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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 10, 2006 10:31 AM. The previous post in this blog was Visioning the future. The next post in this blog is Have a nice weekend. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Friday, March 10, 2006

A league of their own

On the ongoing blackmail attempt against the taxpayers of Portland by Paul Allen and the Trail Blazers, a friend of mine had an interesting idea the other day. Sports team owners have leagues, right? Why don't the governments of the 50 major cities in the country form their own league, and agree among themselves that, except for expansion teams, they won't pay subsidies? Then when guys like Allen try to play cities like Portland, Seattle and Las Vegas off on each other, the cities could all sit back and laugh.

I think my buddy might be onto something. At least you could have an agreed-upon subsidy cap, sort of like the salary caps that the teams subject themselves to in order to keep things in balance and prevent a "race to the bottom."

Antitrust concerns? I don't think so. State and local governments were exempt the last time I checked (which admittedly was a long time ago).

It's something for Portland to look into. Instead of sister city junkets to the Rangoon suburbs, maybe our city fathers ought to be making trips to such exotic places as Oklahoma City and seeing what we can accomplish together. Indeed, isn't there already a National League of Cities?

Comments (16)

Great idea. They should take it even further. The next Intel, Boeing or whoever who plays them off against each other for tax breaks in the name of jobs can be dealt with too.

I'm not sure I'd go that far. Those guys can go overseas!

The problem is that many mayors have an overdeveloped "Edifice Complex," which leads many of them to believe that the solution to their underperforming downtown is a brand spanking new stadium, and a new sports team to fill it. (Cf. San Antonio, Oklahoma City, etc.) In other words, the city where the team currently resides (Portland, in our example) views it as extortion, while a city to which the team could flee (let's say Oklahoma City) views it as an appropriate expenditure of money to lure a sports team to town.

If anyone starts mewling about how we need to bail out the Blazers (figuratively speaking, of course), remind them that their beloved owner is the sixth-richest man in the world, according to Fortune magazine.

And despite all the coin he threw at the Blazers, he's still richer today than he was last year.

I truly think local government should seriously look into selling bonds and buying the Rose Garden ($192 million) and entering into a lease with the Blazers (and an NHL team). The city is currently netting around $2 million a year from the parking (after their bond payments) and could net 10 times that amount off the entire arena with competent management.

I know, I know.....the competent management part is going to be a challenge. but if the city TRULY feels they are up to running PGE, the Rose garden should be a piece of cake.

I can see it now! Steve Patterson switches jobs with Erik Sten and John Nash is replaced by Randy Leonard. We can bring back Frank Ivancie to run for Randy's seat.

At the end of the day we all come out ahead.

Like Pge huh ?

Just for pure entertainment value, I've often wondered if a city can invoke a takings of a sports franchise then sell off the team to individual fans; one season ticket is a share in ownership ala Green Bay.

After Katrina, my musing took a somewhat serious turn when I wondered if News Orleans could legitimately argue that the presence of the Saints was necesary for reconstruction of the city.

I dunno, seemed like an interesting question to me.

I've always wondered about that too. The GB model seems to wrok well. Sports teams are immensely profitable, if the state/city is goign to pay $500 mil or so for a stadium why not just go the whole way and spend another 300 mil or so for the team and keep all the revenue?


In today's "A Conversation With Paul Allen", he pegs the Rose Garden's value at $60 million. To keep the PTB in Portland, Allen wants a public entity (think OHSU) to purchase the RG from the creditor group ("including Prudential, Farmers Insurance, TIAA-CREF, Pacific Life and others"). He will want it kept in tip-top condition and preferred access that will generate a net revenue stream that is typical for an NBA team in a team-owned arena.

Has it become obvious to Allen that the professional sports economic model depends on public ownership of the bricks and mortar? Or is there more? I knew something was going to go down when I saw Neil Gold$chmidt in attendance at the last LeBron game.

Did you see the recent news that PERS has doubled down with Texas Pacific Group, investing $300 million more than they'd originally voted for into a new "private equity fund" for a new total of $600 million. This is the same prelude as the the failed PERS-TPG-PGE deal. ("Private equity" means public employees pensions recycling capital by buying and selling private companies through management fee groups like TPG. In case they buy and operate rather than sell, it amounts to public employee ownership and operation of the means of production, a mild variant on the Karl Marx definition of communism.)

The modern, model public-private partnership that makes most sense in this day and age is a TPG play for the PTB via an OHSU-alike. TIAA-CREF et. al. throws in the RG. PA throws in the league franchise, player and management contracts, practice facility and jet. PERS via TPG spreads cash around to all.

The skids will be greased, it's all going down, except PA will balk when asked to relinquish the title "owner".

In today's "A Conversation With Paul Allen", he pegs the Rose Garden's value at $60 million.

If he thinks that, he obviously got into Damon's stash.

Man! The entire eight years I lived in Portland, the Blazers were the butt of many professional sports jokes, now Super Trekkie Paul is thinking of pulling up stakes.

I agree with the GB model, fans support teams who WIN and quality individuals never hurt a program in fans' eyes. But when you are asking people to pay, and pay more for a product that is consistently worse and MORE embarassing than the year before, then that is a very tough sale.
I don't think the GB model would work in Portland any time soon.

For years I've been hearing arguments that professional sports will become less popular because the athletes do not have the same fire and drive that they had a decade or two ago.

Guess there is always college sports!

We may get a piece of the NCAA basketball tourney in three or four years. Let's hope that becomes a regular thing.

Portland IS a good sports town and the Green Bay model should work here--although you have to remember that the original buy-in in Green Bay was a lot less money than would be required here. I think the Packers have actually issued stock three times in their existence, each time for funding that was a quantum jump over the previous round.

But the whole thing is moot. I believe that the NBA, just like major league baseball, prohibits the Green Bay model of ownership.

Please note that I tried to write this post with a minimum of acronyms. There was a post above that was as indecipherable as a teenager's text message.

U ddnt lk it?

Gil - when Government Owns Trailblazers Communism Has Arrived


I'm late to this party here - but the Green Bay model is currently banned in all four major pro sports leagues. Even the NFL -- though the Packers have an exemption.

Our very own Earl Blumenauer has sponsored legislation called the "Give the Fans A Chance Act" which would revoke antitrust exemptions for any league that didn't allow fan-ownership of teams.

[Disclaimer - I built Earl's website, but I don't speak for him. I'm just having a late-night memory of one of my favorite bits of legislation.]


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