Profiteering innovator Wayne Huizenga dies at age 80

Former Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins, and Florida Panthers owner Wayne Huizenga died on Friday, and any time a soul passes from this earth there’s a sadness, and we pass long our sympathies to all of Huizenga’s relatives and loved ones.

And now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how Wayne Huizenga helped to make the sports world a worse place while he was alive:

Does all this make Huizenga a bad man? First and foremost, he was a corporate businessman, trying to extract maximum value from the assets he owned, whether his sports teams or waste-hauling company or Blockbuster Video, even if at the expense of the public or his fellow team owners or his team’s on-field success. Whether this makes him a capitalist running dog or someone merely following his own rational self-interest depends on your political perspective, but it’s undeniable that his cash grabs were more innovative than that of most team owners, and had a more detrimental effect on the sports landscape. So while he may have exhibited “kindness and generosity,” as his former team tweeted last Friday, he also did all those other things too; and that, in all his complexity, is how he should be remembered by history.

Hurricane Irma fails to knock over any of Florida’s sports venues

Time for your “What damage did Florida sports facilities suffer during Hurricane Irma?” rundown!

Also, two-thirds of the state is without power and many residents could remain so for weeks, at least 11 people died in the U.S. and 38 in Caribbean nations, nobody knows how many people are currently trapped in the Florida Keys, and a whole island of 1,800 people is now evacuated and uninhabitable. The Jaguars may move Sunday’s game to Tennessee if they have to.

Dolphins revenues soaring after stadium redo, if you have a lenient definition of “soaring”

Another weird article, from today’s Miami Herald:

Revenues at the stadium now known as Hard Rock were up 11 percent in the 2015 fiscal year, a sign that [Miami Dolphins owner Stephen] Ross’ half-billion dollar investment is already paying dividends.

That’s according to Fitch Ratings, a Big Three credit rating agency that recently announced that it has affirmed South Florida Stadium LLC’s BBB (“investment grade”) credit rating.

That’s potentially really interesting, since one of the big questions in stadium finance debates is how much new revenue a team can actually collect from a new or renovated stadium. Much of the Dolphins’ stadium renovations — new seating, upgraded suites, and new concessions facilities — were completed in time for the 2015 season, even if the new roof canopy wasn’t ready until this season, so let’s project out an 11% revenue increase and see what that means in actual dollars. Yo, Forbes, what do you have for annual Dolphins revenues?screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-54-05-amTeam revenues had been going up $5-10 million a year in prior years, but that’s still a sizable jump of $78 million in a two-year span, which would be more than enough to make the payments on Ross’s $350 million stadium renovation cost, especially when more than half of that is really being paid by the NFL. Why, if Ross hadn’t rebuilt his stadium, he’d be muddling along like — who’s next on the Forbes list, the Green Bay Packers? Let’s check them out:

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-10-00-51-amHuh. What about a team toward the bottom of the revenue barrel, like the Oakland Raiders?

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-10-02-54-amYou see the problem here? Every NFL team is doing dramatically better the last couple of years, thanks largely to the league’s lucrative new TV deals. Forbes doesn’t break down stadium revenue vs. overall revenue, unfortunately, but it’s clear that even if the Dolphins are seeing an 11% jump in venue revenue, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to those annual TV checks.

None of which is to say that Ross shouldn’t have done the renovations, or that they’re not nicer for fans, or even that we should care one way or the other what Ross does with his own money, and the NFL’s. (Well, we can still care about whether the renovations are nicer for fans.) But this is another data point in favor of “new or renovated stadiums have a more modest impact on fan spending than you might think,” which is a lesson that everyone needs to remember when talk starts up of a team owner’s “need” for a new stadium.

Stadium openings in Minnesota, Miami offer ear-splitting noise, fears of Zika and hurricanes

It’s almost football season, which means it’s time for the debut of new and/or newly renovated stadiums. In Minnesota, the Vikings‘ new $1.1 billion dome (nearly all of it funded with public money) opened for a preseason game on Sunday, and it was really really loud in there:

But several Vikings players compared its volume favorably to the Metrodome after a preseason game, and initial acoustic readings topped out at 114 decibels during the 23-10 win over the San Diego Chargers.

That’s up from 105 decibels at a soccer match the week before, and about the same as the team averaged at the old Metrodome. So not out of the ordinary, but still, that’s way louder than the average stadium, and potentially ear-damaging, says WCCO:

U.S. Bank Stadium could be the loudest stadium Minnesota has ever seen. The Minnesota Vikings website says the roof on U.S. Bank Stadium features more “acoustically reflective material” and “should make the stadium louder” than the Metrodome.

A local radio station measured the sound during the soccer match at U.S. Bank Stadium reaching over 105 decibels. HealthPartners says that is ten times louder than the volume at an average NFL stadium.

Dr. Geddes says any sound over 85 decibels can damage tiny cells inside the ear. Even if your ears stop ringing after a loud event, you could have problems down the line.

“It’s not necessarily that you go home with permanent hearing loss after one-time visit, but over an extended period you may have noise-induced hearing loss,” Dr. Geddes said.

Dr. Geddes says it’s important to wear ear plugs during loud games.

I can’t tell from the coverage whether this was loud crowd noise or loud amplified music and such. But either way: It’s loud, which is what the Vikings intended, so wear protection.

And speaking of protection, the Miami Dolphins unveil their $350 million stadium renovations on Thursday (most of privately funded by owner Stephen Ross, though he’s still trying to get more public money retroactively), and have spent the runup busily spraying everything in sight for Zika-carrying mosquitoes, and hoping they don’t get hit by a hurricane.

If anyone here went to the Vikings game or goes to the Dolphins game and has any less apocalyptic reviews, please share them in comments.

Three sports venues get new corporate names that you’re going to forget immediately

Lots of old sports venues getting new names this week!

The price tags on the Buffalo deal was $40 million for seven years; no money changed hands in Charlotte, obviously, while the Dolphins declined to say how much they got for 18 years of their stadium name. I’m guessing not much, since nobody is going to remember this corporate name any better than the last five or six, but maybe since they just did a renovation, people will think of it as a new building with a new name?

Anyway, the fact that naming rights are worth more for a brand-new, nameless venue continues to be an incentive for teams to demand them. It’s probably not the best thing from an environmental sustainability standpoint that teams and cities are building stadiums partly just to act as giant billboards, but I can’t complain too much so long as it does allow them to fob off some costs on another sucker.

Dolphins, Hurricanes say stadium will definitely be ready by opening day, unless it isn’t

Miami Dolphins execs say it’s categorically untrue that their renovated stadium may not be ready in time for opening day in September:

The reports that the stadium won’t be ready for football until November are incorrect. Getting a project of this scale done in this timeframe is unprecedented and the contractor is working diligently on a 24/7 basis to complete the canopy structure.  While we will still be doing some “non-football critical” elements and final touches into the season similar to Phase 1 last year, at this point in the process we still expect to be ready to play football September 1.

Note that this isn’t a “we’ll be 100% done” statement, more a “you’ll be able to watch football and we’ll be able to play it” statement, which leaves lots of possibility for a Wrigley Field 2015 scenario where the stadium is a partial construction site for a couple of months, though hopefully at least the Dolphins owners will make sure the first thing they finish is the restrooms. But at least nobody’s worried about having to actually move games to other venues—

You know, maybe it’s best not to assume anything. Good luck, Miami!

Guy on TV says renovated Dolphins stadium may not be ready until November

File this under “stuff that sports media personalities say when interviewed by other sports media personalities” for now, but former Miami sports talk radio host Hank Goldberg says the Miami Dolphins‘ stadium overhaul is in a “real dicey situation,” with renovations possibly not complete in time for the team’s home opener, and “there are some who say that the stadium may not be ready until November.”

Could we be looking at a potential Hartford Yard Goats situation here, but in the NFL? Dolphins execs have repeatedly insisted that the stadium work is on schedule and will be completed in time for the regular season opener; the team’s stadium website doesn’t offer a construction cam, so we can’t even try to eyeball it ourselves. The fallback plan would presumably be playing Dolphins (and University of Miami) games in Orlando for a month or two, which would be bad since that’s three and a half hours from Miami, but we’ll cross that bridge once this problem is sourced to someone other than “there are some who say.”

NFL gives three Super Bowls to cities with new stadiums, implies, “Keep ’em coming”

The NFL awarded the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Super Bowls to Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles yesterday, continuing its policy of using the big game as a reward to cities and teams with new or significantly renovated stadiums. Or as Rams owner Stan Kroenke said following the decision, “I think they are telling the communities and the owners who stick their necks out that it’s worthwhile.”

The most important target of the announcement, then, isn’t the three cities that will now get the questionable benefit of hosting the NFL’s annual week-long road show, but those that are being wooed with that dubious carrot. Right now most of the reporting is on how New Orleans and Tampa Bay were snubbed because their stadiums aren’t as shiny as the cities that got the nod, but it’ll be interesting to see how this plays into future coverage of stadium campaigns — already, San Diego Union Tribune chief Chargers stadium cheerleader Kevin Acee has written that the possibility of getting a Super Bowl shouldn’t be the reason to vote for a new stadium, but really he means that you should vote for a new stadium regardless, so all remains right with the world.

Interestingly, there’s no reporting yet that I can see out of Las Vegas on the Super Bowl decision, but that may be because they’re too busy covering yesterday’s conflicting comments on a potential Oakland Raiders move from owner Mark Davis (“This is the real deal. If Las Vegas can come through, we’re going to be there”) and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (“It’s very premature at this point. Until we have more information, it’s pure speculation”). This could be just everyone playing their role — in terms of using Vegas as leverage in hopes of drumming up stadium subsidies from Oakland, Davis is bad cop, Goodell is good cop — or it could be a sign of deeper rifts among league owners over whether Davis should get to bolt from a bigger market to a smaller one in exchange for a lucrative (to him) stadium deal, and on what terms. We won’t know for sure until the next ESPN postmortem, I expect.

Florida to again consider $100m in sports tax kickbacks for projects already being built regardless

It’s time again for the Florida legislature to vote on the dumbest sports subsidies ever, wherein the state gets to hand out money from sales taxes to any sports organization that asks, to pay for venue upgrades they’re doing anyway, just because Florida, man. This year’s three candidates are the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Miami Dolphins, and Daytona International Speedway, which are set to receive a total of $210 million over 30 years (about $100 million in present value); the state Department of Economic Opportunity insists that Florida taxpayers will get a return on their investment via increased economic activity, though given that the work is already underway (in the speedway’s case, actually completed) whether or not the team owners get the money, it’s hard to see how this could be true.

It’s all mind-numbingly idiotic, and should be laughed out of the legislature in a sane world. Instead, naturally, we have legislators only thinking it’s a bad idea because Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria ripped them off once:

“I personally have an issue where taxpayer money is being used to fund billionaires,” [House Economic Development & Tourism Chairman Rep. Frank] Artiles said. “If [Marlins owner Jeffrey] Loria actually tries to sell the Miami Marlins, he has a major windfall on the back of taxpayers.”

That Loria, he just ruined it for everybody.

Buccaneers’ state subsidy request rejected for failing to fill out forms, will try again next year

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had their request for $1 million a year in state subsidies for their stadium renovations on top of $29 million in city subsidies rejected by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. How come? They failed to fill out all the forms:

“Due to the overall timing of our stadium renovation project,” said Bucs COO Brian Ford, “certain required documents were not deliverable within the timeframe set forth by the Statute. We anticipate submitting a complete application during the next filing period.”

The Buccaneers’ 2016 application lacked documentation on how its new construction project will increase jobs and taxable sales.

We knew all that was missing when the Bucs’ owners submitted the application back in November, but they said they’d add it later. Now “later” apparently means for the 2017 round of state subsidy approvals, which given that the only difference would be getting their $1-million-a-year pipeline started a year later probably isn’t worth worrying about when you’re worth $4.7 billion.

Still in the running for state subsidies: The Jacksonville Jaguars (already getting $45 million from city), Miami Dolphins (around $75 million from city), and Daytona International Speedway (no local subsidies yet that I’m aware of). The benefit to the state of handing out this money is absolutely zero — not just because of the substitution effect or what have you, but because the Dolphins and racetrack renovations are already underway, so it’s not like they’re only going to happen if the state kicks in money. (And realistically, the Jaguars aren’t turning down their $45 million from Jacksonville, either.) This is absolutely loony, but it’s the same loony premise that the state has been pursuing for a couple of years now, so we shouldn’t be surprised or anything. Florida, man.