Friday roundup: Terrible concerts, new Yankees garage costs, and why Phoenix’s ex-mayor is glad he didn’t build a Cardinals stadium

Welcome to the first-ever weekly stadium news roundup to kick off with a review of a terrible Ed Sheeran concert:

  • The Minnesota Vikings‘ $1 billion stadium still sounds like crap for concerts, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune in its review of an Ed Sheeran show last Saturday: “Anytime Sheeran slapped out a beatnik-funky drum beat on his guitar and put it on repeat, such as ‘New Man’ or the pre-encore finale ‘Sing,’ it sounded hopelessly mucky and un-funky, sort of like a kitchen-sink garbage disposal trying to clear out gallons of half-dried concrete.” Time for Zygi Wilf to demand a new one yet? Only 28 years to go on their lease!
  • Speaking of concerts, CBC News has a chart of top touring acts that have skipped Saskatoon while playing in other cities in recent years — ostensibly because Saskatoon’s arena is too old (30 years! even older than Ed Sheeran!) and too far out of the center of town and has too antiquated a rigging system — but mostly it’s a reminder of how many arena acts are on their last legs: Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand and Black Sabbath all played other Canadian cities but not Saskatoon? How will the city ever prepare for the future! (Also, Saskatoon’s bigger problem might just be that it’s Canada’s 19th-largest city — I bet Paul and Barbra didn’t play Lubbock, Texas, either, which is about the same population.)
  • The Miami Dolphins stadium’s revenues were up 39.7% last year, and expenses were only up 31%, so guess owner Stephen Ross’s $350 million renovation is paying off (though a large chunk of that was actually paid for by Miami-Dade County and by the NFL). It makes it all the more puzzling why the county handed over additional subsidies last summer that could be worth as much as $57.5 million, but actually, since the stadium renovations were already done and paid for by then, it would be puzzling even if Ross were losing money on the thing. Florida, man.
  • Here’s a fun Guardian article on what makes a good soccer stadium. Not sure there’s one takeaway other than “Design them to be good places to watch the match with seats close to the action, and try to make them fit into their immediate surroundings,” but that’s more than most U.S. stadium designers do, anyway.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores still want an MLS expansion team in Detroit, and while they’ve determined that removing the Lions stadium’s fixed roof and building a retractable one like MLS asked would be prohibitively expensive, they have offered to spend $95 million on a training field and other soccer fields throughout the city, though Crain’s Detroit notes that it’s “unclear” if that spending “would use any public funding.” If it would, this will be an interesting test in how badly MLS wants its teams to play in soccer-friendly outdoor stadiums, and how much it just wants new owners who’ve shown they can extract cash from their local municipalities.
  • Hey, check it out, it’s an NPR report on how Worcester, Massachusetts has been undergoing a boom in development and influx of new residents thanks to its cheap rents compared to nearby Boston, to the point where some locals are worried that they’ll be priced out. Is it too late for Worcester to take back that $100 million it’s spending on a Red Sox Triple-A stadium that was supposed to be needed to put the city on the map?
  • Who says that new stadiums don’t transform the areas around them? Why, the SkinnyFats restaurant near the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium just added a new craft beer tap room! That’s gotta be worth $750 million.
  • The deal for the new New York Yankees stadium included new parking lots that were mostly to be paid for by a nonprofit shell corporation that was to own them and collect parking revenues, but now that it turns out nobody wants to pay $45 to park for Yankees games when there are plenty of cheaper parking options plus multiple subway and commuter rail lines nearby, the company is $100 million in default on rent and taxes to the city, with no real hopes of ever paying it back. I should probably add this to the “city costs” section of my Yankee Stadium subsidy spreadsheet, but I don’t have time this morning, so just mentally note that city taxpayers have now put up almost $800 million toward a stadium that was sold as involving “no public subsidies,” with state and federal subsidies putting the total taxpayer bill at nearly $1.3 billion.
  • Former Phoenix mayor Skip Rimsza says one of his proudest accomplishments is not building a downtown stadium for the Arizona Cardinals, since instead the city got to use the land to build a biomedical campus that provides way more jobs and economic activity than a football stadium. Opportunity cost in action! I’d love to write an article on all the things that cities didn’t get to build because they focused on erecting new sports facilities, but sadly my Einstein-Rosen Bridge portal is on the fritz.

Miami-Dade offers Dolphins extra $57.5m in subsidies, just because

Not only did Miami-Dade county commissioners approve subsidies for a new Miami Dolphins practice field last night, but they added an additional ten years of subsidies that could be worth as much as $57.5 million. In exchange, the Dolphins owners will do absolutely nothing:

As the discussion on that proposal began Tuesday afternoon, Commissioner Barbara Jordan, whose district includes Hard Rock, introduced last-minute legislation that dramatically changed the proposal by extending the existing deal for another 10 years. While the original proposal could have earned the Dolphins an extra $12 million or so, the extension tacked $57.5 million onto the potential payout through 2046…

There was no explanation from Jordan on why the richer stadium deal was revealed minutes before the commission vote.

The Dolphins owners haven’t yet accepted the deal, so presumably Jordan and her fellow commissioners (all but one of whom present, commission chair Esteban “Steve” Bovo, voted for the plan) figured they’d sweeten the pot to encourage the Dolphins to move their training facility from Broward County to Miami-Dade by offering up a bunch of subsidies at a future time when most of them will no longer be in office, if they’re even alive. (And if Miami-Dade is even above sea level by then.) Because who can put a price on this:

“They basically live at the training facility,” [Dolphins CEO Tom] Garfinkel said after the 10-1 vote. “Probably 10 months out of the year. They have most of their meals there. There’s a lounge there. There’s a barber there.”

A barber! Think of all the lucrative income taxes on barber tips that Miami-Dade would be missing out on if the Dolphins practiced in Broward! Or would, if local income taxes weren’t unconstitutional in Florida! But still!

Since the future subsidies are dependent on how many “major events” are held at the Dolphins’ main stadium, there’s almost no way whoever owns the Dolphins in the 2040s will actually get $57.5 million out of this deal, unless the NFL is playing ten Super Bowls a year by then. (Which they might have resorted to by then — there are stranger predictions.) Still, it’s a significant additional gift to a pro sports team owner in exchange for nothing more than the possibility that maybe it’ll entice him to have his team practice on your side of the county line. Marlins stadium debacle or no, Florida men are gonna keep Floridaing.

Miami-Dade to vote on $7.5m in tax breaks for Dolphins practice field, somewhere David Beckham is softly weeping

The Miami-Dade county commission is set to vote today on a pair of new subsidies to the Miami Dolphins — one for about $7.5 million in property-tax breaks for a new training facility, the other for bonus payments to the team’s owners for hosting major sporting events at their stadium that could be worth as much as $11 million, but probably won’t be.

The training facility subsidy first: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is talking about building a $50 million training camp in Miami Gardens to replace their old one in Davie, and since that’s a move across county lines, he’s asking to be paid $500,000 in property-tax breaks by their prospective new county for doing so. Paying to steal a handful of seasonal jobs from your neighbor is just nifty, says Miami-Dade’s county mayor:

Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the Dolphins incentives won’t boost South Florida’s economy, but will give a lift to Miami-Dade.

“I think it’s a good plan,” he said. “It won’t be any new jobs in the area, but it will be new jobs in Miami.”

That’s honest! Disturbing, but honest!

As for the other subsidy being voted on today, it’s an expansion of the deal signed by Miami in 2014 in which the county pays Ross a bonus for every “major” sporting event held at the Dolphins’ stadium: a Super Bowl earns the team $4 million, for example, while international soccer friendlies earn $750,000. The total amount per year is currently capped at $5 million, and county commissioner Barbara Jordan wants to raise that by $750,000, which in present value over 30 years would be worth a little over $11 million.

Except that the Dolphins have been nowhere near reaching the cap yet, since major events in Miami have been few and far between:

So far, according to the county’s budget office, the Dolphins have requested $750,000 bonus payments for only two events: the 2016 Orange Bowl college football game and the 2017 El Clasico international soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

So the only time this new cap will come into play, really, is if there’s a year where Miami hosts a Super Bowl and a couple of major soccer games, and how often is that going to happen?

Still, if you want to take away from this that Miami elected officials are totally chill about handing over cash to an NFL team to build a training facility but keep giving the side-eye to anything David Beckham proposes for an MLS stadium, you wouldn’t be wrong. Reasonable people may disagree about which side of that equation needs fixing, but it’s a clear sign that where football remains an 800-pound gorilla, soccer is at best maybe 100, 150 pounds.

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.”