Friday roundup: Dolphins owner seeks Formula One tax break, Tacoma okays soccer subsidies, plus vaportecture from around the globe!

Happy coronavirus panic week! What with stadiums in Europe being closed to fans and stadium workers in the U.S. testing positive for the virus, it’s tough to think of much right now other than what song to wash your hands to for 20 seconds (this is my personal preference). But long after we’re done with our self-quarantines, the consequences of sports venue spending will live on, so to the week’s news we go:

  • Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is seeking a sales-tax exemption for tickets to Formula One racing events at his stadium, saying that without it, Miami might not get a Grand Prix. The tax break is expected to cost the state between $1.5 million and $2 million per event, but Formula One officials say each race would generate an economic impact of more than $400 million, and what possible reason would they have to lie about a thing like that?
  • The Tacoma city council voted 8-1 on Monday to approve spending on a $60 million, 5,000-seat stadium for the Reign F.C. women’s pro soccer team. According to a letter of intent approved by the council, the city will provide $15 million, while the city parks agency will provide $7.5 million more, with perhaps another $20 million to come from federal tax credits for investing in low-income communities. The parks body still has to vote on the plan on Monday as well; given that Metro Parks commissioner Aaron Pointer — who is also a former Houston Astro and a brother of the Pointer Sisters — said he doesn’t see “really any benefits at all” for the city or its parks, it’s fair to say that the vote there will be more contentious than the one in the city council.
  • Brett Johnson, the developer behind a proposed $400 million development in Pawtucket centered around a pro soccer stadium, says he has lots of investors eager to parks their capital gains in his project tax-free under the Trump administration’s Opportunity Zone program, but it might take a while to work out all the details because reasons. But, he added, “My confidence is very high,” and confidence is what it’s all about, right?
  • Nashville’s Save Our Fairgrounds has filed for a court injunction to stop work on a new Nashville S.C. stadium, on the grounds that no redevelopment of the state fairgrounds can take place without a public voter referendum. This brings the total number of lawsuits against the project to … umpteen? I’m gonna go with umpteen.
  • There’s now an official lawsuit against the Anaheim city council for voting on a Los Angeles Angels stadium land sale without sufficient public meetings. The People’s Homeless Task Force is charging that holding most of the sale talks in private violated the state’s Brown Act on transparency; the city’s lawyers responded that “there could be a myriad of reasons” why the council was able to vote on the sale at a single meeting in December despite never discussing it in public before that, though they didn’t suggest any specific reasons.
  • Wondering what vaportecture looks like outside of North America? Here’s an article on Watford F.C.‘s proposed new stadium, though if you aren’t an Athletic subscriber you’ll be stuck with just the one image, though given that it’s an image of Watford fans stumbling zombie-like into the stadium out of what appears to be an open field, really what more do you need?
  • There are some new renderings of the St. Louis MLS team‘s proposed stadium, and once again they mostly feature people crossing the street, not anything having to do with watching soccer. Are the clip art images of people throwing their hands in the air for no reason temporarily out of stock or something?
  • Here are photos of a 31-year-old arena being demolished, because America.
  • The Minnesota Vikings‘ four-year-old stadium needs $21 million in new paneling on its exterior, because the old paneling was leaking. At least the stadium’s construction contractors will be footing the bill, but it’s still an important reminder that “state of the art” isn’t necessarily better than “outmoded,” especially when it comes to new and unproven designs.
  • And speaking of COVID-19, here’s an article on how travel restrictions thanks to the new coronavirus will cost the European tourism industry more than $1 billion per month, without wondering what else Europeans (and erstwhile travelers to Europe from other continents) will do with the money they’re saving on plane tickets and hotel rooms. Where’s my article on how pandemics are a boost to the hand sanitizer and canned soup industries?

Miami stadium sites are “future Atlantis” thanks to climate change, teams to deal with this by ditching plastic cups

As you may have noticed, I’m slightly interested in the massive human-created changes to Earth’s climate that are going to make many major cities uninhabitable soon via increased heat or sea level rise or both, so this CNBC article on sports venues at risk from climate change promised to check all of my boxes:

  • Florida International University climate professor Henry Briceno predicts that the Miami Heat arena will flood with only two feet of sea level rise (expected as soon as 2060), while the Dolphins‘ stadium will flood at a three-foot rise. As for the site of David Beckham’s new Inter Miami stadium, Briceno remarked, “I don’t know if those guys know that they are building in the future Atlantis.”
  • The San Diego Padres‘ stadium flooded in 2017, and the Quad Cities River Bandits stadium was made inaccessible thanks to flooding last year, and while both of those were because of torrential rains and not sea-level rise, more and more severe storms are expected to be a consequence of a warmed planet as well.
  • Disappointingly, the article doesn’t talk much about what will happen to sports teams once the cities they play in are largely uninhabitable as a result of climate change — Phoenix isn’t going to be underwater ever, but it could be too hot to live in as soon as 2050.

And the article then pivots to what sports teams are doing to help combat climate change — including a long set of quotes from Allen Hershkowitz, the staff environmentalist the New York Yankees hired after he helped MLB come up with programs to claim “green” status and then called commissioner Bud Selig “the most influential environmental advocate in the history of sports” — though only one specific initiative is mentioned: The Dolphins are replacing disposable plastic cups with (presumably reusable) aluminum ones. That sounds great, but while plastics are indeed a pollution nightmare, in terms of carbon footprint they’re not all that much better for the planet than alternatives (reusability is more important than what cups are made of). And there’s no mention of what the carbon footprint was of these teams’ repeated building and upgrading of new stadiums, which is kind of a big omission when nearly a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions are related to construction.

The best way to keep sports from drowning themselves, really, would be for teams to play in whatever stadiums they already have and for fans to stay out of their cars and instead stay home and watch on the internet listen on the radio. Or maybe just play fewer games. Somebody ask Hershkowitz about that, maybe?

Friday roundup: Panthers owner donated to Charlotte officials during stadium lobbying, St. Louis MLS didn’t need $30m in state money after all, and what time the Super Bowl economic impact rationalizations start

Happy Friday, and try not to think about how much you’re contributing to climate change by reading this on whatever electronic device you’re using. Though at least reading this in text doesn’t require a giant server farm like watching a video about stadiums would — “Streaming one hour of Netflix a week requires more electricity, annually, than the yearly output of two new refrigerators” is one of the more alarming sentences I’ve read ever — so maybe it counts as harm reduction? I almost linked to an amusing video clip to deliver my punchline, wouldn’t that have been ironic!

And now, the news:

Here’s how much money Miami taxpayers will throw at next year’s Super Bowl

Miami is hosting the Super Bowl in February, and the Miami Herald has a rundown of how much local governments are paying for the privilege:

  • $4 million from Miami-Dade County to the Dolphins for hosting the game, as required by team owner Stephen Ross’s weird lease provision.
  • $3.8 million from the city of Miami for “police, firefighters, code inspectors, public works and solid waste workers to work Super Bowl-related events.”
  • $300,000 from the city’s Downtown Development Authority for “permanent LED lighting on the Baywalk.”
  • $1.2 million in fee kickbacks and $400,000 in cash from the city of Miami Beach for, you know, stuff.

That amounts to $9.7 million, but the Herald says the total public cost will be “nearly $20 million over time,” so clearly there are some costs the paper didn’t itemize. (Either that or the Herald cut its calculator budget.) Given that previous estimates of how much new tax revenue cities get from hosting the Super Bowl have ranged from zero to $5 million, this would appear to be a bad investment for Miami’s local governments, but don’t worry, they have ideas for how to earn it back:

“It also helps us attract other events,” [Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau COO Rolando Aedo] said. “We’re going to be vying for the World Cup.”

Alrighty then. At least Miami’s expense has provided us with some truly awesome renderings, including a “fireworks extravaganza in the sky,” because don’t you just hate those boring old fireworks that sit on the ground?

Florida man proposes eliminating world’s most confusing sports subsidy slush fund

The history of Florida’s state-level sports subsidy program is a weird one: Back in 2014, the state legislature, tired of dealing with constant competing asks from all of the state’s sports owners, set up a ranking system for teams to request a cut of $12 million a year in sales tax money. The next year, the panel doing the ranking approved all of the applicants, which totally defeated the purpose because there wasn’t enough money in the sales tax pool to fund all of them; the year after that, the state was asked to fund three projects that were already underway regardless of whether they got the money. It’s such a mess that no money has ever actually been approved, which while kind of a silver lining if you believe the numbers showing that the state massively loses money on these subsidies.

Anyway, that all brings us to today, with some Florida legislators trying to just eliminate the sports subsidy program once and for all, and presumably reclaim the money for other uses:

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, with little comment Monday, backed the latest proposal (SB 414) by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, to repeal a controversial 2014 program that — despite never being used — lays out steps for the stadium money to become available.

“Should the Legislature decide at some point it did want to fund a particular facility for a particular purpose, the Legislature could always go back and do it the way they’ve always done it, and that is through a direct appropriation,” Lee said. “But to use this process as cover for an appropriation from this Legislature for a facility that can’t prove economic benefit, to me is just kind of a ruse.”

Lee noted that the first four applicants way back in 2015 — the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Orlando S.C, and the Daytona International Speedway — all continued with their stadium projects even after the state rejected approving funding, which has “done the best job of anybody to make the point that these aren’t really economic development incentives,” since any economic development happened exactly the same even without the subsidies.

Of course, as Lee also noted, Florida can always approve stadium funds on a case-by-case basis, as it has done in the past. It’s hard to know what to think of this: Eliminating a stadium slush fund normally sounds positive, but if the sheer stupidity of the state funding process has dissuaded team owners from even asking for money … it’s a tough call. If I were a Florida state legislator, I’d probably call Stu Sternberg and ask what he thinks of the bill, and then vote the opposite.

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.