“Several dozen” Long Island residents marched in protest last week against the New York Islanders‘ proposed arena near Belmont Park, saying it would create too much traffic and construction noise. Those aren’t the best reasons to be concerned about it in my book — I’d be more upset about the crazy discount on land New York state is giving the team, if I were a New York taxpayer, which I am — but maybe the protestors are worried about that too but it didn’t fit easily on a sign.
Oklahoma City is looking for capital projects to spend the next iteration of its sales-tax hike on, and Mayor David Holt says if a maybe-MLS-caliber soccer stadium isn’t included, “the Energy won’t be here forever.” The Energy, if that name draws a blank for you, is the city’s beloved USL franchise that’s been there since … 2014? It’s only a matter of time before teams start threatening to move before they even exist, isn’t it?
A Las Vegas blogger has tweeted that the Rio hotel-casino could be demolished and replaced by a Major League Baseball stadium, so now everybody’s talking about Las Vegas getting an expansion team, along with Portland and Montreal and I forget who else. (San Antonio? Charlotte? Half of Mexico?) Just imagine how frenzied this would be if commissioner Rob Manfred were talking about expansion on a faster timetable than “in my lifetime,” or if he were older than 60 or suffering from a terminal illness or something.
Speaking of ticket taxes, a Nashville councilmember is proposing raising them at the new MLS stadium there and using the proceeds to help pay off the city’s share of construction costs. Nashville S.C. ownership is opposed, saying “this kind of after-the-fact tinkering would make the deal worse for soccer fans and set a bad precedent for the city,” neither of which is true (pssst sports teams already set prices as high as they can regardless of ticket taxes) but it’s totally what you’d expect them to say.
The projected cost of the Tokyo Olympics has now risen from $7.3 billion to $25 billion over the past five years .“It’s the most amazing thing that the Olympic games are the only type of megaproject to always exceed their budget,” Olympic finance expert Bent Flyvberg told the Associated Press. I would say that the fact that cities keep bidding for the Olympics despite this fact is even slightly more amazing, but they’re both pretty incredible.
The Oakland Raiders promised that their stadium project in Las Vegas would provide 18,700 construction jobs, but right now only about 650 workers are involved in construction at the site, and over its first year the project has employed the full-time equivalent of just 195 workers. Nevada really should have gotten that promise in writing.
The head of Mexico’s La Liga MX says that after the 2026 World Cup jointly hosted by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, maybe the three nations’ pro soccer leagues will merge to form one mammoth soccer league. This isn’t a terrible idea on the face of it — Mexico has the soccer talent, the U.S. has the fan spending money, and Canada has, I guess, donuts — but as it would require MLS owners to share their league with a bunch of other team owners who didn’t pay the $150 million expansion fee, and probably accept some kind of tiered promotion/relegation system as well to avoid having a 50-team league, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
David Beckham’s Miami MLS ownership group had a big announcement this week to reveal that the team will be called Club Internacional de Futbol Miami (Inter Miami for short), and the Charlotte Observer ran this under the headline “David Beckham’s team named Inter Miami, still lacks stadium.” That’s cold, Charlotte Observer. Fair, but cold.
TGIF, but please cut God some slack for this week in stadium facepalms:
Members of the Worcester city council say they won’t rush to rubber stamp city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr.’s proposed $100 million stadium subsidy deal for the Pawtucket Red Sox, with public hearings scheduled for next Tuesday and September 5. Augustus, though, says he won’t accept proposed amendments to the deal, only a straight up or down “yes” or “no” vote, because any changes “would significantly impact our ability to deliver this project on time and could lead to unintended consequences.” So, basically, he’s asking for a rubber stamp, though the council still always has this one available.
Worcester city councilmembers might also want to check out this article from WBUR about how throwing large sums of money at minor-league baseball stadiums has worked out in other cities like Nashville, Durham, and El Paso. Representative quote, from Nashville City Councilor John Cooper: “Our overall success as a tourist destination is clearly not part of this baseball project. Nobody here thinks of the minor league baseball park as driving much of that.”
Meanwhile, the Worcester stadium deal has already created a cascade effect, with the owners of the Boston Red Sox‘ single-A team, the Lowell Spinners, asking when they’ll get some public money too. “I love Lowell, and I believe in Lowell,” Spinners owner Dave Heller said after meeting with Massachusetts state economic development officials. “I’m excited about the future in Lowell and investing here. I want to make sure we can take advantage of any incentives that are available from the state.” Spoken like a true Vercotti brother.
The GM of the New York Islanders and the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers both say they’re optimistic about getting the arenas built that they are lobbying to get built, and they both got articles in major news outlets (Newsday and CBS Sports) about their optimism. Normal non-rich humans who would like to express their pessimism about the arena projects can write a letter to the editor — ha ha, just kidding, CBS Sports doesn’t publish letters to the editor, go write an angry tweet or something.
Tampa Bay Rays chief development officer Melanie Lenz says the team will decide in six to nine months whether an Ybor City stadium will work; I’d think they’d want to know who’s going to pay for it first, but maybe that’s what they need the six to nine months for: bribery. (I typed “lobbying,” right? Pretty sure I did, note to self to go back and check.)
The Cincinnati Reds are asking for $88,000 in state tax breaks on bobbleheads, on the grounds that they’re included in the price of ticket packages and not being sold separately, even though the ticket package costs more specifically because it includes a bobblehead. I shoulda been a tax lawyer.
The Philadelphia Phillies are asking for $40 million in hotel tax money from Pinellas County for a new renovations to their spring-training stadium in Clearwater, but the county has run out of hotel tax money because it already spent it on other projects, including the Rays’ Tropicana Field and a spring-training facility for the Toronto Blue Jays, along with a bunch of museums and the like. Opportunity cost!
Congratulations to the team that had never won the hockey thing winning it over the other team that had never won the hockey thing because it was a new team! And meanwhile:
Today was going to be the last day for David Beckham’s Miami MLS ownership group to make a $901,500 down payment to the county for three acres of land that would be needed to build a new stadium in Overtown, which the owners say they don’t want to do anymore, maybe, but really who knows? But anyway, now it’s not the last day because Mayor Carlos Gimenez agreed to waive the deadline because of the ongoing lawsuit over the county’s no-bid sale of the land, and you’re already losing interest, aren’t you? All you want to know is where is this team going to play already, and who will pay for it how and when will it happen? and the answer to all of that remains ¯_(ツ)_/¯.
Here’s an editorial from the Seattle Times saying that spending $177 million in public money on upgrades to the Mariners‘ stadium would be a good deal because it “supports smart investments in a beloved regional asset that will need more than basic maintenance as it ages beyond its teen years,” which doesn’t actually explain what “smart” or “need” mean or why the public should be responsible for any of this. But also, the stadium is projected to “generate $3.1 billion in economic output” over the next 20 years, which doesn’t explain what “economic output” means or how this was calculated and then it acknowledges that “those numbers are high” but c’mon, just give the Mariners the money anyway, they have a difficult teenager to deal with, don’t they deserve some help? There’s a helpful list of editorial board members at the end, in case you want to drive around Seattle and point and laugh at them.
And speaking of the Mariners, here’s a long article in FanGraphs lauding them for “essentially guaranteeing that taxpayers will realize at least some profit from the initial stadium construction investment,” which is even too rose-colored for the Seattle Times editorial board. Seriously, if we’re going to be showering sports team owners for only asking for $177 million to upgrade their buildings that they got the public to pay more than $400 million for in the first place, I think maybe it’s time to give up on moral relativism altogether.
And finally, enjoy this article about a Philadelphia Flyers executive who recalls being at his then 18-year-old arena and thinking, “I was kind of out, walking around the arena, and it just sort of started to feel tired.” Arenas got mid-life crises!
As late as Wednesday, I thought this was turning out to be a slow news week. Then the news made up for it in a hurry:
The New York Islanders owners held a question-and-answer session for residents near their planned new arena on Tuesday, and when asked about how they plan to increase Long Island Railroad service to avoid tons of auto traffic, a state development official said, “We are in very active discussions with the LIRR — meeting with them once a week — and those talks are ramping up.” Hopefully they’re involving Dr. Strange in those discussions, because they badly need to find some new topological dimensions.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he plans to talk to Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk about whether he actually plans to pursue the LeBreton Flats arena development he won rights to last year, after Melnyk called it “a huge project with tremendous risk” and said, “If it doesn’t look good here, it could look very, very nice somewhere else, but I’m not suggesting that right now” and “Something’s got to break somewhere and I mean a positive break.” Melnyk has made threats like this before, but you’d think now that he has an agreed sale price for the land he’d be happy; it sure sounds like he’s angling for some additional public subsidies now that he has his mitts on the land, which you can’t really blame him for, since Watson opened the door to that already. Come on, mayor, haven’t you learned yet not to get the can opener out when the cat is around?
Tampa Bay Rays 2020, the group started by the Rays to push for business support for a new stadium, is signing up plenty of members, but DRaysBay notes that “the real test of commitment will come when businesses are asked to make clearer financial commitments to a stadium plan.” Yeah, no duh. (The subhead here, “Business leaders line up behind stadium plan, but financing questions linger,” is also a masterpiece of understatement.)
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says that the Toronto Blue Jays‘ Rogers Centre “needs an update to make it as economically viable as possible,” noting that other stadiums “have millennial areas, things like that that have been built and become popular more recently.” So, like, an Instagram parlor?
Here’s a story about how 25 years ago the NHL handed Norman Green the rights to move the Minnesota North Stars to any open market as consolation for putting an expansion team in Anaheim, where he’d wanted to move, and he ended up going to Dallas. Also it has Roger Staubach in the headline for some reason.
And here’s a story about how 50 years ago NHL expansion inadvertently kicked off the rise of arena rock, which is probably overstated but it has links to vintage Cream videos in it, if you like that sort of thing.
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan is in talks with the Football Association to buy London’s Wembley Stadium for £600 million, which is certain to raise eyebrows about the possibility of the Jags moving to London, but is probably for right now more about Fulham F.C., which Khan also owns, being about to get promoted to the Premier League and wanting a bigger place to play. Khan also said, “I think it needs investment and updating. Compared to American stadiums the video boards are something that need to be looked at. The lounges are a little bit dated.” The current Wembley Stadium was built in 2007.
Tampa Bay Rays chief development officer Melanie Lenz, in response to concerns that a big-ass baseball stadium wouldn’t fit into the Ybor City historic district that it would be on the border of, said that “we expect to build a next-generation, neighborhood ballpark that fits within the fabric of the Ybor City community,” though she didn’t give any details. That’s vague enough to be reassuring without actually promising anything concrete, but it’s worth making a note of just in case the historic district ends up becoming a stumbling block in stadium talks, which, stranger things have happened.
A guy wants to start a football league where fans vote on what plays to run via Twitch, and build an arena in Las Vegas for people to watch … the players? The voting? The Las Vegas Review-Journal article about it was a bit unclear, though it did say that the organizers want to “create the experience of playing a football video game with real people,” which isn’t creepy at all. It also reports that the league plans to use blockchain technology, which is how you know it’s probably a sham.
Something called the Badger Herald, which I assume is a University of Wisconsin student paper but which I really hope is a newspaper targeted entirely at badgers, ran an article by a junior economics major arguing that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena will be a boon to the city because during the first few years “many will come from across the state to watch the Bucks play in this impressive new facility” and after that it will “continue giving the people of Milwaukee a reason to be optimistic.” The author also says that the arena was built after “the NBA gave the Bucks an ultimatum — either obtain a new arena, or the NBA would buy the Bucks and sell the franchise to another city,” which, uh, no, that’s not what happened at all.
Here’s a really nice article for CBS Sports by my old Baseball Prospectus colleague Dayn Perry on the Chicago White Sox ballpark proposed by architect Philip Bess that never got built. Come for the cool pictures of spiders, stay for the extended explanation of why supporting columns that obstruct some views are a design feature that stadium architects never should have abandoned!
That Missouri governor who killed a proposed St. Louis MLS stadium subsidy, calling it “welfare for millionaires,” is now under pressure to resign after his former hairdresser claimed he groped her, slapped her, and coerced her into sex acts. Maybe we should just stop electing men to public office? Just a thought.
Suffolk County, New York, otherwise known as “the part of Long Island you can only get to by starting in New York City and driving more than an hour east,” yesterday approved a $1 billion development project in Ronkonkoma that will include a 17,500-seat sports arena. Or maybe an 8,000-seat sports arena. Apparently it’s all still up in the air, except that whatever it is, it’ll be great for the local economy, because economies:
“This is entirely tax positive. There is no residential here,” [lead engineer John] Cameron said. “This is an economic engine. A catalyst for growth.”
And if you can’t trust a construction engineer to make economic impact predictions, who can you trust?
Cameron said his company had been contacted by a sports league about using the arena, which could mean anything. (Note that he didn’t even say “pro” sports league, at least not as ABC7 reported it.) The Islanders, for their part, immediately dismissed any interest in playing in eastern Long Island. I suppose it’s conceivable that a Suffolk County arena could survive just on selling concert tickets to Long Islanders who don’t want to make the shlep into the city, or drive an hour in Long Island traffic to Nassau Coliseum — though lots of them work in the city anyway, so Nassau Coliseum would just be a stop on the way home. Building a sports arena makes more sense with a sports team to play in it, is all I’m saying, unless the developers plan to ditch or massively downsize the arena aspect down the road after using it to get Suffolk County’s attention, which is entirely possible.
Anyway, what the hell the developers’ business plan is should matter less to Long Island taxpayers if they’re not on the hook for any costs, and no subsidies have been reported thus far — though Long Island Business News does note that “it has yet to be determined whether the property and the additional 40 acres of compost site will be sold or ground-leased for the redevelopment effort.” But surely they’ve at least agreed on a price for the land, right? Right? Tune back in for any further reports that filter in from the far-flung province of eastern Long Island.
In response to a Voice Freedom of Information Law request for any land value assessments provided by or to ESD for either the Islanders plot or any neighboring parcels, the agency has replied: “Please be advised ESD has no record responsive to your request.” In other words, Cuomo’s development agency has agreed to lease a prime piece of development land to a consortium of sports developers — and didn’t even check to see how much it could charge in rent for the public property.
The best way to guess at land value, according to property experts, at least when you’re looking at a unique parcel like a giant chunk of state-owned (so not subject to local zoning) racetrack parking lot land, is to look at per-square-foot prices for other vacant land in the vicinity. That method currently comes up with a value of New York state’s giveaway to the Islanders of between $74 million to $300 million — this at a time when the state is grappling with a $4 billion budget deficit. State senator Liz Krueger, who has annually introduced a bill to require improved reporting on all state corporate subsidies, told me she finds it “disturbing” that the state “would go into a 49-year lease with no evaluation of equivalent land lease or sale deals in the same area/county.” I asked ESD for a reason why the agency didn’t do any due diligence in this case, and didn’t hear back; if I get a belated response, I’ll update both here and at the Voice site.