People love living near stadiums, says paper devoted to saying people love living places

The New York Times real estate section chimes in on stadiums today, which is great news, because it means we can explore the bastion of weirdness that is the New York Times real estate section. First off, let’s hit the checklist: Does the article boast of a hot new neighborhood or neighborhoods that savvy buyers should be aware of? Check!

Once considered neighborhoods to avoid, property around many of Europe’s great soccer stadiums is growing more popular these days, as cities grow more expensive and teams build new facilities. Home buyers are finding bargains near stadiums and developers see opportunities to create new urban communities.

Does it do so by exclusively quoting realtors, developers, and happy residents of these areas? You bet it does: five realtors, one developer, and two residents. Does it describe the featured neighborhoods of having some nebulous trendiness that can’t be measured, only felt? Of course!

“There is a buzz about the place,” Mr. Spooner said. “People come here to have a good time.”

And most of all, does it eventually undermine its own premise with counterevidence, but bury that way at the end of the article so that readers (and the headline writer) can ignore it? You betcha! First it notes that “prices are often lower than in other neighborhoods” (which is noted as an attraction, but is also an indication that living near a stadium isn’t actually seen as that desirable), then the whole premise comes crashing down when the scene shifts to Barcelona and Rome:

Barcelonians are fanatical for Barça, but they are not necessarily eager to live near Camp Nou, the team’s stadium, said Joan Canela, of the Engel & Völkers Barcelona office.

“None of our clients demand to be near the stadium,” he said. The stadium “hurts value, because it is an area that becomes very crowded when there is a match, is complicated to park and the neighbors may have problems to access to their homes,” Mr. Canela said…

Barbara Maravalli, 42, rents a three-bedroom apartment with her husband and two children about half a mile from [Rome’s] Stadio Olimpico. “It played absolutely no role in my choice,” she said. “I wanted to be close to the center and surrounded by green areas.”

On game days there are “crazy” traffic jams in the area, Ms. Maravelli said. Her 20-minute drive to work can take an hour if she does not plan carefully. “I would rather they move the stadium, but I love this area so much that I would keep on staying here,” she said.

Add it all up, and you have: A bunch of realtors trying to sell or rent apartments around some of Europe’s big soccer stadiums say they’re a great deal; as for actual residents, some like being near stadiums, some don’t. That’s not actually a story at all, but in Times Real Estate land, it’s more than enough to warrant a headline like “Stadium Neighborhoods Are Becoming Magnets for Home Seekers,” which who knows, might even help stoke interest in those areas, as a Times R.E. mention has been known to do. It happened to Bushwickit’ll happen to you!

 

Ballmer: Seattle not getting NBA team anytime soon, probably not arena either

Steve Ballmer, who owns the Los Angeles Clippers but is from Seattle and was possibly going to be part of an ownership group for a new team there before buying the Clippers, says don’t hold your breath for Seattle getting an expansion team, at least in the next year or two:

“It’s just not likely to happen,” Ballmer told those attending the conference. “There has been no discussion about expansion since I have been involved with the league. So, I don’t think that will happen. The league has really moved to favor teams staying in their current markets. You’d have to find a team that’s at the end of their (arena) lease, where it looks hard to build an arena and where they’ve tried really hard to build an arena.”

The next year or two is an eyeblink in league expansion time, so that’s really no surprise. Why it’s significant is that the city’s memorandum of understanding with Chris Hansen expires in November 2017, so even if the Seattle council works out its qualms over closing a street to make way for the arena, there may not be an NBA team to build one for, which is required as part of the deal.

Hansen’s best chance of building an arena, said Ballmer, is to find an NHL team to bring to town — something that would take some fast footwork, since Hansen doesn’t have a team owner lined up, and the NHL just announced expansion that didn’t include Seattle, and there’s at least a $100 million funding gap if Hansen brings hockey to town instead of basketball, and also Hansen doesn’t really like hockey. Verdict: mostly dead.

New Islanders owner noncommittal about playing in Brooklyn, Long Island, anywhere

When developer Bruce Ratner signed a deal in 2013 to take over and renovate the Nassau Coliseum, then-home of the New York Islanders, it included an agreement for the Islanders to play six home games in Nassau even after moving to Ratner’s Brooklyn arena in 2015. Ratner doesn’t own Brooklyn’s Barclays Center anymore, though, and the new co-owner of the Islanders, Jon Ledecky, tells Newsday that he’s not 100% sure he wants to go through with playing home games on the Guyland, either:

“I think the key is neither party’s principal [representative] was there when that deal was made,” Ledecky said at a meet-and-greet luncheon with reporters at 21 Club in Manhattan. “In other words, that deal was between Bruce Ratner and Charles Wang at the time and now we’re the owners of the Islanders.”

Besides, Ledecky can’t say enough about how great it is to be in Brooklyn, and is totally not considering jumping back to Nassau County when his lease out clause kicks in starting in 2019, right?

“Obviously we’ll never be able to replicate the home feeling of Nassau Coliseum and I think in the first year people longed for that,” he said. “I know I did. Bluntly, I missed the Coliseum.”

But Ledecky was encouraged by the atmosphere in the playoffs, saying he thought it was even louder than the Coliseum got, and he believes Barclays Center is willing to work with the team to make necessary improvements.

“There were challenges last year,” he said. “I would be lying to you if I said there wasn’t. Does that mean you blow up Barclays Center and leave? No. You try to improve the home you have.”

Yeah, that sounds less like “commitment” than like “keeping your options open.” The Islanders are stuck in Brooklyn for another three seasons, and are surely going to try to build a fan base there and figure out how to make hockey work in an arena that was built solely for basketball. If it doesn’t work out by 2019, though, Long Island is still there. If nothing else, it’s leverage to try to get Brooklyn arena owner Mikhail Prokhorov to do some hockey-friendly upgrades — assuming Prokhorov cares about having hockey there instead of booking more concerts. At least it’s nice to see rich guys exerting leverage on each other for once, instead of on the public, so enjoy this while it lasts.

Three weeks after promised arena announcement, Coyotes owner still hasn’t revealed site

It’s now been three weeks since Arizona Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc’s promised announcement of a new arena site for his team, which he met by saying he had one but he wasn’t going to tell anyone where it was yet. Supposedly he was going to tell us all about it once a “real estate agreement” had been worked out, but either the lawyers are still haggling or he was blowing smoke, because there hasn’t been a peep since. Look, here’s an Arena Digest report all about how there’s no news to report!

Tune in next Thursday to see if LeBlanc is still twiddling his thumbs on this. What, you had something better to do this summer?

MLB commissioner says he’s “committed” to Oakland, doesn’t know how to haggle

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said a bunch of stuff about the A’s future in Oakland at the All-Star Game last night, and sounded more like a realtor trying to talk up the city as an investment property than a sports league commissioner trying to play hardball on a stadium demand:

“I am committed to Oakland as a major league site,” he told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday. “I think that if we were to leave Oakland, I think 10 years from now we would be more likely than not looking backwards saying we made a mistake.”…

“I think that Oakland is more likely than not to be a better market five years from now than it is today,” Manfred said. “So I certainly have not given up on Oakland.”

That’s all probably true, especially since Oakland is increasingly looking like the next Brooklyn, at least in terms of getting spillover gentrification from the super-wealthy district one bridge away. It’s a terrible way to create leverage, though — any hardball negotiating can now be met with “Yeah, well, your commissioner said you’re not leaving regardless” — and is only likely to stiffen Oakland officials’ already stiff resolve not to offer A’s owner Lew Wolff any public money to help with construction or land acquisition or anything else he might ask for.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that Wolff isn’t looking for any of that — he seems to be happy if he can just get the rights to build a stadium on the Coliseum site instead of the Raiders — and that Manfred knows it, which is why he’s saying such nice things at a time when it’s more traditional to talk about how a city is a tough market, and really needs up to step up to the plate, etc. Either that, or it’s just further evidence that Manfred is really bad at this whole blackmail thing.

Virginia Beach approves new financing deal for arena, local media still don’t understand it

The Virginia Beach city council has okayed the new bank that will provide the loan for the city’s $200 million arena, and that’s not really very interesting to anyone except maybe financial industry geeks. What I’m more curious about is: This time, did the Virginia Beach media manage to correctly describe the financial setup, where the developers will borrow the money and then the city will repay it with tax revenue? Virginian-Pilot, whatcha got?

Under the framework of the new preliminary deal, B.C. Ziegler would finance $200 million, or the guaranteed maximum cost to design and build the arena – whichever is less.

The complex would be privately financed, with the city covering the cost of the land and $76.5 million in infrastructure upgrades through a tax on arena event tickets and hotel stays.

Close! The $76.5 million in infrastructure and land spending is correct, but the city will also kick back $8.5 million a year in property taxes, business license taxes, admissions taxes, arena meals taxes, construction sales taxes, arena sales taxes, and hotel taxes, which will pay off most of that $200 million in bonds.

How about WAVY-TV?

When the project was first approved, it looked as if a bank in China would help finance it. Now, a Chicago financial institution, B.C. Ziegler and Company, will be financing the $200 million in bonds to build the arena.
U.S. Management will put up another $10 million for the project.

Complete fail! Though at least WAVY says “finance” the arena instead of “fund” it, if any readers/viewers are savvy enough to catch that distinction.

One day, a Virginia Beach news outlet will actually explain who’s paying for the city’s new arena — here’s a link to the city council’s own summary of the funding plan, so any future journalists can have an easy citation. (Hint: It’s under “Consideration.”) Let’s hope someone manages it before it’s time to tear down this arena because it’s obsolete.

Adelson says Vegas stadium cost could be $2.1B, does $1B in public cash sound better now?

The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee met yesterday as planned to discuss Sheldon Adelson’s proposed stadium to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, and discussed nine possible stadium sites and holy mother of God:

The estimated price tag has gone up, from an initial $1.4 billion to possibly as much as $2.1 billion. The rise in price would be in part due to land acquisitions, as well as the stadium now being proposed as a retractable dome.

(Props to NBC’s Mike Florio for noting that ESPN totally buried the lede on this one, though not nearly as badly as Adelson’s own Las Vegas Review-Journal did.)

Land acquisition money was expected to be a problem, though not $700 million worth of problem. (Adelson and his partners actually estimated the cost at between $1.7 billion and $2.1 billion, according to the Las Vegas Sun, apparently the only paper whose reporter  showed up at the hearing with a notepad.) A retractable roof — which Raiders owner Mark Davis now says he’d prefer — could add up to a large chunk of that cost, though, given how pricey those are to build.

This doesn’t change the estimated public price tag for the stadium, which is holding steady at right around $1 billion, but it does make a $1 billion expenditure seem slightly less exorbitant, maybe, if throwing a billion dollars in taxpayer cash at a $2 billion project sounds less wasteful than throwing a billion dollars at a $1.4 billion project. (There’s no reason it would be, but, you know, anchoring.) Why, you’d almost have to wonder if Adelson and Davis had that in mind when they released their new, bulkier cost estimates … but no, that would be devious and calculating, and billionaire casino owners/political kingmakers and sports team owners would never do a thing like that, right?

Cobb County lets Braves ban vendors around new stadium, doesn’t cite “safety” this time

Another day, another article about how much Cobb County has bent over backwards to ensure that the Atlanta Braves owners can extract every last dollar from their new stadium, even at the expense of other local business operators:

The ordinance, passed in February, requires vendors who wish to operate in unincorporated areas of the county to obtain a license in order to sell or distribute retail or food items from a cart or kiosk. But a provision in the ordinance gives those in charge of “mixed-use development districts” the power to construct a plan that sets where vending activity can take place, and, according to Dana Johnson, Cobb’s community development director, those who manage such a district could decide not to designate any areas for vending as part of the plan, which has to be approved by the Cobb Board of Commissioners.

Johnson said just one area in the county qualifies under that provision — SunTrust Park, the Braves’ future home stadium, and The Battery Atlanta, a mixed-use development being built next to it.

In other words, the Braves ownership has veto power over anyone else selling anything in the entire development around their new stadium, meaning if you want to buy a bag of peanuts or a bottle of water, you’ll have to do so at Braves-approved prices.

Cobb County is currently reviewing this ordinance, along with the one against anyone other than the Braves renting out parking spaces — like that one, violators of the vending ordinance would be subject to both fines and jail time — because they and the Braves know it looks terrible, plus Cobb County Commission chair Tim Lee is in a tough re-election battle with a runoff vote coming up in two weeks. (Actually early voting has already begun.) If Lee gets re-elected, want to bet that the commission decides that the ordinances are just fine as is?

Michigan residents’ $300m for Red Wings arena buying slightly closer seats, plus lasers

This week’s Sports Illustrated has a long profile of the Detroit Red Wings‘ under-construction new arena, which almost entirely consists of quotes from team execs and the arena’s designers, so take with a huge grain of salt. It does include a few tea leaves we can try to read, though, so let’s get to it:

The design starts with putting fans as close to the ice as possible. “We brought in our general manager, Ken Holland, to find which was the most intimidating place we play,” Tom Wilson, CEO of team and arena owner Olympia Entertainment, tells SI.com. “Without question it is Montreal. There is no light. No open concourses. Just a sea of red jerseys screaming at you in French. We went there to see it and, my gosh, they are on top of you.”

George Heinlein, HOK Sports principal, tells SI.com that they designed Little Caesars with Montreal’s Bell Centre’s vertical rise, but with added legroom. “It is about the steepness of the seating bowl,” Heinlein says. “But also the proximity of those fans to the rink.”

This is garbage: Since a hockey arena’s seating starts, by definition, at the edge of the rink, the only way to get fans (in the first deck, at least) closer to the ice is to reduce legroom. This is a tradeoff, obviously — less legroom is bad for the people sitting in those seats, but good for the fans sitting in the rows behind them — but unless HOK has reinvented geometry, they can’t accomplish both at once.

While Detroit’s current Joe Louis Arena has about 40% of seats in the lower bowl, Little Caesars flips the script, putting about 10,500 of the total 19,600 seats in the lower bowl, but with the last row in Little Caesars still able to fit within the last row of Joe Louis.

“More seats in the lower bowl” is actually HOK dogma at this point, apparently because team owners think they can charge more for a seat in the last row of a lower bowl than for a seat in the front row of an upper bowl, though they might be equally good for seeing the game. The last row being no farther from the ice than in the old arena is more promising, if that’s indeed what “fit within the last row of Joe Louis” means.

The baddest bowl eliminates the trendy concept of opening up the concourses to the rink. Instead of creating sightlines through the entire venue, the Red Wings wanted to focus on creating noise, eliminating any holes where noise or energy could escape. “We don’t want to blow out concourses, we want to contain all the energy in the seating bowl,” Heinlein says. “It is a throwback in that regard.”

This sounds like marketing gibberish — “we’re eliminating this thing that everyone has been claiming is one of the best things about new sports venues, and claiming it’s ‘throwback’ and trendy for not being trendy” — and it is, but it’s also potentially kind of cool. One staple of stadium and arena design the last couple of decades has been a large gap between decks, so that fans in concession areas can see the game while waiting on line for food. If you’ve ever been at one of these buildings, though, you know that this usually means “see maybe one corner of the game, or more likely a thin strip of the crowd that is watching the game, while peering around everyone standing around the concourse,” which is entirely useless, especially since there are typically TV monitors everywhere showing you the actual game.

Getting rid of that gap, though, enables the designers to move the entire deck above maybe 10-20 feet down and forward, which is a huge benefit to the people actually sitting in those seats, and could help explain that “worst seat is no worse than in Joe Louis” claim. I’m tentatively optimistic, anyway.

Connecting the interior of Little Caesars with the Via and surrounding neighborhood by blurring the entry plaza concourse with the external streets of the district, Wilson says the space offers diversity and will encourage fans to return over and over to experience new spaces. “The Via is a very active space,” Wilson says. “We want to change the way people come to games. Come at 6 (p.m.), have your choice of sports bars, a market house, a spaghetti house and have a full evening. At the end of the game, there are tons of experiences to still have and discover.”

In other words, the Via (a glassed-in concessions concourse that is meant to feel like it’s “outdoors”) is a cross between traditional concessions areas and an outdoor space controlled by the team like Eutaw Street at Camden Yards or Yawkey Way at Fenway Park. Nothing new, in other words — it’s just team-controlled restaurant space by another name.

Using a 12-laser projection system, the Red Wings can animate the arena, projecting full motion video and images on the arena’s “forward-thinking” metal-panel skin all the way through the Via. “There is nothing like it in Vegas, Disney or Times Square,” Wilson says. “It is an immersive sort of experience that everybody is going to enjoy.”

Dear lord, that sounds awful. Unless you like the stimulation overload of Vegas and Times Square, which I guess lots of people do, but if I count among “everybody,” I expect I’ll be able to personally disprove that last statement.

And that’s more than enough time to spend on a team PR statement. Let’s close with a reminder of the $300 million in public money this is costing Michigan residents, since SI somehow forgot to mention it.

Chargers $1.15B stadium subsidy headed to November ballot, no one knows that that will mean

The San Diego Chargers have gotten enough signatures to put their $1.15 billion stadium-plus-convention-center-expansion plan on the November ballot — though they still don’t know how many votes they’ll need to pass it, and won’t until a judge rules on that matter, probably not until well after November — but for the moment I want to focus on how this was covered in the local media. The San Diego Union-Tribune:

If approved, the proposal could keep the team from moving to the Los Angeles area, where they’ve been approved by NFL ownership to join the Rams in a new stadium being built in Inglewood.

The Los Angeles Times:

If successful, the franchise would stay in San Diego, as opposed to exercising its option to relocate to Los Angeles as a tenant to Rams owner Stan Kroenke at the stadium he has under construction on the former site of Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood.

Is this really accurate, though? Sure, Chargers owner Dean Spanos says he has an agreement in principle to move to Inglewood if the San Diego stadium proposal fails, but he hasn’t provided any details, and for all we know this is just posturing to try to scare San Diegans into approving his stadium subsidy demands. I mean, probably not — Spanos would presumably rather be a renter in a new stadium in L.A. than top dog in his old one in San Diego — but that all depends on how much Rams owner Stan Kroenke is demanding in tribute to play in his stadium.

Either way, it seems a bit much to make “this will keep the team from moving to L.A.” the lede, as opposed to, say, mentioning that $1.15 billion public price tag, which doesn’t appear until the 5th paragraph in the L.A. Times article, and the 7th paragraph in the U-T article. (Both papers share ownership.) Spanos may be a long, long way from winning the vote, but he’s doing a great job winning the battle to frame the story being told in the papers.