Friday roundup: Trump rescued stadium tax break, Sacramento MLS group needs more cash, more!

Happy interval between Hanukkah and Christmas! If anyone is out there reading this and not getting on a plane from somewhere to somewhere else — or is reading this while waiting for a plane from somewhere to somewhere else — enjoy your lightning-round news of the week:

  • San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Kevin Acee, who never met a stadium or arena deal he didn’t love to bits, says that several people are interested in building a new arena in San Diego, including the owners of the Padres and new Brooklyn Nets minority owner Joe Tsai. Acee adds, “Several people insisted in recent weeks the Nets will remain in Brooklyn long-term and there are no plans to ever move the team to San Diego,” which, given the relative size of the markets, is possibly the least surprising sentence ever written in the English language. Also, Acee includes zero attributed quotes in his story, and says nothing about how such an arena would be paid for, so take it with a large grain of salt for the moment.
  • Donald Trump made retaining the tax-exempt bond subsidy for sports stadiums in the tax bill “a priority,” according to one GOP aide. So when he tweeted in October, “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!”, either he didn’t mean anyone to take him seriously just because he was the president of the United States speaking out on a matter of public policy, or more likely he just forgot to check with his funders before clicking Tweet.
  • “The Miami Open tennis tournament won permission to move to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, with the kickoff planned in 2019,” reports the Associated Press, which seems to be slightly confused about how a tennis match starts.
  • After the NBA used the promise of an All-Star Game for Cleveland in 2020 or 2021 if it approved publicly funded arena renovations for the Cavaliers, and the city approved $70 million worth, the league gave those games to Chicago and Indianapolis. Not that there’s really that much value in hosting an NBA All-Star Game, but still, HA ha, suckers.
  • Apparently the reason why Sacramento didn’t get an MLS expansion team along with Nashville this week is the league is worried the city’s ownership group doesn’t have enough cash for a $150 million expansion fee and a $250 million stadium. All they need is to find someone with deep pockets who thinks the best thing to do with their money is to invest it in a U.S. soccer franchise that will start off $400 million in the hole, and, well, good thing that P.T. Barnum movie is opening this week, that’s all I can say.
  • There’s a “Plan B” stadium proposal for the Pawtucket Red Sox, where instead of helping to fund the stadium directly, the state would instead give the city all income and sales taxes collected at the stadium and let the city use the money on construction costs. Rhode Island state senate president Dominick Ruggerio says he doesn’t “see that as being a viable alternative,” and plans to submit his own stadium-financing bill, which probably won’t pass the state house. This could go on for a while, until somebody remembers where they stored the money generating machine.
  • The Arena Football League is now down to four teams, in part because the Cleveland Gladiators had to suspend operations for the next two seasons thanks to renovations to the Cavaliers’ arena. This was reported in the Albany Times-Union, which has to care because Albany is supposed to be getting an AFL expansion team this year, and man, do I feel sorry for whoever got stuck with being the Times-Union beat reporter on this team, because this is looking like a sad year ahead for them.
  • Deadspin’s Drew Magary weighed in this week on arena and stadium subsidies and concluded that “Arenas Are Important And Football Stadiums Are Not,” according to his headline, but really he meant “if you’re going to waste money on something, at least arenas can be used more days of the year,” which, fair enough. Or as Magary puts it as only he can: “We are entering an age of horrific corruption, and so I have accepted the fact that living in a fraud-free America is a hilarious pipe dream. All I can do is hope for the least of all corruptions, and pray that a bare scrap of public good accidentally comes out of it. If you are some ambitious dickbag city councilman looking to make his name for himself, an arena should be your priority when it comes to getting worked over.”
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke out again about the Calgary Flames arena situation, calling it “very frustrating” and saying that “they’ll hang out and hang on as long as they can and we’ll just have to deal with those things as they come up,” but insisting that “yes, Quebec City has a building, but nobody’s moving right now, we’re not expanding East.” Which either means the Flames owners really don’t want to threaten to move right now (or ever), since making overt move threats is usually Bettman’s job, or it means even Bettman is sick of trying to pretend that the Flames have a viable threat to go anywhere.

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.

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?

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.

 

Friday roundup: A’s pollution woes, Falcons roof woes, Hansen email woes, and more!

Whole lot of news leftovers this week, so let’s get right to it:

  • It’s not certain yet how serious the environmental cleanup issues at the Oakland A’s proposed Peralta Community College stadium site are, but anytime you have the phrases “the amount of hazardous materials in the ground is unclear” and “two possible groundwater plumes impacted by carcinogens” in one article, that’s not a good sign. Meanwhile, local residents are concerned about gentrification and traffic and all the other things that local residents would be concerned about.
  • There’s another new poll in Calgary, and this time it’s Naheed Nenshi who’s leading Bill Smith by double digits, instead of the other way around. This poll’s methodology is even dodgier than the last one — it was of people who signed up for an online survey — so pretty much all we can say definitely at this point is no one knows. Though it does seem pretty clear from yet another poll that whoever Calgarians are voting for on Monday, it won’t be because of their position on a Flames arena.
  • The Atlanta Falcons‘ retractable roof won’t be retracting this season, and may even not be ready for the start of next season. These things are hard, man.
  • Nevada is preparing to sell $200 million in bonds (to be repaid by a state gas tax) to fund highway improvements for the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium, though Gov. Brian Sandoval says the state would have to make the improvements anyway. Eventually. But then he said, “I just don’t want us to do work that has to be undone,” so your guess is as good as mine here.
  • Pawtucket is preparing to scrape off future increases in property tax receipts for a 60- to 70-acre swath of downtown and hand them over to the Pawtucket Red Sox for a new stadium, an amount they expect to total at least $890,000 a year. Because downtown Pawtucket would never grow without a new baseball stadium, and there’s no chance of a shortfall that would cause Pawtucket to dip into its general fund, and nobody should think too hard about whether if minor-league baseball stadiums are really so great for development, this wouldn’t mean that property tax revenues should be expected to fall in the part of the city that the PawSox would be abandoning. Really, it’ll all be cool, man, you’ll see.
  • Somebody asked Tim Leiweke what he thinks of building a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays for some reason, and given that he’s a guy that is in the business of building new stadiums, it’s unsurprising that he thinks it’s a great idea. Though I am somewhat surprised that he employed the phrase “Every snowbird in Canada will want to watch the Toronto Blue Jays when they come and play,” given that having to depend on fans of road teams to fill the seats is already kind of a problem.
  • The study showing that spending $30 million in city money on a $30-million-or-so Louisville City F.C. stadium would pay off for the city turns out to have been funded by the soccer team, and city councilmembers are not happy. “There’s something there that someone doesn’t want us to find,” said councilmember Kevin Kramer. “I just don’t know what it is.” And College of the Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson chimed in, “I expect for-profit sports team owners to generate absurdly high economic estimate numbers in order to con gullible city council members into granting subsidies.” I don’t know where you could possibly be getting that idea, Victor!
  • Congress is considering a bill to eliminate the use of federally tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities, and … oh, wait, it’s the same bill that Cory Booker and James Lankford introduced back in June, and which hasn’t gotten a committee hearing yet in either the House or the Senate. It has four sponsors in the House, though, and two in the Senate, so only 263 more votes to go!
  • A Miami-Dade judge has dismissed a lawsuit charging that the sale of public land to David Beckham’s MLS franchise illegally evaded competitive bidding laws, then immediately suggested that the case will really be decided on appeal: “I found this to be an extremely challenging decision. Brighter minds than me will tell me whether I was right or wrong.” MLS maybe should be having backup plans for a different expansion franchise starting next season, just a thought.
  • The New York Times real estate section is doing what it does best, declaring the new Milwaukee Bucks arena to be “a pivotal point for a city that has struggled with a decline in industrial activity,” because cranes, dammit, okay? Maybe somebody should have called over to the Times sports section to fact-check this?
  • And last but not least, Chris Hansen is now saying that his SoDo arena plan missed a chance at reconsideration by the Seattle city council because the council’s emails requesting additional information got caught in his spam filter or something. If that’s not a sign that it’s time to knock off for the weekend, I don’t know what is.

Flames greet hockey fans with pro-arena ads one week before mayoral election

When it comes to stadium-subsidy campaigns, sports team owners have a massive soapbox and generally aren’t afraid to use it — who can forget the “Yes on Prop C” sign on the San Diego outfield wall throughout the 1998 World Series? The Calgary Flames owners, though, look to be taking things to a new level:

Displaying their bogus and poorly copy edited Powerpoint slides on arena video screens is one thing. Running “Bill Smith For Mayor” ads, whether they were paid for or not, is another, especially when team CEO Ken King previously said:

“We’re not running for office. It’s certainly not an election issue for us,” King said. “We’re certainly not trying to throw fuel on the fire.”

Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail reports that the Flames owners, in addition to seeking public money for a new arena, initially requested “an option to buy and develop land near the events complex, a slice of the Stampede Casino’s revenue, all parking revenue from major events it would manage at the events complex and other goodies.” And also: “the city of Calgary covering the cost of flood insurance, reimbursing the club for all provincial property taxes that may be imposed on the facilities, and requiring local ratepayers to pick up the bill for a public gathering place suitable for festivals next to the arena.” And also:

“Our proposals in the enclosed term sheet outline the minimum requirements for a robust competitive sports environment and the infrastructure needed to compete on the world stage from an entertainment perspective,” Ken King, president of CSEC, said in the letter.

In the latest polls, Smith has reportedly taken a sizable lead over Mayor Naheed Nenshi, based on a massive surge in his support from 18-to-34-year-olds, which is either a sign that Smith’s message is resonating with young people or just a sign that polls suck. We’ll see a week from today.

Calgary residents want Nenshi to stick to guns with Flames, but may not re-elect him

There’s a new poll out in Calgary that should let us see how the Flames owners’ war of words with Mayor Naheed Nenshi over whether paying taxes that everybody else pays should count as “private money” toward an arena is going over with the general public. So, how’s it going over?

Forty-seven per cent of respondents who participated in a Mainstream Research/Postmedia poll for the Calgary Herald/Calgary Sun say the city “should stand firm on its commitment to get the best arena deal for taxpayers,” even if that means the NHL team moves away from Calgary.

Thirty-nine per cent of people who answered the interactive voice response survey on their cellphone or landline said they don’t think the city should stand firm, while 14 per cent of the 1,000 respondents weren’t sure.

That’s a strange way of wording a poll question, especially since Flames execs have only made the most tentative of move threats (and don’t have a lot of good options for places to move to). Still, a plurality of respondents saying, “Stick to your guns, let ’em leave if that’s the way they’re going to be,” is pretty notable.

In a poll with more immediate import, meanwhile, Nenshi is reportedly trailing challenger Bill Smith in the runup to the mayoral election a week from Monday. If you scroll down and look at the breakdown of the numbers, though, you’ll see that the gap is mostly among women over the age of 50 — which, even if it doesn’t imply polling funny business as Nenshi’s team insists, probably is an indication that this isn’t angry hockey fans who are threatening his re-election.

 

Calgary mayor counters Flames’ tax-break demand, employs curiously familiar analogy

On Friday morning at 8:29 am Eastern time, I posted this about the Calgary Flames owners’ screwy insistence that money they pay in property taxes should count as their own contribution to a new arena’s construction costs:

In no other walk of life would anybody count the taxes that everybody has to pay as a capital cost — it’d be a bit like going to a car dealer and saying, “Sure, you’re knocking almost 50% off the sticker price, but what about all the money I’m going to have to spend on gas, huh?

On Friday afternoon, time undetermined, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said this about the Flames owners’ argument:

“It’s like saying, when you go to buy a car, I want you to knock 33% off the sticker price, but you know what? I’ve got to pay for gas, and insurance, so I’m really paying for that 33% you’re knocking off. Try doing that at your local Ford dealership.”

Okay, sure, great minds and all that. I’m sure it’s just a coincid—

It’s okay, Mayor Nenshi — this time. Do it again, and I’m going to be invoicing you for some of those sweet, sweet Canadian intellectual property royalties. (You can copyright analogies, right? Please don’t shatter my dreams by telling me otherwise.)

In newsier news, Nenshi spelled out that he didn’t think funding an arena with incremental property taxes in the surrounding area, as the Flames owners proposed for repaying the city’s share, would work — $150 million in new property taxes are already allocated to other traffic and infrastructure projects based on development the city is getting with or without an arena, and to raise another $225 million as team execs suggest would require “a heck of a lot more development than we are forecasting.” And he promised to leave the door open to further arena negotiations, saying:

“As long as I’m the mayor, we will not leave that table. These negotiations are hard. Guess what — they should be hard. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. And I believe, you don’t have a temper tantrum, you don’t run away. You sit down and you figure out the right way to do it.”

Oh snap, temper tantrum. Wish I’d said that one.

Flames say their arena plan was fair, because paying taxes is like putting in money, right?

In the continuing Calgary war of publicly released arena proposals, the Flames owners revealed some details of what they’d proposed to the city on Wednesday, and it’s a fascinating glimpse into the mind of business executives in an industry that relies heavily on corporate subsidies.

The Flames’ presentation, touted on a special page of their team website, was largely in the form of pie charts, like this one:

If you’ve been following this story, you’ll know that this is not extremely helpful, since it shows who would’ve been fronting the money for an arena — the owners of the team that would play in it would put in slightly more than the owners of the city whose residents would pay the team to watch games in it, whoo! — but not who’ll get to recoup their costs from new revenues from it. Since this was the entire issue that negotiations broke down over, kind of a slight omission there, Flames pie-chart renderers.

Chart number two, though, comes with a table, and it’s an extremely illuminating one:

Forget the chart on the right, which is designed to convince Calgary residents that hey, Edmonton did a deal kinda like what we proposed, so it must be fair, right? (And also can’t punctuate the name of the Edmonton arena properly, unless they think it’s actually the sequel to a short-lived but acclaimed 1980s dramedy.) The one on the left is what’s important: If you check out the fine print below, you’ll see that the Flames honchos are claiming that under the city’s proposal they’d have to pay for more than 100% of the cost of the project, because future property taxes on the arena ($243 million) would be more than the city’s share of the up-front cost ($130 million).

This is kinda mind-boggling: In no other walk of life would anybody count the taxes that everybody has to pay as a capital cost — it’d be a bit like going to a car dealer and saying, “Sure, you’re knocking almost 50% off the sticker price, but what about all the money I’m going to have to spend on gas, huh?” [UPDATE: Or maybe a better way of putting it would be: If I take out a student loan from the U.S. government, I don’t get to say, “Hey, it’s nice and all that you want your money back, but can’t you take it out of the income taxes that I’m already paying?”]  Or to flip it around, this is saying to the city, Yes, you’d have to put up half the money for our private project, but we’d pay taxes, and sure we know that normal humans and even business pay taxes on top of paying for things that they want and that’s how government can afford to pay for schools and roads and all that, but come on, man, pie charts!

It’s a perfect exemplar of the Casino Night Principle, in other words, where any cash that the private party has ever touched is “our money,” and how dare do you city officials think the public is entitled to it just because that’s the law? In fact, the Flames’ plan even takes credit for money that the team has never touched, by proposing that the city recoup its share via a “community revitalization levy” (a CRL, which is Canadian for a TIF) on property taxes from unspecified development around the arena.

Anyway, all this is now moot, because Flames CEO Ken King told Global News yesterday that “we’re no longer pursuing this concept and need to move on” and “we’ll just get about the business of operating our teams and having some fun and try to win some championships.” Which sounds like good news — yay, enough with the whining about needing a new arena and just play hockey! — but was clearly meant as a threat against Mayor Naheed Nenshi in the run-up to elections this fall. Speaking of which, how’s that going?

Speaking to Global News on Wednesday, Mount Royal University professor of Communication Studies, David Taras, said arena funding seems to have become “ground zero” for the election.

“To some degree, I think there’s an argument that the [Calgary] Flames handed the election to Nenshi, because if you look back at the last election, Nenshi positioned himself brilliantly as ‘I’m fighting for the little guy against the big developers.’ In this election, he’s positioning himself as ‘I’m fighting for ordinary citizens who don’t want to subsidize billionaire business people – and I’m fighting for them against the super-rich.’”…

“It’s boxed in [opponent] Bill Smith a bit,” [Mount Royal University political science professor Duane] Bratt agreed. “It splits his brand, which has been strong on sport and also strong on taxpayer protection.”

Sticking to running a hockey team is probably a good idea for King & Co. — they don’t seem to be much better at electoral meddling than they are at pie charts.