Friday roundup: Coyotes late with arena rent, Winnipeg move non-threats, and good old gondolas, nothing beats gondolas!

If you missed me — and a whole lot of other people you’ve likely read about here, including economist Victor Matheson and former Anaheim mayor Tom Tait — breaking down the Los Angeles Angels stadium deal in an enormous Zoom panel last night, you can still check it out on the Voice of OC’s Facebook page. I didn’t bother to carefully curate the books on the shelves behind me, as one does, so have fun checking out which novels I read 20 years ago!

And on to the news, which remains unrelentingly newsy:

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Friday roundup: Zombie apocalypse in full effect, go and get a late pass

So as you all undoubtedly know by now, everything is shut down. The NBA is shut down for at least 30 days, the NHL is shut down indefinitely, MLB has canceled the first two weeks of the season, MLS is on hold for a month, this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament may be moved to 2021 so maybe the Champions League and Europa League can finish up in June and July, the XFL is shut down maybe for good, and even the Little League is on hold until April 6. And all those dates are just minimum wild-ass guesses: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a calming voice of reassurance as ever, said yesterday that this “could easily be a six-month crisis” — and even if you dismiss him as just a guy who gets his every stray thought printed in the newspaper because he’s an elected official, as I wrote yesterday for FAIR, it’s still very much true that nobody really knows how long this will last, or how to decide (or who will decide) that the curve has been effectively flattened and life can go back to normal(ish) now.

So instead of dwelling on that, let’s dwell instead on another aspect of plagueworld that overlaps somewhat with the mission of this site: the economic impacts of shutting stuff down. I’m sure somebody out there is thinking, “But Neil, you always say that economists say it doesn’t matter much to the economy whether one sporting event or another is played, because people will just spend their money on something else like going out to eat or to a bowling alley instead. So why won’t the substitution effect save us now?”

I am, as I have to take pains to remind journalist quoting me from time to time, not an economist, but I think I can explain this one well enough: There’s a huge difference between one sports team or league shutting down and everything shutting down. Once everyone has completed their panic-shopping therapy and stocked up on a lifetime supply of toilet paper, they’re mostly not going to be looking for other things to spend money on — they’re going to sit at home and watch the Netflix subscriptions that they already paid for. And meanwhile a bunch of them are going to be out of work, and still more will be out of work once restaurants and barber shops and the like have to close for lack of business, and that will mean even less business, and soon enough the entire economy has shut down in a cycle of fear.

I was lucky to get a first-hand example of this in high school, when my U.S. History teacher had each of her classes play a game where each student was one player in late-19th-century frontier society, either a farmer or a railroad company owner or a banker or I forget what else. This made for lots of fun experience with the consequences of unregulated capitalism — I remember one friend of mine contracted to make a loan to another friend, and set the interest rate but not the term of the loan, and our teacher refused to step in and rule on when it had to be paid back because a contract is a contract — but in another class some friends of mine were in, it got even more severe: There was only one banker, and he refused to loan anyone any money at less than usurious rates, and the entire class plunged into an economic depression.

Anyway, there are lots of reasons this is going to be really bad in many, many ways, even if all these closures aren’t too late to avoid the old people being left to die in ERs that has reportedly been taking place in Lombardy. (I do not make a very good voice of calm, either, sorry.) But eventually this crisis will be over, and it’s still worth thinking about what the world will look like when we come out the other side. After all, with no sports to watch we’ve got plenty of time on our hands.

Not that everything being shut down has brought sports subsidy demands to a halt, because some things are just too big to fail:

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Friday roundup: Titans want Miami-style renovation to 20-year-old stadium, Orlando throwing more cash at World Cup hopes, and urban myths about small stadiums

I’m back from vacation, and thanks for sticking with my slightly unpredictable posting schedule for the last couple of weeks. (As opposed to my usual slightly unpredictable posting schedule.) It was an eye-opening trip to, among other places, a city that built a stadium with public money and now suffers from a legendarily bad public transit system, though it just might be unfair to blame the one on the other.

Anyway, stadium news kept coming at us fast this week, so let’s get to it:

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Nashville considering extra $1m a year in subsidies so Titans can buy new doors, fences

The city of Nashville is considering giving the owners of the Tennessee Titans an additional $1 million a year because they want new doors. Repeat: The city of Nashville is considering giving the owners of the Tennessee Titans an additional $1 million a year because they want new doors:

“As the stadium ages then the capital needs grow, and they present more frequently,” [says Metro Sports Authority Director Monica] Fawknotson. “We’re just at the place where $1 million is no longer enough to fund the capital needs.” …

The Titans have more than a dozen anticipated projects, totaling $4.4 million, it says is needed to keep Nissan Stadium up to date.

These projects include new environmentally-friendly lighting and digital security systems, new security fencing; updated doors throughout the stadium; fiber-optic upgrades for broadcast TV trucks and transmissions; and roof replacements on concession stands and other buildings.

Those had better be some crazy futuristic doors, that’s all I’m saying.

Under teams of the lease that brought the Titans to Tennessee in 1997, the team owners get to spend money on stadium upgrades, and then the city has to reimburse them for the cost. That is, as previously noted, completely insane, but now that the lease is in place, there’s little the city of Nashville can do but to refill the capital-improvements bucket when it’s run empty, and that’s what it’s set to consider doing now.

I really should quit this whole blog-writing game and go into business as a stadium-lease consultant, shouldn’t I? I promise to save your city millions of dollars in the long run — if that’s what your elected officials care about, which I know it probably isn’t, because in the long run their political careers are all dead.

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Nashville to explore cost of upgrading Titans stadium, Predators arena

The city of Nashville is considering spending $355,000 to assess the condition of the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators‘ venues, to determine what future maintenance and upgrade costs are likely to look like:

It comes as Metro is on the hook for up to $11 million to pay for a range of maintenance upgrades over the coming years to fulfill the city’s contractual obligation to the Tennessee Titans under a 1997 stadium deal that lured the NFL’s Houston Oilers to relocate to Nashville. That figure is on top of the $15 million Metro spent this past year to cover a replacement of all seats inside the 18-year-old stadium…

“I think if we have a benchmark (on costs) to start with, I think it will give us all a comfort-level, and then we can get into the political discussion about how we’re going to pay for it and what the best options are going forward,” [Nashville Chief Operating Officer Rich] Riebeling said.

“We’re seeing the obligations grow and we know that,” he said of Nissan Stadium. “This isn’t going to change. It’s an older building. You look around and it’s hard to believe that it’s getting on 20 years old, but it is. So we’ve got to start thinking about this.”

On the one hand, this is a perfectly reasonably thing to do: If you’re on the hook for future building upgrades, you probably should be thinking about what they’re going to be before the bills come due — and even, maybe, thinking about whether it’d be cheaper to replace the building than to repair it. (Almost certainly not, but it’s worth looking into.)

On the other hand: Who on earth thought it was a good idea for Nashville to be on the hook for future upgrades to their sports teams’ venues? In the normal world, either one of two things happens when a building is built: Either the people who are actually getting use out of the place own or operate it, and have to pay when the seats wear out and they want new ones; or the owners charge increased rent to cover the cost of upgrades. Nashville did raise ticket taxes in recent years to help pay for venue improvement funds — and as we’ve discussed before, ticket taxes mostly end up coming out of team owners’ pockets — but that’s not quite the same as actually getting to pass along the costs of upgrading buildings that are of zero use to the public if nobody’s playing there.

Anyway, let’s hope that this is a legit study, and not just a gambit for somebody to start arguing, “Hey, the Titans’ stadium is almost 20 years old, let’s build a new one, or at least do major renovations on the public’s dime!” But that never happens, right?

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Titans, Bills seek stadium renovations

Another day, another NFL team asking for stadium upgrades. Today it’s the Tennessee Titans, who are seeking renovations to 12-year-old LP Field:

Upgrades to everything between and underneath must be examined before the Bills and Erie County can move forward on a lease extension.

The Bills hired Populous, an architectural firm based in Kansas City, Mo., to conduct an exhaustive study of Ralph Wilson Stadium’s infrastructure. The study will determine how much necessary improvements will cost.

Wait, hold on, wrong article! That one is about how the Buffalo Bills, who are seeking renovations to their field, 38-year-old Ralph Wilson Stadium, which was just renovated in 1997. The Titans are seeking $25 million in upgrades to the sound system, scoreboards, and concessions areas; the Bills want an estimated $100 million or more in improvements to concourses, restrooms, and concessions areas, among other things.

Also likely different is how the two teams plan to pay for upgrades. The Titans are looking to use an already existing ticket tax, which they would raise from $2 to $3 — something that largely comes out of their own pockets, say economists, since it limits the price that they can get away with charging fans in face value. Bills execs, meanwhile, haven’t said who’ll pay for improvements, but it’s clear it wouldn’t be them:

“Cost is an unknown and could be in a wide range,” Erie County Executive Chris Collins said. “I’m expecting New York State to pay for these improvements. But you can’t sit down and have meaningful negotiations until this study is complete.”

The difference: The Titans are in the middle of their lease, while the Bills’ current lease with Erie County expires next year, giving them leverage to demand subsidies or else move to Toronto or Los Angeles or someplace like that. (Not that anyone from the Bills would threaten that aloud, but there are plenty of other people to do it for them.) So we have the prospect of Jets and Giants fans (and, um, me) helping to pay for improvements to their rivals’ stadium.

The hope would be that the Bills would at least agree to share some of their increased profits with taxpayers in the new lease in exchange for renovations, but I really wouldn’t be holding my breath there, unless some savvy negotiators in the state legislature can … er, never mind.

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Nashville flood sinks arena, stadium

For some reason the Great Nashville Flood has been getting short shrift in the national media compared to the Great Gulf Coast Oil Slick and the Great Times Square SUV Bomb With Non-Exploding Fertilizer — though the flood does have its own website, so that’s something.

In any event, among the buildings that are currently part of the Cumberland River are the homes of the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators: LP Field (named for, um, the Titans’ favorite form of analog audio media? man, these naming-rights deals are a gold mine for corporate publicity!) has had its field submerged, while Bridgestone Arena has had its dressing rooms and arena floor submerged.

Both buildings are owned by the city and Davidson County, though the arena is operated by the Predators. I haven’t seen any reporting yet on who’ll be responsible to pay for cleanup, though you have to hope that somebody involved had flood insurance.

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