Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Field of Schemes responds to the lies of Levine

January 31, 2006

Yanks: What about our needs?

New York Yankees president Randy Levine was out stumping for the team's new $1.2 billion stadium plan yesterday, telling the New Bronx Chamber of Commerce that "we need a new stadium" because the old one "is just not functional."

Levine ran the gamut of pro-stadium arguments in defense of his team's plan, so let's go to the videotape, and see how he did:

"Any city, state, fair-minded economist will tell you that the new stadium and the surrounding area around it will create ... maybe hundreds of millions of dollars in increased economic activity and increased tourism."

Let's ask some fair-minded city economists, then. Doug Turetsky, chief of staff of the New York City Independent Budget Office, tells fieldofschemes.com: "Time and again evidence has shown that stadiums alone are not great job or revenue generators. This would especially seem to be the case when the plan is to replace an existing ballpark with one right next door. With the same fans coming to see the same ball club, it is not likely to spark much new discretionary spending in and around the stadium."

"It's neither feasible nor practical to either renovate or build on any other site in the Bronx. Not on the present site of the stadium - it's too small for a modern day stadium. Not to renovate there - it's way too costly and would not allow us any ability to play there for several years. And since we're paying for this, not the taxpayers, we wouldn't have revenues to build a new stadium."

David Gratt of Friends of Yankee Stadium points out that "the Red Sox are making major structural changes to Fenway in the offseason without disrupting the fans or baseball operations. The thought that the Yankees would have to play elsewhere is just wrong." He further notes that the renovation of Fenway, far from being more expensive, is costing about $200 million, while "the previous Borough President released a plan in 1998 estimating that it would cost $189 million" to renovate Yankee Stadium.

Adds Erika Tarlin of Save Fenway Park: "Mr. Levine's comments echo those of previous team owners and city agencies who declared Fenway dead and the proposed site for a new stadium as the 'only' feasible site. ... The team has renovated on its own dime which would not have been the case with the proposed new stadium which required at least $352 million in public money toward a $650 million project, and is not the case with the proposed new Yankee Stadium, an $800 million project at last count."

"This stadium is going to be affordable, affordable for everyone."

The city's own economic impact consultants estimate the average ticket price at a new stadium as $57, which would easily be the most expensive in baseball. It's possible those projections are wrong - but since the high ticket prices are responsible for most of the predicted economic benefits, they'd need to revise even further downwards the city's projected tax revenues. "When the consultants want to prove the stadium is a money-maker, they point to increased ticket prices and higher fan spending," notes Dan Steinberg of Good Jobs New York, which is putting the finishing touches on an analysis of the city's economic projections. "But when New Yorkers want to know how this stadium will affect the cost of going to a ballgame, the Yankees say, 'Don't worry about it.'

"All new facilities, a $130 million investment in the parks in the Bronx that everyone acknowledges would not have taken place without the new Yankee Stadium being built."
Steinberg again: "It's misleading to describe this as a $130 million parks investment when it includes the $24 million cost of stadium demolition and other costs such as land acquisition and infrastructure projects that are only necessary because of the stadium project." Gratt further notes that renovated parkland typically costs about $1 million per acre in New York City, so at $100-million-plus for 27 acres, the city isn't getting a very good bang for its buck.

Add them all up, and... let's see... congratulations, Randy, you've scored a Golden Sombrero!


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