In a twist that would have been unimaginable just one week ago, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has thrown his support behind a Olympic stadium in Queens – to serve as the home not of the Jets, but of the Mets, who would foot the bill for construction costs, while the city and state paid for land and infrastructure. And if New York were awarded the 2012 Olympics, the Mets would play that season in a new Yankees stadium – plans for which are now expected to be released later this week.
As the news conference for this new plan took place late last night – less than 24 hours before the city needed to submit a revised bid to the International Olympic Committee – much is still unknown about the financing and other details. Here’s what we know so far:
Mets owner Fred Wilpon has agreed to pay construction costs for the new stadium, which published reports estimated at about $600 million. The hit to his pocketbook would be eased by MLB’s revenue-sharing deduction for stadium construction costs, which would enable him to pass along about $240 million of the price to the rest of the league.
As for the public, the city and state would kick in “land and infrastructure” costs amounting to either $160 million or $180 million, depending on which report you read. The public would also kick in $100 million toward converting the stadium from baseball to Olympic format and back again if New York hosting the 2012 Games.
Other details are sketchy at this early hour. Would the Mets be using their own property taxes to pay off stadium bonds, as the Jets had planned? Would the Yanks and Mets pay rent on their new digs (the Times’ Richard Sandomir says no), and how much would this cost the city in lost revenues? Who would pay for inevitable cost overruns, especially those incurred by a rush to be ready for the Olympics? Who will pay operations and maintenance costs? And what other hidden costs could be lurking in the fine print, particularly for the media broadcast center that the city wants to build atop an existing light-industrial neighborhood in adjacent Willets Point?
Given how long it took to suss out the true costs of the Jets plan, it could be a while before we know answers to all of these questions. For now, the Mets and Yankees stadiums suddenly take center stage, without the political baggage that weighed down the Jets project. (Bloomberg indicated that both state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and state senate leader Joe Bruno have agreed to sign off on the Queens deal.) The stadiums would still likely need to go through a months-long land-use process before being approved, including community hearings, environmental impact statements, and ultimately votes of the city council and state legislature.
And while there’s no Queens version of Cablevision to throw its weight behind opposition to the deal, community support is far from assured. Local Queens officials say they want to hear more before signing off on the deal. “Hopefully, some lessons have been learned with the West Side fiasco,” Queens city councilmember John Liu told Newsday. “The consensus can be built this time by ensuring Queens residents that there is no devil lurking in the details.”
LATE NOTE: The mayor’s office says that the Mets have agreed to pay both construction cost overruns and operations and maintenance costs.