Could visiting fans taking over Rams and Chargers home games be good news for Las Vegas? (Yeah, no, probably not)

They played football again on Sunday — nobody seems to be getting on that idea of banning the sport for being hazardous to human health, nor even the idea of replacing human players with digital avatars — which included home games for both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers. And, as has become commonplace for L.A.’s new teams, most locals seem not to have gotten the message that the sport is still being played:

All of which is embarrassing news for the Rams and Chargers owners who moved their teams to L.A. on the premise that they’d sell lots of tickets in America’s second-biggest market, and slightly worrisome for when the two teams move into their new Inglewood stadium next year. But could it be good news for the Las Vegas Raiders, who are building their entire business model on selling tickets to tons of visiting fans?

That question was discussed Monday in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that asked, among other things, if projections by the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee are correct that the Raiders’ presence will bring in tons of new visitors to Vegas:

An early study by the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee forecast the stadium would generate $620 million in annual economic impact and bring in 450,000 visitors who otherwise would not have come to in Las Vegas. Officials said just under half of attendees at all stadium events are expected to be non-resident consumers, with about 23% in town specifically for that event.

Those projections, as they pertain to Raiders games, are a sticking point for Stanford economist Roger Noll.

“There is no NFL team in the country that has more than about 3 or 4% of tourists in the stands,” Noll said. “So it would have to be the case that this would be more than an order of magnitude increase.”

But also!

Stephen Miller, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said while Las Vegas quickly adopted the [Golden] Knights, many out-of-town fans also go to games.

“They come specifically to attend the game,” Miller said, “and then they stick around and have fun in Las Vegas.”

I reached out to both economists for their sources on these stats, and while I’m still waiting on Miller, Noll got right back to me. He said that he’s gotten peeks at proprietary data from team surveys of fans and addresses of ticket buyers on the resale market, and what he’s seen supports his conclusion: Very few NFL fans travel for games. He also clarified that his 3-4% estimate is for fans traveling specifically in order to see football — if a Pittsburgh Steelers fan happens to be in L.A. (either for a trip or because they’ve relocated there, as people are known to do) and decides to take in a Steelers road game while in town, that’s not additional spending that can be credited to the presence of the NFL.

Noll does add that the number of visiting fans typically rises when the home team is terrible, and season ticket holders start dumping their tickets on the secondary market — “For example, when the 49ers were having bad years, empty seats at the last couple of home games were one-fourth to half of the total seats, and sometimes a quarter or so of attendance was fans of the other team.” Which brings up an interesting question: Would it be in Nevada’s best interest for the Raiders to suck, so that more seats will go to out-of-towners looking to cheer on their teams to stomp on the Raiders, who will then “stick around and have fun in Las Vegas”? Modern economic development strategy has gotten very, very weird.

Should everyone consider just moving the Chargers back to San Diego already?

With football season in full swing, it’s time for Los Angeles Chargers fans to start not showing up in droves again, and they happily obliged yesterday, with both lots of empty seats and lots of visiting fans despite playing in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium. Which is always fun for schadenfreude purposes, but it also seems to be alarming Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who is not at all happy that the Chargers’ alleged L.A. fan base isn’t turning out to pre-purchase seats to the new stadium the teams will share next year:

That’s a pretty weak tease, admittedly, and also not really surprising, since as the Big Lead notes, there’s been tension between Kroenke and Chargers owner Dean Spanos ever since the two were forced into their L.A. marriage by the NFL a couple of years back. And it’s only been exacerbated by the Chargers’ ticket sales woes:

The Chargers told NFL owners they were projecting to make $400 million from PSL sales in Los Angeles. That number was part of the justification for leaving San Diego, as more money was available in the the nation’s second-biggest media market. After being in said market for more than a year, the franchise “adjusted” that projection from $400 million to $150 million. A little quick math shows that’s just 37.5 percent of the team’s initial projection. That’s also $250 million that would not be helping to fund Kroenke’s stadium.

I’m pretty sure that’s wrong — not that the Chargers slashed PSL prices, that’s correct, but that Kroenke would have to take a $250 million bath as a result, since Spanos has to pay a share of stadium costs regardless of how much money he’s making from PSL sales. Unless the Chargers owner tries to get out of his obligation by claiming he doesn’t have the cash, which would indeed make for quite the Monday noon Pacific time bombshell.

The bigger question here is: Why is everyone even going through this whole charade anymore? Sure, Kroenke (and the NFL) needed a tenant to help defray costs of the Rams’ new stadium, but now that the total price tag is up around $5 billion, any contribution from the Chargers is starting to seem like a drop in the bucket. (The Big Lead further claims that “Kroenke and the Rams would love nothing more than to completely remove the Chargers from the equation and have the Inglewood stadium all to themselves,” which seems odd since it’s not like Kroenke would be able to do much of anything else with the stadium on Rams off weeks, but this whole stadium keeps seeming more and more like an expensive vanity project anyway, so who knows?) So maybe would it make sense to look at just sending the Chargers back to San Diego, where their actual fans are?

Sure, it would involve figuring out how to undo the Chargers’ $650 million relocation fee, and also you know Spanos won’t want to go back to San Diego unless he can find a way to leverage it into his own shiny new stadium, preferably paid for by someone not named Dean Spanos. But I think it’s fair to say that calling a do over is more of a non-zero possibility than it was a couple of years ago, which is pretty amazing considering the Chargers haven’t even moved into their new L.A. stadium yet. Let’s see what noon Pacific time brings.

People in L.A. still buying Chargers tickets, refusing to actually go see Chargers play

The Los Angeles Chargers played a home game yesterday, which means it’s time to play fun with empty seats at Chargers games:

The announced sellout, while embarrassing for a game where most of the actual seats were empty, at least gives us some more info about what’s going on here, especially coupled with the news that seats were available on StubHub for as little as $9. Clearly people are buying tickets to Chargers games; they just have no interest in using them. Which means somebody — either Chargers fans in L.A., if they exist, or ticket brokers in L.A. — gobbled up season tickets in hopes of landing season tickets at the Chargers’ new home when it opens in 2020. So maybe everyone is just waiting for the new stadium before they’ll go see Chargers games — though no matter how nice it is, you have to figure it’s still less enticing than seeing a game right now for $9, especially with the Chargers actually playing well this season.

The more likely theory is that nobody in L.A. cares much about the Chargers, and the people getting on line for season tickets are going to end up either taking a bath on them or trying to sell them all to out-of-town fans. Or hoping that Elon Musk builds a tunnel to San Diego.

 

Friday roundup: Nobody wants the Olympics, nobody wants the Marlins home run sculpture, nobody wants the Chargers (but L.A. is stuck with them through 2040)

So what else happened this week? Glad you asked:

  • Stockholm’s new city government said it won’t provide any public funding for a possible 2026 Winter Olympics. That would leave only Milan and Calgary as bidders, and the former hasn’t committed to public spending either, while the latter is set to hold a public referendum next month on hosting in the midst of complaints that no one knows how much it would cost. It’s still a longshot, but there’s a real chance here we could see our long-awaited “What if they held an Olympic bidding war and nobody showed up?” moment, or at least that the IOC will have to consider bids that don’t include its usual requirement that local government promise to backstop any losses.
  • “Several dozen” Long Island residents marched in protest last week against the New York Islanders‘ proposed arena near Belmont Park, saying it would create too much traffic and construction noise. Those aren’t the best reasons to be concerned about it in my book — I’d be more upset about the crazy discount on land New York state is giving the team, if I were a New York taxpayer, which I am — but maybe the protestors are worried about that too but it didn’t fit easily on a sign.
  • The owners of the Miami Marlins (i.e., Derek Jeter and the money men behind him) are going to have to pay $2.5 million to Miami-Dade County for moving Red Grooms’ home run sculpture outside their stadium, since relocating it means that Grooms will disavow the work and make it worthless. They should’ve just traded it to Milwaukee for some lousy prospects.
  • Oklahoma City is looking for capital projects to spend the next iteration of its sales-tax hike on, and Mayor David Holt says if a maybe-MLS-caliber soccer stadium isn’t included, “the Energy won’t be here forever.” The Energy, if that name draws a blank for you, is the city’s beloved USL franchise that’s been there since … 2014? It’s only a matter of time before teams start threatening to move before they even exist, isn’t it?
  • Bwahahahaha, the Los Angeles Chargers are reportedly locked into their lease at a new Inglewood stadium through 2040, so there’s no way they’re moving back to San Diego or elsewhere no matter how terrible their ticket sales are. Dean Spanos is so screwed! Uh, until he sells the team for a multibillion-dollar profit, but he’ll be crying the whole way to the bank, I promise you!

Chargers lower tickets prices at new stadium in hopes anybody might turn up to root for them

ESPN reported yesterday that the owners of the Los Angeles Chargers, noticing the distinct lack of enthusiasm with which they’ve been met in their new home, were downgrading their initial revenue goals at the Inglewood stadium set to open in 2020 from $400 million to $150 million. And on cue, the Chargers announced yesterday that they were setting ticket prices and seat license fees at the new stadium significantly lower than the rival Rams:

The least-expensive general seating season ticket in the new Inglewood stadium will cost $50 per game and require a one-time personal seat license fee of $100…

The Chargers will share the new facility with the Rams, who last month announced their season tickets will start at $60 a game, with personal seat licenses beginning at $1,000.

I’m not actually sure what “initial revenue” means in that ESPN report, and the site didn’t specify — each NFL team gets $250 million just in TV revenue, so maybe it means first-year stadium revenue, or maybe it means the initial take from PSL sales. If the latter, that would make sense, since the biggest discounts appear to be on the seat-license side, where allowing cut-rate prices is going to seriously cut into the team’s cash flow, especially once fans realize they can get in for a $100 one-time fee and then balk at paying higher PSLs for better seats.

Team execs are spinning this as a way to make Chargers fans more likely to use their tickets themselves instead of selling them to out-of-town fans to recoup their costs, but I’m not sure that microeconomics works that way: It seems just as likely that this will goose sales to ticket speculators who will now figure, “Hey, for only a $100 fee I can get a steady supply of tickets to sell to visiting fans who actually want to see Chargers games, unlike people around here!”

All of which is only likely to stir more murmurings that maybe the Chargers picked the wrong city to move to — or, you know, shouldn’t have moved at all. Turns out that sometimes shooting the hostages doesn’t work out that well.

Friday roundup: Chargers L.A. move still a disaster, Raiders still lack 2019 home, Rays still short of stadium cash

I’ve been busy getting my post-Village Voice life rolling this week — here’s my first article for Gothamist, on how to fight Amazon’s monopoly power, and I’ve also started a Twitter account for following ex-Voice news writers as we keep up our work for other outlets — but Friday mornings are sacred, for they are stadium and arena news roundup time:

Friday roundup: More MLS expansion drum beating, more wasteful non-sports subsidies, more bonkers Tottenham stadium delay stories

Getting a late start this morning after being out last night seeing Neko Case, so let’s get to this:

Fans are finally going to Chargers games, but they’re not Chargers fans

It’s football season again, which you can tell because people are fighting about kneeling during the national anthem again, and which means it’s time to check in on whether Los Angeles Rams and Chargers games are still full of empty seats. And the answer, for the Chargers, at least, who held their home opener on Sunday, is: Not entirely, but they might have wished it was:

With no fan footprint in Los Angeles (and many San Diego-based fans feeling abandoned by the move), the 27,000-seat StubHub Center has doubled as an extra home game for visiting teams. The Eagles famously had 80 percent of the stadium last year, and it was more of the same when the Kansas City Chiefs came to town for Week 1.

Here’s a photo of the Chiefs in front of a crowd dressed almost entirely in red for the road team:

As USA Today notes, this is in the 27,000-seat Stubhub Center; when the Chargers move to their new 70,000-seat stadium next year the year after next, they’re either going to end up with even more visiting fans, or with a ton of visiting fans and a ton of empty seats, which would be even worse. Or maybe, just maybe, there are lots of Chargers fans out there just biding their time until they can see football in a giant modern football stadium instead of in an intimate modern soccer stadium, and … yeah, I’m not seeing it either.

The Rams have their home opener on Sunday, against the Arizona Cardinals, which would seem to be ripe for visiting fans making the jaunt from one state over to visit the L.A. Coliseum. I’ll be watching, by which I mean watching Twitter, because even the prospect of a carpetbagging team owner being embarrassed by poor turnout isn’t enough to make me watch the NFL.

Rams and Chargers to repay PSL fees to fans, only not really

The Los Angeles Rams and Chargers have announced the impending start of personal seat license sales for their new stadium when it opens in 2020, which is always a fun moment because it lets you see how much teams think their fans will put up with paying just for the right to pay more money on top of that for actual tickets. So what do these two teams that have had trouble drawing flies at their temporary digs think Los Angelenos will spend to see games at their new one?

  • For the Rams, PSLs will start at $1,000 for the cheap seats, and go up to $100,000 for the priciest ones.
  • For the Chargers, PSLs will start at “we’re not saying yet, we don’t want to frighten off anyone who might actually consider themselves a Los Angeles Chargers fan” and run to a maximum of $75,000.

The Los Angeles Times describes these particular seat licenses as “an NFL first,” since it’s more a long-term low-interest loan than an actual purchase: After 50 years, the price will be repaid to whoever holds the PSL at that point. In practice, this isn’t much different from an outright purchase — if I’m using this present value calculator right, $100,000 in 2068 dollars is worth about $8,700 in money today, meaning it will cost the Rams and Chargers pennies on the dollar to “repay” the license fees shortly after first contact with the Vulcans. I’m not entirely sure why they’re going this route — marketing ploy or tax dodge are my two best guesses — but it’s not a significant departure from the traditional PSL route.

As for what fans will get for the “premium” seat-license experience, the Orange County Register has you covered, and it apparently will involve lots of sitting in oddly shaped chairs talking to no one while enjoying a view of the seats on the opposite side of the stadium:

And let’s not forget jumping up and down with glee in an almost entirely empty room while looking at who knows what, maybe a wall with a big-screen TV on it, maybe just a wall:

If nothing else, I’m glad to see that the L.A. stadium clubs will feature seating that is a full yard wide, to accommodate Americans’ growing rumps. Truly state of the art.

Friday roundup: Tons of news, but you’ll forget it all once you see that Houston is spending public money on a pro rugby stadium

And in other news that doesn’t involve proposed Tampa Bay Rays stadium sites:

  • United Airlines is spending $69 million on naming rights to the Los Angeles Coliseum in advance of the 2028 Olympics, but IOC rules prohibit corporate names during the Olympics, oops. Hope you enjoy the most expensive college-football naming rights deal in history, United!
  • Hotel revenue fell 16% in San Diego last year after the Chargers left town, but went up 0.2% in St. Louis after the Rams left. I’m not honestly sure what if anything this means — you’d really have to look at hotel revenue on football weekends to do this right, and it doesn’t look like this study did — but feel free to speculate wildly.
  • Did I mention the Yahoo Finance article yet that compares the Amazon HQ2 chase to the competition to host the Super Bowl, and cites me saying that while Amazon will bring more jobs, “that said, there’s almost no way it’s worth the kind of money that cities are talking about”? Well, now I have, enjoy!
  • AL.com has recalculated the public costs of a proposed University of Alabama-Birmingham football stadium and come up with a total of $18.2 million a year — $10.7 million from a bunch of county taxes, $3.5 million from a new car rental tax surcharge, $1 million from other county funds, and $3 million from city funds — not the $15.7 million I had previously reported. UAB and a naming rights sponsor and other private contributors, meanwhile, would only put in $4 million a year, and only for the first ten years. Out of his goddamn mind, I tell you.
  • Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report filed a Freedom of Information Law request to see the competing bids for the Belmont Park site that eventually got awarded to the New York Islanders, and was shot down on the grounds that it would “impair present or imminent contract awards.” Wait, wasn’t the contract already awarded? Will it be okay to ask again once it’s too late to do anything about it?
  • The WNBA’s Chicago Sky are moving to the new DePaul basketball arena that the city of Chicago helped pay for, which I guess is marginally good for Chicago in that it gets to steal a tiny sliver of economic activity from Rosemont, screw those guys, right? (Actually, Rosemont is apparently a gated community, so maybe screw those guys.)
  • A New Orleans Pelicans game was delayed because the arena roof leaked. No one is demanding that a new arena be built just yet that I’ve heard, but given that the current one is 19 whole years old, it’s gotta to be a matter of time, even if this one does have a fire fountain.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates are threatening to sue the city-county sports authority over who’ll pay how much for $10 million in improvements to their stadium, because apparently the people who write these stadium leases are idiots.
  • If you enjoy this site but were thinking, “Wouldn’t this be better as a YouTube video with lots of animated charts?”, Vox has got you covered.
  • The Houston city council has approved spending $3.2 million in tax dollars on a pro rugby stadium for the Houston SaberCats, who are a pro rugby team that is going to play in a pro rugby league, which councilmember Jack Christie calls “a beautiful example of public-private partnerships that we ought to look at in the future, because as far as I have heard, there’s not been one city tax dollar used for this development.” I’m done. Have a good weekend.