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:


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?

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.