Broward considers razing Panthers’ 19-year-old arena, this isn’t even surprising anymore

The Florida Panthers‘ arena in Broward County (I’m not going to go through the trouble of remembering its current corporate name) opened 19 years ago, at public expense, as a way to get the team to stay in the Miami area long-term. So, naturally, it’s time for the county to start thinking about tearing it down:

This week, Broward County embraced a development vision for the land, a potential playbook created by the Urban Land Institute… The institute’s land use experts said the county-owned BB&T Center, a giant venue surrounded by parking spaces, represents “an opportunity lost.’’

The main reason for hiring ULI is to figure out how to develop the land around the arena — which the county bought back for $86 million in 2015 — which would have been a better idea before spending the money, but better late than never. But that deal also handed Panthers owner Vincent Viola an out clause in his lease, so the consultants are also being tasked with figuring out what to do with the land if the team leaves:

The consultants explored three alternatives: the Panthers extend their lease, and a casino is added; the Panthers extend their lease, and office and housing are added; and the Panthers leave, the arena is demolished, and housing, a casino and offices are added. The third option would bring in the most tax revenue and income to the county, at an estimated $391.3 million over 11 years, the report said.

On the one hand, you could probably come up with more economically productive uses for the land than a hockey arena, assuming Broward County has much more time before it’s underwater. Though if the county ends up having to build the Panthers a new arena somewhere else to keep them after they opt out of their lease, that’s less helpful. That out clause really was as bad an idea as it sounded at the time.

Coyotes owner now OK with staying in Glendale while he waits to be gifted with a new arena

Arizona Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlance said yesterday that he’s still “pretty confident” he’ll get a new arena somewhere, and blah blah blah whatever, of course he’ll say that, but — hey, what’s that?

The Coyotes still have no intention of calling Gila River Arena home for any longer than they have to.

“We’re okay staying in Glendale if we know that there’s certainty of a new facility coming online and shovels in the ground,” said LeBlanc.

Well, that’s new. Admittedly, LeBlanc doesn’t have much of a choice but to stay in Glendale for a while if he wants to stay in the Phoenix area and has to wait on a new arena, but previously he’d made noise about getting out of Glendale “as soon as practicable,” and … okay, I guess this isn’t technically any different, but it does put more of an emphasis on being willing to stay put for a while if necessary. Though only if he can smell those shovels in the ground. Otherwise … he’s not saying, but you don’t wanna cross him, man, there’s no telling what he’ll do. Just not move to Portland or Seattle, because he wouldn’t do that. Is this threat working yet?

Gilbert to Detroit: Give me $300m and free MLS stadium land, and abracadabra, get a new jail!

I’ve seen a lot of convoluted stadium subsidy proposals over the year, but I’ve got to admit that “give me at least $300 million plus free land so I can build a pro soccer stadium and I’ll build the city a new jail” is a new one. Deadspin explains:

The plot of land [where Dan] Gilbert wants to build the new arena is on Gratiot Avenue in downtown Detroit. Wayne County was in the process of building a jail on the site until 2013 when officials announced that project, estimated to cost $220 million, was likely going to run far over budget (closer to $391 million). So it sat unfinished for more than three years. The county is issuing a request for proposals to finish the jail on Friday, after which it will decide what to do with the site.

But ahead of that deadline has arrived a proposal from Gilbert-owned Rock Ventures LLC. The group announced yesterday that it had made an offer to build Wayne County a new “consolidated criminal justice complex” at a different site, about one and a half miles away, the Detroit Free Press reported. In return, Gilbert’s company would get $300 million from the county, the rights to the Gratiot Avenue jail site, and what’s described as a “credit to be paid to the company for the savings a new consolidated criminal justice complex would provide.”

How much Gilbert’s soccer stadium would cost isn’t clear — it’s being described as a “$1 billion commercial development,” but obviously much of that wouldn’t be the soccer part. But whatever Gilbert would be spending on whatever, he’s looking to get paid $300 million plus land plus that undefined “credit” in exchange for building a new jail on a different site, something he says is worth $420 million, which is even more than the city’s over-budget stalled jail would cost.

Many, many questions, in other words, most of which Gilbert no doubt hopes that Detroit’s journalists will be too busy to really put their minds to unraveling. After all, it’s the central secret of magic!

CT governor, facing $1.3b deficit, proposes $250m for Hartford arena upgrades, just because

Connecticut Gov. (and Stephen Colbert lookalike) Dannel Malloy wants to spend $250 million on renovations to Hartford’s arena because, because … “investment,” I guess?

Malloy’s budget chief confirmed Monday that the governor’s two-year capital plan — to be unveiled Wednesday along with the state’s proposed operating budget — will include $50 million in 2018 and $75 million in 2019.

“We are essentially suggesting, if the legislature approves this funding, they are committing to the full $250 million,” Ben Barnes said.

Barnes said the proposal is consistent with other state investments in downtown Hartford, including apartment conversions, Front Street and the new University of Connecticut campus.

Well, no, not really. A new UConn campus at least benefits UConn students, who are otherwise being packed in increasing numbers into Storrs, an infinitesimal town in the eastern part of the state that is only accessible by mule train. (I may be exaggerating, but as I was reminded when I spoke there in November, not by much.) A renovated arena with an extra 3,000 seats benefits getting more people to go to events at the arena, I guess, but there aren’t many of those. So why exactly is this a priority for state spending?

When the arena upgrade was first proposed a couple of months ago, the best argument anyone could come up with was that millennials won’t live downtown unless it has a nicer hockey arena. But more recently, of course, there has arisen another, even less likely, goal: Luring the New York Islanders to Hartford.

“I’m going to send another letter to the commissioners spelling out what we think would be appropriate in the modernization of that facility so he may have an understanding of what we are trying to do,” Malloy said. “Listen, this is a long shot, but if you don’t reach out and if you’re not in the discussion, then you can’t be considered.”

Okay, sure, saying you’re willing to upgrade your arena if a team is willing to move there — and even having an upgrade plan ready to go — isn’t a terrible idea. The two things you don’t want to do, though, are: committing to the money without first getting a lease agreement from a team that you’re sure will help repay the cost of upgrades; and committing to the money without even being sure a team will come at all. Those are the two things Gov. Malloy is now doing, because Gov. Malloy apparently thinks a quarter-billion dollars grows on trees.

State legislators are less sure about the money trees, according to the Hartford Courant, which notes that “there is a growing resistance to using bonds — essentially the state’s credit card — for big-ticket projects when funding is being cut to social service programs, road improvements and school programs.” With the state already facing a $1.3 billion deficit, you have to think that spending $250 million on a hockey arena with no hockey team will prompt at least a little bit of debate, but we’ll see how it goes as budget season kicks into full gear.

Glendale legislator: Wait, why exactly should we pay for another city to steal the Coyotes?

Hey, here’s a question you don’t see asked nearly often enough: Why the heck should a state government pay to help a pro sports team leave one part of the state for another? The state is Arizona, where even after Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc’s Tempe arena plans crashed and burned last week, state senator Bob Worsley (who represents Mesa, in the East Valley) is still pushing for $200 million in state sales tax kickbacks that LeBlanc could use for a new arena elsewhere in the state. State representative Anthony Kern (who represents Glendale, in the West Valley), meanwhile, is having none of that:

“This legislation comes down to a simple public-policy question: Should taxpayers be asked to pay for a new arena that will directly compete with already existing facilities that taxpayers are still paying off?” Kern said…

“We want the Coyotes to be successful on and off the ice and to do so in the publicly-funded Gila River Arena that the public built — Glendale taxpayers built — for them to play in.”

While I’m not sure “taxpayers are still paying off” is the most sensible argument — would it be okay for the state to subsidize one Arizona city stealing a team from another if Glendale’s arena were already paid for? — Kern has a point with the rest of it. The only thing stopping the Coyotes from playing in Glendale, after all, is that LeBlanc is refusing to do so unless he gets to manage the arena and get paid by the city for it, which isn’t exactly the kind of crisis that the state needs to run in and solve. Unless you think that he’s going to move the team out of state if his demands aren’t met, which he hasn’t threatened to do yet—

According to officials in Seattle and Portland, members of the Arizona Coyotes have toured arenas in both locations in the past three months. The destinations appear to have been the KeyArena in Seattle and the Moda Center in Portland, Ore...

Arizona Coyotes Executive Vice President of Communications Rich Nairn denied the rumors, when asked about the reports of members touring the two arenas.

“That is false,” Nairn said via email.

So, either this is a rumor that Seattle and Portland are spreading for unknown reasons, or it’s a non-threat threat by LeBlanc. Either way, a whole lot of sabers are being rattled, which is to be expected, but that’s no reason to panic just yet and start throwing sales tax money around.

Hartford offers to host Islanders if they’re left homeless, gets into this headline

With the New York Islanders potentially homeless starting in 2019, it was only a matter of time before other cities eager to lure a hockey team started throwing their hats in the ring. And first up is … nope, not Quebec. Not Seattle, either. Think closer to home — yep, you’ve got it:

[Connecticut] Governor Dannel Malloy and [Hartford] Mayor Luke Bronin … sent a joint letter addressed to New York Islanders ownership Friday inviting the NHL club to play at Hartford’s XL Center…

“This is a ready market anxious for an NHL team, eager to fill seats, buy merchandise, and support your team,” Malloy and Bronin wrote to Islanders owners Jon Ledecky, Scott Malkin and Charles Wang (who owns a minority stake). “Your AHL affiliate is in nearby Bridgeport, allowing quick and easy access to your minor-league players, and represents a footing in Connecticut of the Islander franchise.”

I mean, worth a shot and all, but Hartford is pretty much completely inaccessible to the Islanders’ fan base on Long Island (at least until somebody builds that Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge); and if the team’s owners really wanted to up and start over with a new fan base, Quebec and Seattle both have newer arenas and larger populations to offer. Hartford might make a tiny bit of sense as a temporary emergency move if the Islanders had no where else to play, to lure in some Connecticut fans to attach themselves to the team, and then once they’re back in a permanent home they’d travel down to … nope, still no bridge. Okay, this mostly makes sense as a way to put out a press release with “Hartford” and “hockey” in it, and I just fell for it. Damn — well played, Dannel and Luke, well played.

Arizona State bails on Coyotes arena, everything goes back to drawing board (yet again)

So it turns out announcing an arena partnership without telling your proposed partner about it isn’t actually the best idea in the world, as Arizona State University has pulled out of a plan for an Arizona Coyotes arena in Tempe, effectively killing it:

Arizona State University said in an email Friday evening that the university “has no intention of proceeding to sign a development agreement or an option to lease or any other agreement with the Coyotes.”

ASU was negotiating with the Coyotes owners up until now, but bailed after a bill to create a “community engagement district” — i.e., an area where half of all sales taxes collected by the state would be kicked back to pay off $200 million in arena construction, i.e, a sales tax increment financing district, i.e., a STIF — hit opposition in the state legislature. As well it should, since the vast majority of sales taxes on arena spending would be collected elsewhere in the state anyway if Arizonans spent their money on other things, so it’s not really “new revenue.” But as KPNX notes, there were political obstacles to the deal as well:

The Coyotes’ Glendale arena is in the conservative West Valley. The ASU site’s in Democratic Tempe. There was no plausible scenario in which Republicans ship a team to the East Valley and stick their Glendale voters with an empty arena, $150 million mortgage and no way to pay it off.

Coyotes owner Anthony LeBlanc can, and no doubt will, pursue other arena sites now, like maybe that Salt River Indian reservation land in Scottsdale that he rejected last summer. He still doesn’t have any money to build it with, though — other than his own money, which would defeat the purpose of leaving Glendale so he can get somebody else to gift him an arena — so this is likely to take a while. This being the Coyotes, taking a while is something they should be familiar with.

St. Louis committee approves more than $100m in subsidies for Blues, MLS, but who’s counting?

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s Ways and Means Committee approved bills this week to funnel public money into both renovations of the St. Louis Blues arena and a new MLS stadium. How much money? As is so often the case, that’s a complicated question:

  • In the Blues’ case, the original plan was to demand $67.5 million from the city, mostly in the form of kicked-back sales taxes. (It would add up to $112 million over time, but the present value would only be $67.5 million.) The committee amended the bill to include $55 million in ticket tax revenue — in place of some of the sales tax money, I think, maybe? — but that cash flow wouldn’t start arriving until 2034 since it’s currently being spent elsewhere. And since it’s not a new tax surcharge but just money that otherwise the city could start collecting for other uses in 2034, I’m not going to go through the trouble of firing up Excel to figure out the present value of that, because it’s a subsidy either way. (The Blues owners are still also demanding an additional $70.5 million from the state of Missouri, though given the new governor’s feelings about such things, that may not go so well.)
  • For the proposed St. Louis MLS team, the original plan was for the city to provide $80 million from mumble-mumble-hey-look-over-there, but that bill was withdrawn by its sponsor last month. In its place now is legislation to provide $60 million in city money, mostly from redirected property taxes, but also including a ticket tax surcharge (really payments in lieu of a ticket tax, for reasons not worth going into here) that would provide $7.5 million to $12 million over the next 30 years, and … okay, now I will fire up Excel, and that’s worth: somewhere between $4 million and $7 million now, so not really a big concession on a $60 million get.

The MLS stadium plan, if approved, would go before city voters in an April referendum. The hockey deal for some reason everyone thinks doesn’t require a public vote, though that’s not what the law passed in 2002 says. Hey, Jeanette Mott Oxford, if you’re reading this, any plans to file suit to intervene in this one?

Proposed Vegas Raiders lease includes “top-tier” clause, this really is the worst ever

I almost included this in the last post, but then I figured it really deserved its own item, because oh man, they’re not really considering this, are they?

The Authority or its designees shall have the obligation to, and shall, provide, perform and take, or cause to be provided, performed or taken, such actions, at the Authority’s expense, either directly or through the Manager, as may be necessary or reasonably advisable to operate and maintain the Stadium and Stadium Infrastructure in a safe, clean, attractive, and first-class manner similar to and consistent with other premier, top-tier NFL facilities (the “Expected Facility Standard”) and in compliance with all Applicable Laws.

That’s from Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis’s proposed lease with Nevada for a Las Vegas stadium, and yes, it’s a state-of-the-art clause, requiring the state to maintain a stadium in “top-tier” condition on its own dime. I.e., the same kind of clause that let the St. Louis Rams escape their lease and move back to L.A. after 20 years.

Now, a couple of caveats. First off, unlike some other state-of-the-art clauses (cough Cincinnati Bengals cough), this one doesn’t spell out a wish list of items like “holographic replay systems” that the state would have to provide if other NFL teams got them. And it’s only about “operations and maintenance,” so doesn’t specifically talk about capital improvements (though it also doesn’t rule them out). And there’s no specified penalty for violating it that I can find, though being considered in breach of contract is never a good thing. And this is only Davis’s proposal, so there’s still room for Nevada’s lawyers to red-line through the worst bits.

That said, don’t ever sign open-ended state-of-the-art clauses, people! At best, this would be an invitation for Davis to, say, declare that he can’t possibly operate a top-tier stadium without a scoreboard that stretches to Utah, and threaten to sue to break his lease and move the team if taxpayers don’t build him a new one. One hopes that even if the local rich guy rejoins the deal, Nevada officials will still balk at agreeing to this — I mean, one doesn’t hope too hopefully, given how eager they were to approve $750 million in tax money for a stadium in the first place, but even that doesn’t justify a blank check for future upgrades, right? Right?

Goldman pulls out of Vegas Raiders deal, Davis now faces Adelson’s way or the highway

Remember way back yesterday, when I noted that billionaire Sheldon Adelson pulling out of the deal to build a Las Vegas stadium for the Oakland Raiders didn’t necessarily kill those plans, because Raiders owner Mark Davis had Goldman Sachs lined up as a backup financial partner? Well, that didn’t even last a day:

Goldman Sachs, the banking giant the Raiders told NFL owners would finance part of the $1.9-billion proposal even without Adelson’s involvement, pulled away from the project Tuesday.

The arrangement with Goldman Sachs was contingent on Adelson’s partnership with the Raiders in the development, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. Without Adelson, the person said, there isn’t any deal.

It’s not entirely clear here whether Adelson leaned on Goldman not to do the deal without him (he says he didn’t), or Goldman decided that retaining the support of Nevada elected officials was too dicey without Adelson, or Goldman never wanted to do the deal without Adelson and Davis was just an idiot for assuming they would. (Actually, most of the scenarios here involve Davis being an idiot.) Either way, though, this presents a huge stumbling block in the way of Davis cashing in on Nevada’s promise of $750 million in public money toward a stadium, which at least one legislator is threatening to revoke if the Raiders owner can’t work something out ASAP:

The political fallout Tuesday included a suggestion by Aaron Ford, majority leader in Nevada’s Senate, that public money for the stadium could be diverted for other purposes if the situation isn’t quickly resolved.

“If progress is not made toward financing the stadium project in a timely fashion, we will introduce legislation to create the jobs that were promised and contemplated by stadium construction,” Ford said.

All the leverage is back in Adelson’s court, in other words, if he wants to resume his demands for a large cut of team revenues and possibly of ownership as well. You have to figure he’ll at least try, because he’d be stupid not to — though there’s enough stupid already floating around this deal already that a little more wouldn’t be all that surprising.