Jacksonville mayor tells council to “stop stalling” and vote on $200m Jaguars subsidy

If you were still wondering if Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan is really asking for public funding for “major” stadium renovations at the same time as he’s demanding $200 million in subsidies for a new development in his stadium parking lot, we now have confirmation that yes, he really is:

[Jacksonville city council finance committee chair Matt] Carlucci said a vote on Lot J should only happen if the development is bundled with stadium improvements and an extension of the Jags’ lease at TIAA Bank Field, set to expire in 2030. He said if the Jags were to leave Jacksonville in the future, the city would still be on the hook for Lot J.

“The stadium, Lot J and a lease extension are all linked together, and if we don’t do that right, the taxpayers will never forgive us,” Carlucci said.

That’s an excellent point, in that giving Khan $200 million without even asking for a lease extension seems, I believe the technical city-planning term is “nutso.” Though giving him $200 million for the Lot J development plus maybe an equal amount for stadium renovations at the same time would be equally nutso, unless he agrees to a lease extension until the 32nd century.

Carlucci is also asking for more time to evaluate the deal(s), as the Lot J plan is currently scheduled to be voted on by the Downtown Investment Authority tomorrow, discussed by the council on Thursday, and then voted on as early as next week. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who designed the deal, is having none of that “due diligence” balderdash:

Do you want to take your time to think about devoting hundreds of millions of public dollars to a private stadium development project, or do you want to be an NFL city? Don’t think too long, there are plenty of other cities who would love to … what’s that, which cities? I said to stop stalling!

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Jaguars owner demands “major” stadium renovations, or NFL will shoot this team

Remember just last week when we discussed the $200 million-ish that Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan wants to subsidize a giant development in his stadium’s parking lot? At the time it seemed like a perfect example of the new wave of sports subsidy demands: If you can’t get public cash for a new or renovated stadium, then ask for a sweet deal on some related project, since that’s easier to fudge the numbers on.

Until Monday, that is, when Jaguars president Mark Lamping told the Florida Times-Union that oh yeah, Khan wants a renovated stadium, too, or else:

“If you’re going to be making a long-term extension of a lease, there needs to be certainty that you’re going to have an NFL-quality stadium during the term of that extension,” Lamping said. “That’s obvious, no different than when the Jaguars came to Jacksonville.”

Lamping elaborated on this yesterday:

“If Shad [Khan] were to ask fellow NFL owners and the league to approve a lease extension right now, there are really two questions that are unanswered that need to be answered before you even consider that,” Lamping said.

Lamping said 75% of NFL owners have to vote “yes” to any lease extension. One of those outstanding items, Lamping said, would be asking: “Does the stadium meet the needs of NFL fans and other stakeholders?”

These statements move the goalposts in a bunch of ways at once: They declare that TIAA Bank Field, which was opened in 1994, is no longer “NFL-quality”; that without renovations, the Jaguars won’t sign a long-term lease; and that if they don’t, it’s not because Khan doesn’t want to, heaven forfend, it’s those nasty old NFL owners that won’t let him stay in a substandard stadium. And, of course, that the team could leave town without stadium upgrades — Lamping said he wanted to make sure “that there will be NFL football in Northeast Florida for generations to come,” proving that he’s well-versed in the Army Protection Racket sketch.

How much money Khan is looking for as part of a lease extension isn’t clear. He just got $45 million from the city of Jacksonville for stadium upgrades in 2015, and Lamping said what’s now needed is a “major stadium renovation,” so presumably it would require a lot more money than that. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has already responded that he’s willing to talk:

That could be just boilerplate of course we’re willing to sit down and talk, but it’s still a slightly alarming response to the local billionaire doubling down on his under-consideration $200 million subsidy demand by asking for maybe a couple hundred million more, or else he’ll leave town. Sorry, or else the other NFL owners will forcibly remove him and his team, maybe to London? Did Lamping neglect to mention London? Oh well, there’s always next week.

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Friday roundup: Jacksonville council holds screaming match about Jaguars subsidy, Braves to charge county for fixing anything that wouldn’t fall out of stadium if you turned it over, plus Texas cricket wars!

I admit, there are some Fridays where I wake up and realize I have to do a news roundup and it just feels like a chore after a long week, and, reader, this was one of those Fridays. But then I looked in my inbox and there was a new Ruthie Baron “This Week In Scams” post for the first time in months, and now I am re-energized for the day ahead! Also despondent about how the fossil fuel industry is trying to catfish us all into thinking global warming isn’t real, but that’s the complex mix of emotions I have come to rely on “This Week In Scams” for.

And speaking of complex mixes of emotions, let’s get to this week’s remaining sports stadium and arena news:

  • Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on complaints that Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s $200 million development subsidy deal is being rushed through the city council: “What does that mean, it’s rushed? What does that mean? We are following the process we follow as a city. The administration has put forth legislation that includes the development of Lot J. The City Council will take their time and do their work. And then they’ll ultimately have to press a green button or a red button — a yes or a no.” Now I really want to know if the Jacksonville city council actually votes by pushing a green or red button, and if so what they do if a city councilmember has red-green color blindness, and oh hey, what happened at yesterday’s council hearing? “Finger-pointing, name-calling and what some members say was a big embarrassment for government”? Excellent, keep up the good work.
  • The Atlanta Braves owners have tapped their first $800,000 from their $70 million stadium repair fund, half of which is to be paid for by Cobb County, to pay for … okay, this Marietta Daily Journal article doesn’t say much about what it will pay for, except that one item is a new fence, and there was dispute over whether a fence counted as a repair (which the fund can be used for) or an improvement (which the team is supposed to cover). It also notes: “Mike Plant, president & CEO of Braves Development Company, described capital maintenance costs in 2013 by using the example of taking a building and turning it upside down. The items that would fall out of the building represent general maintenance, which is the responsibility of the Braves, while the items that do not fall out, such as pipes, elevators and concrete, fall under capital maintenance.” This raises all kinds of questions: Would elevators really not fall out of a stadium if you turned it upside down? What if furniture, for example, fell off the floor but landed on an interior ceiling? Would you have to shake the stadium first to see what was loose and just stuck on something? So many questions.
  • The Grand Prairie city council has approved spending $1.5 million to turn the defunct Texas AirHogs baseball stadium into a pro cricket stadium, which the Dallas Morning News reports “could cement North Texas as a top U.S. market for professional cricket.” (If this sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of nearby Allen, Texas, which thought about building a cricket stadium a couple of years ago but then thought better of it.) I went to a pro cricket match in the U.S. once, years ago, and there were maybe 100 people in the stands, and later the league apparently folded when none of the players showed up for a game, but surely this will go much better than that.
  • Angel City F.C. has announced it will be playing games at Banc of California Stadium, which made me look up first what league Angel City F.C. is in (an expansion team in the National Women’s Soccer League) and then what stadium named itself after Banc of California (the Los Angeles F.C. stadium that opened in 2018, I’m pretty sure at no public expense but you never know for sure with these things, and which is not supposed to be called Banc of California Stadium anymore since Banc of California bailed on its naming-rights contract in June) and then why Banc of California insists on spelling “Banc” that way (unclear, but if it was an attempt to put a clean new rebranding on the bank after its creation in a 2013 merger, that maybe didn’t go so well). So now, burdened with this knowledge, I feel obligated to share it — if nothing else, I suppose, it’s a nice little microcosm of life in the early Anthropocene, which may be of interest to future scholars if the cockroaches and microalgae can figure out how to read blogs.
  • The Richmond Times-Dispatch says that even if the Richmond Flying Squirrels get eliminated in baseball’s current round of minor-league defenestration, “Major League Baseball’s risk is our gain” if the city builds a new stadium that … something about “a multiuse strategy”? The editorial seems to come down to “Okay, the team may get vaporized, but we still want a new stadium, so full speed ahead!”, which is refreshing honesty, at least, maybe?
  • When I noted yesterday that the USL hands out new soccer franchises like candy, I neglected to mention that a lot of that candy quickly melts on the dashboard and disappears, so thanks to Tim Sullivan of the Louisville Courier Journal for recounting all the USL franchises that have folded over the years.
  • Six East Coast Hockey League teams are choosing to sit out the current season, and that’s bad news for Reading, home of the Reading Royals, according to Reading Downtown Improvement District chief Chuck Broad, who tells WFMZ-TV, “There is lots of spin-off, economic development, from a hockey game for restaurants and other businesses.” Yeah, probably not, and especially not during a time when hardly anyone would be eating at restaurants anyway because they’re germ-filled death traps, but why not give the local development director a platform to insist otherwise, he seems like a nice guy, right?
  • In related news, the mayor of Henderson, Nevada, says the new Henderson Silver Knights arena she’s helping build with at least $30 million in tax money is “a gamechanger” for downtown Henderson because “it’s nice to have locations where events can happen in our community.” This after she wrote a column for the Las Vegas Sun saying how great it will be for locals to be able to “attend a variety of events that create the vibrancy for which our city is known” — a vibrancy that apparently Henderson was able to pull off despite not having any locations where events can happen, because that’s just the kind of place Henderson is.
  • In also related news, the vice president of sales and marketing at New Beginnings Window and Door says that the Hudson Valley Renegades becoming a New York Yankees farm team could be great for his business (which, again, is selling windows and doors) because “the eyeballs are going to be there” for advertising his windows and doors to people driving up from New York City who might want to pick up some windows and doors to take home with them, okay, I have no idea what he’s talking about, seriously, can’t anybody at any remaining extant newspapers ask a followup question?
  • And in all-too-related news, here’s an entire WTSP article about the new hotel Tampa will have ready for February’s Super Bowl that never even mentions the possibility that nobody will be able to stay in hotels for the Super Bowl because Covid is rampaging across the state. Journalism had a good run.
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Jaguars owner’s $200m-plus subsidy demand would be massive money loser for Jacksonville, says council audit

The Jacksonville city council is meeting this Thursday to discuss Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s request for a couple-hundred-million-dollars-ish (more on that in a second) in subsidies and tax breaks for a ginormous development project in his football stadium’s Lot J, including a Live! entertainment district, office and residential buildings, a hotel, and new garages. When Khan proposed the deal last month, the subsidy figures were still kind of squishy; now the Florida Times-Union has crunched them and come up with this list:

  • $50 million in city cash toward building the entertainment district
  • $77.7 million in city “infrastructure improvements” (mostly the new parking structures)
  • a $15.1 million city contingency fund for cost overruns on the infrastructure
  • $12.5 million in cash after the hotel is completed
  • a $65.5 million no-interest loan to Khan’s development team
  • a complete tax exemption on the Live! district, which would be owned by the city and leased to Khans group for a nominal fee of $100 a year

This is hard to come up with a total for, since there are a lot of apples on that list and then two extremely large oranges, or maybe an orange and a quince. The first four items are pretty straightforward: $155.3 million in city cash.

The last two are trickier. The value of the no-interest loan depends on when Khan would have to pay it back and what interest rates on normal loans are right now (pretty darn low, but still nowhere near zero); if I’m calculating right, for a 30-year interest-free loan at a 3% discount rate, this would be worth about $40 million.

As for the Live! area’s property tax break, it would be 75,000 square feet, which is about 1.7 acres. The property tax rate in Jacksonville is about $11 a year per $1,000 in value; Texas Live!, the similar entertainment space next door to the Texas Rangers‘ stadium, cost about $200 million to build, which if we take that as the value for Jacksonville would be $2.2 million a year in savings, or about $30-40 million in present value. But that’s a lot of assumptions, so it could be less.

Regardless, it seems pretty clear that this is north of $200 million worth of city money that Khan is asking for. And what would the city get in return? Jacksonville’s Office of Economic Development estimated the city would get $1.69 back for each $1 it spent, which sounds good; City Council Auditor Kim Taylor estimated a return of 44 cents in revenue for each $1 spent, which sounds awful. The difference: The OED didn’t count either the $50 million in city cash payments or $92.8 million in garage costs (because reasons), and did count as a benefit the $50 million in private money that Khan’s group would be spending on the Live! project (which Taylor excluded as double-counting, since she already included the tax revenue that Live! would generate — and the city owning $50 million in private development but not getting any direct revenue from it isn’t really a net benefit).

Clearly somebody needs to sit down with a spreadsheet and figure out whose numbers are correct, and Councilmember Matt Carlucci is hoping to make that somebody the Downtown Investment Authority, which normally vets projects like this but would be excluded in the legislation being discussed. (“They were waived out and I’m trying to waive them back in,” Carlucci told the Times-Union.) Absent that, I would go with the above numbers to say that Jacksonville would be spending more than $200 million on a private development project by a billionaire NFL owner and getting back less than half that in new taxes — and that’s only if you assume that all Jacksonville Live! spending would be new, and not include some locals who otherwise would spend money elsewhere in the city.

We’ll have to check back in on Thursday to see how this goes. In the meantime, let’s enjoy some vaportecture of Jacksonville Live!:

There’s nothing too hilarious here, though I do appreciate how many people are just standing around impatiently or staring at their phones, which is indeed my experience of entertainment malls. Also, Tavern & Beer Hall features some unfortunate typography/lettering placement that makes it appear to be a Tavern & Beer Fiatt. And it’s sponsored by Professional Bull Riders for some reason? I guess it makes sense: When you think giant construction projects in football stadium parking lots funded with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax money because the city says it will pay off by resorting to dubious bookkeeping, you think professional bull.

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Friday roundup: Jaguars’ billionaire owner wants $232m in tax money, plus guess-the-Angels-rationalization contest!

We made it another week further into the future! Sure, it’s a future that looks too much like the recent past — bad pandemic planning and stadium deals with increasingly more well-disguised subsidies — and we’re all still here discussing the same scams that I really thought were going to be a momentary fad 25 years ago. But the zombie apocalypse hasn’t arrived yet, so that’s something! Also the Star Trek: Lower Decks season finale was really excellent. Gotta stop and smell the flowers before refocusing on the underlying horror of society!

And with that, back to laughing to keep from crying:

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The NFL’s plan is to keep poking at the virus until people start getting sick

So this happened:

Before anyone gets too excited and/or horrified, the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Jacksonville Jaguars have all said they’re going to continue to operate at 20-25% capacity for the time being. This was just Gov. Ron DeSantis making clear that he lifted all restrictions on outdoor sporting events two weeks ago, when he also prohibited local governments from enforcing tougher restrictions or even fining people for not wearing masks. (If you’re wondering how that’s working out, virus rates in Florida haven’t surged so far, staying fairly level — though still high — but then, it generally takes more than two weeks for a surge to take hold, and also when you’re dealing mostly with stochastic spread via superspreader events, there is a lot of randomness involved as to whether and when a surge kicks in.)

So, props to the NFL for not immediately opening the fan floodgates in Florida, sure. But that’s hardly an indicator of a league that is concerned with safety above else. As we’ve seen this week — and as Barry Petchesky adeptly recounted yesterday at Defector — the league is currently dealing with a cascade of outbreaks on teams that has now caused a couple of games to be postponed, and could end up with even more. And, writes Petchesky, it was all totally predictable:

We don’t know a lot about COVID-19, but we know a few things about sports. We know bubbles, deployed by the NBA and NHL, and by MLB for its postseason, can work. We know that not-bubbling, like MLB tried for its abbreviated regular season, doesn’t work, at least not if your goal is to avoid having to cancel or postpone games. We know the NFL, due to the sheer size of its rosters and the massive logistical undertaking that staging a football game requires, probably can’t enter a bubble. We also know that it can’t afford to postpone many more games before a backlog pushes the Super Bowl into June.

That caveat re: MLB’s non-bubble is important: If the goal of “let’s let baseball teams all play in the home stadiums while still seeing their families and going to the grocery store and whatnot” was to keep anyone from getting infected, yeah, it was a disaster. But if the goal was to find a way to limp through a season with lots of postponements and makeup doubleheaders because players weren’t willing to be separated from their families for three months — the NBA and NHL were already up to playoff season, so their bubbles didn’t have to last as long — then it worked exactly as planned.

The NFL, of course, can’t stage doubleheaders, and can’t easily reschedule too many games without adding additional weeks to the season. And with 64-player rosters (48 active, 16 on a practice squad), plus a sport that involved a lot more contact than baseball (though we’re still not clear whether that’s the main risk or it’s just gathering indoors in clubhouses that mostly spreads the coronavirus), that’s a lot more dice being rolled every week than for other sports, so it’s absolutely no surprise that we’re seeing outbreaks.

Unlike MLB, though, which after some initial stumbles realized that you need to quarantine entire teams for a week or more after each new case turns up, the NFL seems to be charging ahead on a policy of Well, hopefully nobody else caught it. After New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive on Friday, Sunday’s scheduled game between the Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs was delayed — all the way to Monday night. But it can take four or more days for an infected person to test positive, while they become infectious in as little as 48 hours. So even if Patriots players all tested negative before their Monday night game, someone on the team could easily have still been incubating the virus, and spreading it to their teammates. Which may in fact have happened.

The NFL has already been heavily invested in hygiene theater, touting its disinfecting drones and temperature checks for fans, even though neither does much at all to protect anyone from Covid. (All evidence is that the virus doesn’t spread much via surfaces, and while most people with Covid symptoms run a fever, nearly half of infected people don’t have any symptoms.) Hygiene theater is based on the idea that the easier something is to do, the more one should focus on it; the decision to hold the Pats-Chiefs game on Monday after just a 24-hour delay seems to have been the inverse: If it’s too hard to do, let’s decide it doesn’t matter.

Unfortunately, in a sport where doing much of anything to combat the spread of the coronavirus among players is really hard, that’s a recipe for, if not necessarily disaster, a whole lot of extremely risky behavior. And the NFL has another decision coming up that is going to be equally hard, if only for economic reasons: The Super Bowl is scheduled to be held on February 7 in Tampa, and DeSantis has now said that it’s okay by him if they sell out the place, and that would be worth tens of millions of dollars to the league. Even if the image of a packed Super Bowl that turns into another biological bomb may give league planners second thoughts, you know that somewhere in the league offices they’re wondering: Could we get away with 30% capacity? 40%? What if we have disinfecting drones hovering over every fan? How close can we get to the precipice of a superspreader event without going over?

And that appears to be the NFL’s policy, really: Keep inching up to the limits of what’s considered safe, see who gets sick, then inch up a little further if it’s not too embarrassing a number. As I’ve noted before, this makes for a very useful experiment about how many fans can be in one place outdoors before disaster strikes — if the NFL really wanted to do it right, it should dictate that some teams allow more fans and others allow fewer, to see what the threshold is for sparking outbreaks — but it’s an experiment with human lives, which when conducted without the humans involved knowing the risks and consenting to them is generally considered a crime against humanity. But then, playing with human lives is pretty much the NFL’s jam, so why quit now while you’re massively ahead?

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NFL season opens, bringing partially masked fans and completely masked stadium impact claims

The NFL season has started, something I mostly noticed because of the appearance of Defector’s (née Deadspin’s) “Why Your Team Sucks” series, and pretty much every news outlet in the U.S. had an article about how there were no fans in the stands and it was weird, something I am not going to bother recapping for you all because I already just did. Except in Jacksonville, that is, where this happened:

News4Jax reports that “officials were strict on the inside and made sure everyone followed the rules” and “News4Jax saw fans wearing masks except for when eating or drinking, and keeping distance in the stands from other pods,” which:

That looks to me more like “except when eating or drinking or talking to the person you’re probably not in a household with who is way less than six feet distanced from you,” but it’s something, anyway.

What the impact on Covid in getting-better-but-still-bad Florida (its death rate per capita is now second in the country), or on still-surging Missouri (where the Kansas City Chiefs allowed in fans for Thursday’s opener, which went not so well) is really hard to predict. That CDC study on restaurants was pretty clear that taking off masks to eat and drink is a major risk, though it’s conceivable that being outdoors will help mitigate that enough that it won’t cause an outbreak. It doesn’t look like anyone has tried to determine the impact of MLS games allowing in fans yet, and that study claiming Sturgis as a superspreader event has been largely debunked, so we’re left with things like that Champions League game in February in Italy, where nobody was masked or distanced or anything, so that’s tough to draw comparisons from. So allowing fans at NFL games is still a giant human experiment, one whose impact in all likelihood won’t be clear for a couple of months yet, at which point it will be too late to do anything about it, because that’s how modern humanity rolls.

Meanwhile, in Inglewood, the Los Angeles Rams opened their new $5-to-6-billion-ish stadium with no fans in attendance, but according the the Los Angeles Daily News’ headline, “a resurgent Inglewood has hope.” Number of Inglewood residents interviewed for the story: one.

“I haven’t felt this way since the first time my father brought me to a Rams game when I was 7 years old in the 1960s,” Inglewood Mayor James Butts said on Friday. “Even though we won’t have the crowds there’s going to be that same feeling because this is history being made.”

You can just smell the resurgence!

After all the vaportecture, I would be remiss if I didn’t include at least a couple of photos of the new Rams and Chargers stadium, so here’s a nicely postapocalyptic one, courtesy of USA Today:

And here’s a nice view of what the game would look like from the upper levels, if you were allowed to watch it from there:

Five billion dollars doesn’t buy what it used to.

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NFL and MLS about to start letting fans in, is this a terrible idea or what?

So far, the restart of sports in the U.S. has gone reasonably well: Sure, there were a few embarrassing pratfalls like the Miami Marlins having to stop playing games for a week after they had a dozen players test positive for Covid when they played a game right after initial positive tests because their shortstop said it was okay, but overall, things are working out much better than one might have feared. No league has actually had to stop play entirely (yet) as the result of outbreaks, and leagues playing in “bubbles” like the NBA and NHL have avoided even interruptions for individual teams.

The one thing that major North American leagues haven’t tried yet, though, is allowing actual fans to attend games. That’s about to change big-time, though, as two MLS teamsReal Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City — are about to join FC Dallas this week in holding games before limited-capacity crowds. (FC Dallas played its first home game before a reported 2,912 fans two weeks ago, though it didn’t look like no 2,912.) And then the floodgates are set to open September 10, when the NFL season kicks off with the Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, and Jacksonville Jaguars all set to play before about one-quarter-capacity crowds, with a dozen other teams either considering letting fans in or not yet having announced plans. In each case, there will be rules in place to protect fans — staggered entry times, mask requirements (except when eating or drinking), buffer zones between groups of seats, etc. — or at least to make fans feel more reassured that they’re being protected.

The question everyone wants to know the answer to: Is it safe? The answer, unfortunately, isn’t easy to determine: Sure, lots of overseas sports leagues have readmitted fans without ill effects, but those were all in nations with very low Covid rates — if you collect 13,000 people in one place and none of them are infectious, that’s not much of a test of how fast the virus can spread at a sporting event. The new-case rate in the U.S. has fallen by about a third over the last three weeks, but it’s still higher per capita than anywhere other than Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, or Spain. And certain states remain far worse than that: Texas would have the third-worst numbers of any place on the planet if it were its own nation, yet the Cowboys are preparing to reopen to fans for their first game, and the Houston Texans possibly for their second home game starting in October.

The science behind viral transmission at sporting events remains the same as it’s been since the spring: The more time you spend near someone, the closer you get, the more indoors with poor ventilation, and the less effective mask wearing, the more likely you are to get sick. So in theory, all the measures being taken by sports teams should help reduce risk, though item #1 suggests that if the NFL is really serious about fan safety, it should reduce the length of games to one quarter.

Trying to determine the exact risk level from attending one of these games is impossible, and in any case kind of beside the point. Will you get sick from Covid by going to an NFL game, even if fans don’t strictly obey all the new rules? (Sporting K.C. is talking about a “three strikes you’re out” rule, which isn’t exactly reassuring given that security will have to be policing more than ten thousand people while also keeping track of their card count.) Probably not — even during the Atalanta-Valencia disaster plenty of people didn’t get sick.

But in epidemiology, what’s important isn’t whether you get sick but rather whether somebody gets sick, and sticking 13,000 people in one place, even one socially distanced place with masks on, is a whole lot of dice to roll at once. And the risk then isn’t even just if you go to the game — check out the Maine woman who died after a Covid outbreak at a packed indoor wedding that she didn’t even attend, after she caught the virus from one of the 30 people who caught it there.

Really the question, then, is less “Is it safe to go to an NFL game in the middle of a pandemic?” than “Is it safe for a nation in the middle of a pandemic to allow people to go to NFL games?” The only way to know for sure is to do a huge experiment, with human subjects — and for better or for worse, that’s what we’re about to get.

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Saturday roundup: Manfred endorses Tampontreal Ex-Rays, NYCFC readies Bronx stadium plan (maybe), everybody in Nashville sues everybody else

Man, I sure picked the wrong week to get so sick that I couldn’t post for a couple of days! But even if it’s now the weekend and I’m only at about 80%, the news is at 110%, so let’s get to it:

  • First up is Thursday’s declaration by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred that he and baseball owners are “100% convinced” that having the Tampa Bay Rays play half their games in Montreal “is best way to keep Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay.” That’s not entirely surprising — I mean, it’s surprising that we have a major sports executive saying that the best way to keep a team from moving is to let it move half its games, but no more surprising than when Rays owner Stuart Sternberg first said it last June — since it’s very rare for sports commissioners and fellow owners to stand in the way of their fellow owners’ stadium or relocation plans, especially if it doesn’t infringe on their territories. (Speaking of territories, Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said, “We are supportive of them exploring it,” if you were wondering.) The plan itself remains, in the words of the great unemployed sports editor Barry Petchesky, “completely batshit,” not least because it would require getting not one but two cities to build not one but two new stadiums just to land half a team, but also for a billion other reasons. It still makes the most sense as a Madman Theory strategy by Sternberg to scare Tampa Bay or Montreal into competing to build him at least one stadium — can you imagine the headlines to come about “Montreal is moving ahead with its stadium while Tampa lags behind?” or vice versa? — but sports owners are just rich, not necessarily smart, so who the hell knows what Sternberg really intends to do? Whatever it is, though, he’ll have Manfred’s support, because Manfred knows who signs his checks.
  • NYC F.C.‘s plan for a new stadium just south of Yankee Stadium has been reportedly almost ready for more than a year and a half now, but now it’s supposedly really almost ready, according to a different New York Times reporter than the one who reported the initial rumor. The outline of the plan remains roughly the same: The Yankees owners, who are minority owners of the MLS club, would allow the city to demolish a parking garage that their lease otherwise requires remain in place, a private developer would take the garage and a parcel across the street and the street itself (plus a highway off-ramp) and build housing and a hotel and other stuff on part of it while leasing the rest to NYC F.C. to build a stadium on, which would — again, supposedly — allow the whole thing to move forward without public money being used for construction. Being used for other things is another story: The Times doesn’t mention whether the team or developers would pay the city anything for the section of East 153rd Street that would need to be demapped and buried beneath a soccer pitch, or how much the developers would pay to lease the garage site, or if either parcel would pay property taxes. (The Times reports that “Maddd and N.Y.C.F.C. [would] convey the [street] property to the city” then lease it back, which certainly sounds like an attempt to evade property taxes.) City officials said that “a deal has not been reached, and more conversations are needed,” so maybe none of these things have even been decided; tune back in soon, or maybe in another year and a half!
  • The lawsuit filed by Save Our Fairgrounds claiming that Nashville S.C. stadium project would take up too much public land needed for other uses is moving to trial, and Nashville S.C. has sued to intervene in their lawsuit, and everybody’s trying to figure out if NASCAR and soccer can coexist on adjacent parcels, and soccer fans are mad that that stadium isn’t getting built yet, and the community coalition that negotiated a community benefits agreement to go along with the stadium plan is mad that nobody’s consulting them about any of this. It’s only a matter of time before Jimmy Carter is called in to resolve this.
  • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has put $55 million into his state budget proposal over the next two years to renovate Hartford’s arena, with the rest of the cost — estimated at between $100 million and $250 million, depending on how extensive it is — to be paid off by private investors who would get … something. The state is studying it now! Get off their back!
  • A bunch of the Carolina Panthers fans who bought “permanent seat licenses” to help finance the team’s stadium back in 1993 have found that the “permanent” part isn’t actually so much true: About 900 seats in the front of one end zone are being ripped out to make way for luxury suites for soccer (or a standing-room “supporters’ section — the latter makes more sense, but the Charlotte Observer article on this is frustratingly unclear), so fans with PSLs there are being offered either to move to other nearby locations or to sell their licenses back to the team for 25% over what they initially paid for them. No wonder everyone else started calling them “personal” seat licenses!
  • Also, the Panthers are having their stadium property tax bill reduced by $3.5 million a year, because they asked nicely. Or just asked, and are a major sports franchise and therefore an 800-pound gorilla, with all the privileges that go with that. One of those two.
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to play two home games in London next year, which the team’s website says is “strategically aligned” with development in their Jacksonville stadium’s parking lot, somehow, though is one extra week of construction time really going to help them all that much? Or maybe this is some weird kind of brinkmanship, as in “approve our Lot J development, stat, or we’ll keep moving games to London?” Anyway, cue people freaking out about the Jaguars moving to London again now, which team owner Shad Khan can’t be unhappy about because savvy negotiators and leverage and all that.
  • A poll by the Oakland Athletics on where the team should build a new stadium found that Oakland residents backed the team’s preferred Howard Terminal site by 63-29%, but a poll by a group that opposes the Howard Terminal plan found that residents prefer the current Oakland Coliseum site by a 62-29% margin. Reminder: Polls are garbage!
  • This video of an entire Russian hockey arena collapsing during reconstruction work, with a worker clearly visible on the roof as it gives way, doesn’t actually have much to with stadium subsidies, but it sure is impressive-looking, in a horrific way.
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Jaguars owner mumbles incoherently about Green Day and math, clearly he wants a new stadium

Ever since Shad Khan bought the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011 and moved one home game a year to London, there’s been talk about the billionaire car parts baron and Fulham F.C. owner either wanting to move the team there permanently, or use the threat of moving there to get upgrades to his now-24-year-old home stadium in Jacksonville, or something. This past weekend, Khan gave a long interview to his own website, as one does, and said a bunch of stuff about the matter that, well:

Khan … discussed the continuing trend of holding megaevents at TIAA Bank Field. The Rolling Stones played there in July, and Green Day is expected to play there as part of The Hella Mega Tour in 2020.

“What’s driven this for us is we want to give the community a different experience,” Khan said. “Obviously football … there is a limited demand for it. That’s why we’re playing the games here in London — that the community can’t support selling out eight games, so maybe there’s something else we can do there for the hot-dog vendors, the hotel rooms, all the stakeholders who make a living off the game.”

Won’t anyone think of the hot dog vendors? (No hyphen, incidentally: With a hyphen, it would be vendors who were hotdogging.) Khan isn’t trying to make more money by maintaining a foothold in London or anything so crass as that; he’s just trying to … leave more open dates for Rolling Stones and Green Day shows, I guess, because 355 days a year just isn’t enough?

And then:

“If we are playing a game away, we want to have one mega-experience. That kind of makes up for that from our viewpoint. If we’re playing more than one, we would want to have a couple or more.”

This last sentence may be my favorite quote about anything of all time. Does Shad Khan live in a mathematical world where there are cardinal numbers in between 1 and 2? What would football even look like in such a mathematical universe?

But anyway: News4Jax — look, you can’t expect me to stop and make fun of everything, there’s actual news to get to here — took these odd statements and summed them up with the headline “Jaguars owner Shad Khan hints at need for new stadium.” Did he, though? The closest the Khan interview actually came to mentioning a new stadium for Jacksonville was a mention that Jaguars president Mark Lamping “noted that three teams currently also in the bottom quartile in those rankings – the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders – are scheduled to move into new stadiums in 2020,” which seems a bit of an oblique way of demanding a new stadium yourself, but I guess it could qualify as “hints,” if you overlook the fact that Khan wasn’t the one saying it. Maybe he’s a car parts billionaire/sports team owner/groundbreaking mathematician/ventriloquist? I’m going with that.

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