Cuomo proposes spending $1B to make Javits convention center exhibit space 11% bigger

The New York State Convention Center Development Corporation recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a designer/builder for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s planned expansion of the Javits Center on Manhattan’s west side. So now there are some specifics on the $1 billion boondoggle, but no real indication of where the public dollars are actually going to come from, beyond that “a State appropriation of $1 billion, bond issuance proceeds, cash on hand, and other sources as required.” It’s nice to have “cash on hand.”

The project would include a new 480,000-square-foot marshaling facility, with 27 loading docks — because what Manhattan most needs are fleets of 18-wheelers hauling stuff on city streets — roof terrace for outdoor events, and 92,000 square feet of new prime exhibit space, together with added meeting room and ballroom space. That amounts to just an 11 percent increase in exhibit space — what a deal for a billion bucks in public dollars!

Gov. Cuomo proclaimed last January that the Javits was the “busiest convention center in the United States,” with more than 2 million visitors annually. The Javits’ annual report shows attendance of 2,056,500 in 2014. But that year Chicago’s McCormick Place saw total attendance of 2.34 million. So “busiest” might be open to some question. And those Javits attendance figures include big public shows like the New York International Auto Show that sees a million attendees itself, almost entirely from the New York metro area.

The real issue with the Javits is dismal attendance at conventions and trade shows, the events that draw out-of-town visitors and fill hotel rooms. In 2000, the Javits drew 1.25 million convention and trade show attendees. For 2014, the total was just 629,500. And those attendees produced just 478,000 hotel room nights — a tiny fraction of the 31.6 million room nights filled in the city in 2014. That may be why the Cuomo administration has yet to produce any kind of market analysis or feasibility study for the expansion: It likely won’t produce any real increase in the Javits’ convention business.

Glendale’s new arena lease to require shoveling less money at AEG than city was shoveling at Coyotes

Glendale’s proposed arena lease with AEG is finally out, and ready for the city council to vote on! So who’s paying what to whom?

The city would pay AEG $5.6 million a year; one payment of $2.8 million, then two more payments of $1.4 million each.  The contract is for an initial period of five years with the possibility to renew for five additional years.

Glendale had been paying the Arizona Coyotes between $6.5 million and $8.7 million a year to run the place (the total varied depending on arena revenues), so looks like Glendale saved itself between $900,000 and $3.1 million a year by opening up the arena management contract to competitive bidding. [EDIT: A commenter notes that the city is also giving up about $900,000 a year in naming-rights and Coyotes rent revenues to AEG, so this deal is pretty much a wash with the Coyotes’ current revised stopgap lease, though still a good bit better than the long-term one that Glendale decided to terminate last spring.] Two cheers, Glendale! (The third cheer would have been if the city had included “run the arena ourselves” or “shut the damn place down instead of throwing good money after bad” as potential options, but I suppose those are still possibilities as they consider the AEG offer.)

The full proposed management contract is here; for those wondering what it says about the Coyotes, it hands over to AEG the right and responsibility to “negotiate, enter into, administer, amend and terminate all contracts relating to the use of Arena facilities and services, including the Coyotes Lease,” i.e., “you guys work it out now.” Though there’s also a clause at the very end that AEG can renegotiate the deal (or cancel it if the two sides can’t come to a new agreement) if the Coyotes were to stop playing games in Glendale, which could end up dragging the council back into negotiations if Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc gets serious about any of the umpteen arena plans in other towns that he’s pursuing.

All in all, the proposed AEG lease is not as awful as the old Coyotes one, but it’s not great, either — the result you’d expect after spending public money to build an arena that no one really needs for a hockey team that no one really follows and then deciding that it’s too big to fail as a way to get people to shop at the neighboring mall. I still like the idea of taking $5.6 million a year in small bills and having city staffers stand in the mall and hand them out to shoppers, but I know it’s tough for elected officials to think outside the box that way.

Flames, Calgary to discuss how neither of them wants to pay for new arena

The Calgary Flames have responded to last week’s damning city report on the projected costs of their stadium-arena proposal, and it looks like both sides are going with “everybody smile and hope things will somehow work out so that everyone is happy.” Flames CEO Ken King said that he’s “thrilled” city officials want to meet to discuss possible alternate sites, while Mayor Naheed Nenshi made a classic hey-always-willing-to-talk statement:

“Calgarians have been pretty clear that they would like to see better facilities, but they’ve also been pretty clear that public money has to go for public benefit and the real issue there is to square this circle and see if we can put those two things together,” he said.

Of course, King also ruled out putting in any more of the team’s own money (“Our financial proposal stands for CalgaryNext”), and Nenshi said that bit about how public money can only go for public benefits, so this may be less a question of squaring the circle than of getting two non-intersecting Euler diagram circles to meet. Talking is always good, though! Maybe either King will find some more money in his other coat pocket, or they’ll figure out how to build an arena out of staff — if they’re just going to replace it 20 years later, it could sort of work.

Some sportswriters say they totally heard the Raiders are moving to Vegas, no really, a guy said it

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is following up his appearance at a Nevada state legislative hearing two weeks ago on a new Las Vegas football stadium with an appearance at another meeting of state officials this Thursday, and … and that’s really all we have to go on, but certain football writers, citing “sources” in one case and their own brains in another, are still off to the races:

And from a Twitlonger by Joe Arrigo:

Here is what I can confirm and KNOW in regards to the Raiders and a move to Las Vegas.
The Sands Group (who is attempting to build the stadium) is meeting this Thursday to discuss (and potentially approve) a new stadium for the UNLV football program and the Raiders.
Mark Davis, the Raiders owner, will be in attendance at the meeting on Thursday and speak at the meeting as well. Davis is ready to commit to moving the Raiders to Las Vegas at the meeting Thursday if they approve the new stadium.
The Raiders would move in 2017 or 2018 and play at Sam Boyd stadium until the new stadium is built. Davis already has toured the stadium with Tony Sanchez and the UNLV president and AD, and is on board with playing there temporarily.

Cole is an NFL columnist for Bleacher Report who specializes in Q&A’s with current players, which doesn’t seem like the best way to get the inside scoop on whether the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas. [UPDATE: Cole would like you to know that “whatever dude, I’ve been on the stadium/LA issue for 10 years.”] Arrigo, per his Twitter bio, is a high-school wide receivers coach, and a former radio host, and runs a UNLV fan site, which makes “Q&A reporter for Bleacher Report” seem like Bob frickin’ Woodward.

Since we’re here, though, here are the reasons why it’s extremely unlikely that Mark Davis will be moving the Raiders to Las Vegas anytime soon:

  1. The Raiders still have second dibs on sharing the Los Angeles Rams‘ new Inglewood stadium, if the San Diego Chargers pass it up. The Chargers probably won’t — their campaign for a new stadium in San Diego is currently somewhere between “longshot” and “train wreck” — but it’d be nuts for Davis to throw away the option before he sees what becomes of it.
  2. Notwithstanding Joe Arrigo, the Vegas stadium is not going to be approved this Thursday. First off, this isn’t even a meeting of the state legislature, but of something called the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, a group of political and business leaders convened by the governor to examine possible tourism initiatives and report back this summer. Secondly, there’s the little matter of the $780 million in public subsidies that billionaire Sheldon Adelson wants for his proposed stadium, which is going to take a while to put together, if it gets any traction at all.

Still, media events like this aren’t meant to signify anything real, they’re meant to provide a sense of “momentum” to stadium projects — so Davis and Adelson and the NFL must be just thrilled that NBC Sports’ Mike Florio is reporting exactly that. In an age where people are famous for being famous, getting credited with momentum for leaking news to the press that you have momentum is probably the next logical step.

Long Island residents protest $400m soccer stadium that’s been mostly dead for three years already

There’s been almost zero movement on the New York Cosmos‘ plans for a $400 million minor-league soccer stadium at the Belmont Park racetrack site (I almost wrote “crazy” plans, but I’ll leave that for readers to determine on their own) since it was first floated three years ago, but that isn’t stopping some locals from protesting it anyway:

[Nassau County Legis. Carrié] Solages, surrounded by about a dozen supporters, said the project was conceived without the input of the community, and that New York doesn’t have an appetite for soccer that would fill 25,000 seats. Protesters called on the state to issue a new request for proposals that considers the vision of local residents.

The state has so far held off from asking for new bids on the site, though it’s clearly not happy with the current bids: Not only has it sat on them for three years without taking action, but it released a statement saying it’s “re-engaging” bidders to get a better deal. The dream of the NASL Cosmos getting a better stadium than either of New York’s two MLS teams isn’t quite all dead, in other words, but it is mostly dead. This is going to take a really big set of bellows.

NFL commissioner waves around well-worn Super Bowl promise to boost Chargers petition drive

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did what commissioners do on Saturday, promising San Diego a Super Bowl if it approves a new stadium for the Chargers. Well, not promising exactly:

“I’m confident that if they can get a stadium built here, the owners will want to support it with a Super Bowl,” Goodell said. “I think that’s what this community deserves, and we’re all going to work to try and find a solution.”

Yeah, you can totally take that promise to the bank. Not that San Diego wouldn’t get a Super Bowl with a new stadium — they hold them every year, after all, and it wouldn’t be too hard to work San Diego into the rotation at least once — but Goodell’s appearance was far less “announcement” than “media event,” designed to help kick off the Chargers’ petition campaign for $1.15 billion in city spending on a new stadium and convention center annex. A Super Bowl also wouldn’t much help in paying that off, as innumerable economists have found, but at least it might be a pleasant distraction, maybe?

NBA commissioner: No Seattle expansion team in immediate future

Seattle isn’t getting an NBA expansion team anytime soon, you guys:

“Whether or not the arena in Seattle is shovel ready is not a factor that we are considering in terms of whether or not we expand at this point,’’ Silver told The Seattle Times during the Associated Press Sports Editors commissioners meetings in Manhattan…

“We’re going through a collective-bargaining cycle right now, it’s no secret,’’ Silver said. “So, certainly, it’s not something that we would be thinking about as we’re focusing on ensuring that we’re going to have labor peace for the foreseeable future.

“I think that after we complete the extension of our collective-bargaining agreement, I think that would be the natural time, at least, for owners to consider whether or not they would like to expand. … Right now, we are not hearing it coming from within the league. We are hearing from some groups outside the league. But from within the league, there’s no strong push to expand at the moment.’’

Since Chris Hansen’s MOU for a new Seattle arena expires in November 2017, this means in the next year and a half we’re either going to see: 1) a big push by Hansen to try to get another team to relocate (your guess is as good as mine who he’d target, since there aren’t a ton of ready candidates looking to move), 2) a big push by Hansen to get the MOU extended, or 3) both of the above. Getting a team was always going to be the hardest part of Hansen’s Sonics 2.0 plan — yes, even harder than figuring out how to make his arena turn a profit — and it looks like that road isn’t getting any easier anytime soon.

Chargers renderings of proposed stadium show off state-of-the-art Photoshop lens flare

San Diego Chargers vaportecture porn, everybody!

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 2.37.48 PMLow_Corner_from_Northwest_credit_MANICA_t1200x62016th_Street_Ground_Level_credit_MANICA_t1200x620chargers4_t1200x620Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 2.37.10 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 2.37.21 PM Architect David Manica called the building “soft, friendly, of San Diego,” “like a natural evolution of the downtown architecture.” To this end, it will be surrounded by fluffy clouds, and have beams of light streaming up from the field, either because of a state-of-the-art lighting system or because once the stadium is complete, Jesus will return to perform the Super Bowl halftime show.

There’s also a park that’s described by the San Diego Union-Tribune as “over an earthquake fault,” presumably to get around that pesky “don’t build stadiums on top of earthquake faults” law. That building that appears to be embedded in the stadium wall is the “historic Wonderbread building” currently on the site, which “would be preserved and integrated into the 16th street facade of the project and would be home to local restaurants, cafes, or other active retail components,” addressing the don’t tear down a historic 1894 factory building concerns. Plus a semi-retractable roof, so the boats don’t get wet from all the San Diego rain!

The architects were quick to describe these drawings as “conceptual,” which means “don’t think the actual stadium is necessarily going to look like this” as well as “I can make it longer if you like the style.” It looks fine enough as stadiums go, though I expect that roof will be the first thing to go if costs need to be trimmed. That’s if San Diego voters agree to give it $1.15 billion in bonds in the first place, of course, which remains a longshot, though maybe “old building embedded in outer wall, plus fireworks!!1!” will be enough to win a few more votes.

Calgary report: Combined stadium-arena would cost public $1.2B, Flames should give up and start over

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is not your average mayor when it comes to sports subsidy deals: He’s insisted on evaluating the Flames owners’ arena plan on whether it’s good for the public, not just good for the team, openly called out NHL commissioner Gary Bettman as being a paid shakedown artist, and promised a public debate about any arena decision. Now the Calgary city manager’s staff has completed a hard-eyed analysis of the plan for a combined Flames arena and Stampeders stadium, and determined that it would cost $1.8 billion, double the total that the teams had estimated, with the public cost coming in at between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion.

That’s a hell of a lot of money, even in devalued loonies. According to the city report, the extra $900 million would go toward “land, municipal infrastructure, environmental remediation, and financing.” Most of that isn’t even the long-worried-about creosote contamination cleanup (which comes to around $65-110 million), but other items: New transportation infrastructure is down for another $166 million, for example, and finance charges would be an additional $371-390 million. (It’s not immediately clear if these are present value or nominal figures — if the latter, then it’s not really fair to count them as an added public cost, since it’s just the cost of paying later instead of now, like the additional money you pay on your home mortgage over time compared to what your mortgage is actually worth.)

The city council is scheduled to discuss the report on Monday, but it’s likely to be a short discussion — the CBC says the $1.2-billion-plus price tag “effectively scuttles the proposal as it stands.” And the report itself recommends as much, indicating that “the CalgaryNEXT concept is not feasible in its present form or location and alternative development concepts, locations, and financial models should be investigated.” In particular, it suggests looking at building a new arena near the site of the current Saddledome (which the Flames owners previously rejected as not ambitious enough) and putting a new football stadium and field house at the current site of the Stampeders’ stadium at the University of Calgary.

There’s still some concern here that by focusing on alternative sites, this could end up becoming a battle of where to build the new arena and stadium, not whether to fund one with public money — though given that the report repeatedly indicates that the city government’s first priority is that “public money must be used for public benefit,” and Nenshi has said the same, probably not too much concern. Mostly, instead of taking the team owners’ demands and price figures as a given, Calgary sat down and trying to figure out if it made sense financially from the city’s perspective — and the answer came back “hell, no.” Now they’re kicking it back to the team to come up with a plan that makes sense. It’s all eminently logical and responsible, and only remarkable because so few city administrations do anything like this.

So far, Flames CEO Ken King is insisting on keeping CalgaryNEXT alive: “I realize we may sound simplistically optimistic, but we still think there’s some room here,” he said yesterday, which is definitely either the first or third Kübler-Ross stage. There’s still many months or years of haggling to go here, almost certainly, but Calgary has set an excellent example for other cities on how to go about tackling the first round.

Phoenix mayor explains grooviness of using taxes for Suns-Coyotes arena: It’s cheaper than two arenas!

Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton made his pitch for a new publicly funded arena for the Suns and Coyotes yesterday, and he didn’t provide much more specifics than when he leaked it the day before: He will use tax money, but he won’t raise taxes to pay for it, and he’s for it because he thinks it will bring more spending to downtown Phoenix.

“I as mayor will do everything I can to pursue a course that makes a new facility home to the Suns, the (Phoenix) Mercury and the Coyotes,” Stanton said, noting the WNBA franchise as well. “Building two new sports arenas in our region simply doesn’t make fiscal or common sense.”

He’s right there, as far as it goes: One arena is definitely cheaper than two, albeit a lot more expensive than zero. So does building one new sports arena make fiscal or common sense for Phoenix?

Stanton’s funding plan, based on what little he’s revealed about it, would be a bit of a Rube Goldberg scheme, avoiding new taxes by siphoning every last bit of value out of existing ones. Currently, Phoenix levies hotel and car rental taxes and uses the proceeds to pay off a bunch of past construction projects, including the Suns’ existing arena (opened in 1992), a Sheraton hotel, and other buildings. (Note: This is separate from the county hotel and car rental taxes that pay off the Arizona Cardinals stadium and which were partly ruled unconstitutional in 2014.) The current arena will be paid off in 2022, however, and the hotel plus a downtown biotech building are in the process of being sold off, which would free up those tax revenues to be used for something else.

Great, free money, right? Not exactly. First off, the “something else” could be pretty much anything — in the most extreme example, the city could just cancel the hotel and car rental taxes once the existing arena is paid off, and either leave taxes low as an inducement to visitors or levy new ones to fund other needs. And on top of that, selling the Sheraton to get out from under its debt load isn’t without a cost: The buyer is effectively getting the building for free by paying off $300 million in remaining debt, and the city will lose any future profits it would be getting from the hotel. (The Sheraton currently loses money, but that’s partly because any revenue it brings in goes right back out to help pay off its construction debt.)

In short, then, Stanton is saying that the city’s decision in 1990 to build a new arena for the Suns is an open-ended commitment to keep on building new arenas for the Suns into eternity, while selling off any city assets necessary to make that possible. That’s a legitimate political position, I suppose, but you can see why he chose not to frame it that way. Or to put a price tag on it. Because people are cranky enough about it already.