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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Washington’s NFL team may not know where it wants to build a stadium or how it would be paid for, but that’s not going to stop them from releasing photos of a model of how it would look, to 60 Minutes for some reason:
That sure looks like something stadium-like all right. Though it doesn’t seem to have any concourse space for buying food inside (just ramps upon ramps, and no escalators or elevators?), and it has a freaking moat around it with people kayaking in it, spanned only by a handful of bridges that are going to be completely overwhelmed by crowds before and after games, and fans will end up being crushed by the crowds and falling into the moat oh god oh god the humanity…
There is zero chance that this stadium will actually be built this way, but the model enables team owner Daniel Snyder to do two things: Get national TV coverage for his campaign to get somebody in the D.C. area to build him a new stadium, and link his team to “starchitect” Bjarke Ingels, which is so much better than being linked to genocide. Meanwhile: vaporkayaks!
Dave McKenna at Deadspin has a long article up about Washington, D.C.’s inexplicable love for sports subsidies, mostly focused on the new Wizards practice facility (public cost $55 million plus any overruns, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis’s cost next to nothing) and a possible new stadium for the city’s NFL team. But the most interesting tidbit for me was this:
On the same day when the mayor oversaw the groundbreaking for the Wizards practice space, Events DC head Greg O’Dell testified at a sparsely attended oversight hearing held in the city council chamber that $160 million was earmarked for improvements and repairs to Nationals Park.
Wait, what? When did this happen?
The hearing, it turns out, was on February 18, but as our own frequent commenter PowerBoater69 points out on another site, this isn’t exactly new money: The $160 million is just what D.C. has budgeted for future maintenance and upgrades to the Nationals‘ stadium. You can hear O’Dell’s comments about this starting at 2:40 on the video linked above:
“We conducted a study to look at this very issue, and we frankly are doing it for all our assets. The estimated costs over the remaining life of the stadium is about $160 million.”
So no, it’s not a new subsidy — taking on maintenance costs is something that D.C. agreed to in its original deal with the Nats. But it is a dollar figure for an existing subsidy that hasn’t been previously priced out. Even if you back that number down to a present value of, say, $100 million, then when added to the $611 million in construction funds that D.C. approved ten years ago Tuesday, the total public cost for the Nationals stadium will end up being more than $700 million. On a stadium that was originally supposed to cost $440 million. You elected officials really need to start reading the fine print, guys.
Residents of the area around RFK Stadium really do not like Mayor Muriel Bowser’s idea to use the land for a new NFL stadium:
More than 150 residents of Capitol Hill filled a church gymnasium Wednesday night to propose ideas for re-use of the Robert F. Kennedy stadium property.
Most of the ideas centered around sports: playing fields, a pool, a boathouse, skating rinks, walking trails, even a velodrome.
There was one idea they widely and intensely opposed: building a new stadium for the Redskins. And almost every one of the more than 20 people who stood up to oppose a new NFL stadium did so without saying the team’s name.
Meanwhile, two former National Park Service workers who live near the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital site really do not like Mayor Bowser’s idea to use it for a new Wizards practice facility:
“I don’t think we need it over here,” said Alphonzo Walker, an unemployed 53-year-old who lives in Ward 8.
“I don’t know about this area,” said Eric Clark, also unemployed and in his 50s, though a few years older than Mr. Walker. “What’s going to happen to the homeless who live there?”
Okay, sure, small sample size. Still, the general principle is valid: If you have a plot of available land, and a plan to dedicate a few tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in city money towards it, what’s the best way to generate jobs and other benefits for the surrounding neighborhood, if that’s your goal? Think carefully before you answer.