Indiana senate committee rejects new Indy Eleven stadium, okays $20m in renovation cash

The Indiana state senate means business with this Indy Eleven stadium renovation thing: The senate tax and fiscal policy committee headed by Brandt Hershman voted 13-0 yesterday first to reject spending $82 million on a new stadium, then voted unanimously as well to put $20 million in renovations of IUPUI’s stadium, where the NASL team currently plays, instead.

So how would this work, exactly? The state’s money would come mostly from a 10% ticket tax on events at the stadium, which according to projections for a new stadium could maybe just about barely be enough to pay off $20 million in state costs. Not that Hershman came up with that $20 million figure by seeing what the team could generate, either — he indicated that the number came from “rough estimate from IU for improvements,” so it’s more about the university’s wish list than what new tax revenue could actually pay off. Also, the city of Indianapolis could be asked to kick in some renovation money, as would Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir, if he wants more extensive upgrades.

In exchange … you know, I can’t find anything in the Indiana house bill that the state senate just amended to indicate what, if anything, Indy Eleven would be committing to. Presumably they’d have to sign some lease on the place, but it seems like the number of years they’d be signing up for, and whether they could demand further subsidies by threatening to leave town, would be key. Not that Indiana would ever sign a lease letting a team get away with anything like that.

So, in short: Much smaller public cost? Good! Reusing existing buildings when possible? Good! Throwing more than $20 million at your local one-year-old minor league soccer team just because they asked for four times that amount, without knowing what if anything they’re promising in return? Still not so good even at that price, so state legislators have some work to do to make sure this is actually worthwhile, not just less wasteful — but I’m sure we can trust Indiana elected officials to do the right thing, right? (Stop giggling.)

NFL finally officially admits that, yes, some teams are threatening to move to L.A.

Don’t look now, but NFL VP for Stadium Extortion Eric Grubman has actually said the R-word with regard to the St. Louis Rams:

A National Football League executive briefed team owners Monday, for the first time as a group, on competing stadium proposals that could send the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles, including key steps “between now and any eventual relocation.”…

“This is the first time with membership that we’ve been able to be relatively open and transparent as to what was going on,” Grubman said after he presented at the NFL’s annual owners meeting at the historic Arizona Biltmore resort in Phoenix.

Outstanding! So now for NFL owners who are unable to read the papers, Grubman has spelled out that it’s Rams owner Stan Kroenke who’s threatening to go to Inglewood, and San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis who are threatening to go to Carson.

What the rest of us would no doubt hope the NFL would be more “open and transparent” about is whether these planned L.A.-area stadiums are serious or just bluffs, or serious bluffs intended to shake loose stadium deals from their hometowns but which they’re willing to go through with, maybe, if left with no better alternatives. And Grubman at least hinted at number three, sorta kinda maybe in part:

Grubman emphasized that home markets would have a chance to pitch their own proposals before a decision is made to move any team to Los Angeles.

“The last thing I’d want is for a relocation proposal to come forward, and a home market to say, ‘Wait. You told us we had another few months,’” Grubman said. “I don’t want to do that.”

For all of these owners, there are two major hurdles to clear if they really want to move: finding the money to build new stadiums in L.A. without losing their shirts, and getting approval from the NFL’s other owners to do so. Both are going to be difficult, in different ways: Even in a big market like L.A., coming up with enough revenue to pay off close to $2 billion in stadium debt is a tough nut, and getting 24 of 32 NFL owners to agree on anything, especially when you know that the teams you’d be shutting out of moving to L.A. in your stead will vote no, takes a lot of tricky campaigning. With the next window for relocations coming up next winter, expect most of this year to be taken up with behind-the-scenes work lobbying for support among NFL owners, while waiting to see what San Diego, Oakland, and St. Louis propose as alternatives. There is much, much haggling yet to be done, in other words, so it’s pointless even to read tea leaves now.

Indy Eleven exec doesn’t dismiss renovated IUPUI stadium out of hand, pigs seen airborne

Indy Eleven president Peter Wilt has responded to Indiana state senator Brandt Hershman’s proposal to renovate IUPUI’s stadium for $20 million instead of building a new one for $82 million, and … he doesn’t hate it!

“Our partnership with Indiana University and IUPUI has been a critical part of our initial success, and having the campus option as a possibility for the stadium is one that we support,” Wilt’s statement said…

“We understand that the legislative process is a long journey and we look forward to continuing this dialogue … on Tuesday,” Wilt’s statement said.

Okay, that’s not exactly jumping for joy, and may well be nothing more than an acknowledgment that they know they have to work with the state senate on any stadium deal, not dismiss its proposals out of hand. Still, it does open up the possibility of renovation as an alternative, which is both 1) a possible way to save the state a ton of money and 2) the kind of thing that sports team owners typically dismiss out of hand with some statement about needing a “state of the art” facility. (Or, as a New York City development official once said of the Yankees‘ demands for a new stadium, renovations couldn’t provide “an adequate number of ladies’ rooms.”)

So, would $20 million for stadium upgrades for a minor-league soccer stadium be a good deal? That all depends on what the state would be getting back: If it’s some actual rent payments or revenue sharing, or a long-term lease for the team (as much as any NASL team’s signature on a lease can ever be said to be “long-term”), or something that IUPUI will actually be able to get some use of, then sure, maybe. In any case, $20 million would be a lot less of a heavy lift to make work than $82 million, and not building a whole new stadium when you have an old one that is already drawing well is always a good idea for everyone’s budget and carbon footprint. It’s bad for construction workers, I guess, but they can work on the renovations, and that extra $62 million will end up being spent on something. You see why I’m not generally a fan of new stadiums at all when it can be avoided? It’s really not just that I don’t like cupholders.

Everybody in Milwaukee finally admits they have no idea how to pay for a Bucks arena

How much of a mess are the funding plans for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena? So much that even Milwaukee Journal Sentinel arena-buildin’ reporter Don Walker is willing to say so:

Now, everything has become murky.

The owners have drawn a line in the sand with their current financial commitment.

Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a $220 million bonding plan, but spent most of his time on the presidential campaign trail.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has said the governor’s bonding number is too high; Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has said Walker’s plan was nearly dead, and he was working on an alternative.

Locally, one of the major tenants at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Marquette University, says it won’t put any money in the pot. The school says it prefers to be a tenant.

Mayor Tom Barrett has committed help, but says he doesn’t have money and won’t raise property taxes. County Executive Chris Abele says he doesn’t want to do anything that will “burden local taxpayers or result in cuts in services.”

Yes, it turns out that when you put up a $250 million Kickstarter for a new private basketball arena and the only rewards are NBA players continuing to pay their state income taxes, people don’t rush to throw coins in your jar.

Not that this means the Bucks arena plans are dead — rather, just that figuring out how to pay for buildings that almost never generate enough revenue to pay off their own construction bills is real hard. We now enter what could be thought of as the “flailing” phase of arena talks — though maybe the “racino phase” has a better ring to it — as marked by Gov. Walker already saying he’s open to any funding ideas that anybody has. Hey, there’s an idea: Crowdsource coming up with a way to pay for it! People are way more free with their ideas than they are with their $250 million.

Indiana senator proposes ditching $82m Indy Eleven stadium plan, renovating IUPUI stadium instead

As predicted, Indiana state senator Brandt Hershman waited until the Friday media dead zone to announce his plan to fund a new $82 million stadium for the Indy Eleven NASL minor-league soccer team — which is a shame because everyone missed the surprise twist, which is that Hershman doesn’t plan to fund one at all:

Indiana University would issue up to $20 million in bonds to renovate IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium in an amendment being introduced by Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, chair of the committee that’s handling the stadium bill.

The team would have to pay for expenses beyond the $20 million and whatever the city of Indianapolis contributes. The team would also have to sign at least a 20-year lease. A senate committee vote on the plan is scheduled for Tuesday.

Well, sure, that makes plenty of sense to look at: $20 million is a lot less than $82 million, and if the team isn’t a long-term success at least the local public university would have a shinier stadium to play in. (Not that that’s probably what it needs the most, but that’s another story.) And Indy Eleven is already drawing well there, so if any economic benefits you’d get from the team playing in a new stadium would probably accrue from them playing in an upgraded old stadium as well.

We’ll see tomorrow what the exact details of the plan are and how it would all be paid for, but for now, nice thinking outside the box, Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek! Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir will no doubt not be pleased, but $20 million in free renovations would still be nothing to sneeze at.

Garber on future expansion: Let a million MLS teams bloom

MLS is finally on the verge of filling up its 24 franchise slots, which is four more than pretty much any other soccer league on earth, but hey, American exceptionalism and all, and league commissioner Don Garber says

“We never thought we would get, when we were at 10, to 14, then at 16, then we have a goal for 24. We’re really evaluating going past that. We’ve got a couple more decisions we need to make. I imagine some time in, you know, the next year or so, we’re going to lay out the plan for how large this league can be.”

Really, what else is he going to say? There’s no real reason MLS can’t go to 26 teams, or 28 or 30, when it’s already at 24, and with everybody and their sister clamoring to get into the league, might as well rack up a few more expansion fees (and publicly subsidized soccer-specific stadiums) while you can, right? Everyone who thinks that the problem with MLS is that the quality of play is too watered down already, as opposed to those who think that the problem is that it would be watered down even with only 12 teams, commence to wailing and rending your garments.

Chargers, Raiders, Rams still working on stadiums everywhere, still anybody’s guess who ends up where

What’s going on the past few days in the NFL-to-Los-Angeles competition, you ask? (Strange thing to ask first thing on a Monday morning, but hey, who am I to judge?) Man, what isn’t going on?

  • The proposed Carson stadium for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders has gathered enough signatures to get on the ballot, which means it’s also gathered enough signatures for the Carson city council to just pass it without it ever getting to the ballot. No word yet from the council on what its plans are.
  • St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is set to bring “schematic plans for the world’s most interactive and integrated football stadium” in Inglewood to the NFL owners meetings this week, which include a clear plastic roof that covers not just the stadium but a performance space and plaza next door. (I can’t figure out how to link directly to the L.A. Times’ slideshow, but click through here and scroll down for your vaportecture fix.)
  • L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, standing in the back and waving his arms wildly for attention, says he still wants to build a stadium next to the L.A. Convention Center, even if nobody else does: “We have a good stadium deal downtown if anybody wants to take us up on it.”
  • The chair of the advisory group tasked with figuring out how to build a new Chargers stadium in San Diego says it will cost between $700 million and $1.5 billion and “rely on a mix of revenue streams,” as reported by San Diego TV station XETV. That sure narrows it down.
  • The Oakland city council voted to add Alameda County to its negotiations over the going-nowhere-fast Coliseum City project, then the council president promptly put it in terms of the creepiest metaphor ever: “Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney said the agreement with [Coliseum City’s Floyd] Kephart was in its early stages — like a new relationship. At this point there hasn’t even been a first kiss, McElhaney said. The city and county coming together is a crucial step, she said, like two parents supporting a child. ‘We’ve been separated for awhile, but we agree the baby is valuable,’ she said.” Cue the obvious sound clip.

In other words, still nobody knows nothing, but everyone is working really hard at everything that doesn’t involve actual money being raised or approvals being gotten. Tune in next week for more non-news!

Braves exec: If you won’t give us sales tax break, maybe we should just stop paying property taxes! Yeah!

In addition to all the other goodies that the Atlanta Braves are getting from Cobb County and the state of Georgia as part of their stadium deal, they’re also looking to get an exemption from state sales tax on construction materials for the project. That’s not that unusual — it’s one of the more typical subsidies that local governments like to throw at development projects as a sweetener, but instead of going with the “everybody does it” line, Braves VP Mike Plant decided yesterday to take a somewhat different tack:

“I think it’s just very narrow minded to say, ‘Oh, why should they be able to take that money out of the public?’” Plant said. “We’re putting a lot more into the public, and that’s I think the flaw in some of the rhetoric is that there’s no recognition for that.”

Plant said the state needs to have skin in the game if it wants to reap the rewards of the project, such as Tuesday’s announcement that Comcast would be the sole tenant of the nine-story office building the Braves are building adjacent to the stadium and bringing 1,000 jobs with them, the majority of which are expected to be new, high-paying jobs.

“Why shouldn’t we just keep all that then?” Plant said. “Why should we have to share the revenue upside that we’re creating if there’s no participation? We have close to a $1 billion investment in that ballpark and mixed-use (development). You’ve known from day one 100 percent of that mixed-use (development) is our responsibility. Creating a Comcast situation that brings 1,000 jobs, many of them new jobs, well, then we’re the only ones that took the risk to do that. Maybe we should have a discussion that we should get all the proceeds from that. That’s not the way the system works, and we’re OK with that.”

To anyone now wondering what on earth Plant is going on about, the “Comcast situation” is that the cable company is agreeing to move some workers into the office buildings the Braves are building next door to the stadium (as well as supply some technology to the stadium itself) as part of a sponsorship deal. By “share the revenue upside,” Plant means … okay, I have no idea what he means. The development next to the ballpark isn’t paying any rent or revenue sharing to Cobb County, just an estimated $6 million in property taxes per year, the same property taxes that any development would have to pay.

So Plant’s argument appears to be, “Hey, we’re paying one of the taxes that normal businesspeople have to, what, you want us to pay another one too?” Clearly it’s going to be a tough decision this year for the Nobel committee on chutzpah.

Indiana senator has plan to fund MLS stadium, won’t say what — hey, didn’t we just do this headline?

Looks like Wisconsin isn’t the only state senate that can announce new sports venue finance plans without actually saying what they are: Brandt Hershman, chair of the Indiana state senate’s tax and fiscal policy committee, announced yesterday that he’d be introducing an amendment today to rework the Indy Eleven stadium financing plan, which has twice passed the state house but never made it through the senate. And Hershman’s new plan would be:

Hershman declined further comment.

Okay, then! Nothing yet on Hershman’s website or his Twitter, but it’s only 2 pm — maybe he’s planning one of those special 5 pm Friday announcements so that it makes the 6 o’clock news but nobody’s around to answer questions. (Note to any Indiana journalists: I’ll be around late this afternoon to answer questions.)

Vegas officially sticks fork in MLS stadium, in glorious display of city council infighting

The Las Vegas city council voted yesterday to pass a bill barring the city from spending any money on an MLS stadium, heading off an attempt by anti-stadium councilmembers to put the same measure on a public ballot this June, and…

…and why am I even making you read about this, when the stadium plan has been officially dead since last month when MLS said Vegas wasn’t getting an expansion franchise? (Why, that is, aside from the hilarity of pro-stadium councilmembers voting on a bill to block a stadium so that anti-stadium councilmembers can’t hold a public vote on it and thus make it a campaign issue, which actually is pretty entertaining, now that you mention it.) Because with MLS now having two announced expansion targets — Miami and Minneapolis — that face potential difficulties in getting the soccer-only stadiums that the league wants (unless the team can play in an NFL stadium that it owns, or a baseball stadium that’s in a major media market), you have to think that the league is keeping backup plans in mind. Not that Vegas was all that likely to be one, but now its council infighting has ensured that it won’t be, so we can never speak of it again.