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.

Friday roundup: Panthers’ record sale price goosed by public money, Beckham stadium delayed yet again, Rams stadium really will cost $4B-plus

Google looks to have broken all of its RSS feeds, so if I missed anything important this week, drop me an email and I’ll play catchup next week:

Friday roundup: Marlins claim British residency, video football with real humans, and the White Sox stadium that never was

Busy (minor) news week! And away we go…

  • Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins ownership group, facing a lawsuit by the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County over the team stiffing the public on the share of sale proceeds they were promised, are trying to stave it off by claiming that (deep breath) because one of the owners of an umbrella company of an umbrella company of the umbrella company that owns the Marlins is a business incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, the case should be arbitrated by a federal judge who handles international trade issues. Maybe the Marlins should quit trying to sell tickets to baseball games and sell tickets to the court proceedings instead.
  • Tampa Bay Rays chief development officer Melanie Lenz, in response to concerns that a big-ass baseball stadium wouldn’t fit into the Ybor City historic district that it would be on the border of, said that “we expect to build a next-generation, neighborhood ballpark that fits within the fabric of the Ybor City community,” though she didn’t give any details. That’s vague enough to be reassuring without actually promising anything concrete, but it’s worth making a note of just in case the historic district ends up becoming a stumbling block in stadium talks, which, stranger things have happened.
  • A guy wants to start a football league where fans vote on what plays to run via Twitch, and build an arena in Las Vegas for people to watch … the players? The voting? The Las Vegas Review-Journal article about it was a bit unclear, though it did say that the organizers want to “create the experience of playing a football video game with real people,” which isn’t creepy at all. It also reports that the league plans to use blockchain technology, which is how you know it’s probably a sham.
  • Something called the Badger Herald, which I assume is a University of Wisconsin student paper but which I really hope is a newspaper targeted entirely at badgers, ran an article by a junior economics major arguing that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena will be a boon to the city because during the first few years “many will come from across the state to watch the Bucks play in this impressive new facility” and after that it will “continue giving the people of Milwaukee a reason to be optimistic.” The author also says that the arena was built after “the NBA gave the Bucks an ultimatum — either obtain a new arena, or the NBA would buy the Bucks and sell the franchise to another city,” which, uh, no, that’s not what happened at all.
  • Here’s a really nice article for CBS Sports by my old Baseball Prospectus colleague Dayn Perry on the Chicago White Sox ballpark proposed by architect Philip Bess that never got built. Come for the cool pictures of spiders, stay for the extended explanation of why supporting columns that obstruct some views are a design feature that stadium architects never should have abandoned!
  • The Los Angeles Rams are trying to pull a San Francisco 49ers, according to Deadspin, by making a run at a Super Bowl in the same year they’re selling personal seat licenses for their new stadium. More power to ’em, but prospective Rams PSL buyers, check how that worked out for 49ers fans before you hand over your credit card numbers, okay?
  • The state of Connecticut has cut $100 million for Hartford arena renovations from the state budget, at least for now, so that it can use the money toward a $550 million bailout of the city of Hartford itself. Is that what they call a “no win-win situation“?
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the New York Islanders need to move back to Long Island because Brooklyn’s Barclays Center “wasn’t built for hockey,” which he actually pointed out at the time they moved there, but did anybody listen?
  • Alameda County is moving to sell its share of the Oakland Coliseum complex to the city of Oakland, which should make negotiations over what to do with the site slightly simpler, anyway.
  • That Missouri governor who killed a proposed St. Louis MLS stadium subsidy, calling it “welfare for millionaires,” is now under pressure to resign after his former hairdresser claimed he groped her, slapped her, and coerced her into sex acts. Maybe we should just stop electing men to public office? Just a thought.

Rams stadium to cost staggering $5B (or not)

Among the many, many things I don’t like about the 21st century is the way that the rise of Twitter as a reporting medium, while great for getting news out quickly, is decidedly less good at getting news out accurately or in any kind of detail. Which brings us to this tweet yesterday by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham:

That would be amazing, yes! Especially since the old record for a stadium cost is the new New York Yankees stadium (around $2 billion), and the last previous estimate for the Los Angeles Rams stadium (which will also be home to the Chargers) was $2.6 billion. What gives?

Wickersham later tweeted a single followup:

“Part of”? Which part of? And why is the NFL concerning itself with debt limits for an ancillary real-estate project that isn’t about football?

Okay, so fine, Wickersham is just writing the notes for the first draft of history, so let’s cut him some slack. Except that nobody seems to be editing that first draft — since then Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports and Bleacher Report and one of the unpaid bloggers that Forbes calls “contributors” have all repeated Wickersham’s assertion, with no context or further reporting. (And before you ask: I would make a call now, but it’s 5:43 am in Los Angeles, so I sincerely doubt anyone at the Rams office is going to be picking up. But I’ll try later.)

For now, all we know is that Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium complex is going to cost him a buttload of money, and we still don’t know how he plans to make it all pay off. Which is his problem, since he’s not asking for public money, but still, inquiring minds would like to know.

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.

St. Louis lawsuit over Rams move heads for discovery, NFL is screwed now

That Hail Mary lawsuit filed by the city and county of St. Louis earlier this year against the NFL for allowing the Rams to move to Los Angeles without following the league’s own relocation rules still seems like a longshot to win, but it looks like it’s at least going to go to trial:

St. Louis plaintiffs suing the Rams and National Football League over the team’s relocation to Los Angeles scored a victory in court Wednesday after a judge largely denied pretrial motions by the league and its member clubs.

St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Christopher McGraugh also denied motions to dismiss some 85 defendants, including all member teams and members of their ownership groups, for lack of jurisdiction. McGraugh also denied the Rams’ efforts to send the case to arbitration under the terms of the Dome lease between the team and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority.

To recap, in brief: Rams owner Stan Kroenke decided to move his team to L.A. in 2016, despite having a $477 million offer on the table for a new stadium in St. Louis; the NFL’s relocation rules say that “clubs are obligated to work diligently and in good faith to obtain and to maintain suitable stadium facilities in their home territories”; the NFL told Kroenke, “it’s cool, go ahead and move,” mostly because Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones thought Kroenke had “big balls”; and then the city and county sued for unspecified damages on the grounds on fraud and unlawful interference with the business relationship between St. Louis and the Rams. Kroenke tried to argue that this should be subject to arbitration under the Rams’ lease, though given that he’d already chosen to terminate the lease under the lease’s state-of-the-art clause so he could either demand a new stadium or move, that takes a lot of gall, you know?

The interesting part of this isn’t so much whether the plaintiffs can win — even if St. Louis can claim $100 million or so in damages, that’s a rounding error for an NFL franchise — as what they’ll now be able to pursue in the discovery phase of the trial. The NFL already complained that the plaintiffs’ discovery requests were “extraordinarily broad, burdensome and intrusive,” which makes it sound like there’s some juicy stuff they don’t want to turn over, likely involving internal communications around the relocation deliberations. While the league could choose just to pay off the city to make this whole mess go away, I kind of hope it doesn’t — as much as it would be nice to set a precedent that sports leagues have to pay the public when they allow teams to move without following their own rules, I’d find it way more valuable to hear what other stupid crap came out of Jerry Jones’s mouth.

Friday roundup: Raiders talk lease extension, Rams attendance woes may set record, and more!

Here’s what you missed this week, or rather what I missed, or rather what I saw at the time but left till Friday because there are only so many hours in the week, man: