The empire strikes back

The Yankees backlash is in full gear following yesterday’s report that their stadium plans would cost taxpayers $480 million. Yankees president Randy Levine insisted to the New York Sun that the Good Jobs New York report was “riddled with errors,” and the city would end up “in the black” on the deal; meanwhile, the Daily News’ Paul Colford wrote:

Yankees sources said the report failed to note that the city will no longer be responsible for structural and capital costs, which the team will now take on.

These costs were projected to run as high as $350 million over 30 years at the current stadium if it were not replaced, according to team sources and the city’s Economic Development Corp.

The “Yankees source” (almost certainly Levine) might have wanted to actually read the report first: Right there on page 19, it says that “over the past five years, the Yankees have paid the city $26.43 million in rent after maintenance deductions” (emphasis added), and notes that “the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) argues that the cost of maintaining the current ballpark would rise exponentially in the future. … However, there is no reason to assume that the lease agreement for the new stadium would still require the city to cover maintenance costs.” It goes on to note:

Furthermore, city and state officials have provided different estimates for how much stadium maintenance would cost over the next 30 years. The DEIS claims $574 million. However, it is unclear
how it arrived at this number, which is far higher than the $350 million estimated by Mayor Bloomberg and the $200 million estimated in a draft of [Empire State Development Corporation]’s General Project Plan.

A spokesman from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation explained that the high maintenance cost estimates are based on the fact that “team representatives made it clear that they desired facilities on par with other first class major league baseball facilities located around the country.” This would be a new responsibility for the city since the current lease is set to expire by 2009, and city officials are in the position to negotiate a far more favorable rent arrangement.

In reality, net Yankees rent payments to the city, after deducting maintenance, have gone up in recent years, not down, thanks to the team’s record attendance and a lease that ties rent payments to ticket sales. If that trend were to continue, the city’s lost rent revenues would be even higher than those projected in the GJNY report, driving the taxpayer cost above the half-billion-dollar mark.

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