Outgoing owner promises A-Rod won’t move T-Wolves to Seattle, everyone immediately wonders if A-Rod will move T-Wolves to Seattle

Glen Taylor, the billionaire former Minnesota state senator who owns the Minnesota Timberwolves, is in the midst of selling his team to online marketing billionaire Marc Lore and not-billionaire-but-pretty-wealthy former disgraced baseball star Alex Rodriguez for around $1.5 billion, and given that neither of those guys are locals, it’s immediately sparked heightened speculation about whether the team could move, maybe to Seattle, which is still on the hunt for a replacement for the Sonics. In response, Taylor told WCCO-AM that his sale agreement contains language to keep the team in town; as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which Taylor also owns:

“We have it in the contract, they have signed the contract to do that,” Taylor said…

Taylor said in his interview with Chad Hartman that the NBA does not want to see the Wolves moved out of Minnesota to another city like Seattle.

“The real agreement is with the NBA. The NBA will make the decision if somebody’s going to move or not move,” Taylor said. “The NBA will not approve of the Timberwolves moving from here to Seattle. It’s in the NBA’s interest that in Seattle, that a new team is formed. It’s an economic decision that’s in the interest of all of the owners.”…

He also said the new owners “are not going to pay” $1.5 billion to buy the Wolves then another $2 billion or so to move the team.

“That’s the assurance that I have that they aren’t going to move it out there,” Taylor said.

So, we have: Lore and A-Rod won’t move the team because they signed a contract saying they won’t; the NBA won’t let them move; and the NBA might let them move, but would charge the owners so much money to do so that it wouldn’t be worthwhile. That’s totally clear and not at all inconsistent!

In response, the Star Trib linked to an article it ran last July wherein several legal experts said it would be difficult to make a permanent non-relocation agreement in a sale contract enforceable, or to get one approved by the league:

“You could have some contingencies … and I’m sure there could be a provision that relates to keeping the team in place,” said Eldon Ham, an author and professor of sports law at Chicago-Kent College of Law. “But I don’t think it would be able to extend forever.”

At the crux of any guarantee to keep the Wolves in Minnesota would be how long that guarantee would last or how harsh the financial penalty would be for breaking it. Ham said any kind of agreement that makes outlandish demands, like a 30-year promise to keep the team in Minnesota, might not make it past league approval, which requires a $1 million fee just to apply, he said.

“The league itself has to approve all this,” Ham said. “So if you have a ridiculous contract, they’re just going to tell you: ‘We’re not approving this stuff.’”

So, what’s really going on here? Clearly, Taylor, who still needs to maintain his local cred if only to keep Minnesotans from threatening to burn his newspaper in effigy, is trying to do all he can to say that if the Timberwolves ever move, it’s not his fault. So he’s putting in some kind of clause in the sale agreement, but also noting that the NBA would want a ten-figure payoff to let Seattle back into the league, something the new owners are unlikely to put up just to move from one mid-size city to another mid-size city — all of which is true.

But as we’ve seen here time and again, move threats aren’t just about actual threats to move, but ways to (say it all with me now) create leverage for owners to extract concessions from local elected officials. The T-Wolves’ Target Center just got a $140 million renovation in 2017, helped along with $74 million in public money, but at 31 years old it’s also the second-oldest arena in the NBA, and you just know how shiny new sports team owners hate not having the shiniest new buildings to go with their freshly acquired baubles. Hence how there’s somehow only one remaining NBA arena built before 1990, seriously, what kind of planned-obsolescent world are we living in, people?

Anyway: There’s no reason to think that Lore and A-Rod will move the Timberwolves, but there’s also every reason to suspect that they would not be unhappy for the possibility of the Wolves moving to continue to be front-page news in, oh, say, the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Especially if talk of a new arena, or another round of renovations to this one, begins making the rounds. This is all conjecture, mind you — maybe A-Rod will declare “Today, I am a Minnesotan!” and vow that the team will only leave over his dead body — but it’s conjecture informed by a whole lots of sports shakedown history, so let’s just say that if this isn’t the last we hear about Wolves-to-Seattle rumors, don’t be surprised.

Illinois spends $13m in “infrastructure” money on new video boards for minor-league hockey arena

It was only Friday that I suggested we would be needing a “stupid infrastructure” category to cover government spending infrastructure money on things that should at the bottom of the list, below tax breaks for yachts. And now here we already have our first entry, it’s so exciting:

State officials joined the Chicago Blackhawks, the city of Rockford, and the Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in announcing a $23 million multi-year capital project to revitalize the [Rockford IceHogs‘] BMO Harris Bank Center — Rockford’s largest sports arena and entertainment venue.

Fueled in part by the Rebuild Illinois $45 billion capital plan, the project will modernize Rockford’s largest destination asset, creating over 250 construction jobs, retaining hundreds of existing full-time positions, and generating millions in economic activity to the region.

Rebuild Illinois, for those not familiar, is a $1.5 billion spending plan put forward by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to fund transportation and other public infrastructure. In this case, the infrastructure being paid for by $13 million in Rebuild Illinois grants is, as Kane County Connects relates it, “necessary infrastructure improvements, improved audio-visual and digital technology, enhanced guest experience and concession areas, space for sports betting, and other modernized customer amenities.” These new video boards and hot dog stands and in-arena gambling halls are somehow projected to create “$382 million in net spending” in Rockford — though actually the report says it’s the arena upgrades “combined with the sale of the team to the Blackhawks and their long-term commitment to the facility” (Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz graciously agreed to buy the IceHogs as part of the deal for public cash) that would create the economic benefits, so maybe Pritzker is just adding up every dollar that will be spent at an IceHogs game ever and attributing that to the new scoreboards?

In addition to the $13 million in state infrastructure money, the Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority and the city of Rockford are putting up $10 million in “short and long-term capital,” bringing the public cost of upgrading the arena to $23 million, for a building that was built in 1981 for, let’s see, $15.7 million. Though that’s $47.5 million in today’s dollars, so really taxpayers are only paying half the entire original construction price to upgrade a minor-league hockey arena that, while owned by the city, is managed by a private operator and used by a private sports franchise now owned by a guy rich enough to own a superyacht. Stupid infrastructure: Ask for it by name!

New Jersey city now spending $94m to rebuild Negro League stadium, maybe somebody should say something?

When last we checked in on Paterson, New Jersey’s plan to rebuild its old Negro League stadium, the price tag was still uncertain. Well, it’s uncertain now, too, but in a different way:

The estimated cost of the Hinchliffe Stadium reconstruction project has climbed by more than 20% in the last two years, rising from $72 million to $94 million, according to public records.

Yikes! I’m as big a fan of preserving historic sites as the next person, but $94 million for a stadium that will be used by no one except maybe some high school teams seems like a lot, even if the project also includes building some housing and parking garages. How are local officials justifying this expense?

[Mayor Andre] Sayegh hopes that rebuilding Hinchliffe will help revitalize the area around Paterson’s Great Falls National Historical Park.

Oh, revitalization, of course. Because when deciding on whether to visit a crazy-ass waterfall in the middle of a city, the first thing you think is “But will there be a renovated Negro League baseball stadium nearby where I can watch high school sports?”

Much of the money for the project is coming from state and federal historic tax credits, so Paterson officials can at least argue that they’re using other people’s tax money for the rehab, though is significantly less reassuring if you live somewhere other than Paterson and so are one of those other people. The upside, I guess, is that we would be gaining a historical site preserved to look like … you know, what would it look like, actually? Years into this project, I still can’t find any renderings, though there are lots of pictures of the trees growing through the current grandstand, and what’s less vital than trees?

 

 

Poll of Americans on reopening stadiums shows why not to reopen stadiums based on polls

There is a very dumb journalistic tradition that will not die of “Let’s poll people about what they believe about purely factual things.” So you take a question that should be answered with reporting — say, whether climate change is an imminent crisis, or whether Saddam Hussein really had weapons of mass destruction — and then parse the responses as if they mean anything more than just a reification of the ideas that the media itself has been telling people. It is truly very, very dumb.

Today is Major League Baseball opening day, and so the question the Washington Post chose to ask random Americans is whether they would feel comfortable attending a live sporting event. The answer is a resounding “it depends”:

About two-thirds say they would feel comfortable attending an outdoor event such as baseball (66 percent), but fewer than half as many (32 percent) feel comfortable attending an indoor event such as basketball. Nearly 2 in 3 people (64 percent) say they would feel comfortable if all attendees were required to wear masks, compared with 22 percent who would feel comfortable if there was no mask requirement…

More say they would be comfortable attending a stadium limited to 20 percent capacity (69 percent “comfortable”) than 50 percent capacity (50 percent).

That is simultaneously unsurprising — being outdoors, masked, and distanced makes people feel safer — and utterly meaningless, for a couple of reasons. First off, the questions were all asked separately, so it was either “Do you feel safe at an outdoor event?” or “Do you feel safe if people are wearing masks?” or “Do you feel safe if you’ve been vaccinated?”, with no way to respond “Only if these other conditions are met as well.” If a Washington Post pollster had been unlucky enough to get me on the phone, for example, I would have said, “I feel pretty safe at outdoor, masked, and distanced events right now, and once I’m fully vaccinated would consider indoor events, but not if people are unmasked, unless maybe the case rate is really low by then because so many other people are vaccinated — are you getting all this? Should I talk more slowly? Are you crying?” (This answer would be very hard to fit into a “data visualization,” as fancy journalism types these days call bar charts.)

The poll results are also meaningless, though, because the most reasonable answer would be “You’re the ones with the resources of a giant journalistic enterprise here, you tell me whether I should feel safe.” Doing that would require asking people who actually know things — fancy journalism types call these “experts” — what is and isn’t safe, and then reporting their answers. For example, here’s Anthony Fauci telling the New York Times for its baseball opening day story what he expects to transpire over the coming weeks:

“I would expect that as we get through the summer — late spring, early summer — there’s going to be a relaxation where you’re going to have more and more people allowed into baseball parks, very likely separated with seating, very likely continue to wear masks,” he said.

Friday roundup: Georgia man holds no truck with numbers, new stadiums falling apart already, plus a guy who spent three years living in a Phillies concession stand

Happy Friday! Still recovering from the double whammy of my second shot on Sunday plus learning that birds aren’t real, so I’ll keep the intro short this week and get right to the news:

Worcester’s $150m minor-league stadium will be awesome, says newspaper owned by team’s parent club

The Worcester Red Sox are about to open their new $157 million stadium — okay, about to open when the minor-league season starts, which isn’t until May, but anyway, isn’t two months in advance still a good time for the local newspaper to write a piece about how great the place will be once it’s finished? The local newspaper that is owned by the owner of the WooSox’ parent club? Surely this will be a reasoned and objective assessment, so let’s dig in:

Worcester didn’t want its new stadium to be Fenway Park.

Easily accomplished. Moving on!

There’s capacity for 9,508 fans, but the seating bowl of 6,000 seats — all with cup holders — is almost entirely around the infield.

That’s true of almost every minor-league ballpark. And, actually, most major-league ballparks, which have a grandstand wrapped around home plate, and usually at most some more cursory bleachers in the outfield. Glad to hear about the cupholders, though, because if there’s one thing American sports fans hate, it’s having to put their beers on the ground.

Polar Park will be unique. There’s a Woo Shop where purchases are recorded on an app without any checkout or waiting in line. There are heart-shaped light towers and a heart adorned on the side of each seat.

“Without any checkout” sounds like the Amazon store system, which is made possible by an insane number of surveillance cameras, so maybe that’s what the team has planned here? One hopes they will be heart-shaped cameras, at least, to honor Worcester’s nickname of “the Heart of the Commonwealth,” because it’s so close to the middle of the state, which, I guess?

On June 12, 1880, Worcester pitcher Lee Richmond threw the first perfect game in Major League history, against the Cleveland Blues.

Interesting! But not actually about the stadium, if we’re getting technical here.

“One of the things we’ve been good about is making sure that there is a customization factor in every ballpark, so it looks and tastes and feels and smells like the city in which it is located,” Lucchino says.

I’m not sure which is more disturbing, the notion of a stadium that “tastes like” Worcester, or what the construction crew needed to do to ensure quality control on that.

They could have built the stadium on flat land, but instead they shoehorned it into the historic Canal District with multiple levels, a nod to Worcester’s three deckers and the up-and-coming downtown restaurants.

Yes, they could have built on flat land, saving themselves and Worcester taxpayers $58 million. But they chose to build on a hill, because … I dunno, say something about restaurants, the Globe will print whatever we tell them.

“So you should be able to experience a two-dimensional ballpark. Both a low-priced ballpark where tickets are eight or nine dollars, and we have higher-priced tickets that come with more creature comforts,” says [WooSox owner and former Boston Red Sox CEO Larry] Lucchino.

That is not what two-dimensional means.

A long ball hit to left field could land in an open boxcar and wind up in Chicago.

Freight rail companies don’t leave boxcar doors open anymore, but nice thought!

The home bullpen is just a few feet past the dugout and built into the stands. To sit in a box seat sandwiched between the dugout and the bullpen is unique. Fans get an umpire’s view of pitchers warming up, and hear the pop of the catcher’s mitt up close and personal.

Seats right next to the bullpen actually sound kind of neat, though also something that can be experienced at a bunch of other stadiums, including Fenway Park. Though in Worcester this view will be reserved for high-paying patrons, so maybe that’s the unique part here.

Not mentioned at all in the article: The controversy over the stadium’s high public cost, not to mention the overruns that now have taxpayers on the hook for $146.8 million, or more than eight times what it cost to build Fenway Park in 1912, adjusted for inflation. On the other hand, the original Fenway seats didn’t have cupholders or surveillance cameras watching your every shopping move, and who can put a price on things like that? (A: Larry Lucchino, and that price was $146.8 million.)

Friday roundup: Baseball ticket chaos, and the continuing endless rain of minor-league soccer stadium demands

New York state announced yesterday that baseball stadiums will be open at 20% capacity to start the season, which, as things go, is not one of the stupidest reopenings announced by Gov. Gropey this week. As a Mets fan who will be fully vaccinated-plus-two-weeks by shortly after Opening Day, it has me weighing whether sitting three hours masked and distanced outdoors at a ballgame is low-risk enough to be worth considering or still terrible for society as a whole, which in turn had me checking out the Mets’ ticket sale policies:

All ticket management actions for tickets for impacted games [in April], including Ticket Forwarding, will be canceled. These tickets will be removed from your account and are no longer valid for admission.

Glad I didn’t buy tickets when I first noticed they were on sale a couple of weeks ago, because those are apparently now worthless. (Worthless for entry, anyway; you can still get a credit on your account for the purchase price.) Season ticket holders will get first dibs at buying the new blocks of tickets, at least for April; it’s unclear when the mad scramble for seats begins.

Then I checked the Yankees‘ site, and found this:

To be eligible, fans must have purchased their tickets through Ticketmaster and not have transferred, posted or resold them. If the tickets were transferred, the transferee or recipient of the ticket will need to transfer the tickets back to the original purchaser in order for the original purchaser to request a credit or refund. The credit request option is not available for tickets purchased via resale or the secondary market.

If you bought through Stubhub or the like, in other words, you are SOL, unless you can find the person you bought from and have them ask for a refund, then refund you.

I get why the teams are doing this — rather than figure out how to reassign already-purchased seats in distanced pods, it’s way simpler to just refund everybody and start fresh with new ticket sales. But it’s hard not to foresee a whole lot of lawsuits, or at least angry tweets, from people who bought or sold what are now worthless barcodes, and questions about whether pro sports are becoming the latest realm where buying a thing doesn’t mean you’re actually buying it.

Anyway, enough about that. On to the stadium and arena news, which I know you’ve been waiting for and which includes lots of good juicy schadenfreude, plus more minor-league soccer than you can shake a stick at:

  • I’ve been mostly steering clear of the debate over where to build a new high-school sports stadium in Spokane, because, frankly, high-school sports stadium in Spokane, and also the money ($31 million) has already been allocated, so it’s now just a question of where to build it. But if you want an explainer, here’s a good one, which I will now summarize even more briefly: Spokane residents want the stadium to be built where the current stadium is, but the USL says it’ll put a soccer team in Spokane if they move it to a site downtown, so now city officials are trying to decide who it’s more important to listen to, their constituents or the guys dangling a minor-league soccer franchise. Also local business advocates say that if the city doesn’t build a stadium downtown, the USL may look to build there anyway, and they already have $2 million in cash plus a promise of $1 million from an unidentified investor, and that’s only $28 million short! More news as events warrant, which I seriously hope is never.
  • Elsewhere in everybody-gets-a-pro-soccer-team, Grand Rapids may get a USL team if it can be determined how to fund a $40 million stadium. Nobody’s talking public money just yet, but a guy from Convention, Sports & Leisure — yes, those guys — has been hired to talk up how a stadium “has the ability to anchor development, serve as a destination but also kind of speed up and accelerate reinvestment into areas of the city, whether that’s in downtown or on the purview of downtown,” so it’s gotta be only a matter of time.
  • And the Indy Eleven, currently of the USL but maybe one day to be in MLS if you dream real hard, are still seeking their own $150 million stadium, saying it would be “more than a stadium, it is the opportunity to create a vibrant community that will attract individuals and families from near and far to live, work and play — creating jobs and improving quality of place far beyond game day.” Team owner Ersal Ozdemir already got $112 million in state money approved for the stadium last year, but then decided maybe he’d build a smaller stadium and give up on the plans to join MLS that were the whole reason for him getting the $112 million. The state legislature is currently deciding whether to give Ozdemir more time to figure out exactly which scam he wants to pull or to take back the money; “give him more rope” just unanimously passed the state house ways and means committee, so that’s not a great sign.
  • A Nevada state senator is proposing to create a state esports commission to lure major video-game tournaments to Nevada, because “economic development.” I’m still not entirely clear how many people actually travel to attend esports rather than just watching online — attendance figures are brutally hard to come by online, though apparently 45,000 turned out for one event in Beijing in 2017 — but this is one to keep an eye on, especially if esports organizers start choosing site based less on who has the most regulatory oversight (?) and more on who offers cold, hard cash.
  • And finally, circling back to questionable sports reopenings, the Texas Rangers decided to advertise their 100% capacity opening day by showing a fan flagrantly violating their own mask rules. This is all going to go just great!

 

 

Sales-tax study shows Braves stadium is giant money pit for Cobb County, just like all other studies

Sports economist J.C. Bradbury does some excellent work that has been featured on this site a bunch of times, so I was bummed to see that I’d missed a new paper he released last week analyzing the impact of the new Atlanta Braves stadium on local sales tax receipts. Fortunately, Craig Calcaterra spotted it and wrote about it in his daily baseball newsletter on Tuesday … and then I missed that too. But! My old Baseball Prospectus colleague Dayn Perry, now of CBS Sports, wrote about Bradbury’s study yesterday, and that I saw. And now I bring it to you, only slightly charred on one side from having sat so long in the oven.

Anyway, sales taxes in Cobb County: Did the Braves moving there from downtown Atlanta make them go up, or what?

The findings indicate a net increase in taxable sales in the county; however, the magnitude is small and not statistically significant. Though an influx of net new spending is evident, approximately one-third of the project’s sales derive from crowding out other local economic activity. In total, added tax collections fall well short of covering the public subsidies that fund the stadium.

Some translations from economese: The first sentence above means that Cobb County collected more sales tax after the stadium opened, but it was such a small bump that it could have been just random chance. The second means the amount that total spending went up in the county was just one-third the amount of money being spent in and around the Braves stadium; so people spending money at Braves games must have cannibalized other spending, “as local consumers reallocated spending from other Cobb merchants to the stadium development.” The third means — okay, you know what it means: The new tax money wasn’t nearly enough to pay off Cobb County’s $392 million in stadium costs.

Or, if you prefer your data in pictures, here’s a nifty chart from Bradbury’s paper:

The line for Cobb County tax revenue goes up after the stadium opened! However, so do the lines for sales tax revenue in other Atlanta-area counties. In fact, the line for the average Atlanta-area county went up even more than Cobb’s, implying that Cobb might have done even better if it hadn’t bothered with building a dumb old stadium.

None of this, as both Calcaterra and Perry note, should be any surprise: There are at this point tons of studies looking at the sales-tax impact of new stadiums and finding that it’s not much. (Plus, studies looking at other economic indicators and finding the same lack of impact: Bradbury himself looked at commercial real estate values in Cobb last year and found that it similarly did worse than neighboring counties without new ballparks.) But the Braves stadium was supposed to be the exception; not just because every stadium claims to be the exception, but because here a team and its fans were being lured away from a neighboring city to previously vacant land being used for a “ballpark village,” which was supposed to, if nothing else, siphon off a bunch of spending from Atlanta and bring it to Cobb. That that didn’t happen — or at least, only happened in small numbers that weren’t nearly enough to pay off the county’s massive stadium debt — should put an end to talk of sports venues as economic engines. It won’t, but it should.

Biden stimulus bars state tax cuts through 2024, but there are still plenty of ways to funnel public cash to stadiums

When Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act — aka the stimulus bill — last week, it included a last-minute addition by the Biden administration that could significantly impact the world of tax subsidies: In exchange for $194 billion in cash grants to states to help pay for pandemic-related costs, states will have to agree not to use the money to pay for tax cuts through 2024:

(A) IN GENERAL.—A State or territory shall not use the funds provided under this section or transferred pursuant to section 603(c)(4) to either directly or indirectly offset a reduction in the net tax revenue of such State or territory resulting from a change in law, regulation, or administrative interpretation during the covered period that reduces any tax (by providing for a reduction in a rate, a rebate, a deduction, a credit, or otherwise) or delays the imposition of any tax or tax increase.

The logic behind the rule, which was inserted at the behest of the right wing of Senate Democrats like Joe Manchin, is obvious: They didn’t want states to go, Hey, cool, federal windfall, and then turn around and cut taxes, leaving themselves in the same budget hole they were in in the first place. The implications, though, could be huge. Since states will now have to refund the federal government an equal amount to what it doles out in new tax cuts, that makes tax cuts effectively twice as expensive: If you decide to dole out $1 billion to residents or companies in your state through lower taxes, the feds will send you a bill for $1 billion on top of it.

Regardless of what you think about tax rates, this might seem like great news for those opposed to sports stadium subsidies, since — assuming the provision is upheld by the courts, which is as yet uncertain — it will make it nigh-on impossible for the next four years to offer a team owner a pile of state tax breaks to juice their construction plans. Unfortunately, there are several major loopholes:

  • Since stadium deals are generally for 30 years or more, a state can simply defer its tax breaks until they’re legal again: Instead of $10 million a year in tax credits from 2021-2050, how about $12 million a year in tax credits from 2025-2050? It would make financing stadium bonds slightly more tricky, but no billionaire worth their salt ever let a little short-term debt stand between them and a subsidy.
  • There are tons of other ways states can subsidize sports projects (or non-sports projects) with resorting to tax breaks. They can just straight-up hand over cash to pay off construction bonds. They can turn over free or discounted land — or better yet, buy it and then turn it over for sports use, which will save the team owner on property taxes. (Since exempting publicly owned but privately used land from property taxes is standard just about everywhere in the U.S., this wouldn’t seem to be a “tax cut” so much as continuation of existing tax policy.) They can create a TIF district, collect at the same tax rates as always, then scrape off whatever’s considered “new” tax revenue and hand it over to the team owner. They can reduce rent or revenue-sharing payments, if the team is making any; or if not, they can institute negative rent and pay the team to play in its stadium. The possibilities really are endless.
  • The new law says nothing at all about city or county tax breaks, which make up a large portion of sports tax subsidies. So not only can a municipal government agree to cut its own taxes on behalf of a sports project, there wouldn’t appear to be anything stopping a state from sending the city a check to cover its tax breaks and passing along the cost to the state treasury, a la the Detroit Red Wings Rube Goldberg device of a few years back.

That’s all off the top of my head, and I am not a tax lawyer, and the actual tax lawyers haven’t had time to delve into the new law’s inner workings yet, so it’s possible some of the above could change. But at first glance, it certainly appears that the tax-cut clawback law will be less of an obstacle to stadium (and other) special subsidies and more of a minor speed bump. If you want somewhere to be optimistic, it at least probably means four years before states can institute, say, new tax credits to try to lure film and TV shoots — though if all the existing tax credits can remain in place, that’s not much of a silver lining. Sorry, I tried to be optimistic for a whole sentence, but it’s hard, man.

Friday roundup: Terrible economic impact studies, terrible renderings, but one smart mayor, at least

It’s been a long year of waiting, but the moment we’ve been looking ahead to is finally within sight, and only one thing seems to be on everyone’s minds: What songs are we going to request that Yo La Tengo perform for pledges tomorrow afternoon on the WFMU fundraising marathon? I already requested “Better Things” the year after Hurricane Sandy, but I’m hoping I can find something equally appropriate for 2021.

Here’s some stadium and arena news to tide you over while you wait:

  • Economic impact studies of sports venues are usually pretty terrible, given that they generally start out by measuring “impact” (i.e., all money spent in or around a stadium or arena whether it benefits anyone but the team owner) and ignore spending that’s just shifted from one part of town to another, and so on. But the projection that a new $228 million arena in Augusta will generate more than $600 million in economic impact by adding up “$436 million in new spending” plus “$208 million in new sales taxes” breaks new ground in bonkers: Doesn’t the Augusta Downtown Development Authority know that sales taxes are already part of “spending”? Plus, is the sales tax rate in Augusta really 48%? The full “market analysis” is here, but it doesn’t provide details on its methodology and the $208 million sales-tax figure doesn’t seem to appear anywhere in it, so we’ll just have to trust that the Augusta Chronicle’s fact-checking department was on the job and, oh dear. Maybe the “applause editor” does some fact-checking in her spare time?
  • Also in economic-impact-study news, various studies have projected anywhere from $200 million to $600 million in impact from a new arena in Palm Desert, but Mayor Kathleen Kelly says, “Sports arenas are pretty notorious for over-promising and under-delivering positive economic impacts for the surrounding community. So, I do have to look at the proposal with some skepticism.” She adds an arena could draw off spending from area restaurants to arena concessions, and take up hotel rooms that otherwise could be occupied by longer-term visitors — hey, somebody’s been reading this site, or maybe just the mountains of data showing that arenas haven’t had a large measurable impact in the past! Warms my heart, it does.
  • The Florida House Ways & Means Committee voted 16-1 yesterday to repeal the state’s program that allows sports team owners to request up to $2 million a year apiece in sales-tax money to repay their private stadium and arena construction or renovation costs, and, yes, this was just proposed a couple of years ago, but maybe one of these days it’ll actually pass. Especially given that it’s a program that has allowed team owners to demand public money for venues they’ve already built, making the economic impact of the subsidies an easy-to-calculate zero.
  • Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena is gone, but you can still park in its parking garage, which is about to become “much more than just a place to park in the morning” as it is converted to a “mobility hub” that is … a place to park in the morning and buy coffee.  It’s all privately funded, at least, so far.
  • If you want to read an article about sad Sacramento soccer boosters appealing for a billionaire to come and bring $500 million for an expansion fee and a new stadium after the old billionaire backed out, here you go! Features Sacramento mayor and former Kings water-carrier Darrell Steinberg saying of the plan that ended up leaving the city cutting services to pay down arena debt, “We didn’t give up on the Kings and we’re not giving up on Major League Soccer.” Adds Steinberg: “What we need is a plug-and-a-play from an investor to then help us finish the last piece of this.” In related news, I only need $6 billion as the last piece of the puzzle for building my space elevator, please apply within.
  • Not to be topped, News 4 Nashville has a “first look inside Nashville’s new soccer stadium,” which is actually someone clicking around on computer renderings of the place, complete with a visible cursor. We had that already back in November, and with creepy shambling Sims!
  • And if you want to read an article about Cleveland Cavaliers owner and Quicken Loans magnate Dan Gilbert and his gajillions of dollars in public subsidies that starts out describing how he “was raised by a pair of Century 21 real estate agents” and “went to Michigan State University—where he was arrested for running a sports gambling operation,” Defector has gotcha.