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!
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.
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 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!
A Phoenix real-estate developer has teamed with the libertarian Goldwater Institute to sue the city to force the release of its plans regarding renovations to the Suns arena after it denied a standard public-records request. It’s pretty standard for cities to deny such requests — I get Freedom of Information Law requests rejected for this reason all the time — but hey, more power to the lawyers if they want to see if a lawsuit works any better.
Esports arena operators say that the future of sports is people sitting in esports arenas watching people play video games, and the New York Times suggests this could save America’s malls. In my experience, kids mostly want to watch this, and can, by just looking at their phones, but far be it from me to stand in the way of saving America’s malls.
Headline in The Oregonian: “Major League Baseball to Portland leaders: ‘We have a window and we can’t let this go.'” Actual quote in the accompanying article: “That’s why you have Mike and Jason and I and our team so excited, moving so quickly but methodically. We have a window that we can’t let this go to Vegas or San Antonio or Mexico City or somewhere else.” By Craig Cheek, who has no role in MLB, but is just part of a group of owners who want to bring a major league baseball franchise to Portland. Maybe somebody should work on bringing a major league professional newspaper to Portland.
And finally, Noah Pransky’s Shadow of the Stadium blog is shutting down after nine years, which is a shame not only because it’s a great read, but because we’re just now getting to the most important part of the Rays stadium battle, where it’s decided who lives and who dies where a stadium may be built and who’ll pay for it. Pransky will still be reporting on the Rays stadium battles for his day job at WTSP-TV, which means we should see more stuff like this. But still, it’s a sad day — thanks for nine years and 1,500 posts of great work, Noah!
The famed on-field flagpole that once stood in Detroit’s Tiger Stadium (and still stands on the site) will become an ad for a nut company, which will fly its flag from atop the pole. Is this more or less a tribute to craven greed and disrespect for humanity than flying the U.S. flag was? Discuss!
Carlos Monarraz of the Detroit Free Press thinks the reason behind all the empty seats at Pistons games is that fans would rather watch the game on TV from the arena’s bar, which is either a pathetic cover story or a pathetic reality or both, I can’t say which for sure. Discuss! (Bonus content: Article features a 69-year-old fan saying, “I used to cheer, ‘Rah-rah-ree, kick ’em in the knee!’ I don’t even feel comfortable shouting out anymore.” Not sure whether this means he’s Monty Burns or The Terror.)
Oakland Raiders management says it has identified room for 27,000 parking spaces within 1.5 miles of its Las Vegas stadium, and 100,000 spaces within three miles. “Now, obviously, people don’t want to walk three miles, so you have to have a pretty strong infrastructure program and transportation plan in place,” said Raiders president Marc Badain. “We’re working on all of that.” Cool, get back to us!
Residents of the West End opposed to building an F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium on the site of a revered high school football stadium there are all about “maintaining disinvestment, maintaining the status quo and not closing racial and economic gaps but keeping them divided,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said this week. “I think that’s wrong.” But enough with the pandering to your constituents, Mayor Cranley what do you really think about them?
Because no arena project can truly be cost-free for the public, the new Muni Metro stop being built at the Golden State Warriors‘ new San Francisco arena has now risen in cost to $51 million, and the city of San Francisco hasn’t figured out how to pay for $17 million of that yet. Not that a new mass transit stop isn’t a public benefit for people other than Warriors fans, but just saying.
I’ve pieced together this week’s news roundup via WiFi made from powdered limestone and gum-tree resin, so if I missed anything important, let me know and I’ll pick it up starting Monday. In the meantime:
That Koch Brothers–sponsored bill to ban sports subsidies in Arizona that got all the attention last week is now apparently dead after it was opposed by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, Arizona and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association. Maybe it’ll have better luck in one of the other 24 states where Americans for Prosperity said they were introducing it, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Politics Extra column says that the West End is going to get gentrified against its will whether it likes it or not, so shouldn’t it be by a local guy who wants to build an F.C. Cincinnati soccer stadium as part of it, and not “a developer from, say, New York or Chicago who doesn’t know or care about you or your homes”? Yes, it really truly says that.
The Oakland Raiders‘ Las Vegas stadium-building company is proposing to provide a $5 million bond to restore the stadium land to its original condition in the event that construction has to be halted partway through if it goes bankrupt. This is simultaneously an excellent way to safeguard the public interest in all contingencies (except for the $750 million the public would be out either way, obviously) and also really not the kind of thing you want newspaper readers to be thinking about when your new multi-billion-dollar stadium project is about to get underway. Here’s hoping Roger Noll is wrong about this thing having a shot at working.
The Miami-Dade County lawsuit against the Marlins‘ former owner Jeffrey Loria and current owners Derek Jeter and Friends over not cutting the county in on a share of the team sale proceeds went to court yesterday, and probably something happened, but it’ll be next week before the latest news story loads for me, so somebody recap anything important in comments, okay? I’ll see you next week.
An unusual provision in the Raiders agreement with the state allows the team, currently playing its final seasons in Oakland, to break the lease and look for another home if Nevada attempts to impose new taxes over the next three decades on the team, stadium, fans or players. That includes visiting teams and fans as well.
The provision applies to any “targeted tax” aimed at collecting revenue specifically from players or fans. It would not protect the team or its fans from any new taxes applied generally on businesses or individuals across Nevada, however.
I’m quote in this article, calling the lease clause “adding insult to injury” since it “makes sure Nevada taxpayers never see a penny from the stadium.” Which is true, but what the Times left out was that I mentioned this isn’t unheard of — other teams have leases that prohibit local governments from levying team-specific taxes as well. This is probably because I didn’t actually cite any examples to the Times reporter — I was busy and couldn’t look any up — but a quick search through the FoS archives reveals two examples right off the bat:
The Cincinnati Bengals and Reds owners have lease clauses that allow them to block ticket tax surcharges during the course of their leases, and did so in 2010.
I realize this isn’t overwhelming evidence, but it is a sign that the Raiders clause isn’t entirely unprecedented, even if the Times reports that Temple economist Michael Leeds said, in the paper’s words, that this provision “goes beyond anything he has ever seen.” And it makes sense that team owners would try to forestall ticket surcharges: As we’ve covered before, targeted ticket taxes tend to mostly come out of team owners’ pockets because, unlike other taxes, they reduce the amount of money an owner can get away with charging for tickets. So if you sign a 30-year lease and then the state turns around and says, “Hey, $10 surcharge on all your tickets, we get the money!” and you can’t get out of the lease, that’s a huge chunk of change that is suddenly going out of your pocket and into the public’s.
Which, of course, is exactly why it’s so disappointing that the Raiders lease contains this clause — with the state already on the hook for $750 million, a ticket tax would have been one of the only ways for taxpayers to get some of that money back. But the Raiders had smart contract lawyers, so that’s not going to be happening. Evidence really is accumulating that Mark Davis may be smarter than he looks.