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.

Stadium renderings show Rams and Chargers fans may need oxygen masks to reach their seats

We’ve got new* renderings of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers stadium! Here’s the outside:

That’s a more attractive update on the giant-tennis-racket look, though some of that is just that the renderers chose to show it at sunset and all glowy and stuff. As for what the place will actually look like for fans instead of passing planes:

May I be the first to say, “Yikes!” The hanging video halo board is impressive, to be sure (though it’s going to be limited to very long, narrow replays), but that upper deck is just insanely high, separated from the field by three other decks of seating plus four, if I’m counting right, layers of luxury suites and club seats. The rendering makes it look like the decks are stacked fairly vertically to keep the top decks closer to the field, but it also makes it look like the rake — the steepness of the deck — isn’t too extreme, and having both of those be the case is a geometric impossibility if fans are actually going to see the field, so we’ll see how much of this is wishful thinking.

Overall, this looks like somebody took the MetLife Stadium model (which is essentially awful) and gussied it up with more curves and transparent roofs and other things to make it look more like you’re in a Star Trek movie and less like you’re in a palace of mass sports consumption. Which might be all it takes to lure in L.A. fans, who knows — we’ll have to wait and see. It seems like a risky way to spend $2.6 billion, but it’s not my money or yours, so whatever.

One more rendering before we go:

Do people really line up in incredibly orderly lines in Southern California to pass through the … virtual turnstiles? Metal detectors? What are those things, exactly? It seems an awfully sedate throng to be attending a football game, anyway, though maybe they’re hypnotized into a stupor by the permanent flock of balloons.

*UPDATE: This just in:

I have no idea why these are being reported as new renderings, then, unless everybody saw the LA Curbed article talking about construction progress and showing renderings and just assumed they were all new. Sorry for passing along bad information, but the nosebleediness of that top deck remains remarkable.

No, the Chargers aren’t moving back to San Diego, but the NFL probably wishes they could

So it looks like the internet first exploded about the Los Angeles Chargers moving back to San Diego midway through their first season in their new home (not that they’d move midway, but the internet exploded midway — you get what I mean) came on Thursday, when longtime NFL reporter Don Banks went on the radio in San Diego to discuss this article in which he wrote that “sources privy to the league’s thinking” have indicated that “the NFL is shocked at how far south things have gone already for the relocated Chargers.” And then on the air, Banks upped the ante:

“There are people in the league, including the commissioner, they did not want to see San Diego forsaken. They would rather there be a team in San Diego. If there’s anything viable they can find to put the league back into San Diego, I think they will be in that camp strongly…

“I think a lot of people are in retrospect looking back and saying this was not a smart move, and how do we get ourselves out of it. But I don’t know that there’s a good option short of pressure on trying to force a sale.”

Because this is 2017, the news media first went crazy reporting that Banks was saying the NFL was about to move the Chargers back to San Diego, then went crazy debunking that notion that Banks didn’t even actually say. By the time of the Chargers game on Sunday — they lost again, and once again they sold out their 27,000-seat soccer stadium but lots of seats were either empty or occupied by fans of the visiting team, so many that the Chargers dispensed with team introductions for fear their players would get booed — things seemed to have largely calmed down. But now that it’s out there in the zeitgeist, is there anything at all to the idea of the NFL forcing the Chargers to throw in the towel on L.A.?

“Forcing,” almost certainly not: While the league can block a proposed move, it can’t undo one that’s already taken place. The most the other NFL owners could do, as Banks noted, would be to lean on Chargers owner Dean Spanos to sell the team, perhaps to an owner interested in moving back to San Diego. But that would mean 1) giving a team back to a city that spurned demands for a new publicly funded stadium, 2) undoing the lease that Spanos signed with Rams owner Stan Kroenke on a new stadium opening in Inglewood in 2020, which Kroenke is counting on to help pay his stadium construction costs, and 3) potentially angering Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis, who was denied a chance to move to L.A. because the Chargers had been granted dibs (though given that Davis is getting $750 million in tax money toward a new stadium in Las Vegas, maybe he doesn’t care about L.A. anymore, no matter how convenient it would make his haircuts).

The most reasonable conclusion, then, is what Banks actually said: The NFL is concerned by low levels of support for the Chargers, but doesn’t have any good options. The best bet is probably to wait until 2020 and hope that people want to go see the team once it’s in a new stadium; I guess Plan B would be to try to get San Diego to lure them back with a stadium offer of its own, and somehow use the proceeds to pay off Kroenke for his lost revenue? This is a huge mess, as one might have predicted from a process that was determined partly by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones challenging his fellow owners to move to L.A. to show they had “big balls.” The only question now is if NFL owners finally find an agreement to unravel their L.A. misstep, what kind of ink they’ll dip their balls in to sign it.

Friday roundup: Saskatoon soccer frenzy, Phoenix hotel sale to fund Suns, and more!

And more!