Final Bucks arena plan would still put public on hook for nearly 100% of costs

Wisconsin state assembly leaders released a revised Milwaukee Bucks arena funding plan yesterday, and … it looks pretty much exactly the same as the arena funding plan released by Gov. Scott Walker four weeks ago. Same $55 million in bonds to be repaid out of state funds, same $55 million to be repaid out of currently uncollected county property taxes (assuming those can actually be collected, which is a big question), same $93 million diverted from current Wisconsin Center District funding streams, same $20 million (in two $10 million increments) to pay off the state’s remaining Bradley Center debt. Add in maybe $234 million or so in city funds and tax breaks, and you have a nice total public cost of about $457 million, or more than 90% of the total arena price tag — which could easily be 100% if you add in arena naming rights to the public building, which the Bucks are counting as part of the private side of the ledger.

So, nothing new at all here. Did the legislative leadership at least give a hint whether the arena would be included in the never-ending budget process, or get exiled to its own bill?

Still not clear is whether the arena deal will be included in the budget, or considered as stand alone legislation. Vos said it was important for the public, as well as members of both legislative chambers, to consider the draft, details of which are included in a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
“I look forward to feedback from the members of the Senate and the public as they review the full details of this proposal, and will continue to work with all parties involved to ensure that any deal that keeps the Bucks in Milwaukee is a good deal for Wisconsin,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

You heard the man. Members of the public, provide your feedback.

Newspaper calls Raiders stadium plan “worst ever” because NFL’s paid stadium consultant says so

Matthew Artz of the San Jose Mercury News revealed some of the details of Floyd Kephart’s Oakland Raiders officially secret stadium plan on Saturday (full plan is here), and immediately turned to stadium experts to evaluate how good a deal it is. Well, one stadium expert. Actually, Marc Ganis, a paid consultant for the NFL who immediately declared Kephart’s plan to be “the worst stadium proposal I’ve seen … by far” — because the Raiders owners wouldn’t get many public subsidies:

The proposed $900 million, 55,000-seat facility adjacent to the O.co Coliseum would be financed entirely by the Raiders, the NFL and future stadium revenues. The Raiders would have to dip into sponsorship revenue and naming rights fees to help repay $300 million in loans needed to offset an estimated funding gap.

And, other than parking garages, the stadium would get no subsidy from the surrounding “live-work-play” technology campus Kephart plans to build on the rest of the sprawling Coliseum complex. The plan includes 4,000 homes, a shopping center, 400 hotel rooms and several office buildings.

“I can’t think of any sports team owner that would take a proposal like this even remotely seriously,” Ganis said, noting that San Diego has proposed a major public subsidy for a new Chargers football stadium. “It’s so one-sided and so bad, that it’s almost as if local leaders are saying ‘we can’t really do anything, so go ahead and leave.’ “

Finally, toward the end of the article, Artz gets around to explaining the Kephart proposal, which is this:

  • The Raiders would pay for a $900 million stadium via $200 million from personal seat license sales, $200 million in NFL G-4 funding, $100 million in cash, $300 million borrowed (from somewhere, paid back somehow, possibly from naming rights and other revenues), and $100 million from the sale of 20% of the team to Kephart for $200 million.
  • Kephart would buy 90 acres of the Coliseum site from the city and county for $116 million, then develop it into apartments, shopping, a hotel, and office buildings.
  • The city and county would spend about $80 million of that on new parking garages, while paying off $100 million in remaining Coliseum debt from … somewhere.
  • $100 million in infrastructure improvements would come from “grants.”
  • The A’s would have space (somewhere) reserved to build a new stadium until 2019.

Admittedly, that’s a pretty bad deal for the Raiders, though not an awful lot worse than the team’s one in Carson, which would likewise require the team to pay for the stadium with its own revenues. (The upside of Carson would mostly be that things like naming rights should bring in somewhat more money in the larger L.A. market.) It would also potentially be a bad deal for Oakland, which would sell 90 acres of land for only a little over $1 million an acre, which Newballpark.org notes is “ridiculously cheap” given how much other nearby parcels have gone for. In fact, the only clear beneficiary of Kephart’s plan would be, let’s see, who would end up with all the proceeds from development on land that he got a dirt-cheap price … oh, right, Kephart!

The real question here is why Oakland and Alameda County thought that a private developer could somehow come up with a way to turn a project with more than $1 billion in costs and nowhere near that much in potential new revenues into a win-win for all concerned, via elfin magic or something. Mayor Libby Schaaf’s whole “have the Raiders and A’s submit bids for the Coliseum site and take whichever one is more” plan is looking better and better.

If I miss any stadium news, please slip it under my door for when I get home

Almost forgot to mention that I’m heading out of town, um, about twelve hours ago, and will remain on my travels for the rest of this week. I still have internet connectivity (obviously), so I’ll still be chiming in on the most important issues of the day when possible. But if I go a couple of days without reporting on the latest twists and turns in your favorite lawsuit, say, don’t worry, we’ll all catch up when I return.

In the meantime, feel free to consider this an open thread for comments on news that I haven’t gotten to yet. Regular programming will return July 6.

New Atlanta Hawks owner introduces self, immediately complains that 16-year-old arena sucks

The Atlanta Hawks have a new owner, because the old one got caught complaining too many black fans were going to games and had to go. What do you have to say to your new team’s fans, leveraged buyout king Tony Ressler?

Ressler allowed that there were three things the new owners could do about Philips Arena, which opened in 1999: Nothing, remodel or rebuild. And the first, Ressler said, “isn’t an option.”

(Ressler also described Philips as being “not in the upper quartile of arenas.”)

Now, I know we’re in an age where sports venues are declared defunct after only a couple of decades — especially in Atlanta, for some reason — but declaring that your arena is obsolete because it’s 16 years old and there are seven nicer ones elsewhere is pretty ballsy.

And upping the ballsy quotient: For his reported $850 million purchase price, Ressler (and his co-owner, former NBA star Grant Hill) go not just the Hawks, but Philips Arena itself. So he’s not actually in a position to threaten anything if he doesn’t get a new arena, unless he’s prepared to attach his old one to balloons and fly it to Seattle. (Which, come to think of it, would defeat the point.) [CORRECTION: Ressler only bought operating rights to the arena, which is owned by the state stadium authority. So, sadly, no balloons.]

The hope is that Ressler won’t be looking for any public subsidies (ha ha ha!), and if he decides a new arena really is needed, will just spend his own money on building a new one. This time one that won’t start to look obsolete to its owner as soon as the shrink wrap is off, okay?

Ask another architecture critic: Why do Wrigley Field bleachers suck, and how can we fix them?

The assembled architecture critics of Chicago are really not happy with Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ renovations of Wrigley Field, and they’re going to let him know about it. First we had Edward Keegan harshing on the blocked views and ugly steel beams in Crain’s Chicago, and now the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin has gone after the new video boards and what they’ve meant for the old hand-operated scoreboard in center field:

At night, Wrigley Field’s new video boards overshadow the old scoreboard, disrupting the carefully calibrated sense of place that makes the ballpark a national treasure.

In the darkness, the new boards project while the old one seems to recede. Much brighter than the old scoreboard and bursting with statistics as well as brightly colored ads that appear between innings, the new boards invariably draw the eye. The replays on the left-field board, a welcome concession to modernity, give fans another reason to turn away from the old focal point in center.

Together, the new features render the center-field scoreboard more ceremonial than useful, like an old clock on a fireplace mantle.

Ouch. But good point: Video boards are way more garish and in-your-face at night, and after all are designed to distract your attention away from other things (the center-field scoreboard, the game itself, your phone) to get you to look at their ads.

Cubs president Crane Kenney told Kamin that he’s looking at ways of lighting the old scoreboard better at night so that it’s not overwhelmed; Kamin suggests just using a darker green on the video boards at night and turning down their brightness. It’s all very reasonable, and hopefully the Cubs will make some adjustments. But it’s all a reminder that the whole reason for the new video boards isn’t to let fans see batters’ OPS against lefties during home night games, but rather to get fans to look at advertising during games at Wrigley. And if that’s not what you think Wrigley is supposed to be about, you should have gotten elected mayor of Chicago and appointed different people to the landmarks commission.

MLS commish to Minnesota: You have five days to deliver stadium money, or else

With only five shopping days left until his deadline for Minnesota United to have a stadium deal in place and the Minnesota legislature no longer in session, MLS commissioner Don Garber spelled out what he’s actually expecting to get by July 1, sorta kinda:

“They have an upcoming deadline to hopefully finalize something with their stadium,” Garber said after New York City FC and New York Red Bulls held a press conference ahead of their match at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. “I’m not going to comment on it until that deadline has passed. I have a lot of respect for Bill McGuire and his partners. We love the market. We want to see something happen there. But we’ll wait and see. We really want to have a team in Minnesota, but they have to play in a downtown stadium because that’s the deal we cut.”

So that means that unless Minnesota officials “finalize something” by Wednesday, then MLS will definitely … do something. Maybe that’s pull the expansion franchise and award it to somebody else, maybe it’s issue another strongly worded statement. But you don’t wanna find out, Minnesota! Don’t make Don Garber come in there!

Garber also responded to a question about whether United could start out by playing at Target Field, the home of their co-owners the Twins, like NYC F.C. does with the Yankees‘ stadium:

“No, that wasn’t the agreement we made with them,” Garber said. “We’re going to make different decisions in different markets. That’s one thing being the boss allows us to do.”

Translated: We really wanted a team in New York, so we gave in there. But Minnesotas are a dime a dozen, so this time our deadlines really mean something. Whatever that is.

Columbus arena sparks opening of convenience store, bringing Twizzlers to struggling local economy

And now, here is an actual newspaper article from Columbus boasting about how the city’s new hockey arena prompted the opening of a 1300-square-foot convenience store:

“That’s the ideal tenant for that space,” said retail analyst Chris Boring, principal at Boulevard Strategies. “They’re not just filling space.”

With so many visitors, office workers and residents within a block or two of Nationwide Arena and the nearby Greater Columbus Convention Center, “it’s a no-brainer,” Boring said. “There are all kinds of places to eat and drink in the Arena District, but what if you just want a candy bar or a bottle of water? There’s really no place right now for that.”

In related news, the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview just sold another $16 million worth of bonds to help pay off its money-losing Chicago Fire MLS stadium, but this year a new gas station opened nearby.

NHL to take expansion bids from Vegas, Quebec, Seattle, etc. because MONEYYYYYY

The NHL is taking bids on expansion franchises starting July 6, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to expand, but does mean it’s testing the waters. And given the price tag, it’s easy to see why:

That’s kind of aggressive, considering that Forbes estimates the average NHL team to be worth $490 million, and given the markets we’d be talking about here (more on that in a minute), these teams would be below average. But then, the magazine’s team value figures always seem to lag a bit behind actual sale prices — as Forbes notes, there’s a bit of a bubble thanks to the fact that “Wall Street guys like Joshua Harris (New Jersey Devils) and Andrew Barroway (trying to buy a controlling interest in the Arizona Coyotes) are willing to pay a lot of money for hockey teams that lose money.” (It also doesn’t hurt that they can get huge tax breaks on their purchase price.)

The next question, obviously, is where, and everybody from Deadspin to the New York Times is assuming that one of the cities will be Las Vegas. This seems pretty daft from here — Las Vegas would be the second-smallest NHL TV market (ahead of only Buffalo), it’s in the middle of the Sun Belt where hockey franchises go to die, and it has a relatively poor permanent population. (A proposed Vegas team has managed to get $150 deposits on 11,500 season tickets, though those are refundable if there’s no team starting in 2016.) But it does have a new arena going up, and those things are guaranteed gold mines, right?

If Vegas were one team, the other would likely be either Quebec (where telecom giant Quebecor is almost certain to throw its hat in the ring) or Seattle (which has interest but still no solid NHL arena plan). Quebec would actually be the smallest media market in the NHL (smaller than Flint, Michigan!), but it’s in Canada, so maybe that compensates? Also, new arena!

If nothing else, all this means that Glendale should probably feel relatively secure in playing hardball with the Coyotes owners over their lease, since the NHL is unlikely to encourage the team to move to a new city if that would jeopardize a half-billion dollars in expansion fees. And with that, let’s go look as some photos of the under-construction Las Vegas arena:

Yeah, that, um, looks like an arena. With two levels of luxury suites, which I guess is standard these days, but makes for just awful views from the top deck. But hey, not like anyone’s likely to be sitting up there anyway, amirite?

Twin Cities suburb kicks tires on building Minnesota United stadium, doesn’t look at price tag yet

Looks like the Minnesota United stadium plan is going nowhere fast: The mayor of Minneapolis is dead set against giving the team $48 million in tax breaks, the state legislature adjourned without doing anything about the plan, and there’s a July 1 deadline at which point MLS could presumably rescind Minnesota’s expansion franchise, though there are plenty more where that came from. Sure, the Minneapolis city council approved a task force to discuss stadium plans, but that’s just one of those “keeping the lines of communication open” things that councils do. Too bad United can’t jump-start things with the threat of another city

Brooklyn Park is courting Major League Soccer.

City Council members said Monday that they’ll approach the Minnesota United team to explore building a Major League Soccer stadium along Hwy. 610 near the Target corporate campus, the proposed light-rail extension and a $90 million luxury apartment project under construction.

Ah, there we go!

Brooklyn Park, for those unfamiliar, is a Twin Cities suburb, so presumably could host an MLS team in theory. Whether it could offer a deal lucrative enough to make United’s owners happy (the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that city manager Mike Sable “said it’s too soon to discuss subsidies”) when they have their hearts set on a downtown location is another question. But having another bidder, even an unrealistic one, is key to creating leverage in any negotiation, so you have to figure United’s owners are happy for the interest, anyway.

Sacramento says giving parking, billboards to Kings cost nothing, because they were just lying around

Testimony has begun in the Sacramento Kings arena hidden-subsidies lawsuit, and we’re already deep into “it depends on what ‘is’ is” territory:

[State assemblymember Kevin] McCarty said he felt the city should have told the public more about the dollar value of two other elements of that deal – several thousand underground parking spots the city agreed to let the Kings operate, and the right to build six billboards on city property…

[Assistant City Manager John] Dangberg said the city did not assign a value to those assets because, even if they are of value to the Kings, giving them away did not cost the city any money. He did acknowledge a potential “opportunity cost” on future revenues for the signboards.

Needless to say, Dangberg’s argument is what economists call “stupid” — there are any number of assets that a city could give away that don’t cost money yet that have significant value (unused land, taxes on projects that haven’t been built yet, the right to sell advertising space on the mayor’s suit jacket). Eye on Sacramento previously estimated the present value of the parking at $57.8 million, and the billboards at $18 million.

The court won’t be determining whether the city included hidden subsidies, though, but rather whether it committed fraud in doing so, which is a stickier legal wicket. In the court of public opinion, however, we are free to issue a verdict of liar, liar, pants on fire.