Friday roundup: Neo-Expos seek public land for stadium, Hawaii mulls new stadium to host nothing, D-Backs spend bupkis fixing supposedly crumbling stadium

So very, very much news:

  • Would-be Montreal Expos reviver Stephen Bronfman has reportedly settled on federally owned land in Peel Basin near downtown as a prospective stadium site once a franchise is obtained, through expansion or relocation. Mayor Valérie Plante called the idea “interesting”; other than that, there’s been no word of what Bronfman would pay for the land or how the stadium would be paid for or really anything involving money, so sure, “interesting” is a fine evaluation of this news.
  • Charles Allen, the D.C. councilmember whose district includes RFK Stadium, calls the site “a very wrong choice for an NFL stadium,” and instead would like to see housing and parks there. Mayor Muriel Bowser disagrees, so this is going to come down to a good old council fight. Too bad Marion Barry isn’t around anymore to make things interesting.
  • Hawaii is considering spending $350 million in public money on a new football stadium to replace Aloha Stadium because, according to state senator Glenn Wakai, “It’s kind of like driving a Datsun pickup truck that is just being run into the ground. At a certain point, time to get a new pickup truck.” Given that Aloha Stadium currently hosts nothing much at all other than University of Hawaii football, it’s more like spending $350 million to replace your pickup truck that just sits in the driveway with a new pickup truck, but far be it from me to interfere with Sen. Wakai’s attempts to bash Datsun for some reason.
  • Halifax is still considering whether to spend $120-140 million on a stadium for an expansion CFL team, maybe via the magic of tax increment financing; University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe points out that a TIF isn’t magic but just “makes the subsidy less transparent, less obvious that it indeed even is a subsidy” — but then, pulling the wool over the public’s eyes is a kind of magic, no?
  • The Oakland Raiders have a “very real” chance of playing 2019 at the Oakland Coliseum, according to … this Bleacher Report headline, but nothing in the actual story? What the hell, Bleacher Report?
  • Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick has claimed that the team’s stadium would need $8 million in upgrades over the winter, but has only spent $150,000. Which isn’t totally a gotcha — team execs say they’re conserving the stadium maintenance fund to spend on future repairs — but it does poke a bit of a hole in their argument that the stadium is in such bad shape that MLB could order the Diamondbacks to leave Arizona.
  • Austin residents will get to vote in November on whether the city can give public land to a pro sports team owner without a public vote, but it’ll probably be too late to affect the deal to do that for Austin F.C. owner Anthony Precourt. It’ll come in handy next time Austin is in the market for a pro sports team, I guess, though then the owner will probably just figure out a different way to ask for subsidies. “Better late than never” doesn’t work that well when it comes to democracy.
  • Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’s “not sure that there’s much space for public consultation” on a redevelopment project to include a Flames arena, though he added that “it would be very interesting to hear from the public on what they think the right amount of public participation in this should be, and certainly there will be an opportunity for the public to have their voices heard but it might not happen until there’s something on the table.” It’s hard to tell whether that’s a justification or an apology — and keep in mind that Nenshi was deliberately shut out of the committee negotiating any deal — but there you are.
  • MLS commissioner Don Garber just got a five-year extension, and — quelle coincidence! — the league is now talking about expanding to 32 teams by 2026. Whether this is really a Ponzi-esque attempt to paper over weak financials with a constant influx of expansion fees won’t be entirely clear until the expansion finally stops and we see how the money looks then, but one thing is increasingly clear: It’s kind of crazy to throw stadium money around in hopes of landing an MLS franchise when it’s increasingly clear every reasonably large city in the U.S. is going to get one sooner or later.
  • And finally, Amazon pulled out of its $3 billion tax break deal with New York yesterday, and it sounds like it’s because its execs were tired of taking a PR beating around the company’s anti-union stance and contracting for ICE. Some New Yorkers are celebrating victory, others are retreating into the Casino Night Fallacy, and as always, The Onion has the final word.

Maryland governor says he doesn’t want to build NFL stadium for Dan Snyder after all

Daniel Snyder’s plan to play off the three local governments in the D.C. area to extract land and money for a new stadium for his NFL team took another blow last night, as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he was stopping his pursuit of building a stadium on federal land south of D.C., at least “at this time”:

“We are not continuing discussions with the Redskins regarding this site at this time, however we are moving full steam ahead with acquiring state control of the Maryland Gateway in Prince George’s County from the federal government,” [Hogan’s communications director Amelia] Chasse wrote in response to an email from The Washington Post asking whether Hogan had withdrawn support of a new Redskins stadium in Maryland. “We believe this site holds significant potential benefits for the region and the state, as does the proposal to expand protected federal parkland in Western Maryland. We are working closely with our federal partners to finalize the transfer.”

Deadspin reported this as “Dan Snyder’s Sleazy Stadium Scheme Is Crumbling Around Him,” which is probably overly optimistic: Hogan can always resume negotiations with Snyder later, after he’s gotten control of the land, after all. But it is undeniably true that Snyder’s machinations haven’t gotten off to a whiz-bang start, what with his main backer on the D.C. council facing possible ethics charges and local officials in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia working on an interstate pact not to bid against each other, and now this. It only takes one win for a sports team owner to go home with a shiny new stadium, and this can take anywhere from months to a decade or more, but if you’re placing wagers on when Snyder’s team will be playing in a new home, I’d bet the over.

Friday roundup: What time is the Super Bowl article rush going to be over?

It’s too cold to type an intro! I miss the Earth before we broke it. But anyway:

Friday roundup: Vikings get $6m in upgrades for two-year-old stadium, Sacramento finds rich guy to give soccer money to, CSL screws up yet another stadium study

No time to dawdle today, I got magnets to mail, so let’s get right down to it:

  • The Minnesota Vikings‘ two-years-and-change-old stadium is getting $6 million in renovations, including new turf, and taxpayers will foot half the bill, because of course they will.
  • Billionaire Ron Burkle is becoming the majority owner of the USL Sacramento Republic, so now Mayor Darrell Steinberg wants to give the team “tens of millions of dollars” in infrastructure and development rights and free ad signage so that he can build an MLS stadium. “The richer you are, the more money we give you” is the strangest sort of socialism, but here we are, apparently.
  • Concord, an East Bay suburb until now best known as “where the BART yellow line terminated until they extended it,” is considering building an 18,000-seat USL stadium. No word yet on how much it’ll cost or how much the city will chip in, but they probably first need to wait to see how rich the team’s owner is.
  • Not everyone in Allen, Texas wants to live across the street from a cricket stadium, go figure.
  • Everybody’s favorite dysfunctional economic consultants Convention, Sports & Leisure have done it again, determining that Montreal would be a mid-level MLB market without bothering to take into account the difference between Canadian and American dollars. (One the exchange rate is factored in, Montreal’s median income falls to second-worst in MLB, ahead of only Cleveland.) CSL explained in a statement to La Presse that it wanted to show “the relative purchasing power” of Montrealers, and anyway they explained it in a footnote, so quit your yapping.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers are going to change the name of their stadium from one corporate sponsor to another, and boy, are fans mad. Guys, you know you are free to call it whatever you want, right? Even something that isn’t named for a corporation that paid money for the privilege!
  • Local officials in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. are still working on an interstate compact to agree not to spend public money on a stadium for Dan Snyder’s Washington NFL team, though passage still seems unlikely at best, and the history of these things working out effectively isn’t great. Maybe it’ll get a boost now that team execs have revealed that the stadium design won’t include a surfboard moat after all. Nobody respects the vaportecture anymore.
  • The libertarian Goldwater Institute is suing to force the release of a secret Phoenix Suns arena study paid for by the team and conducted by sports architects HOK, but currently kept under lock and key by the city. (Literally: The study reportedly is kept in locked offices and is only allowed to be accessed by a “very limited number” of people. Also, a citizen group is trying to force a public referendum on the recently approved Suns arena subsidy, though courts have generally not been too keen on allowing those to apply retroactively to deals that already went through. And also also, one of the two councilmembers who voted against the Suns subsidy thinks the city could have cut a better deal. Odds on any of this hindsight amounting to anything: really slim, but maybe it can help inform the next city to face one of these renovation shakedowns, if anyone on other city councils reading out-of-town news or this site and ultimately cares, which, yeah.
  • Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke signed agreements to cover the NFL’s legal costs in any lawsuit over those teams’ relocations, and they’re both being sued now (by Oakland and St. Louis respectively), and NFL lawyers are really pricey. Kroenke is reportedly considering suing the league over this, which I am all for as the most chaotically entertaining option here.
  • Wilmington, Delaware is being revitalized by the arrival of a new minor-league basketball team, so make your vacation plans now! Come for the basketball, stay for the trees and old cars! Synergy!

Friday roundup: Don’t subsidize bad people, XFL to pay St. Louis more in rent than Rams did, unscientific poll on Suns arena is unscientific

Happy first Friday roundup of 2019! I could add a whole lot of thoughts on lists I’ve read and haven’t made of the best of this and that of last year, but to save time let me just stick with saying that this song is pretty damn excellent and get right to the news of the short week:

  • Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post wrote a column about how Washington NFL team owner Daniel Snyder is a bad person and a terrible owner and should never get a dime of public stadium money because that’d be “a bailout, welfare,” none of which I can disagree with, but at the same time I’m a bit uncomfortable with the implication that if Snyder were less unpleasant, he’d then be deserving of public largesse.
  • The XFL may still be considered a bit of a joke league, but at least it can pay the city of St. Louis a decent stadium rent, unlike the Rams ever did. (Of course, the “joke league” bit is exactly why they are being required to pay real rent whereas the Rams could refuse to; there’s not much advantage to being an 80-pound gorilla.)
  • This essay responding to Amazon’s tax breaks is pretty excellent, though it’s still a half-notch below this classic Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon.
  • An opposing team manager has demanded that Tottenham Hotspur be required to play the rest of their season at Wembley rather than moving into their much-delayed stadium, because … teams that got to play them while they were adjusting to their new grounds would have an advantage somehow? From what I’ve been able to tell, most of home-field advantage in soccer comes from home fans booing (or whistling) at refs to intimidate them into making calls that go their team’s way, but the last time I tried reading the literature on this it quickly went deep into the weeds, so I won’t belabor the point.
  • “Fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena” were “surprisingly” in favor of spending public money to renovate the Phoenix Suns arena, according to Fox10 Phoenix, compared to “the online response” which was more “mixed.” This is both an impressively off-label use of “surprisingly” and an impressively lazy attempt at polling Phoenix residents — two impressively lazy attempts, even — so fine job, Fox10 Phoenix!

D.C. councilmember facing pay-for-play charges, could be too in jail to help with Washington NFL stadium

Washington, D.C., has put close to a billion dollars in public money into sports stadiums and arenas in recent years — for the Nationals, D.C. United, and a Wizards practice facility that doubles as a Mystics home court — and at the center of pretty much all of the spending campaigns is city councilmember Jack Evans. And Evans, according to a Washington Post report, is now in super-hot water, which I will hand it over to Deadspin to explain because they do it so much pithier:

The paper alleged Evans received an estimated $100,000 in stock from a private company just before introducing “emergency” legislation that would have directly benefited the gift horse firm. The story said the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability began looking into Evans’s play-for-pay behaviors earlier this year. The ethics board suspended that investigation and released no findings, which according to the Post typically happens “in deference to law enforcement investigations.”

Uh oh.

Serious uh-oh. The private company in question is billboard company Digi Outdoor Media, and it gifted Evans with the $100,000 in stock in October 2016, one month before Evans introduced emergency legislation to legalize large digital advertising signs that the company wanted to install. Digi had earlier worked with Evans on legislation legalizing large fabric ads on the sides of buildings, and had given the councilmember $50,000 in checks earlier in 2016, in what Evans said was a retainer for future consulting work. (Evans says he ended up returning both the checks and the stock.)

If Evans goes down in flames, notes Deadspin’s Dave McKenna, it will be nothing but bad for Washington NFL team owner Daniel Snyder’s attempts to get a new stadium on the RFK site:

In keeping with his no-billionaire-left-behind reputation, Evans was viewed as the leader among D.C. politicians in putting together a package to beat whatever Maryland and Virginia lawmakers were going to give the bumbling but moneyed Skins owner. One source with ties to the D.C. council tells me Evans’s package calls for the city to turn over the choice real estate to Snyder for free, and to take care of new road and parking lot costs, and Snyder would dip into NFL coffers and maybe even his own bank accounts to finance the actual stadium construction. I was at an election night function last month and saw Evans holding court and boasting about how the plan to turn over the federally owned, city-controlled parcel of land to the most despised man in the Nation’s Capital (yes, even in the Trump era) was all but signed, sealed and delivered.

“It’s a done deal,” Evans said, according to one of the folks in the court. So done, in fact, that Evans also said the city was already planning that the stadium building project would be “announced in March” of 2019.

Maybe not, now.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t note McKenna’s excellent disclosure at the end of his article that “Jack Evans once called me to berate me for writing that Nationals Park was being built with public funds; the dumbass argument Evans made repeatedly during his phone tirade was that all the money used to build the stadium, a tab that eventually hit about $1 billion, would come from new taxes implemented specifically for that project, and therefore those tax revenues can’t be called ‘public money.’ Huh?” Hey, I’ve heard that argument before! If it turns out that Evans had a hand in killing my Washington Post op-ed way back in 2012, then full disclosure here that I had reason for animosity towards him, though honestly I think any D.C. resident or person concerned about not lavishing public dollars on wealthy sports team owners has plenty enough reason already to be excited to see him hoist on his own $100,000 petard.

Friday roundup: More Raiders temporary home rumors, more MLB expansion rumors, and pro cricket (?!?) in Texas

Was this week longer than usual, or did it just feel that way? The number of browser tabs I have open indicates the former — personally, I blame the moon.

  • Or maybe the Oakland Raiders will play in Arizona next year? When you have a lame-duck team whose new stadium in its new city isn’t ready yet, no idea is dumber than any other, really.
  • The University of Texas is reportedly building a new $300 million basketball arena at no cost to the state or the university, though if you read the fine print it’s actually getting Oak View Group (the same people behind Seattle’s arena rebuild) to build the arena in exchange for letting OVG keep a large chunk of future arena revenues. So really this is no different from UT building the arena themselves and using future revenues to pay off the construction costs, except I guess that OVG takes on the risk of cost overruns. Anyway, this is a good reminder that it’s not just about the costs, it’s about the revenues, stupid.
  • Las Vegas wants an MLB expansion team. It shouldn’t hold its breath.
  • There are lots of ideas for what to do with D.C.’s RFK Stadium site, and not all of them involve a stadium for Washington’s NFL team.
  • Queens community groups are protesting possible plans to build a soccer stadium for a would-be USL team called Queensboro F.C. on the Willets Point site cleared of businesses for redevelopment (including affordable housing) several years ago. This is a super-weird story that I’m still trying to get to the bottom of, so stay tuned for a more in-depth update soon.
  • Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk now says he’d consider letting someone else own his team’s proposed downtown arena if they’d pay to build it, contradicting what he said two years ago. Here’s a fun list of other times Melnyk contradicted himself!
  • Lots of public meetings coming up in Phoenix on the much-derided $230 million Suns arena renovation plan. The city has also posted the actual arena proposal, which among other things notes that the Suns’ rent is projected to go up from $1.5 million to $4 million a year in a renovated arena, which would help offset some of the public’s $168 million in costs, though it doesn’t say whether the rent (which is based on revenues) would go up in an unrenovated arena as well, so really this wouldn’t offset it all that much.
  • Speaking of the Suns, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said this week that “it’d be a failure on my part if a team ended up moving out of a market.” Now that’s how you play the army protection racket non-threat threat game! Rob Manfred, take notes. (Actually, please don’t.)
  • And speaking of Manfred, MLB is reportedly considering letting teams take control of their streaming broadcast rights instead of running them all centrally through MLB.tv, which would be a huge deal in that it would allow teams in large markets to monopolize streaming revenue like they currently do TV revenue, forestalling an NFL-like future where TV money is a more level playing field. They could offset this through increased revenue-sharing, sure, but … you know what, let’s table this discussion until there’s more than an unsourced New York Post item to go on.
  • Allen, Texas, is talking about building a pro cricket stadium via a “public-private partnership,” leaving me with two big questions: 1) how much is the public kicking in, and 2) maybe would it be a good idea to wait until a pro cricket league actually exists before building a stadium for it to play in?
  • The Athletic has a strangely formatted article about how finished MLS stadiums seldom look like their renderings that’s a fun read if you’re an Athletic subscriber, which you probably aren’t. (I got the $1-for-90-days trial deal, so I can keep tantalizing you with paywalled stuff for another few weeks yet.)

Friday roundup: Potential Raiders homes for 2019, ranked (okay, actually not ranked)

Man, who opened the stadium news floodgates this week? Here it is almost noon on Friday and I still haven’t gotten to the news roundup — okay, know what, less whining, let’s just get right to it:

  • The city of Oakland filed its antitrust suit against the Raiders as promised this week, which means it’s time for a list of places the Raiders could play next year if they are forced to leave Oakland in a huff. “Do a multi-week residency in London and play the rest of the season on the road” is one I hadn’t heard before, anyway.
  • New York’s Empire State Development Corporation approved its draft environmental report on a new New York Islanders arena at Belmont Park, and it basically comes down to “yeah, traffic is already bad and it’s going to get worse, we’ll try to figure something out but don’t hold your breath.” The state will also provide a whole two Long Island Rail Road trains to take fans to and from games, which will require new switches to deal with the massive mess that is that train interchange, for which “it is also expected that [the arena developers] will contribute to LIRR and MTA funding,” which isn’t exactly the same as saying the developers will pay for it.
  • Tottenham Hotspur‘s long-delayed stadium is still delayed, but at least now fans can enjoy drone footage of the place they’re not being allowed to set foot in.
  • The National Parks Conservation Association was “shocked” to learn that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wants to take 300 acres of federal parkland to use for a new Washington NFL team stadium. “I have talked to lower-level Park Service employees who are just as shocked as I am about this,” said the organization’s Chesapeake and Virginia programs director, Pam Goddard. “We are vehemently opposed.” Hogan has said that no public money would be used for the stadium plan, but public land and building out sewer and power lines into federal parkland, now that’s another story.
  • Residents of South Boston want the New England Revolution to stay offa their lawns with any stadium plans.
  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants more NBA-ready arenas in Latin America so the NBA can play occasional regular season games there, but didn’t offer to help pay for any, that’d be crazy, and does he look crazy?

 

Tom Boswell hates stadium subsidies, but only for team owners he hates

I will freely admit, I got kind of excited when I saw that the Washington Post had run an article titled “The Real Winner of Redskins Stadium Derby Will Be Whoever Doesn’t Get It.” (The headline has since been changed, but the original is preserved in the URL.) The idea that the best-case scenario for residents of a municipality or state — especially in a region where many of them butt up against each other, like in the D.C. area — is for a team to build a stadium just across the state or city line, allowing you to still attend games but not have the pay the construction bills, is one that’s been discussed here at length, so I was eager to read what the essay said.

Then I saw that the author was Thomas Boswell, the longtime Post sports columnist who memorably wrote of the Nationals stadium deal not to worry about more than $700 million in public costs because “Santa says we win,” and I downgraded my expectations. Which was a good thing, because man is this article all over the place:

  • Boswell really doesn’t like team owner Daniel Snyder: I mean, nobody does, but Boswell is especially ticked that Snyder is negotiating with both Maryland and D.C. officials at the same time for stadium deals, which means the Post columnist must really hate his boss.
  • The team is bad: Let’s check out the NFL standings … okay, 6-7 isn’t that terrible, but it is bad, and they haven’t been that good in recent memory, so fair enough for fans to be gripey. But the corollary would be that if the team were winning Super Bowls it would deserve public money, which isn’t a road one really wants to go down.
  • Snyder is asking for more than other D.C. sports team owners: “D.C. has been fortunate. Abe Pollin built his own arena. D.C. found a way to get suburbanites to pay for a big chunk of its new park by slapping stiff taxes on all Nationals tickets and food to help pay off ballpark bonds.” Um, no: Less than a third of the public cost of the Nats stadium was paid for by stadium taxes, and less than half of that was via new taxes “slapped on” on top of existing ones, and where I come from one-sixth is not “a big chunk.” Also, don’t forget that D.C. just supplied the biggest MLS stadium subsidy in history, so “fortunate” is pretty much the wrong word as well.

I know, I know, I shouldn’t be cranky about any article that points up the stupidity of throwing cash at a pro sports team owner, regardless of how badly the argument is made. But arguments matter, too, especially when they put forward the notion that the problem with allowing rich guys to dump their stadium costs on taxpayers while raking in all the revenues is that we’re allowing the wrong rich guys to take advantage of this. Where are those vaunted Washington Post opinion fact-checkers when you need them?

D.C., Snyder working on secret deal to secure RFK site for an NFL stadium

D.C. officials are reportedly working on a secret plan with Republican Congressional leaders to insert a measure into the federal spending bill that would … do something for Washington’s NFL team owner Daniel Snyder in its efforts to build a new football stadium on the site of RFK Stadium, though it’s not entirely clear what, because “secret,” remember?

Developing the RFK site, which is on federally owned land along the Anacostia River, is politically fraught. The city controls the land only through 2038 under a National Park Service lease that states the land must be used for “stadium purposes” or “recreational facilities, open space, or public outdoor recreation opportunities” only, precluding commercial development.

According to one congressional official and a D.C. official, the language under consideration would extend the existing lease for 99 years and remove the recreation-only language, thus opening the site to other, commercial development.

On the face of it, that doesn’t sound like a huge concession from the feds — just giving D.C. more time and leeway over what to do with the land. But it also doesn’t seem to have much to do with a federal spending bill, and the whole behind-closed-doors aspect is suspicious as well, which is probably why the local advocacy group Greater Greater Washington is sounding the alarm about it.

As a reminder, the stadium Snyder wants to build would look like this:

Yup.

In totally related news, it was revealed that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the Department of the Interior to obtain federal land near National Harbor south of D.C. with the intent of possibly using it for an NFL stadium. This is certainly starting to look like it has the makings of a bidding war, and one where both sides’ bids are being helped along by the federal government to boot. But I guess who can put a price tag on snowball fights?