Buccaneers’ state subsidy request rejected for failing to fill out forms, will try again next year

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had their request for $1 million a year in state subsidies for their stadium renovations on top of $29 million in city subsidies rejected by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. How come? They failed to fill out all the forms:

“Due to the overall timing of our stadium renovation project,” said Bucs COO Brian Ford, “certain required documents were not deliverable within the timeframe set forth by the Statute. We anticipate submitting a complete application during the next filing period.”

The Buccaneers’ 2016 application lacked documentation on how its new construction project will increase jobs and taxable sales.

We knew all that was missing when the Bucs’ owners submitted the application back in November, but they said they’d add it later. Now “later” apparently means for the 2017 round of state subsidy approvals, which given that the only difference would be getting their $1-million-a-year pipeline started a year later probably isn’t worth worrying about when you’re worth $4.7 billion.

Still in the running for state subsidies: The Jacksonville Jaguars (already getting $45 million from city), Miami Dolphins (around $75 million from city), and Daytona International Speedway (no local subsidies yet that I’m aware of). The benefit to the state of handing out this money is absolutely zero — not just because of the substitution effect or what have you, but because the Dolphins and racetrack renovations are already underway, so it’s not like they’re only going to happen if the state kicks in money. (And realistically, the Jaguars aren’t turning down their $45 million from Jacksonville, either.) This is absolutely loony, but it’s the same loony premise that the state has been pursuing for a couple of years now, so we shouldn’t be surprised or anything. Florida, man.

Jacksonville up and hands Jaguars $45m in tax money, council calls this too good a deal to pass up

The Jacksonville city council unanimously approved $90 million in stadium upgrades for the Jaguars last night, half of which will be paid for by the city. The new crap will include an amphitheater, and an indoor practice field, and upgraded club seats, and a pony, and, and … okay, yes, I’m getting punchy here. Let’s just cut to an inane quote by a city official, shall we?

“We’re going to own $90 million worth of assets,” Councilman John Crescimbeni said at the meeting. “We’re going to spend 50 cents on the dollar to get there. That’s a deal that’s difficult to walk away from.”

But, but, they’re assets that the Jaguars owners will get all the revenues from, and half of which aren’t of any value unless you also own a pro football team anyway, and YARRRRGH.

Anyway, next journalist who asks me if the tide is starting to turn against sports subsidies gets smacked upside the head with a printout of all of today’s council votes.

Billionaire Jaguars owner: If state won’t give me $18m for renovations, maybe city will give me $45m

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan may have struck out (so far) with getting the state of Florida to give him $1 million a year to pay off $18 million in stadium renovations, but fortunately for billionaire sports team owners with Avery Schreiber moustaches, there’s always another level of Florida government to ask for public money. And so:

A bill filed this week for Jacksonville City Council calls for a $90 million upgrade to the stadium, with the city paying $45 million and Jaguars owner Shad Khan $45 million.

The proposal calls for a $45 million amphitheater that would seat 10,000 people for concerts and special events to be located on the south end of the stadium in place of the fan zone. The plan also includes a $20 million indoor practice field and $25 million to upgrade the stadium’s club seats.

That’s a much more ambitious renovation, certainly, with two new buildings added to the Jaguars complex, though the amphitheater looks like it would be mostly just a roof over a grassy field. (Which $45 million seems pricey for, but I guess the smaller amphitheater in Chicago’s Millennium Park cost $60 million, so maybe these things are just expensive.) The city would own the practice field and concert space (look, ma, no property taxes!), while the Jaguars would run it and get all revenues, though the city could use them by asking nicely and giving 60 days’ notice.

To pay for its share, the city would use hotel tax money, which is already being used to pay for the Jaguars’ new scoreboard, but that’s okay, mayoral chief administrative officer Sam Mousa says there’s more hotel tax money where that came from:

Annual payback would come through part of the city’s 6 percent bed tax. Of that, 2 percent goes toward the last round of improvements that included the field’s scoreboards. But Mousa said there is capacity in that funding source to accommodate these improvements.

Where Mousa gets that, when there’s only $1.6 million a year left in the bed tax fund to pay for any future stadium improvements plus maintenance costs, beats me, but he’s the chief administrative officer, after all.

In exchange for its $45 million, Jacksonville would get a promise that the Jaguars would not … no? No lease extension or other commitment from Khan not to move the team, just a promise of “you keep us happy, and you got nothing to worry about”? Me, I’d get that in writing.

Regardless, it sounds like the city council is already on board with this, leaving it to Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County president John Winkler to complain to News4Jax about the proposed deal:

“Again, why are we doing this? A football stadium is designed, supposedly, for the playing of football. I don’t quite understand why we have to attempt to incorporate every other feature of every other entertainment venue into the actual football stadium,” Winkler said. “This is the worst kind of example of corporate welfare, where you wind up going to the taxpayers and there’s this implicit threat that if we don’t pony up as much money as conceivable, that somehow we’re going to lose the professional football franchise.”

No, the worst kind of corporate welfare is where there’s an implicit threat that if you don’t pony up money, you’ll somehow lose the franchise — and then even if you do pony up the money, the team still has the threat to use over again. Which is exactly the scenario that Jacksonville would be facing. So, yeah, pretty bad, unless you buy “hey, it’s only $45 million and we were going to have to blow it on something for the Jaguars and maybe the stadium won’t need much maintenance even with adding two new buildings” as an argument.

Jaguars owner gets all confused about how blackmail works, threatens self if state money is denied

Not to be left out in all the California stadium excitement, the owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars are levying some threats of their own, saying that if the Florida state legislature doesn’t approve $30 million in renovation subsidies over the next 30 years, they just won’t renovate at all! Yeah! That’ll show ’em!

As Noah Pransky of Shadow of the Stadium pointed out on Friday, though, this is a pretty stupid threat:

The Jaguars’ own subsidy application claims the $18 million club upgrade would net the team an additional $2.3 million per year (plus the naming rights).

So, assuming Khan has no trouble financing a construction loan, the Jags could conceivably just pay for the profitable club renovations themselves now and make their investment back in 10-15 years.  The state, however, would need about 200 years to recoup its investment based on its 6% sales tax cut of that “new” revenue.

So: A football team is considering a renovation plan that would both pay for itself and turn a small profit, but decided to ask the state to pay for instead, because then it would turn a large profit. And if the state doesn’t agree to it, the team owner will refuse to go ahead with the renovation, costing the state next to nothing but himself a good bit more. I wonder if he also has a gub.

Florida legislators gripe that they have to decide which teams to throw money at

It turns out that the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity really was supposed to rank sports subsidy requests instead of just telling the legislature “yeah, these are all good,” and at least a couple of state legislators aren’t happy about it at all:

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, announced Friday they have asked economist Amy Baker to use documents submitted by backers of the four stadiums and the Department of Economic Opportunity’s evaluation forms.

“It would be a great disservice to ask members to vote on these projects without an objective ranking,” Crisafulli said in the statement. He added, “We believe we will be able to get the results before session.”

Baker runs the legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, so basically the legislature is having to rank the projects themselves anyway. And lawmakers are still set to hand out $7 million to the four projects — all of which are already underway, so would take place with or without the subsidies — so the only thing that is going to be decided here is who gets what, and who’ll have to wait until another $13 million in state subsidies is available next year. So really, the legislature is paying one of its staff to decide how the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Orlando City S.C., or the Daytona International Speedway divvy up the money. I’d suggest a simpler solution.

Florida economic panel rules everybody should get tax money for stadiums they already agreed to build

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has issued its long-awaited (well, for a couple of months, anyway) ruling on which of the four finalists for state sales-tax subsidies are to get priority, and the answer is: all of them!

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity advised Jacksonville, Orlando, Daytona International Speedway and Sun Life Stadium that their applications met all “statutory criteria.” In a letter, the department also recommended that lawmakers could approve all four.

Daytona International Speedway and Sun Life Stadium are each seeking $3 million a year for 30 years for ongoing improvements to those facilities. Orlando has requested $2 million a year for three decades to help pay for a planned $110 million soccer stadium. Jacksonville, with its application supported by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has asked for $1 million a year for three decades.

This is jaw-droppingly dumb, since the whole point of this process of having teams seeking state subsidies to submit standardized forms to a state agency was to come up with a ranking for who’d get first dibs on the money; instead, the state legislature will now have to decide who gets what, which is exactly as it would have been anyway. It’s also dumb because, as an analysis of past state sports subsidies found, Florida has only received 30 cents of return on each dollar spent on stadium and arena projects. And finally, it’s dumb because all four of these projects — renovations to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins stadiums and to the Daytona Speedway, plus a new stadium for Orlando City S.C. — are already underway, meaning whatever economic benefit the state would get from them, it’ll happen regardless of whether the state decides to divert public money their way after the fact.

If there’s a bright side, it’s that the four sports entities have demanded $9 million a year in funding, and there’s only $7 million in the state’s available sales-tax fund, so the Joint Legislative Budget Commission will have to figure out somehow who’s going to see their subsidy demands trimmed. This is a bright side, however, only in the sense of “The bank just got robbed, but they ran out of money before the robbers’ bags were full.” Also, there’s nothing stopping the state from approving more money later, which means if these teams (and more) don’t get what they want this round, they can just come back for more. Congratulations, Florida — you appear to have just invented the first self-replenishing cat feeder of sports subsidies.

Florida’s sports teams drop 2,000-plus pages of subsidy requests on state

Apparently alongside filling out the cracktastic application form, contenders for Florida’s new process for doling out sales-tax kickbacks for sports projects are allowed to submit additional material. And oh, what additional material:

Based upon sheer paper volume, Orlando and Jacksonville would be the front-runners in the new funding process.

The application from Jacksonville, supported by the Jacksonville Jaguars, stands at 954 pages.

Orlando, working to assist the Major League Soccer expansion Orlando City Soccer Club with a new 18,000-seat stadium, submitted a 1,144-page application.

Less bulky, Daytona International Speedway LLC filed a 110-page application. South Florida Stadium LLC, filing for the Miami Dolphins’ home, submitted 219 pages of material.

Included in these 2,000-plus pages are promises of new jobs, and new tourists, and new new new new! Also most of the work is already underway, so wouldn’t actually be new in the sense of “wouldn’t happen without the subsidies.” But, you know, details! Details that staffers at the state Department of Economic Opportunity will now have to dig through and analyze, which hopefully will mean more than just checking off which boxes the various applicants have provided screwy justifications for, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.

Raiders, Chargers owners say words “Los Angeles,” newspaper writers can mail it in from there

OMG OMG OMG Mark Davis said something nice about Los Angeles! He’s totally moving the Oakland Raiders there!

“Los Angeles is a great option.” Davis said.

An option for the Raiders?

“Absolutely,” he said.

And just to be clear, he added: “Sure. We loved it when we were down here.”

And San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos said something nice about it, too, so the Chargers are totally moving there too!

“We’re looking into all our possibilities, all our options,” Spanos said.

Does that mean potentially re-locating to Los Angeles?

“I’m just keeping all my options open,” Spanos said.

And Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan hasn’t said anything about Los Angeles, so they’re totally not moving there!

Of course, cynical types might point out that sports team owners say these kinds of things all the time, whether they’re actually interested in moving or just trying to put pressure on hometown elected officials to get cracking on stadium subsidies. (Or both. There’s nothing saying owners can’t work both sides of this street.) But we don’t allow cynical types around here, so let’s welcome your 2015 Los Angeles Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers! They’ll totally find a vacant lot to play in by then.

Florida to use standardized ranking to pick which sports projects to throw money at for no good reason

The state of Florida accepted its first applications for its new official state-vetted sports tax kickbacks process yesterday, and the finalists are:

  • The Miami Dolphins, seeking $3 million a year in sales tax rebates.
  • Daytona International Speedway, likewise seeking $3 million a year.
  • Orlando City SC, seeking $2 million a year.
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars, out for a piddly $1 million per annum.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity will now spend the next 60 days ranking the applications by “economic viability,” to evaluate each application within 60 days and by Feb. 1 provide the Legislature with a list that ranks the applications based on economic viability. According to the application form, the list of criteria runs from the sort-of-reasonable (jobs created, though there’s no indication of how to calculate this or whether they’re full-time-equivalent jobs) to the completely cracktastic (“amount of positive advertising or media coverage the facility generates”), with seemingly random thresholds for whether a project gets awarded 1, 2, or 3 points per item.

The worst of it, though, is that the applications all appear to be for projects that are already underway, meaning the number of new jobs and Super Bowls and “positive advertising” that will be generated if the teams get the subsidies vs. if they don’t is precisely zero. Yet the state legislature will now have no opportunity to discuss how stupid this is, nor will citizens have the chance to testify about this, because instead it’s all outsourced to a bunch of state workers with a checklist — all to reduce the amount of lobbying pressure on the legislature over sports projects. Florida continues to be the worst.

Here’s the $43m scoreboard that Jacksonville taxpayers are buying for the Jaguars

If you’ve been wondering what $43 million in new end-zone scoreboards looks like, here you go, courtesy of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ crack computer rendering squad:

Yup, that’s real big, all right. It probably won’t look so great when the city of Jacksonville runs out of money to maintain the stadium because it spent the whole maintenance fund on new scoreboards (or, more likely, it’ll look just fine but something else in Jacksonville will get the short end of the stick to replenish the maintenance fund), but hey, everything has to be bigger, right?