Friday, August 11, 2006

"Yanks play money ball" MetroNY 08/11/06

Yanks play money ball

by patrick arden / metro new york

AUG 11, 2006

LOWER MANHATTAN — New York Yankees’ attorney Jonathan Schiller told a judge yesterday that any delay in starting construction on the team’s new $1.3 billion stadium project would “bust the budget” and mean the Bombers would have to leave the Bronx.

“Where will you go?” asked Manhattan State Supreme Court Judge Herman Kahn, who is considering a request to stay next week’s construction plans for the team’s new stadium on 22 acres of parkland in the South Bronx. The Highbridge community group Save Our Parks is suing the Yankees and the city to stop the project.

“This is not something I will debate here,” Schiller said, assuring the judge that the Yankees have “exhaustively explored” other options. The team plans to break ground next week, and then issue $955 million in bonds to finance the ballpark.

Any delay, Schiller said, would “imperil the structure of the project” by adding costs for the Yankees. If the new ballpark isn’t ready by Opening Day of the 2009 season, he claimed, the Yankees will have to cough up $33 million in rent for another year in the current stadium.

Yet the city’s own figures show the team has never come close to paying that much in rent. Last year the Yankees were supposed to hand over $14.5 million. But after the team took deductions, the city received just $1.8 million in rent.

The city comptroller’s office regularly finds the team overstating its deductions. Its last 2005 audit took back write-offs for a clubhouse Jacuzzi, Yankee offices and a “wives lounge.”

Schiller claimed another year on the schedule would add $80 million to the final pricetag. He cited figures by the team’s developer Tishman Speyer, saying costs rise by 12 percent a year.

That forecast seemed high to Peter Morris of the Davis Langdon Construction Industry Market Report. “And our projection is higher than people are generally looking at,” he said, putting construction cost raises at between 7 and 10 percent. “In New York City they’re probably seeing costs at the lower end of our range.”

Construction costs are rising, Morris said. But, according to an analysis of the Yankees bonds by Moody’s Investor Service, some costs have already been fixed by its contractor agreements. Standard & Poor’s says the bonds received a high rating because the Yankees are located in New York City, “the largest media market in the U.S. with sound demographics.”

Calls to the Yankees were not returned.

Kitty Cotter, who lives across from Macombs Dam Park, believes the Yankees would be foolish to leave. But she’s thinking about it.

“If that stadium gets built,” she said, “I’ll have to move.”

Ticket hike

• According to Standard & Poor’s, due to more luxury boxes, the average ticket price at the new stadium is going to be $74.11.

Meanwhile ...

• While Highbridge residents were in court yesterday, construction crews were taking down the fence in Mullaly Park. “They told me on Monday seven of the tennis courts will become a temporary parking lot to work on the stadium,” said Scott Daly, who’s run the free Junior Tennis League program since 1969. “Wherever we end up, it won’t be the same."


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