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?


Friday roundup: Cincy stadiums still gobbling tax money, XFL to use old Rangers stadium, Crew stadium to require $50m+ in public cash

So very very much more stadium and arena news from this week:

Seattle gets NHL team without throwing tons of cash at an arena, this is what victory looks like these days

Seattle was finally awarded its long-awaited NHL franchise yesterday, which means as soon as today work can begin on Seattle’s long-awaited reconstruction of the Key Arena. Curbed Seattle has some renderings, none of which show much that’s super-interesting about the redesigned arena, except that it will feature roof-suspended video boards in geometric shapes that aren’t easily described, and hockey fans who for some reason wave banners and bring replica Stanley Cups to the game, while wearing a startling number of fedoras and wildly cheering no action on the ice at all:

It’s been a long, strange trip for Seattle sports, starting with the Sonics moving to Oklahoma City in 2008 in a hissy fit over not getting public arena cash, then a years-long debate over a new arena in the SoDo district that would-be basketball owner Chris Hansen wanted to build, then ultimately the abandonment of that plan mostly thanks to the opposition of port unions and the turn to the Key remodel instead, with hockey arriving first and maybe basketball later. While there is plenty to argue about the merits of the two sites — I anticipate a full comments section for this one — the one common thread was that the city steadfastly refused to throw public money at either deal, helped out by a voter initiative passed in 2006 that put in place the principle that taxpayers should get a positive return on any public investment in sports venues. As sports subsidy shakedowns go — and this absolutely started as a subsidy shakedown on the part of billionaire former Sonics owner (and former Starbucks CEO) Howard Schultz’s part — it’s about as happy an ending as you’re likely to see.

The as-yet-unnamed Seattle NHL team will begin play in 2021, notwithstanding that the above image prominently features “2020 season” on the arena video boards. Maybe Seattle sports fans are so excited about the return of winter pro sports that they’ll show up an entire year early just to cheer them on? There’s no accounting for people in fedoras.

Friday roundup: Buffalo saber-rattling, Edmonton parking fee shortfall, Chicago music venues go to war against soccer plans

And in other news of the week:

  • This was actually last week, but I missed it then: Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has led the city council in voting to conduct a new appraisal of the Angel Stadium property as Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno prepares to opt out of his team’s lease next year. Councilmember Kris Murray, one of the two no votes, argued that this was tantamount to telling the Angels to leave; Tait replied that knowing how much the land was worth would be crucial to any stadium negotiations the incoming mayor will have with Moreno. The Gang of Four is going to miss Tom Tait.
  • The owners of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres have hired consultants CAA ICON and architecture firm Populous to “give us options” for renovating or replacing the teams’ existing venues. This is not necessarily the first step toward demanding new buildings, but it’s more of a step than the Pegulas have taken thus far, so certainly bears watching.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been giving away unused tickets for free to their season ticket holders, to try to fill up the seats at their underattended games. Finally something that Los Angeles Chargers fans can point and laugh at! Both of them!
  • The $8.7 million a year that Edmonton was projecting to bring in from parking fees outside the Oilers‘ new arena turns out to be somewhat less: just $2.5 million a year, leaving the city with a roughly $57 million hole in its arena budget. City councillor Jon Dziadyk immediately leaped into action, blaming the reduced parking fees on people not wanting to drive downtown because there are too many bike lanes.
  • Hey, remember that minor-league soccer stadium a major Chicago developer wanted to build as part of a major Chicago development, originally pegged to luring Amazon to town but now with a life of its own? Turns out the whole thing would be funded by tax increment financing kickbacks, and would include three to five new concert venues to be run by the entertainment giant Live Nation that local concert venue operators say would drive their non-subsidized clubs out of business. The Chicago Tribune reports that the fledgling Chicago Independent Venue League “already had its new logo, a peregrine falcon wrapped with a snake, printed on black tee-shirts,” which honestly is going to be tough for any soccer team to top.

Senators owner denies asking for public arena funding, except for that time he did

Now that Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is blowing up his LeBreton Flats arena plans by suing his development partners, the gloves are coming off. In the latest twist, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who Melnyk’s suit claims threatened to withdraw support for the arena if Melnyk pulled out of the plans — yeah, I know, just go with it — said yesterday that Melnyk tried to get public money for the project even after promising “no government money” would be involved:

“Their original opening discussion with our staff is that they wanted the city to build the arena, and I said that we’re not in the business of building arenas,” Watson told reporters after the final council meeting of the term.

A Senators exec immediately denounced Watson’s statement, but in a classic non-denial denial:

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Nicolas Ruszkowski, the team’s chief operating officer, called Watson’s comments “disappointing and inaccurate.”

He said the two sides met at the city’s suggestion to talk about funding models, but when the city made it clear it didn’t want to be involved, the Senators moved on.

“Numerous options for the development of the site were discussed; including, for instance, the adoption of Edmonton’s arena development model. When informed that this was impossible, [Rendezvous LeBreton] moved on,” he said in a statement, adding Melnyk never demanded the city build an arena.

So the Edmonton model — which, as a reminder, involved more than $300 million in public cash, mostly from handing over property tax receipts from the entire area around the arena — “was discussed,” meaning somebody raised it. Then the mayor’s office informed Melnyk that that model wouldn’t work, and the mayor clearly wouldn’t have proposed it only to immediately un-propose it, so obviously it was Senators officials who asked about getting taxpayer money. But that’s not “demanding the city build an arena,” because it’s just different, okay?

Then Ruszkowski doubled down by saying that even though he would never have asked for tax dollars for the Senators, not giving them tax dollars is a double standard, because the city previously spent money on renovating its CFL stadium for the RedBlacks. That’s so unfair! Not giving Melnyk money that he would never think of asking for! The nerve of some people.

Columbus splits ticket tax plan in half to keeps arts money from paying for Blue Jackets arena costs

The Columbus city council has revamped its ticket tax proposal, lowering the rate from 7% to 5% on all tickets over $10, and permitting only taxes on events at the Blue Jackets‘ Nationwide Arena to go toward arena renovations, with the rest going to arts organizations.

This is getting pretty close to an arguably fair deal, if the goal is to have entertainment venues pay for their own upgrade costs. As I’ve discussed here before, ticket tax money mostly ends up coming out of the pockets of the people selling the tickets, for the simple reason that venues are already selling tickets for as high as the market will bear; if the Blue Jackets decide that they can get away with charging $50 for a certain seat, they’re not suddenly going to be able to get away with $52.50 just because there’s a new 5% tax surcharge, so they’ll have to lower ticket face values (or at least refrain from raising them) to keep the new total price the same. (It’s a little more complicated than that since all entertainment venues in town will pay the same tax — it’s possible ticket buyers may end up having to pay a bit more on the economic principle of “nyah nyah, suck up higher ticket prices or stay home and watch TV,” while that $10 limit creates a rather large incentive for venues to charge $9.99 for tickets instead of $10.50 — but the basic principle still holds.)

This should help placate opponents who were upset that non-arena tickets were going to be taxed to pay for arena renovations; whether it placates the Blue Jackets owners, who previously came out against the earlier version of the tax, is another story. Though there’s nothing saying the Columbus city council has to come up with a tax that the team owners agree to, and the Blue Jackets’ lease that bailed the team owners out at public expense runs through 2039, so maybe they’ll just have to suck it up and accept a tax that will benefit their own arena, which isn’t actually all that onerous when you put it like that.

Senators owner gives up on building arena, sues development partner instead

When last we checked in with Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk back in April, he’d won a discounted deal to get land and development rights for a new downtown arena project at LeBreton Flats, but was stalling on actually starting building it because he called it a “tremendous risk.” And if you had “sue your development partners” next on your Eugene Melnyk bingo card, you’re a winner!

While people involved in the LeBreton negotiation have accused Melnyk of being the roadblock to landing a final development deal, Melnyk’s lawsuit claims he was kept in the dark about [Trinity Developments’ John] Ruddy’s development interest at 900 Albert St., across from the Bayview LRT station and near LeBreton Flats…

The lawsuit says Melnyk hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to look into the residential market and found the massive project at 900 Albert would “destroy the viability of the LeBreton project outright.” The market, according to the lawsuit’s description of the report, couldn’t support both projects.

That certainly sounds like Melnyk being a roadblock — “we don’t to build housing with our partner because they’re also building housing elsewhere” is a strange argument, especially since Ruddy would be effectively shooting himself in the foot as well. The Ottawa Citizen cites “three sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations” (without saying which side they’re on) as alleging that the Senators owner is just trying to get out of paying for an arena, while indicating that “no one is quite sure what Melnyk’s end-game is on LeBreton Flats.” Presumably by “no one” they didn’t include Melnyk himself, though given the man’s behavior so far, it’s always possible he has no idea what he’s doing either.

Whether this is good news or bad news for Ottawa residents depends on whether a developer can now be found for the site whose plan is something other than “get rights to the land, sit around complaining until someone else pays to build on it,” but presumably that won’t be too hard. It’s probably bad for Senators fans, who will have to keep shlepping out to the existing arena way out of town for games (or not, which has more often been the case), but that’s still arguably better than paying once for tickets and again for an arena with tax money, as seemed to be Melnyk’s goal.

Friday roundup: Tampa won’t divert road money to Rays stadium (probably), Columbus may spend $100m on Crew stadium, Anaheim signs Ducks lease extension as new mayor vows to placate Angels

You know who the real turkeys are this week? Nah, my heart isn’t in making Thanksgiving puns, just read the news, folks:

  • Three of seven Hillsborough County commissioners have promised that a new sales tax for transportation projects won’t mean diverting money from the existing transportation project to, say, a Tampa Bay Rays stadium, which the mathematically inclined will notice isn’t actually a majority of the county board. It’s still not super likely that the county will try to raid transportation funds to pay for a stadium, unless maybe it’s for transportation costs related to one, and there’s still several hundred million dollars in construction costs unaccounted for, but anyway it’s worth keeping at least half an eye on as we head toward the team’s December 31 lease opt-out deadline.
  • A paid consultant working on a new downtown arena for Saskatoon says it could have a “catalytic effect,” because of course he does, really, Global News, you ran an entire article that’s just interviewing one guy employed on the project? For this you want me to disable my ad blocker?
  • Forbes’ Mike Ozanian reports that “a person with knowledge of the deal to keep Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew in that city” says the new owners will pay $150 million for the franchise and spend $150 million toward a new downtown stadium, while “the public would foot the other $100 million.” Nobody else seems to be reporting on this, so maybe we should wait to be sure that Ozanian didn’t get his plus and minus signs mixed up again.
  • The Atlantic’s Rick Paulas suggests that we end stadium extortion by forcing pro sports leagues to massively expand and then institute promotion and relegation, which would sort of work, if there were an easy way to accomplish this through antitrust legislation, which you’d think if Congress could manage that they could manage the much more straightforward measure of taxing sports subsidies out of existence, but who knows, maybe a “market-based” solution would go over better in these times, sure, what the hell. “Of course, cities could also elect leadership that will defend them against bad deals,” notes Paulas, which isn’t a bad idea either.
  • Anaheim has signed a lease extension to keep the Ducks in town through 2048, involving the city selling the team 16 acres of land for $10 million — which if the stymied Angels deal is any guide would probably be a small discount, though Anaheim officials claim it’s market value — but the city will get a cut of arena profits after the first $6 million a year instead of the first $12 million, a threshold that’s never been hit. There are a lot of (small) moving pieces here, but I’m willing to say this is probably not too bad a deal, especially compared to some of the much, much worse lease extensions that cities have agreed to. Next is to to see about getting Angels owner Arte Moreno to accept the same logic, now that newly elected mayor Harry Sidhu is vowing to change “the hostile political environment in Anaheim” and “keep the Angels in Anaheim where they belong,” okay, Anaheim residents are probably going to have to settle for just a good Ducks deal.
  • Atlanta Falcons COO Greg Beadles tells NPR it’s not team owner greed that causes stadium food prices to be so high, it’s just that after teams force concessions companies to bid as high as possible for stadium contracts, the only way they can make money is to charge through the nose for food! Anyway, NPR gets busy talking to fans at a Falcons game about whether they’re happy the team lowered its food prices, and they’re happy about it, so no time to fact-check whether team execs’ statements make any damn sense. Free refills on soda, woohoo!

Friday roundup: Skip right past the first four items and go directly to the hidden-camera video on the Austin soccer-vs.-soccer beef, you know you wanna

This was feeling like a long week even before Americans with guns decided to make a late rush to break last year’s record for most people killed in major mass shootings. Fortunately, we have news in the field of whether to devote scarce public resources to boosting the profits of professional sports team owners to amuse us! Ha ha! Are we amused yet?

  • Los Angeles has been selected as the host of next year’s inaugural World Urban Games, a thing that is like the Olympics only it involves sports no one cares about, like three-on-three basketball. (Though admittedly, the Olympics also involves plenty of sports no one cares about.) L.A. had to offer no actual money to be the host, just use of its sports venues, so if anyone actually travels to L.A. to see these things, there’s an actual chance this might work out to the city’s economic benefit! Crazy talk!
  • The group that wants to bring an MLB team to Portland has pulled its offer to buy the city’s school headquarters to build a stadium on the site, saying it would be better used for affordable housing. (Read: The community hated the stadium idea, and they didn’t want to fight about it.) The group will reportedly announce a new site by the end of the month, but it’s not worth holding your breath over because MLB isn’t giving Portland a team in the immediate future, if ever.
  • Saskatoon city officials are looking into building a new downtown arena for about $175 million because … they didn’t actually say why. The old one is old? Mark Rosentraub sold them on a new one? Not that a new downtown Saskatoon arena is necessarily a terrible idea, especially if the city can collect rent and other revenues from it, but an even less terrible idea would be focusing on “Do we need a new arena?” before jumping straight to “How can we build one?”
  • There’s a new pro-ticket tax group in Columbus calling itself Protect Art 4 Columbus that describes itself as “a group of art enthusiasts, sports fans and other community members,” and if this isn’t an Astroturf group, they really needed to come up with a name that made themselves sound less like one.
  • I do not have the energy to explain the beef between the wannabe Austin MLS team owner and the wannabe Austin USL team owner and how they’re both building stadiums and supporters of one stadium are accusing supporters of another stadium of lying about their ballot petitions by saying “we’re trying to build a soccer stadium” when it’s really to stop the other guys from building a soccer stadium, so just watch the video, it’s blurry and confusing and shot in portrait mode, just like the kids today all like!

Miami, San Diego to vote on MLS stadium proposals today, also fate of nation or somesuch thing

Happy U.S. election day, when Americans will be waiting up to learn the fate of a bunch of stadium and arena proposals! And the direction of an entire nation, but this site doesn’t have time for that, so on with tonight’s sports venue scorecard:

  • Miami voters will decide on Referendum 1, which would allow the city of Miami to waive competitive bidding and give David Beckham the right to negotiate a 99-year lease on the city-owned Melreese golf course, for the purpose of building a stadium there for his Inter Miami MLS club. Polls close at 7 pm Eastern; this being Florida, however, there’s always a good chance no one will know the results until December.
  • In San Diego, voters will be faced with two competing ballot initiatives: Measure E, which would have the city lease 253 acres of land on the Chargers‘ former stadium and practice sites to developers of the proposed Soccer City, which would include a soccer stadium and other stuff; and Measure G, which would have the city sell the land to San Diego State University for a new campus, including a new college football stadium. Polls show Measure G winning and Measure E trailing; if both measures get a majority, whichever gets more votes will win; if neither measure wins, it’ll be left up to the mayor to determine what to do with the site. The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board has declared that neither measure is worth voting for, while letter writers to the paper — yes, there are still people who express their opinions by writing letters to newspapers, in 2018! — are all over the place in how to best game the system. San Diego polls close at 8 pm Pacific, so expect to wait up for this one.
  • Inglewood will elect a mayor today, and with incumbent James Butts in favor of a new Los Angeles Clippers arena and challenger Marc Little opposed, the outcome will be important for the city’s sports future. Polls close at 8 pm Pacific here as well, but a mayoral race is high-profile enough that we could see earlier projections.
  • Contrary to what I implied on Friday, Columbus voters will not be deciding on a 7% ticket tax that would apply to all large sports and entertainment venues — but maybe not Ohio State University football, nobody’s actually sure — and use the proceeds to fund arts programs and the Blue Jackets arena, because while a vote is indeed coming up, it’s a council vote, not a public referendum. A completely unscientific poll of Columbus Business Journal readers shows massive opposition to the measure, but even if that were a valid measure, the city council can still do whatever it wants, because representative democracy, yay!

Vote early and vote often!