Friday roundup: NFL to shop for overseas host cities, plus the attack of the no-good, terrible stadium names

How’s everyone doing out there? Did you, like me, spend much of yesterday watching baseball games and wondering why MLB bothers to have mask rules if half the fans are keeping their masks off at any given time, and then wondering if this is really the right thing to be concerned about rather than all the people who are leaving the game and going to indoor sports bars, and then wondering if disregard for mask rules is a reasonable proxy for being careless about going to bars as well? I hope not, because that is very much my job, and the mission of this site remains Thinking Too Hard About Things So You Don’t Have To.

Which is one nice thing about Fridays: No thinking too hard, because all the leftover news gets boiled down to a single bite-size bullet point, ideally with a quip at the end. It’s like pre-wrapped meals of stadium facts, and here’s this week’s assortment:

  • The NFL is adding a 17th game to its season, mostly so it can charge TV networks more for the extra game but also to create more games that can be played outside the U.S. to help increase the league’s international visibility, and the operators of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium and Vancouver’s B.C. Place have both said they’ll throw their hats in the rings. You can read my thoughts about Olympic Stadium here; suffice to say that it’s simultaneously perfectly serviceable and not at all what sports owners consider state-of-the-art at selling people things other than a seat to sit in. It’ll be very interesting to see whether the NFL makes its international game hosting decisions based on which markets it most wants to break into or which cities offer the snazziest stadiums. (Or which cities offer straight-up cash, that’s always a popular NFL move.)
  • Indy Eleven USL team owner Ersal Ozdemir got his approval from the Indiana state legislature this week to take more time on how to spend his $112 million in state stadium cash, and team officials replied that they will now take their own sweet to to “finalize the site” “in the coming months.” Given that Ozdemir at first asked for the cash so he could get promoted to MLS and then later decided, know what, maybe he’ll stay put in the USL and avoid all those expansion fees but still get the snazzy new digs, there is a non-zero chance that he decides to ask to use the money to build condos or a space laser or something.
  • The Henderson Silver Knights have sold naming rights to their publicly funded and owned under-construction arena (I know it doesn’t make any sense, this is just how naming rights are allowed to work in most of the U.S. with few exceptions) to the payday loan company Dollar Loan Center, which means the arena will now be called … also the Dollar Loan Center? Shouldn’t it at least be the Dollar Loan Center Arena? This seems like very confusing branding, among other things, though I guess it’ll at least be amusing when people use Google Maps to try to find places to get high-interest advances on their paychecks and end up at the Silver Knights ticket window.
  • Also in the terrible names department, we have the Miami Marlins cutting a deal with a mortgage loan company that starts with a lower-case letter, which is going to wreak havoc among sports department copy editors across the land. (Just kidding: All the sports departments have already fired all their copy editors, pUNCtuATE and spel tHiNgZ however U want!!1!)
  • Here’s some video of the under-construction Phoenix Rising F.C. soccer stadium, which when it was announced last December would be ready for 2021 I predicted would be “off-the-rack bleachers that can be installed quickly,” and which indeed looks exactly like that. No robot dog showrooms or giant soccer balls are visible, sadly, but the USL season doesn’t start for another three weeks, so there’s still time to find some off-the-rack robot dogs.
  • And finally, across the pond, Everton F.C. finally had its stadium plan approved by the Liverpool City Council, meaning the £500 million project can move ahead. The city is loaning a little over half that money to Everton’s billionaire owner Farhad Moshiri, but Moshiri is then supposed to repay it in actual cash with interest, so the only real concerns are why Liverpool needs to act as banker for a rich guy, and whether it’s a good idea to build an oceanfront stadium when the oceans are already starting to rise. Those other countries have such quaint problems compared to America’s!
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Moving All-Star Game to fight Georgia voting law would mean putting people’s rights ahead of MLB’s profits

The Georgia state legislature yesterday passed SB 202, the voting law that is probably best known as “You can now be arrested in the state of Georgia for giving food or water to people waiting on line to vote.” The law contains a ton of other provisions as well, though, like requiring an ID (rather than just a signature) when voting absentee, limiting the number of drop boxes for placing ballots in, and banning the use of mobile voting sites, among other things. It’s all a pretty transparent move by the Republican-led legislature to make it harder for people to vote who might vote against them, which mostly means African Americans who are more likely thanks to geography or income to be hampered by the new restrictions: The no-food-or-water rule, for example, was apparently inspired by a single white woman with a gun who was outraged that get-out-the-vote groups had been giving free pizza to people who were waiting on line to cast their ballots.

The new law is so restrictive, in fact, and so reminiscent of blatant Jim Crow–era attempts to disenfranchise Black people, that it’s drawn the attention of some in the sports world, who have suggested a boycott of the state along the lines of the actions taken after North Carolina passed its anti-transgender “bathroom law” in 2016 — actions that resulted in that law’s partial repeal one year later, and its eventual complete expiration at the end of 2020. MLB players association president Tony Clark said last week that baseball players were “very much aware” of the Georgia bill and that if there were a chance to discuss moving this summer’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta, he would “look forward to having that conversation.” And yesterday, an even more prominent president chimed in on behalf of that idea:

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he would strongly support Major League Baseball moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta after Georgia enacted new voting restrictions that disproportionately target Black residents.

“I think today’s professional athletes are acting incredibly responsibly. I would strongly support them doing that,” Biden said in an interview with EPSN SportsCenter host Sage Steele. “People look to them. They’re leaders.”

Obviously, Biden and other Democrats have a selfish reason to be promoting voting rights in this case: The people being disenfranchised are more likely to vote Democratic, which is the whole point of Republican legislators passing the law in the first place. (I mean, many of them probably also passed it because they just don’t like the idea of Black people deciding who runs their state, but then we’re getting into serious chicken-and-egg territory about the reasons why someone in Georgia would choose to become a Republican legislator.) But something can be in your self-interest and also the right thing to do, and … sorry, what were we talking about? Right, the All-Star Game!

It’s important to remember that MLB did not decide to hold its 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta because they felt the city deserved it or were under the delusion that Georgia would be a pleasant place to spend time in July. They did it because — here, let’s explain by way of a list of the last 10 All-Star Game hosts:

2011: Phoenix
2012: Kansas City
2013: New York City
2014: Minneapolis
2015: Cincinnati
2016: San Diego
2017: Miami
2018: Washington
2019: Cleveland
2021: Atlanta

The common theme here is that the stadiums involved were new — or, in the cases of Kansas City and Cleveland, newly renovated. MLB has long used the All-Star Game as a reward for cities that have coughed up money for new or renovated ballparks; the last time it held the game at a stadium that wasn’t at least freshly refurbished was Yankee Stadium in 2008, and that was meant as a sendoff in advance of the Yankees’ new extremely-publicly-funded stadium opening the following year; before that, you have to go back to Fenway Park in 1999 to find an All-Star Game that wasn’t handed out as a prize for Most Willing To Subsidize League Profits With Public Money.

Moving this summer’s All-Star Game from Atlanta would no doubt be a logistical pain, though it isn’t all that much shorter notice (four months vs. seven) than the NBA had when it moved its 2017 All-Star Game out of North Carolina after passage of the anti-trans bill. As we were just discussing here last week, boycotts are strategies, not moral imperatives, and voting rights advocates in Georgia are still split on whether a North Carolina–style boycott is the best way to respond to SB 202. But if pressure builds to pull the game from Atlanta — say, maybe around Jackie Robinson Day, which is just two weeks from today — and MLB owners start to push back on it, that’ll likely less be about having to print up new merchandise or even the personal feelings of the almost uniformly white men who run the league, and more about interfering with sports owners’ underlying business plan of using carrots and sticks to maximize their profits.

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Poll of Americans on reopening stadiums shows why not to reopen stadiums based on polls

There is a very dumb journalistic tradition that will not die of “Let’s poll people about what they believe about purely factual things.” So you take a question that should be answered with reporting — say, whether climate change is an imminent crisis, or whether Saddam Hussein really had weapons of mass destruction — and then parse the responses as if they mean anything more than just a reification of the ideas that the media itself has been telling people. It is truly very, very dumb.

Today is Major League Baseball opening day, and so the question the Washington Post chose to ask random Americans is whether they would feel comfortable attending a live sporting event. The answer is a resounding “it depends”:

About two-thirds say they would feel comfortable attending an outdoor event such as baseball (66 percent), but fewer than half as many (32 percent) feel comfortable attending an indoor event such as basketball. Nearly 2 in 3 people (64 percent) say they would feel comfortable if all attendees were required to wear masks, compared with 22 percent who would feel comfortable if there was no mask requirement…

More say they would be comfortable attending a stadium limited to 20 percent capacity (69 percent “comfortable”) than 50 percent capacity (50 percent).

That is simultaneously unsurprising — being outdoors, masked, and distanced makes people feel safer — and utterly meaningless, for a couple of reasons. First off, the questions were all asked separately, so it was either “Do you feel safe at an outdoor event?” or “Do you feel safe if people are wearing masks?” or “Do you feel safe if you’ve been vaccinated?”, with no way to respond “Only if these other conditions are met as well.” If a Washington Post pollster had been unlucky enough to get me on the phone, for example, I would have said, “I feel pretty safe at outdoor, masked, and distanced events right now, and once I’m fully vaccinated would consider indoor events, but not if people are unmasked, unless maybe the case rate is really low by then because so many other people are vaccinated — are you getting all this? Should I talk more slowly? Are you crying?” (This answer would be very hard to fit into a “data visualization,” as fancy journalism types these days call bar charts.)

The poll results are also meaningless, though, because the most reasonable answer would be “You’re the ones with the resources of a giant journalistic enterprise here, you tell me whether I should feel safe.” Doing that would require asking people who actually know things — fancy journalism types call these “experts” — what is and isn’t safe, and then reporting their answers. For example, here’s Anthony Fauci telling the New York Times for its baseball opening day story what he expects to transpire over the coming weeks:

“I would expect that as we get through the summer — late spring, early summer — there’s going to be a relaxation where you’re going to have more and more people allowed into baseball parks, very likely separated with seating, very likely continue to wear masks,” he said.

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Bills owners finally ready to demand $1B stadium like NFL and Cuomo keep telling them to

And here we go:

With a revised stadium feasibility study in hand, the Buffalo Bills are preparing to open discussions with state and local governments to determine whether to renovate the current facility or build a new home either near the existing suburban site or downtown.

“We’re ready to have the conversation,” Pegula Sports and Entertainment executive vice president Ron Raccuia told The Associated Press by phone on Tuesday.

“We hope to start quickly. Obviously, this is Easter Week and New York state is finalizing its budget. So those are two factors,” he added. “If we have to go to Albany or if Albany’s coming to us, or we’re going to Zoom, we’ll figure it out.”

The Buffalo Bills stadium saga has been long and weird since Kim and Terry Pegula bought the team in 2014, with the owners repeatedly putting off talk about replacing their 1973-built (but 2014-renovated, for $130 million in mostly public money) stadium even as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell insisted a new one was necessary and Gov. Andrew “Wandering Hands” Cuomo kept raising the issue and even appointed a state commission to look into where to build one. As recently as last month, there was speculation in the press — not in the Buffalo News, mind you, which has yet to meet a stadium proposal it doesn’t like — that the pandemic could put off any stadium talk for a bit. But now apparently the time is ripe, with the Pegulas dusting off a study from January 2020 and updating it for post-Covid economics, and ready to submit it to the state and Erie County to see what kind of checks it can shake loose.

The size of the checks could be pretty huge. In 2018, Erie County Executive Mark Polancarz estimated that a new stadium could cost $1 billion; a stadium study from 2014, according to the Associated Press, projected $540 million for the next series of renovations, “including structural improvements and rebuilding the stadium’s third deck.” (The new study, according to AP, also includes a request for “much-needed upgrades” to the arena occupied by the Sabres, another Pegula property.) The Pegulas have been pretty clear that Buffalo isn’t the kind of market where they can earn back a half-billion-dollars or so by jacking up ticket prices or requiring personal seat licenses, so the only way this makes sense is if they get a bundle of cash from the state, the county, or both.

Makes sense for them, that is. From the perspective of New York state and Erie County, there’s no way that dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into a new stadium could possibly pencil out, especially since the Pegulas’ purchase agreement requires them to keep the team in Buffalo. The argument for public funding of a new or renovated stadium, then, comes down to: Hand over a huge pile of taxpayer cash for a new stadium or else your football team will keep playing right where it always has.

But then, that’s how stadium talks so often go: Somebody starts out talking about the “need” for a new building, and soon the question becomes How do we pay for this? instead of Does it actually make sense to spend all this money for the marginal revenues it would bring in? The weird part in Buffalo has always been that it’s been the governor and local news media taking the lead (and Goodell, always Goodell) while the team owners drag their feet. But that now looks ready to change, and all will be right with the world again. The only question is whether the Bills owners will really try to sneak something into the current state budget at the last second, as Raccuia implied; given that the budget is due tomorrow, that seems like a reach, but maybe he figures dusting off a year-old study can get dibs on some of that $2 billion in stimulus money New York is set to get from Washington, or maybe that $2 trillion infrastructure plan Joe Biden is about to propose, before anybody gets any crazy ideas to spend it on things that don’t benefit billionaires.

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Stu Sternberg keeps stumping for Tampontreal Ex-Rays plan, but is he serious or what?

Those two lobbyists that Montreal billionaire family scion and private equity goon Stephen Bronfman hired to push for a stadium for a revived Expos are already paying off, whether they’ve even begun work or not: Quebec premier François Legault responded by offering forgivable loans for the project if it could “generate more in revenue than the aid we give the company” (“revenue” carefully not defined here), and  the buzz is still buzzing: Check out this column by Montreal Gazette sportswriter Jack Todd decrying “anti-taxers” and “naysayers” who want to gripe about giving public tax money to a private sports stadium before they even know how much it would be.

Amidst his stadium boosterism, though, Todd questions whether Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg’s plan to have his team split time between Montreal and Tampa Bay — Todd actually writes that the resulting ballclub would be “likely called the ‘Ex-Rays’,” though he doesn’t go as far as including “Tampontreal” — is something that could really happen, given that building two stadiums in two cities would be even more expensive than building one stadium in one city, and each city would only get half a team. Not only is this not a terrific way to get local legislators on board for handing over stadium cash, it’s gotten the attention of the MLB players union, whose president Tony Clark told the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday that “there are issues, logistical and otherwise, fundamentally related to the Tampa players, as well as how it would affect any and all the teams that would otherwise be playing Tampa.” Players could be forced to maintain two homes, relocate their kids in school twice a year (depending on when exactly the Ex-Rays switched home cities), navigate two very different health care systems, etc., noted Clark; he didn’t mention, but could have, that they would also have to pay taxes in two different countries, which is the basis for Legault’s entire “revenue generation” plan.

There’s another problem with the shared-cities plan, though, and it has to do with Sternberg’s leverage, and as Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf made clear, for a savvy negotiator, stadium negotiations are all about leverage. Sternberg is trying to get a bidding war going here, which is his right as a mediocre rich white man, but the nature of a bidding war is that you need more bidders than winning slots, and right now the Rays owner has two of each. (At least until Tampa shows an interest in bidding against St. Petersburg for the Florida half of the timeshare, which isn’t going great for Sternberg so far.) So instead he’s trying to get Montreal and St. Pete into a race to first approve their half of a deal that can’t happen without both cities, which has resulted in some bizarre rhetorical contortions:

Sternberg said he feels “much more confident about the Montreal side sort of putting this thing together.”

He said he thinks that will jump-start progress on the Tampa Bay side, where there seems to be little momentum as fans and some leaders have not embraced the split-season concept.

“I think as (the Montreal effort) progresses, I feel pretty confident of us being able to get it done here, too,” he said. “I just happen to feel more so because they’re much further down the road.

“In fairness, whether it’s right or wrong, a.) they don’t have a baseball team, and b.) they lost a baseball team. So they’d like one back.

“Here you have one, and it’s sort of like, ‘It’s here, and, well, why only part of a season? Why not the full season? We have the team already.’ (Montreal is) going at this in a different fashion. They know what the hole of baseball has been. They want another crack at it.”

Yes, if Montreal has “momentum,” then soon Tampa Bay will too, because if they don’t … the team will just play its Florida games at its current stadium? The whole twin-city thing will fall apart and the Rays will stay put? Sternberg keeps insisting that he won’t move the team full-time, so as threats go, it’s a fairly empty one, unless he’s hoping St. Pete officials will be shamed by the accusation that they don’t love baseball enough because they haven’t lost it yet.

All in all, the Madman Theory still makes the most sense here: Sternberg doesn’t particularly care if the two-city solution comes to pass, so long as it enables him to pester two reluctant cities into building him a stadium at once. So far, it seems to be working: We’re here talking about his stadium possibilities, after all, instead of just talking about how SOL he is now that his Tampa stadium plans crashed and burned. Savvy negotiators also know never to pass up a threat, no matter how inane it may sound: Reinsdorf, after all, got his stadium cash from the state of Illinois by pretending he was going to move from Chicago to a little town called St. Petersburg. If there’s one thing sports history tells us, it’s that dumber things have always happened.

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Friday roundup: Georgia man holds no truck with numbers, new stadiums falling apart already, plus a guy who spent three years living in a Phillies concession stand

Happy Friday! Still recovering from the double whammy of my second shot on Sunday plus learning that birds aren’t real, so I’ll keep the intro short this week and get right to the news:

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Winston-Salem wood-bat team to charge for tickets, not pay players, be called Disco Turkeys, sounds about right

Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has announced that the Carolina Disco Turkeys … okay, I really just wanted to type “Carolina Disco Turkeys.” And to point out that the comprise/compose distinction has become so confusing to most people that WFMY News editors now think it’s okay to say “Most of the roster will comprise of players who have competed locally in high school and/or college,” which no, no it is not.

But anyway, the article in question also mentions some details about the Disco Turkeys — which is apparently a term for peacocks, which are native to South Asia though a few are resident to North Carolina, though not always in a good way, but anyway this is mostly a gimmick to sell team merch, which is 100% working — such as:

“Collegiate wood bat leagues offer a valuable opportunity for the top college baseball players to develop their skills over the summer,” said [Winston-Salem] Dash President, C.J. Johnson. “We are excited to provide these athletes with a first-class facility to compete in and to create 16 more opportunities for our community to enjoy affordable entertainment.”

“Offer a valuable opportunity to develop their skills” is here code for “ask to play for free”: wood-bat leagues are designed for amateur players, so nobody gets paid. (In fact, some wood-bat leagues charge players fees to play; the Carolina summer league’s policy is hard to determine, as its web presence appears to be entirely a blank Squarespace page.) This is usually portrayed as a service for players who want to retain their college amateur eligibility, though when you consider that prior to the minor-league baseball purge many of these same players would have been drafted and be earning (crappy) minor-league salaries, it sounds like less of a benefit.

That comment above, you may have noticed, is by the president of the Winston-Salem Dash, the High-A professional affiliate of the Chicago White Sox (owned by propane magnate Billy Prim), which will be renting out its stadium to the Disco Turkeys. The wood-bat team will actually be owned by a newly formed corporation called Sullimak Entertainment, which is registered to a guy named William Maki, Jr., who appears to have no internet footprint unless it’s this former Winston-Salem car salesman who now lives in Utah; the company is also registered to a 900-square-foot house, so it’s just maybe possible that someone else is behind the franchise. Whoever the owner is, getting players to play for free will not be stopping them from charging fans to watch them:

The Disco Turkeys, owned by Winston-Salem-based Sullimak Entertainment, LLC, will handle all merchandise, ticket sales and gameday operations for their events. Standard stadium concession items, including beer will be available for purchase, with the addition of a Disco Turkey Leg. Outside food and beverage is not permitted into Truist Stadium.

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Quebec premier says he might spend public money on nouveaux-Expos stadium to “generate revenue”

Would-be Tampontreal Ex-Rays co-owner Stephen Bronfman hired lobbyists this week to ask the province of Quebec for public cash toward a new Montreal stadium, and it sounds like Quebec premier François Legault is willing to listen, on one condition:

“We have an open mind towards the project,” Legault told reporters Tuesday in Quebec City. “There are several business people who are behind this project, and not just Mr. Bronfman. If we are able to bring a baseball club and it can generate more in revenue than the aid we give the company, everybody wins — including Quebecers.”…

“The principles that we will use to help or not this baseball team is to see how much additional revenue do we expect to get from this activity. For example, the baseball players will pay tax in Quebec, so the idea is to give back less than the additional money that we would get.”

The idea here would be to issue “forgivable loans,” which the team owners wouldn’t have to repay if they met certain goals. In the past, these have been used as a way to threaten to claw back subsidies if certain minimal job goals aren’t met — train manufacturer Alstom, for example, is getting $56 million if it promises to maintain at least 350 employees for ten years. But in this case, Legault is talking about ensuring that the province is made whole via new spending.

At first glance, that could be tricky. The average MLB payroll is $120 million, and Quebec taxes local income for high earners like baseball players at about 25%. That would be enough to justify $30 million a year in spending, or maybe $400 million in total outlay — if players paid taxes on that full amount. However, most nouveaux-Expos players almost certainly wouldn’t live in Montreal full-time — aside from those tax rates, it’s damn cold there in the winter — even before you get to the part where they would play half their home games in Tampa Bay. Anyone resident in a Canadian province for less than 183 days in a year isn’t considered a resident, but still has to pay income taxes on money they’ve earned there.

That would get into some weird epistemological calculations: Is a player paid for time they’re living elsewhere during the offseason? What about road games? And, of course, if half the season’s home games are in Florida, how does one assign which salary was earned there and which was earned in Canada?

The nice part about a forgivable loan is that it’s based on actual tax payments: If players end up paying, say, $10 million a year in taxes, then team owners would have to repay everything above that amount. The devil, though, will be in the loan details, which is why it’s especially worrisome that Legault said “for example” about player income taxes: If you start counting additional things like “economic activity” that can be hand-waved into existence whether they’re real or not, then suddenly a lot more in loans would become a lot more forgivable.

Clearly, way more details are needed on what Legault is considering and how any loan agreement would be phrased. Still, this is potentially a large barn door that he’s considering opening, and something that makes the possibility of a new Montreal baseball stadium significantly more likely. If, you know, the developer of the proposed site can be made happy, too. Hey, I bet residents of their buildings would pay taxes, too! This could work out great — everyone gets their income taxes rebated to pay for their new homes, and Quebec still has enough money to pay for all its services because if it were just a vast, empty plain it wouldn’t get any tax revenue at all, and, hmm, there must be a logical flaw in this, but I have too many visions of baseball stadiums dancing in my eyes to be able to see it.

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Worcester’s $150m minor-league stadium will be awesome, says newspaper owned by team’s parent club

The Worcester Red Sox are about to open their new $157 million stadium — okay, about to open when the minor-league season starts, which isn’t until May, but anyway, isn’t two months in advance still a good time for the local newspaper to write a piece about how great the place will be once it’s finished? The local newspaper that is owned by the owner of the WooSox’ parent club? Surely this will be a reasoned and objective assessment, so let’s dig in:

Worcester didn’t want its new stadium to be Fenway Park.

Easily accomplished. Moving on!

There’s capacity for 9,508 fans, but the seating bowl of 6,000 seats — all with cup holders — is almost entirely around the infield.

That’s true of almost every minor-league ballpark. And, actually, most major-league ballparks, which have a grandstand wrapped around home plate, and usually at most some more cursory bleachers in the outfield. Glad to hear about the cupholders, though, because if there’s one thing American sports fans hate, it’s having to put their beers on the ground.

Polar Park will be unique. There’s a Woo Shop where purchases are recorded on an app without any checkout or waiting in line. There are heart-shaped light towers and a heart adorned on the side of each seat.

“Without any checkout” sounds like the Amazon store system, which is made possible by an insane number of surveillance cameras, so maybe that’s what the team has planned here? One hopes they will be heart-shaped cameras, at least, to honor Worcester’s nickname of “the Heart of the Commonwealth,” because it’s so close to the middle of the state, which, I guess?

On June 12, 1880, Worcester pitcher Lee Richmond threw the first perfect game in Major League history, against the Cleveland Blues.

Interesting! But not actually about the stadium, if we’re getting technical here.

“One of the things we’ve been good about is making sure that there is a customization factor in every ballpark, so it looks and tastes and feels and smells like the city in which it is located,” Lucchino says.

I’m not sure which is more disturbing, the notion of a stadium that “tastes like” Worcester, or what the construction crew needed to do to ensure quality control on that.

They could have built the stadium on flat land, but instead they shoehorned it into the historic Canal District with multiple levels, a nod to Worcester’s three deckers and the up-and-coming downtown restaurants.

Yes, they could have built on flat land, saving themselves and Worcester taxpayers $58 million. But they chose to build on a hill, because … I dunno, say something about restaurants, the Globe will print whatever we tell them.

“So you should be able to experience a two-dimensional ballpark. Both a low-priced ballpark where tickets are eight or nine dollars, and we have higher-priced tickets that come with more creature comforts,” says [WooSox owner and former Boston Red Sox CEO Larry] Lucchino.

That is not what two-dimensional means.

A long ball hit to left field could land in an open boxcar and wind up in Chicago.

Freight rail companies don’t leave boxcar doors open anymore, but nice thought!

The home bullpen is just a few feet past the dugout and built into the stands. To sit in a box seat sandwiched between the dugout and the bullpen is unique. Fans get an umpire’s view of pitchers warming up, and hear the pop of the catcher’s mitt up close and personal.

Seats right next to the bullpen actually sound kind of neat, though also something that can be experienced at a bunch of other stadiums, including Fenway Park. Though in Worcester this view will be reserved for high-paying patrons, so maybe that’s the unique part here.

Not mentioned at all in the article: The controversy over the stadium’s high public cost, not to mention the overruns that now have taxpayers on the hook for $146.8 million, or more than eight times what it cost to build Fenway Park in 1912, adjusted for inflation. On the other hand, the original Fenway seats didn’t have cupholders or surveillance cameras watching your every shopping move, and who can put a price on things like that? (A: Larry Lucchino, and that price was $146.8 million.)

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No overseas fans in Tokyo makes hosting Olympics even more terrible idea

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics dropped a long-awaited other shoe this weekend, announcing that fans from outside Japan will not be allowed to travel to the games this summer, thanks to Covid concerns:

“In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the Tokyo organizing committee said in a statement.

This was probably unavoidable: While vaccinations are starting to kick into high gear, they’re very uneven country to country, and anyway it’s too soon to know what the shape of the pandemic will look like in July. And refunding ticket sales and hotel bookings and reallocating them to locals will take time, so waiting until the picture is clearer wasn’t really an option.

While some of the planned $800 million in projected ticket sales will be made up by increased sales to Japanese residents, much of it won’t be — prior reports had 10-20% of ticket sales going to purchasers outside Japan, which frankly sounds low, but I guess you need to take into account the crappy sports that it’s hard to give tickets away to. In any case, any shortfall in ticket revenue will land on the Japanese government to cover, because heaven forfend the International Olympic Committee actually take any kind of risk on anything. Plus, not getting overseas visitors blunts the benefits of getting an influx of new spending, even if past Olympics have shown that this effect isn’t nearly all it’s cracked up to be, thanks in part to locals hightailing it out of town to get away from Olympic crowds. Japan has already sunk $15 billion into hosting the 2020 Games, and doesn’t seem likely to see much of that money ever again; which, once more, is absolutely typical for Olympic hosts, but the coronavirus travel restrictions are just the garbage cherry on top of the trash-fire cake.

With the financial black hole that is the Olympics having been clear for decades now, you’d have to think that cities would stop volunteering for the thankless task. Let’s see how that’s going … oh, Brisbane, we really have to have a talk.

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