Texans owner to St. Louis, San Diego, Oakland: Fund stadiums, and make it snappy!

In case anyone in St. Louis is getting too complacent about Gov. Jay Nixon’s plan to cobble together $400 million in public money and give it to Rams owner Stan Kroenke for a new stadium, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair is on the case to tell everyone to hurry it up already!

“That’s what we have to see is the term sheet — you know, what’s the firm commitment,” McNair told the Post-Dispatch during a break between sessions of the owners’ October meeting here. “If they’re going to do something, they need to act.

McNair said he did not know what was holding up the process.

McNair — “a respected NFL owner” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s report — also brandished the bossy stick at officials in San Diego and Oakland who haven’t snapped to it to meet their teams’ stadium demands:

McNair said the committee hasn’t “seen much in Oakland,” and worried that San Diego is moving too slowly on a public vote regarding stadium financing.

“They’re talking about an election in June. And I think that would be too late,” he said of San Diego. “They could have had one in January, but they’re not ready for that.”

“We hope in the next few weeks,” McNair said, “we’ll have firm commitments from these cities as to what they’ll do and what they won’t do.”

All part of the stadium playbook (see “Two-Minute Warning”), in other words. It’s kind of a new twist having another owner deliver the message instead of the commissioner or one of his henchmen, but maybe Eric Grubman was otherwise occupied.

Rams owner reportedly open to sharing L.A. stadium (if price is right, won’t name price)

With multi-sided game of chicken that is the NFL’s plans to move a team (or two) to Los Angeles going nowhere fast, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke has reportedly decided to up the ante a bit:

Rams owner Stan Kroenke, intent on playing next season in Los Angeles as he attempts to build a new stadium in Inglewood, has made it clear to the league he is willing to share the facility with another owner from the onset, league sources said.

(Great, thanks for that wording, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. Now I have this stuck in my head.)

As described by La Canfora, this is largely Kroenke trying to win over NFL owners who may be opposing his bid for a stadium in Inglewood because they’d prefer to see two teams move to L.A. (Whether they’d prefer this because they don’t want a single owner hogging all the riches, because they don’t want a single owner being stuck with the nearly $2 billion stadium cost, or just because they want the ensuing game of stadium musical chairs to have maximum number of empty chairs and minimum number of remaining players, it’s tough to say — and may vary owner to owner, even.) Kroenke hasn’t indicated how he’d split revenues and costs with another owner, so we’re still at the very, very early talking stages here — or the talking about talking stages, even.

Regardless, it’s a sign, if La Canfora’s sources are accurate, that Kroenke feels like he has some work to do to win over the NFL on allowing him to move. And, perhaps, that he’s serious about moving to L.A., though we can’t discount the possibility that this whole thing was leaked to turn up the heat on St. Louis. Closed-doors games of chicken are so hard to keep score on.

More 49ers fans dumping seat licenses, because 49ers’ new stadium sucks

The San Francisco 49ers‘ new stadium in Santa Clara has had some problems since it opened last year — the grass won’t stay put, it was brutally hot, getting in and out by car was often painful, and the stadium lights blinded nearby airline pilots. And now, according to KGO-TV, some seat license holders are fed up and want out of their season-ticket deals:

If you were hoping to get your hands on a San Francisco 49ers Season Builders License, or SBL, you’re in luck. Thousands are now available, but re-sellers say it has nothing to do with the team’s current record. Still, a growing number of fans are very dissatisfied…

“Half the stadium, we get beat up by the sun. So if you’re going to watch a game, you want to enjoy, drink a few beers. Here, you drink a few beers, and you get beat up, come home with sunburn, it’s just a bad experience,” [San Jose resident Tuan] Le said.

Other fans complained that the 49ers changed their ticket policy this year, sending only electronic tickets that can’t be printed until 72 hours before the game, making it harder to sell unwanted tickets.

Now, it’s only 3,000 licenses that are up for resale, up only slightly from last spring, and not all that much in a 68,000-seat stadium. And besides, the magic of PSLs (or SBLs as the 49ers call them) is that the team doesn’t have to give a crap about any of this: They’ve sold the licenses already, and it’s the fans’ problem if they made a bad investment.

The more interesting question is what this means for plans to finance stadiums in Los Angeles by similar means: Will L.A. fans, seeing the mess in Santa Clara, be more hesitant to plunk down for Rams/Raiders/Chargers PSLs? Nobody knows, but then nobody knows how viable those PSL sales projections were in the first place. This is a cautionary tale for somebody, that’s for sure, but whether it’s for football fans, for city officials in Inglewood and Carson, or for cities that think they have to outbid L.A. for the right to keep their teams is yet to be determined.

NFL owners still can’t agree whether Rams, Chargers, or Raiders should move to L.A.

Whenever I’ve asked about the prospects for an NFL team moving to Los Angeles, I’ve tried to stress that we have no idea what’s going to happen, in part because this is something that will be decided by a vote of NFL owners, meaning it could be determined by personalities of 32 rich guys as much as anything. And guess what? It turns out that the 32 rich guys can’t agree on anything right now, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:

Neither the Inglewood project, spearheaded by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, nor the Carson project, led by Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis, has sufficient support to carry a vote…

Several ownership groups maintain that if the relocation came to a vote right now, there would be a sufficient split to hold up any move forward. The NFL will not bring the matter to a formal vote among the owners until enough straw polling has been conducted to ensure one of these projects has at least 24 votes in the affirmative.

Spanos is the more popular of the two owners among the general constituents, but Kroenke’s project is viewed by some as potentially the more lucrative for all the entire league — Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Patriots owner Bob Kraft chief among them. Some estimate Kroenke would have as many as 10 votes in his favor right now.

Now this is some quality tea-leaf reading here: The NFL is split between people who don’t like Stan Kroenke and people who don’t like the Carson stadium project. It would be nice to know why other owners think the Inglewood plan would be more lucrative for the league as a whole than the Carson one — why people might not like a guy who is known a “Silent Stanley” and who bum-rushed the line to move to L.A. is less mysterious — but La Canfora doesn’t say.

Anyway, all this is good reason to bet the over in any pools about when this whole L.A. situation is likely to be resolved, because looks like we the hoi polloi are not the only ones confused about which deal makes sense. At this point I’ll going to be increasingly surprised if any teams are approved to relocate for the 2016 season, if only because it seems like the league could use a little more time to see which cities are shakedownable for stadium funding. (Current scorecard: St. Louis maybe, San Diego possibly but don’t hold your breath, Oakland only if you squint really hard.) Something has to tip the balance for league owners, especially when a three-quarters majority is needed, and that something is still in the future.

Vikings stadium czar: Team was never moving to L.A., thanks for the $500m, though!

With stadium talks with the San Diego Chargers still going nowhere fast, this has left the San Diego sportswriters who’ve been pushing for a deal in a bit of a quandary for what to write about. On Friday, Mark Ziegler wrote about how Tijuana’s soccer team got a new stadium when San Diego isn’t (the trick: a total cost of a mere $125 million, plus an owner who was hoping to cash in by getting his team promoted to the top Mexican league, two things that aren’t options for the Chargers); today, it’s our old pal Kevin Acee pointing out that it took the Minnesota Vikings a good decade and a half to get a new stadium, so San Diego should be patient and — wait, hold on a second here:

Even as the Vikings were frequently mentioned from the outside as a possible relocation candidate in the years leading up to the 2012 approval of a new stadium here, [Vikings stadium point man Lester] Bagley said the team never used Los Angeles as a bargaining chip. He said he believes ownership would have sold the team before it moved the Vikings.

“Never used Los Angeles as a bargaining chip”? So when NFL VP Eric Grubman declared that the time was “getting ripe” for the Vikings to move and that “I think the Wilfs do not want to sell the franchise, but I think there is a point where they probably would be open-minded,” and then NFL commissioner Roger Goodell flew to Minnesota to scare the state legislature into coughing up half a billion dollars in public money, something it immediately did despite an electronic gambling scheme that ended up generating no revenue and having to be bailed out by other state cash, that was just, you know, a coincidence? Or he’s making a distinction that the owners never threatened to move to L.A. themselves, they just had league officials threaten that the team would be sold and moved to L.A., which isn’t a bargaining chip at all, right?

Oy. For a palate-cleanser, go read this NBC San Diego report on how the Chargers may be in violation of their lease for not meeting with the city often enough to discuss stadium plans. It doesn’t really make any more sense — San Diego would have nothing to gain by breaking its lease with the Chargers, unless you really think the Spanos family could be frightened into spending more money on a new stadium by the threat of being forced to play in the street — but at least it’s based on actual reality.

San Diego misses deadline for January Chargers stadium vote, still plenty of other months in the year

San Diego officially isn’t holding a referendum next January on Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Chargers stadium plan that absolutely everybody hates including the Chargers owners: The deadline for scheduling a referendum was last Friday, and it wasn’t scheduled, because see above re: hate.

So now what?

“While it’s no surprise that the Chargers have allowed today’s deadline to pass for a January 12 special election,” said Faulconer, “San Diego can still hold a public vote on a new stadium during the normal election cycle in June or November – if Chargers ownership is willing to work in good faith with their hometown.”

Take out the passive-aggressive snipe at the Chargers ownership (Chargers execs responded with their own passive-aggressive snipe in return — this is what passes for negotiations in San Diego these days), and San Diego is basically in the same position as St. Louis and Oakland with the Rams and Raiders: If the NFL decides this winter to let teams move to L.A. if they don’t have stadium deals in place in their current homes, they’re probably screwed; if it decides to give everybody some more rope and kick everything back a year, there’s still plenty of time to work out a deal that their team can live with.

Though given that “deal that their team can live with” probably means “deal that costs local taxpayers ungodly amounts of money,” the city or cities that lose their teams to L.A. might end up the biggest winners, financially, at least. These things never end well.

San Diego columnist blames Chargers stadium situation on Patriots’ cheating, wins sportswriting

I was on deadline yesterday (writing not about stadiums, but a different way wealthy corporations scam people out of money — look for a link at demause.net or via my Twitter in a couple of days), which meant I didn’t have a chance to go through all the day’s stadium articles as I usually do. Let’s see, did I miss anything?

So today we must wonder: Did the New England Patriots cheat the Chargers out of a ring, maybe two — or at least a chance at becoming Super Bowl champions?

And, with that, did they cheat them out of a new stadium?

Now, there are several reasonable responses I can think of to that, starting with:

  1. Whaaaaaaa?
  2. No. No, we really mustn’t wonder that.
  3. You know that the NFL doesn’t award new stadiums as a result of winning Super Bowls, right? Yes, it’s possible there would have been more support in San Diego for a new stadium if the Chargers had been champions — though how “support” would translate into finding the hundreds of millions of dollars in missing cash for a stadium project, I’m not entirely clear, but whatever — but then this could as reasonably be put as “Did Spygate save San Diegans from being suckered into paying for a new Chargers stadium?”
  4. Aw, man, who told Nick Canepa his computer login password?

The best part of this insane article, though, is Canepa’s followup to his own question:

Maybe, maybe not.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Newspaper sports columnist is the cushiest job ever. So long as you don’t have any qualms about filling space by just writing whatever pops into your head, you’re golden.

Your Labor Day weekend reading: Cost to cities of losing teams, and Calgary’s art of the steal

If you’re looking for some light stadium-subsidy reading to make your blood boil over the last weekend of summer, there were a couple of good ones this week, and I don’t say that just because they quote me a lot:

  • Louis Bien at SBNation has a long piece up about the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, and Oakland Raiders threatening to move to L.A., and the cost on those teams’ fan bases. (I’m not honestly sure what the “you care too much” is about in the headline, as it doesn’t seem to have much to do with Bien’s actual article, but whatever.) Included is a long section on the dubious threat to cities’ well-being that team relocations actually pose, with my favorite line coming from Rick Eckstein of Public Dollars, Private Stadiums fame:

Quality of life improvements claimed by the franchise were “a load of crap,” Eckstein wrote to me. He continued: “Los Angeles has been doing just fine without football for the last decade; there has not been a mass exodus from Seattle after the Sonics left; the Long Island suburbs will not go vacant with the Islanders moving to Brooklyn, just as they survived the Nets leaving; Montreal has shown no ill effects after losing the Expos while the Nationals decidedly did NOT put DC ‘on the map.'”

  • Katie Baker in Grantland has an article that does a really cool thing, taking the “Art of the Steal” chapter from Field of Schemes (and subsequent “Art of the Steal Revisited” chapter from the expanded edition) and applying it specifically to the Calgary Flames owners’ arena demands. Best quote in the piece, though it’s not new and wasn’t particularly said about arena demands (it was about hockey lockouts), is from current Flames president Brian Burke when he worked for the Maple Leafs: “My theory is, make the first meeting as short and unpleasant as possible. Sometimes it’s better to just punch the guy in the face.” Not sure if demanding at least $490 million in taxpayer cash while claiming this would be for the public good quite qualifies as a punch in the face, but it’s pretty close!

Carson stadium design scraps lightning-bolt tower, what’s the point anymore?

The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders presented their Carson stadium plan to the NFL last week, and on Monday shared their trailer with the public. If you like swooping CG renderings and Kiefer Sutherland, it’s, well, got those:

It’s also missing something from earlier static renderings. Try to figure out what it is? (Er, without peeking at my headline.)

Previous plans called for a tower that extends 115 to 120 feet through and above the main concourse of the sleek, futuristic stadium. The tower’s cauldron would change depending on the team: simulated lightning bolts shooting out of a glass ball for the Chargers and a massive flame in honor of legendary owner Al Davis when the Raiders play…

Stadium backers confirmed that the design elements have been scrubbed from the plans. No reason was given, other than the previous renderings, released in April, were preliminary in nature.

Translation: Sure, we threw it in with the initial drawings, but it was too hard to do with our video software, let alone actually build. That would be crazy!

So farewell, giant Van De Graaff generator. We are sad to see you go, but not all that surprised, because that’s why they (okay, I) call i “vaportecture.”


Which NFL teams will go to LA? No one can predict, but here are some predictions anyway

I’ve been trying to think of what to say about yesterday’s NFL non-action around moving teams to L.A. or not — in short, the owners of the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, and San Diego Chargers submitted presentations on the same L.A. stadium plans that we all already knew about, then no one decided anything — and while I was thinking, Barry Petchesky of Deadspin went and did it for me:

It’s a simple matter of math at this point. The NFL is going to move at least one team—Giants owner Steve Tisch says “it’s better than 50-50” that a decision will be made by the 2016 season—and Oakland is the only chopping-block city currently unwilling to offer its team’s ultrawealthy owners hundreds of millions of dollars to stay. Mark Davis has no attachment to the Bay; sentiment doesn’t factor into it.

Good for Oakland, honestly. It—like St. Louis, like San Diego, like every single American city—has much more important things to spend its limited funds on. But this remains sad news for Raiders fans, who seem likely to lose their team, possibly as soon as next year. It’s not fair, but the NFL has all the leverage, because if Oakland won’t make any concessions, there are other cities that will. The only way the stadium scam will ever be stopped cold is if politicians everywhere simultaneously decide sports leagues don’t deserve handouts. It’s hard to see that happening in the near future. It’ll be even harder when politicians look at football-less Oakland, and know the NFL will be more than happy to call their bluff.

Well, maybe. Undeniably, Oakland has the least close to anything resembling a viable football stadium plan: Whereas St. Louis is offering the Rams to go halfsies on a stadum and isn’t sure how it’ll come up with its half, and San Diego has a plan to pay for maybe a third of a stadium that the Chargers hated the minute it left the presses, Oakland has hopes that maybe one day there will be a plan that can actually debated, but not very strong hopes at that. So with three teams and five slots (counting L.A. as two), it’s hard to picture Oakland not ending up an empty chair when this is all over.

That said, it’s never as simple as all that. What happens next is the NFL owners all sit around and figure out how to decide on which teams should most logically move for next season — oh, sorry, they figure out how to exploit the current situation to make the most money. For the time being (the course of the 2015 season, certainly), that should mean speaking ever more loudly about how two teams will be moving to L.A. in 2016, in order to keep fans and elected officials in St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland panicked that they not be one of the two.

What happens, though, if — okay, when — we get to January and the three non-L.A. cities are still all in their various states of incomplete deals? Sure, you can set ever-shorter deadlines, you can fly Roger Goodell into town to frighten the state legislature, but eventually you need to decide whether to have your bluff called or not. Which means deciding whether to take the offers on the table from existing cities, or selecting Door #2, whether that be Inglewood or Carson.

And here’s where we run into unknowns again, because we simply don’t have a clue how lucrative the L.A. market is compared to the certain cost of being on the hook for paying for virtually all of the cost of building stadiums in Inglewood or Carson. And for that matter, the NFL may not know either. It all remains a massive game of chicken with unreliable information all around, which is no doubt one reason why the league has been stalling as long as it can, in the hopes that somebody makes somebody an offer they can’t refuse.

If I had to guess, I’d see three options. In one, Rams owner Stan Kroenke gets approval to move to L.A., then either the Raiders or Chargers join them. Whichever team is left out immediately starts threatening to move to St. Louis in order to get a better deal out of it current home town. In the second, the Chargers and Raiders move to Carson as planned, and Kroenke probably takes whatever deal he can get in St. Louis, though he’d lose a ton of leverage at that point. (One reason why option one is more likely to be approved by the NFL.)

Option three is the status quo: The NFL owners can’t come to an agreement, and decide to let things drag on into 2016. I’m not sure I’d say it’s likely — there’s little to be gained from stalling much longer than they have already — but it is 100% possible. Just keep in mind that none of this has to do with what makes sense: It’s a bunch of people demanding ransom in a chaotic situation, and those can often end in unexpected ways.