Jacksonville mayor tells council to “stop stalling” and vote on $200m Jaguars subsidy

If you were still wondering if Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan is really asking for public funding for “major” stadium renovations at the same time as he’s demanding $200 million in subsidies for a new development in his stadium parking lot, we now have confirmation that yes, he really is:

[Jacksonville city council finance committee chair Matt] Carlucci said a vote on Lot J should only happen if the development is bundled with stadium improvements and an extension of the Jags’ lease at TIAA Bank Field, set to expire in 2030. He said if the Jags were to leave Jacksonville in the future, the city would still be on the hook for Lot J.

“The stadium, Lot J and a lease extension are all linked together, and if we don’t do that right, the taxpayers will never forgive us,” Carlucci said.

That’s an excellent point, in that giving Khan $200 million without even asking for a lease extension seems, I believe the technical city-planning term is “nutso.” Though giving him $200 million for the Lot J development plus maybe an equal amount for stadium renovations at the same time would be equally nutso, unless he agrees to a lease extension until the 32nd century.

Carlucci is also asking for more time to evaluate the deal(s), as the Lot J plan is currently scheduled to be voted on by the Downtown Investment Authority tomorrow, discussed by the council on Thursday, and then voted on as early as next week. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who designed the deal, is having none of that “due diligence” balderdash:

Do you want to take your time to think about devoting hundreds of millions of public dollars to a private stadium development project, or do you want to be an NFL city? Don’t think too long, there are plenty of other cities who would love to … what’s that, which cities? I said to stop stalling!

Share this post:

Friday roundup: Raiders stadium runs short of tax dollars, Falcons owner makes film about how great Megatron’s Butthole is, and a Ricketts cries poor (again)

Well, that was certainly something to wake up to on a post-Thanksgiving Friday morning. Not sure how many U.S. readers are checking the internet today, but if that’s you and you’re looking for some non-Canadian stadium and arena news for your troubles, we have that too:

Share this post:

Jaguars owner demands “major” stadium renovations, or NFL will shoot this team

Remember just last week when we discussed the $200 million-ish that Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan wants to subsidize a giant development in his stadium’s parking lot? At the time it seemed like a perfect example of the new wave of sports subsidy demands: If you can’t get public cash for a new or renovated stadium, then ask for a sweet deal on some related project, since that’s easier to fudge the numbers on.

Until Monday, that is, when Jaguars president Mark Lamping told the Florida Times-Union that oh yeah, Khan wants a renovated stadium, too, or else:

“If you’re going to be making a long-term extension of a lease, there needs to be certainty that you’re going to have an NFL-quality stadium during the term of that extension,” Lamping said. “That’s obvious, no different than when the Jaguars came to Jacksonville.”

Lamping elaborated on this yesterday:

“If Shad [Khan] were to ask fellow NFL owners and the league to approve a lease extension right now, there are really two questions that are unanswered that need to be answered before you even consider that,” Lamping said.

Lamping said 75% of NFL owners have to vote “yes” to any lease extension. One of those outstanding items, Lamping said, would be asking: “Does the stadium meet the needs of NFL fans and other stakeholders?”

These statements move the goalposts in a bunch of ways at once: They declare that TIAA Bank Field, which was opened in 1994, is no longer “NFL-quality”; that without renovations, the Jaguars won’t sign a long-term lease; and that if they don’t, it’s not because Khan doesn’t want to, heaven forfend, it’s those nasty old NFL owners that won’t let him stay in a substandard stadium. And, of course, that the team could leave town without stadium upgrades — Lamping said he wanted to make sure “that there will be NFL football in Northeast Florida for generations to come,” proving that he’s well-versed in the Army Protection Racket sketch.

How much money Khan is looking for as part of a lease extension isn’t clear. He just got $45 million from the city of Jacksonville for stadium upgrades in 2015, and Lamping said what’s now needed is a “major stadium renovation,” so presumably it would require a lot more money than that. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has already responded that he’s willing to talk:

That could be just boilerplate of course we’re willing to sit down and talk, but it’s still a slightly alarming response to the local billionaire doubling down on his under-consideration $200 million subsidy demand by asking for maybe a couple hundred million more, or else he’ll leave town. Sorry, or else the other NFL owners will forcibly remove him and his team, maybe to London? Did Lamping neglect to mention London? Oh well, there’s always next week.

Share this post:

Friday roundup: Jacksonville council holds screaming match about Jaguars subsidy, Braves to charge county for fixing anything that wouldn’t fall out of stadium if you turned it over, plus Texas cricket wars!

I admit, there are some Fridays where I wake up and realize I have to do a news roundup and it just feels like a chore after a long week, and, reader, this was one of those Fridays. But then I looked in my inbox and there was a new Ruthie Baron “This Week In Scams” post for the first time in months, and now I am re-energized for the day ahead! Also despondent about how the fossil fuel industry is trying to catfish us all into thinking global warming isn’t real, but that’s the complex mix of emotions I have come to rely on “This Week In Scams” for.

And speaking of complex mixes of emotions, let’s get to this week’s remaining sports stadium and arena news:

  • Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on complaints that Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s $200 million development subsidy deal is being rushed through the city council: “What does that mean, it’s rushed? What does that mean? We are following the process we follow as a city. The administration has put forth legislation that includes the development of Lot J. The City Council will take their time and do their work. And then they’ll ultimately have to press a green button or a red button — a yes or a no.” Now I really want to know if the Jacksonville city council actually votes by pushing a green or red button, and if so what they do if a city councilmember has red-green color blindness, and oh hey, what happened at yesterday’s council hearing? “Finger-pointing, name-calling and what some members say was a big embarrassment for government”? Excellent, keep up the good work.
  • The Atlanta Braves owners have tapped their first $800,000 from their $70 million stadium repair fund, half of which is to be paid for by Cobb County, to pay for … okay, this Marietta Daily Journal article doesn’t say much about what it will pay for, except that one item is a new fence, and there was dispute over whether a fence counted as a repair (which the fund can be used for) or an improvement (which the team is supposed to cover). It also notes: “Mike Plant, president & CEO of Braves Development Company, described capital maintenance costs in 2013 by using the example of taking a building and turning it upside down. The items that would fall out of the building represent general maintenance, which is the responsibility of the Braves, while the items that do not fall out, such as pipes, elevators and concrete, fall under capital maintenance.” This raises all kinds of questions: Would elevators really not fall out of a stadium if you turned it upside down? What if furniture, for example, fell off the floor but landed on an interior ceiling? Would you have to shake the stadium first to see what was loose and just stuck on something? So many questions.
  • The Grand Prairie city council has approved spending $1.5 million to turn the defunct Texas AirHogs baseball stadium into a pro cricket stadium, which the Dallas Morning News reports “could cement North Texas as a top U.S. market for professional cricket.” (If this sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of nearby Allen, Texas, which thought about building a cricket stadium a couple of years ago but then thought better of it.) I went to a pro cricket match in the U.S. once, years ago, and there were maybe 100 people in the stands, and later the league apparently folded when none of the players showed up for a game, but surely this will go much better than that.
  • Angel City F.C. has announced it will be playing games at Banc of California Stadium, which made me look up first what league Angel City F.C. is in (an expansion team in the National Women’s Soccer League) and then what stadium named itself after Banc of California (the Los Angeles F.C. stadium that opened in 2018, I’m pretty sure at no public expense but you never know for sure with these things, and which is not supposed to be called Banc of California Stadium anymore since Banc of California bailed on its naming-rights contract in June) and then why Banc of California insists on spelling “Banc” that way (unclear, but if it was an attempt to put a clean new rebranding on the bank after its creation in a 2013 merger, that maybe didn’t go so well). So now, burdened with this knowledge, I feel obligated to share it — if nothing else, I suppose, it’s a nice little microcosm of life in the early Anthropocene, which may be of interest to future scholars if the cockroaches and microalgae can figure out how to read blogs.
  • The Richmond Times-Dispatch says that even if the Richmond Flying Squirrels get eliminated in baseball’s current round of minor-league defenestration, “Major League Baseball’s risk is our gain” if the city builds a new stadium that … something about “a multiuse strategy”? The editorial seems to come down to “Okay, the team may get vaporized, but we still want a new stadium, so full speed ahead!”, which is refreshing honesty, at least, maybe?
  • When I noted yesterday that the USL hands out new soccer franchises like candy, I neglected to mention that a lot of that candy quickly melts on the dashboard and disappears, so thanks to Tim Sullivan of the Louisville Courier Journal for recounting all the USL franchises that have folded over the years.
  • Six East Coast Hockey League teams are choosing to sit out the current season, and that’s bad news for Reading, home of the Reading Royals, according to Reading Downtown Improvement District chief Chuck Broad, who tells WFMZ-TV, “There is lots of spin-off, economic development, from a hockey game for restaurants and other businesses.” Yeah, probably not, and especially not during a time when hardly anyone would be eating at restaurants anyway because they’re germ-filled death traps, but why not give the local development director a platform to insist otherwise, he seems like a nice guy, right?
  • In related news, the mayor of Henderson, Nevada, says the new Henderson Silver Knights arena she’s helping build with at least $30 million in tax money is “a gamechanger” for downtown Henderson because “it’s nice to have locations where events can happen in our community.” This after she wrote a column for the Las Vegas Sun saying how great it will be for locals to be able to “attend a variety of events that create the vibrancy for which our city is known” — a vibrancy that apparently Henderson was able to pull off despite not having any locations where events can happen, because that’s just the kind of place Henderson is.
  • In also related news, the vice president of sales and marketing at New Beginnings Window and Door says that the Hudson Valley Renegades becoming a New York Yankees farm team could be great for his business (which, again, is selling windows and doors) because “the eyeballs are going to be there” for advertising his windows and doors to people driving up from New York City who might want to pick up some windows and doors to take home with them, okay, I have no idea what he’s talking about, seriously, can’t anybody at any remaining extant newspapers ask a followup question?
  • And in all-too-related news, here’s an entire WTSP article about the new hotel Tampa will have ready for February’s Super Bowl that never even mentions the possibility that nobody will be able to stay in hotels for the Super Bowl because Covid is rampaging across the state. Journalism had a good run.
Share this post:

Jerry Jones spews hot air from mouth over everyone about Cowboys stadium being safe for fans

There’ve been a bunch of small news items about plans for allowing fans to return to live sporting events — here’s an article on Britain considering allowing fans back into soccer matches, for example, and here’s one on the Carolina Panthers receiving special permission to host a couple thousand fans more than the legal limit because they asked nicely or something — but then Jerry Jones, as Jerry Jones will do, parachuted into the conversation and made it all about him and the crazy things coming out of his mouth.

The 78-year-old billionaire Dallas Cowboys owner has his own radio show, because of course he does, and yesterday he used it to say a whole lot about allowing more fans in the stands even while putting team coaches in a bubble after a player testing positive:

“I see a continued aggressive approach to having fans out there.”

“Aggressive” is the word for Jones’ approach to attendance this season: After five home games, the Cowboys are averaging just over 25,000 fans per game, by far the highest number in the NFL and about a fifth of the entire league’s attendance so far this season. (Jones called it “almost a third of the attendance in the NFL, the whole NFL in our games” and added, “I’m proud of that.”) Here’s what it looked like last week against the Steelers, with 31,700 fans in attendance:

There appear to be a decent number of empty seats between fan groups (though here it looks like fans were closer together on the field level), but also four of the five fans visible in the shot aren’t wearing their masks, which isn’t great. Especially with record-breaking levels of Covid cases in the state, is that something to be concerned about, Jerry?

“That’s not being insensitive to the fact that we’ve got COVID, an outbreak, some people say, ‘well maybe it is,’” said Jones. “No, not when you’re doing it as safe as we are and not when you’re having the results we’re having. We’ve had literally, literally we’ve had no one report that they’ve had contact and gotten any contact with COVID from coming to our football games; no one.”

According to the NFL, there haven’t been any reported cases of coronavirus transmission via Cowboys games or any games at all, with league spokesperson Brian McCarthy saying this week, “No local case clusters have been reported traced back to NFL games.” That’s tentatively good news, but also fairly inconclusive given that it takes a large number of cases before epidemiologists can spot a virus-spreading event, especially with contact tracers in Texas often not bothering to call people who’ve tested positive. The vast majority of superspreading events so far have been in indoor spaces, but it’s worth noting that one of the outliers is that Milan soccer match in February that infected a staggering 7,000 people. (Jones bragged that “our stadium is particularly suited for airiness, openness, air circulation,” though its roof has been closed three games out of five so far this year. Also, a whole lot of attending football games involves sharing spaces indoors.)

“Don’t let your guard down because tomorrow all of that could change,” Jones said. “And that’s a fact. Don’t let me think for one second we’ve got the key to how to not have this COVID outbreak. We don’t. But the things we’re doing are working here.”

“Working” is more than a bit of an overstatement, but it’s fair to say that Jones has been able to inch up in-person attendance week by week without catastrophe. That’s been pretty much the NFL’s entire approach to playing football amid the pandemic, and it’s a strategy that by design works fine until it suddenly does not. Right now the Cowboys and the league as a whole are playing Russian roulette, while soaring Covid case rates are putting more and more bullets into the chambers; with the season more than halfway over, there’s a chance that they make it through without sparking a major outbreak, but also a chance that some future game becomes Sturgis 2.0. The most important thing, Jerry Jones wants you to know, is to not let your guard down, but also not keep too many fans from sitting near each other at football games, because the price of liberty is eternal vigilance so long as it doesn’t interfere too much with selling tickets.

Share this post:

Jaguars owner’s $200m-plus subsidy demand would be massive money loser for Jacksonville, says council audit

The Jacksonville city council is meeting this Thursday to discuss Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s request for a couple-hundred-million-dollars-ish (more on that in a second) in subsidies and tax breaks for a ginormous development project in his football stadium’s Lot J, including a Live! entertainment district, office and residential buildings, a hotel, and new garages. When Khan proposed the deal last month, the subsidy figures were still kind of squishy; now the Florida Times-Union has crunched them and come up with this list:

  • $50 million in city cash toward building the entertainment district
  • $77.7 million in city “infrastructure improvements” (mostly the new parking structures)
  • a $15.1 million city contingency fund for cost overruns on the infrastructure
  • $12.5 million in cash after the hotel is completed
  • a $65.5 million no-interest loan to Khan’s development team
  • a complete tax exemption on the Live! district, which would be owned by the city and leased to Khans group for a nominal fee of $100 a year

This is hard to come up with a total for, since there are a lot of apples on that list and then two extremely large oranges, or maybe an orange and a quince. The first four items are pretty straightforward: $155.3 million in city cash.

The last two are trickier. The value of the no-interest loan depends on when Khan would have to pay it back and what interest rates on normal loans are right now (pretty darn low, but still nowhere near zero); if I’m calculating right, for a 30-year interest-free loan at a 3% discount rate, this would be worth about $40 million.

As for the Live! area’s property tax break, it would be 75,000 square feet, which is about 1.7 acres. The property tax rate in Jacksonville is about $11 a year per $1,000 in value; Texas Live!, the similar entertainment space next door to the Texas Rangers‘ stadium, cost about $200 million to build, which if we take that as the value for Jacksonville would be $2.2 million a year in savings, or about $30-40 million in present value. But that’s a lot of assumptions, so it could be less.

Regardless, it seems pretty clear that this is north of $200 million worth of city money that Khan is asking for. And what would the city get in return? Jacksonville’s Office of Economic Development estimated the city would get $1.69 back for each $1 it spent, which sounds good; City Council Auditor Kim Taylor estimated a return of 44 cents in revenue for each $1 spent, which sounds awful. The difference: The OED didn’t count either the $50 million in city cash payments or $92.8 million in garage costs (because reasons), and did count as a benefit the $50 million in private money that Khan’s group would be spending on the Live! project (which Taylor excluded as double-counting, since she already included the tax revenue that Live! would generate — and the city owning $50 million in private development but not getting any direct revenue from it isn’t really a net benefit).

Clearly somebody needs to sit down with a spreadsheet and figure out whose numbers are correct, and Councilmember Matt Carlucci is hoping to make that somebody the Downtown Investment Authority, which normally vets projects like this but would be excluded in the legislation being discussed. (“They were waived out and I’m trying to waive them back in,” Carlucci told the Times-Union.) Absent that, I would go with the above numbers to say that Jacksonville would be spending more than $200 million on a private development project by a billionaire NFL owner and getting back less than half that in new taxes — and that’s only if you assume that all Jacksonville Live! spending would be new, and not include some locals who otherwise would spend money elsewhere in the city.

We’ll have to check back in on Thursday to see how this goes. In the meantime, let’s enjoy some vaportecture of Jacksonville Live!:

There’s nothing too hilarious here, though I do appreciate how many people are just standing around impatiently or staring at their phones, which is indeed my experience of entertainment malls. Also, Tavern & Beer Hall features some unfortunate typography/lettering placement that makes it appear to be a Tavern & Beer Fiatt. And it’s sponsored by Professional Bull Riders for some reason? I guess it makes sense: When you think giant construction projects in football stadium parking lots funded with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax money because the city says it will pay off by resorting to dubious bookkeeping, you think professional bull.

Share this post:

Friday roundup: Charlotte approves $35m in soccer subsidies, NYC spends $5m on stadium upgrades for team that may disappear, NBA joins NFL in welcoming fans back to giant virus stew

Even after dispensing with that crazy San Jose Sharks move threat story, there’s a ton of leftover news this week. So put down that amazing Defector article about how the British have fetishized the Magna Carta as a declaration of citizen rights when it’s really just about how the king can’t unreasonably tax 25 barons, and let’s get right to it:

Share this post:

Friday roundup: San Diego okays $1B arena complex, Manfred floats neutral-site World Series, and that time the Twins ran stadium ads featuring a kid who’d died from cancer

I am way too tired this morning from waiting for tranches of vote counts to drop to write an amusing intro, so let’s get straight to the news:

Share this post:

Friday roundup: MLB billionaire owners cry poor, Rangers stadium reviews get worse and worse

What a week! I know I say that every week, but: What. A. Week. In addition to the World Series insanity, I spent some time this week writing an article about other ways that giant monopolistic cartels screw over regular folks, but it’s not up yet* so you’ll just have to find out about it next week (or keep refreshing my personal website, or follow me on Twitter or something).

In the meantime, there’s lots of sports stadium and arena news to keep you occupied:

  • NYC F.C. may have announced progress on its new soccer stadium this week while providing no indication of actual progress, but the Washington Football Team one-upped them when team president Jason Wright earned an entire NBC Sports article about their stadium plans by saying he didn’t even have a timeline for the process. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Republic likewise issued a statement on their new stadium construction plans that amounted to nothing (“I do have a hard hat in my trunk!” said team president Ben Gumpert, by way of news). At this rate, team owners will be able to get reporting on their stadium campaigns after denying they even want one — oh wait, we’ve gone there already.
  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says the league now has $8.3 billion in debt, $3 billion of it accrued during 2020’s pandemic season, which doesn’t actually tell you how well baseball is doing — presumably some of it was borrowed against future revenues from TV contracts and naming-rights deals and the like — but sounds impressive when you’re about to go into union contract talks. Also, notes Marc Normandin, that’s really only a $100 million loss per team, which isn’t an unfathomably huge sum for the billionaires who own most teams; plus we have to take Manfred’s word on that debt figure, and it already doesn’t include things like teams’ ownership of regional sports networks. MLB owners, he writes, are “hoping, as they so often do, that you have no idea how anything works, and will just take them at their word. So that they can do things like, oh, I don’t know, decline the 2021 option on basically everyone with one in order to flood the free agent market with additional players they can then underbid on and underpay, claiming that this is all financially necessary because of all the debt, you see.” Or as we may start calling it soon, getting Brad Handed.
  • Philadelphia public schools lost $112 million in property tax revenues in 2019 that were siphoned off to tax breaks for developers, according to a new Good Jobs First study, nearly double their losses from just two years earlier. Good thing the 76ers‘ plan for an arena funded by siphoned-off property taxes was rejected, though there are more plans where that came from, so Philly schools should probably still hold onto their wallets.
  • One more review of the Texas Rangers‘ new stadium that team owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson got $500 million to help build because the old one lacked air-conditioning, this one from a fan who’s visited every stadium and arena in North America: “This would probably end up probably down near the bottom.” He added that the upper decks are too far from the field, the place is too dark, the scale is “ridiculous,” and on top of that fans were taking off their masks as soon as security is out of sight, which, yup.
  • Las Vegas has extended its negotiating window again for a new soccer stadium to lure an MLS team, which makes you wonder why they even bothered to set a window in the first place instead of just hanging out a shingle saying, “Have Stadium $$$, Inquire Within.”
  • Sports team owners make tons of “dark money” to political campaigns to try to get elected officials to support their interests, according to ESPN, though disappointingly their only real source is an unnamed NBA owner. But that source did say, “There’s no question,” in italics and everything, so you know they’re serious.
  • Maybe the NHL should just play games outdoors so they can allow in fans? There are dumber ideas, but they might want to figure out how to get fans to keep their damn masks on first.
  • There are some new renderings of the New York Islanders‘ luxury suites at their new arena, and I can’t stop puzzling over what that weird counter-like thing is in this one, or why the women are all wearing stiletto heels to an NHL game. I’ll never understand hockey!

*UPDATE: Now it’s up.

Share this post:

49ers owner spends $3m to unseat Santa Clara politicians who crossed him, says he’s promoting “diversity”

San Francisco 49ers owners the York family successfully won approval in 2012 to build a $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara with the city taking on much of the risk, but ever since then has butted heads continually with local government, clashing over insufficient team financial reports and how much taxes the team would pay and whether the Rolling Stones could set off fireworks and who gets to manage the stadium and whether the team could withhold rent when two exhibition games were canceled thanks to Covid. What’s a poor sports billionaire family to do? Buy a new local government, of course!

[Jed] York has contributed $3 million to Citizens for Efficient Government and Full Voting Rights, a PAC whose stated mission is to bring diversity to the city council​…

”It would be unusual for a sports franchise owner or let’s just say any corporation or business to spend this kind of money even in a mayor’s race,” John Pelissero, the senior scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, said​ Thursday​. “Instead this has all the appearance of attempting to buy four city council seats just to improve the private interests of the 49ers.”

While the PAC is organized to promote diversity, the candidates it’s supporting this year go extremely white guy, Indian-American guy, Indian-American woman, Korean-American guy; they’re looking to unseat a white woman and a woman so white she has a Celtic knot in her campaign page banner design, plus capture two open seats. So that’s either a plus or a minus depending on whether you’re looking at racial or gender diversity, and of course assuming by “diversity” you mean “access to just enough power for non-white-guys to not make white guys uncomfortable,” but that’s a battle that was lost decades ago.

Anyway, the issue here is less whether York is backing diverse (or good) candidates than whether he’s trying to unseat elected officials who are a pain in his butt by throwing money around. Three million dollars may not be a lot to an NFL owner, but it’s a fortune in small-city political circles: SFist notes that one of the incumbents (it links to a dead campaign finance page, so we can’t tell which one) has only raised a total of $6,234 this year. And whether or not York is successful — and whether or not the challengers he’s supporting would necessarily be beholden to his interests — he’s certainly making a public statement that anyone who clashes with him will be firmly in the crosshairs of his wealth come election time. If that’s enough to get current or future local pols antsy enough to get them looking to cut deals with him rather than taking a hard line, that should prove money well spent.

Share this post: