Indiana now looking at spending $112m on MLS stadium on spec

When we last checked in with Indy Eleven‘s stadium demands, the Indiana state senate had just voted to approve giving $112 million worth of tax money to team owner Ersal Ozdemir toward a new $150 million stadium. There was one string attached, though: Ozdemir had to obtain an invite to have his USL team join MLS before the money could change hands.

Now an Indiana state house committee has proposed cutting that single string:

The Indiana House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously Monday to allow the soccer team to negotiate with Indianapolis to build a $150 million soccer stadium without first attracting a Major League Soccer franchise…

Todd Huston, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, said the project may need to get started for MLS to take it seriously. Republicans and Democrats have increasingly emerged as united in the decision to create a way to make a deal happen.

“I think a lot of people see the excitement around the current team and see the momentum that soccer has in our society,” Huston said. “Our committee has felt like it’s an exciting new opportunity. There’s a general belief and excitement that professional soccer has got a lot of momentum and people want Indianapolis to be a part of it.”

Notwithstanding all that societal soccer momentum, this would be an awfully big gamble: MLS commissioner Don Garber hasn’t even mentioned Indianapolis on his short list for expansion, meaning Indiana could easily end up throwing $112 million at the promise of an MLS team and end up with the exact same USL team it has now. Unless the Indiana legislature figures that eventually MLS will just give expansion franchises to every city with a new stadium, which may well be true, but even then plenty of other cities have gotten MLS franchises on the “if you come, we will build it” plan, and the Indiana legislature doesn’t exactly have the best track record as a steward of the public purse, so I’m having a hard time giving them the benefit of the doubt.

The measure now goes to the full state house, and then to a house-senate conference committee, neither of which will have any obligation to pay attention to polls showing only 23% of central Indiana residents want their tax money spent on a soccer stadium at all.

Friday roundup: Sacramento soccer subsidies, Fire could return to Chicago, and a giant mirrored basketball

Did I actually write a couple of days ago that this was looking like a slow news week? The stadium news gods clearly heard me, and when they make it rain news, they make it pour:

Report: Long Beach could tear down its arena to clear room for an Angels stadium

And speaking of articles citing unnamed sources, or rather “people familiar with the discussions but who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to comment publicly,” here’s the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin with more rumors about the rumored Los Angeles Angels stadium project in Long Beach:

In Long Beach, the proposed ballpark site is a 13-acre parking lot adjacent to the [Long Beach Arena]. However, the Long Beach City Council last month authorized negotiations on a larger parcel that envelops the ballpark site and includes the city’s convention center, performing arts center, arena and a greenbelt between Shoreline Drive and the Pacific Ocean.

That would certainly help clear some room for a stadium, which was going to be a problem otherwise:

(The arena is the roundish thing in the center of the image.)

It would also help find room for the ancillary development that Angels owner Arte Moreno wants to build to help defray his stadium construction costs, whether in Anaheim or, presumably, elsewhere. Of course, then Long Beach wouldn’t have anywhere to host Paw Patrol Live or the Society of Vacuum Coaters Tech Con, but I guess they’d live.

Shaikin also notes another problem with the Long Beach site from the Angels’ perspective, though:

While Angel Stadium is surrounded by three freeways and a train station, the Long Beach site is close to only the 710 and 405 freeways and the only major public transit option — the Blue Line light rail from Los Angeles — does not serve the Angels’ primary fan base in Orange County.

I still predict that Moreno is just playing footsie with Long Beach to try to arm-twist Anaheim into going along with his stadium demands, just as he previously tried and failed to do with Tustin. A team spokesperson told the Times that they hope to make a stadium decision by the end of 2019, so we should know more by then, maybe.

New York studying whether to build Islanders an impossible train station that could cost $300m

Hey, remember how the New York Islanders owners said that their new Belmont Park arena would require a full-time commuter rail station, and it turned out that would be somewhere between cost-prohibitive and physically impossible, and then lots of local elected officials said they wouldn’t approve the arena without a 24/7 train station? Surprise, surprise, New York state is now “expanding its environmental review to study the possibility of adding a full-time Long Island Rail Road station,” according to “sources” cited by Newsday. The paper continues:

No decision has been made about the new station’s location on the Main Line, sources said.

It is also unknown how much a new station would cost or how it would be financed.

That is a mighty large detail, considering that one (now former) MTA board member said a couple of months ago that building a full-time train station could cost as much as $300 million.

Of course, studying something isn’t the same as building something, so it’s entirely possible this is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s way of establishing a price tag (and degree of possibility) for such an undertaking, so that he can then say to local pols, “Look, this wouldn’t work, can’t I just give you some extra youth sports funding or something and make your objections go away?” The environmental review is supposed to be done by the end of June, so that doesn’t give the state a lot of time to explore its options; but then, this is a governor who reworked an entire multi-billion-dollar transit project that had been in the works for years on the advice of a few academic-honcho friends, so maybe he knows some good non-Euclidean mathematicians who can help out.

[UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: The Newsday article indicates that the new station under study would go on the main LIRR line, presumably between the Bellerose and Queens Village stops, not on the spur that leads directly to Belmont Park. But that would leave fans at least a half-mile walk from the new station to the new arena, which isn’t much less than the walk would be from the existing Queens Village station — and it would still be extremely expensive and involve difficult geometry (the Cross Island Parkway would get in the way, among other things). My money is still on this being a proof of bad concept, but we’ll see in a couple of months, maybe.]

Beckham’s Inter Miami okayed to tear down Fort Lauderdale stadium, replace it with whatever they can slap together by next spring

The Fort Lauderdale City Commission voted Tuesday night to give permission to David Beckham’s Inter Miami ownership group to tear down Lockhart Stadium and build a new facility that would serve as the team’s temporary home and long-term training ground. Though the “building a new facility” part is apparently just a suggestion:

Mayor Dean Trantalis suggested to the commission that the agreement should come with financial assurances that the Beckham group will not simply demolish the existing stadium and then walk away from the project without building something in its place. Other commissioners argued that given the extremely tight timeline — Beckham’s group wants to begin play there in less than a year — the project must be permitted to start as soon as possible.

The vote was unanimous, 5-0. Beckham’s group will have 180 days to complete the demolition.

Now, it’s pretty unlikely that the Beckham group will demolish the old stadium and build nothing in its place, precisely because of that timeline mentioned above — Inter Miami has to play somewhere next year, and Fort Lauderdale is pretty much their only option at the moment. Just what they’ll build is less clear: If it takes (up to) 180 days to demolish the existing stadium, that leaves less than six months to build a new one, which gives “aggressive timetable” a new meaning. Here, as a reminder, is what Beckham’s group says they’ll be building:

And here is what I think they’ll more likely have time for by next spring:

We’ll all find out together soon enough. Or, this being the franchise that seems destined to exist only in Beckham’s hopes and dreams, not.

The vaportecture watch never stops: Sacramento Republic and FC Cincinnati deliver latest stadium rendering knee-slappers

My vaportecture article at Deadspin appears to have unlocked some sort of floodgates, because now it seems like not a day goes by that some insane new stadium renderings aren’t unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace. Yesterday, for example, the owners of Sacramento Republic FC (currently a USL team, but in the running for an MLS expansion slot) released these:

There are some design oddities — why, for example, do all the fans in upper deck appear to be seated in love seats? — as well as some of our favorite vaportectural shtick: stadiums that mysteriously glow while all around them remains dark, athletes engaged in oddly unathletic endeavors (in this case a player taking a penalty kick by apparently engaging in a high jump), fans holding up scarves to obscure their fellow fans’ view during a key moment in the action. But a few eagle-eyed Twitter users went beyond that to look at the individual clipart people (“entourage,” we now know they’re called) and found, um:

I think it’s fair to say that, even if you by necessity have to populate your creation with stock images, it’s important to spread them around a little for at least minimal verisimilitude.

Then there’s this:

That was yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon, we got yet another round of F.C. Cincinnati renderings, which have previously provided some of the more hilarious moments in this field of study. The latest twist is apparently that the stadium will no longer have an unearthly glow — no, seriously:

Other new renderings show off such innovations as translucent scarves:

The stadium surrounded by a postapocalyptic wasteland of cut-and-paste identical buildings, where fans emerge from a portal from another dimension to arrive at the front gates (and also the stadium still glows somewhat, though not as much as the trees):

And still more, but I’m having trouble navigating the Cincinnati Enquirer’s terrible gallery layout, so please visit there yourself post your favorite items in comments, or on Twitter, or really anywhere.

 

How the Atlantic League suckered New Jersey out of $70m for three now-shuttered stadiums (and still hopes to sucker more)

Apologies if this is a light posting week here at Field of Schemes — I have some other work responsibilities that are keeping me busy, though the news has been cooperating by being fairly light as well, or at least light on major items that can’t wait for a Friday roundup. If you’re really jonesing for some hot stadium-scam action, I would suggest you make your way over to Reason, where Eric Boehm has delivered a tale of the Atlantic League’s doomed stadiums in Atlantic City, Newark, and Camden that is a gold mine of schadenfreude. Let’s begin with then–New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman, who provided tens of millions of dollars in tax money to build the three stadiums between 1998 and 2001, at the opening of the Camden Riversharks stadium in 2001:

“These partners have heard the message from the movie Field of Dreams: ‘If you build it, they will come,'” Whitman said. “Soon we will see a field of dreams right here in Camden, and my prediction is they will come.”

Yes, she actually said it! And the fans did come, at first, because everybody wants to check out the new team and the new riverfront stadium and get some new gear with a cool logo of a shark with a bat in its teeth. Then the novelty wore off, and they stopped coming so much: According to Deadspin, attendance the Riversharks’ final season in 2015 was less than half of capacity, and even that was goosed with lots of free tickets handed out. Then the team folded and moved to New Britain, Connecticut.

Things didn’t go much better for the Newark Bears or the Atlantic City Surf, neither of which managed to reach voting age, either. (I have previously written about my attendance at the Bears’ last gasp, a tragicomic liquidation sale that largely featured old mascot heads.) But really, that’s to be expected in minor-league baseball, especially independent minor-league baseball, where you can’t even depend on fans of the major-league affiliate turning out to check out players who might some day play for the big club — or the major-league affiliate covering player salaries to help a club through lean attendance years.

The more damning parts of the article are the testimony that even when they did come, it didn’t amount to anything like what it would take to be worth the state’s public stadium expense. Here’s College of the Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson on Atlantic League attendance:

“That’s about 250,000 fans per season—or about the number of people who will visit an eight-screen movie theater over the course of a year,” he tells Reason. “But no one in their right mind would say ‘you know what the solution to all of Camden’s problems is: a new movie theater.'”

Then Matheson goes on to say that a movie theater might be better than a baseball stadium, because at least movie theater jobs are year-round.

The lesson here is, well, that elected officials are either suckers or complicit in siphoning public money to private sports team owners, which we all knew, but it’s impressive to see the level of suckerdom/complicity on display here. Especially when Boehm calls up Atlantic League president Rick White to see if he’s contrite about having sold so many cities a bill of goods, and instead finds that he’s still very much touting it:

“The model we are most comfortable working with now is to suggest to a community that if they were to invest in the infrastructure and potentially in the ballpark, we can suggest to them developers that can help improve the area around it,” White said in a phone interview.

I better run and go get my other work done, because it’s clear my work here will never be finished.

That lady from the Worcester baseball stadium rendering has found her way to the Halifax CFL stadium rendering

The Halifax CFL stadium renderings are out, and are they ever the bestest!

It’s little hard to see the images when they’re that tiny, so let’s blow up, oh, the top right one and:

This is amazing for several reasons, several of which have been spotted by the Halifax Examiner’s Tim Bousquet, who just last week wrote an item wonderfully titled “We are eagerly awaiting the ridiculous architectural renderings that are certain to accompany the stadium sales pitch,” and who yesterday tweeted:

I also love that the end zone just turns into a pedestrian plaza, the better for Halifax’s lone bike rider (his name is Steve) to ride right out onto the field during a game, and that all the fans in the stands are choosing to watch from the concessions concourse instead of taking seats, and that the stadium lights appear to be on in the middle of the day. But mostly I really love that Cab-Hailing Lady (or her friends know her, Linda) is living out her dream of visiting every imaginary sports stadium in North America. And hailing a cab there.

Meanwhile, Bousquet’s final comment reminds me of a very old strip from Tug McGraw’s (and some unnamed cartoonist’s and ghost writer’s, I’m sure) very old comic Scroogie, which I still have around for some reason:

You know what they say: Comic strips plus time equals architecture. Or something like that.

Friday roundup: Rays stalling on St. Pete stadium talks, Marlins tear out seats to please millennials, Raiders stadium maybe delayed or maybe not

Happy baseball season! Or not-so-happy baseball season, as Deadspin reminded us in two excellent articles this week, one on all the ways from bag-check fees to card-only transactions that teams are using to separate fans from even more of their money, the other on how fans were stuck on endless lines to get into stadium on opening day because of things like paperless ticketing apps that kept crashing. And on those cheery notes, the rest of the rest of the week’s news:

Browns owners say they don’t need new stadium so long as city spends maybe $95m to deck over nearby highway

How long, exactly, have we been doing this stadium-watch stuff? Long enough that the very first conversation my Joanna Cagan and I had about possibly writing something together was when her hometown of Cleveland was talking about building a new stadium for the Browns at the same time that their school system had been placed into receivership. That stadium eventually opened in September1999 (one year after the first edition of Field of Schemes came out), and that was almost 20 years ago, people, so of course the Browns owners (who of course aren’t the same Browns owners as they were then) want something new, and that something new is … a bridge?

The team, as the Haslams reiterated Tuesday, is hoping a pedestrian bridge can be built over State Route 2 that would better connect FES to the city…

A pedestrian bridge was originally supposed to be completed prior to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

But a 2014 proposal was scrapped. Another plan, as Crain’s reported in February, is being discussed, but the potential price — which would go well beyond the $25 million raised for the 2014 proposal — is a sticking point.

The proposal, if you click through, is actually for a “land bridge” that would build a 5.3-acre park spanning railroad tracks and the highway, which you can see why it would cost more than $25 million. And while it wouldn’t be entirely for the Haslams’ benefit — there are also plans for housing development near the stadium, and also of course Cleveland residents would get a small park out of the deal — it sounds like the Browns owners are going to make themselves front and center in pushing for such a plan.

How much more than $25 million could a deck park cost? Here is a helpful paper titled “Cost-Effectiveness of Capping Freeways for Use as Parks” that notes that Freeway Park in Seattle, which is similarly a 5.2-acre deck park above a ground-level highway, “came at a relatively low cost of $18 million per acre.” That would price a Cleveland bridge-park at $95.4 million, which is a chunk of change, though obviously a lot less than building a new stadium. Though co-owner Dee Haslam also said that they would “make improvements to the stadium,” and didn’t say who’d pay for that, so we could still be looking at a nine-figure ask, but at least it’s a lot less than a billion dollars for a new stadium, and oh here comes our old friend anchoring again!