Calgary city council is really going to approve $275m in Flames arena funding with no debate

The vote on putting $275 million (and maybe more — see below) in city money into a new Calgary Flames arena doesn’t take place until tomorrow, but it’s already becoming clear which way the council is going to go:

The majority of council members have indicated support for the deal, including Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who last week said the arena would create public benefit through “intangibles.”

“It’s about bringing community together. It’s about uniting people,” Nenshi said. “This deal makes sense on its own merits.”

Also, councillor Jyoti Gondek said a new arena was needed so that people could watch e-sports like League of Legends and Fortnite. With a straight face, presumably, though the Calgary Sun doesn’t say.

Meanwhile, a bunch of economists have noted the same thing I did here, which is that projecting $400 million in new city revenue over 35 years is not the same as $400 million today, which means the city will almost certainly be taking a loss on the deal — and that’s if taxes on new spending don’t simply cannibalize taxes on old spending, which will almost certainly be the case given that this is just a matter of moving an arena a few blocks away. Also, it’s not counting any cost overruns, an agreement on which “still needs to be worked out,” according to the Toronto Star, but the “expectation” is the city would be on the hook for 50% of them.

If that’s all somewhat confusing and seems to call for a more in-depth examination of the numbers, well, tough, because the council is voting tomorrow. This is kind of an amazing ending to a years-long arena debate where the city seemed set on holding firm against any significant public subsidies, but also kind of not amazing, because that’s how these deals tend to happen: not for a long, long while, then all at once.

Exactly how bad is the new Calgary Flames arena deal?

With all of four days of public comment period (expiring today at noon) allowed before the Calgary city council votes next week on its Flames arena plan, the local media have been commenting like crazy on how it’s either terrific or godawful. Among the takes:

  • Toronto Star columnist says it’s “a pleasant surprise that somebody had actually decided to do something in this gloomy town,” and that despite the fact that the city will get little in the way of ticket taxes and naming-rights money, and Flames owner Murray Edwards could get a huge gift in the form of development rights to public land, it’s a good “compromise” because Calgary “badly needed a win on something, anything, after the debacle that was the bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.” (Ed. note: The “debacle” was that the Olympics bid didn’t happen because Calgary voters didn’t like it.)
  • Edmonton Journal columnist David Staples says the new deal “appears to be far more favourable to the Flames owners than the arena proposal that broke down in 2017 and also more favourable than the deal Oilers owner Daryl Katz got in Edmonton”: He says Edmonton paid 47% of the Oilers’ arena cost, Calgary would pay 50% of the Flames’, up from 33% in the proposal from two years ago. But he admits that the “details are murky,” and ends up noting that even pro-arena Edmonton officials say it ended up being good to have a lengthy public debate on that city’s plan, though of course their side still won in the end, so they would say that.
  • Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid says that the new arena is good because Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney will be more likely to play there.
  • Macleans writer Jason Markusoff writes that the Flames owners “sweetened the pot” by agreeing to pay a ticket tax, but mostly city officials wanted something they could “claim victory” on: “Nenshi and the council want to remember what victory tastes like and get the public excited about something, even at the risk of getting the public furious anew. After Monday’s presentation, Nenshi gathered King and other principal players in the talks for a handshake photo op, until an aide rushed over and reminded the mayor of the optics of shaking hands on a deal that was just opened to public feedback. Oopsie.
  • Small business owners are mostly mad because the local economy sucks and they’d rather see their own business taxes reduced.
  • Global News contributed a not-very-helpful listicle of costs of recent NHL arenas that didn’t include any details of how much the public paid for each, because that shit is too complicated for a listicle, man, do you know how many posts we have to write today?

So who’s right? As covered here on Tuesday, even with the ticket tax and naming-rights money, the city looks like it would take a rather large loss on its arena spending, while the Flames owners would rake in all the profits (presumably, anyway: the city’s report doesn’t include anything on the team’s side of the finances). That’s true even if you count property taxes on the development around the arena as a net plus — without getting too much into “present value” terminology, suffice to say that so much of the city’s take would be pushed out so many years into the future that it wouldn’t be nearly enough to pay off the debt the city would have to take on right now for arena construction costs. I get a net loss to the city of at least $139 million, counting all the new property taxes as a positive, but not counting costs like land and tax breaks that aren’t specified in any of the documents released so far.

All these known unknowns are why some elected officials — and, presumably, Calgary citizens, though it’s hard to tell since they’ve barely had time to speak up since Monday’s arena announcement, and nobody gives them newspaper columns — have been complaining that four days of public input and then just three more days (two of them on the weekend) to process those comments is less a spirited public debate than a fig leaf over a done deal. City councillor Evan Woolley, whose proposal to push back a council vote to September was rejected by a 9-4 vote, remarked, “I have asked numerous times what the rush is, why one week, and I have not been given a clear answer.”

Pro-arena councillor Jeff Davison, who warned his fellow councillors before the vote on Woolley’s measure that any delay would mean “this deal is done tonight and you will forever be known as the council that likely lost the Calgary Flames” — the deal included a clause that it would be null and void if not approved within a week, presumably exactly so that Davison could pull this two-minute-warning maneuver — claimed that the plan all along was to have only one week of discussion, which his fellow councillors immediately said he was wrong about. But they still voted, 9 out of 13 of them at least, to limit any public debate to less than four days.

And limiting public debate, it appears, is what a majority of the Calgary council did agree on, in part because it’s hard to claim a nine-figure arena subsidy for a sports billionaire as a “victory” if the public gets to disagree with you about that. Back to Cunningham:

Public engagement is great and all that, but sometimes decisions are necessary, even if they cost money and piss some people off.

And the deal will go through, imperfect as it may be. At the end of the day, that’s probably what should happen. After all, some things are more important than politics, fiscal rectitude, or citizen consultation.

Hockey, for example. Not to mention civic pride.

I, for one, eagerly await Gary Bettman’s 2019-20 NHL marketing campaign: Hockey. It’s better than democracy.

Calgary reveals complex Flames arena plan involving $212.9m in subsidies, gives public a whole week to discuss it before final vote

After a three-hour meeting that was closed to the public as promised, the Calgary city council did end up releasing some details last night of its deal with Flames owners for a new arena, to be built on current Calgary Stampede parking lots, to replace the Saddledome — at just after 7 pm Calgary time. Let’s sift through the various news reports to try to piece together just exactly what the council agreed to:

  • The new arena would cost $550 million, with construction costs being split evenly between the city and the team, $275 million apiece.
  • The Flames would pay all operating and maintenance costs for the arena.
  • The city would own the arena, which often isn’t a good thing for the public because it can mean a building gets out of paying property taxes, but this is Canada so that isn’t necessarily the case. The city’s presentation, however, just mentions $158.1 million over 35 years ($74 million in present value) in incremental property taxes from new development around the arena, so it’s unclear whether the arena itself would be tax-free or not.
  • The city would collect a 2% tax on every ticket sold, amounting to a projected $155 million in revenue over 35 years, which amounts to about $72.5 million in present value.
  • The city would also get a unspecified percentage of naming rights revenue, amounting to only $2.5 million over 10 years, which is present value of a little under $2 million.
  • The city will pay $12.4 million toward demolition of the Saddledome, 90% of the cost.
  • No word on whether the Flames will pay any kind of rent of ground lease beyond the ticket tax and naming rights share, or who would cover cost overruns, or whether there would be additional infrastructure costs or who would pay for them.

That’s a little hard to put a final number on, but if we take the city’s $275 million construction cost plus $12.4 million demolition cost, then subtract out the $72.5 million from ticket tax revenues and $2 million from naming rights (property taxes are just what any development of the land would normally pay to help fund all the city services that new development requires, so they’re not really a net plus), we get: $212.9 million in public costs, plus any potential public share of cost overruns or land cost breaks. Or, to put it another way, the city and the Flames owners would be splitting construction costs down the middle, and the team would be collecting all revenues on the place except a thin trickle of ticket taxes and a sliver of naming rights money.

Compared to the last Flames arena proposal, which was projected to cost taxpayers at least $1.2 billion, this one does seem to involve lighting less public money on fire. That’s about as much positive as we can say about it, though, and $212.9 million–plus toward a $550 million arena is still an awful lot of money — pretty close in percentage terms, in fact, to the $311 million in public money toward a $676 million arena that Edmonton spent on the Oilers, to much popular consternation. “It could have been worse” is extremely faint praise for any sports venue deal, especially when the median outcome for cities in such deals is “pretty awful.”

There are still a lot of unknowns about the deal — it’s tough to analyze a proposal that is just a single page of summary numbers with some clip art thrown in — but hopefully more details will emerge before the council votes on the plan … I’m sorry, did you say next Monday?

The reason for the rush is, apparently, “momentum”:

If you’re interpreting that as “if we gave people more than a week to think about it they might stop being so excited and ask actual questions” … actually, I’m pretty sure that’s the only way to interpret it.

And now, the question I’m sure you’re all wondering, which is: What did Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, he of the vow that the city would have to be made whole on any arena spending, say after the announcement of a deal that, even if you count new property taxes from ancillary development (which you shouldn’t), would leave the city stuck with at least $138.9 million in losses? Nenshi said this:

“Let’s cut to the chase. This is a good deal for Calgary,” said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “This deal makes sense on its own merits.”

(Nenshi did add that, given the city is currently looking to cut $60 million in fire, police, and transit spending thanks to a city budget crunch, giving hundreds of millions of dollars to an oil billionaire is maybe not the best look: “The optics of this stink. It’s really terrible timing.”)

It’s really hard to see any of this as anything other than an attempt to overcome public opposition to subsidies for a Flames arena by rushing a plan to approval without public scrutiny, which is exactly what the Flames owners have been angling for. And Nenshi, who was largely cut out of the arena talks, has folded completely on his opposition to the plan, which could be tactical — in Calgary the mayor is just one vote on the city council, so if it looked like this plan was a shoo-in he may have decided it was better to retreat and declare victory — but is still a far cry from promises like this one from 2015:

“It’s not going to be a deal that gets presented to the public with a ribbon on it,” Nenshi said Monday in an interview at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. “We will actually engage the public in discussions about what they think is right.”

Discuss really fast, people of Calgary. The ribbon gets tied on Monday.

Flames owners and Calgary to announce tentative arena deal, maybe not tell anyone what’s in it

If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you’ll know that Calgary Flames owner Murray Edwards’ battle for a new publicly funded hockey arena is one of the most important flashpoints in the sports subsidy world. It features a mayor (Naheed Nenshi) who has insisted on not putting public money into any project that wouldn’t result in a public benefit, a team management that tried to kick Nenshi out of office so they could negotiate with someone more team-friendly, and a city council whose most vocal members is a former employee of Edwards’ oil company who has loudly proclaimed that public debate is a bad idea when you can instead have deals made behind closed doors.

After the last round of arena plans fell apart when it turned out taxpayers would lose more than a billion dollars on the project, Davison got himself, but not Nenshi, appointed to the negotiating committee for the next round of talks. And that round has apparently resulted in something that both the council committee and the team owners have tentatively agreed on, though in Davisonian style, we still may not get to learn much about what the agreement says:

City council will meet Monday to get the first look at a tentative deal reached between the city and the Calgary Flames for a new arena to replace the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The proposed agreement will be discussed at 3:45 p.m. behind closed doors, though details could be made public following the in camera briefing.


“It’s not a deal at this particular point, there’s still lots of steps to go through. It’s really a proposal and we’ll be giving an update,” said [Councillor Ward] Sutherland, who is vice-chair of council’s event centre committee.

“Negotiations, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, had been ongoing. It’s a multi-party deal, so it’s very complex. It deals with the Stampede board, the Flames organization, CMLC [Calgary Municipal Land Corporation] and also the city.”

The important thing to remember, whatever gets announced — or not announced — is that even a “deal” would just be a deal between the Flames owners and the negotiating committee, and it will take a vote of the full council to make it a reality. The council has been split on whether or how to move forward on a Flames arena involving public money, and Nenshi will undoubtedly be vocal about reminding everyone that it’d be dumb to give Edwards a pile of cash if the city doesn’t see any return on its investment, and it’ll be hard to come up with a plan that provides positive cash flow to both Edwards and the city when you’re talking about spending $600 million just to move a hockey team from one part of town to another, and all this will take place against an inevitable backdrop of elected officials feeling pressured into getting something done just to make the issue finally go away.

All of which is to say: This is going to be an interesting day in Calgary, and likely an interesting week and interesting next few months. Whether or not you’re a hockey fan or a Canadian, it’ll be worth tuning in — at least, tuning in to whatever the council lets slip from its closed session.

Friday roundup: Raleigh MLS project funding, Islanders’ train station costs, Flames arena talks are all ???

Happy Friday! If you’ve been wondering if Scott McCaughey’s excellent new album of songs written while in a hospital room recovering from a stroke can drown out the sound of poorly timed jackhammering by the gas company right outside your window, I’m here to report: Not nearly well enough!

Typing really loud so you can hear me over the din:

  • Raleigh residents are concerned that a development project centered on a new soccer stadium could price them out of living in the city. Also, there isn’t actually enough Wake County tax money available to pay for the project’s proposed $390 million public cost. And Raleigh doesn’t have an MLS team, or the promise of one. Other than that, this is going swimmingly.
  • Newsday has contradicted Long Island Business News’s report that New York state will pay “most” of the cost of a new $300 million train station for an Islanders arena at Belmont Park, saying that the actual cost is only $100 million and developers will pay most of it. Unnamed source fight!
  • Calgary city councillor Jeff Davison, who is spearheading behind-closed-doors talks with the Flames owners over a new arena, says, “We do not have a deal today, and when we will have one and if we will have one is totally up in the air. But what we can tell the public today is that discussions are productive but they’re not complete. We can’t give an exact date as to when we’ll be back with any information [but] I’m confident if we do bring a plan back, that the public will support it.” Pretty sure that translates as “Still talking, ask again later.”
  • Noah Pransky has been on a writing tear about the Tampa Bay Rays mess this week, including a review of an article he wrote in July 2009 predicting much of what has since come to pass and an analysis of how hotel-tax money that Tampa officials say can’t be spent for things like policing or libraries really can, because they could be used to free up general-fund money that’s currently spent on tourism-related expenses. “Where’s the study on best uses for that new money?” writes Pransky at Florida Politics. “How about just a best-use conversation, held out in the sunshine?” Crazy talk!
  • Speaking of tax money that could be spent on other things, Cuyahoga County is considering a 1% hotel tax hike to free up $4.6 million a year to spend on its convention center and sports venues, which in present value comes to about $70 million. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer article on this is entirely about how the bed tax hike would affect the hotel industry, because of course it is.)
  • “Could an NFL Stadium [for the Buffalo Bills] be Built on an Abandoned Coke Plant Property?” asks Erie News Now, boldly toying with Betteridge’s Law.
  • Worcester will break ground next Thursday on its new heavily subsidized Triple-A Red Sox stadium set to open at the beginning of the 2021 season, which, uh, isn’t a lot of time. They’d better hope that the climate crisis means a less stormy winter construction season in New England, which, uh, isn’t likely.

Friday roundup: Wild get $55m to extend lease, A’s seek to buy into Coliseum land, Calgary will own Flames arena (maybe, whatever that means)

Friday! Let’s see what else has been happening this week:

  • The owners of the Minnesota Wild have extended their lease for ten years, through 2035, in exchange for cutting their rent from $9 million a year to just over $3.5 million. That may sound like a $55 million gift (or an $88 million gift — the Pioneer Press wasn’t clear about whether the rent reduction starts now or in 2026), but St. Paul officials say it won’t cost the city any money, because they renegotiated the public arena bonds so that they can be paid off over a longer time. No, I don’t get it either, this is just what the newspaper says the unnamed city officials said, go ask them.
  • The Oakland A’s owners have a tentative agreement to buy Alameda County’s half of the Oakland Coliseum site for $85 million. (The public landowners previously turned down a purchase offer of $167 million when it looked like the Raiders might stay put there, and other indicators put the market value of the site in the same range, so the price looks reasonable, at least.) No, that doesn’t mean the A’s owners will necessarily build a stadium there — they say Howard Terminal is still their first choice for that — but they could, or they could just build other development there, or they could be prohibited from building anything, given that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has been complaining that the county selling its stake without consulting the city, which owns the other half, could be illegal. Check back again in about a month, when the deal is supposed to be finalized, maybe.
  • Calgary councillor Jeff Davison, the main proponent of a new arena for the Flames, says that “the City of Calgary will own” any arena, which could mean, well, anything really: Will the city own just the deed, or the revenues from the build as well? Who will control non-hockey events? Who will pay maintenance? Will the building pay property taxes? Rent? The Calgary Herald says that “an official with the Flames said there was ‘nothing to report’ when asked for comment,” so we’re flying blind here, at least until Davison drops some more hints about what he thinks is going to be approved, if he even knows what will be approved and isn’t just trying to boost his plan’s prospects by talking it up in the press. Stenography journalism is hard!
  • Eastern Illinois University is looking at building an esports arena in a second-floor classroom, and now I really don’t get why Comcast Spectacor needs to spend $50 million to build one in Philadelphia.
  • This week in vaportecture: One of the ghostly figures projected to attend Worcester Red Sox games has now wandered onto the imaginary field’s imaginary second base and is celebrating an imaginary double; the F.C. Cincinnati stadium will now feature a “grand staircase” that is supposed to echo the Spanish Steps in Rome and the front steps of the New York Public Library, which are 174 steps and (roughly, I can’t find a count online) 25 steps respectively, whereas these look like they’ll be seven steps max, but okay; and the Tampa Bay Rays stadium in Tampa that will never be built has finally turned around its field so the giant gap in the grandstand isn’t behind home plate but is now in center field, which is more reasonable but, remember, not going to be built anyway, so never mind.
  • And speaking of Tampa, newly elected mayor Jane Castor has declared, “I will do what I can to have the Rays move to Tampa.” Rays owner Stuart Sternberg can’t move anywhere until 2027 without the permission of St. Petersburg, and the term Castor was just elected to expires in 2023, so good luck with that one, mayor.

Friday roundup: Cobb County still losing money on Braves, Beckham now wants two new stadiums, A’s reveal latest crazy rendering

It’s yet another morning to wake up and read the news and want to immediately go back to bed, or maybe get out of bed and protest something or just hug somebody. There’s a full week of additional stadium and arena news to recap, though, and that still matters, even if maybe not quite as much as man’s inhumanity to other humans, so:

  • Cobb County is still losing money on the new Atlanta Braves stadium, but it was at least down to $5.8 million last year from $8 million the year before. That’s mostly thanks to increased property tax payments from the development around the stadium, though, and as I’ve covered before, property taxes aren’t free money, they’re revenues that are supposed to pay for all the social costs of new development, so please everybody stop pretending that’s how fiscal math works.
  • David Beckham’s Inter Miami (do I have to keep identifying them that way? you bet I do!) now wants to play its first two MLS seasons, 2020 and 2021, at a new stadium in Fort Lauderdale while waiting for its Miami stadium to be ready. I admit to being somewhat confused as to how an 18,000-seat stadium can be built in Fort Lauderdale in less than a year (even if it’s just a temporary facility that will eventually be converted to host the franchise’s youth team) when it’ll take two years at least to build one in Miami, but mostly I’m just excited for Beckham to have two different stadium ideas that can run into inevitable obstacles because he’s Beckham.
  • The Oakland A’s dropped another new rendering of their proposed Howard Terminal stadium as part of their latest site plan, and mostly it’s notable for apparently being the only building left with its own electrical power after the apocalypse wipes out the rest of humanity, which should help ticket sales. Vaportecture fans will also be pleased to see that the gratuitous shipping cranes for unloading containers to nowhere have been moved to a different corner of the site, possibly for logistical reasons but more likely because the renderers thought they framed the image better there.
  • Tottenham Hotspur stadium update: Finally looks on target to open in early April, except for the small problem that players trying to take corner kicks will tumble backwards down a slope if they stand more than one foot from the ball.
  • Milwaukee-area residents will finally get to stop paying a sales-tax surcharge to pay off the Brewers‘ Miller Park next year, after 24 years of the 0.1% tax being in place. (The public will keep on paying for repairs to the stadium, but it’s already built up a reserve fund from sales tax payments for that purpose.) That’s certainly good news for Wisconsin residents who want to see their spending dollars go 0.1% farther, though even more so it will make it harder for anyone to try to use that tax stream to fund a replacement stadium for Miller Park, which the Brewers haven’t talked about but you know it’s just a matter of time.
  • The Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority is set to vote today on a new short-term lease for the Raiders, who would pay $7.4 million in rent for 2019 and $10.4 millon in rent for 2020 if necessary, plus $525,000 a year in rent for the team’s practice facility for up to three years after moving to Las Vegas. Plus, Oakland still gets to continue with its antitrust suit against the Raiders for leaving in the first place. I love happy endings!
  • Calgary city councillor Evan Woolly says instead of giving tax kickbacks to a new Flames arena, he wants to give tax breaks to all businesses across the city in an attempt to keep more of them in town. I’d definitely want to see his projected economic impact numbers before deciding if that would be worth it, but it certainly makes as much economic sense as giving money solely to a pro hockey team on the same logic.
  • “Planning experts” told the city of Saskatoon that it should kick off downtown revitalization efforts by building a new arena, because that’s the “biggest piece,” and, and, sorry, I’m looking for any actual reasons these experts gave, but not finding any. Though given that one is described as a “real estate sales specialist,” maybe their reasoning is not so mysterious after all.
  • The New York Islanders management emailed season ticket holders to ask them to sign a “Support New York Islanders New Home at Belmont” petition, which leads me to think that maybe they’re taking this whole local elected official opposition thing more seriously than they’re pretending when they keep saying don’t worry, they’re totally going to have the place open by 2021.
  • The Carolina Panthers are talking about moving to South Carolina, but only their offices and practice field, not their actual home stadium. Not that that’s stopping them from trying to get out of paying their stadium property tax bill.
  • The government is Sydney is rushing to demolish a 31-year-old Australian football rugby (sorry, read too quickly and can’t tell all the Australian ball sports apart really anyway) stadium nine days before a new government might come in that would have preserved the building, and while I don’t fully understand the whole history here, you can read about it here while we wait for FoS’s Aussie sports correspondent David Dyte to chime in.
  • Emails obtained by the Los Angeles Times reveal that Irving Azoff tried to talk the Los Angeles Lakers into moving out of the Staples Center and into the MSG-owned Forum, but talks didn’t go anywhere. This honestly doesn’t seem like much since it was just an emailed offer that was rebuffed, but it is interesting in that it shows how the arena management wars are playing into sports team decisions. (And also in that it reveals that Lakers owner Jeanie Buss refers to Clippers owner Steve Ballmer as “Ballz.”)

Friday roundup: Flames arena questions, Braves funny math, and more vaportecture renderings and videos of suite chairs than you can shake a stick at

I swear they keep making these Fridays closer and closer together:

  • Canadian economists have lots of questions about who’s going to pay for a new Calgary Flames arena, which is as should be because the city council won’t say yet how it will be paid for. And we apparently won’t know more for a while, because first the council needs to figure out who’ll be on the negotiating committee with the Flames, and it’s not even scheduled to meet until next month. I can’t be the only one thinking, “Excellent, lots of time for somebody to leak the details to the press before everything gets negotiated,” can I? Deadspin has a tips line, just saying!
  • The Atlanta Braves brought in $442 million in revenue last year, for a profit of $92 million, but blamed the team’s debt payments on their new stadium in Cobb County for not leaving enough left over to spend big on free agents. After public subsidies, the Braves owners are on the hook for less than $20 million a year in construction debt payments, plus $6 million a year in rent, so, um, yeah.
  • The latest Texas Rangers stadium renderings make the seats in the top decks look just as crappy as in the previous renderings, there are still clip-art fans with translucent heads, and the roof is open in all of them even though the whole point of the new stadium is to have air-conditioning, which won’t work if the roof is open. At least we finally get to see how fans will get to that deck suspended in midair in left field — via a brick-colonnaded walkway, of course — so we no longer have to worry about Rangers fans having to purchase jetpacks to get to their terrible seats.
  • And still more renderings, these of a USL stadium a would-be team owner wants to build in Fort Lauderdale on the site of Lockhart Stadium, the same site David Beckham has targeted as a training site for his Inter Miami MLS team. Are there spotlights pointing pointlessly into the sky? You bet! Is this, regardless of whether the USL stadium stands a chance of getting built, yet another reason to laugh at Beckham over how he can’t catch a break? Don’t you know it!
  • Here’s a video of what the chairs and shelving will look like at the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium. And here’s a picture of what the place settings will look like in the luxury suites at the new Golden State Warriors arena, but it’s just a still photo — come on, Ben Golliver, it’s 2019, don’t you know people want to see furniture in video form?
  • New York Islanders owner Jon Ledecky insists that the team’s proposed Belmont Park arena is still “on track for the 2021-22 season,” but what else is he gonna say?
  • Winnipeg will provide a total of $16.6 million in tax breaks and other operating subsidies this year to the Jets, Blue Bombers, Goldeyes, and Manitoba Moose, and bonus points to any non-Canadian who can name what sport each of those teams play. Economic Development Winnipeg CEO Dayna Spiring claimed that the public will make its money back — no, not through the taxes the teams won’t get breaks on, that’s a Wichita thing to say. Rather, Spiring said the public will earn its money back on exposure, via the value of Winnipeg’s name appearing on hockey broadcasts. Somebody please alert this Twitter account.
  • Tottenham Hotspur stadium opening update: still maybe early April! Also, it may be called Nike Stadium, or maybe not.
  • Wichita announced it planned to double down on its $75 million expense for a new minor-league baseball stadium for the relocated New Orleans Baby Cakes Triple-A franchise by also selling land around the stadium to the team owners for $1 an acre, with the mayor saying the city would make money on the $38.5 million in taxes the new development would pay over the next 20 years. This is still not how taxes work, but Wichita has since said it was putting off the land sale after Wichitans griped about the stealth subsidy, so I won’t belabor the point. For now.
  • And finally, NBA commissioner Adam Silver want to make watching basketball at home more like being at the game, via “technology.” Wait, isn’t one main problem pro sports is facing that fewer and fewer people want to go to games because it’s just as pleasant and cheaper to watch games at home on their giant hi-def TVs? I mean, no complaints here if Silver really wants to replicate the smell of Madison Square Garden in my living room, but it seems a bit, I dunno, against their business model? Unless maybe this will be some kind of premium feature you only get by subscribing to their streaming service that will be described as “Netflix for basketball,” yeah, that’s probably it.

Calgary council approves $1.5b in spending on Flames arena and other stuff, will explain later where money will come from

It took a break in the day-long closed-door session for an open-door session on the rules for talking behind closed doors, but the Calgary city council finally approved a Flames arena financing plan last night, as part of $1.5 billion in spending that will also fund expansion of the city’s convention center and arts center, and construction of a new field house for such sports as track, basketball, and indoor soccer. And how will all this be paid for, and will the tenants — such as the Flames — be repaying any of the capital expense through rent or revenue sharing?

The city will be able to pursue all four projects, said Nenshi, through a combination of cash reserves — including drawing from the city’s flush rainy day fund — as well as government grants and the community revitalization levy…

The city says it will release further details about the financial strategy to pay for all four projects at the Mar. 18 meeting of council.

Okay, that partially answers the first half of the question: The city will use cash on hand (which otherwise could be used for other projects, or reducing taxes, or rainy-day needs like the rainy day fund is meant for); plus a CRL, which is the Canadian version of a TIF that kicks back future increases in property tax receipts; plus grants from the provincial and/or federal governments that may or may not exist. All of this enables the council to say “no new taxes,” which is apparently what they really wanted to do, even though any government spending ultimately comes from taxes.

As for the other piece — will Calgary recoup any of this money on the back end — we apparently will have to wait for the next council meeting in two weeks. Or maybe not even then, since there still needs to be negotiation with the Flames owners? They decided all this in closed session, so who can tell!

Needless to say, not knowing any of the financial details beyond the vaguest generalities makes it really hard to evaluate how good or bad this deal would be for Calgary taxpayers, which is presumably exactly why the council is keeping the details a secret for now. All we know is that four councillors — Evan Woolley, Peter Demong, Jeromy Farkas, and Druh Farrell — out of 15 opposed the measure, though interestingly not Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who called out the last Flames arena plan as too expensive for the public. So maybe this indicates that this is a better deal; or maybe it indicates that Nenshi has caved; or maybe something else entirely; tune in March 18 to find out, or not!

Also unknown for the moment: Whether the arena design will still include its very own Stargate:

This is gonna be a long two weeks.

Calgary council still won’t say what Flames deal is, but they’re not happy with it yet

The Calgary city council is back at work debating a Flames arena plan today, and because it’s a closed-door meeting with no details to be revealed until the deal is done, we don’t even have streaming video to stare at in increasing boredom. So all that’s left to do is to instead stare at tea leaves to try to guess at what’s happening, and the Calgary Herald is on it!

Several councillors have confirmed that the 7-6 vote to postpone reflected discomfort with the proposed terms and fears the deal was moving too quickly without sufficient scrutiny.

Others on council say they’re frustrated with city hall’s inability to move ahead after months and months of discussions.

The six councillors who voted against the postponement included councillors Jeff Davison, Jyoti Gondek, Ray Jones, Joe Magliocca, Ward Sutherland and Sean Chu — the majority of whom are on the record as supporting the most recent proposal.

Coun. Evan Woolley, who voted to postpone, said he understands the frustration of his colleagues.

“At the same time, we need to have rigour to this process,” Woolley said. “Based on the conversations that came out of council meeting this week, I am deeply concerned that we are giving up rigour in favour of speed.

“I am very uncomfortable and was very uncomfortable that we were going to make mistakes and we are talking about taxpayers’ money here, and significant amounts of money.”

So parsing these even more finely, a majority of the council still wasn’t happy with the deal last week, so wanted to talk about it more today. What exactly they’re questioning, nobody’s saying, but whatever it is the questioning will be rigorous — sorry, rigourous — so everybody can breathe a little easier. Unless, of course, this is more about butt covering than actual scrutiny, but there’s no way to be sure!

We’ll find out more … not tomorrow, probably, but maybe after the council sits down with the Flames owners to hash out a final deal, and okay, it’s going to be tea leaves, nothing but tea leaves, for a while yet.