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Today in the Sports Owner Grift

  • Charlotte shaken down for $300 million by the Panthers.   Admittedly, I’m sure those 8 home dates a year have a massive impact on the area’s economy.
  • Who could have anticipated that creating lavishly taxpayer-subsidized expensive parking garages for the Yankees would be a terrible idea?

Clearly, the solution to this problem is just to let the owners keep all the money, because then they would have no incentive to get free taxpayer money or charge what the market will bear for tickets, because…look, aurora borealis! In fairness, it is true that NCAA sports are free to attend and never result in taxpayers getting soaked for new facilities, so clearly not paying the players is a very effective way of stopping the grift. And you can’t deny that taxpayers never shelled out for new stadiums when there was a reserve clause.

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  • Linnaeus

    I was at Safeco Field last night. Great ballpark, but the state shelled out $340 million for it.

    • Kurzleg

      Same here in Mpls. Target Field is really a great place to see a game, but we have a county sales tax funding it. Of course, they couldn’t get a retractable roof, and this spring have been brutal weather-wise.

      • Kurzleg

        Speaking of which, it’s 35 and sleeting right now. :(

        • liberalrob

          Don’t worry, global warming will fix that soon enough.

          • Kurzleg

            I can’t wait that long.

            • tucker

              Don’t worry, you won’t have to.

    • Did you stay until the end? Wow, what a display of pitching, and what an exciting end to the game.

      • rea

        That has to have been one of the best games I’ve seen (albeit merely on TV) in years.

        • rea

          40 Ks, though, in a single game?

          • King Felix has the second most SO’s in the majors the last three years (behind only Verlander), only 7 players have ever had a season SO/9IP ratio better than Scherzer’s was last season, the Mariners are 2nd or 3rd in the league this year in SO/9IP ratio, and it was a 14 inning game. So everything was set up for a bunch of strikeouts, and for those strikeouts to not be signs of incompetence by the hitters.

            • Linnaeus

              strikeouts to not be signs of incompetence by the hitters.

              They weren’t, trust me. Even good hitters got fooled many times.

              • I followed it a little on MLB Gameday. Slow games can sometimes be agony, because you’re not seeing anything, you’re not listening to commentary, you’re just waiting for the next pitch. It’s a good way to really notice how often pitches are fouled off. Last night was amazing, because both Scherzer and K-F were throwing almost nothing but strikes, and it seemed like guys were not fouling multiple pitches to stay alive with two strikes. They got two strikes on them, and they mostly swung right through the next pitch.

              • howard

                let’s not lose sight of the fact that the mariners have very few players who could be described as competent major league hitters.

                • Linnaeus

                  Good point. No one on the Mariners roster is hitting .300 (granted, it’s early, but I suspect the M’s team hitting will not improve appreciably over the course of the season).

                • Weeping.

          • Kurzleg

            A game and a half, since it went 14.

      • Linnaeus

        I didn’t stay to the end – I left after the 12th inning. I was fading and I wanted to make sure I could catch a bus home. Outstanding pitching duel, though.

    • Joshua

      Yea but, to be fair, were it not for that $430 million, you would’ve been at home eating welfare checks for dinner, right? Economic growth!

      • Linnaeus

        As it is, I’ve needed to make use of certain publicly funded assistance programs at times anyway.

  • Jeffrey Loria

    Who could have anticipated that driving dump trucks of taxpayer money to Jeffrey Loria’s house would be a terrible idea?

    I don’t understand what you mean.

    • Kurzleg

      When you go out in public, how many body guards are in your detail?

      • the original spencer

        All of them, Katie.

  • Fighting Words

    The Cubs want to build a new stadium? I thought part of the charm of the Cubs was that they still played in Wrigly Field.

    • Kurzleg

      Lately it is the ONLY charm.

      • “Lately”?

        • Anonymous

          On a geological scale. Someday that will be a cosmological scale though.

    • They get a tiny fraction of the very lucrative luxury box revenue that other teams get.

      Of course, few teams get the TV revenue that the Cubs get, but that doesn’t matter if it stands in the way of the Ricketts getting more revenue to spend poorly on a chronically underperforming franchise.

      • Oh, and it’s kind of funny, Rahm keeps denying that his hardball approach with the Cubs is not influenced by old man Ricketts spending a bunch of money on superPAC ads against Obama. And nobody believes Rahm’s denials.

      • Kurzleg

        Or on political contributions.

      • Jonas

        A new stadium is the only thing stopping the Cubs from being as successful as the Mets.

    • Brandon

      The Cubs went asking for public money (part of the amusement taxes) to renovate Wrigley because the place is a dump and is literally falling apart. This happened at the same time it was revealed that the patriarch of the owners, the Rickets family, was spending over $10M on some anti-Obama ‘documentary’ that bitched about how broke government is and how we can’t afford anything. Rahm Emmanuel promptly told the Rickets to go fuck themselves, and now they’ve come up with $500M on their own.

      For which I, a white sox fan, give them credit.

      • Kurzleg

        Whatever Rahm’s motives, it’s about time elected officials started doing this.

        • RedSquareBear

          But.. but… but…



      • The problem may be, however, that MLB doesn’t like teams spending money on stadiums. When the Tigers build Comerica, compared to what teams usually ask of local and state governments, the Tigers didn’t ask for much. They wanted the land–which was mostly unused with nobody coming forward with very compelling plans for its use–and for infrastructure improvements around it, like on/off ramps for the nearest freeway, some street repairs, etc. The Tigers took on the cost of the construction and committed to covering any overruns. There were overruns. At the same time, Mike Illitch’s other enterprises, the ones that actually earn him profits–primarily Little Ceasars–were in a cash crunch, so he couldn’t easily transfer money from elsewhere in to the Tigers (like he regularly does with them and with the Red Wings). The result was a few years where the Tigers really sucked, weren’t able to go out and sign free agents, and couldn’t invest much in improving their minor league system, which had become fairly crappy.

        Maybe someone who knows more can fill in details, but it’s my understanding that partly in reaction to what happened with the Tigers, MLB essentially laid down rules that prohibited teams from spending too much of their own funds on stadiums. It’s either sucker the politicians to get the taxpayers to foot the bill, or deal with a crappy stadium.

        Since I now live in Chicago and will be here for the foreseeable future, I hope the Ricketts have to pay the whole thing. But I’m not sure that MLB will allow them to.

        • efgoldman

          The previous Patriots ownerships and the NFL kept threatening to move the team (Hartford? Providence? Birmingham? Really?) and the Commonwealth and the city told them to pound sand.
          So the Kraft family bought the rest of the land near the old, crappy stadium (most TX high schools wouldn’t have wanted it), got the state to pay for some infrastructure (mostly exit ramps and road widening) and built Gillette stadium with private financing.
          Now there’s an upscale mall on the property, the stadium is long-since paid for, and the whole thing is wildly profitable.
          Public financing, my ass.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Well, even in the unlikely event that MLB refuses to let them pay for all the upgrades they want, tough. There’s no inalienable right to a profit-maximizing stadium; either the Ricketts can pay or they can fuck themselves. And this is particularly true in this case, since there isn’t even any serious blackmail to be played here. What, they’re going to move the Cubs to Tuscaloosa?

          • They’re even limited to where they would move in Chicago. Land exercising eminent domain is probably prohibitively expensive on most of the north side anywhere near the lake. And they’re not going to move to the South Side, since that’s precluded by the North Side/South Side rivalry between them and the Sox. They could probably find something that would work along the Blue Line between the Loop and O’Hare, but other options to be near either a freeway or an CTA line aren’t great. And if they’re in the city, they pretty much need to be near a CTA line, because parking in Chicago blows, as does any east/west driving.

            I suppose they could try to move to the suburbs, but I don’t know they’d find any better deal outside the city than inside it.

            • TribalistMeathead

              There was a recent article about Rosemont trying to lure them to a site near the Blue Line and whatever Metra line runs to O’Hare. Seems unlikely for several reasons. But they don’t really have any options beyond tearing down Wrigley and building a new stadium on that footprint. There’s a reason why the only options the Sox had in the late 80s/early 90s were a) build a new stadium on the same site, b) build a new stadium across the street or c) move to Tampa Bay.

        • The problem may be, however, that MLB doesn’t like teams spending money on stadiums.

          No sports league likes it, for obvious reasons– if one owner does it privately, other cities will ask their owners why they can’t do it too. The owners who privately finance their stadiums (such as, for instance, Jack Kent Cooke did, first in the NHL and NBA and later in the NFL) are routinely treated like black sheep, and not only does MLB have rules that attempt to discourage it, but the NFL has a stadium committee which does everything in its power to ensure that taxpayers are hit up.

          That said, in the end, the leagues have limited power on this issue. If, for instance, the Oakland A’s were purchased by an owner that then decides to privately finance a replacement stadium, I don’t think Bud Selig could stop that from happening (and baseball would take a huge PR hit if he tried). So owners who want a stadium badly enough and are willing to privately finance are going to get to do so.

          • I don’t think this is quite right, in part because of the whole Giants/A’s issue: When the Giants were seeking massive amounts of private financing for their new stadium, not only did Selig and MLB not smack them down, they agreed to drastically expand their territorial rights span as a compensation to the financiers…an act which is now directly causing all of Oakland’s problems.

            • Well, San Francisco happened AFTER about 20 years of attempts to hit the voters up for money. It was only after all those attempts failed that the league’s hand was forced and they had to allow private financing.

  • c u n d gulag

    Don’t tell that idiot that the Yankees won some WS’s in the refurbished Yankee Stadium:
    1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000.
    And lost in 1976, 1981, 2001, and 2003.
    That’s a 6-4 WS record, from 1976, when the stadium reopened, to the end of 2008, when the new one was completing construction.

    And in 2009, they won in the new NY City built, designed by Albert Speer in the spirit of Fascism, on a gloomy day.

    Maybe he thinks the Indians won all of those years?

    • Sherm

      And in 2009, they won in the new NY City built, designed by Albert Speer in the spirit of Fascism, on a gloomy day.

      Definitive proof that there are, in fact, no “baseball gods.”

      • wengler

        Yeah and fuck the fucking Yankees.

        • efgoldman

          They just announced that Jeter’s got a cracked ankle bone, out until at least the all-star break.
          Somewhere, gulag is in a corner, whimpering.

          • c u n d gulag

            Weeping, actually.

            But, 39 year-old Shortstops are like grandparents – enjoy ’em while ya still got ’em!

            ‘Cause soon, all you’ll have, is memories…

  • Jeffrey Loria

    Charlotte shaken down for $300 million by the Panthers. Admittedly, I’m sure those 8 home dates a year have a massive impact on the area’s economy.

    10. Can’t forget about preseason games.

    • efgoldman

      Can’t forget about MANDATORY preseason games.


  • The Ricketts were willing to take a giant scoreboard instead of extorting the taxpayer to pay for their stadium. That’s almost worthy of celebration when it comes to sports owners.

  • Kurzleg

    …New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez reports that “Bronx Parking Development LLC failed to make a $6.9 million payment due…

    It’s good to see that the 2-time MVP has found a career after baseball.

    • He’s still on the DL every time he gets a hangnail.

      • Kurzleg


    • Mike Schilling

      He’s only with the Daily News because he turned down $100M from CBS.

  • Joshua

    Those shots of the Marlins stadium are amazing. I’d be surprised if there are 2000 people at those games.

    • And it’s a nice stadium, too. And centrally located (where the old Orange Bowl was).

  • Dan Mulligan

    I’ve been watching this since the ’80’s when I represented (I was a bit player) the Raiders in their suit allowing them to move to LA. I have NEVER seen a legitimate study showing any real economic public benefit from a football stadium. Maybe — maybe — some actual benefit from baseball stadiums, given the higher number of games, IF you do other work in the area(e.g., San Francisco and San Diego) but even in those cases it is hard to get real dollar costs from the municipal authorities (they tend to ignore transport subsidies, police overtime, etc).
    It is almost always a handout to rich friends and occasionally their friends who just happen to be developers.

    • njorl

      I think even with baseball, it’s usually a case of shifting where people spend entertainment dollars. A city or county might benefit at the expense of a neighboring city or county.

      • Joshua

        Yea, exactly. Instead of, say, going to the movie theater once a week people might go to the ballpark once a month. Or whatever.

        Also, the jobs these places generate are low wage, no benefit, service sector. There’s no reason to subsidize these jobs.

      • Sherm

        Correct. Its all a bunch of bullshit. Having a professional team and a downtown stadium is a really nice perk for a community, but it doesn’t generate revenue for anyone but the team owners.

      • The Tigers moving from the Corktown neighborhood to the Foxtown area helped both areas. Former was mostly residential–it’s got the oldest homes in the city, houses from the 1840’s built by and for recent Irish immigrants–without much around the stadium in terms of bars and restaurants. But now that the stadium is gone, the empty lots used for parking are being developed and the neighborhood has gone from being a charming but static neighborhood to a growing, more vibrant one with restaurants, clubs, stores, gyms and other such things. Meanwhile, the new stadium is with several of the entertainment venues and next to the relatively new Lions stadium. So that area has something happening almost every night, and often there are two or three things happening within a few blocks. And old abandoned buildings that were studied as beautiful examples of art deco architecture–Detroit has more significant art deco buildings than any city other than Chicago–are now nice lofts, and other buildings have become art studios and inexpensive office space for start ups and small companies doing design, software, marketing and such.

        Wrigleyville is now an upscale area; near downtown with everything south of it fairly pricey (now that Cabrini Green is gone). If Wrigley Stadium came down, within a few years it would be built over with residential housing.

        Stadiums can help neighborhoods. The problem is the ROI if taxpayers cover most or all of the cost is out of whack.

        I’m OK, under certain restrictive and probably rare situations, with some public support for stadiums. Not usually, but sometimes.

        • Nick

          Meanwhile, the new stadium is with several of the entertainment venues and next to the relatively new Lions stadium.

          It’s fair for us to assume that the Lions’ stadium can’t be considered an “entertainment venue,” right?

          • witless chum

            Some of us apparently find being hurt entertaining. Who are you to judge because we pay a football team to do it instead of engaging the services of Mistress Nikita and her riding crop, like decent people?

    • efgoldman

      I have NEVER seen a legitimate study showing any real economic public benefit from a football stadium.

      Most likely because there aren’t any.

    • Does there have to be an economic benefit? I live in SD, and I like our stadium. I don’t mind paying some extra taxes to have it there.

      • JustRuss

        Fair enough, but I would argue that the millions of public dollars spent on that stadium could have been put to far better uses, such as paying for more cops, firefighters, and parks and rec facilities that could be used by the public every day, instead of just a few hours a year.

        Subsidizing a facility to enable an activity that generates millions of dollars for the owners and players is ridiculous. If the team is generating that kind of revenue, they should be able to pay for their stadium.

        • Baseball season is from April to October, that’s a good chunk of the year. It might make sense to spend more money on police, etc, but it’s never an either/or choice. I’m not even ideologically opposed to anyone making money off it, if it brings something to the community, which I think it does. Some people make money at Balboa Park and Old Town as well. YMMV.

          OTOH I hope the Chargers get nothing. They can move for all I care.

  • Stan Jones

    Some baseball stadia probably generate a fair bit of business for bars and restaurants around the park (St. Louis, San Francisco, Boston, even Wrigley, come to mind), but others are built in the middle of gigantic parking lots (hi there Kansas City, Dodgers) and generate very little revenue for local businesses. Not only does football have many fewer games, but the tail-gating culture (see stadia built in gigantic parking lots) means that there is much less spill-over to local businesses.

    • RedSquareBear


      I have nothing substantive to add except that I salute this Tom Leherism and heartily endorse the expanded use of same.

    • Richard

      I think the best example of a baseball park being constructed that led to a real development of the area around it and therefore true economic value to a city is Baltimore. SF also.

      Dodger Stadium was built in a ravine (not a parking lot) and, although only a few minutes from downtwon, is sufficiently isolated so that it brings very, very little business to the businesses near it. But, for the relatively small public investment in giving the land to the Dodgers back in 1958, it has been a very good investment for the city, proving that the city could support sports, bringing in sizeable tax dollars and making LA a world class city. I dont think many people would argue that Dodger Stadium was a mistake for the city.

      Spending big public money for football stadiums, on the other hand, is generally a mistake.

      • FMguru

        Not a baseball stadium, but the Staples Center in LA is another example of sports-plex driven development that worked. It turned a big chunk of skid row into a thriving nightlife district. The secret, of course, is that they have THREE professional teams using the facility, each of which plays 40 home games, plus pre-season games and often multiple series of postseason games, for something like 170 nights of sports per year, not to mention its the right size and location for concerts, exhibitions, tournaments and other one-off things. So the place is hopping roughly 250-300 nights a year.

        I’m usually an extreme skeptic when it comes to sports facilities as economic engine (don’t even get me started on the scam that is the Olympics), but LA looks like exception that proves the rule.

        • I don’t think there is any major argument against the idea that an indoor ~20,000 seat arena can, if planned properly, provide quite the economic anchor for a neighborhood/community.

        • Richard

          I fully agree. Staples Center has been a huge success. But its a situation where there was little if any public outlay involved. Yeah, the city gave land to AEG but didn’t finance the arena itself. And, as you point out, its the very rare situation where three teams play there so there is activity on most nights (since its also used for concerts and boxing matches). Its also a situation where AEG was able to play hardball with Jerry Buss to get him to move the Lakers to Staples (by threatening to have the Kings file bankruptcy and get out of their terrible contract to use the Forum)

      • Henry Holland

        Part of the disaster that was the McCourt ownership for the Dodgers is that they seriously were talking about razing the stadium in Chavez Ravine and building one downtown, south of Staples Center. That idea was insane, the 110 is a parking lot at the best of times, but at least with Dodger Stadium currently where it is, most of the traffic splits off to the 101/5 and there’s other access points (I use Sunset Boulevard when I go to see the Angels there). They wanted to sell the land that the stadium currently sits on and build *yawn* condos and expensive houses.

        It now looks like the AEG NFL stadium next to Staples is dead in the water. With Tim Leiweke leaving AEG, Phil Anschutz has shown no interest in having to pay to build a stadium. So, all you NFL cities with owners looking for a new stadium or massive upgrades, the “But…but…if you don’t give us the money, we’ll move to LA!!! Promise!” crap will continue.

        I really wanted the Chargers to move back to where they started, alas.

        • Richard

          Actually the NFL stadium idea isn’t dead. They got City Council approval (even after it had been announced that AEG was for sale, the sale offer later rescinded) and although Liewecke is out, Anschutz has announced that he is anxious to go forward with the stadium and will reassume control of AEG (he’s been an absentee owner for the last decade). The major problem is that Anschutz wants concessions from the NFL that the NFL is not willing to give (in the cost of an expansion franchise or fees associated with moving a franchise from San Diego or whatever). The deal with the city provides that AEG will finance the cost of the stadium although AEG gets tax breaks and a complicated revenue sharing arrangement with the city for the convention center (since the stadium would be adjacent to the center, use part of the land now used by the center and would be built in such a way that the center could use the stadium for big conventions/shows.

  • Sherm
  • Airborne Simian

    I agree. Stop wasting taxpayer dollars on boondoggles like sports stadiums. Now if liberals would only think about this when they spend other people’s money on their favorite boondoggles they want Papa Government to fund, like light rail.

    • Malaclypse

      Or roads. Fucking drivers.

      • Uncle Kvetch

        New troll is awfully boring, no? Given that he flew in from Malikinland I expected at least some entertaining spittle and bleargh.

      • Captain Bringdown

        Don’t be silly. Flying monkey’s don’t need no stinkin’ roads.

        • efgoldman

          Don’t be silly. Flying monkey’s don’t need no stinkin’ roads.

          The don’t need no stinkin’ apostrophes, either. [/pedant]

    • efgoldman

      Now if liberals TeaHadis would only think about this when they spend other people’s money on their favorite boondoggles they want Papa Government to fund, like light rail. vaginal ultrasound.

      There, that looks better, doesn’t it?
      [Sorry, sometiomes tghe trolls just beg to be fed.]

  • Curtis

    You should read up on the Vikings stadium fiasco. The funding stream for Minnesota’s share was supposed to come from electronic pulltabs. They were supposed to take in $35 million a year. They ended up taking in just under $2 million. So, the Legislature is scrambling to come up with an after the fact Plan B, which makes them look like dupes and fools for falling all over themselves to throw money at the Vikings’ billionaire owner.

    This stadium madness just has to stop. We’re broke, after all.

  • Deggjr

    Phil Rogers wrote this column about Javier Vazquez http://blogs.chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/sports_hardball/2009/09/what-about-vazquez-and-swisher.html. A person who actually watched Vazquez pitch for the White Sox could never write that column.

  • JREinATL

    because…look, aurora borealis!

    The Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the country? Localized entirely within your kitchen?

    • Scott Lemieux

      Let us celebrate this reference with some steamed hams. It’s a Utica tradition.

      • JREinATL

        Sorry, I’m from Albany.

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