Idiotic lease clause could force Houston to spend $50m on upgrading Texans stadium for Super Bowl

To the list of crazy things that the NFL demands in order to allow cities the honor of hosting the Super Bowl (free billboards, free police officers, free bowling alleys), add spending $50 million to make the luxury suites more luxurious at your 13-year-old stadium. That’s what Houston was told for its plans to host the 2017 Super Bowl:

Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice president of events, said Monday that upgrading the stadium’s WiFi is something the bid committee has agreed to do. In terms of sprucing up the seating, he said he noted on a recent visit that NRG “is in a very good place at this stage in its stadium life, but there are opportunities to upgrade that are common across Super Bowl stadiums as they prepare and continue to make sure they are state-of-the-art.”

So far, no Houston government officials have stepped up to offer $50 million to the cause — in fact, Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack swore earlier this week that “I’m not about to vote to spend a single dollar of county money updating these luxury suites” — and it doesn’t appear that the Super Bowl bid committee actually committed to it as a condition of hosting the big game. So the NFL seemingly doesn’t have a leg to stand on, unless there’s something in the Texans‘ stadium lease:

A clause in that lease agreement says the county must maintain the facility in “first class” condition and “a manner comparable to other stadiums.”

Noooooooooooo! Don’t you people ever learn?

Minnesota legislators want to give more tax breaks to Super Bowl, because NFL asked nicely

Minneapolis was awarded the 2018 Super Bowl last May, after agreeing to a completely crazy list of NFL demands that includes everything from league exemption from local taxes to putting up more cellphone towers if the NFL isn’t happy with reception. But that apparently isn’t enough:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Tuesday that he and House Speaker Kurt Daudt will push for $2.8 million in additional tax relief sought by Super Bowl organizers for the 2018 game in Minneapolis…

Minnesota already exempts sales tax on tickets to the game itself, a law dating from the 1992 Super Bowl in Minneapolis. That’s worth about $9.5 million in forgone revenue, state officials have said.

The new request would extend that exemption to cover events related to the game at the new Vikings stadium, such as an interactive zone for fans or certain tailgating events.

Apparently the NFL thought it was getting this tax break, but nobody in state government ever signed off on it, and Gov. Mark Dayton is now invoking the “no backsies” rule to tell the league that if they wanted it that bad, they should have made it part of the agreement. Daudt, though, has no problem with handing over an additional $2.8 million after the fact:

“I wish that they didn’t ask for all of these sorts of tax breaks, but it is an economic benefit to the community. It’s kind of a ‘but for’ — it doesn’t happen if we don’t have the Super Bowl here,” Daudt said.

We could argue that “economic benefit” notion all day, but more to the point: Dude, you already got the Super Bowl! The NFL is capable of a lot of things, but even it wouldn’t threaten to change the location of a Super Bowl that’s already been announced over a matter of a couple million dollars. At worst, the league might grumble about not approving future Minneapolis Super Bowl bids (though by the time Minneapolis comes around again on the Super Bowl rotation, none of these people are likely to still be in office), or leave Minneapolis a scathing Yelp review or something.

Anyway, it sounds like legislative leaders want to try to push this through, but Dayton has no intention of signing it, so maybe it’s just a way for the top legislators to tell the NFL, “Hey, we tried. Can we still sit in your luxury box?” And hey, look, at least Bakk and Daudt draw the line somewhere:

State leaders made it clear their largesse wouldn’t extend to waiving player income taxes for the time they’re in Minnesota. Those costs will be covered by private fund-raising, officials with the host committee said.

I really, really want to see the fundraising letter for that one. For 70 cents a day, you can free an NFL player from the tyranny of state income taxes! Though come to think of it, that might be a decent selling point with some funders.

Credit card company issues lame-ass report on Super Bowl spending, gets name in headlines (but not this one)

First Data, which processes credit and debit card payments, has put out a press release about spending at last Sunday’s Super Bowl in Glendale, and Darren Rovell is ON IT:

Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, resulted in no significant consumer spending growth to the greater Phoenix area, according to an analysis of consumer spending patterns from payments technology company First Data, which says it annually handles 60 billion credit and debit card transactions.

The company’s data shows spending growth from the two weeks surrounding last Sunday’s game was only 3.1 percent better than average compared to the same time period a year before when the spending in the area grew 6.4 percent.

This is along the lines of what actual economic studies have found, so it’s tempting to take this as confirmation that the Super Bowl doesn’t do squat for local spending, because it mostly just displaces visitors who steer clear of town because they don’t want the hassle of dealing with the Super Bowl. First Data, though, didn’t exactly do an exhaustive study: It only looked at credit card and debit card charges, obviously, and just compared spending in the Phoenix area to the same time period the year before without controlling for any other factors. In other words, this could be an actual sign of something, or it could just be a random fluctuation that means zippo.

Also, Rovell doesn’t bother to calculate what a 3.1% hike in spending (compared to “average” — average over the whole year, average for February, what?) means in actual dollars, though presumably he has the First Data report (he didn’t link to it) and a calculator. But, you know, ESPN isn’t paying him to think, just to reprint press releases, and there’s another one on the pile, so no time to lose!

No, there’s still no Super Bowl windfall for cities, no matter what you read in the paper

If you haven’t gotten enough of me griping about media coverage of sports economic reports here — or just want to read about it all in one place — hie thee to FAIR.org’s newly expanded website, where I’ve written all about how the media all too often parrot claims of economic windfalls from sports without even checking if they have any basis in fact.

There are occasional exceptions, obviously (I cite several), but as one journalist who has done time fact-checking his peers says:

“For every one good article you see, there are ten others that don’t bother to do it, and the good ones just get lost,” says Noah Pransky of WTSP-TV in Tampa Bay, who also reports on sports economics at his own website, Shadow of the Stadium. “An industry joke is that reporters have always been mathematically challenged, but the problem has been magnified in recent years by the 24-hour news cycle and staff depletion at traditional media outlets.”

Remember, kids: Just because you read it in the newspaper doesn’t mean it’s true! Blogs, though, are 100% accurate. I read a study that said so.

Super Bowls are a money suck, says mayor of city about to host Super Bowl

The Super Bowl will be held in Glendale, Arizona this year, which means it’s time for local officials to proclaim how much their city will benefit from having a bunch of NFL fans descend upon them for a week:

Jerry Weiers, the mayor of Glendale, Arizona, recently told me he doesn’t expect a windfall when his city hosts the big game in February. In fact, he says, “I totally believe we will lose money on this.”

Well, that’s different. Of course, Weiers is a different sort of mayor on the subject of sports spending: He fought to overturn the sweetheart deal that Glendale gave the Arizona Coyotes to stay in town, and Glendale won this Super Bowl before he won election, so he doesn’t have any stake in talking up the benefits.

It’s also not the first time Weiers has griped about the cost of hosting the Super Bowl. Last summer he said that the city had lost money hosting the 2008 Super Bowl as well, a claim that Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwell called “a bunch of malarkey.” ESPN The Magazine, though, reports that Weiers can back up that charge with numbers:

A study funded by Arizona’s Super Bowl committee found that visitors spent $218 million around the 2008 game, but some economists say the actual profits were much lower because football fans crowded out other tourists. Little of that money aids the city directly. Glendale said it 
spent $3.4 million in 2008, mostly on public safety, and earned only $1.2 million in taxes from direct spending at places like hotels and restaurants. (Tickets are not taxed.) One former councilwoman, Joyce Clark, who voted against hosting the 2015 game after witnessing the city’s losses seven years ago, scoffs at the idea that the publicity was worth it. “There has not been any corporation that moved to Glendale because the CEO came to the Super Bowl,” she says.

Prior independent estimates have shown that cities might be able to turn a profit of a few million dollars on a Super Bowl, even after paying for all the free police and billboards and cellphone towers and ATMs — though that’s probably more the case in a bigger city where a greater share of the money being spent stays local. (If Super Bowl attendees spend money in Phoenix, that doesn’t help Glendale one whit.) Anyway, if the public debate around this becomes a matter of whether the Super Bowl doesn’t mean squat for cities or might leave a handful of change scattered on the coffee table, that’s still a welcome step forward from where it’s been.

Miami to start paying Dolphins to host Super Bowls, light bulb goes off over every other NFL owner’s head

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’s rewards plan for major sporting events is now reality, as the Miami-Dade County Commission last night voted 7-4 to approve a bill giving the Dolphins up to $5 million a year based on how many Super Bowls, college football championship games, and other special events are held at a remodeled Sun Life Stadium. Add in $3 million a year in state sales-tax kickbacks, and — assuming he hosts a whole lot of international soccer friendlies and the like — Ross could end up getting about $100 million in public subsidies toward a planned $350 million renovation, with another $200 million coming from the NFL’s G-4 fund.

This is pretty close to the amount that Ross was asking for in previous renovation funding plans, and also pretty close to what other cities are giving their football teams in order to extend their commitment to remain in town — and Ross has committed to keep the Dolphins in Miami for 30 years instead of the measly six that Charlotte got out of the Carolina Panthers, so I guess you can file this under “it could be worse.”

The bigger concern isn’t with the up to $8 million a year in tax money that Floridians will have to do without, but with the precedent that this could set for other teams. As Heather McCoy of KUCI asked yesterday during our weekly interview segment (no archive up yet, but check here for one eventually) [UPDATE: archive is up now!], isn’t this likely to give other team owners ideas about a new premise for extracting payments from their hometowns? My answer: Hell yeah. When you’re talking about Stephen Ross getting checks for every major sporting event he hosts in place of getting property-tax breaks, that’s one thing; when the owner of a team like the Indiana Pacers who already gets a free arena, free rent, no property taxes and yearly operating subsidies realizes that this is another goodie he can attempt to add to his bag, we could have some problems here.

(Requisite reminder for those just tuning in: Hosting a Super Bowl is not actually a benefit to the local treasury, and not much of one to the local economy, thanks to all the crazy NFL demands cities have to put up with in order to be considered for hosting the game. And it looks like the new College Football Playoff Championship is headed the same direction.)

NFL demands for Super Bowl hosts include free police, billboards, golf courses, first-born children

Thinking of hosting a Super Bowl in your backyard? The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has unearthed the list of demands that the NFL presents cities with (or at least presented Minneapolis with) in exchange for awarding the Super Bowl, and holy moley, it’s even crazier than anyone thought:

  • A free squad of city police officers to stop the sales of counterfeit tickets and unauthorized merchandise.
  • A waiver of government licensing fees for as many as 450 courtesy cars and buses.
  • A one-mile-wide “clean zone” around the Super Bowl stadium and a six-block one around the NFL’s hotel where nobody can do anything that isn’t approved by the league. (Sell stuff or protest, presumably.)
  • At least 20 free billboards.
  • Travel costs for 180 people to take a “familiarization trip” in advance of the Super Bowl.
  • Use of 35,000 free parking spaces.
  • Hotels where the teams will stay must televise the NFL Network to guests for one year before the game.
  • Free cellphone towers, if the cellphone service isn’t good enough.
  • Installation of ATMs at the stadium that accept the NFL’s preferred credit and debit cards, and removal of ATMs for conflicting services.
  • Free ad space in local newspapers and air time on local radio stations to promote the game.
  • Free police escorts for team owners.
  • Free use of two “top quality bowling venues,” for the Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic, and of three “top quality golf courses” for the NFL Foundation Golf Classic.
  • And, last but not least, full exemption for the league from city, county, and state taxes.

The NFL’s bid requirement document begins with the statement that “the day of the Super Bowl game [is] America’s unofficial holiday, a day when the attention of an entire nation is focused on the game in one region.” So don’t think of it as handing over your wallet to one of the world’s richest sports leagues, Minneapolis. Think of it as tithing.

 

New Orleans doesn’t win Super Bowl bid, Drew Brees says new stadium needed, Facebook freaks out

Minneapolis was awarded the 2018 Super Bowl on Tuesday, and I thought about posting, but you know, somebody is always awarded the Super Bowl, and Minneapolis will have a new stadium with a roof, so sure, why not? The only bit of news that seemed particularly relevant to this site was this note about the runner-up in the bidding, New Orleans:

New Orleans had been 10-for-10 when it bid on the Super Bowl. The city will be celebrating its 300th birthday in 2018. But, it plays in an old stadium, the Superdome. Feel free to wonder when the next pitch for public funds for a new stadium in New Orleans will come.

If you had your money on “two days from now, by Saints quarterback Drew Brees,” you’re a winner!

At a charity softball event Drew Brees inserted himself in a debate about whether the city of New Orleans “needs” a new sports stadium.  His comments came a few days after New Orleans lost a bid for the 2018 Super Bowl.  Minneapolis, with its emphasis on having a new football stadium, won the bid.

“Listen, the league wants to encourage new stadiums to be built.  This motivates and incentivizes cities, especially the small market teams, to pass legislation and approve bills that end up funding those types of stadiums,” said Brees.

WWL-TV then followed up this vague but incendiary comment by an NFL player who probably was just trying to answer a question that had been put to him with a bunch of quotes from Facebook comments, because modern journalism, people. (For the record, both Debbie Hall Perrone and Judy Clasen Sinnott think that New Orleans doesn’t need a new stadium.)

NBC Sports’ Mike Florio, meanwhile, who thinks that everybody needs a new stadium, says the selection of Minneapolis tells cities, “If you’ll be going up against a city with a new stadium built in part by taxpayer dollars, don’t bother.” Which could lead to future Super Bowl bids that “suddenly won’t be as good as they otherwise would be,” because cities without new stadiums won’t bother. Which is a nice bookend to Florio’s February column that holding cold-weather Super Bowls in cities with new stadiums will encourage more cities to build new stadiums, then bid. Just so long as somebody is being arm-twisted into something that can generate clicks, both the NFL and the sports media are happy, so it’s all good.

NBA-player-hating Minnesota rep takes on NFL’s Super Bowl tax breaks

A Minnesota state legislator has introduced legislation to block tax breaks to the NFL in exchange for landing a future Super Bowl, and — omigod, it’s this guy:

Anyway, Rep. Pat Garofalo (not to be confused with the not-crazy Pat Garofalo at ThinkProgress [UPDATE: now the not-crazy Pat Garofalo at USNews, my bad]) wants to make sure that the NFL has to pay taxes on things like hotel stays and restaurant bills if the Super Bowl comes to Minneapolis, which is eminently reasonable, except that the NFL insists on not paying taxes on those things as a condition of granting the game to your city. The bill is an okay media stunt to point out the NFL’s kickback demands, though, which at least means Rep. Garofalo’s bill-crafting staffers are somewhat more on the ball than his social media director.

Hey, it’s a dog-bites-man story that isn’t from Sochi!

Oh, Mike Florio, what have you written now?

With cities suddenly less relucntant to cough up the cash, the looming effort to build the next generation of stadiums could be aided by the promise of a Super Bowl.

Right, because that never happens currently.

I can only assume that Florio was stuck for a column idea on a boring Friday (the Super Bowl is too far in the past to recap, and somebody else already covered the Olympic cross-country skiing stray barking dog story), and dug into the back of his desk drawer for an old story idea he stopped working on in about 1993. To be fair, he seems to be implying that the success of the New Jersey Super Bowl (it didn’t snow, and people only got stuck changing trains for two hours!) will lead more cold-weather teams seeking stadiums to dangle a Super Bowl as a carrot, but the only cold-weather NFL teams without new or newly renovated stadiums are … hmm. Buffalo, I guess, but they’re about to get a pile of renovation money from the state. Does St. Louis count as “cold-weather”? Washington? And haven’t team owners been using this promise anyway, but using it as  additional leverage to try to pry loose a roof as well? How are poor NFL owners going to get their retractable roofs now, huh, Mike Florio? There, I just wrote next Friday’s column for you. No charge.