Saskatoon to maybe build $175m arena to save local businesses “millions,” this is surely great fiscal management

Saskatoon city officials have been talking about building a new downtown arena for years now, and for years now I’ve been relegating it to the small bullet points in Friday roundups, because it’s such an amorphous plan (the dollar figures have wavered between $175 million and $375 million) and because Saskatoon’s arena doesn’t even have a major pro sports team playing there, just the Blades (junior hockey) and Rush (lacrosse) and Rattlers (minor-league basketball). But that all ends today, and not just because Global News chose the report on this with the irresistible headline “Saskatoon city councillors want fewer homicides, new arena in 2020.”

No, the real kicker is this:

[Saskatoon councillor Randy] Donauer compared the SaskTel Centre to a used car, saying a responsible steward needs to plan for its replacement. He also said that concert promoters had told council that the SaskTel Centre is missing amenities which would keep attracting A-list talent to the city.

He said local businesses would lose out on “millions” of dollars if entertainers went to another venue in another city.

First off: Used cars have lots of moving parts that tend to break, while stadiums are mostly steel that can last effectively forever if protected from corrosion, so this is a terrible, terrible analogy. But more importantly, here we have an elected official saying, presumably with a straight face (Global News didn’t include video of Donauer’s comments), that his city needs to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new arena because otherwise local businesses would lose millions of dollars if Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand kept on skipping stopping in Saskatoon.

I am not an expert on Canadian finance, but I’m pretty sure hundreds of millions of Canadian dollars are still hundreds of times more than millions of Canadian dollars, so, you know, even if you see the main job of city governments is to prop up local businesses’ profits, maybe there would be cheaper ways to help Saskatoon businesses than building a whole new arena? Maybe?

Right now it looks like the Saskatoon council is only going to work on identifying a site for an arena in 2020, with any actual money to be allocated down the road, possibly because the city is already almost at its debt limit. So there’s still a long ways to go before anything gets decided, which will hopefully give Donauer a bit more time to learn about how money works.

Worcester adds $20m more in tax money to baseball stadium because it forgot how gravity works

The Worcester Red Sox stadium project has always been on the pricey side as minor-league baseball stadiums go, both in terms of projected construction cost ($90 million) and projected public subsidy (around $100 million — yep, the builders were set to get more in tax kickbacks and infrastructure funds than they actually spent on construction — so news that it’s facing significant cost overruns is not really what anyone needed to hear:

Construction costs for Polar Park have increased by $9.5 million over initial estimates, while costs to acquire the properties needed for the ballpark, relocate businesses and prepare the site for development have run roughly $20 million more than what was anticipated.

That has prompted city officials to negotiate changes to the agreements with the ballclub that will be playing at Polar Park starting in 2021 and for the private development that will be built as part of the overall $240 million redevelopment of the Kelley Square/Canal District area.

These “negotiated changes” are that the team will cover the $9.5 million in increased construction costs, while the city will cover the $20 million in added land acquisition and site prep costs. Part of the team’s costs (according to the city manager’s report that starts on page 59 here) will be covered by a doubling of the 50-cent ticket fee that was planned for WooSox games; the city’s costs will be funded by increasing the size of the tax increment financing district where future rises in property tax revenues will be siphoned off and used to pay for land acquisition costs.

Worcester city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. told the Worcester Telegram that the stadium “will continue to pay for itself” and that no “existing” taxpayer money will be diverted to pay for it, which is a clever bit of wordplay to get around the fact that $20 million in future tax money that would have gone to the city will now instead go to site prep costs — and if tax revenues don’t rise as much as expected, Worcester will absolutely have to dip into existing funds to cover the shortfall.

The best part of all this, though, is Augustus’s explanation for why the city’s site costs have risen so much:

“Due to a number of unknown factors, particularly related to business relocation costs, and the need for a more complicated retaining wall system resulting from the steep grade of the site, those costs total $20.69 million,” Augustus said.

I’m sorry, did you say “the steep grade of the site”? You mean despite years of planning, nobody noticed until now that the site is on a hill, and that when you cut into a hill you need to build retaining walls to keep the hill from falling on your new stadium? Clearly this was an unknown and unforeseeable factor, and not an example of lowballing projected costs so that local elected officials (and one economist, though not most) could think it was a better deal!

Friday roundup: New stadium demands in Calgary, 90% shortfall in promised Raiders jobs, corporate subsidies found (yet again) to do squat-all to create jobs

Happy Friday! Is Australia still on fire? (Checks.) Cool, I’m sure we’ll be ready to pay attention to that again as soon as there are some more images of adorable thirsty koalas.

In the meantime, news on some slightly less apocalyptic slow-moving catastrophes:

  • CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie says the Calgary Stampeders deserve “a state-of-the-art, beautiful stadium” but he’ll “take my queues [sic, seriously, Montreal Gazette, you’re supposed to be an English-language paper]” from team execs for when “they think it’s time for me to be a guy who makes a little noise and tries to stimulate a positive discussion.” Yep, that’s a sports league commissioner’s job! Why a new stadium is Calgary’s job and not the Stampeders owners’ job is less clear, but given that the team owners did such a good job at extracting public money for an arena for the Flames (which they also own), you know they’re going to be jonesing for a sequel. (In fact, a Stampeders stadium was originally part of the Flames plan before Mayor Naheed Nenshi rejected it as too expensive and only would approve the Flames part, so maybe this is just a case of a team owner deciding it’s easier to get sports projects approved in serial rather than in parallel.)
  • It’s now been 100 days since Nashville Mayor John Cooper called a halt to Nashville S.C.‘s stadium construction, and Cooper is still not answering questions about when it may resume. Previous indications were that he’s refusing to issue demolition permits in order to renegotiate who’ll pay for cost overruns, but it would be kind of cool if he’s just realized that he can take advantage of MLS having approved a Nashville expansion franchise before everything was signed off on regarding public stadium subsidies by just declining to build the stadium and keeping the team. (Nashville S.C. will have to play in a 21-year-old NFL stadium until then, boo hoo.)
  • Las Vegas Raiders stadium proponents promised it would create 18,700 construction jobs, and now it’s only creating 1,655 jobs, and the stadium boosters say this doesn’t count off-site workers like “support staff at construction companies, architects and engineers, and equipment and service suppliers,” but really it’s more about how most of those 18,700 jobs were never full-time anyway. At least state senator Aaron Ford can sleep at night knowing he didn’t deny a single construction worker a job; guess he isn’t kept up by thinking of any of the people who were denied jobs by virtue of the state of Nevada having $750 million less to spend on other things.
  • 161st Street Business Improvement Director Cary Goodman has a plan for a new NYC F.C. stadium in the Bronx to benefit the local community by having it be owned by the local community, so that “when naming rights are sold, when broadcast fees are collected, when merchandising agreements are made, or when sponsorships and suites are sold, revenue would pour into the [community-owned] corporation and be distributed as dividends accordingly.” This sounds great, except that broadcast fees don’t go to a stadium, they go to the team that plays in a stadium, and also things like sponsorships and suites and naming rights are exactly the kind of revenues that the NYC F.C. owners would be building a stadium in order to collect, so it’s pretty unlikely they’d agree to hand it over to Bronx residents. We really gotta get over the misconception that stadiums make money, people; playing in stadiums that somebody else built for you is where the real profit is, and don’t anyone forget it.
  • Reporters in Kansas City are still asking Royals owner John Sherman if he’d like a downtown baseball stadium, and Sherman is still saying sure, man. (See what I did there? Huh? Huh?) This article also features a quote about how great a downtown ballpark would be from an executive vice president of Vantrust Real Estate, which owns lots of downtown properties; it must be nice to be rich and get to have your Christmas present wish lists printed on local journalism sites as if they’re news.
  • A new study of business tax incentives found that state and local governments spend $30 billion a year on them, with no measurable effect on job growth. Also, most of the benefits flow to a relatively small number of large firms (good luck getting a tax break for your pizzeria), and some states spend more on corporate tax breaks than they collect in corporate taxes, with five (Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming) spending an average of $44 per resident on tax breaks even though they have collect no state corporate income tax at all. (The biggest spenders on a per-capita basis: Michigan, West Virginia, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire.) Surely local elected officials will now take a hard look at the cost of these subsidies and ha ha, no, even when tax breaks are proven failures it takes decades before anyone might notice and do anything about them, so don’t hold your breath that anyone is going to see the light just because of one more study, at least not unless it’s accompanied by angry mobs with pitchforks.

Wichita may spend way more than $75m on stadium development, but local news has no interest in telling you

The Wichita city council passed its 2%-sales-tax-surcharge district yesterday, in an “emergency declaration” to allow the tax to kick in starting in April, when the new Wind Surge Triple-A baseball stadium it will help fund is set to open. Show of hands, Wichita news outlets, which among you explained why it was an emergency, what the projected $13 million in tax revenue over 22 years will fund, or what would have happened if the tax district hadn’t passed?

  • KWCH-TV: “Mayor Jeff Longwell said it was necessary to pass the 2% sales tax this year. ‘So we can start collecting that tax to potentially use what its intended for which was described today to pay off various different bonds the ballpark, the amenities that are going to be down there,’ he said. Longwell’s last day in office as mayor is next Monday.” No help there, though the non-bylined story certainly implies that the “emergency” was that the mayor wanted to get this done before ending his lame-duck term.
  • KFDI-FM: “The revenue generated from the district will be used to help with the design and construction of the stadium, utilities, parking and improvements along the river corridor, as well as surrounding development on the west bank.” Except the stadium has already been designed and will be almost done with construction by April, so what’s the rush, KFDI reporter George Lawson?
  • Wichita Eagle: “Money from the sales tax hike and the increase in property taxes generated by the new development will be split between the city government and the private-sector developers. The city will get the first $10 million to help offset the cost of the new $75 million ball park. The developers will get the next $30 million to help pay for their project costs. Anything above that $40 million will be split 50-50 between the city and the developers.” So some of the money (from both sales taxes and property taxes) will go to pay for stadium costs, and the rest to subsidize surrounding development — that’s actually potentially a lot more than just the $75 million in stadium subsidies that’s previously been discussed, but it’s hard to tell without projections of how much tax revenue is at stake here, which Eagle reporters Dion Lefler and Chance Swaim don’t provide.

You know, I do my best here to report on and analyze these deals from my apartment in Brooklyn, but ultimately I’m reliant on journalists in local communities to do the initial reporting, since I don’t have the time and resources to do the legwork on basic facts of a stadium plan. In this case, I actually called and emailed the Wichita city council’s press liaison, plus emailed a city councilmember who is a friend of a FoS reader — neither has gotten any response so far, so I’m in the dark as you are on this. (We do know that the stadium is getting $40 million in STAR bonds — essentially sales tax increment financing, where any increase in state sales-tax revenue in the area gets kicked back to the stadium rather than going to public coffers — but the sales-tax surcharge is on top of that.)

Many journalists tend to shy away from running stories that say “Here’s what elected officials claim, but we don’t know if it’s true,” either because they fear it would make them look unduly skeptical or because they don’t take the time to ask the right questions or because they are afraid of challenging assertions that no one else is — but, you know, those are all things that are literally their job. When they don’t do it, we’re left with “Wichita is taking a bunch of tax money, we’re not sure how much, and giving it to somebody for something,” which is not a great way to hold elected officials accountable. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many ways to hold journalists accountable, other than publicly shaming them, so: Hey, Wichita newspeople, you can’t journalism your way out of a paper bag! That’ll show ’em.

Pawtucket soccer developers announce plans to seek Trump tax breaks for stadiums in Baltimore, Cleveland, and more

The story of the $45 million Pawtucket minor-league soccer stadium seeking upwards of $70 million in tax breaks and the story that the United Soccer League is seeking to leverage Trump’s Opportunity Zone tax-break districts for more stadiums just had a baby, and it is this:

Fortuitous Partners Brett Johnson and Berke Bakay announced that they are looking to do developments in Baltimore, Cleveland, and other cities around the country…

Johnson during the interview said that Fortuitous Partners is also looking at Baltimore, MD; Cleveland, OH; and other cities for their opportunity zone driven sports complex model.

Opportunity zones, as I’ve written before, sound simple but get fiendishly complex in their details. On the surface, they’re just like other tax-subsidized districts like “enterprise zones” and “empowerment zones,” where developers get a tax break for building in “disadvantaged” areas, which is theoretically supposed to help the disadvantaged residents. (A report by Good Jobs First notes that the results of those earlier subsidy zones have been “not encouraging,” with little in the way of new economic activity and even less in the way of new jobs for locals.)

But the tax break that an opportunity zone earns a developer is a weird one: You get exempted from paying capital gains tax, but only on businesses that are owned by a “qualified opportunity fund,” meaning developers (or soccer teams) would likely need to set up a new shell corporation to own whatever it was they wanted to dodge taxes on. How that works, and what the IRS will let investors get away with, is still being figured out — the Trump administration implemented opportunity zones without really figuring out first how they would work, which is kind of turning into its brand — but clearly these Fortuitous folks think they know how to do it, or at least are trying to get dibs on lots of opportunity zone land for soccer stadiums and then will figure out the details later. Baltimore and Cleveland journalists, you might want to get on this, if there are any of you left.

Wichita council to vote on giving $8m in sales tax surcharges to Wind Surge because reasons

The Wichita city council is set to vote today on creating a “Community Improvement District” with a 2% sales tax surcharge that would go towards paying for a new stadium for the Triple-A Wind Surge, home of the hideous mutant fly-horse chimera, and … frankly, I’m confused. The sales tax surcharge district has been described as part of the funding plan for the $77 million project (along with kicking back new sales and property taxes around the stadium) at least since last March, and the stadium is set to open in April, so what exactly happens if the council votes down the plan? Does the city need to come up with another funding stream? Do the Wind Surge owners threaten to dismantle the stadium and sell it for parts? Or is this just another case of a city seeking to subsidy a project that would happen with or without the subsidy?

I’ve reached out to the Wichita city council to ask what the deal is, but haven’t heard back. In the meantime, this is what we do know: The sales tax surcharge is expected to raise $13 million over 22 years, according to city officials, which would be a present value of around $8 million, less if most of the new sales tax revenue would come further down the road, which is likely. And the money would not only help pay for the stadium but somehow also “help pay for new growth nearby,” according to, uh, Eli the TV Guy, though he didn’t specify how. The Wichita Business Journal reports that the sales tax surcharge money would be “used for the design and construction of the stadium utilities, parking and other improvements related to the stadium, river corridor improvements and surrounding development on the west bank,” but that still doesn’t explain how the stadium itself will then be paid for, or what happens if the tax district isn’t approved.

More news if and when I get more information, I guess. But this is yet another example of the terrible state of journalism today: Wichita has a daily newspaper, a business newspaper, and multiple TV stations reporting on this story, and yet still Wichitans are getting next to no information about where their tax money is going or why. Stenography journalism has always been a blight upon the news world, but budget cutbacks are its oxygen — when you only have a handful of reporters and editors forced to cover everything under the sun, it’s way too tempting to say, “Enh, just write down what the city press release says, find one person on the street who likes it and one who doesn’t, and move on to the next story.”

Even the World Bank gets this, but for some reason they haven’t been interested in funding quality journalism in Wichita, so instead it’s left to you and me to shame the local news outlets into doing a better job. Is it working yet?

Friday roundup: Stadium trends, phantom soccer arenas, and the inevitable narwhal uprising

Welcome to the first weekly news roundup of the fourth decade during which this site has been in operation — unless you’re one of those people — which is kind of scary and depressing! I know I didn’t expect in 1998 that there would still be a need for Field of Schemes in 2020, but no one likes to give up a good grift when they see one, and for the last few decades nobody’s been able to make rich people in the U.S. give up much of anything, so here we are.

Seeing as I don’t want to even think about whether we’ll still be having this conversation in 2030, let’s get right to the news:

  • In the midst of a long New York Times article about how cool the new Golden State Warriors arena is, because the future, Temple University economist Michael Leeds asserts that it’s an example of “a trend since the Great Recession that, with some notable exceptions, cities have been much less willing to open up a pocketbook and fund a stadium or arena.” While “some notable exceptions” is a large caveat, I’m still not convinced that cities were all that much less willing in the Teens than the Aughts to cough up sports venue money — in California, sure, but then what of Nevada and Arlington and Georgia and Milwaukee and Indianapolis? I’ve emailed Leeds to ask for his data, but really what the world needs is a fresh dose of updated Judith Grant Long spreadsheets.
  • Major League Baseball says its plan to stop providing players to 42 minor-league franchises is not actually a plan to “eliminate any club,” and it’s minor-league owners’ fault if they insist on going bankrupt instead of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps and joining unaffiliated leagues. Also, this latest missive was apparently prompted by objections by Sen. Richard Blumenthal to the elimination of the Connecticut Tigers, who are in the process of being rebranded as the Norwich Sea Unicorns, and now all I can think about is: What’s a sea unicorn? Is it just a narwhal? Is Norwich now on the Arctic Ocean? What ship is the sea unicorn the captain of that earned it its captain’s hat, and how is it going to fire that harpoon-bat with its flippers? And at what? Is it a whale that has turned against its own kind? Or is it turning against humanity in revenge for our destruction of its habitat? Maybe MLB is just trying to protect us from the animal uprising, which if so they really should have mentioned it earlier in their statement.
  • The owners of the San Diego Sockers, which are an indoor soccer team, implying that there must still be indoor soccer leagues of some sort, are looking at building a 5,000- to 8,000-seat arena in Oceanside, which would cost dunno and be funded by ¯_(ツ)_/¯, but which team execs swear would be more affordable than paying rent at their current arena in San Diego and arranging schedules for their 12 home games a year. I can’t see anything that could possibly go wrong with this business plan!
  • Remember that $60 million soccer stadium for the NWSL Seattle Reign and USL Tacoma Defiance that was proposed for Tacoma last July, with negotiations expected to be completed by the end of the summer? The Tacoma News Tribune does, and notes that such details as how it would be paid for “all still remains to be seen,” though city sales tax money and hotel tax money could be on the table. This is clearly going to require more renderings.
  • English League Two soccer club (that’s the fourth division in English soccer, for English soccer reasons you either already understand or don’t want to know about) Forest Green Rovers are planning to build an all-wood stadium that will supposedly be “the greenest football stadium in the world,” but even if the timber is “sustainably-sourced,” wouldn’t it have less carbon impact to leave both the trees and the oil to fuel the construction equipment in the ground and keep on playing at this place that is just 14 years old? The narwhals are not going to be happy about this at all.
  • Should Syracuse build an esports arena? A gaming industry exec is given op-ed space to say: maybe!
  • How can anybody say that sports stadiums don’t create an economic spinoff effect when local residents can charge $10 a car to let people park on their lawns? That’s it, I take back everything I’ve said the last 22 years.

David Stern, who made sure Kings extorted Sacramento for cash instead of Anaheim or Seattle, has died

Former NBA commissioner David Stern died yesterday at age 77, three weeks after suffering a brain hemorrhage, and much of the coverage was along the lines of this:

Stern, wrote NBC Sports BayArea’s James Ham, rejected attempts by the Maloof family to move the team to either Anaheim or Seattle and “forced [them] to acquiesce and chose to re-enter negotiations with Sacramento on a potential new arena.” Ham quoted a Stern statement from 2016 that he’d told skeptics in the NBA office, “You know, guys, I used to do this when you were kicking the slats out of your crib. We’re going to keep this team in Sacramento. Between the mayor and the new owners, we’re getting that arena built. And stop, because now you’re pissing me off.”

That isn’t quite how it went down, though, or at least not the whole story. In the case of the Anaheim relocation in 2011, Stern gave the Maloofs plenty of rope to propose a relocation, but the owners got cold feet after they didn’t like the lease and TV rights deals being proposed. The Maloofs then proposed a new arena deal in Sacramento, which failed in a public vote after the owners themselves switched to opposing it. In 2013, attention switched to Chris Hansen’s bid to buy the team and move it to Seattle, but Stern carefully tempered his comments, noting that the NBA constitution requires taking into consideration “support for the team in the prior city” and any possible arena upgrades there before approving a move; the commissioner also repeatedly urged Sacramento buyers to up their bids for the team, and Sacramento city officials to guarantee public subsidies for a new arena, under pain of a potential move. Yes, eventually the NBA owners voted down the Seattle move, reportedly after Stern advocated for the team staying in Sacramento — but Stern was advocating for the team to stay after using the move threat to extract a higher purchase price and more arena subsidies, which is a different thing altogether. And even after the Kings’ future was supposedly secured in Sacramento, Stern wasn’t above rattling sabers about the team moving to Seattle after all if an arena wasn’t built posthaste.

And too, let’s not forget that Stern was in part behind Seattle losing its NBA team a few years earlier, blaming local officials over and over again for not “supporting” the Supersonics by building them a new arena, and threatening that “if the team moves, there’s not going to be another team there, not in any conceivable future plan that I could envision, and that would be too bad.” (Which could be another reason Stern was opposed to letting the Kings move there: It would have made it look like he wasn’t serious about his threats.)

The point here isn’t to badmouth Stern after his passing — after all, his job was to be NBA commissioner, and trying to leverage both new owners and cities for the most cash possible is exactly what the NBA owners were paying him to do. And he certainly seemed to have a more coherent strategy for it than some other sports leagues I could name. But it’s important not to let rose-colored mythologizing get in the way of actual history: David Stern was a guy who, faced with a bunch of owners looking for a quick cash grab from a move, replied, Calm down and let’s see if we can keep the team in town and get the money and also keep another potential expansion target in reserve, because that’s how you make the real money. Now stop, because you’re pissing me off. R.I.P.

The year in vaportecture: What team owners stuck human Colorforms on in 2019

Back in March, when there was still a Deadspin, I wrote an article for them about vaportecture, my term for the dreamlike renderings that sports team owners (and other developers) use to sell their visions of publicly supported buildings to the public they need to support them. It was one of my most enjoyable pieces to write, not just because I got to take a microscope to hastily designed renderings to see just how crazy their details are — why is that man at the Tampa Bay Rays game pointing at the sky? why are so many people and trees translucent? why is the sun setting in the north? — but because it got at the point of all this madness:

There are a couple of ways of understanding these fantastical images. The simplest is that they’re ways to try to bypass all the qualms and intellectual objections we may have about whether a new building is necessary—visual information is much easier to process than textual, and therefore tends to sink into our cerebral cortexes without stopping to see if it makes any goddamn sense.

But the best explanation for all this—certainly the moat surfers, but really the entire Vaportecture package—is as misdirection. If you’re talking about moats or lens flare, you’re not debating who’s going to pay for the damn thing or why your team even needs a new stadium at all when the last one was only 22 years old.

Sadly, this conclusion did not cause the stadium-rendering industry to instantly dissolve in a fit of embarrassment at having its curtain ripped off. But as a consolation prize, it means we have another year’s worth of vaportecture to point and laugh at, while playing Where’s Waldo for Mitch Moreland’s engagement photos.

This rendering from the Halifax Schooners wannabe CFL team is possibly my favorite vaportecture image ever, featuring a near-empty stadium where soccer and football are being played at the same time, on a field where the few fans present could wander right into the game if they wanted. They show no interest in doing so, however, with one attempting to hail a cab that exists only in her mind, while another ignores the multisport mashup going on mere yards away to instead take a photo of the sky.

The Schooners owners later issued revised renderings, which were somewhat more realistic but remained a little unclear on what actual football being played looks like, or why it might not be a good idea to force fans in the end zone to walk onto the actual field to get to and from their seats.

I learned from the commenters on my Deadspin article, some of whom were actually employed in the renderings industry, that the people clip-arted into these images are known as “entourage,” and are indeed pasted in from image libraries to fill out scenes. If your scene is too crowded, though, you may run out of entourage and have to reuse them, which is why every picture of the Indiana Pacersrenovated arena plans seems to include the same couple with a baby in the exact same position.

Similarly, don’t spend too much time wondering why a stadium full of Oklahomans has shown up to watch players who appear to exist only on a video board, or you’ll miss the woman and her four clones who have seated themselves in the second at bottom right while wearing identical floppy hats. The future is truly wondrous.

Sometimes, as in the above image from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office of a new train station to support a new Islanders arena, the renderers aren’t too careful about where they drop their human Colorforms, resulting in a woman carefully leading her young child along the very edge of the tracks. Or, more disturbingly, contemplating jumping onto the tracks after learning that hundreds of millions of her tax dollars went to building this station a few hundred feet from the next station just so the Islanders could build a new arena.

“This image is boring, our clients will hate it.” “What if I add some men admiring each other’s fashionable suits?” “I dunno…” “And a cute kid wearing a souvenir jersey of some kind?” “Okay, but put him in the extreme foreground so as to obscure as much of the rest of the shot as possible.” “You got it.”

The most notable feature of the Oakland A’s new Howard Terminal stadium is how even after it displaces waterfront shipping, it will still be surrounded by shipping cranes for some reason.

Philadelphia’s new $50 million esports arena hasn’t broken ground yet at last report, but given how excited Philly esports fans are to look at empty chairs, maybe the owners can just set up some card tables in a parking lot in the interim and hand out flags.

YEAHHHHH FIREWORKS!!!

And finally, if that bizarro Halifax image up top has any competition for vaportecture of the year, it’s from the Worcester Red Sox, who followed up last year’s bonkers stadium renderings with ones featuring blank-faced fans wandering through mostly empty spaces — the bottom one is supposedly a “street fair” offering “year-round and nightly activities” — and no sense of perspective at all, making people in the background appear monstrously tall. Maybe the team ran out of marketing budget and was forced to design its stadium in Minecraft? Until some rendering whistleblowers show up in comments to explain things, it will likely remain a mystery — a joyous, schadenfreude-y mystery, to savor while remembering that all this is meant to distract you from all the money at stake, and how much of it is yours.

Friday roundup: Missouri gov may okay $30m for St. Louis MLS after all, NYCFC stadium not entirely dead yet, and other end-of-decade hopes and fears

It’s the last weekly news roundup of another year, and another decade, and while I’m not going to do a full 2010s In Review article like some sites, I think it’s fair to say that the big story of the last decade is that we’re pretty much still where we were ten years ago: There’s billions of public dollars being spent each year on new private sports stadiums and arenas, and lots of citizen opposition, but that opposition usually isn’t enough to overcome team owners’ lobbying power or the various ploys that they use to justify demanding tax dollars for their projects — it’s an economic benefit, the team will have to move without it, it’s really about the development that goes along with it, you know the drill. There are certainly some positive signs where teams have paid their own way (or more of their own way) in the face of elected officials holding firm on subsidies, but it’s such extremely incremental progress that it’s almost hard to measure — I was about to say it’s a “glacial” pace, but with glaciers moving really fast these days, maybe it’s time to retire that word.

In any case, thanks to all FoS readers for your generous support this year, monetary and otherwise, and let’s get to the week’s remaining news:

  • Missouri Gov. Mike Parson backpedaled somewhat on opposition to giving $30 million in state tax credits to a new St. Louis MLS stadium, saying he supports the project but “We were asked to make a decision in, like, 10 days on $30 million, and that’s just not the way I do business” and “we need to make sure it’s a good deal for the state of Missouri.” It’s hard to tell from Parson’s statements whether this is genuine reconsideration or just trying to show he’s willing to talk (so long as he isn’t taken to the cleaners), but given that from the sound of things the team is moving ahead with the project with or without the tax credits, one hopes he’ll take a real long look at exactly what the state would be getting for its $30 million.
  • Soccer site The Outfield has dug up some year-old renderings of a proposed NYC F.C. stadium in the Bronx, which make clear how it would require closing a major street that serves as access from an off-ramp off the nearby Major Deegan Expressway. More interestingly, the site also dug up emails indicating that city development officials have been continuing to meet with consultants and the like around the plan, so maybe it’s not entirely dead after all, despite no apparent action since it was first revealed in July 2018.
  • The Los Angeles Chargers‘ problem of having many fans rooting for the opposing team has gotten so bad that their quarterback is complaining that they can’t hear signals from their coaches, adding, “being someone who remembers what it used to be like at home games it’s pretty bad.”
  • Some North Carolina developers bought some land, so Raleigh is totally getting its own MLS team. Ha ha, just kidding, it’s really that everybody is getting their own MLS team! Anyway, local residents are both afraid that they will be priced out of the neighborhood and also looking forward to giving local kids “something to look up to other than gangs and the drugs [and] alcoholism,” according to the local radio station that interviewed all of two people.
  • The head of the Oakland NAACP is also afraid of African-American residents being priced out of the neighborhood if the A’s build a new stadium at Howard Terminal, though his op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News isn’t too specific about what’s at risk other than “thousands of good, high-paying jobs” currently on the site.
  • The Saskatchewan Roughriders are not getting a roof on their stadium even though it was built to accommodate one because roofs are too damn expensive.
  • Here’s another study of the economic impact of a sports event that assumes everyone who traveled to and attended the event was only in town because of the event. I think I need to develop a form letter to the editor about these.