Bruce's Big Promises

 Bruce Mandell of Hartford Sports Group.

Bruce Mandell of Hartford Sports Group.

Bruce Mandell has made some big promises to the people of Hartford in his pitch for $10,000,000 in taxpayer money

 (Source: Hartford Sports Group's presentation to the Capital Region Development Authority.)

(Source: Hartford Sports Group's presentation to the Capital Region Development Authority.)

Let's talk about these numbers.

In 2017, USL teams hosted 16 home events annually. The average league attendance was 4,301 per game with a mean of just 3,167 per game.

Hartford Sports Group estimates attendance of 100,000+ annually — or 6,250 fans per game — an ambitious 45% increase of the league average — or within the top 6 in the whole league.

Further examination reveals:

  • 21 of the 30 teams averaged less than 5,000 fans per game.
  • 7 of the 30 teams averaged attendance of less than 2,000 per game.
  • The bottom 2 teams averaged just 632 (New York) and 869 (Vancouver) fans per game.

We want to know what assumptions Hartford Sports Group is relying on to believe Hartford will achieve attendance figures 45% higher than the league average and within the top 6 of the whole league? 

 (Source: https://soccerstadiumdigest.com/2017-usl-attendance)

(Source: https://soccerstadiumdigest.com/2017-usl-attendance)

Since 2011, 14 teams have folded or left the league, a 33% failure rate. 

Hartford Sports Group plans to invest $7.5 to $10m in start-up and operating expenses of their USL franchise, but how long will that sustain the team?

  • $5 million is for the USL franchise fee -- not an investment in Hartford.
  • $2.5 to $5 million remains for operating expenses -- but for how many years?
 USL teams that have folded or moved since 2011. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Soccer_League)

USL teams that have folded or moved since 2011. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Soccer_League)

Of the 30 USL teams, only 6 USL teams are the sole tenant of a venue. 

  • 2 have a total capacity of ~2,000 (Charlotte and Toronto)
  • 2 have a total capacity of ~5,000 (Colorado Springs and Charleston)
  • San Antonio’s venue, with a capacity of 8,200, was privately funded — then purchased by the City of San Antonio for $21 million — an unjustifiable model for Hartford. 
  • Phoenix, with a capacity of 6,200, is privately funded

Of the 30 USL teams, only 9 operate in venues with a capacity of 10,000+. 

  • 3 are NCAA stadiums (Lehigh, Cincinnati, Richmond).
  • 3 are MLS affiliated teams operating in MLS stadiums (Orlando, Portland, Salt Lake).
  • 2 have 7+ tenants (Ottawa, Rochester — with Rochester on the brink of folding.)
  • The final venue, Sacramento's stadium, is on the grounds of the California Exposition and State Fair, a self-sufficient operation that receives no government funding. Funding for the stadium came from an agreement between Ovations Food Services, Cal Expo and Republic FC (the USL franchise).

Bruce's Promises of Tax Revenue and New Jobs

Promise #1: Admission Tax of $244,000+ per year.

Promise #2: Hotel Occupancy Tax $220,000+ per year.

Promise #3: 45 Full Time and 75+ Part Time JOBS

Promise #4: Economic Impact

Hartford Sports Group claims their plan will result in $5,000,000+ annually in economic impact citing unsourced "studies from other markets."

Questions

  • What are any of these figures based on?
  • How will economic impact be measured?
  • What agreements will the City of Hartford or CRDA secure to assure Hartford Sports Group will achieve these promises?
  • How many of these promised jobs will go to Hartford residents?

Let's Get Real.

1. The United Soccer league has not demonstrated the strength, attendance or sustainability to warrant a USL franchise dictating the design, development or operation of a public stadium.

2. There is no existing, comparable model in which a USL team sustains a venue. In other words, it would be unprecedented for a USL team to exclusively lead the design, development or management of a public stadium.

3. Hartford Sports Group's promises — to create 45 new full time and 75+ part time jobs, generate $444,000+ per year in new tax revenue and $5,000,000 each year in economic impact while attracting 100,000+ in attendance — are unsubstantiated, unrealistic and unsecured. 

4. Finally, when thinking of any project’s sustainability, we must consider the City of Hartford’s potential exit strategy. 

If the venue is initially designed by and for a United Soccer League team, and the franchise moves or folds — as 14 have since 2011 — the City of Hartford will be exposed to the shortfalls and promises of the franchise including debt obligations and ongoing maintenance while being left in a desperate negotiating position in future negotiations with any potential replacement team.

For all of these reasons, we believe a USL team leading the development of Dillon Stadium is an inappropriate, speculative and risky endeavor the City of Hartford should not pursue.

Do you think Hartford should risk $10,000,000 on Bruce's promises?

TJ ClynchComment