Anyway, stadium news kept coming at us fast this week, so let’s get to it:
Tennessee Titans owner Amy Strunk says she doesn’t want a new stadium to replace her 20-year-old one, which normally wouldn’t be a notable thing to say, but we don’t live in normal times. She did, however, say she’d like improvements along the lines of the Miami Dolphins‘ stadium, which got $350 million in renovations a couple of years back, and which she called “a very interesting model and one that we need to keep looking further at to make improvements.” Strunk didn’t say whether she would also follow the Dolphins’ lead in (mostly) funding upgrades out of her own pocket, but hope springs eternal.
Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is reportedly looking to sell his lease to the Nassau Coliseum, right when its part-time tenant the New York Islanders is about to move out to a new state-subsidized arena that would be closer to the city and compete with it for concerts and other events. If you would like to own a historic, recently renovated venue with no anchor sports tenant in a metro area suddenly facing an arena glut, please inquire within.
Orange County, Florida is spending $60 million on renovations to Orlando’s Citrus Bowl (or whatever it’s called these days), which it says will give it a better chance of hosting World Cup games in 2026. The stadium just got a $207 million renovation five years ago, which is starting to seem like a lot to spend on the hopes of maybe hosting six soccer games, but at least there’s no way this can turn out badly, right?
USA Today ran a pretty bad article yesterday alleging that MLB teams are looking to build smaller stadiums in response to declining attendance. Teams built big multipurpose venues in the 1960s and ’70s, the article says, but “as the 1990s dawned, Major League Baseball’s 26 stadiums were aging and almost always half-empty,” and teams started seeking smaller ones instead — a narrative that cleverly ignores the fact that baseball attendance hit historic lows in the ’60s and historic highs in the ’90s. It only briefly mentions the bigger issue, which is that smaller stadiums breed ticket scarcity and allow for higher prices — a strategy that appears to be going swimmingly.
Today is site migration day — cue the jokes about how Field of Schemes should be hosted half the time in Montreal and half the time in Tampa Bay — so if things look a bit weird after 2 pm Eastern or so, that’s to be expected. Rest assured that the site will be back to normal soon, hopefully later today but certainly entirely by Monday; or actually better than normal, because the whole point of this exercise is to have a zippier, more reliable platform so that you can get your immediate fix of stadium news without having to refresh or even wait multiple milliseconds for images to load.
And speaking of your immediate stadium fix, here’s the rest of this week’s news:
MLS commissioner Don Garber said that he “could see [Las Vegas] being on our list for future teams,” which is literally the most noncommittal thing he could say, but he still gets headlines for it, so he’s gonna keep saying it.
The Orlando city council approved the $60 million in renovation money for Camping World Stadium (née the Citrus Bowl) that they said they would last fall. Since the stadium doesn’t even have a regular sports tenant — it is only used for the occasional soccer friendly, college football game, or concert — it’s hard to call this a subsidy to anyone in particular, but it’s still probably a pretty dumb use of money, especially since the stadium was just renovated once already in 2014.
There is no actual news in this Page Six item, but if you thought I was going to pass up a chance to link to an article that begins, “Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder roared up to Cannes Lions in his $180 million yacht as ad sources speculated he’s in town to find a title sponsor for the team’s new stadium,” you’re crazy.
Construction on the Las Vegas Raiders stadium was momentarily halted last week when it turned out one of the parts didn’t fit, which probably isn’t a big deal in the long run — in fact, the ill-fitting steel truss was adjusted and reinstalled a few days later — but that doesn’t mean we can’t make Ikea jokes.
The Arizona Diamondbacks owners have hired architecture firm HKS, who designed the Texas Rangers’ new park, to design a new stadium for them if they choose to build one, and you know what that’s going to mean: lots of renderings with Mitch Moreland and his wife in them.
The Miami Marlins debuted some changes to their much-reviled stadium this week, including a standing-room-only section in right field that team owner Derek Jeter says is designed to appeal to young people: “A lot of times fans come to games and they don’t necessarily want to sit in their seats. They want to be able to move around, especially the millennial — the younger generation.” Uh, Jeets, there may be other reasons than millennial ADHD that Marlins fans don’t want to sit and watch the game.
The Milwaukee Bucks‘ new arena that opened last fall has already needed $3 million in upgrades, including bigger cup holders in the lower-level seats because the old ones “can barely hold a cup of coffee.” All together now: Just tear the place down and build a new one.
Here is a trash article in Bloomberg in which Golden State Warriors team president Rick Welts asserts that the team has already made $2 billion from its new $1.3 billion San Francisco arena “in the form of tickets, suites and sponsorships” before the doors have already opened. Is that for its first year, or does it include multi-year commitments? And how does it compare to what the Warriors would have brought in from those revenue streams in their old Oakland arena? Despite the article taking two people to write, neither of them seem to have bothered to ask those questions, because writing down what important people say and leaving it at that is what journalism is all about, right?
The Atlanta Bravesbrought in $442 million in revenue last year, for a profit of $92 million, but blamed the team’s debt payments on their new stadium in Cobb County for not leaving enough left over to spend big on free agents. After public subsidies, the Braves owners are on the hook for less than $20 million a year in construction debt payments, plus $6 million a year in rent, so, um, yeah.
And still more renderings, these of a USL stadium a would-be team owner wants to build in Fort Lauderdale on the site of Lockhart Stadium, the same site David Beckham has targeted as a training site for his Inter Miami MLS team. Are there spotlights pointing pointlessly into the sky? You bet! Is this, regardless of whether the USL stadium stands a chance of getting built, yet another reason to laugh at Beckham over how he can’t catch a break? Don’t you know it!
Here’s a video of what the chairs and shelving will look like at the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium. And here’s a picture of what the place settings will look like in the luxury suites at the new Golden State Warriors arena, but it’s just a still photo — come on, Ben Golliver, it’s 2019, don’t you know people want to see furniture in video form?
New York Islanders owner Jon Ledecky insists that the team’s proposed Belmont Park arena is still “on track for the 2021-22 season,” but what else is he gonna say?
Winnipeg will provide a total of $16.6 million in tax breaks and other operating subsidies this year to the Jets, Blue Bombers, Goldeyes, and Manitoba Moose, and bonus points to any non-Canadian who can name what sport each of those teams play. Economic Development Winnipeg CEO Dayna Spiring claimed that the public will make its money back — no, not through the taxes the teams won’t get breaks on, that’s a Wichita thing to say. Rather, Spiring said the public will earn its money back on exposure, via the value of Winnipeg’s name appearing on hockey broadcasts. Somebody please alert this Twitter account.
And finally, NBA commissioner Adam Silver want to make watching basketball at home more like being at the game, via “technology.” Wait, isn’t one main problem pro sports is facing that fewer and fewer people want to go to games because it’s just as pleasant and cheaper to watch games at home on their giant hi-def TVs? I mean, no complaints here if Silver really wants to replicate the smell of Madison Square Garden in my living room, but it seems a bit, I dunno, against their business model? Unless maybe this will be some kind of premium feature you only get by subscribing to their streaming service that will be described as “Netflix for basketball,” yeah, that’s probably it.
We have new renderings for the proposed Oakland A’s stadium at Howard Terminal, and they look slightly less doofy than the old renderings, or at least somewhat less angular. Odds that any ballpark will look remotely like this if a Howard Terminal stadium is ever built: two infinities to one. Odds that a Howard Terminal stadium is ever built: Somewhat better, but I still wouldn’t hold your breath.
The Calgary city council put off a vote on a term sheet for a new Flames arena on Tuesday, after a marathon meeting that the public was barred from. They’ll be meeting in private again on Monday, and still plan not to tell anyone what the deal looks like until they’ve negotiated it with the Flames owners, which Calgary residents are not super happy about.
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer still really really wants a new arena of his own by 2024, and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times show that he met with Inglewood Mayor James Butts as early as June 2016 to try to get Madison Square Garden to give up its lease on his preferred arena site before they found out he wanted to build an arena there. This is mostly of interest if you like gawking at warring sports billionaires, but if you do you’re in luck, because the battle seems likely to continue for a long time yet.
The Miami Marlins are turning the former site of their Red Grooms home run sculpture in center field into a “three-tier millennial park” with $10 standing-room tickets, because apparently millennials are broke and hate sitting down? They’ve gotta try something, I guess, and this did help get them a long Miami Herald article about their “rebranding” efforts, so sure, millennial park it is.
Building a football stadium for a college football team and hoping to fill it up with lots of Bruce Springsteen concerts turns out, shockingly, not to have been such a great idea. UConn’s Rentschler Field loses money most years, and hasn’t hosted a major concert since 2007, with the director of the agency that runs it griping, “The summers are generally slow, the springs are generally muddy, and the falls are UConn’s.” And nobody built lots of new development around a stadium that hosts only nine events a year, likewise shockingly. It still could have been worse, though: Hartford could have spent even more money on landing the New England Patriots.
Speaking of failed sports developments, the new Detroit Red Wings arena district is “shaping up to be a giant swath of blacktop,” reports Deadline Detroit, which also revealed that the city has failed to penalize the team’s owners for missing development deadlines, and has held out the possibility of more public subsidies if he ever does build anything around the arena. At least the Ilitches are finally paying for the extra police needed to work NHL games, though, so that’s something.
Here is an article that cites “an economic development expert” as saying that hosting a Super Bowl could be worth $1 billion in “economic activity” to Las Vegas, saying he based this on the results of last year’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Actual increased tax receipts for Minneapolis during the game: $2.4 million. It took me 30 seconds to research this, but apparently the Las Vegas Review-Journal is too high and mighty to use Google. Do not reward them with your clicks.
Welcome to the first-ever weekly stadium news roundup to kick off with a review of a terrible Ed Sheeran concert:
The Minnesota Vikings‘ $1 billion stadium still sounds like crap for concerts, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune in its review of an Ed Sheeran show last Saturday: “Anytime Sheeran slapped out a beatnik-funky drum beat on his guitar and put it on repeat, such as ‘New Man’ or the pre-encore finale ‘Sing,’ it sounded hopelessly mucky and un-funky, sort of like a kitchen-sink garbage disposal trying to clear out gallons of half-dried concrete.” Time for Zygi Wilf to demand a new one yet? Only 28 years to go on their lease!
Speaking of concerts, CBC News has a chart of top touring acts that have skipped Saskatoon while playing in other cities in recent years — ostensibly because Saskatoon’s arena is too old (30 years! even older than Ed Sheeran!) and too far out of the center of town and has too antiquated a rigging system — but mostly it’s a reminder of how many arena acts are on their last legs: Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand and Black Sabbath all played other Canadian cities but not Saskatoon? How will the city ever prepare for the future! (Also, Saskatoon’s bigger problem might just be that it’s Canada’s 19th-largest city — I bet Paul and Barbra didn’t play Lubbock, Texas, either, which is about the same population.)
Here’s a fun Guardian article on what makes a good soccer stadium. Not sure there’s one takeaway other than “Design them to be good places to watch the match with seats close to the action, and try to make them fit into their immediate surroundings,” but that’s more than most U.S. stadium designers do, anyway.
Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores still want an MLS expansion team in Detroit, and while they’ve determined that removing the Lions stadium’s fixed roof and building a retractable one like MLS asked would be prohibitively expensive, they have offered to spend $95 million on a training field and other soccer fields throughout the city, though Crain’s Detroit notes that it’s “unclear” if that spending “would use any public funding.” If it would, this will be an interesting test in how badly MLS wants its teams to play in soccer-friendly outdoor stadiums, and how much it just wants new owners who’ve shown they can extract cash from their local municipalities.
The deal for the new New York Yankees stadium included new parking lots that were mostly to be paid for by a nonprofit shell corporation that was to own them and collect parking revenues, but now that it turns out nobody wants to pay $45 to park for Yankees games when there are plenty of cheaper parking options plus multiple subway and commuter rail lines nearby, the company is $100 million in default on rent and taxes to the city, with no real hopes of ever paying it back. I should probably add this to the “city costs” section of my Yankee Stadium subsidy spreadsheet, but I don’t have time this morning, so just mentally note that city taxpayers have now put up almost $800 million toward a stadium that was sold as involving “no public subsidies,” with state and federal subsidies putting the total taxpayer bill at nearly $1.3 billion.
A Las Vegas blogger has tweeted that the Rio hotel-casino could be demolished and replaced by a Major League Baseball stadium, so now everybody’s talking about Las Vegas getting an expansion team, along with Portland and Montreal and I forget who else. (San Antonio? Charlotte? Half of Mexico?) Just imagine how frenzied this would be if commissioner Rob Manfred were talking about expansion on a faster timetable than “in my lifetime,” or if he were older than 60 or suffering from a terminal illness or something.
Speaking of ticket taxes, a Nashville councilmember is proposing raising them at the new MLS stadium there and using the proceeds to help pay off the city’s share of construction costs. Nashville S.C. ownership is opposed, saying “this kind of after-the-fact tinkering would make the deal worse for soccer fans and set a bad precedent for the city,” neither of which is true (pssst sports teams already set prices as high as they can regardless of ticket taxes) but it’s totally what you’d expect them to say.
The projected cost of the Tokyo Olympics has now risen from $7.3 billion to $25 billion over the past five years .“It’s the most amazing thing that the Olympic games are the only type of megaproject to always exceed their budget,” Olympic finance expert Bent Flyvberg told the Associated Press. I would say that the fact that cities keep bidding for the Olympics despite this fact is even slightly more amazing, but they’re both pretty incredible.
The Oakland Raiders promised that their stadium project in Las Vegas would provide 18,700 construction jobs, but right now only about 650 workers are involved in construction at the site, and over its first year the project has employed the full-time equivalent of just 195 workers. Nevada really should have gotten that promise in writing.
The head of Mexico’s La Liga MX says that after the 2026 World Cup jointly hosted by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, maybe the three nations’ pro soccer leagues will merge to form one mammoth soccer league. This isn’t a terrible idea on the face of it — Mexico has the soccer talent, the U.S. has the fan spending money, and Canada has, I guess, donuts — but as it would require MLS owners to share their league with a bunch of other team owners who didn’t pay the $150 million expansion fee, and probably accept some kind of tiered promotion/relegation system as well to avoid having a 50-team league, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
The Oakland City Council has authorized a multimillion-dollar antitrust lawsuit against the NFL and the Raiders over the team’s impending move to Las Vegas — legal action that Coliseum officials said could result in the team leaving Oakland at the end of the upcoming season.
Let’s start with the lawsuit: It’s apparently set to be filed by the city, but was prompted by Raiders fans, and would actually be litigated by outside law firms that will take a cut of the winnings, if there are any. It would be an antitrust suit, seeking as much as $500 million in damages, according to Oakland councilmember Noel Gallo — and yes, you’re not misremembering things, the last antitrust case involving the Raiders ended with the Supreme Court ruling that the team owner had a right to move them wherever he wanted, but presumably these lawyers have come up with a new argument. (Here’s a long essay in the East Bay Express that totally fails to explain what that new argument would be.)
The truly great part here, at least for a disinterested observer mostly rooting for chaotic hilarity, is that Raiders execs have reportedly told the operators of the Oakland Coliseum that they won’t renew their lease for next year if the lawsuit proceeds, which is the absolute best threat ever, since the only reason they’re still in Oakland in the first place is that they have absolutely nowhere else to go. They could play at UNLV’s 47-year-old Sam Boyd Stadium in Vegas, but team owner Mark Davis has said he doesn’t want to do that. Or they could play in some other temporary home city with an existing stadium — San Diego? St. Louis? San Antonio? — and hope that enough curiosity seekers will come out to see games to make it worth their while.
It’s probably an idle threat — there’s plenty of time before next season for everybody to come to some agreement, or for the lawsuit to crash and burn — and given that the city and county would only lose a relatively piddly $3.7 million in rent from the Raiders if they left early, and that fans seem to be behind the lawsuit even if it might cost them a final lame-duck season, it’s not all that much of a risk for the public. And — say it all with me — watching this court case has got to be more entertaining than watching Raiders games.
The Raiders‘ future home in Las Vegas is well under way (if a bit blurry), but until now one piece of the stadium project — a plan for where Vegas Raiders fans will park — has been “we’ll figure that out later,” words that don’t have a great track record when it comes to stadium planning. Until yesterday, when the Raiders’ parking consultants proposed a multi-site solution for where to put all those cars:
2,375 parking spaces at the stadium
3,700 to 4,625 spaces at the Orleans Hotel & Casino
1,025 to 1,175 spaces at a former Southwest Gas facility on the northeast corner of Arville Street and Tropicana Avenue
2,000 to 2,500 spaces at the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Arby Avenue
2,900 to 3,625 spaces at the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Blue Diamond Road
For those of you without working expertise in Las Vegas geography (like me) and without the patience to Google-map all those sites (not like me, it turns out), that comes to a little bit of parking at the stadium, with most of the spots clustered around two intersections, one about a mile to the northwest of the stadium, and another about two miles to the south. Fans would then be bused from the parking lots to the game.
There are several questions that this plan raises — where you’re going to park the roughly 200 buses it would take to carry 20,000 people (assuming an average of two people per car) back to their cars immediately after the game is just one of them — but mostly it brings to mind this scenario: You are a Las Vegas Raiders fan, or just somebody visiting Las Vegas who decides to take in a game. You fire up Google or Waze or what have you, and it tells you how to get to the stadium. You drive there, and of course the lot is already full. You are directed to the overflow lot a mile away. You get there, after fighting through traffic with everybody else who is doing the same thing, only to be told that this lot is full, too — but there is more parking three miles back in the other direction. You get back in your car, head out into traffic again, and reconsider how badly you want to see a friggin’ Raiders game when there’s plenty of other stuff to do in Vegas.
Maybe this is an overly grim prognostication, but it certainly seems to be a concern, at the least. As is the fact that aside from the Orleans casino, the Raiders ownership doesn’t seem to have actually finalized deals with any of the owners of the lots that they want to use for parking. The stadium is supposed to open two years from now, so somebody had better get cracking.
Somebody has finally studied the actual economic impact of LeBron James on the Cleveland area, and far from the urban legend, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that overall GDP growth in the metro area has actually slowed since James returned from Miami. Now, that doesn’t mean that James is bad for the Cleveland economy — there are way bigger factors at work that affect GDP — but it does mean that at best, he didn’t really move the needle much on local earning. Can somebody please tell Drake now?
The Las Vegas Raidersannounced their PSL pricing, and it’s a whopping $20,000 to $75,000, more in line with what the San Francisco 49ers are charging than, say, the Atlanta Falcons or Minnesota Vikings. And there will be other seats with no PSLs attached, so if fans want to go to games, they can always opt for the no-down-payment option and just sit in the nosebleeds. I feel like I’ve seen this somewhere before and it didn’t go well — oh, right.
The Arizona Coyotes have a new CEO, Ahron Cohen, so what does he have to say when asked about the team’s arena plans? “Really, the most important thing for us right now and what we’re focusing on is achieving our core goals. Those are building hockey fandom in Arizona, building a competitive team on the ice, and positively impacting our community. Ultimately, we have to figure out our long-term arena solution. But that problem is solved by achieving those three goals I laid out.” Put that into Google translate, select Corporate Bureaucrat to English, and we get, let’s see: “Hell if I know.” Glad to see some things are consistent with the Coyotes!