports shouldn’t be analyzed that way. Think of it more as a marker of what kind of city we want Charlotte to be.” Followed by an assertion that the Hornets and Panthers “put the Charlotte name in the national consciousness and touched off a business boom,” his sole presented evidence being a 1994 Chicago Tribune article in which a Hornets season-ticket holder says that the teams put Charlotte on the map.
- “An investment in the Panthers is not using the same money that would build affordable housing.” This because the city could use hotel and rental car tax money that is earmarked for promoting tourism, notwithstanding that if general fund revenue ends up being used on a tourism project because the hotel and rental car tax fund is all spent on a football stadium, it’s absolutely taking away from money for things like affordable housing.
- “Let’s figure out what we’re willing to do before a new ownership group gets involved. They’ll buy the team knowing what support they can count on from the community.” I.e., let’s make an offer before we’ve even been asked for anything. Where figuring out what a team’s presence is worth to a city (and, just as important, whether it has any better options for leaving if you don’t lavish its owners with cash) is a great preparatory step for negotiations, up and telling new team owners, “Hey, we have a check this big waiting for you!” is a terrible, terrible idea. What were we just saying about bidding against yourself?
- “Perhaps both sides will come out in the black.” Uhhh, remember bullet point #1 back up there? Where you wrote that economists agree a win-win situation almost never happens? Maybe his reading doesn’t even extend to the very editorial he’s writing.
Overall grade: D, maybe C-minus for a good essay topic, but the execution needs a lot of work. To do this right you need to analyze the actual return on a stadium investment in tax revenues, the emotional value of an NFL team to a community, any measurable impact on business activity as a result of the presence of sports teams (though those economists back in the first paragraph have it covered for you: there is none), what other options the team has to move, and so on. Instead, Dunn’s analysis comes down to: Economists say stadiums don’t pay off, but I really like football, and there’s tourism tax money just sitting right there, so somebody just offer something already, I can’t take this uncertainty! Sounds like somebody needs another beer.
Tons of stray news items this week, so let’s get right to them:
- The Rhode Island state senate’s finance committee approved $44 million in spending by the state and city of Pawtucket for a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium, which is what everyone expected, because the real opposition is in the state house. A spokesperson for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said that if the bill passes the Senate, “it will be assigned to the House Finance Committee and be given a public hearing,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but then, Mattiello has been saying consistently that his constituents hate this plan.
- Oakland A’s president Dave Kaval said that the team owners have “identified three final locations” for a new stadium, and … they’re the same three sites the team announced more than a year ago, even after Laney College officials since took themselves out of the running. “We spent a lot of time getting it to three final sites, and those are the sites that are viable,” Kaval told reporters. Props for sticking to your convictions, I guess, but there’s a time to go to a Plan B, and it’s maybe after Plan A told you, “Get offa our lawn.”
- The city of Liverpool is set to spend £280 million on a new stadium for Everton F.C., four years after saying no to a similar plan, but Mayor Joe Anderson defends the plan as a loan that the team will repay and more. The Guardian reports that “the city council could make £7m-a-year profit from interest charged on a loan of £280m over 25 years, plus extra revenue from business rates and related developments once the stadium is up and running” — which sounds good if the profit is guaranteed just from the loan payments (the city would reportedly have first dibs on Everton team revenue), not so much if it would rely on those “related developments,” which could be stuff that would happen with or without a new stadium. As is so often the case, it all comes down to what that comma means.
- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman toured Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday, after which New York Islanders owner Jon Ledecky said he was “confident” that “some games” would be played there while waiting for a new Belmont Park arena to be built, but that playing full seasons there would be “difficult.” So that would imply … some games in Nassau and some in Brooklyn, since the two arenas have the same owner? Some in Nassau and some at Madison Square Garden, which is set to help build the new arena? Some in Nassau and some on a frozen-over East River after that ice age that the American Museum of Natural History seems to think is imminent hits? Your guess is as good as mine.
- A Unitarian minister writes in an op-ed for the Charlotte Observer that if the Charlotte city council is going to spend money on a new Carolina Panthers stadium, it should be required to build affordable housing, too. My theology is shaky at best, so I’m not sure what Unitarianism has to say about a right canceling out a wrong.
- Speaking of North Carolina, the Hurricanes got a new owner this week, and in his first few hours as head of the team, he didn’t demand a new arena or threaten to move the team without one. Though that may have more to do with the team’s sweetheart lease on its current arena that last through 2024, which had led former owner Peter Karmanos to say in 2015 that “we’d have to be idiots to move from here,” so give the new guy a few more hours, at least.
- This. You’re welcome.
The Carolina Panthers story so far: Team owner Jerry Richardson was investigated for sexual harassment and stepped down as managing partner and said he would sell his stake, and immediately speculation started as to whether whoever bought the team would demand a new stadium, and then the local media jumped ahead straight to wondering where this phantom stadium that the new owner who hasn’t even been finalized yet might demand would go, and that brings us to last night’s WCNC-TV headline:
EXCLUSIVE: Where the new Carolina Panthers stadium could be built
The actual story, such as it is, is that two unnamed sources told the station that there is “interest” in building a stadium near the South Carolina border, and there’s a guy who owns a 220-acre farm there and his daughter-in-law went to school with the son of possible new owner Felix Sabates, and it’s truly amazing that this is an EXCLUSIVE and nobody else is on this story, huh?
But I didn’t come to you today just to laugh at self-important local TV news broadcasts; no, I came to you to laugh at what that headline really should bring to mind. Because where a new stadium “could” be? WCNC really should have shaken down a few more unnamed sources, because the possibilities are endless:
- Here are 21 lots in Charlotte that are big enough to hold a football stadium. (Okay, one appears to be the side of a hill, but that worked for Dodger Stadium, right?)
- If you’re willing to go further afield in North Carolina, here are 304 sites around the state that would work.
- You know where there’s a lot of cheap land? Alaska. Just saying.
- Olympus Mons. Pros: Lots of room for parking and ancillary development. Cons: Minor media market, but as long as you get a cut of the NFL’s national TV contract that shouldn’t matter too much, right?
This has been your morning exercise in finding places to build a stadium for an owner who doesn’t even own the team yet, let alone has he demanded a replacement for its stadium that’s just 21 years old, but that’s the job of journalism, right, to anticipate subsidy demands before they’re made and make them for you? Pretty sure it’s something like that.
It’s the first news roundup of 2018! Please remember to stop writing “2017” on all your stadium-subsidy checks.
- The Carolina Panthers haven’t even been sold yet following owner Jerry Richardson’s resignation amid sexual harassment complaints, and already Charlotte news outlets are wondering where a new owner would put the new stadium that they would no doubt demand. The Panthers’ current stadium is 24 years old. Yes, human civilization is doomed.
- The Rhode Island state senate has tweaked its Pawtucket Red Sox stadium proposal, giving the city of Pawtucket a flat $250,000-a-year cut of naming rights fees instead of 50% of whatever the team got, and clarifying that the team would pay overruns on construction costs, but not land acquisition costs. The PawSox owners released a statement calling this “encouraging,” while House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he has “sensed resistance with the public” to putting $38 million in public cash into the deal. It looks likely that this is still headed for another Senate-House standoff, in other words.
- New Miami Marlins owner Derek Jeter has a plan code-named Project Wolverine (for Jeter’s home state of Michigan, not the X-Man) that projects windfall profits by getting Fox to give the team a massive new TV deal and attendance to spike despite selling off all his best players. This has nothing to do with stadiums except to remind everyone that giving former owner Jeffrey Loria a new ballpark at taxpayer expense was a waste of close to a billion dollars, and getting Loria to sell to Jeter doesn’t seem to have raised hopes any of having management that isn’t delusional or focused solely on squeezing every last dollar of profit possible from a franchise that will forever be selling off any players as soon as they figure out how to play baseball. Miami might have been better off keeping its money and using it to buy residents plane tickets to go see a real baseball team.
- NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says the league “wouldn’t rule out” the New York Islanders playing games temporarily at Nassau Coliseum while a new arena at Belmont Park is under construction, which makes sense, because why would they? Sure, the Coliseum now only holds 13,000 for hockey games after its renovation, but the Islanders’ current home of the Barclays Center only holds 15,795, and at least the Coliseum doesn’t have its ice all off-center. Plus, the Islanders aren’t drawing even 13,000 a game anyway, so it’ll just be a matter of fewer empty seats until the new arena is opened, which we still don’t know when that would be, do we? It’ll be interesting to see what kind of lease Coliseum owner Mikhail Prokhorov offers to the Islanders owners — on the one hand, they’re threatening to go off and build a new arena that will compete with his, but on the other, he pretty badly wants them out of the Barclays Center, so it’s anybody’s guess.
It’s now been four days since the Carolina Panthers announced that owner Jerry Richardson was under investigation for workplace misconduct, and two days since Sports Illustrated revealed that the misconduct included routinely asking female employees to turn around so he could ogle their butts and then it was announced that Richardson would sell the team, and one day since Richardson stepped aside from running the team. So, of course, it’s time for the Charlotte Observer to ask if whoever ends up buying the Panthers will demand a new stadium:
Bank of America is now one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL. A new ownership group might want a more lavish stadium with a retractable roof, that would allow the city to host the NCAA Final Four and the Super Bowl.
“Bank of America Stadium, for the fall, is a fabulous facility for football,” said Marc Ganis, a sports consultant who advises NFL owners on stadium deals. “The concept that Jerry (Richardson) has of a ‘Stadium in a Park,’ has worked very well there.”
But wait, you, the devoted FoS reader, ask, didn’t the Panthers just get a whole bunch of money from Charlotte so he could build a giant statue of himself among other things, in exchange for a lease extension? Yes, but that extension was only for six years, and runs out in 2019, meaning the Panthers’ owner could move elsewhere as soon as the completion of next season and only pay a small financial penalty. Or, more to the point, can threaten to move at the completion of next season, in hopes of landing a huge financial windfall, whether for an entirely new stadium or for major renovations to their current one, which is an ancient 21 years old.
In fact, Richardson could be selling at just the right time: Whoever buys the Panthers will end up with not only a seat in one of America’s most exclusive clubs, but the ability to shake down either Charlotte or some other city or both for the biggest stadium subsidies they can get, without the baggage of being a hometown hero with a giant statue of themselves outside their home stadium. That should be good enough to create a nice premium on whatever price Richardson is looking to get for the team, which should help pay for settlements in all the new harassment lawsuits he’s no doubt going to be facing — and if you’re now thinking, “Does this mean that taxpayers somewhere are going to end up indirectly helping to pay the cost of Jerry Richardson’s crimes?”, maybe you don’t want to think about that too hard if you’re going to get through the day.