Staten Island official endorses spending $5m on empty baseball stadium to steal rugby team from Brooklyn

As I reported here a week and a half ago, New York City is set to spend $5.1 million on upgrades to the Staten Island Yankees‘ home stadium even as the Staten Island Yankees may cease to exist, or at least will certainly no longer be a Yankees affiliate. This weekend the New York Post took notice of this, and got Staten Island borough president James Oddo to say he thinks throwing public money at an increasingly empty stadium is a great idea:

Borough President James Oddo said it’s about time the city steps up to the plate and invests in the ballpark with vistas of the downtown skyline, adding that the Yankees’ decision two weeks ago to drop the “Baby Bombers” as part of Major League Baseball’s minor-league consolidation “needs to serve as a wake-up call.”

“This is a moment of time where we have to extract something more than the status quo,” he told The Post. “You have this great stadium that’s underused, and we have to make it a bigger part of the Island’s community than it’s been.

“It was a major investment in tax dollars to build, yet the stadium is dormant for the overwhelming majority of the year.”

It was indeed a major investment to build — $71 million in city dollars, in part thanks to environmental cleanup costs at the site near the Staten Island Ferry terminal — but what would the value be in throwing another $5.1 million on the fire? According to “officials,” says the Post, “the pro rugby franchise Rugby United New York has expressed interest in playing there once it’s reconfigured.”

If you’re not familiar with Rugby United New York, that makes you and most of the population of New York City. The team has played a season and a half so far, with announced attendance settling in at under 2,000 per game following the franchise’s home opener, playing at the Brooklyn Cyclones‘ home stadium in Coney Island. So the primary announced goal of the city rehabbing the Staten Island stadium, apparently, would be to add artificial turf in order to move a team in an extremely minor sports league from one city borough to another.

This is dumb enough, apparently, to even draw opposition from Fansided’s Staten Island Yankees blogger, who writes that spending money on a stadium after its main tenant has left “makes no sense,” and that the prospect of a rugby team is “kind of bleak” and “a tough sell.” Which is maybe what you’d expect from a minor-league baseball blogger suddenly faced with the prospect of not having a team to write about, but it’s also completely accurate. Unfortunately, the New York City Economic Development Corporation is spending this money out of its own budget, so it isn’t likely we’ll get any city council hearings — which is a shame, as I’d love to hear what Brooklyn elected officials think about this move.

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