Virginia votes down bills to block stadium subsidies, because won’t anyone think of the business decisions?!?

Hope you weren’t excited by the prospect of an interstate pact not to engage in a public bidding war for the Washington NFL team, because that’s not happening now:

A House of Delegates panel quickly shot down two bills Wednesday that would have barred state subsidies for a new Washington Redskins stadium in Virginia and blocked localities from spending public money on professional sports facilities.

A House budget subcommittee voted 7-0 to lay the bills on the table, effectively killing them for the year…

The subcommittee voted down the bill with no discussion.

This is par for the course, and the main reason why most experts predict the Economic War Among the States won’t be ended by mutual ceasefire: It’s way too tempting for one side or the other to try to cheat and lure all the businesses to their side of the state line. Federal legislation is the best way to stop bidding wars for sports franchises and businesses of all kinds — and there’s no benefit to the U.S. as a whole when one municipality steals a business from another, obviously — but that didn’t get far when it was proposed, either.

Meanwhile, the Virginia house of delegates also shot down another bill by the same delegate, Republican Michael Webert, that would have barred all stadium subsidies starting in 2019, on the grounds that, as Republican delegate Riley Ingram put it, “It’s a business decision. And this would bar localities from making that decision.” I guess that’s the subsidy equivalent of “They knew the risks when they chose to play football”?

Friday roundup: Beckham stadium opposition, Arizona bill to block “disparaging” team names, and oh, so many soccer stadiums

So. Much. News:

  • F.C. Cincinnati CEO Jeff Berding says the team still hasn’t decided among stadium sites in the Oakley and West End neighborhoods and one in Newport, Kentucky, while it awaits traffic studies and whatnot, though the team owners did purchase an option to buy land in the West End to build housing for some reason? Still nobody’s talking about the $25 million funding gap that Berding insists the public will have to fill, but I’m sure they’ll get back to that as soon as they decide which neighborhood hates the idea of being their new home the least.
  • Here’s really sped-up footage of the final beam being put in place for D.C. United‘s new stadium.
  • Indy Eleven is officially moving this season from Carroll Stadium to the Colts‘ NFL stadium, but hasn’t figured out yet whether or how to lay down grass over the artificial turf. Might want to get on that, guys.
  • San Diego is looking at doing a massive redevelopment of the land around its arena, and as part of this isn’t extending AEG’s lease on running the place beyond 2020. This is either the first step toward a reasonable assessment of whether the city could be getting more value (both monetary and in terms of use) for a large plot of city-owned land, or the first step toward building a new arena in some boondoggle that would enable a developer to reap the profits from public subsidies — Voice of San Diego doesn’t speculate, and neither will I.
  • Some Overtown residents are still really, really, really unhappy with David Beckham’s Miami MLS stadium plans for their neighborhood, and have been getting in the papers letting that be known.
  • “Can stadiums save downtowns—and be good deals for cities?” asks Curbed, the official media site of tearing things down and building other things to turn a profit. You can guess what I say, but you’ll have to wade through a whole lot of self-congratulation and correlation-as-causation from the people who built the Sacramento Kings arena to get there.
  • Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg is still seeking as much as $650 million in stadium subsidies, with local elected officials holding secret meetings with lobbyists to make a project happen. WTSP’s Noah Pransky reports that “commissioners told 10Investigates there remains little appetite to make up the nine-figure funding gap the Rays have suggested may be needed to get a stadium built,” though, so we’ll see where all this ends up.
  • Arizona state rep Eric Descheenie, who is Navajo, has introduced a bill that would prohibit publicly funded stadiums in the state from displaying any team names or logos that local Native American tribes consider “disparaging,” which could make it interesting when the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Black Hawks, or Washington RedHawks come to town.
  • The U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible racketeering and other charges around bidding on major sports events, including American consulting firms that may have helped Russia get the Sochi Olympics and this year’s soccer World Cup. If they can’t find enough evidence to prosecute, they’re not watching enough TV.
  • I didn’t even know there was a surviving Negro League baseball stadium in Hamtramck, Michigan, let alone that there was a cricket pitch on it. Who’s up for a road trip?
  • The town of Madison — no, not the one you’re thinking of, the one in Alabama — is looking to build a $46 million baseball stadium with public money because “economic development.” They’re hoping to get the Mobile BayBears to move there, at which point the Huntsville region will undoubtedly become the same kind of global economic engine that is now Mobile.
  • An East Bay developer wants land in Concord (way across the other side of the Oakland Hills, though developing like crazy because everything is in the Bay Area right now) that’s owned by the BART transit system, and says they’ll build a USL soccer stadium if they can get it. Have you noticed that like half of these items are about soccer these days? Of course, half of all sports teams in the U.S. will be pro soccer teams soon the way league expansion is going, so that’s about right.
  • Here’s a map of failed New York City Olympic projects and how they helped Mayor Michael Bloomberg ruin neighborhoods. Sorry, did I say “ruin”? I meant “improve,” of course. This is from Curbed, after all.

Three bills introduced to try to block Washington NFL team stadium bidding war

One of the big questions in the stadium-subsidy world is “Why don’t local elected officials just get together and say, ‘Fuck those greedy sports owners, let’s agree among ourselves not to get played for subsidies in interstate bidding wars’?” (Actually, it’s the same question for non-sports bidding wars, too.) And now some legislators in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. are getting attention for trying exactly that in response to Washington NFL team owner Dan Snyder’s stadium shakedown attempt:

The liberal Democrat in Maryland, conservative Republican in Virginia and left-leaning independent District of Columbia Council member have introduced legislation to set up an interstate compact barring any public spending on incentives for a new stadium.

The idea is to prevent the jurisdictions from competing against each other with lucrative offers of public assistance for the new facility. The team’s current lease at FedEx Field in suburban Maryland ends in 2027 and it is exploring new potential locations.

This is, needless to say, a great idea for protecting the public purse, and the elected officials behind it — Virginia Republican delegate Michael Webert, Maryland Democratic delegate David Moon, and District Council member David Grosso — deserve to be cheered for their efforts.

It’s important to note, though, that these bills have a long road ahead of them. Each one has only been introduced, and there’s no indication yet of how much support they have — and each jurisdiction (man, would choosing nouns for these articles be easier if D.C. were just a state already) will no doubt be keeping a close eye on the others to make sure they don’t jump into a non-aggression pact before any of their erstwhile rivals. And then, too, even on the rare occasions when pacts like these have been enacted in the past, they haven’t held up well — non-poaching agreements between New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, and between Minneapolis and St. Paul, pretty much immediately collapsed back in the 1990s. (Though I’m not sure if those had the same legislative teeth as these bills — it’s been 20 years, my notes are in a box somewhere.)

In short: A for effort, but the devil is going to be in the political machinations necessary to get these bills passed. Everyone watch this very closely, because if D.C., Virginia, and Maryland somehow do manage to say “You’re not the boss of us” to Snyder, it could have nationwide repercussions.

VA governor still vowing to lure Washington’s NFL team with magic development-rights beans

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has been an unashamed booster of luring Washington’s NFL team to his state, mostly by shouting exuberantly a lot about how many players and fans already live there and promising to build a stadium with no public money, only the sale of public development rights, which is a totally different thing, right? And with six months to go in his term, McAuliffe is only ratcheting up his rhetoric:

“We’ve laid everything out and served it up beautifully,” McAuliffe said in an interview with The Washington Post. “If they were smart, and they really wanted to be Super Bowl champions, they would have that facility in Virginia.”

This is … a promise? A challenge? A taunt? I always thought that it was a bad idea to use the subjunctive mood when referring to the brains of your would-be business partners, but maybe they do things differently in Virginia.

As for funding for this stadium, McAuliffe says it’d be paid for by proceeds from developing the land around it, just like the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers are doing in Inglewood: “You need an area with a big enough land mass to it, like they’re doing in L.A. They’re basically building a new city around the football stadium.” Which fundamentally misunderstands what’s going on in L.A., which is that the two team owners (mostly the Rams’ Stan Kroenke) are spending a ton of money on a stadium and surrounding development in order to get a foothold in the L.A. market, which is possibly dumb because big markets don’t mean that much in the NFL, but anyway.

It’s still not clear whether McAuliffe means giving the NFL team development rights to public land — which would undoubtedly be a subsidy — or just telling team owner Dan Snyder, “Hey, you can make lots of money building stuff in Virginia and then sink it into your own stadium,” which is unlikely to be much of a lure since Snyder could equally well make lots of money (if money is there to be made) building stuff in Virginia and not sinking it into a stadium and trying to get somebody else to pay for his stadium like the team’s previous owners did last time. Anyway, McAuliffe will be out of office soon so most of this probably doesn’t matter, but I’ll kind of miss him when he’s gone, you know? Unvarnished crazy doesn’t come around every day, at least not outside of the White House these days.

Washington Post reporters stick heads up NFL team president’s butt, call it journalism

Yeah, that about sums it up:

The Washington Post article in question is about the Washington NFL team‘s president, Bruce Allen, and can be summed up thusly:

  • People like sports!
  • Allen is a sports guy, his dad having been Hall of Fame coach George Allen! And a political guy, his brother being former Virginia governor George Allen!
  • His boss, team owner Daniel Snyder, is campaigning for a new stadium that he can point to and brag about — “not the hand-me-down venue he acquired from the estate of the late Jack Kent Cooke” — and needed a guy to spearhead it! You can see where this is going!
  • Fans hate Allen because he fired the team’s popular GM, but he doesn’t hold that against them!
  • Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is friends with both Allen and Snyder!
  • Virginia offers non-union labor!
  • Bruce Allen is shorter than his brother George!

If you’ve managed to keep reading to this point, you’ll have gotten the idea that this is a kid-gloves profile of the team president trying to shake down Virginia for a new stadium, so it should come as no surprise that it concludes with the paragraph quoted by Burneko in his tweet (and elaborated on in a longer Deadspin WTF reaction piece), which makes total journalistic sense if journalism consists of viewing the world entirely through the subject’s eyes. (And assuming Allen drinks his own Kool-Aid.) It’s slightly more surprising that this is co-bylined by the Post’s NFL reporter and its former business editor — it took two people to write this crap, and one of them maybe even knows how money works — but given my past experience with the Post, maybe somebody high up the editorial chain is still determined to buy local sports teams’ PR line about economic benefits of stadiums at all costs.

Virginia takes lead in willingness to overlook “Redskins” name to throw money at team owner

Legislators in D.C. and Maryland have proposed bills barring public money or land from going to Washington’s NFL team so long as it’s called the “Redskins,” and while both face uphill battles, the Washington Post has its eyes on the real story here: Ooh, boy, maybe this means Virginia will get the team now!

A bill proposed by Maryland and District lawmakers this week could give Virginia an edge in landing the Redskins’ next stadium…

Virginia may be the easiest jurisdiction to cut a deal with. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has no problem with the team’s name and has been talking to the Redskins since last summer…

[Team owner Daniel] Snyder needs to move quickly: McAuliffe’s term ends next January and who knows how his successor will feel about pledging $1 billion in public money or the team’s controversial name.

The Washingtonian, meanwhile, says that one bidder isn’t nearly enough, so really West Virginia and Delaware should get in on the action, so that Snyder can get the best deal possible:

Snyder will need at least three bidders to get the best deal for the consistently mediocre team, which has a racist slur for a name. Should the proposed legislation in Maryland and DC succeed, it would be an ideal time for some of the wider Washington area make a play for the Redskins.

Delaware is a summer base for many Washingtonians and a two-hour drive isn’t out of the question for rabid football fans (even if people who actually live in Delaware are more likely to follow the Eagles or Giants). It’s facing a tough budget crunch, but maybe there’s a little room for football on the books? And then there’s West Virginia, a state that belongs to the Pittsburgh Steelers but includes part of the same metropolitan statistical area as what most people consider to be Washington. It, too, is within the arguable limits for a Sunday drive, and it’s the closest red state, an increasingly important criterion for this team. That new stadium design could even work in Charleston, maybe!

The Washingtonian is joking, I think. I have no explanation for why the Post seems to think that a governor who is willing to spend $1 billion so that a team owned by an asshole billionaire who is at best an unrepentant apologist for racism can replace its stadium that’s just 20 years old is an opportunity for Virginia, and not a danger to be avoided.

VA gov says he can build NFL stadium with no money, only land, which is just dirt, right?

Okay, cities and states offering up developable land instead of cash for stadiums and pretending this isn’t a public cost is officially the new thing:

Speaking to Fox 5 on Tuesday, [Virginia Gov. Terry] McAuliffe claimed that he has a plan to build the [Washington NFL] stadium without taxpayer dollars.

Instead, he said he’d pay for the project by selling development rights in the surrounding area. He compared the plan to how the Rams are financing their forthcoming stadium in Inglewood.

Yeah, okay, that’s not actually without taxpayer dollars, Terry. If development rights around a stadium site are a publicly owned asset, they’re one that the state could sell and use the proceeds for literally anything — public housing, new roads, a dirigible docking station — instead of a football stadium. This is what economists call an “opportunity cost,” and unless the value of the land accrues entirely from the existence of a stadium nearby (it won’t), it’s every bit as much a public cost as briefcases full of crisp twenties.

This is precisely the gambit that Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno tried with the city of Anaheim, whose mayor, Tom Tait, demanded an appraisal, which determined that the land rights were worth $100 million more than what Moreno was offering to spend on stadium renovations. Tait killed that deal, but other mayors and governors appear to have learned the wrong lesson, focusing solely on the “hey, people at large don’t seem to understand that public land has value” aspect. Looks like I’ve got a new mole to whack.

Virginia governor shouts “Virginia!” a lot as rationale for building NFL stadium

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gave his latest pitch for building an NFL stadium on Wednesday, and busted open the state exclamation point reserves in the process:

“A majority of the folks who go to the games, season-ticket holders, are from where? The Commonwealth of Virginia!” McAuliffe pointed out to an audience that included Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, team president Bruce Allen and 600 well-heeled supporters. “Sixty-six percent of the revenue to the Redskins comes from where? Residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia! Every player lives where? The Commonwealth of Virginia!”

After thanking the Redskins for being “a great economic driver” for the state, McAuliffe noted: “We have your headquarters! We have your training facility! What else could there possibly be?”

Inasmuch as one can make sense of a PR statement — the Washington Post also notes that McAuliffe “threw in the fact that Virginia was home to eight U.S. presidents, 281 wineries and boasts 28 miles of oceanfront and had dolphins frolicking in the surf rather than sharks,” which would be a bit much even if it were entirely true — let’s try to make sense of what McAuliffe is saying:

  • “A majority of the folks who go to the games, season-ticket holders, are from where? The Commonwealth of Virginia!” Okay, so? If they were from the state of Maryland, or for that matter the mysterious mountains of Delaware, the question to ask would be the same: How much more economic activity and tax revenue would Virginia get if the team were playing in that state instead of across the border in Maryland? That’s a worthwhile question to ask — stealing money from your neighbor is one way to pay for a stadium, if a morally dubious one — but McAuliffe never gets around to asking it.
  • “Sixty-six percent of the revenue to the Redskins comes from where? Residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia!” Again, that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t indicate that Virginia would get anything more of the team playing there. Unless you think that Virginia fans would rather drive to a stadium in their home state than drive to one in Maryland, which might be true of a few folks right near wherever a stadium got built, but there are plenty of Virginians who can get to the current stadium site just fine.
  • “Every player lives where? The Commonwealth of Virginia!” So… the players on Washington’s NFL team are living in Virginia and playing Virginia income taxes even though the stadium is in Maryland? Seems like you’ve got a sweet deal going there, governor — why do you need to spend money on a stadium when you’re already getting the benefits of there being one across the border?

Governors are paid to think stupid thoughts, is what I’m getting at here, and some of them are real good at it. Between Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., Daniel Snyder is going to have a real fun time running this bidding war.

Virginia governor says he’ll pay for NFL stadium by “being creative”

What with all the talk about the proposed crazy stadium-with-a-moat that Daniel Snyder wants to build in Washington, D.C. for his NFL team, it’s been easy to forget that the governors of Virginia and Maryland are itching to lure the team to their states as well. So it’s only understandable that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe made it a point on Friday to talk up how he’d love to build the team its second new stadium in two decades:

“I view this as a Virginia team,” the governor said on ESPN 980 on Friday morning, during an appearance at the team’s training camp facilities in Richmond. “I know they’re in Maryland right now. But a majority of the season ticket holders are Virginians, all the players live in Virginia, we have all of your [practice] facilities. . . . We’re in very serious negotiations, as I assume other jurisdictions are. Listen, we would love to have them.”

And how would this new stadium, located who knows where in Virginia, be funded?

The governor repeatedly cited the need to craft a deal that would be fair to Virginia taxpayers but said “if we can come up and be creative with a deal that works for everybody, then I think the team will be here. … What I always say is it’s got to make sense for the taxpayers of Virginia. We’ve got to negotiate a deal — my job as governor is to get economic activity — but you’ve also got to protect the taxpayer dollars. And we’ve got to be creative with this thing, so we’re protecting the taxpayers, it’s in the taxpayers’ best interests and it’s a win-win for the Redskins.”

That’s two uses of the word “creative,” so clearly McAuliffe is intent on some outside-the-box thinking that enables both taxpayers and Snyder to make a profit on a construction project that will almost certainly lose money. I’d suggest the traditional method, but to really get creative, maybe they should just do the financing in Modulo 1,000,000,000 and hope the construction costs wrap around.

Architects explain Washington NFL stadium moat as “gentle transition,” are just trolling us now

Want to know why Washington NFL owner Daniel Snyder’s proposed stadium design has a moat around it? Here’s why it has a moat, courtesy of a Washington Business Journal article titled, “Now we know why Dan Snyder’s stadium has a moat“:

According to Bjarke Ingels Group, the water feature would provide separation between the tailgating area and the stadium (as opposed to a fence or wall), while a series of bridges would act as new gates. “Access becomes a gentle transition between the tailgating and game,” reads the description. If you remember the tunnels from RFK Stadium to the parking lots, it’s not too far removed from that … except for the water part. And as was already revealed in one of the renderings (click through our gallery, above), the moat would in fact double as a wave pool in the summer and an ice rink in the winter.

Um, guys? That doesn’t actually explain why the stadium design has a moat, unless maybe it’s “the Bjarke Ingels Group architects have never been to a sporting event, and think that walking across a narrow bridge with 70,000 other fans to get from tailgating to the game would be a ‘gentle transition.'” Also possibly “the Bjarke Ingels Group architects have never been to D.C., and don’t realize that if it ever snows there, people will more likely be cowering in their homes than going out to ice skate on a frozen moat that will probably plunge them to their deaths at any second, because this isn’t Minnesota, people.”

On the other hand, here it is one month later, and we’re still talking about that damned moat, instead of about who on earth would actually build this thing when the team just got a new stadium 19 years ago. It’s all about the misdirection.