West Palm votes to pursue alternate plan for Astros, Nats spring site, and what’s up with that graphic?

The West Palm Beach city commission voted Tuesday to pursue the other offer for land that the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals want for a spring training site, since that proposal wouldn’t require piles of public subsidies, and … you know what, while this is all very interesting, I’m more concerned with what’s going on with the image illustrating the South Florida Sun-Sentinel article on this:

Seriously, what exactly happened here? Did graphics staffer Cindy Jones-Hulfachor supply two alternate images, one with a bluish stadium site and the other in straight greyscale, and then the web production staff mistakenly used both? If so, why are both images cut off at the outside edges? It’s been a day and a half since this went up — isn’t anyone paying attention at the Sun-Sentinel to what’s actually on their site?

Anyway, Nats and Astros still want stadium subsidies, West Palm Beach is still saying no, blah blah blah. That graphic sure is strange, though.

AEG to LA: We will gladly give you NFL team Tuesday for a hamburger today (LA to AEG: Sure!)

And here’s superduperbrief:

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday granted developer Anschutz Entertainment Group another six months to find a team for its proposed downtown NFL stadium, while also giving it more influence over any backup plan for the site.

On a 12-0 vote, the council agreed to make AEG a participant in what city officials have been calling Plan B — the effort to figure out how to upgrade the Los Angeles Convention Center if no stadium is built.

Why? Because an AEG exec said they’d been engaged in a “renewed dialogue” with the NFL on a franchise, so that’s apparently worth another six months of rope. And dealing in AEG on what to do with the site if there’s no stadium, so that the next six months isn’t entirely spent twiddling everyone’s thumbs. Though really, they could have spent the time RFPing out the site in case the stadium doesn’t happen, but then AEG would keep sitting outside pressing its face against the window and making sad puppy eyes, so nah.

Hartford council okays $56m in Double-A stadium subsidies, state-of-the-art clause could add more

I’m in superbrief mode this morning, but in, um, superbrief: The Hartford city council voted as expected last night to approve about $56 million in subsidies (give or take a mess of free land) for a stadium for the double-A baseball New Britain Rock Cats.

“It is exactly a road map to how we move forward as a city,” council President Shawn Wooden said at the meeting Tuesday. “There is no reward, there is no benefit, without some level of risk. … It’s appropriately risky for the return.”

Risky it certainly is: The initial plan contains no provisions for what happens if the private part of the $350 million project doesn’t get built, which is kind of important given that that’s where all the economic benefits are supposed to come from. Also, there’s apparently a state-of-the-art clause included, of sorts: The city of Hartford needs to pay for any future stadium improvements to keep the building on par with new Double-A venues in Birmingham and Tulsa. That’s better than the El Paso state-of-the-art clause that it looks like Hartford lifted the language from — El Paso just says it must be kept on par with other “first-class” facilities, which opens things up to all kinds of shenanigans — but still means Hartford’s costs here will only go up.

And now, over to you, city planning and zoning commission. I’ll skip the obvious joke.

Sporting News went to a Florida Panthers game, and the Miami Marlins’ attendance broke out

The Sporting News has been publishing since 1886, but never let it be said they haven’t learned how to update their headlines to the way the kids today like them:

Oh boy, the Panthers’ arena is empty again (PHOTOS)

And here’s one of the promised PHOTOS:

It got a bit better once the game actually started, but still, it’s never a good thing to have the Sporting News writing: “Part of the reason for all this: the team ended its long-running practice of ‘giving away tickets for free just so the building will have people in it’ for this season.”

Panthers owner Vincent Viola still wants $80 million from Broward County to make it worth his while to keep the team in town — despite a lease that runs through 2028 and the fact that he still makes money on the arena operations despite nobody going to hockey games — but at this point you have to wonder what he’d do with it to get people interested, unless he just stands at the doors handing out twenties to anyone who agrees to watch this strange “hockey” thing.

UW-Milwaukee on possible Bucks arena site: Um, guys? We’re still playing here?

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter Don Walker’s obsession with to build a new Bucks arena is everlasting, but sometimes there’s actual news to be covered on the “Where do we put the arena that we don’t know how to pay for?” front. For example, this:

In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, interim Chancellor Mark Mone said building a new arena on the site would not just displace the men’s basketball program, but disrupt other university programming planned over the 10-year agreement to rebrand the arena.

“The larger reason for us to be there is really about more visibility and our brand image and making a statement,” Mone said. “We are not just the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, but the University of Wisconsin for Milwaukee.

“We want this to be a win-win for the community. We just don’t want to be displaced.”

So, basically, UW-Milwaukee doesn’t want to be evicted from its old arena to make way for a new Bucks arena. Whether this will hold any sway with lawmakers deciding on where (and whether — please, let someone remember that it’s also whether) to build a new Bucks arena, who knows, but it’s another small fly in a very, very large pool of ointment.

Hartford council votes tonight on $56m for stadium in exchange for promised new buildings, because that always works

Tonight is the Hartford city council vote on the New Britain Rock Cats stadium-and-other-crap project, which means it’s time for frequently asked questions!

How much will this cost Hartford taxpayers? Starting with a hard one, eh? The Rock Cats owners would actually be building the stadium, but then paying for it by leasing it to the city for $4.67 million a year, and then paying the city back $500,000 a year in rent. Plus the developers would be getting a bunch of land for free. Public estimates have generally put this at $60 million in cash value, though without attempting to factor in how much the free land is worth.

Is that definitely it? Yes, now that the council has decided to establish a hard cap on construction costs of $56 million. Except that the council has also ruled that the stadium will have to be built with union labor, which the developer insists will add 10% to the cost. That seems high (stadiums are pretty materials-intensive, not labor-intensive), but regardless, it does raise the question of who will pay for cost overruns if they can’t be made up for by using cheaper bathroom tile, which honest to god is what the developer suggested for saving money.

What does Hartford get in return?More than 1,000 jobs“! Not from the stadium, of course, but from the other crap, including a brewery, office towers, residential buildings, and a space elevator. (Possibly not the space elevator.) If all of that gets built, which will totally definitely happen, because development around a sports venue never just stalls completely without warning. Everyone involved seems to agree that the council needs to put in some kind of contractual requirement that all the bits that the city wants will actually get built — ideally, by cutting off public stadium payments if they’re not — but the council doesn’t seem to be planning on actually doing that, not tonight, anyway.

If the council approves this, is it definitely happening? The city planning and zoning commission, which already voted against this project once for going against the city’s downtown development plans, has to sign off on a special zoning permit for it, and could still say no. What they’ll do is anyone’s guess — anyone’s, I guess, aside from the developers’ lobbyists who are no doubt following the commission members around Hartford even as I type this.

Pacers to get $59m a year extra from TV deal, will still keep $16m a year in city subsidies, thanks much

So now that every team in the NBA is set to get a $58 million a year windfall from the league’s new TV contract, does that mean that teams will stop complaining that they’re losing money and need operating subsidies from their home cities? Yeah, right:

City officials said the TV contract doesn’t change their view of a deal made six months ago to lock the team into Indy for 10 years. The Capital Improvement Board agreed to use $160 million in tax money to cover operating costs and upgrades at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The team keeps revenue from all fieldhouse events — basketball and non-basketball alike.

“We still believe that our current agreement … is in the best interest of the city and CIB,” Ann Lathrop, president of the CIB, wrote in an email response to questions.

The city agreed to pay the Pacers $16 million a year to play in their rent-free arena in order to keep the team from threatening to leave, so I guess it’s true that the TV deal doesn’t make that logic any dumber: The Pacers would still get their cut of the TV boodle in another city, so the move threat is just as viable (or nonviable) now as it was when the new lease was agreed to.

Still, given that the Pacers management insisted that the subsidies were needed because the team was losing money, and that even after kicking in for heftier player salaries that will result from the TV windfall and the money that the Pacers and other former ABA teams have to tithe to the old Spirits of St. Louis owners, the Pacers should clear about $25 million a year in added revenues, this does make Indianapolis’s subsidy agreement look even worse. Which is pretty bad, given that it already looked like the worst deal ever.

Hartford council to vote Tuesday on $60m Rock Cats stadium subsidy

The Hartford city council will vote on Tuesday night on the downtown development project that includes a $60 million subsidy for a New Britain Rock Cats minor-league baseball stadium, and council president Shawn Wooden has indicated that he has the votes for it to pass. (CAUTION: Don’t click on that link if you are sensitive to terrible, terrible web design.) The council is looking to add a few more amendments to the proposal, one of which is a bit worrisome:

The revisions would also include requiring a commitment from Minor League Baseball that it would not allow the Rock Cats to be transferred during the term of the lease, and that it assures the presence of a Double A minor league team at the Hartford stadium for at least 25 years.

So does this mean that the Rock Cats’ 25-year lease doesn’t require the team itself to commit to staying put? Or just that this would guard against MiLB up and pulling the franchise out from under Hartford? A “commitment” seems awfully not legally binding, but maybe the Hartford Courant’s choice of language is just as terrible as its web design.

If this project does get approved on Tuesday, it will still have to go back before the city planning and zoning commission for a special permit, the same planning and zoning commission that voted against the project last month. Either way, though, it’s an indication that local officials can still be swayed by everything-but-the-kitchen-sink projects: The stadium part of the plan, and the subsidies for it, are pretty much identical to the previous proposal that was withdrawn in the face of massive opposition, but tack on a bunch of private development next door, and suddenly everyone is focused on the special toy surprise and not on the stadium. We’ve seen it plenty before — and not just in stadiums — and if this goes ahead, we’re only likely to see more of it.

Downtown Sacramento traffic, already getting F grade, to get super-double-F once Kings arena built

The new downtown arena for the Sacramento Kings is going to cause lots of traffic in downtown Sacramento. I know, duh, but there are, like, official traffic guys saying this, so:

Jim Calkins, the head of freeway operations for the Sacramento area, wrote in one email, “I think the minimum number of vehicles would be 8,000 — not 3,600.”

In another email, a transportation planner for Caltrans wrote, “There was no feasible way to mitigate those impacts.”…

The Kings, as the developers of the new arena, are required to pay impact fees to mitigate the costs of traffic projects.

The initial calculations based on the building size required a $310,000 fee.

The Kings have agreed to pay more: $500,000.

But Caltrans officials said that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what any other transportation project would cost.

There are plans for a new streetcar line and expanded highway ramps, but neither will be in place by the time the new arena opens in 2016, so there are likely to be some decent-sized traffic nightmares, at least at the start. Think this is maybe something that Cobb County should be paying attention to as well?

Markham arena proposal still missing, declared dead

This happened a while back, but I didn’t want to leave you hanging: Remember how Markham’s crazy arena plan was pretty much killed last December, when the city council sent it back to the drawing board for further study? Well, apparently it’s now completely dead, thanks to the developer in charge of it disappearing off the face of the earth:

In the summer, staff confirmed that they were no longer in touch with Graeme Roustan, the arena’s chief promoter, and the project was officially over.

“We never heard from him again,” said Joe Li, who is running for a second term as regional councillor and was one of the first to oppose the financial plan for the arena.

Yeah, that would have gone well if they’d gone ahead with it. Now somebody just tell Howard Bloom that there’s not going to be a place for a second Toronto team to play.