Oakland’s $1.3B stadium plan for Raiders: Get NFL to reject Vegas move, figure out details later

Finally, we have some details — sort of — for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and former-NFL-player-turned-developer Ronnie Lott’s stadium plan to keep the Raiders in Oakland. And it looks like this:

  • $600 million from Lott’s investment group
  • $300 million from Raiders owner Mark Davis
  • $200 million in G-4 funding from the NFL
  • $200 million in “infrastructure” spending by the city of Oakland and Alameda County

That comes to $1.3 billion, and you can certainly build a respectable stadium for that. The unanswered question, though, is: Who would get the revenues from the place? The San Francisco Chronicle report indicates that the public money “would be repaid from revenue generated by the stadium project,” and further that “the city and county would share some percentage of non-football revenues at the stadium,” though that might be targeted for paying off the remaining $95 million in debt on the Oakland Coliseum’s 1990s expansion. And what about football revenues? Would Lott’s group want some of those (probably), or be content with proceeds from building a retail development project around the stadium (probably not, since they’d have to pay for that separately from their $600 million in stadium expenses)? Is there enough money in this whole thing that everyone could possibly be made whole? (I really doubt it, since there not being enough revenues to go around is what made the previous private developer’s plan crash and burn.)

All this isn’t really any more detailed that the rough sketch that had been floating around before Schaaf announced it last week, so it’s not really clear what she had to gain from—

The hope is that the show of support will be enough for the NFL owners to block the team’s move to Nevada and open the door to the locals talking directly with Davis, which he has refused to do as long as the Las Vegas deal is on the table.

Oh, right. So take this less as actual stadium plan, and more as “Hey, NFL owners who may be having second thoughts about this whole ‘put a team in Vegas and hope that tourists buy season tickets thing,’ don’t listen to Davis when he says Oakland doesn’t care about him, we’re giving you an out if you want to vote no!” Given that NFL owner votes are known to be swung by ridiculous things, it’s not the worst gambit, really.

County official proposes diverting one-third of tourist dollars to build Cavs a glass wall

It’s been almost eight months since the Cleveland Cavaliers asked for a $140 million expansion of their arena to add more public space and give it a glass exterior wall, and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said, “Let me get half of that for you.” Now, Budish thinks he may have found some of the money, asking the local tourism agency to use hotel tax money to pay for the Cavs’ renovations.

Destination Cleveland collects about $15 million a year in hotel taxes, and paying off $70 million in Cavs expenses would cost about $4-5 million a year, so this would clearly be a hefty chunk of change, unless Budish has other revenue sources in mind as well. The Cavs are already getting a cut of the alcohol-and-cigarette-tax extension that county voters approved back in 2014 — Budish recently proposed splitting the proceeds evenly among the Cavs, Indians, and Browns, as nobody bothered to work that out beforehand — and since that amounts to about $170 million in total present value, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is effectively asking for $70 million on top of the $60 million he just got two years ago for renovations. But really, who can put a price on the enjoyment that local sports fans get from a glass wall?

Top Arizona officials not really into this whole “give Coyotes another $200m in tax money” thing

Let’s check in on how the Arizona Coyotes owners’ proposal for a $400 million Tempe arena, half paid for by tax kickbacks, is going over with the state officials who’d need to approve it:

“I’m a big fan of the Coyotes but I haven’t heard anything about that,” Gov. Ducey told Welch.

“They’ve not talked to you?” Welch asked the governor, who replied, “No.”

Mmhm. Anyone else?

The newly-elected speaker of the House and a senior lawmaker who formerly chaired the House Appropriations Committee said they would be resistant to a TIF or a tax rebate.

“We care about the Coyotes, we also care about the taxpayers of the state,” said Speaker-elect J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler.

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, the former chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said there just isn’t enough money to go around, especially at a time when the public is calling for more money for education.

“They’re not asking for a tax rebate, they’re asking for us to go into a budget deficit or to take on debt to build their private stadium,” Kavanagh said.

I’m going to go out on a limb and classify this as “not well.” While it’s still early and there’s obviously much haggling to go, perhaps this whole “announce an arena plan without telling anyone about it in advance, including the state university that you’re supposed to be partnering with” thing wasn’t the best idea. Though maybe the Coyotes owners are just really committed to transparency and not negotiating behind closed doors, in which case, kudos to them!

Stadiums now just big-ass billboards and public subsidy generating machines, face it

Today in sports teams sell ad rights for lots and lots of money:

The [Atlanta] Falcons organization has sold corporate sponsorships at Mercedes-Benz Stadium totaling more than $900 million in contractually obligated long-term revenue, SportsBusiness Journal reports in this week’s edition.

That’s $900 million over several decades, so not really worth $900 million toward today’s construction costs. Still, it should go a long way toward helping pay off the Falcons$1.6 billion stadium, especially when the team is already getting tax money worth nearly $700 million.

Also today in sports teams sell ad rights for lots and lots of money:

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx named five new “founding partners” on Monday who will help pay for the $130 million renovation of Target Center now underway…

In exchange for its sponsorship, each founding partner will receive a customized package with the two teams. Each package will offer a yet-to-be disclosed “physical presence” inside the arena, plus outdoor and indoor digital signage and category exclusivity.

That Minneapolis Star Tribune article doesn’t mention it, but the Target Center renovation also got $48 million in public funds.

These are only two data points, obviously, but they do help explain why team owners are so eager to build new facilities despite tons of evidence that they don’t bring in all that much more money in actual arena revenues. New sports venues aren’t just new sports venues — they’re also new billboards, and corporations are more willing to throw money at slapping their names on a fresh canvas than on one that’s been written on already a bunch of times, even if it’s dubious whether there’s any real business value.

Plus, of course, it’s way easier to ask for public money for new (or renovated) buildings than it is to just ask for straight taxpayer handouts because you want to boost your profits. When future alien anthropologists try to puzzle out why we spent so much of our time building and then tearing down places to watch mass sporting spectacles, it’ll be fun to see how many tries it takes before they arrive at “it was the best way to separate people from their wallets.”

Minnesota officials defend free suites for Vikings games as needed to conduct, uh, “business”

Here we go again: The Minneapolis Star Tribune revealed yesterday that board members of the state-run Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority get use of two free luxury suites to Vikings games as part of the deal that approved more than a billion dollars in public stadium subsidies. That’s fairly common, as is outrage over the impropriety of such deals once they’re revealed.

The twist in the Minneapolis case is that even though the suites are supposed to be used for business purposes (wink, wink), nobody on the MSFA will say who’s using the tickets (and free food and parking passes), and insist that secrecy is vital to the cause of conducting government business at football games:

MSFA Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and Executive Director Ted Mondale say confidentiality is critical as they seek to book the stadium’s event spaces to cover the cost of amateur events such as high school football, baseball and soccer games, along with University of Minnesota baseball games.

“If people think they’re going to be in the newspaper, it’s not going to be effective,” Mondale said.

Or it could be because they’re bringing family members and campaign donors to games, in violation of the state’s ban on public officials accepting gifts outside of their government duties. Who can say! That’s what makes secrecy so fun!

The big question here, obviously, is whether there was some sort of quid pro quo that induced state officials to approve the stadium funding by offering them free tickets to games. Probably not directly — the people on the MSFA board aren’t the same legislators who voted to approve the deal back in 2012. But lots of stuff happens indirectly in politics, which is why there are laws against taking gifts. Plus it just looks really, really bad when taxpayers are paying the bills on a $1-billion-plus stadium plus PSL fees and higher ticket prices, and state bigwigs are getting to watch games for free.

(Also, obligatory note: Ha ha, Ted Mondale thinks people still read the newspaper! He’s so quaint.)

Sportswriter with history of citing unsourced rumors says Chargers are moving to L.A., maybe

CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, who two weeks ago wrote that San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos had little choice but to share digs with the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood now that his request for $1.1 billion in public funds for a new stadium-convention center complex was crushed at the polls, is doubling down on that assertion, saying talks between the two teams are continuing to “improve in tenor.” His source? “League sources.”

La Canfora has a bit of a track record now of making anonymously sources predictions on NFL stadium deals, so let’s see how well he’s done in the past:

  • October 2012: NFL would rather have stadium built at Dodger Stadium than either City of Industry or the downtown “Farmers Field” site. Verdict: Hard to say, as none of the three sites ended up being approved.
  • September 2015: NFL owners can’t agree on whether to approve the Inglewood or Carson stadium plans. Verdict: Maybe at the time, though they did end up coming to an agreement just four months later.
  • October 2015: Rams owner Stan Kroenke would be willing to share his Inglewood stadium with another team. Verdict: True! Though how willing, we’re still waiting to see.
  • October 2015: St. Louis could come up with a stadium plan good enough to keep the league from approving a Rams move, but not so good that Kroenke wouldn’t refuse to take it and then move somewhere else, like maybe London. Verdict: Yeah, that didn’t happen.
  • December 2015: If denied the chance to move to L.A., Kroenke could sell the Rams to someone in St. Louis and buy the Denver Broncos instead. Verdict: We’ll never know.

Add it all up, and you get a reporter with lots of insider league contacts, and the willingness to run with any rumor that they’re telling him. Which doesn’t make the rumors wrong, necessarily, but it also doesn’t give them much predictive power.

So while it’s probably true that somebody has heard that the Spanos-Kroenke talks are going well, or at least proceeding apace, that doesn’t tell us much about whether they’ll actually come to an agreement. Or about La Canfora’s other predictions (similarly cited to “sources”) that there’s a “strong chance” the league could reduce the Chargers’ relocation fee (from what, he didn’t say) and that the Chargers “continue to investigate possibly” playing at the Los Angeles Galaxy‘s StubHub Center in Carson for two years while waiting for the Inglewood stadium to be built. La Canfora also said that Spanos asking for an extension on his January deadline to make a decision on an L.A. move “is not expected,” which is as close to a solid prediction as he gets in this article — mark it down, and we can add it to his scorecard in another few weeks.

Santa Clara declares 49ers in breach of lease, threatens to seize stadium three days before Xmas

The city of Santa Clara’s showdown with the San Francisco 49ers over handing over budget documents to show who’s spending what on running the place got kicked up a notch before Thanksgiving, with the city council voting to find the team in violation of its lease, a move that could lead the city to seize operational control of the stadium if the Niners owners don’t cough up the documents by December 22:

“We hired ManCo. They work for us. They don’t get to decide what is withheld from the owners of the stadium,” [Santa Clara Mayor Lisa] Gillmor said. “How do we know we are managing this public asset in the proper manner if we cannot get the documents from the management company that we hired to manage the stadium?”

Representatives for the 49ers countered that the team has been giving the city regular reports and has lived up to its end of the deal. They said the team is withholding information in two areas it considers confidential: security plans and financial information related to non-NFL events.

Making security information available would put the public at risk, while disclosing the details of the non-NFL events would damage ManCo’s ability to effectively negotiate with promoters such as LiveNation and AEG Live, the team says.

This is a weird dispute to crop up just two years into a team’s move to a new city, needless to say, though Gillmor and friends have a point that it’s hard to determine revenue-sharing shares when your partner won’t fess up to what their total revenues are. That it’s coming up now seems to come down to a bunch of factors: new city officials elected since the stadium project was approved who are less starry-eyed about the arrival of the NFL; a crappily written lease that didn’t specify what documents the 49ers would turn over or how the city would audit their finances; and a team that’s so dismal on the field that even 49ers fans are probably happy (or indifferent) enough for the city to take them to task. (“The 49ers are broken all around the place,” resident Dorothy Rosa told last week’s council hearing. “They don’t know how to run a football team. They don’t know how to run anything.”)

And speaking of the Niners’ on-field woes, the terrible team continues to be terrible news for people who bought the high-priced personal seat licenses that helped fund the new Santa Clara stadium, only to find themselves forced to choose between paying through the nose for near-worthless tickets every year or unloading their PSLs at a huge loss:

[Tom] Addison wanted out after the 2015 season. He wanted to sell what the team called his Stadium Builder Licenses so he did not have to keep spending $5,000 annually for four season tickets in the corner of an end zone, a requirement to maintain the licenses.

He was able to sell all four on the secondary market, but at $2,000 apiece after dropping his asking price, and recouped only $8,000 of the original $20,000 investment. The alternative would have been walking away from the licenses and getting none of the money back.

“I was relieved to get rid of them,” Addison said in the dining room of his Burlingame home. “I was so happy when the guy wanted to buy all four. I was happy to get out.”

Which, you know, there’s that thing that P.T. Barnum never said about suckers — plus, about half of the PSLs were bought up by ticket brokers, who will just write this off as a bad bet. Still, with things so bad that 6% of all PSL holders have just defaulted on their annual payments and walked away with nothing rather than have to keep plunking down money for tickets every year, you have to wonder how eager, say, Los Angeles Rams fans will be to put down cash for PSLs once those go on sale next year.

Oakland mayor announces that Raiders stadium plan framework concept is mumble mumble something

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced a thing yesterday:

The mayor of Oakland announced that the city has reached a framework agreement with the Ronnie Lott group for a new stadium, with the hopes of keeping the Raiders in Oakland.

“It is exciting that we have reached a conceptual framework agreement with the Lott group,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf.

So what exactly would that be, a “framework agreement” with a developer to build a stadium for a football team that isn’t actually party to the agreement? Schaaf’s office hasn’t actually announced anything — and her press spokesperson didn’t respond to my queries — but NBC Bay Area’s Ray Ratto sums up the state of things as follows:

That stadium is considered by most experts, including Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, to run in the neighborhood of $1 billion, with the city and county’s contribution limited to infrastructure improvements that are loosely estimated now at around $190 million, to be generated by some new tax or taxes as opposed to access to the general fund.

So: The city and county will put in maybe $190 million for infrastructure, which it will get from somewhere, while the developers will put in $1 billion, which it will earn back by charging the Raiders something. Or maybe getting an equity stake in the team. None of which has been worked out yet with team owner Mark Davis.

Maybe someone on the board of supervisors or city council, who would have to vote on this, can shed some light?

Alameda supervisors discussed the proposed deal behind closed doors Tuesday morning, but Supervisor Scott Haggerty, the president of the board, downplayed Schaaf’s comments that the county was close to voting on Lott’s proposal. Haggerty said the city has not released information supervisors have requested. He would not say what that information was.

Well, then. Maybe Schaaf and Lott have actually agreed on something, but if so, they aren’t saying what it is, and even then, it may not matter unless Davis agrees to have the Raiders play there. She got her name in the paper under “getting things done” headlines, though, so I suppose that’s a short holiday work week well spent if you’re a mayor.

Trump plan could create huge incentive for governors to rebrand stadiums as “infrastructure”

I followed up on Monday’s quick take on what Donald Trump’s infrastructure tax-break plan could mean for stadium subsidies with a longer investigation for Vice Sports, and after speaking to a half-dozen experts in the field, the conclusion is: This is mostly a plan to coerce states into outsourcing roads and other big public projects to private companies, but if it means funneling money to things like stadiums and calling it “infrastructure,” they’ll probably take that too.

While some [public-private partnerships] have worked out well, the failures have been of epic proportions. A few years ago, Texas contracted out State Highway 130 to a private developer, which skimped on construction costs by installing cheaper asphalt rather than sturdier concrete, resulting in what the Austin Statesman described as “a rumbling, dangerous washboard effect that tends to last for a couple of seconds each time.” Despite a much-ballyhooed 85-mile-per-hour speed limit, the road’s builders filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, sticking the federal government with a half-billion-dollar tab for its piece of the P3.

Under Trump’s proposal, more for-profit companies getting involved in building public roads would probably be the best-case scenario. Without strict limits on what qualifies for the Trump tax breaks, all sorts of projects for private benefit could end up being rebranded as “infrastructure.” We’ve already seen mayors and business leaders propose everything from affordable housing (this from the mayor of D.C.) to “Internet of Things technology” (this from the CEO of IBM, which makes—you guessed it—said technology) as infrastructure projects…

You can probably see where this is going. John Q. Governor decides that he wants a slice of that sweet, sweet Trump money so he can show voters that he can get benefits for his state. He doesn’t need another toll road, and no private investors are looking to build a new sewage system because sewage doesn’t pay the bills (and also, ick). However, the local arena shuffleboard team is asking for a new stadium, and shuffleboard arenas are infrastructure, right? Like, the kids can use them to practice for pro shuffleboard careers? Plus, jobs. Jobs are totally infrastructure!

Do I think that Trump is definitely going to unleash billions of dollars of federal sports subsidies on top of the couple billion a year currently being spent by local governments? No. Do I think that he’s set to open a giant loophole that every sports team owner is going to try to figure out how to drive a stadium through? Yeah, that one.

Yep, Pistons owner is getting even more public money to move team to downtown Detroit

And we have the terms under which the Detroit Pistons will move from their 28-year-old arena in Auburn Hills to a zero-year-old arena in their namesake city, courtesy of MLive. With no further ado:

The Pistons will play all home games at the 20,000-seat Little Ceasars Arena starting with the 2017-18 season.

Right, we figured.

The team and Palace Sports & Entertainment will move its business operations, corporate headquarters, team practice and training facilities into a new practice facility, to be built north of the arena at a cost between $32 and $55 million.

That’s pricey. Who’s going to pay for that?

Detroit’s DDA has agreed to contribute $34.5 million in additional bond proceeds through refinancing to be used for redesign and construction to modify Little Caesars Arena from a hockey facility to jointly house an NHL and NBA team.

Apparently Steve Neavling was right to be suspicious when Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority scheduled a meeting for a half-hour before the Pistons announcement and wouldn’t tell anybody what it was. But is this real Detroit city money, or passthrough money that’s really coming out of state education funds, like most of the rest of the arena costs? Reply cloudy, ask again later.

No city of Detroit general fund dollars will be spent on the arena project, and any additional costs or cost overruns will be paid entirely by the Pistons, the Red Wings and associated companies.

Teams pay overruns, all the public money comes out of special segregated funds, not the precious “general fund,” blah blah. It’s still city (or state) dollars that could be used for something else otherwise.

The Pistons are responsible for all costs relating to the development, construction, operation and maintenance of the practice facility.

That’s good!

The location of the team’s practice facility may be owned by the DDA, subjection to a concession agreement with the Pistons.

That’s possibly bad, since it means the practice facility wouldn’t pay any property taxes! Unless the concession agreement involved making payments in lieu of taxes. Reply cloudy, etc.

The Pistons have agreed to a 10-point community benefits plan, including investing $2.5 million over six years for the construction, renovation and refurbishment of more than 60 basketball courts in Detroit, the employment of at least 51 percent of Detroit residents on the construction of the practice facility and provide 20,000 free tickets a year to Detroit youth and area residents.

Better than nothing, but for what the DDA is putting into this, they could have built 1,000 basketball courts.

So, wait, who’s paying for that practice arena again?

Wait, what?

Okay, phew. You know, this “rough draft of history” stuff was a lot easier before Twitter got people publishing their actual rough drafts.

Anyway, total public subsidies for the arena are now at $334.5 million at minimum, and possibly even higher than that. You can argue that it’s worth it to Detroit to throw this money at the arena in order to lure the Pistons across the border from Auburn Hills — the tax impact may not be as huge as team owners like to pretend, but it doesn’t have to be to repay just $34.5 million — or you could argue that the Red Wings are eliminating a competitor (the Palace at Auburn Hills will almost certainly be razed now) and the Pistons are getting a newer home, and they’re both owned by billionaires who clearly want to do this deal regardless, so why the hell can’t they pay for adding a basketball court instead of Detroit be giving up scarce tax revenue?

More news tomorrow morning, if the magic eight ball clears up.