Passive voice predicts money will be caused to rain from heaven by Des Moines junior hockey arena

One of the commonly asserted principles of Good Writing is that the passive voice is to be avoided at all costs; or, should I say, you should avoid the passive voice at all costs. And while there’s probably some tedious Strunk & Whitey rationale why simple declarative sentences are best — something I hope we can all agree is not always true — there is one excellent reason to beware of the passive voice, and that is that it obscures who it is who’s doing or saying something, seemingly assigning an action to an omniscient deity or the universe itself.

If that was all too oblique, let’s go with an example: this article from We Are Iowa headlined “New Des Moines Buccaneers arena expected to bring in $126M annually once built.”

What does this headline tell us? It seems to be saying that once the city of Des Moines opens a new arena for something called the Buccaneers (they’re a junior hockey team, we covered this a little over a week ago, try to keep up), you can expect it to bring in $126 million a year. What it actually says is that some particular person expects it to bring in $126 million a year. And that person is:

Chief Executive Officer Liz Holland of Merle Hay Investors, the company that owns Merle Hay Mall, said the 3,500-seat arena will bring in around $126 million annually and create around 1,000 new jobs.

In case it’s not clear, maybe because the article never says, Merle Hay Investors is also the company that wants to build the arena (in a failed mall), and get $30 million in state funding to do it. Perhaps readers might take the prediction with a grain of salt if only they knew that.

Perhaps, for that matter, they might like to know what exactly “bring in $126 million” means. In tax revenue? In arena gross revenue? In arena profits? The arena is supposed to hold 3,500 people, so if it’s in operation, say, 150 nights a year (which would be pretty good as arenas go), that’s 525,000 people total, each of whom would have to spend $240 on each trip just to get to $126 million in raw economic activity.

We met We Are Iowa once before a couple of weeks ago, when it reported on a minor-league soccer team in Des Moines looking for subsidies of its own for a new stadium, without ever explaining exactly how much money or what the city council was voting on. It turns out to be the … let’s go with “cleverly” named website of WOI-TV, which is owned by Tegna, the former Gannett TV station umbrella company that was spun off in 2015.

Not having spent much time watching Iowa TV, I can’t say whether WOI has always been especially terrible at reporting, or if printing developers’ bald assertions as fact is some new efficiency measure to break down the filters between PR and web readers’ eyeballs. The article linked above from the Des Moines Register — which is owned by Gannett proper — isn’t much better in terms of providing details or explanation, but at least sort of says who Holland is, which is the bare minimum for a journalism passing grade. Just straight-up printing corporate press releases as reality may be a worsening journalistic trend, but that doesn’t mean it’s something up with which we should put.

Friday roundup: Miami ripped off again by Loria, Rays roof removal proposed, America’s journalists snookered

I’ll keep this short today, in deference to any Texas readers who may be trying to save battery life thanks to that state’s power outages. Once your bandwidth is back, here’s a good reminder from the New York Times that climate change is expected to cause unseasonable cold snaps and winter storms as well as insane summer heat, so you have lots more of both to look forward to. Or, if you prefer, here’s an article on a similar theme from the Village Voice a few years back that I wrote a much snappier headline for.

Stadiums, right, that’s what you came here to read about! Let’s see what we’ve got:

Friday roundup: More crazy stadium subsidy demands than can fit in one headline, you call this a lull?

Every couple of weeks, it seems, someone in the comments predicts that we are about to see the end of sports’ 30-year surge in stadium and arena subsidies, either because of Covid-depleted budgets or legislators smartening up or just everybody already having a new place. To which I say: If the stadium scam is slowing, why are my Friday mornings still so #$@&%*! busy?

Ahem. And now, the news:

  • A lawyer for the South Bend Cubs, saying the team owners were “shocked” to discover that a law allowing them to siphon off up to $650,000 a year in sales and income taxes for their own purposes had expired in 2018, has asked the state legislature to renew it. Oh, and also increase the cap to $2 million a year. You know, while they have the document open on their screens. “South Bend and every other city that has retained their relationship with Major League Baseball have to get to a certain level by 2025,” said attorney Richard Nussbaum. “If they don’t, they risk losing the team.” It’s an epidemic, I tells ya.
  • Speaking of which, Hudson Valley Renegades owner Jeff Goldklang got his $1.4 million in stadium renovation cash from Dutchess County, after emailing residents and fans warning them that the team could move if it was denied the subsidy.
  • Fort Wayne F.C., which I had to look up to be sure it actually exists and which turns out to be a “pre-professional” (much in the way that kids are “pre-adults”) USL League Two club, is seeking to move up to League One in 2023 and wants a $150 million soccer-stadium-plus-other-stuff project, to be paid for by mumble mumble hey look over there! It also features an instant classic in the field of fans-throwing-their-hands-skyward-while-fireworks-go-off-over-soccer-players-not-playing-anything-recognizable-as-soccer renderings, which is worth $150 million if it’s worth a dime:
  • The Oakland A’s owners (not the Oakland A’s, I still remember when I was an intern at The Nation Christopher Hitchens lecturing us on how one should always say “the U.S. government” and not “the U.S.” because just because the government approved something didn’t mean the populace did, but anyway) won their lawsuit to allow their Howard Terminal stadium project to have challenges to environmental impact reviews reviewed on a fast track, which is a big thing in California. “This is a critically important decision,” said A’s president Dave Kaval, who indicated he hopes the Oakland city council will be able to vote on a stadium bill this year, presumably after it’s figured out who the hell would pay for what.
  • Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin wants to talk about building a new hockey arena to keep the Carolina Hurricanes in town long-term — their “old” one opened just over 21 years ago — and Sougata Mukherjee, the editor-in-chief of the Triangle Business Journal, points out that maybe now is not the best time what with 7% of the state not having enough to eat, small businesses on the brink, and, oh yeah, a pandemic still going on. Cue Hurricanes execs or their political talking about how a new arena will mean “jobs” in three, two…
  • While we wait, here’s San Diego Union-Tribune sports columnist Bryce Miller saying that San Diego should build a new arena to lure a nonexistent NBA expansion franchise because it would be “catalytic.” In the sense of the Oxford dictionary’s sample sentence for meaning 1.1, maybe?
  • Twenty years ago this week, the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ and Steelers‘ Three Rivers Stadium was blowed up real good, only a little over 30 years after it was first opened. I went to a couple of games at Three Rivers over the years, and I agree with former Pirate Richie Hebner’s review that “the graveyard I work in during the offseason has more life than this place,” and the Pirates’ new stadium is one of my favorites. Still, it and the Steelers’ new stadium deserve the blame for popularizing tax kickbacks in the stadium financing world, after Pittsburgh voters passed a referendum barring any new tax money from going to new stadiums, and the state legislature responded by “loaning” the teams stadium money that would be “repaid” by taxes the state would be collecting anyway — prompting Pittsburgh state rep Thomas Petrone’s timeless comment: “It’s not a grant. It’s not a loan. It’s a groan.”
  • Phoenix restaurants are hoping that having partial attendance at Suns games will provide more happy hour customers, something that seems not only ambitious given the proven not-so-robust spinoff effects of sports stadiums, but also slightly heedless of whether it’s such a great idea to encourage basketball fans to congregate indoors and take their masks off to drink and then go directly to congregating indoors to watch the Suns. In entirely unrelated news, restaurants around the new Los Angeles Rams and Chargers stadium in Inglewood are afraid of being driven out of business by new high-priced options gravitating to serve well-heeled football fans.
  • Finally a partial explanation of how funding for that new Des Moines Menace soccer stadium would work: In addition to city funds, it would be up for state hotel-tax funds designated for projects that “improve the quality of life for Iowa residents.” Other projects proposed to dip into the hotel-tax pool include a Des Moines Buccaneers junior hockey arena, a private indoor amateur sports facility, and a new mall; is it just me, or does “quality of life” seem to have been interpreted as “ways to put money in the pockets of Iowa business barons”?
  • Hey, remember the $200 million highway interchange that Las Vegas is building, totally coincidentally, near the Raiders‘ new stadium? It is now a $273 million highway interchange. But the city needed to build it anyway, because traffic was too bad at the old interchange and, shh, don’t tell them.
  • Okay, here’s one way in which maybe the pandemic has delayed some stadium spending: The Baltimore Orioles owners have signed a two-year lease extension on Camden Yards, while also working with the Maryland Stadium Authority “to establish a new long-term agreement that includes upgrades to the facility,” according to WJZ-TV. So it’s possible some 2021 and 2022 sports subsidies will end up getting pushed back to 2023 or so — yay?
  • If you wanted a live webcam of construction on the new Knoxville stadium for the Tennessee Smokies that hasn’t even been approved yet, let alone started construction, the team’s new stadium promotion website has got you covered.

Cuomo allows sports venues to reopen on February 23, because money

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared yesterday that sports and music venues that hold more than 10,000 people — both outdoor stadiums and indoor arenas — will be allowed to reopen to fans at 10% capacity starting February 23. Each building will first have to have its ventilation systems approved by the state department of health, but once that’s complete, the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, New York Mets, and New York Yankees could all soon be playing before paying crowds.

The announcement came as a bit of a surprise in a state that, even with falling coronavirus rates, still has the fifth-highest positive test rate in the country, as new more transmissible variants threaten to create a renewed surge in coming weeks. But Cuomo said that with reduced capacities, improved ventilation, requiring mask wearing, and requiring a negative test result in the previous 72 hours, he could “get this economy open intelligently and in a balanced way.”

All that is well enough — if you’re going to start putting fans back in seats, it’s clear, keeping them masked and distanced is key. But the negative test certification — which Cuomo called “the key” to reopening — is what begins to paint this as hygiene theater: As we learned last year during the Miami Marlins fiasco, 40% of people will still test negative four days after being exposed to the virus, and 20% will test negative even three days after symptoms have started. Plus there’s the problem of people who get tested on a Monday and then contract the virus by Thursday. As one infectious disease expert put it to the New York Times:

“A test 72 hours prior to a game will help identify some cases, but that’s also three days in which an individual can become infectious,” [Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist from George Mason University,] wrote in an email.

Coming just one week after Cuomo announced that restaurants would be allowed to open to indoor dining, something that can’t be done while masked until chefs develop food that can be absorbed through diners’ skin, the sports reopening is a clear signal that New York state is prioritizing “getting the economy open” over actual safety concerns. As the Times editorial board wrote just hours before Cuomo’s sports announcement:

Too many leaders — not just Mr. Cuomo — are ignoring that call. Massachusetts and New Jersey are allowing businesses, including restaurants, to expand capacity for indoor services, and Iowa just lifted its mask mandate. The impulse behind these moves is understandable. Restaurants and the people who earn their living through them are in dire straits because they have not received sufficient government assistance. State and local economies are hanging by a thread, and everyone is exhausted by restrictions and desperate to return to some semblance of normal life.

But the number of people who get sick or die from Covid-19 in the coming year will depend on the outcome of a desperate race that’s underway, between human vaccination and viral mutation. … By relaxing restrictions now, state and local leaders are undermining their own vaccination efforts. To get a sense of what this looks like to scientists and public health experts, imagine a military general leading the fight against a foreign enemy — and then selling that enemy deadly weapons on the side.

Meanwhile, food critic Ryan Sutton of Eater came out against the restaurant reopening, noting that choosing Valentine’s Day weekend to resume indoor dining “feels chosen less for any health milestones and more for the fact that it is historically one of the biggest nights for restaurants.” While restaurant workers will soon be allowed to sign up for vaccinations, the slow pace of vaccine production means they could be waiting for appointments well into the spring or summer. (Cuomo didn’t say whether stadium and arena workers will be added to the vaccine priority list.)

Speaking as a New Yorker and a Mets fan eager to see how the team will screw up its winter of big-name acquisitions, I’m dying to get to a ballgame as much as anyone. But “dying” only metaphorically: If allowing a couple thousand lucky fans to witness the Knicks and Nets firsthand leads to an uptick in cases that allows new viral variants to take off, sickening and killing people across the city who have no interest in basketball, Cuomo’s sports reopening move could go down as one of the most poorly timed decisions in governmental history. And even if we get lucky and limited-capacity indoor sports turn out not to become superspreader events, seeking a “balanced” reopening — presumably between the full reopening many businesses would want and the continued shutdown of indoor activities that scientists recommend, meaning between profits and deaths — is, let’s just say, a telling reminder of how most elected officials see where their bread is buttered.

Pawtucket, Des Moines approve maybe $90m in soccer subsidies, local reporters can’t be bothered to explain it

A $46.2 million subsidy for a Pawtucket USL soccer stadium was approved last week by … okay, let’s let the dueling crappy press reports explain it. First, the Providence Journal:

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation board Friday afternoon approved $46.2 million in state incentives for a proposed $284-million soccer stadium and residential and commercial development on the Seekonk River in Pawtucket…

The 8-to-0 votes Friday approved $36.2 million in state borrowing for infrastructure improvements associated with the project, to be paid off by new tax revenue from Tidewater Landing. It also included $10 million in Rebuild RI tax credits, plus rebates of the sales and use tax on materials used during construction.

That seems pretty straightforward: The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation is the state development agency, and $46.2 million worth of future tax kickbacks (for a stadium that will only cost $40 million to build, plus a bunch of other non-soccer development) is about the size of what was being discussed last week. So, now it just needs to be approved by the state legislature, presumably? Let’s see what the Associated Press has to say:

A city committee approved the use of bonds and tax rebates amounting to $46 million for the project on Thursday, the city said in a statement.

The city … council? According to an earlier Providence Journal story, the “new tax revenue” kickbacks will include both state and city money, so it makes sense that the city would have to approve it. But why only a committee? Is there a full council vote still to follow? Anyone? Have our nation’s journalism outlets just totally given up on explaining anything that isn’t in the press release?

Meanwhile, in Des Moines, where last week it was reported that the city was working on subsidies for its own USL stadium that would amount to “much less than $45 million” (“much” here being a technical fiscal term meaning “something”), the city council voted last night to … the only reporting is from something called We Are Iowa, and here’s what it says:

The Des Moines City Council voted Monday night to approve a preliminary plan for the Capital City Reinvestment District, which formerly belonged to Dico, Inc.

The Council also voted to approve preliminary terms to sell part of the area for an urban renewal development agreement with Krause Group…

The Stadium District will transform the area into a “welcoming gateway into the downtown” part of Des Moines. A 6,300-seat, multi-use soccer stadium is hoped to be built in the area as well as a 150-room hotel with office buildings and a parking ramp.

Okay, what are those “preliminary terms”? Would the project still get tax kickbacks, just like in Pawtucket? Hello?Come on, guys, seriously, this is like your one job!
More news on both of these as they’re reported, I guess, which may or may not ever happen. (There’s video of the Des Moines council hearing, I see, but I don’t have time to watch it all right now to see if it includes any more details.) In the meantime, here’s a rendering of some sad people walking around the outside of the Pawtucket stadium because they can’t afford a ticket, or maybe don’t like soccer, or maybe decided to leave in the middle of the match because it was so boring, I mean seriously, half the fans are choosing to stand at an outward-facing railing and stare into the distance rather than watch the game … which is actually pretty much how I felt at the last low-level U.S. pro soccer match I went to, so points for realism!


What time was the Super Bowl superspreader event?

The NFL held another Super Bowl last night, and as was discussed in the run-up to kickoff, there were widespread concerns that doing so with fans in attendance in Tampa’s stadium — and fans gathering elsewhere for Super Bowl parties — might set off a spike in coronavirus infections just like that other recent big mass gathering event did. How did America do?

Let’s start with inside the stadium, where the NFL allowed in 22,000 fans while augmenting them with 30,000 cardboard cutouts. There are roughly a billion articles today saying that this made the game look more crowded than it was; so how crowded was it?

That’s pretty crowded, even if you account for the few cutouts visible. Not to mention pretty sporadically masked. And while one of those two things might be acceptable in an outdoor space, the one proven way to spread the virus even outdoors is to be unmasked, close together, and singing or shouting.

But 7,500 of those fans were vaccinated health care workers! They’re just like cardboard cutouts, right, because now that they’re vaccinated, they can’t catch or spread the virus? Well, no:

“Currently, we do not have enough data to be able to say with confidence that the vaccines can prevent transmission,” [Dr. Anthony] Fauci said in a tweet during an online Q&A session. “So even if vaccinated, you may still be able to spread the virus to vulnerable people.”

The important distinction here is that while the available vaccines have been shown to be extremely effective at preventing people from getting extremely sick, they don’t actually prevent people from getting infected. And people who are infected but not sick can still spread the virus — there’s some early evidence that at least one of the vaccines dramatically reduces the number of people with active virus in their noses, which is a great sign that they’ll spread it less, but that still makes those vaccinated health care workers at best 67% cardboard.

Outside the stadium, meanwhile, things were if anything much worse, especially once the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers won:

Now, all this is outdoors, and the vast majority of coronavirus spread has been indoors, so maybe things will be more or less okay despite the lack of masks and close quarters, much like they were after last spring’s Black Lives Matter protests, though the protestors then seemed to be on the whole more consistently masked. We’ll find out in a couple of weeks, once we see whether virus levels spike in Tampa. (And other cities where people gather to watch the Super Bowl, which I understand happens even in cities without teams in the game!) And if it does, it could have a major impact on whether other sporting events like the MLB season or the Tokyo Olympics are considered safe for fans — assuming that either the leaders of sports leagues or elected officials use epidemiology and not businesses’ profit concerns as their guide, which is probably not a safe assumption at all.

Plus, of course, how much the virus spread last night will determine whether a whole lot of people get infected and die: not just the people at the game and the street parties, but the people who then get infected by them, and the people who get infected by them, and so on. One of the problems of public health and infectious disease vectors is that “I’m willing to accept the risk” is seldom a reasonable justification for risky behavior — your behavior can end up bringing sickness or death to someone you never even meet, just like that one poor person who went to a biotech conference in Boston last February and ended up leading to the infection of at least 245,000 people. If we’re lucky, that didn’t happen last night in Tampa; if we’re unlucky, allowing fans to celebrate the Super Bowl up close and maskless could end up costing us a shot at an earlier end to this pandemic.

Friday roundup: We have entered the Golden Age of minor-league stadium scams

Welp, that was another week. I know from comments that some of you think that the stadium and arena subsidy racket is about to come grinding to a halt, either because of the Covid economy or everybody already having a new enough stadium or something, but it sure looks like team owners didn’t get the memo — my RSS feeds are as hopping as they’ve ever been with tales of sports venue funding demands, and it’s still a rarity when local governments say no or even hmm, really? Check out this week’s roster, which, as yours truly predicted a couple of months ago, is especially jam-packed with minor-league baseball stadium plans:

Super Bowl foes’ billionaire owners got richer thanks to $468 million in stadium subsidies

As the proprietor of the world’s most comprehensive site on stadium and arena financing news (the competition is something fierce, let me tell you), I occasionally get requests for research help, and one of those came recently from the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness, which were putting together a report on how much richer America’s sports billionaires have gotten during the pandemic. (The total is $98.5 billion, if you were wondering, a rise of 30% in wealth in just one year, enough to pay for $1,400 stimulus checks for almost half of those eligible.) I crunched the numbers on how much the wealth of those owners had been boosted by public stadium and arena subsidies, and the answer is:

Over the past several decades, according to data maintained by Field of Schemes, 28 pro sports teams owned by 26 billionaires have received $9 billion in taxpayer subsidies to help build or update stadiums and arenas and make other investments billionaires could presumably afford on their own. These publicly subsidized team owners have seen their wealth increase $45 billion in the last 10 months.

That public largesse for billionaire sports barons has included both teams in this year’s Super Bowl. The Chiefs received $250 million in taxpayer subsidies for stadium renovations in 2006. Taxpayers provided a total of $218 million in subsidies for construction and renovation of the Buccaneer stadium in 1998 and 2015.

Now, there isn’t a direct link between the stadium subsidies and the billionaires’ wealth boom during the pandemic — most of the benefits from the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers subsidies were absorbed by their billionaire owners years ago. If anything, the surge in concentrated wealth is more a reflection of how during troubled times, the rich generally find a way to get richer, as with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, whose Quicken Loans empire has sent his personal value soaring 589% to more than $44 billion, thanks to the tanking economy leading to low interest rates and lots of cheap loan refinancing. According to the IPS/ATF report, even Oakland A’s and The Gap owner John Fisher has seen his wealth soar by 34% during the pandemic, despite the advent of Zoom work meaning nobody has had to buy any new pants.

The remedies proposed by the two organizations are to close loopholes that tax income generated by wealth at lower rates than wages — stock dividends and stock gains are currently taxed at a maximum of 20%, a discount that benefits billionaires way more than penny investors, those plucky Redditors notwithstanding — instituting wealth and estate taxes, and restoring the corporate income tax rate to 40% from the 21% that Donald Trump cut it to. Getting rid of stadium subsidies would be a drop in the bucket on top of this, but a $9 billion drop is still nothing to shake a stick at.

Des Moines could spend $45m on tax kickbacks for minor-league soccer stadium

With the explosive growth of pro soccer leagues in the United States has come an explosive growth in new soccer stadium demands, and the latest city to be hit is Des Moines, home to the Des Moines Menace of the semi-pro USL League 2 (the fourth tier of pro soccer) but hoping to move up to USL Championship (the second tier). And where in most of the world the team would need to earn promotion by winning games, in the U.S. there’s an easy shortcut: spend a bunch of tax money to build a soccer stadium and surrounding development complex.

Pro Iowa, a campaign to bring profession soccer to Iowa, along with the real estate arm of Krause Group and the city of Des Moines, plan to use sales and hotel-motel taxes generated from the Iowa Reinvestment Act to help pay for the $535 million project that would include 29 separate projects.

There’s lots of gibberish about “activated plaza space” and “heritage festivals,” but mostly what you need to know is that the Iowa Reinvestment Act allows cities to create special districts where hotel/motel and sales taxes are kicked back to developers to fund the cost of new construction. (Yep, that’s a TIF.) Des Moines city officials aren’t yet revealing exactly how much tax money would be siphoned off and given to the stadium developers, but the Des Moines Register reports that “early discussions” were in the $40-45 million range; deputy city manager Matt Anderson told the paper that “we are still working on the final amount, but it will be much less than $45 million.” (The total cost of a stadium was previously reported at around $60 million.)

The Des Moines city council is set to discuss the project on Monday, at which point maybe we’ll have more details. For now, here’s a rendering of people standing in a combined pedestrian plaza and parking lot — does that make it a woonerf? I’m calling it a woonerf until somebody tells me otherwise:

Red Sox owner seeks to pepper Fenway area with high rises, take over public street

When John Henry bought the Boston Red Sox in 2002, as part of the three-way ownership deal that ended up with the Florida Marlins in the hands of Jeffrey Loria and the Montreal Expos eventually being moved to Washington, it was seen as a victory for opponents of tearing down historic ballparks and replacing them at public expense: The old ownership’s plan for a new, larger Fenway Park went out the window, and Henry instead set out to renovate the 1912 ballpark with mostly private money, though he did get $80 million in state and federal historic preservation credits.

Henry also set his sights on the Fenway neighborhood around the park, with an eye toward making money by expanding his team’s footprint outside the stadium proper. He bought several adjacent buildings, moving some ballpark operations into them, and struck a deal with the city to close down Yawkey Way (now Jersey Street because former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey was a racist jerk who was the last owner in MLB to bring in a non-white player) on game days for a pittance so he could use it as an outdoor concessions mall. And now Henry is preparing his biggest move yet, seeking city approval to partner with two development firms to build 2.1 million square feet of office, residential, and retail towers on eight acres of land near Fenway:

“The Project’s guiding principle is to allow the city fabric to envelop and embrace the historic ballpark and create welcoming, people-first places and buildings that contribute to the quality and vitality of the public realm in the heart of the Fenway neighborhood year-round,” WS [Development] wrote in its letter to the [Boston Planning & Development Agency].

They also plan to shut down Jersey Street — which today is closed on Red Sox game days but otherwise open to traffic — to create a permanent pedestrian plaza alongside Fenway Park. That would happen only after the extension of Ross Way — which today connects Boylston and Van Ness Streets — all the way through to Brookline Avenue. A mix of storefronts and taller buildings would line Jersey Street, according to images filed with the letter.

The project also calls for buildings on a large surface parking lot across Brookline Avenue from Fenway Park, and on the site of a squat garage along Landsdowne Street behind the Green Monster. Longer term, the group is considering building a so-called “air rights” development over the Turnpike behind that garage — though those highly-complex projects typically take years of careful planning.

Here are some renderings, complete with skyways and clip-art people enjoying leisurely strolls (with their bicycles, for some reason) along public promenades:

Is this a land-development-rights stadium scam, like is becoming all the rage these days? Not precisely: Henry doesn’t appear to be asking for public money, and there’s no quid pro quo where he’s threatening to leave town if he doesn’t get what he wants or anything like that. It’s just Henry behaving like other local developers who have taken advantage of booming real estate values to erect a ton of high-rise buildings in the Fenway area. (If you haven’t been to a Red Sox game lately, check out what’s happened to Boylston Street.)

Still, developer scams are a thing too, and this has all the hallmarks of one: Henry would almost certainly need to demand a rezoning to allow for higher development than would otherwise be allowed on land that he or his partners bought for a price based on lower zoning limits. Plus, there’s that bit about shutting down Jersey Street permanently, which while maybe a good idea from a pedestrian traffic-flow point of view, still amounts to a land grab to make up for Fenway Park’s small footprint by annexing his own version of Baltimore’s Eutaw Street.

As with the original Fenway renovation deal, I don’t feel the need to call out the pitchforks and torches — this could be so, so much worse for both Boston taxpayers and Boston fans of historic stadiums and historic neighborhoods. Still, it’s decidedly an indication of how billionaires, whether they own sports teams or not (but it helps), can leverage their way into redesigning entire areas of cities. In American capitalism, we get not the cities that we deserve, but the cities that our 700-pound gorillas think will make them the most money.