Friday update: Bad D.C. arena math, bad Bucks arena math, bad Columbus ticket tax math

It must be September, because my TV is filled with Jim Cantore and Anderson Cooper standing ankle-deep in water. But anyway:

  • Washington, D.C., is about to open its new Mystics home arena and Wizards practice facility, and Mayor Muriel Bowser says it’s a model of how the city would build a new NFL stadium as well. “We know [sports] can help our bottom line by attracting people to our city, but it also has a big impact when we’re winning on our collective psyche,” says Bowser of an arena that got $50 million in public subsidies for two teams that were already playing in D.C. anyway. Maybe she should go back to using her terrible soccer stadium deal as a model instead.
  • People in Calgary are starting to ask whether, if the city is looking to spend $3 billion on hosting the 2026 Olympics, maybe it should build a new Flames arena as part of the deal? Camels, man.
  • Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim Pegula says she’s going to wait until after the gubernatorial elections this November to start negotiating a new stadium with whoever ends up in charge of the state. It won’t be the lox-and-raisin-bagel lady.
  • Speaking of the Pegulas and New York’s current governor, they’re planning an $18 million upgrade of Rochester’s arena that hosts the Rochester Americans minor-league hockey team (which the Pegulas also own), with costs to be split among the owners and city and state taxpayers. Split how? Sorry, no room in the Associated Press article, ask again later!
  • The AP did find time to fact-check Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s claim that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena would return three dollars in new taxes for each one spent, and found that “Walker omits some of the state money spent on the 20-year arena deal and relies on income tax estimates that experts call unreliable.” I could’ve told them that — in fact, I did, three years ago.
  • “‘Ticket tax’ proposal could lead to higher prices on movies, theater, sports in Columbus” reads a headline on ‘s website, something that the station’s reporter asserts in the accompanying video without saying where he got it from. He’s at least partly wrong: Ticket prices are already set as high as the market will bear, so unless the ticket tax changes the market — in other words, unless people in Columbus are forced to spend more on movies and theater and such because the other options (staying at home and watching TV, going out to eat) aren’t good enough, mostly this will just mean prices will stay roughly the same but a bigger share will go to theater/team owner’s tax bills. (I could try to find an economist to estimate exactly how big a share, but isn’t that really WSYX’s job?)
  • Former Oakland A’s exec Andy Dolich says the team owners may be looking at buying both the Howard Terminal site and the Oakland Coliseum site, and using the revenues from one to pay the costs of prepping the other for baseball, which, if the Coliseum site is such a cash cow and Howard Terminal such a money pit, wouldn’t they be better off just buying the Coliseum site and developing that? Or is the idea that Oakland would somehow give up the Coliseum site at a discounted price in order to get a new A’s stadium done? I have a lot of math questions here.
  • With nobody wanting to spend $250 million on a major renovation of Hartford’s arena, the agency that manages the XL Center is now looking for a $100 million state-funded upgrade instead. Still waiting to hear whether this would actually generate $100 million worth of new revenues for the arena; if not, the state would be better off just giving the arena a pile of cash to subsidize its bottom line, no?
  • Cobb County is only letting the Atlanta Braves owners out of part of the $1.5 million they owed on water and sewer costs for their new stadium. Yay?

Friday roundup: A farewell to Baby Cakes, and other stadium news

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a week since a week ago — but then, looking at all the stadium news packed up like cordwood, it’s actually not:

D.C. mayor wants to build NFL stadium based on United funding model, this can’t end well

Washington, D.C. has shown a remarkable ability to elect people as mayor who, as soon as they land in City Hall, suddenly fall in love with building stadiums for the city’s sports teams. That’s nothing out of the ordinary — the strongest predictor of whether someone will support a sports subsidy is whether they’ve been elected mayor, according to a study that I’m sure someone will do someday — but D.C. really does seem to have mastered the art.

Which leads us to Muriel Bowser, who as a D.C. city councilmember wanted to spend public money on schools not stadiums, but as soon as she was elected mayor decided it’d be just great to fund a soccer stadium and a basketball arena and maybe a football stadium too. And speaking of that football stadium:

In an interview after her remarks, Bowser, who is running without serious competition for reelection in November, said that although she didn’t like the team’s name and for a period declined to use it, she was focused on reusing the land occupied by RFK Stadium now that D.C. United has departed for its own new stadium.

“We think all of our professional sports teams should be in our city limits,” Bowser said when asked why she believes the city would benefit from the Redskins’ return. “We think it’s important that in a world-class city, we have all of the major things — arts, culture, restaurants, theater and sports.”

I mean, sure? But just as you wouldn’t spend several hundred million dollars to open a new Shake Shack, there’s a price point at which getting an NFL team back within city limits (as opposed to the suburbs where they’ve been the last 21 years) makes sense, and one where it’s a massive waste of money. Bowser skipped right over this, though, choosing instead to blurt, “Bring it home!”, which is a great way to get stuck spending more than you really wanted to.

While Bowser didn’t go into any specifics on how much she’d spend on a new NFL stadium, she did say that her “model” was the D.C. United deal, which you’ll recall involved no direct construction money from the city but enough free land and tax kickbacks that it came to the largest public subsidy in MLS history. I would say that D.C. needs to find itself a better mayor, but 1) Bowser is considered a shoo-in for reelection this November and 2) everybody starts acting like this as soon as elected D.C. mayor, so what’s the point? Maybe they should consider holding a City Hall exorcism, though — Vatican operators are standing by!

Friday roundup: Spending on training facilities is a bad idea, Portland seeks MLB team, Jays game postponed after roof hit by falling ice

I can’t believe none of you wrote in to ask why I hadn’t reported on a Toronto Blue Jays game getting postponed due to falling ice puncturing a hole in the stadium roof, but I guess you’re all acclimated to waiting for the Friday roundup now for that sort of thing. But wait no longer! (Well, wait a few bullet points for that one in particular.)

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.