To the list of crazy things that the NFL demands in order to allow cities the honor of hosting the Super Bowl (free billboards, free police officers, free bowling alleys), add spending $50 million to make the luxury suites more luxurious at your 13-year-old stadium. That’s what Houston was told for its plans to host the 2017 Super Bowl:
Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice president of events, said Monday that upgrading the stadium’s WiFi is something the bid committee has agreed to do. In terms of sprucing up the seating, he said he noted on a recent visit that NRG “is in a very good place at this stage in its stadium life, but there are opportunities to upgrade that are common across Super Bowl stadiums as they prepare and continue to make sure they are state-of-the-art.”
So far, no Houston government officials have stepped up to offer $50 million to the cause — in fact, Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack swore earlier this week that “I’m not about to vote to spend a single dollar of county money updating these luxury suites” — and it doesn’t appear that the Super Bowl bid committee actually committed to it as a condition of hosting the big game. So the NFL seemingly doesn’t have a leg to stand on, unless there’s something in the Texans‘ stadium lease:
A clause in that lease agreement says the county must maintain the facility in “first class” condition and “a manner comparable to other stadiums.”
Noooooooooooo! Don’t you people ever learn?
The Dallas Cowboys‘ video screen is no longer the benchmark for humongous sports video screens:
Less than eight months after announcing their approval, Houston’s Reliant Stadium has unveiled its new HD digital video boards, surpassing the Cowboys’ NFL-best 160-foot screens. Houston was previously the only team in the league without digital screens.
The AT&T Stadium video screens set records in 2009 for their 11,520 square feet. That title was claimed two years later by the Charlotte Motor Speedway and is now being surpassed by Houston’s 14,549 square footage of pixels.
The Dallas Morning News notes that the Houston Texans‘ new scoreboards are “100 percent taxpayer funded,” but quotes Harris County Judge Ed Emmett as saying that they’ll totally pay for themselves:
“The Super Bowl alone will attract revenue far in excess of that,” Emmett said. “We’re talking about Final Fours. We’re talking about all the other events that will come to the stadium where you get the best fan experience.”
Oh, dear. Do you want to tell him or should I?
The disarray of the world financial system continues to hit the stadium world: The latest victim looks to be the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, which could see huge hikes in its bond payments on Minute Maid Park, Reliant Stadium, and the Toyota Center thanks to the collapse of the esoteric financial instruments known as
credit default interest rate swaps. (You may recall CDSs for bringing down a little company called AIG.) Without going into all the technical details — which, frankly, I’m not sure I understand even after reading more about default swaps than is really healthy [UPDATE: Apparently I really didn’t understand, as I mistook credit default swaps, which sunk AIG, for interest rate swaps, which threaten to sink the Sports Authority; everything else I wrote here is still valid, though] — the upshot is that in order to undo the bad financing, the sports authority will have to pay off its stadium debt early, with annual debt service expected to rise from $62.3 million to $83.7 million over the next two years.
That’s troublesome, because the authority only collected $79.3 million total in 2008 — and tax revenues, which depend on things like car rental and hotels that are highly dependent on a booming economy, look to be dropping. “I’m deeply concerned about the financial stability of the sports authority and all its bonded indebtedness,” former authority chair Jack Rains told Bloomberg News (which somehow managed to give Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” equal mention in its article). “When you borrow for 30 years, you have to do prudent things, and they didn’t.”
If the shortfall comes true, the sports authority could end up having to go to the county for a bailout. And we know how well that’s worked in the past.