Wolff says MLB would help pay for Oakland stadium if public unwilling, film of sky falling at 11

The San Jose Mercury News dropped a weird little bombshell into its report on the Oakland A’s trade deadline moves:

A’s owner [Lew Wolff] said Major League Baseball would likely kick in some money to help the A’s get a stadium done at the Oakland site, public money not being available.

Really? That’s not something MLB has done for any other team — aside from allowing teams to deduct stadium costs from income for purposes of revenue-sharing, which has been standard operating procedure for a while now. But if MLB actually gives in and throws additional cash the A’s way, that would be a huge departure for a league that so far has depended on the kindness of taxpayers for new construction.

Newballpark.org, meanwhile, speculates that the easiest way for MLB to funnel some money to Wolff would be to allow the A’s to keep receiving revenue sharing money once they move into a new stadium. (MLB changed its revenue sharing rules a few years back to prohibit teams in big markets from getting checks, but exempted Oakland from this prohibition until a new stadium is built.) It’s certainly something that the league could do, though you have to wonder if MLB commissioner Rob Manfred would have to twist some  arms to get other owners to agree to kick in to dispense with the Coliseum. He doesn’t seem a very arm-twisty guy, but we’ll see.

Wisconsin assembly Democrats will only vote for Bucks deal if it doesn’t get more awful than it is already

The leader of Wisconsin’s state assembly Democrats says they won’t provide the votes necessary to pass a Milwaukee Bucks arena deal without “six or seven amendments” to the plan the state senate approved last week. And what does Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca want to see?

“By and large, one thing that’s important is making sure that 30 years from now when the Bucks come around and want a new arena again that we’re in much better shape for the taxpayers,” he said. “That we’re not in the same boat (as) now where we have to put millions of dollars just to keep the Bradley Center operating because it needs significant maintenance.

“Additionally, we want to make sure that we have the best arrangement for the greater Milwaukee area for workers and for having jobs that are meaningful that I think the Bucks share in.”

Item #2 is clearly some kind of local hiring agreement, which the Bucks’ billionaire owners should be happy enough to agree to, since it’s no skin off their nose who actually builds the thing, so long as it’s mostly the public that’s paying the bills. The first one is a bit more unclear — some kind of clause ensuring that the team is on the hook for maintenance and upgrades on a new arena, maybe? — but is certainly worth trying to address, given that the Bucks’ actual lease on this new arena is still yet to be determined, which could hide an awful lot of subsidies down the road.
And speaking of hidden subsidies, Bruce Murphy of Urban Milwaukee has taken another shot at totaling up all the public subsidies involved in the Bucks deal, and come up with this list:
  • $195 million in Wisconsin Center District costs (including interest), less $45 million in accrued ticket taxes, for a total of $150 million. Murphy doesn’t convert that into present value, but it would come to about $70 million.
  • $55 million from the state (against translating Murphy’s numbers into present value) in arena bonds, plus $20 million to pay off existing Bradley Center debt.
  • $55 million from the county for arena bonds.
  • $48.5 million from the city.
  • $180 million in present value in property tax breaks on the arena.
  • $50 million in savings from federal tax exemption on arena bonds.
  • $17 million in sales tax exemption on construction materials.
  • A bunch of “miscellaneous,” including continuing to exempt the Bucks from the state’s 7.9% corporate income tax, just because.

That’s at least $505.5 million in public subsidies, or just about exactly the total cost of building the arena. (Actually slightly less if you want to be technical, since the federal tax-exempt bonds really reduce the arena cost, so without those it would be a $550 million arena.) You can quibble over the details of the math, but the public — including taxpayers in Milwaukee, in the state of Wisconsin, and even in the rest of the U.S. — would be paying for the vast majority of a new Bucks arena, to replace one that is less than 30 years old. With a deal like that, here’s hoping the state assembly Democrats do actually put a little effort into making sure that it doesn’t get even worse once the lease is decided on.

Atlanta mayor offers Hawks public money to replace 16-year-old arena, but only if it’s “reasonable”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says he’s met with the new owners of the Hawks about their stated desire for a new or renovated arena, and any hopes you may have had that he was going to tell them, “Fine, you want to replace your 16-year-old arena, do it on your own dime,” you can forget about that:

Reed said he’s met once with the team’s new owners and repeated his willingness to consider a deal involving the use public funds. The mayor first indicated that option last year in the wake of controversy involving the team’s previous leadership.

“What I’m willing to do is come to the table with a plan that makes sense and is fair to the people of Atlanta,” Reed said. “I’m not closed to participating in a reasonable plan to make sure that the Hawks remain in the city and that’s what I expressed in our meeting.”

Mayor Reed has a bit of a weird history with sports subsidies, being a prime mover behind giving hundreds of millions of public dollars to the Falcons for their new stadium, then declaring offering the Braves money to keep their from moving to Cobb County to be too rich for his blood, then offering $150 million for the Hawks to extend their lease when they weren’t even threatening to break it. There’s also the little matter that the Hawks couldn’t leave without paying off about $100 million in remaining bonds on the Philips Arena (and couldn’t leave before 2018 without paying an additional $75 million in penalties), but that’s apparently not going to stop Reed from leading with his wallet.

Possible sites for a new arena would be the Atlanta Civic Center (the current filming site for Family Feud, according to Wikipedia), a rehab of the existing Philips Arena (which the Hawks own), or a third, undisclosed site. Total cost: Who knows?

Prediction: This is not going to end well.


Minnesota United owner wants $40m worth of St. Paul land for “stadium, office, retail, housing, etc.”

I’m going to forgive Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press for implying that I compared St. Paul with Harrison, New Jersey — I brought up Harrison as an example of a place where development is happening as much in spite of a new soccer stadium as because of it, but it’s a very different place than St. Paul — because he also reported this tidbit about Minnesota United‘s stadium demands:

Minnesota United FC would need less than 10 acres to build a stadium in St. Paul for Major League Soccer, but city emails in June show team owner Bill McGuire saying an adjacent 25 acres “now is essential.”

“Concept would involve the stadium, office, retail, housing, hospitality, etc.,” wrote McGuire, who also inquired about the possibility of city or state government offices moving into the proposed spaces.


If I’m reading this map correctly, the adjacent 17.75-acre parcel is valued at about $20 million, so for 25 acres we’d be talking about $28 million in land value, or almost $40 million when counting the 10-acre stadium site. McGuire didn’t quite come out and say he wants this land for free, but then, he hasn’t really said anything about financial details of a St. Paul stadium. You know he’s going to ask for something, because he says he can’t make money without subsidies after paying a $100 million expansion team fee. “I spent all my money, can I have some more?” doesn’t work for my 12-year-old, but I guess no one ever taught McGuire that lesson.

Glendale gets Coyotes to agree to two-year lease that’s slightly less sucktastic than old one

That was quick: Just six weeks after the city of Glendale acted to terminate the Arizona Coyotes‘ sweetheart lease, the two sides arrived at a revised deal yesterday. Okay, it’s only a deal for a new lease for the next two years, but given that just last month everybody was all lawsuits and vitriol, that’s still impressive.

The old deal, to recap, involved Glendale paying the Coyotes owners $15 million a year for each of the next 15 years, for the privilege of having the NHL team bless the city’s publicly built arena with its presence. (And operate the arena, something that the Coyotes owners insist is worth a ton of money, though others disagree.) In exchange, the city was getting back about $6.7 million a year in ticket taxes, parking revenues, rent, and other sundries, leaving it about $8 million a year in the hole. And while the city couldn’t back out (until it found a loophole that let it do so), the team could break the lease and leave (or renegotiate) at any point.

The new deal breaks down like this:

  • Instead of $15 million a year, Glendale pays the Coyotes owners only $6.5 million a year.
  • The Coyotes owners keep all ticket surcharges and parking fees, which the Globe and Mail says will be worth about $6 million a year, though I had it at more like $5.4 million.
  • The new lease only lasts until summer of 2017, after which everyone has to figure this out all over again.

If you can do simple math — which isn’t me this morning after staying out late at this, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway — Glendale just saved about $5 million over the next two years, plus got out of another 11 years of commitment to those $15 million a year payments. So that’s something!

On the other hand, this mostly just kicks the can down the road to 2017, which has some advantages for Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc: The NHL expansion situation should be resolved by then, and there should be more clarity on whether a new arena is likely in Seattle, allowing LeBlanc to level a more fleshed-out move threat then if he wants. Also, Glendale has mayoral and council elections in 2016, so LeBlanc can always hold out hope of getting more amenable negotiating partners into City Hall by then.

On the other other hand, LeBlanc could have used his out clause to do that anyway, so at least current mayor Jerry Weiers and the current council (which is supposed to vote on the new plan this morning) got something out of breaking the lease. And the Coyotes will continue to have the league’s most entertaining ownership and arena saga for the foreseeable future, which is good, because for sure nobody wants to watch them do whatever they claim is playing hockey.

Wisconsin pol says garnish wages of poor debtors to fund Bucks arena, because hell with those people

So remember how the state of Wisconsin proposed to help fund a Milwaukee Bucks arena by having the state go after $4 million a year in uncollected Milwaukee County tax debts, then it turned out this mostly meant shaking down poor people for money, then some senate Democrats complained that this would make them look bad, so the senate decided to leave it up to the county where to come up with the money? Well, now the arena bill has moved to the assembly, where at least one member thinks that garnishing the wages of the poor isn’t such a bad idea after all:

Republican Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis) says the remaining options are no better.

“It ties their hands and you’re left with two options: you either cut services or you raise property taxes countywide,” said Sanfelippo.

Sanfelippo says he will ask his party’s leaders to put the debt collection plan back into the bill.

“What we’re talking about primarily are people who willfully, knowingly, and purposefully just won’t pay their bills because they know they can get away with it,” said Sanfelippo.

Sanfelippo isn’t wrong that if you demand $4 million in county money for the Bucks, then the county needs to come up with $4 million somehow — though it’s worth noting that cracking down on debt collection would still be one option. (Not necessarily an option that would work, mind you, but an option.) And putting the debt collection plan back in the bill would likely cost Democratic votes, if not in the assembly then back in the senate, which would still need to sign off on a revised bill. So it’s probably a fair bet that the final plan will remain “punt it to the county with a $4 million a year invoice, let them figure it out,” but we’ll know more once the assembly votes next Tuesday.

Beckham tells Miami mayor he’s ready to talk about evicting people to make way for MLS stadium

David Beckham inched closer to building an MLS stadium next to Marlins Park yesterday, he and his co-owner sending a letter to Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado yesterday stating definitively that they wanted to “express our formal interest” in the site:

We have done a considerable amount of work to understand the requirements of the Site and its potential as the home of our Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise. While there is still work to be done, including completing the land assembly, we firmly believe that we can build a world-class stadium at the Site.

If that doesn’t exactly sound like a commitment, it’s as much as you’re going to get from a group of sports owners. (Or in this case, conditional expansion sports team would-be owners.) Essentially, Beckham & Co. are saying “Let’s talk about this, MLS says it’ll do,” while leaving plenty of room to back away if things go wrong.

But what could go wrong? They have the site picked out, so all they need to do is figure out funding details and what to do about the buildings currently occupying the — whuh-oh:

[Adelfa] Lopez at 70 years old will likely be forced to move, after spending almost four decades in her home next to the former Orange Bowl site.

“For us it’s an inconvenience. We have to look for a house that accommodates the animals, we have dogs and cats,” she said. “Whatever it is, it is, we don’t have nothing to say about it.”

Okay, so “completing the land assembly” may be more contentious than it at first sounded. As always, you want to keep your eye on these things well after the mayor and the team owner agree on what to sit down and talk about, since that’s when all the important stuff gets worked out. Miami news outlets, you’re with me on this, right?

A’s owner Wolff almost sorta kinda says R-word about Oakland Coliseum

Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff is interviewed in the new Athletics Magazine — man, wonder how they got that scoop, huh? — and had this to say about the team’s stadium demands:

We continue to respect the desire of the Raiders for a new football-only venue, while we of course would like to play in a new or vastly improved baseball-only venue.

That’s tantalizingly close to saying he’d consider a renovated Oakland Coliseum, though he doesn’t actually say the word “renovated.” But you don’t say “or vastly improved” to your own house organ if you don’t want to at least leave a door open.

What could possibly be done to the Coliseum to improve it? Newballpark.org proprietor Marine Layer has some ideas, including either tearing down the Mount Davis seats installed for the Raiders or incorporating them into a new seating bowl. (I think ML has neglected the setting sun being in batters’ eyes in that plan, but maybe the geography isn’t quite what I think it is.) I’ve previously noted that I’m an unabashed fan of the Coliseum, particularly if Mount Davis were removed, so it’d be interesting to see what, if anything, Wolff has in mind here. Mayor Libby Schaaf, can you ask him next time you see him and report back? Thanks, we’d all appreciate it.

Vegas, Quebec now frontrunners for NHL expansion teams, because nobody else bothered to bid

Official bids to own an NHL expansion franchise (assuming the NHL actually expands) were due yesterday, and of the several motley candidates, only two ended up submitting an actual bid, along with a $2 million non-refundable deposit: The Bill Foley/Maloof brothers group in Las Vegas, and Canadian telecom company Quebecor in Quebec City.

If the neo-Quebec Nordiques and Las Vegas Black Knights (that’s seriously what they’re considering calling the team — one can only hope their team motto will be “Tis but a flesh wound!“) happen, it will be because the NHL thinks it can get $500 million apiece in expansion fees, which would be worth the roughly $20 million a year in TV revenues the other teams would have to give up to each of the new franchises. Neither city would be a guaranteed success — Quebec probably has a better shot, if only because people actually watch hockey there, but they’d both be among the NHL’s smallest markets — but then, if there were an obvious expansion market, it would already have a team by now.

There was one bigger market considering a bid, or actually two bids: Seattle, where both Chris Hansen and Ray Bartoszek were reportedly interested in teams for their prospective arenas in downtown Seattle and suburban Tukwila. Neither ended up bidding, though, which would leave Seattle looking at being the home for a relocated team at some point, assuming either Hansen or Bartoszek is really that interested in the NHL.

And that, ultimately, is what the NHL would be giving up here, even more than a sliver of TV revenues: leverage. Right now, cities undergoing arena battles face a slew of marginally believable bogeymen where their team could be said to be relocating to if they don’t agree to demands. If Vegas and Quebec get new teams, the league would pretty much be down to Seattle as a threat, and while one city will certainly suffice for this (look at what the NFL has done with L.A.), it’s less than ideal.

All of which is to say that Glendale officials should probably feel comfortable taking a hard line with the Arizona Coyotes owners in their lease battle. There’s reportedly been some progress in those talks, but if the worst-case scenario ends up being that the Coyotes might move back to a new arena in Phoenix, leaving that city stuck with how to keep afloat a money-losing franchise with subsidies, that’s the kind of chance that Glendale should feel comfortable taking.

UPDATE: Deadspin thinks that this is going to hurt the NHL’s leverage in getting the highest price for expansion teams, since now they can’t get a bidding war going. I’m less sure — the league can still refuse to assign any new teams at all if it doesn’t get what it wants — but this certainly doesn’t help the NHL’s racket, let’s put it that way.

Missouri proposes $50m Rube Goldberg funding scheme for Rams so no one notices it’s spending $50m

The state-run St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority is set to ask for $50 million in state tax credits for a new St. Louis Rams stadium tomorrow, something that isn’t entirely a surprise, given that this has always been part of Gov. Jay Nixon’s stadium funding plan. Way down at the bottom of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, though, there’s a tidbit that’s worth exploring further:

Under one option to be presented to the finance board, the Dome authority would donate $100 million raised for the project to a nonprofit entity, which would then contribute $100 million to the board’s Infrastructure Development Fund.

In return for this contribution, the board would issue $50 million in tax credits to the nonprofit, which in turn would sell the credits and donate the proceeds to the Dome authority. The application says it expects to get about 95 cents on the dollar for those tax credits.

That’s a whole lot of paper-shuffling, but the interesting bit is at the end, where the state would be issuing $50 million in tax credits, but the Dome authority would only be getting $47.5 million in proceeds. That’s not a huge difference, but $2.5 million is $2.5 million, which raises the question: Why not just have the state give $50 million to the project directly, instead of mucking around with funneling money through tax credits and nonprofits?

I’m guessing here (Missouri locals and/or public finance experts, correct me if I’m wrong), but my assumption is that it’s so the headlines read “Dome authority to ask for $50 million in state tax credits” and not “Nixon proposes giving $50 million more to Rams.” It comes to the exact same thing, but for whatever reason some people think of tax expenditures as different from public spending, so apparently it’s worth $2.5 million to keep up this charade.