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Articles & Opinion
Written by Pete Toms   
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 20:46

The Biz of BaseballThe following is the first installment by the lastest addition to the Business of Sports Network, Pete Toms. We welcome Pete to the staff, as we hope you do, as well. -- Maury Brown 

Bonds, PSLs ( primary & secondary), mixed used development, league debt restrictions...stadium financing is a complicated business. 

MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT

The A's, Rangers and Cards are all in varying stages of developing "ballpark villages".  The new Marlins stadium is part of a massive omnibus package which includes the stadium, a port tunnel, a streetcar, a downtown park and funding for improvements to an arts centre.  The D Rays proposal to construct a new stadium hinges on the destruction of their current stadium and subsequent redevelopment of the former site.  Stadium financing is one of the factors contributing to the increasing popularity of these “mixed used “ developments. 

Phil Miller wrote in December at The Sport Economist

"...sports stadiums are not the boon of economic development that they are often portrayed to be and, thankfully, public money has not been as easy to come by in many instances. That's why some recent public financing packages include plans to have ballpark villages developed as a part of an agreement for public financing....So politicians are seemingly more resistant, thankfully, to giving subsidies just for stadiums by themselves. But package in some secondary development (which, if it draws any extra economic activity to the site, will probably draw it from elsewhere in the region) with the subsidy request and see if you can get the necessary votes."

Mitchell Ziets was quoted in SBJ on stadium financing.  

You're seeing less appetite from taxpayers and political officials to put public money in....folks are getting a lot more creative about how they're packaging and dressing up public money...you're getting a lot of deals where taxes are generated by the project or by a development project around the stadium or around the arena (and) are getting funneled back into the project. You're seeing that in Oakland with a development deal...You look more at development plans to sustain the financing plans.

BONDS

Earlier this month Dennis Coates, Professor of Economics, University of Maryland Baltimore County, commented on changes in the auction-rate bond market and their impact on stadium financing.

The last month or so has seen some dramatic changes in the auction-rate bond market. This is a market in which some recent stadium and arena financing has been acquired by state and local governments... What has happened is that average rates of interest have jumped enormously.

Bloomberg.com cites the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, "Auction rates jumped to 6.73 percent this month from an average 3.94 percent in the previous year". ...Bonds in this market are of long-term maturity, but the interest rates are determined in the short term via an auction mechanism.

... In the auction-rate bond market... If sales were not proceeding, large institutional investors came to the rescue. Now they are not doing so. The drop in demand, it seems, is partially a consequence of the sub-prime mortgage mess, but also related to a change in the way such investments are recorded on firm balance sheets and cash-flow statements following a change recommended by the Financial Accounting Standards Board. The consequence is that sellers, the state and local governments, have effectively had to sweeten the pot to get buyers, which has meant paying higher interest rates.

What this means, therefore, is that bonds floated on this market by state and local governments to finance stadiums saw their interest rates rise substantially. Think of it this way, if the benefits of a stadium were about equal to the interest payments the financing required when interest rates were 3 or 4 percent, then those benefits are well below the interest payments now that rates are over 6 percent.

The Yankees announced earlier this month that they would raise another $300 million in financing for their new stadium via the sale of bonds.  Daniel Kaplan at SBJ reported,

The new bonds, like the old ones, are expected to be sold through New York’s Industrial Development Agency, a bond conduit that will own the stadium and lease it to the team in a 40-year deal. While the Yankees are responsible for paying off the bonds, they should be able to offer them to investors tax-free by going through the IDA. No timetable is in place to sell the bonds, Carey said, but because of the stadium opening next year, they are likely to be sold soon.

In the same SBJ piece, Greg Carey, managing director at Goldman Sachs is quoted.  “Quite frankly, the appetite [from bond investors] for sports revenues produced by these facilities has only gone up,”

Select Read More to see the rest of this article, and add your comments

PSLs 

Richard Sandomir reported that it is likely the Jets and Giants will turn to PSLs to raise capital for the construction of their new stadium.

Now, for the first time, the selling of personal seat licenses is a real possibility in the New York area. Jets and Giants executives are considering using them at the $1.6 billion stadium they are building in New Jersey, which is scheduled to open in 2010. Although any decisions are months away and team officials are reluctant to discuss details publicly, sports business analysts and others around the N.F.L. said they expected to see the teams sell licenses.

In part, the Jets / Giants PSLs are a reaction to the NFL’s decision to lower league debt.  Again from Mr. Sandomir’s piece.  “That league pressure “doesn’t make them inevitable,” said Jay Cross, the Jets’ president. “What it does make inevitable is, we have to raise more equity.”

Why are Yankee and Mets fans not being asked to invest in PSLs?  Is it due to the public investment in their new stadiums?  ( See Yankee Stadium estimates here and here. )  In the March 2008 edition of the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, Lowenstein Sandler comment on PSLs.

Also, government officials may not react favorably where a team owner seeks to introduce PSL's at a new facility that has also received substantial public funding. These are two key reasons why neither the New York Mets nor Yankees plan to require the purchase of PSL's for their new stadia, even though it is conservatively estimated that by doing so each team could raise more than the Cardinals' $40 million.

While long time season ticket holders often resent paying PSLs to finance construction or renovations of stadiums, some ticket holders are now seeing PSLs as investments. ( Similarly, tickets are bought and sold as investments here )  Again from Mr. Sandomir.

Seat licenses have become a marketable commodity. They are sold privately and listed on Web sites like eBay, Craigslist and seasonticketrights.com, where fans attempt to flip their licenses at a profit.

...The Bears originally sold licenses to 45 percent of their season-ticket holders at the new Soldier Field, so most of the others kept their seats without paying the extra fees.

Then some unaffected fans successfully lobbied the Bears to sell them licenses on their seats. Now, seasonticketrights.com shows that the average gain on the sale of a Bears license is about $8,300.

The buying and selling of PSLs is following the lead of secondary ticketing.  This article lists 3 MLB and 11 NFL clubs amongst the “..clubs and properties that sell personal seat licenses.”  “Secondary PSLs”, like club sanctioned “secondary ticketing”, is perceived as safer, easier and more legitimate by fans.  This in turn appears to be increasing the value of PSLs.  On changes to the Bears’ secondary PSL market: 

The NFL clubs support Burks’ ( founder of SeasonTicketRights.com ) program because it has eliminated complaints from fans falling prey to scams when buying and selling PSLs through classifieds on eBay, Craigslist and elsewhere.

“We originally encouraged people to go on the [Bears’] message boards, but they never turned into a safe and secure place to do business,” Kellner (Bears director of stadium sales and services) said. “There was no way to verify legitimate buyers and sellers.”


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