The Yankees and Mets return to the trough

You’re not going to believe this, but the Yankees and Mets need — and are going to get — more money from the taxpayers of New York:

With opening day for the city’s two newest baseball stadiums only four months away, the price tag for taxpayers continues to rise.

The Bloomberg administration has issued fresh estimates for utility work, lighting and the cost of replacing the parks and ball fields that once stood where the new stadium for the Yankees is being erected.

The city also plans to issue $341.2 million in additional tax-exempt bonds on behalf of the Yankees and Mets to complete the stadiums, whose combined cost is about $2.2 billion.

The teams are responsible for paying off the bonds, but they pay tens of millions of dollars less in interest because payments to bondholders are exempt from city, state and federal taxes.

This is on top of the $660 million in infrastructure developments and improvements and $500 million in tax breaks already being given to the families Steinbrenner and Wilpon by taxpayers.

Query: are the Yankees and Mets still sticking to the “we’re-paying-for-our-own-stadium” talking points, or has it finally become too ridiculous a charade to maintain?

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  1. MooseinOhio said...

    What I find interesting is that folks will often recoil when asked to pay taxes to fund schools, social services or infrastructure items (all things that benefit a community) but often fall silent on using public monies to finance stadiums for a private enterprise.  Voters tend to pass these financing schemes (word used intentionally) more often than not and do not question the logic of using public funds for the benefit of a private business.

    Are the spin doctors that convince folks that these are worthy causes just that much better than those for school funding or other social goods?  How is it that folks will demand that government spend our money more wisely and effectively (so they say as they vote down levies that support a gov’t entity) but seem to accept overruns when building the newest shrine to their sports team?

    Call me a liberal if you want but I think funding causes that support a social good are a communities responsibility and asking a private enterprise to support itself financially is a fiscally conservative approach.

  2. Pete Toms said...

    @ Moose.

    Read, “Public Dollars, Private Stadiums” for a great examination of why this happens.  Residents / taxpayers have frequently opposed this policy in different US cities but it happens anyway.

    Some select quotes from the book, but I can’t do it justice here, you have to read it.

    “Overall, the process of building private stadiums with public dollars in the United States is more akin to plutocracy and oligarchy than to democracy……Residents in and around Pittsburgh and Phoenix were crystal clear about not wanting to spend public dollars on private stadiums.  But in both cases, powerful stadium advocates simply trampled on public sentiment and built the stadiums anyway….”


    “In Philadelphia, for instance, there was no need to blatantly trample on popular sentiment because the public was never given any say on the matter except indirectly through city council and state representatives.  When a Pennsylvania state representative explained to us the inner workings of the legislature, it seemed to have little in common with democracy as we conventionally define it.  He explained how Pennsylvania decided to put up two-thirds of the money for the four new stadiums in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia:

    “Ninety-five percent of the calls we get on this issue are against it….For dynamic issues like these that are wildly unpopular, the legislative leaders decide it will happen; and then they decide how many votes each side (Republican and Democratic) will give up and which representatives are least vulnerable-so they don’t get taken out ( for voting for something so unpopular )


    ” In fact, we were told that one of the big inside fights on this issue concerned the fact that Republicans wanted to provide fewer than half of the total yes votes needed to pass the stadium bill.  The Democratic leadership, however, argued that because Republican governor Tom Ridge wanted the bill so badly, the Republicans should give up more than half of the votes.  The Republican leadership countered that because the stadiums would benefit the two largest cities in Pennsylvania, which are largely Democratic, the Democrats should give up more than half of the votes.  All of this finagling may not surprise a cynical observer, but it is not exactly what you read about democracy in a high school civics text.”

    Anyway Moose, two broad points.  These rich owners have succeeded in getting lots of public dough IN SPITE of public opposition.  It doesn’t happen because most are in support.  Second point, it’s not only liberals who are opposed.  Anti tax / anti corporate welfare conservatives are also opposed.  It’s the rare issue where these two are unified.

    Anyway, read the book, it’s fantastic.

  3. Aaron said...

    Actually, it seems more and more often that voters have little desire to waste their money on various stadia. If anything, it’s legislatures and governors that pass these deals as feathers in their caps.

  4. MooseinOhio said...

    Pete:  It will be added to the long list of must reads books that I hopefully will get to some day.  I appreciate the few quotes and recommendation and I know my comments were simplistic in nature but I find it fascinating that we, as voters, let our elected official get away with such shannigans.  I suspect that if the same legislator were to support/advocate for/pass a bill about a social issue (e.g. gay marriage, abortion, civil rights – take your pick) that we were opposed to that we would rally against them and join groups that actively opposed their reelection. 

    However let them pass a bill that makes no financial sense whatsoever and diverts monies from more worthy causes and we sit on our hands.  I use the collective we because I can be as guilty as the next for not making my voice heard – shame on me.

  5. Pete Toms said...

    Moose, I am a hypocrite.  I supported the mostly publicly funded construction of our ballpark in Ottawa, simply and selfishly because I knew I would reap a lot of enjoyment from it.  Objectively, it was a rip off.  Sadly, I think it’s gonna be bulldozed in favor of a big box development.

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