Friday roundup: CFL in Halifax, Columbus ghost stadium, Sydney is the new Atlanta, and more!

Are any of my American readers even out there, or are you all too busy tormenting retail workers with your demands for discounted goods? If so, you’re missing out, because we’ve got all your goods right here, at our everyday discount of free!

  • The CFL is considering expanding to Halifax, which means Halifax would need a CFL stadium, which means somebody would have to pay for a Halifax CFL stadium. Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says a stadium is “not a capital priority at this time” and would have to be built “without putting taxpayers at risk.” The Ottawa RedBlacks stadium model is being floated, which is slightly weird because that ended up costing taxpayers a bundle of money plus free land, but maybe “taxpayer risk” is defined differently in Halifax. Anyway, we’ve been this far before, so grains of salt apply.
  • Remember how I wasn’t sure what would be included in the $75 million in public “infrastructure” spending that F.C. Cincinnati is demanding? Turns out that’s because nobody’s sure: WCPO notes that the team hasn’t provided any cost estimates or a traffic study, which “leaves us wondering where, exactly, FC Cincinnati came up with its figures.” I’ll take “nice round number, slightly less than the $100 million elected officials balked at previously” in the pool, please.
  • A guy in Columbus came up with an idea to use county sales tax money to build a new stadium to keep the Crew in town, then the next day said it was just an idea he came up with over the weekend by himself and never mind.
  • The city of Worcester is still trying to lure the Pawtucket Red Sox to town, and the state of Massachusetts may be getting involved, with one unnamed source telling the Worcester Telegram that stadium funding would need to be a “a three-legged stool” among the city, state, and team. You know this article is just going to be waved around in the Rhode Island legislature as it heads toward a vote on public funding for a PawSox stadium there, and what was everyone just saying about the role of enablers in abuse, again? (Not that stadium swindles are morally equivalent to sexual harassment, obviously, but you get my point. Also, why are all the articles about the role of enablers in sexual harassment a month old, are we not going to pay attention to that after all?)
  • The state of Connecticut may spend $40 million on upgrades to Hartford’s arena and some retail properties near its entrance, on the grounds that it might make it more attractive to buyers. If this seems like getting it backwards to you, yeah, me too, but at least it’s better than spending $250 million on the arena and then not selling it.
  • Laney College students, faculty, and staff all hate the idea of an Oakland A’s stadium on their campus. “They want to disrupt our education by building a ballpark across the street with noisy construction, traffic gridlock, pollution, and alcohol consumption by fans,” Associated Students of Laney College President Keith Welch told KCBS-TV. “We will not sacrifice our education so that the A’s owners can make more money.” Pretty sure they won’t get a vote, though.
  • “Industry experts” say that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena will charge more for concert tickets because … it’ll draw bigger-name acts that cost more, I think they’re saying? That doesn’t actually seem like a detriment, though they also note that the new arena has a higher percentage of seats in the lower bowl, which people will pay more for even if they’re way in the back of the lower bowl, and helps explains why arena and stadium designers are so obsessed with getting as many lower-deck seats as possible even if it makes for crappier upper-deck seats. Which we kind of knew already, but a reminder always helps.
  • And move over, Atlanta, there’s a new planned stadium obsolescence king in town: The state of New South Wales is planning to spend $2 billion Australian (about $1.5 billion U.S.) to tear down the Sydney stadium it built for the 2000 Olympics, along with another smaller stadium in Sydney built in 1988, in order to build newer ones that are more ideally shaped for rugby, I think? Because nobody thought of that in 2000? I need to wait for my Australian rugby correspondent to return from holiday break for a more authoritative analysis, but right now this is looking like one of the worst throw-good-money-after-bad deals in stadium history, and it’s not even in America, the land that has perfected the stadium swindle. Crikey!

Houston could get an NHL team, or could just be used to extort other NHL cities for cash

If you’ve always wondered why Houston, the United States’ 10th largest media market, didn’t have an NHL franchise, this is your week. Starting last Thursday, when The Athletic (citing the ever-popular “multiple sources”) reported that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and new Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta had met to talk about putting a team in the city, there’s been increased blind speculation about the possibility, to the point where the Houston Chronicle ran an entire article about what the phantom team would be called.

Most recently, the Houston Press, a newspaper that recently canceled its print edition and laid off its entire staff except for its editor-in-chief, who now works solely with freelancers, reported that now that Fertitta owns the Rockets and their arena, bringing hockey to Houston is “just a matter of when.” And lawyer-by-day-sports-journalist-by-night John Royal, citing the less-popular “it’s become my understanding,” says that the NHL isn’t considering expansion for the moment, but instead would prefer to “stabilize” one of its existing franchises by moving it to a new city:

There are numerous candidates for relocation to Houston. No. 1 on the list is the Arizona Coyotes which is begging the Phoenix-metro area to build it a new arena after failing to attract fans to the taxpayer-funded arena built for the Coyotes in Glendale and which is currently playing on a year-to-year lease. Then there are the Carolina Hurricane which have been struggling at the gate. The New York Islanders are unhappy in a new arena in Brooklyn and are seeking to move, and the Calgary Flames are threatening to move if a new arena is not built by Calgary taxpayers.

(Yes, “the Arizona Coyotes which is.” Clearly they laid off all the copy editors, too.)

All of this makes sense, sort of, though for the Islanders and Flames in particular you have to wonder whether giving up strong media markets that are hockey hotbeds in exchange for a city in the South would work as well as … well, as the Coyotes and the Hurricanes, which let’s not forget are in this predicament because they used to be the Winnipeg Jets and the Hartford Whalers. The Coyotes, in particular, couldn’t really do worse than in Arizona, where they are about to have no arena lease and have never drawn well in any case.

On the other hand, when you see all the unnamed sources involved, you have to at least ask the question: Is all this sudden Houston talk in part an NHL whisper campaign to rattle move-threat sabers in other cities? So far nobody appears to be freaking out — Fansided’s Flames blog briefly mentioned and dismissed the possibility of Calgary’s team heading south, for example, despite Sportsnet’s John Shannon insisting that “Calgary’s name has been added to the list of teams facing possible relocation” — which is good, but nobody has yet hopped on a plane to Houston or anything.

And really, even if Fertitta’s interest in a team is real — and there’s no reason to think it isn’t, though it is a bit puzzling that former owner Les Alexander figured he made more money on concerts and the like than hockey, but Fertitta calculates otherwise — it’d be dumb for the NHL not to use this as an opportunity to shake down other cities for arena cash or other concessions. Houston as an NHL city would be somewhat valuable, if only for its market size, though again, it’s only slightly larger than Phoenix and that worked out spectacularly poorly; Houston as a bogeyman to frighten other cities (along with Seattle once that city’s arena deal is finalized) could potentially be the gift that keeps on giving. Watch the blogs and sports talk radio, I guess, to see how this will all play out.

Friday news: Phoenix funds Brewers but not Suns, brewers float crowdfunding Crew, and more!

So, so much news this week. Or news items, anyway. How much of this is “news” is a matter of opinion, but okay, okay, I’ll get right to it:

  • Four of Phoenix’s nine city council members are opposed to the Suns‘ request for $250 million in city money for arena renovations, which helps explain why the council cut off talks with the team earlier this week. Four other councilmembers haven’t stated their position, and the ninth is Mayor Greg Stanton, who strongly supports the deal, meaning any chance Suns owner Robert Sarver has of getting his taxpayer windfall really is going to come down to when exactly Stanton quits to run for Congress.
  • Speaking of Phoenix, the Milwaukee Brewers will remain there for spring training for another 25 years under a deal where the city will pay $2 million a year for the next five years for renovations plus $1.4 million a year in operating costs over 25 years, let’s see, that comes to something like $35 million in present value? “This is a great model of how a professional sports team can work together with the city to extend their stay potentially permanently, which is amazing, and we’re doing it in a way where taxpayers are being protected,” said Daniel Valenzuela, one of the councilmembers opposed to the Suns deal, who clearly has a flexible notion of “great” and “protected.”
  • And also speaking of Phoenix (sort of), the Arizona Coyotes are under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board for allegedly having “spied on staff, engaged in union busting and fired two employees who raised concerns about pay.” None of which has anything directly to do with arenas, except that 1) this won’t make it any easier for the Coyotes owners to negotiate a place to play starting next season, when their Glendale lease runs out, and 2) #LOLCoyotes.
  • A U.S. representative from Texas is trying to get Congress to grandfather in the Texas Rangers‘ new stadium from any ban on use of tax-exempt bonds in the tax bill, saying it would otherwise cost the city of Arlington $200 million more in interest payments since the bonds haven’t been sold yet. (Reason #372 why cities really should provide fixed contributions to stadium projects, not “Hey, we’ll sell the bonds, and you pay for whatever share you feel like and we’ll cover the rest no matter how crappy the loan deal ends up being.”) Also, the NFL has come out against the whole ban on tax-exempt bonds because duh — okay, fine, they say because “You can look around the country and see the economic development that’s generated from some of these stadiums” — while other sports leagues aren’t saying anything in public, though I’m sure their lobbyists are saying a ton in private.
  • A Hamilton County commissioner said he’s being pressured to fund a stadium for F.C. Cincinnati because Cincinnati will need a sports team if the Bengals leave when their lease ends in 2026 and now newspapers are running articles about whether the Bengals are moving out of Cincinnati and saying they might do so because of “market size” even though market size really doesn’t matter to NFL franchise revenues because of national TV contracts and oh god, please make it stop.
  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says the proposed Oakland A’s stadium site has pros and cons. Noted!
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the Calgary Flames‘ arena “needs to be replaced” and the team can’t be “viable for the long term” without a new one. Not true according to the numbers that the team is clearing about $20 million in profits a year, but noted anyway!
  • Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is set to announce his proposal for city subsidies for F.C. Cincinnati today, but won’t provide details. (Psst: He’s already said he’ll put up about $35 million via tax increment financing kickbacks.)
  • The Seattle Council’s Committee on Civic Arenas unanimously approved Oak View Group’s plan to renovate KeyArena yesterday, so it looks likely that this thing is going to happen soon. Though apparently the House tax bill would eliminate the Historic Preservation Tax Credit, which the project was counting on for maybe $60 million of its costs, man, I really need to read through that entire tax bill to see what else is hidden in it, don’t I?
  • The owners of the Rochester Rhinos USL club say they need $1.3 million by the end of the month to keep from folding, and want some of that to come from county hotel tax money. Given that the state of New York already paid $20 million to build their stadium, and the city of Rochester has spent $1.6 million on operating expenses over the last two seasons to help out the team, that seems a bit on the overreaching side, though maybe they’re just trying to fill all their spaces in local-government bingo.
  • There’s a crowdfunding campaign to buy the Columbus Crew and keep them from moving to Austin. You can’t kick in just yet, but you can buy beer from the beer company that is proposing to buy the team and then sell half of it to fans, and no, this whole thing is in no way an attempt to get free publicity on the part of the beer company, why do you ask?

Handicapping Deadspin’s “Worst Stadium Scam” Vote

Deadspin is holding its second annual Deadspin Awards, and among the categories, you will be excited to know, is Worst Stadium Scam. And it’s set to be a tight race, with these candidates, not all of which are technically from 2017, but let’s not nitpick:

  • The Raiders robbing Las Vegas
  • The Flames trying to rob Calgary
  • The Falcons robbing Atlanta
  • The Louisville Cardinals robbing Louisville
  • FC Cincinnati robbing Cincinnati
  • The Pistons and Red Wings robbing Detroit

Even though these seem mostly selected by which stories were covered by Deadspin in the last year (Nashville SC robbing Nashville didn’t make the cut, nor did the Cavaliers robbing Cleveland), that’s a pretty solid selection. The Raiders and Falcons stand out for the scale of the subsidies — the Raiders will get $750 million in state cash while paying zero rent, while the Falcons will end up getting almost that much over time — and the Falcons have the bonus scamminess of hiding $400 million of their payday in a “waterfall fund” that will keep paying out long after the stadium’s opening. The Flames and FC Cincinnati haven’t been successful in their shakedowns yet, but are notable for trying (and failing) to get a more team-friendly mayor elected in the former case, and for demanding subsidies on the grounds that their owner has never asked for them before so he’s due in the latter. The Red Wings and Pistons are getting about $350 million in public money from a bankrupt city (or from a state that is otherwise starving a bankrupt city, at least), while the Louisville basketball arena deal is just a nightmare without an end.

I’m not going to reveal how I voted, except to say that it was a tough decision, and I won’t be unhappy at all if one of my second choices takes home the prize. Go cast your ballot now, and give extortionate corporate behavior and terrible public policy the shiny trophy it so desperately deserves.

It’s everybody threaten the Senators will leave Ottawa without a new arena week!

The Ottawa Senators story so far: Then-owner Rod Bryden built an arena in the suburbs in 1996 to be the anchor of a new retail district, then that didn’t work and he went bankrupt. Then new owner Eugene Melnyk decided in 2014 that what he really wanted was an arena downtown, blaming this on the suburban one not being “built to last,” and started angling for development rights to a plot of downtown land, which he got the rights to negotiate for last year. But Melnyk still needs to negotiate how much he’ll pay for those rights, plus whether he’ll get public money toward construction costs despite having promised that “no government money” would be involved, all of which means it’s high time for move threats! Levied by anyone other than Melnyk, because that’s the way this game works.

First up, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman:

“A new downtown arena is vitally important to the long-term future, stability and competitiveness of the Senators,” Bettman said. “The process is ongoing, but I think asking Mr. Melnyk or the Senators the status would be more appropriate than asking us.

“However, we believe there needs to be a solution for the long term.”

That’s a pretty oblique threat, admittedly — “vitally important” to the team’s “stability and competitiveness” could mean a lot of things, from the team leaving town to it just not making as much money as it might otherwise, I think? It’s a nice start, and why Bettman earns is salary, but really you want somebody to come right out and say — oh, hi, legendary hockey announcer Don Cherry:

“If they don’t put an arena downtown they’re gone,” Cherry said during Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. “I think they’re just hanging on here in Ottawa, not drawing out, with a great team like that.”…

“If they’re not drawing out with that team… I say they’re gone, and I say they go to Quebec,” said Cherry.

The Senators are definitely not selling out despite a contending team, and the suburban location probably isn’t helping. Moving to Quebec, though, would require selling the team to Quebecor, the media giant that owns the management rights to Quebec’s arena and has said it wants to be the owner of any NHL team there. And Melnyk has been pretty adamant that the team is not for sale — even saying “the team is not for sale” and that he’s promised his daughter she can own it when he dies — so that doesn’t seem like a thing that is likely to happen.

More to the point, meanwhile, is that if the Senators need a new arena, they can build one right now: They have the land, and if a downtown venue would be so much more lucrative that it’d be worth the construction costs, then Melnyk can just go to a bank and borrow the money. Unless what Bettman et al are saying is that the only way it would pay off for the team is if Melnyk got public subsidies to help pay for it — either via a sweetheart lease or straight-up cash or tax breaks to pay for construction — in which case this isn’t actually “the Senators need a new downtown arena” so much as “the Senators owner is unhappy with how much money he’s making, and would appreciate it if someone would undo the previous owner’s mistake and build a new arena in a better location, please.”

As for how much money Melnyk is making, Forbes estimates the team turns a profit of a few million dollars a year, while the team is valued at $355 million, up from the $100 million that Melnyk paid for it in 2003 — an annualized return on investment of about 9.5%, thanks to the discounted sale price he got in part because of that whole bankruptcy thing and the lousy arena location.

Tl;dr version: Sports executives have a funny definition of “need.”

Friday roundup: Atlanta Falcons’ non-retracting retractable roof now can’t even keep rain out

Crazed billionaires are shutting down our nation’s news media when employees try to assert their rights, so let’s enjoy journalism while we still have it with another week in news briefs:

  • The Saskatchewan Roughriders‘ old stadium got blowed up real good.
  • The developers who want to build a $15 million modular stadium for the NASL team San Diego 1904 F.C. haven’t actually filed a development plan yet with the city of Oceanside.
  • The Atlanta Falcons‘ non-retracting retractable roof has already sprung a leak.
  • Asked by the New York Post about the New York Islanders‘ bid to build a new arena on state land near Belmont Park, team owner Jonathan Ledecky replied, ““I think we’re circling the airport, just waiting to be given a landing clue,” which doesn’t actually mean anything at all that I can tell, but it sure is an evocative image. Then he pointed to the team’s new $7 million practice facility on Long Island, with a “world-class chef” for players, as “emblematic of what we can do if we were granted the right [to build] at Belmont.”
  • Sacramento city officials want to use the Kings‘ old arena, now vacant after Sacramento built the team a new arena, as a temporary convention center while the city conducts a $125 million renovation of its regular convention center. The arena is an arena, not a convention center, and it’s still owned by the Kings owners, not the city, and I’m sure this is all going to go just swimmingly, no need to be concerned at all.

Friday roundup: New soccer stadiums, yet another Vegas arena, Falcons roof still not done

Happy fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, everybody! While you get ready to go to your anniversary parties and dress up as, um, hurricanes, and you know what, this riff isn’t going anywhere, let’s get to the news:

  • Had you forgotten about former UNLV basketball star Jackie Robinson’s $1.4 billion retractable-roofed-arena-plus-hotel-plus-other-stuff project just because Las Vegas already has one new arena, he hasn’t — and now says it’s a $2.7 billion project that will include a 63-story hotel, a conference center, a 24-lane bowling alley, and a wedding chapel. No construction has begun yet, but Robinson says it will all be completed by 2020, or else maybe by then it will cost $5.2 billion and include a space elevator.
  • Chris Hansen is trying a new gambit to turn attention away from Oak View Group’s KeyArena renovation plan and toward his SoDo new-arena plan, and it involves declaring the OVG plan a “public” and not a “private” process, which would require a longer environmental review process, and if your eyes are glazing over already I don’t blame you, skip to the next item, it’s got juicy if unproven allegations of political corruption in it.
  • New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon has given Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2017 re-election campaign a $65,000 donation that’s twice as large as all other donations he’s previously given the governor combined, and with Wilpon in the midst of looking to get approval from the state for a new soccer stadium Islanders arena (sorry, had a brain fart on this one while typing) next to Belmont Park racetrack … well, you connect the dots. (Or don’t: An Empire State Development spokesperson snapped, “Participation in the political process has zero bearing on any of this and any of these ‘sources’ with questions are free to contact us instead of trafficking in conspiracy theories.”) Bigger question: Fred Wilpon has $65,000 to spare?
  • The Atlanta Falcons‘ retractable roof is now set to finally work by March 2018. Probably.
  • Nashville held a hearing on its proposed $75 million soccer stadium subsidy deal, and if you guessed that a self-proclaimed soccer mom said it would be a “feather in our cap” while a non-soccer-fan local resident said “you’re asking me to help fund a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar project for another sports team that most likely will not benefit me,” then you’re right on the money.
  • The prospective NASL team San Diego 1904 F.C. is planning a stadium that will cost only $15 million because it will be built modularly elsewhere and shipped to the stadium site in Oceanside, but at least they didn’t skimp on the searchlight renderings.
  • The chair of Rhode Island’s senate finance committee says he’ll put a halt to the Pawtucket Red Sox‘ $38 million stadium subsidy request if the team owners don’t provide more financial information. It sounds like this is over the team’s internal finances, and could be resolved with a non-disclosure agreement, but still, it’s something to keep an eye on, since projects have succeeded or fallen over pettier things.
  • Louisville approved $30 million in bonds to help pay for a new Louisville City F.C. soccer stadium, in exchange for which the team will repay $14.5 million over 10 years, which comes to about $11 million in present value, so the city will only lose $19 million on the deal, unless there’s still plans for as much as $35 million in state property-tax kickbacks via a TIF, in which case this is really a $54 million subsidy for a minor-league soccer stadium. Maybe they should go with one of those modular dealies instead? Just a thought.

Bettman says feh on economists, can’t you see publicly funded arenas are the bee’s knees?

Good morning! Are you ready to have NHL commissioner Gary Bettman commissionersplain to you about why public subsidies for sports venues are great and you are wrong if you think otherwise? I sure hope so, because Bettman was off and running yesterday in an interview with Yahoo Finance sponsored by Prudential (or maybe an interview with Prudential sponsored by Yahoo Finance — it’s so hard to tell from the backdrop):

There are academicians who agree with this and disagree with this in theory, but I disagree with them: Having a professional sports team as your anchor tenant, if you do it the right way, can literally transform a city. Look at Chinatown in Washington, D.C., after the Verizon Center was built. Look at L.A. Live, built around Staples Center. Look at what’s happened in Edmonton, where they’re revitalized downtown. Look at what’s going on in Detroit. All of these around new arenas, where an entire area of a city has been vitalized, or revitalized, created a new tax base, brought businesses, residences, people downtown to live.

This argument — look at what’s going on around new arenas, who are you going to believe, some number crunchers or your own eyes — requires ignoring a lot of things: that “revitalization” often only takes place because the land was being held fallow in anticipation of new development in the first place; that D.C.’s Chinatown is now unaffordable to its former Chinese-American residents because it’s been remade as a playground for arenagoers; that even the most active arenas are dark about half the year and more than half of each day, and so may not be the best thing for local businesses unless they’re running a pizzeria that can get people in and out super-quick; and, yes, that those number crunchers have found time and again that any arena-related increase in tax receipts in one neighborhood is countered by a corresponding decrease elsewhere in a city, since you’re just moving spending around, not creating it out of thin air. On the other hand: Look! An arena! Lots of people! What’s not to like?

Bettman then pivoted to his real point, which was how sad it is when a team owner wants a new arena, and for some reason some crazy mayor won’t give him one:

And Calgary, the Flames were trying to do the same thing, and they have been spectacularly unsuccessful in reaching an agreement with the city on how to move forward. And they’ve announced that they are no longer pursuing a new building, which is unfortunate, because they’re playing in the oldest building in the league, and at some point their sustainability gets jeopardized if they don’t have the same types of facilities, amenities, revenue-producing opportunities that other franchises have.

Sustainability — we’re now into another of the items in the stadium-grubbers’ playbook, which is how can we compete without a new building like all the other kids have? Of course, the Flames owners are currently turning a profit of about $20 million a year and say they can only afford a new arena if someone else pays half the costs, so really the only “revenue-producing opportunity” here is to get public cash. Still, it’s the oldest building in the league (note: not actually the oldest arena in the league), don’t you know that old things are bad?

Anything else on your mind, commissioner?

When you’re creating new taxes that wouldn’t otherwise exist but for the development of an arena and the surrounding area, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to devote some or all of those taxes to paying off what’s been created, and which otherwise wouldn’t exist.

This is the argument for TIFs, and I already typed in all the dialogue from the Odd Couple “Casino Night” episode to explain this once, so go read that again to explain why it’s nonsense. Or just re-read Geoffrey Propheter’s study linked above to see why “otherwise wouldn’t exist” is nonsense. But then, who you gonna believe, a guy with a spreadsheet or a man with a fancy backdrop and a job that requires him to say these things?

Islanders owner says Belmont arena would need full-time train service, gives no price tag

New York Islanders co-owner Jonathan Ledecky and his would-be development partner Peter Luukko of Oak View Group have revealed exactly where their planned new arena next to Belmont Park racetrack would be, and it’s … next to Belmont Park racetrack, does anyone really care exactly which parcel it is?

More interesting is this:

A full-time LIRR stop at Belmont would be necessary to meet the number of people who would be coming regularly to the arena, Luukko said. Currently, the Belmont LIRR station is used only when horse racing is taking place…

Ledecky said he isn’t concerned about the LIRR’s ability to accommodate such a plan, saying it has been amenable to adding extra trains after games at Barclays Center in response to the crush of people leaving Islanders games at the same time. He also noted how ridership increases on game nights…

LIRR and MTA officials have said as recently as last spring there were no plans to add full service to Belmont.

So, should the cost of adding full-time rail service to a new stadium be counted as a public subsidy? On the one hand, running trains for the public to get where they need to go is exactly what the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is set up to do, and presumably any development on the Belmont site would require increased service. On the other, it’s going to be at least a little bit galling to city transit riders putting up with abysmal service if the Islanders get to jump the line for new expenses just because they want to move from a place that already has tons of public transit to a place that doesn’t.

We’re still really early in the negotiating process, and of course we still have no clue what the financial details of the arena plan will be. This whole train cost thing is something to keep an eye on, though, once we have enough info to start building a cost-benefit spreadsheet.

 

Nenshi re-elected as Calgary mayor, enraged Flames staffer tweets this is “worse than Trump”

Oh, hey, did I neglect to inform you all about the results of the Calgary mayoral election? Turns out Naheed Nenshi was re-elected by a 51-44% margin over challenger Bill Smith — either those polls showing Smith surging out to a double-digit lead were wrong and the ones showing Nenshi with a huge lead were more accurate, or all polling in the age of cell phones and political cynicism is crap, and you could have predicted Nenshi’s win just as well by throwing darts at a board.

Either way, this means that Canada’s member of the Gang of Four and 2014 winner of the World Mayor Prize — yes, that is apparently a thing —will be back at the negotiating table with the Flames over their arena demands for the foreseeable future, and the team’s communications director had something to say about that on Twitter (briefly, until he deleted it):

The Flames quickly backtracked and said the statement of the guy in charge of speaking to the media on behalf of their team shouldn’t be taken to be a statement on behalf of the team. Asked about the tweet on CBC yesterday, Nenshi replied, “I have no idea who this person this is, I’ve never met him, and boy, what an out-of-touch tweet to send.”

Clearly, if if they’re not all tweeting about it, Flames execs are steamed, especially after their arenaful of anti-Nenshi ads failed to bear fruit with voters. And according to National Post columnist Jen Gerson, the NHL was working behind the scenes as well to undermine Nenshi:

Amid a stalled negotiation for a new hockey rink, the NHL unabashedly attempted to interfere with Calgary’s election. Finding Nenshi uncowed by the might of our local hockey squad, league commissioner Gary Bettman even made strategic calls to select media insinuating that should the team relocate the mayor would be indifferent…

At the very least, Nenshi’s win seems like suitable comeuppance for Bettman. There are limits in this country to even hockey’s power.

Leaving aside the particulars of the Nenshi-Smith showdown, what terrible signal would a Smith victory have sent to politicians in other hockey cities? Play nice, pony up or pack out?

Now that Nenshi has won re-election, what now? Gerson concludes that “an emboldened Nenshi and dejected Flames ownership will re-open arena negotiations with all the grace and goodwill of screaming marmots,” which sounds about right. There will almost certainly be renewed threats of the Flames leaving town, though as we’ve covered here before, it’ll be tough for owners to find a city where they’ll make more money than they’re already raking in in Calgary. And Nenshi knows this, and knows that this gives him leverage, and is likely to stick to his guns in demanding that if the city puts up money for an arena, it get repaid from a cut of arena revenues. The Flames owners will continue to consider this a supreme insult. In other words: enraged mustelids. Ah, love.