The football season ended all too abruptly in New York, so after a brief period of mourning, sports fans will begin to focus on what promises to be a remarkable 2009 baseball season. We are about 10 weeks away from the opening of two dazzling ballparks—Citi Field in Queens and the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
During 2008, the Yankees directed most of their attention to the closing of their grand but faded stadium, and the Mets spent most of the season talking about their new field. You would, too, if your home was the late, not-so-great Shea Stadium.
With Opening Day getting closer, costs have risen, especially in the Bronx, where the city plans to improve lighting and other infrastructure. The combined cost of the two new stadiums will be more than $2 billion, with the teams picking up the lion’s share of the tab. Recently the Yankees asked for $370 million in new tax-exempt debt to finish construction of the ballpark.
Both ballparks figure to add tens of millions of dollars in revenue to the city and promise to create new jobs. Baseball fans from around the country will be coming to New York this year to pay homage to the two new stadiums, especially the new Yankee Stadium. The Yankees, after all, replaced one of the most storied sports arenas in the world. The replacement for the House that Ruth Built figures to be one of the city’s leading tourist attractions in the years to come. Win or lose, love ’em or hate ’em, the Yankees generate passion across the country.
And yet, the latest bond request has created a storm of criticism from those who insist that the deal will create a burden. That’s simply nonsense. The team—not the city’s taxpayers—will pay off the bonds. True, they will pay relatively low interest rates on the debt because, like other municipal offerings, the bonds are exempt from local and federal income tax. But it’s important to note that while the city is issuing the bonds, it will not be paying off bondholders. The Yankees will.
The Yankees have had a hard time from critics who would have us believe that taxpayers are creating a luxurious new playpen for one of the world’s wealthiest sports teams. While the city and state certainly have invested hundreds of millions in improvements to the neighborhood, the Yankees themselves raised nearly a billion dollars to pay for the stadium.
That investment in the Bronx figures to pay huge dividends for the city. Construction has generated 6,000 new union jobs. City businesses have received $440 million in contracts. And after construction winds down and the new stadium opens, the Yankees estimate that they will create 1,000 new jobs. They are committed to funding $40 million to local community organizations in the coming years.
What’s more, the team—not the city—is responsible for maintaining the new facility. That means the city gets a chance to brag about this world-class stadium without having to worry about maintenance. That’s a pretty sweet deal.
It is safe to say that the new Yankee Stadium, certain to be a jewel of a facility, would never have been built without the city’s active partnership. The Bloomberg administration has found creative ways to encourage the teams’ investment in the city.
No matter how you look at it, this is a home run.