MLS to St. Louis: Sorry about your football team, you know we play “football” too, right?

It’s official: With the St. Louis Rams gone, every other sport in town (or not in town) is hoping to grab a piece of that $477 million in public stadium money that the NFL team turned down. Just ten days after the Rams announced their move to Los Angeles, MLS commissioner Don Garber sent a letter to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon expressing his sympathies and offering to provide St. Louis fans with some kind of football, anyway:

Garber in his letter, dated Friday, said he was surprised and disappointed at the Rams’ departure and “in the wake of recent developments” wanted to reaffirm his commitment to considering St. Louis as an expansion city.

“I look forward to working with you, your staff and local leaders to explore ownership candidates and to investigate viable stadium solutions to bring MLS to St. Louis,” Garber said in the letter.

Yeah, like Missourians are going to accept a whole different sport as a substitute for anoth —

A Florissant lawmaker who earlier offered up a sales tax financing plan for a new riverfront football stadium is now saying a similar idea could be used to bankroll a new soccer stadium in St. Louis.

State Rep. Keith English has introduced legislation that would put a tax of not more than one-tenth of one percent on the ballot in St. Louis and St. Louis County. A green light from voters could generate between $10 million and $15 million annually, he said.

Note that this plan would have to go before city and county voters, so would almost certainly fail, especially given that nobody thought a similar Rams vote could pass, and some people actually already liked the Rams. Still, mute those cheers that by losing the Rams St. Louis has at least saved $477 million — there are plenty of other sports leagues lining up for a shot at it. How long before the Cardinals‘ stadium is 20 years old?

St. Louis asks NFL to pay off remaining debt on Rams stadium, doesn’t hold collective breath

St. Louis City Board of Aldermen President Lewis E. Reed has sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asking the league to pay off the $36 million in remaining debt on the Jones Dome now that the Rams are moving to Los Angeles:

12321229_893924624061853_8661786470950347268_nLet’s be clear about one thing: This is never ever ever ever ever going to happen. Reed’s predecessors in public office signed a horrible deal agreeing to build a stadium for the Rams while letting the team move out before it was paid off if they wanted to (and could show it was no longer “state of the art,” which was always going to be a formality), so if Goodell replies to this in any way other than ineffectually trying to stifle a guffaw with the back of his hand, every human on earth, including Reed himself, will be stunned.

That said, as a way of publicly shaming the NFL by saying, “Guys, we built you a stadium, then you yanked our team away before we’d even paid the last installments, you suck,” it’s fine enough. Or would be if the NFL had any capacity for shame. Maybe it’ll at least get St. Louis some public expressions of sympathy.

L.A. debates Rams stadium’s impact on economy, planes crashing

L.A. Weekly has a long piece up about how the new Rams stadium development will affect the future of Inglewood, and answers, “Reply hazy, ask again later“:

We’re talking about roughly 25 events year — a bump for the Inglewood tax base but probably not much of an economic stimulus on its own.

No, the real economic kick will come from the office space/housing/God-knows-what-else components of the project, and we really don’t know the scope of that yet.

Also, the story notes, this could increase the pace of gentrification in Inglewood, or it might not, either of which could be good, or bad, depending on your perspective.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News has its own long piece about how the FAA is working with the Rams to make sure the new stadium doesn’t mess with radar and cause planes to crash, which is actually a concern. “You’re trying to do the exact same thing that you do with a stealth airplane,” one aeronautics professor told Bloomberg, which doesn’t sound like something that would increase the cost of the stadium at all. It is a really, really good thing that Stan Kroenke is covering the construction costs on this one, because the way things are going, we could conceivably end up seeing the first $3 billion stadium in history.

Billionaire Kroenke borrowing billion dollars to build L.A. stadium, because why not?

Everybody who’s been talking about how Rams owner Stan Kroenke was in the best position to build an L.A. football stadium because he had the most money, you can shut up now:

Rams owner Stan Kroenke is planning to borrow about $1 billion from JP Morgan Chase & Co. to help fund the proposed Inglewood stadium, which could cost nearly $3 billion.

That’s right: Kroenke is getting a big piece of his stadium construction budget by going to a bank, same way as Dean Spanos and Mark Davis would have in Carson. Not because he doesn’t have cash — he’s worth $7.5 billion, though some of that may be locked up in his cherished vintage typewriter collection or something — but because when interest rates are this low, you’d be crazy to use your own money when you can use a bank’s.

For the rest of the construction cost, Kroenke can use $200 million in NFL G-4 money, and whatever he gets from the sale of naming rights and PSL sales once he’s allowed to sell those next January (or once the San Diego Chargers agree to move in with the Rams, whichever comes first), and whatever he gets from either Spanos or Davis if they agree to move in with him, and the remainder will have to come from out of his bank account. Most of the construction bills won’t come due for a while, so he can cross that bridge when he comes to it — in the meantime, he has $1 billion to play with.

In related news, Fivethirtyeight has a good explainer on why moving to L.A. isn’t as lucrative for NFL teams as for teams in other sports. It’d be nice if they tried to figure out how an estimated $500 million increase in team value (per economist Victor Matheson) is supposed to come close to paying off a $3 billion stadium plus relocation fee cost, but I tried to do it and couldn’t make head or tail of it, and Nate Silver isn’t that much smarter than me, right? (Hi, Nate!)

Rams, Chargers close to agreement on L.A. stadium share, say cats

Unsourced reports! We got more unsourced reports about what’s going to happen to the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders!

And sure enough, execs of the Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams (guess we should start calling them that now, huh?) met yesterday, and afterwards issued this statement:

We have concluded our first meeting. We mutually have agreed not to publicly discuss details of this or any future meeting.

Okay, so that doesn’t sound like an agreement is imminent. But it could be! And sources are predicting it, and correct predictions can come from all kinds of sources!

In other news, NFL owners are saying that it was the pretty pictures that Stan Kroenke provided of his planned football theme park in Inglewood that swayed them to approve the Rams move, after initially leaning toward the shared Chargers/Raiders plan in Carson. If true, this is absolutely terrifying — not because the pictures aren’t pretty (as pictures of people wandering hand-in-hand through a futuristic dreamscape go, they’re top-notch), but because it means that NFL owners are susceptible to Calvin’s clear plastic binder. Me, I would have wanted to see some actual financial numbers, even if they were half made-up, but that’s not how these guys roll, apparently.

No, forcing relocating teams to pay off remaining stadium debt isn’t happening, or helpful

And then there’s this, from Deadspin:

Missouri senator Claire McCaskill says that she is drafting legislation that would require professional sports franchises that skip town prematurely to refund the public. St. Louis now has no NFL team, but incredibly, the city, county, and state still owe a combined $152 million to pay off the Edward Jones Dome…

The likelihood of a bill of this nature ever actually being passed, of course, is slim-to-none. But as a senator McCaskill wields enormous influence, and just the threat of legislation could be enough to compel professional sports leagues to do something that would reduce the brazen fleecing of cities and states.

Um, yeah. First off, let’s note (as Deadspin itself acknowledges) that McCaskill supported paying Rams owner Stan Kroenke $477 million toward a new stadium 20 years after building the Jones Dome with taxpayer money, so this is almost certainly playing to the crowd’s anger by threatening Kroenke with legislation that will never come to pass. (McCaskill also suggested that the NFL could be in violation of antitrust laws if it didn’t follow its own bylaws by forcing the Rams to stay in St. Louis, which, what?) Teams moving out of stadiums that aren’t finished being paid off is an easy thing to complain about, but when you think about it, it wouldn’t be any better a deal for St. Louis if they’d sold 20-year bonds and already paid them off faster rather than having another decade to go, so why should team owners’ responsibility to their cities be dependent on what kind of financing tools were used to borrow the money?

Though I should also note that if this somehow did become law, it would provide an easy way to ensure that teams stay put indefinitely: Just refinance every few years to push your stadium debt out into the future, like Robert Moses used to do with his bridges so he could keep on keeping toll money in perpetuity. Shh, don’t tell anyone I said it, maybe we can pull this off!

Stadium spending is bad for humans and other living things, Thursday edition

Happy National Notice That Stadium Subsidies Are A Bad Deal Day, everybody!

  • The Wall Street Journal notices that the soon-to-be-again Los Angeles Rams are set to join the San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors in building new sports venues without much in the way of public money, and declares this a trend, in California, at least. Though the authors then note that the Sacramento Kings got plenty of public cash, and the San Diego Chargers could yet get a bunch from that city, “despite a wealth of academic studies showing that stadiums and arenas are poor investments when it comes to economic development.” I’m not exactly sure what this all is supposed to add up to, but it does provide a nice roundup of the stadium landscape for anyone who’s been living under a rock.
  • The San Gabriel Valley Tribune asks if the new Rams stadium in Inglewood will provide a big economic boost to the region, and cites a couple of economists and the finance director of Foxborough, Massachusetts in answering, “Nah.” In particular, Vanderbilt’s John Vrooman replies: “The net local impact of a professional sports team is zero, if not negative sum, particularly for an NFL team playing in a monolithic space-eating stadium. … The local sports bars will probably rock, but most direct spending at the stadium stays at the stadium. The injection of new cash flow into the local economy is negligible because it’s coming at the expense of local spending someplace else. The indirect spin-offs are also small because most of the spending leaks out of the economy like a sieve and so the urban/regional multipliers are usually zero, zip … nada.” Stan Kroenke’s poor poor people are going to be awfully disappointed.
  • Milwaukee’s Fox6 looks at the “arena district” the Bucks are promising to create around their new taxpayer-subsidized arena, and notes that in Columbus, while restaurants around that city’s new arena indeed did great, restaurants in other parts of town saw business decline: “Other restaurants went out of business and a lot of people started moving out of the neighborhood and into newer apartments,” said Tony Scartz, a restaurateur in the Brewery District across town from the new arena. “And most importantly, for me personally, was the office space vacancy that was created because people moved out of the Brewery District and into the newer office space down around the Arena District.” This is exactly what you’d expect from the substitution effect, as explained in the Fox6 piece by, um, me.

Tune back in tomorrow, when some city official somewhere will tout the massive economic benefits available from building a new sports venue! They will fight eternally…

NFL may have added poison pill to arm-twist Kroenke into okaying Chargers move to L.A.

Multiple insider-type NFL columnists (Mike Florio, Kevin Acee) are reporting that, according to league sources, there’s a poison pill of sorts in the agreement to move the St. Louis Rams to L.A. that could help encourage Stan Kroenke to cut a deal with the San Diego Chargers to play in his new Inglewood stadium: The league has barred Kroenke from starting to sell naming rights, club seats, PSLs and sponsorships until 2017 — unless he brings in a second team before then, at which point he can start selling those immediately.

If true, this is really fiendishly clever of the NFL owners. Without this clause, Kroenke would have almost no incentive to offer a fair deal to shack up with the Chargers, since he’d know he’d have them over a barrel. Instead, he now has a carrot for an early agreement — as does Chargers owner Dean Spanos, who’ll know that the sooner he signs on to Inglewood, the better a lease he’s likely to get from Kroenke.

Spanos now has a big decision to make, because under normal circumstances he’d want to use the Inglewood threat to try to force San Diego into upping its stadium offer, but since that would likely have to wait for a public vote in November, it would eat up all of his leverage with Kroenke. One report that Spanos and Kroenke are already hashing something out was immediately shot down by a Chargers spokesperson, but team execs have otherwise been silent on their plans.

Meanwhile, more of those “league sources” tell Acee that Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is interested in maybe moving his team to San Diego — either at a new stadium or a renovated Qualcomm Stadium — and, and … you know, with all these unnamed-source leaks and so many factions still in play, it’s really impossible to know what’s truth and what’s people trying to spin perceptions, so let’s just stop there. Instead, enjoy Rams and Chargers fans telling Deadspin all the ways they’d like to see Kroenke and Spanos die gruesome deaths.

NFL approves Rams move to L.A., lets Chargers reboot stadium demands, tells Raiders to play in traffic

After a long day that dragged well into evening (for East Coasters, at least), the 32 NFL owners finally voted on which teams to approve moving to Los Angeles, and the verdict was: Stan Kroenke has approval to move the St. Louis Rams immediately while building a stadium in Inglewood, while Dean Spanos has until next January to work out a deal to have the San Diego Chargers join them, with Mark Davis getting second dibs on having the Oakland Raiders share digs with the Rams if the Chargers turn it down.

In other words, pretty much exactly what I predicted on Monday. Yay me! (Though with the writing on the wall at that point, it wasn’t that tough of a guess.)

I’ve written up a long analysis of the winners and losers of this decision for Vice Sports, so please go there now if you want the full blow by blow. For here, I’ll just note a few highlights from The Decision: NFL Edition:

  • Man, Stan Kroenke sure wanted to move to L.A., didn’t he? He’s now on the hook for $2.66 billion in stadium construction costs (according to his claims, anyway, but even if it’s only $1.8 billion that’s still a lot), plus $550 million in relocation fees, which even for a guy with a $7.5 billion net worth is a significant chunk of change. He’ll be able to avail himself of the L.A. market for personal seat licenses and naming rights, and $200 million in NFL G-4 money, and about $180 million in sales tax kickbacks, and … and I still don’t see how he’s ever going to make back his investment, given that only one team in football is worth $2 billion more than the Rams were in St. Louis, and that’s the Dallas Cowboys, who are a case unto themselves. Branding his development as some kind of NFL theme park had better be history’s most successful business move ever, that’s all I can say.
  • All y’all who said the NFL would never approve a stadium plan that was mostly private money, they just did. In fact, this is the third stadium in recent years with relatively little in the way of public subsidies, following the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants and Jets. I wouldn’t presume to think this is going to be a trend — plenty of teams in smaller and less subsidy-averse markets are still getting money thrown at them — but it does show that in particular circumstances, owner-funded stadiums can and will happen.
  • There are a lot of shoes still to drop. First and foremost, Spanos and Kroenke need to start talking about a lease deal for a shared Inglewood stadium, something that hasn’t even begun to happen, given that 24 hours ago Spanos still insisted he’d never consider such a thing. At that point, a new two-front game of chicken will begin, with Spanos simultaneously playing the “I can just go back to San Diego” card with Kroenke and the “I’m outta here if you don’t cough up a stadium” card with San Diego. Meanwhile, Davis is almost certain to start playing footsie with St. Louis for its now-rejected $477 million stadium subsidy offer — in his post-meeting statements last night, he made a point of talking about “Raider Nation” without breathing the word “Oakland” — though he’s unlikely to pull the trigger on anything until he sees whether the Los Angeles option is entirely closed to him.

That’s it for now — like I said, head over to Vice if you want more. Though one more item that I didn’t get to include in the Vice piece is this jaw-dropper from Kroenke post-decision:

Yep, that’s what it was all about: Think of the children. That’ll be sure to get at least a footnote in the next edition of the stadium-grubbers’ playbook.

[UPDATE: One more twist that hadn’t occurred to me when I filed my Vice story: What happens to PSL holders in St. Louis? Looks like they could try to sue for the right to buy Rams tickets in Los Angeles, which even if it would almost certainly fail, would be frickin’ hilarious.]

NFL reported close to deal on shared Rams-Chargers stadium, Chargers call this a load of hooey

Today and tomorrow are the NFL meetings where owners will vote (or not) on which teams will be allowed to move to Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles Times’s Sam Farmer says there could be a breakthrough in the deadlock:

On the brink of a vote that could return the NFL to Los Angeles, a consensus is building within the league for the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers to share a stadium in Inglewood.

Multiple league officials and owners not involved with the Inglewood project, or the competing proposal in Carson, say there is momentum to pair the two franchises in what one owner describes as a “transformational” project backed by the Rams.

That would be huge indeed, since so far Chargers owner Dean Spanos has expressed no interest in sharing digs with the Rams in Inglewood, while Rams owner Stan Kroenke doesn’t want to go in on the Chargers site in Carson. So if everyone’s on the same page now, that’s exactly the kind of compromise that could lead to

“On December 7, the Chargers made clear in writing that we had zero interest in the Inglewood project, and nothing has changed since then,” Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani said Monday in a statement to USA TODAY Sports.


There’s still a chance that the Times report indicates that owners are planning to deliver Spanos an ultimatum: Either join the Rams in Inglewood or stay put in San Diego. (Farmer also reports that there’s a growing interest in holding the vote by secret ballot, which would make it easier for Spanos’s friends to vote this way without having to admit to it, though with only 32 people in the room it won’t be too hard to guess who voted how.) Though it’s equally likely that the unnamed owners who spoke with Farmer are just trying to create momentum for their plan by leaking it to the press, rather than reporting honestly on it, and the stalemate is still in place. Won’t know until we hear how the vote goes, really.

This is total speculation and tea-leaf reading, but I’m more and more leaning toward putting my money on what I suggested yesterday, an agreement that’s contingent on a deal being worked out — either “We approve the Rams and Chargers moving if they can work out a shared stadium deal” or “We approve the Rams moving, and the Chargers can too if they agree to share the Rams stadium.” That would kick the hard part — working out an agreement between Kroenke and Spanos not just on where to play but on how to divvy up the costs and revenues of a shared stadium — back to those two guys, and at least leave the rest of the league feeling like they’ve accomplished something this week. Though it would still mean we wouldn’t be sure which teams if any were moving where for several more weeks or months, and could end up leading to some really sad lame-duck seasons in 2016.

Or it could still prove impossible to get 24 votes for any one plan, and nothing could get decided. There’s really no predicting what a roomful of rich guys will do.