Ilitches offer Detroit quarter-acre of vacant lots to make up for Red Wings arena being surrounded by vacant lots

This article in the Detroit News on developments surrounding development surrounding the Red Wings and Pistons arena requires a bit of unraveling to get to the bottom of, so bear with me for a minute:

Once upon a time, a city named Detroit gave the local pizza barons $261.5 million in city and state funds plus $50 million in free land to build a new hockey arena, then another $34.5 million to the local basketball team to move into the new arena, then $74 million more to build themselves two parking garages, a pizza company headquarters, and a Google office with all of 100 workers that’s actually inside the arena itself. All this was in hopes the arena would spur lots of additional development, but in reality it’s surrounded by vacant lots, lots and lots of lots.

The pizza barons felt bad about this, possibly because they’d agreed in their deal with the city to already start developing this land two years ago. (The Detroit News article is silent on whether there were established penalties in place for missing this deadline; a Crain’s Detroit article from last month says the Ilitch family was “in violation” of the 2013 agreement to start construction by the end of 2017, but not what the consequences of this were.) So they came up with a new plan: Buy another three years of time to come up with a plan — making them five years late in total — by giving the city two pieces of vacant land totaling a quarter of an acre:

The Brush Park lot that may become a city park is at 242 Watson. It’s 0.172 acres. The Ilitch-linked entity bought it for $3,000 in 2009. It is currently valued at $390,000, according to property tax records.

The other property that may become a park is a 0.065-acre  lot at 3118 Fourth. The land is valued at $111,600, according to property tax records.

So that’s $500,000 in vacant land in exchange for a three-year extension on meeting the requirements of a deal that got the Ilitches $385.5 million in cash and land. You can sort of see why Detroit is handing them more rope — city officials want the promised development, and the Ilitches are their best hope for making it happen — but you can also see where this will be the exact same case three years from now, meaning the Ilitches can always offer up another 100-by-100-foot lot (that’s how big a quarter of an acre is) then if they still don’t feel like building anything.

All of which is a excellent cautionary tale about handing over control of your city’s land, plus hundreds of millions of dollars in arena money, to a single developer in hopes that they’ll make it bloom, especially if you have no Plan B for what to do if they decide, “Enh, the real estate market isn’t hot enough this decade.” A spokesperson for Mayor Mike Duggan told the News that the latest deal includes “potential penalties” if the Ilitches blow off the new deadline, including possibly having the city retake ownership of the property that was sold to the Ilitches as part of the arena deal — that’s something of a hammer, anyway, but even so it will have allowed the Ilitches to control most of downtown and hold it hostage to their own business whims for nearly a decade, which isn’t really the best way to get people interested in moving to your hollowed-out city. And there were almost certainly more effective ways to spend that $385.5 million — but then, those ways weren’t being pushed by the local pizza baron, and that’s what makes all the difference.

Cost overruns, tax breaks could inflate Calgary’s public cost of Flames arena to $250m or more

The city of Calgary has finally revealed some of its legal contracts with the Flames governing the team’s new arena — six months after voting on it, because that’s totally how democratic oversight is supposed to work — and the highlights include:

  • As previously reported, the city will pay $275 million toward construction, plus financing charges and the cost of demolishing the old Saddledome (previously reported at $12.4 million), while receiving $250,000 a year for 10 years in naming-rights fees, plus 2% of all ticket sales, capped at $3 million a year for the first five years. Last time I crunched the numbers on this I came up with a net total of $212.9 million in public costs; given that the ticket tax payments will be significantly backloaded toward the end of the lease, the base cost to the city is probably more like $230 million or so.
  • Not as previously reported, the city will be on the hook for any insurance premiums above what the team would pay if the arena weren’t in a flood plain, and will have to cover 50% to 67% of any construction cost overruns, depending on future negotiations.
  • The Flames owners won’t be property taxes, but instead will make payments in lieu of taxes in the amount of
    Yep, they omitted the actual payment amount, citing a section of Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that exempts from public disclosure laws information that would be “harmful to business interests of a third party,” though the very next section says the exemption doesn’t apply if “the information relates to a non-arm’s length transaction between a public body and another party,” so hopefully we’ll see some lawsuits to get that number revealed.

The total cost is impossible to say without knowing how much of a tax break the team is getting or how much cost overruns could be, but suffice to say we’re probably looking at more than $250 million now, which is a whole hell of a lot more than the $47 million net loss the arena’s backers touted to get the deal approved by the city council.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he’s not concerned about cost overruns because the Calgary Municipal Land Corp. “is the project manager on that project, they know how to build stuff on budget and on time”; all those who are reassured by this, please raise your hands. Now, all those who are wondering when Naheed Nenshi was replaced by an alien shapeshifter, please raise your hands. Keep ’em up, I’m still counting…

Columbus throws another $62.3m in tax money on Blue Jackets arena fire

Once upon a time, the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ Nationwide Arena was a privately funded success story, with locally based insurance company Nationwide helping to underwrite construction costs in exchange for a cut of arena revenues (and their name on the thing). Then came the county bailing out the Blue Jackets owners by taking over ownership of the arena, and a new ticket tax to help pay for arena renovations. And now it’s been revealed that the city and county are working on “restructuring” Nationwide’s $44.2 million loan to funnel new tax money into it:

Nationwide, which built the arena through a limited liability company and loaned the authority $44.2 million to buy it, has never received any payments in return because casino-tax revenue backing the loan never generated what was estimated…

Though Columbus officials had repeatedly stressed that the risk on the loan was solely Nationwide’s should casino-tax revenue come up short, the city has now also contributed to the deal, restructuring tax-increment-financing agreements on Nationwide properties to, in effect, let Nationwide repay itself from its future property taxes…

The memorandum indicates that city TIF funds could generate up to $10.8 million toward repaying the loan.

The city’s contribution would be on top of a one-time, lump-sum payment in December 2029 of $51.5 million from the authority, according to the memorandum. Brown said the authority will make the payment by issuing new bonds backed by casino taxes and hotel revenue from its lease with Hilton Columbus Downtown.

On the one hand, Nationwide was already set to get public money to repay its loan, via those casino tax revenues. On the other, it agreed to take payment from the casino tax funds, and now that those aren’t turning up as expected (apparently Columbus residents just don’t love to gamble like they should, or else are too busy going to Blue Jackets games), this is $62.3 million in new money being allocated to Nationwide. Either way it’s not good news for Columbus residents, and has to be especially galling since the city’s then-auditor said in 2011 that the city’s commitment if the casino revenue fell short was “none.” No word yet on when the city and county will be voting to approve the deal, but one can expect they’ll be getting an earful at that time.

Coyotes stay put in Glendale another season, five years after insisting they were gone

Hey, it’s been a while since we checked in with the Arizona Coyotes, whose then-owner Anthony LeBlanc in 2015 objected to not getting paid by the city to operate their own arena by saying he was talking to lots of other cities, then signed another lease extension in 2017, then signed another one this January. What’s the latest?

Arizona Coyotes officials have confirmed the team will stay in Glendale for another season as the team draws larger crowds to Gila River Arena than it has in years.

“We will absolutely play the 2020-2021 NHL season in Gila River Arena,” Coyotes CEO Ahron Cohen said in a statement on Friday.

Coyotes attendance was indeed up ever so slightly last year, and they’re currently only fourth-worst in the NHL, ahead of the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, and Ottawa Senators. The team’s new owner has said that staying n Glendale without a new arena would be “difficult,” and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last summer that the current situation is “not viable long-term,” but at a certain point actions speak louder than words, and the fact of the matter is that we’re now going on five years since LeBlanc threatened to leave town if he didn’t get to keep his sweetheart arena lease, and the team is still there, with no serious relocation talks underway that anyone has publicly reported on.

I never want to suggest that pro sports teams’ move threats are entirely a bluff: They do move on occasion, though it’s way more common in the NFL where local cable market size isn’t an issue and there are a lot fewer tickets needing to be sold; and Phoenix has never really been a hockey hotbed, so there are arguably other markets the Coyotes could viably leave for. Still, it’s a good reminder that the number of teams that move is a tiny, tiny fraction of the number whose owners threaten to move, and in almost every case there’s a long, drawn-out negotiating process before the moving trucks are actually packed up. So as memorable an image as the Baltimore Colts packing up their Mayflower vans may be, usually playing hardball over a lease doesn’t result in losing a team “overnight,” so maybe we can all stop using that word?

Friday roundup: Nashville and Miami stadiums still on hold, cable bubble may finally be bursting, minor-league contraction war heats up

Happy Scottish Independence Day! And now for the rest of the news:

Calgary votes to raise taxes on homeowners rather than revisit Flames arena deal

In case you were holding your breath to see if the Calgary city council might rethink its $200 million-plus Flames arena subsidy now that it was facing a $23.45 million budget shortfall and possibly having to make cuts to police, fire, and transit services … well, that was a bad idea, who told you to hold your breath for that?

Coun. Evan Woolley put forth the proposal that would have the city withdraw a $290 million total contribution for the arena, with $200 million going towards the troubled Green Line project, $45 million towards the construction of a new downtown Calgary police station and $45 million for deferred capital maintenance for Calgary Housing…

When the dust settled, councillors defeated the reconsideration 11-4.

Instead, the council voted to close the budget gap by raising taxes on residential property owners (while subjecting business owners to a smaller increase than they would otherwise have been) and eliminating the proposed budget cuts. One can argue about who should bear what share of the tax burden in Calgary, but that’s kind of beside the point for our purposes, which is to note that the city would have plenty of money to hold the line on taxes and maintain services if it weren’t shoveling so much toward a new private arena project, which is exactly what those four councillors on the losing side of the vote were pointing out. (Yes, some of that money is from projected future taxes from development surrounding the arena — but there’s plenty of reason to believe at least some of that money would arrive with or without the arena.) The cost of subsidizing sports venues isn’t just abstract dollar amounts — it has real effects on real people when the public cash is suddenly no longer available for other uses. There are many ways to define opportunity cost, but you can’t spend the same money twice is a reasonable shorthand.

Friday roundup: Congress gets riled up over minor-league contraction, Calgary official proposes redirecting Flames cash, plus what’s the deal with that Star Trek redevelopment bomb anyway?

Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. readers, who if they haven’t yet may want to read the New Yorker’s thoughtful takedown of the myths that the holiday was built on. Or there’s always the movie version, which has fewer historical details but is shorter and features a singing turkey.

And speaking of turkeys, how are our favorite stadium and arena deals faring this holiday week?

Calgary residents ask city to reconsider arena funding amid budget cuts, are rebuffed by mayor as “distracting”

The city of Calgary is facing a $23.45 million budget shortfall that could result in cuts to police, fire, and transit services, and also spending $200 million or more on a new arena for the Flames. What to do, what to do?

Some councillors, including Evan Woolley and Jeromy Farkas, have said that as the city looks for cuts in this year’s difficult budget “everything should be on the table” — including the arena deal

Farkas argued that as there’s still no signed agreement between the city and the Calgary Flames owners, he’d like to see the arena deal revisited.

That’s an idea! And even one that a local economist had suggested earlier this month. But a voice is speaking up in defense of the subsidy deal that was agreed to this past summer after just one week of debate, and if you’ve been in a coma for the last year, the name will likely surprise you:

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he thinks talk of reconsidering the deal is “distracting.”

“On the arena, we had a very comprehensive public debate, and ultimately, council decided to move forward,” he said. “That is a decision council has made, and frankly nothing has changed in the economy between July and now that would make me say, ‘We’ve got to rethink our capital projects.’”

That’s right: Naheed Nenshi, erstwhile member of the Gang of Four and the man Flames execs tried to force out as mayor because of his opposition to arena funding and declared “worse than Trump” when they failed, is now the leading defender of giving tax money to the Flames. Our transition to Bizarro World is complete.

If you haven’t been in a coma for the past year, of course, Nenshi’s statement will come as less of a shock, as he was a vocal supporter of the arena deal when it passed, for reasons that weren’t entirely clear even at the time. And they’re even less clear now that it’s been made apparent that most Calgary residents were opposed to the deal (or at least most of those who sent in comments to the council), and there are people literally marching on City Hall to oppose the possibility of a 250% price hike for low-income transit passes as part of the budget cuts. If Nenshi felt like he didn’t have the support to oppose the deal in July, he certainly has political cover to do so now; presumably either he’s agreed to some quid pro quo that is stopping him from calling for the deal to be renegotiated, or is more afraid of alienating developers than nice white-haired people marching on City Hall, or genuinely thinks that this deal is somehow much better than the previous one he rejected despite it not being anything close to the “public benefit for public money” that he had said was his bottom line for any deal.

Meanwhile, Farkas also raised the question of why, if there’s still no formal arena agreement in place, “this was so pressing that it had to go through in the middle of July with barely a week of consultation.” This really is an excellent — and rare — opportunity for a city to rethink a project that was rushed through without enough public debate; it doesn’t seem likely to happen, and maybe wouldn’t even with Nenshi’s support, but it’s still remarkable how quickly the political winds shifted on this one. Hey, Jay Scherer, do you have time to write another book?

Friday roundup: Oakland opens A’s land sale talks, Clippers arena down to two lawsuits, plus video vaportecture!

I know it’s not Deadspin — nothing is, or ever will be again, though we can dream — or even sports, but I have an article up at City Limits this week about another big-money public construction project that seems to be proceeding despite no one quite knowing how it will work or how it will be paid for. It’s probably only a matter of time before sports team owners figure out a way to do promote new stadiums as worthy of climate resilience funding, especially since local governments are already showing themselves willing to spend climate money poorly to benefit rich people.

Anyway, oodles of bonus news this week, plus more vaportecture, so let’s get to it:

  • The city of Oakland is starting talks with the A’s owners about selling the city’s half of the Oakland Coliseum property to the team for development — with the proceeds to be used to build a new stadium on the Oakland waterfront — but still hasn’t dropped its lawsuit against Alameda County for agreeing to sell its share to the A’s without consulting the city. Meanwhile, here’s an article by the mayor of Oakland about how baseball and port operations are both good things, let’s find a way to make them both work together!
  • The Federal Aviation Administration has ruled that the proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena in Inglewood poses no danger to aviation at nearby Los Angeles International Airport, and a judge has dismissed claims that the city was required to seek affordable housing uses for the site first. But the project still faces two more lawsuits over how Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was granted the land and whether the city illegally evaded open-meetings laws, so we could yet be here a while.
  • Paterson, New Jersey is asking the state Economic Development Authority for $50 million in tax credits to use on a $76 million project redevelopment of Hinchliffe Stadium, a crumbling (this term is way overused, but it’s actually crumbling) former Negro League stadium, into “a 7,800-seat athletic facility, with a 314-space parking garage, restaurant with museum exhibits dedicated to Negro League baseball, 75-unit apartment building for senior citizens and a 5,800-square-foot childcare facility.” The rest of the article doesn’t explain much about what the renovation will look like or how the money will be spent or who will collect revenues from the new facility or anything, but it does include Mayor André Sayegh opining that you could “have a big concert there. Boxing. Wrestling. It could all happen there,” and Councilmember Michael Jackson countering that “to spend money on this project is senseless” since it will only create maybe 50 jobs. Feel free to take sides!
  • The Arena Football League has suspended operationsagain — after getting sued for nonpayment by its former insurance company, but “may become a traveling league, similar to the Premier Lacrosse League, whereby all players practice in a centralized location and fly to a different city each weekend to play games.”
  • Nashville S.C.‘s MLS stadium is now on hold, with Mayor John Cooper suspending demolition to clear the site, amid a lawsuit charging that the project and its $75 million in public cash were approved improperly and will interfere with the annual Tennessee state fair. The Tennessee Tribune writes that “it’s only a matter of time before the MLS soccer stadium contracts will be voided and put out to bid again”; I am not a lawyer, but then, neither are the Tribune’s journalists, so we’ll see.
  • If you want to rent office space in the Texas Rangers‘ old stadium for some reason, you now can! Just realize that it won’t be air-conditioned when you go outside.
  • The Minnesota Vikings‘ stadium is killing more than a hundred birds a year, but other buildings kill even more birds, which means the Vikings clearly need a more state-of-the-art bird-killing building, that’s how this works, right?
  • Here’s a photo of how the new Los Angeles Rams (and Chargers) stadium looks in its current state of construction, and if you think that the “vertical design” will make it feel “intimate.” then you agree with one Rams fan! Another fan, who was sitting in the fourth row of seats behind the end zone, remarked, “I kind of expected the field (area) to be much larger, to take you away from the experience. But you’re going to be right in the game.” Two takeaways: There are reasons why teams never invite fans to sit in the cheap seats to see what the view will be like from there, and American sports fans really aren’t great with geometry.
  • Calgary is looking at cutting wages for city employees to balance its budget, and one local economist thinks maybe not building the Flames a new arena would be a better idea.
  • The five-county sales tax surcharge that paid for the Milwaukee Brewers‘ Miller Park is finally set to phase out in January, after 23 years and $577 million. This is not so good news if you’re upset about Wisconsin taxpayers spending $577 million to pay for a private sports owner’s baseball stadium, but good news if you were worried that the Brewers or some other sports team might see the sales tax money sitting around and want to propose a new project to spend it on, which is always a worry.
  • The Montreal Canadiens have gotten a reduction in their property tax bill for the fourth time since 2013, even while property valuations elsewhere in the city are soaring. No reason was given, but “they’re major players in the local business community and whined about it a lot” seems like a reasonable theory.
  • Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist John Steigerwald asks about public funding for the Pirates‘ now 18-year-old stadium, “If the Pirates were faced with paying for their ballpark, do you think they might have had more incentive to insist on real revenue sharing and a salary cap before they built it?” Answer: No, rich people have incentive to demand money everywhere they can find it, regardless if they already have money, which Pirates owner Bob Nutting totally does. Next question!
  • I promised you vaportecture, so here’s some vaportecture: a ten-second video of the entryway to the Phoenix Suns arena morphing into a somewhat snazzier entryway now that the city of Phoenix agreed to spend $168 million in renovations in exchange for a few tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations. (Actual quid pro quo not included, but you can picture it easily enough.) Yes, it’s mostly just a bunch of new video boards and some new escalators being enjoyed by a handful of beefy white people, but isn’t that what pro basketball is all about?

Friday roundup: Helicopter rides for rich fans, pricey bridge prices, and why Deadspin mattered

In case anyone hasn’t been following this week’s Deadspin drama, pretty much the entire staff has resigned over the past two days, following Tuesday’s decision by CEO Jim Spanfeller to fire acting editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky because the staff had responded to Spanfeller’s edict to “stick to sports” by posting a ton of excellent non-sports content. A few last posts have gone up the last couple of days, some to burn off features that were already scheduled to run and some to take classically Deadspinesque digs at management for burning down a popular website seemingly out of spite for continuing to do exactly what it had been doing for years before they bought it.

This is very bad news for journalism and America and humanity, and not only if you, like me, will miss the site’s potshots at our Big Wet President. There’s a popular notion that sports is just a fun diversion where the “outside world” of politics has no place — and that, as I hope the entire 21-year history of this site has made abundantly clear, is an extremely dangerous notion, because it means that concerns over what taxpayers are being charged for places to play sports or what athletes are being paid to play sports or who is allowed to speak out on what issues involving sports are dismissed with a Can’t we just watch the game? But games are serious — and lucrative — business, and can’t be divorced from the greater culture, any more than we should be just watching movies as pure entertainment without attention to the bigger issues involved. Deadspin was dedicated to erasing those lines and allowing its writers to address whatever they felt needed addressing at the moment, whether it was the meaning of who you’re seen sitting with at a football game or what we’re getting stuck in our rectums each year, and until and unless a successor emerges to pick up the torch, the world will be a sadder, dumber place.

(Already yesterday I read about Josh Hamilton’s arrest after his daughter said he threw a chair at her — a phrasing I owe to this excellent Deadspin non-sports article, incidentally — and wished I could read Deadspin’s analysis of it. Then I read about John Wetteland’s arrest for reportedly sexually assaulting a four-year-old child, and thought I wonder if maybe men’s sports should just be banned altogether at this point given the kind of behavior it encourages and realized Deadspin was probably my best bet for reading that take, too. It’s going to be a long however many weeks or months until something arises from Deadspin’s ashes, if that ever happens.)

Anyway, on to the weekly muddling of sports and politics:

  • The Indiana Pacers‘ arena will still be named after the bank that stopping paying for naming rights in June until the team has found a new naming-rights sponsor, which seems weird at first but actually makes total sense: It costs money to change the signage so why do it twice, and also the value of naming rights goes down with each new iteration of a corporate moniker that dilutes the name’s image for the public — quick, tell me what the Oakland Coliseum’s official name is these days — so calling it “Pacers Arena” or whatever for a few months might get fans to start calling it that permanently, and we can’t have that. And if you’re wondering why the Pacers get to sell naming rights to a building that was built entirely with public dollars and is owned by the public: It’s Indianapolis, Jake.
  • St. Louis’s new MLS stadium finally has a site picked out — Market Street near Union Station, if you’re scoring at home — and new renderings as well, though they look pretty much like the old renderings except for the one that is just a closeup of a kid riding on his parent’s (?) shoulders. The state of Missouri has received approval to sell 22 acres of land for the stadium to the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, which will then lease it to the MLS team for … oh, that doesn’t seem to have been reported. Just look at the pretty pictures and don’t worry your head about that nasty money business.
  • A public city database in Atlanta is indicating that the city’s $23 million pedestrian bridge for the Falcons actually cost $41.7 million, but the city insists it’s really just that they entered the same checks multiple times. I’m not sure “spent $23 million on a pedestrian bridge for a football team and also can’t do basic bookkeeping” looks much better, honestly.
  • The San Antonio Spurs — whose mascot is for some reason a kangaroo, is that a kangaroo? — have installed four new helipads so that fans can buy helicopter rides to games, which really tells you everything you need to know about 1) who sports teams are interested in marketing to these days and 2) just how ridiculously much money rich people in America have to burn these days.
  • Fresno FC owner Ray Beshoff has declared he “will almost certainly be relocating the team” because he hasn’t been provided with a new soccer-only stadium, unless “in the next two or three weeks if people come to the table with ideas or suggestions that we think are tenable.” This will come as a huge shock to fans who’ve been dedicated followers of the USL team since (looks up team on Wikipedia) March of 2018.
  • The San Francisco 49ers are raising ticket prices by 13% but giving season ticket holders free food and soda, which I guess means 49ers fans will be spending most of games from now on pigging out on all-you-can-eat nachos instead of watching the action on the field. Also, you can’t get the free food if you buy tickets on the secondary market, only if you’re the original season ticket holder. Or, I guess, borrow the season ticket holder’s free-food card? Or have a season ticket holder go up to the counter for you and get your nachos? I don’t live anywhere near Santa Clara and hate football, but I am very excited at seeing how fans figure out how to game this system.
  • Still nobody is sure which minor-league teams MLB will threaten to eliminate as part of its plan to restrict minor-league affiliates, or what criteria MLB will use for deciding who shall live and who shall die or whether MLB is even serious or just trying to scare minor-league players into not demanding they be paid minimum wage. I really should write about this for Deadsp — crap.
  • It rained at the Buffalo Bills game last weekend, so a local country music station ran a poll asking listeners: “Would you be in favor of a roof stadium or no?” Not included: any mention of what a roof would cost, or what WYRK has against the word “roofed.”
  • The corporate newspaper that helped gut a free daily by selling it to people who immediately laid off most of the editorial staff ran an article this week asking if the new New York Islanders arena will make it harder for the nearby Nassau Coliseum to draw events, but I’m not going to link to a union-busting-enabling outlet that put the article behind a paywall anyway, so let me just answer the question here: Duh, yes!
  • A former assistant to Inglewood Mayor James Butts has changed her testimony in the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Clippers‘ proposed arena, and Inglewood officials are asking that her revised testimony be rejected because they say she’s in “cahoots” with Madison Square Garden, which opposes the arena because it doesn’t want competition for its own arena nearby. Elephants, man.
  • The DreamHouse New Mexico Bowl has been canceled, because alleged film production company and title sponsor DreamHouse turns out not to exist, but rather to be a scam perpetrated by “a relentless self promoter who lies about nearly everything he says he does.”
  • A giant water droplet named Wendy has made a video suggesting that Washington’s NFL team should move back within city limits. Sorry, Sean Doolittle, this is actually the most 2019 Washington thing ever.
  • The Sunshine Coast Pickleball Association is seeking funding from the city of Sechelt for a new pickleball stadium. I don’t actually know where Sechelt is and am only dimly aware of what pickleball is, and I’m not going to ruin the perfect sentence above by looking either thing up.