The owners of the New York Yankees, facing slipping attendance during the team’s 4th-place finish and a growing acknowledgement that their new stadium is kind of crappy in many ways for watching baseball, have announced some tweaks to the building for next year, including replacing some of the notorious obstructed-view bleacher seats with new “patio bars” and adding a kids’ play area in right field similar to what the Mets have:
Three other lounge and patio areas will also be built. All the additions will be open to all ticket-holders.
The team also said it would make available about 2,500 seats per game at $15 or less.
This wouldn’t normally be big news — offering some discounted seats and additional amenities is common for a team seeking to boost attendance during a rebuilding phase on the field — except that it’s the Yankees, who have traditionally stuck to the line that such niceties as entertainment areas and being able to see the game from your seat are amenities that are beneath them. (The last major change at the stadium prior to this was to remove seats and add tables for rich fans to rest their beers on.) There was no immediate clarification as to which seats will be available for $15 (I wouldn’t hold your breath about “for less”), but at least some of the crappiest views will now come without quite such crappy price tags.
The Steinbrenners will presumably be paying for the renovations out of their own pockets, though again given that it’s the Yankees, we can’t entirely rule out them somehow trying to wheedle a tax break of some kind out of this. More news if and when it becomes available.
That could actually be tricky, since the IRS loophole was partly closed several years ago: Any new bonds would have to be paid back based on the actual year-to-year property taxes that the stadium would be paying if it paid taxes, not based on an annual flat fee. That would likely mean somewhat higher interest rates since bondholders like certainty in their bond payments, and could wipe out any benefit from a refi. Also, there’s a new mayor since the original stadium deal was put in place, one who might not rubber-stamp a new bond deal quite so quickly, at least not unless the Yankees, say, turn some of their unused parking garages into affordable housing that isn’t necessarily all that affordable.
And if you’re wondering why the Yankees need to save money on their bond payments, take it away, New York Post:
Shaving perhaps as much as $10 million annually from the stadium loans could make the team profitable, said a source familiar with the team’s finances…
The Yanks are roughly breaking even now. That’s just the team and doesn’t include other businesses, such as the YES Network or Legends Hospitality.
Now that’s what we expect from a business whose owner once hid profits by paying himself a consulting fee to negotiate his own cable deal. Keep on keeping on, Steinbrenners.
The New York Yankees, a team that will be paying $225 million in player payroll this season (just thought I’d mention that, no reason), have agreed to a lease extension with the city of Tampa on their spring-training stadium that will include $30 million in city- and state-financed upgrades. (The Yankees will chip in $4.1 million for improvements to their training complex, and $6.2 million that they’ve already spent on the stadium since 2010, which is a new meaning of “will chip in.”) Planned improvements include new concessions concourses, new sun roofs, and a new “grand entrance” for fans fleeing the watchful gaze of bronze George Steinbrenner.
[Hagan] said the deal is a good one for taxpayers. The county, which owns Steinbrenner Field, will receive an additional $8.4 million in lease payments for the extra 20 years of the contract. The improvements to the Yankees’ practice complex will raise its taxable value resulting in more property taxes.
And, Hagan said, the continued presence of baseball’s biggest name for spring training will continue to fill local hotels, bars and restaurants with out-of-state visitors.
“When you consider all the additional revenue, this is an extremely attractive return on investment, which makes this deal a no-brainer,” Hagan said.
First off, $8.4 million over the years 2026 through 2046 is never going to make a dent in $30 million in construction costs right now. The property-tax bump is likewise going to be small; as for the throngs of “out-of-state visitors” allegedly drawn to Tampa in March just to see Yankees spring training games, haven’t we killed that urban legend dead yet?
If there are two reasons to care about this, other than just enjoying hating the Steinbrenners for being rich and still being able to get public subsidies whenever they want (assuming the city and county approve the deal, which they haven’t yet), it’s because it’s likely to give another boost to the trend of MLB teams making demands for public upgrades or replacement of not-that-old spring training facilities (Steinbrenner Field was built in 1996), and because it gives us another hint of what Ken Hagan is likely to be like in negotiations for a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s almost certainly going to cost Tampa taxpayers a heck of a lot more than $30 million if it happens, especially if Hagan hauls out rationalizations like these.
All things considered, I’ve got to say that this is kind of disappointing. The ostensible goal of this gimmick was to point out the classism behind Trost’s statement: He was implying that if fans could buy good seats for below face value, the ones who’d paid full price would be offended by having to sit next to the hoi polloi. (It’s probable that Trost doesn’t actually believe this, of course; he’s more concerned that if fans can buy seats for below face value, he’ll have a harder time selling them for thousands of dollars a pop.) Instead, it turned into two frat brothers from Villanova putting on cheap dinosaur outfits and sitting behind home plate, which is pretty much like every day at Yankee Stadium, only the dinosaurs the fans are dressing as aren’t wearing number 13.
Yesterday’s Yankees home opener was rained out and rescheduled for today at 1pm. I can’t wait to tune in and see who’s sitting behind the plate, and how long it takes before team security forces whisk them off to a black site, or at least the bleachers.
I wrote up an article for Vice Sports on Friday on how several sports teams, including the New York Yankees and Minnesota Timberwolves, have banned the use of print-at-home tickets, ostensibly to prevent fraud and counterfeiting but really because it allows them to control the resale of tickets via their own phone apps. I didn’t cover it here because it’s not really so much about stadiums, but following yesterday’s fiasco at NYCFC‘s home opener, I can’t resist:
NYCFC, which plays at Yankee Stadium, announced Friday that the team would no longer accept paper tickets, but the policy would be phased in.
The change—shockingly—led to chaos at Sunday’s NYCFC game.
Yankees Stadium/NYCFC should refund everyone's ticket today. Game is well underway, outside are seas– not exaggerating– of people in line
Apparently what happened is that NYCFC allowed the use of print-at-home tickets, but required that they be “verified” before fans could enter, whatever that means. (Isn’t verification what the scanners at the turnstiles do?) The result was that shortly before game time (it’s hard to tell whether this was taken eight minutes before game time or just posted then), the inside of the stadium looked like this:
UPDATE #2: An NYCFC official says the problem wasn’t the print-at-home tickets, which were accepted at all gates, but an eight-minute malfunction with the turnstile scanners that backed up the queues at the peak of pregame entry. Still awaiting word back on what the “verification” process was that had tickets scanned once before fans went through security and once after.
Department of Parks and Recreation officials said there are no such dangers from the contaminated groundwater.
“It doesn’t sound good, but again, there’s no exposure to the public here,” said Liam Kavanagh, First Deputy Commissioner at the Parks Department…
CBS2 has learned the cleanup effort has been under way since 2009. CBS2 also uncovered the contracts between the city and the engineering firm doing the decontamination work, and found it has already cost taxpayers $410,000.
If the gas is just getting into the groundwater, then yeah, it’s probably not a threat to kids playing up on the surface. (Or no more threat than it is to all kids in the neighborhood, who live atop contaminated groundwater.) Still, it’s a reminder that Bronx kids used to play on ballfields that had always been ballfields, never gas stations — until this happened.
And elsewhere in F’ed-Up Field Friday, the stadium that inherited the name Yankee Stadium from the real Yankee Stadium is set to host NYC F.C.‘s home opener in just two days, and yow:
That’s one bad-looking soccer pitch. Presumably they’re laying down sod as you read this (for once it’s not snowing in New York right now) — which they have to do in part anyway to cover the dirt infield — but playing sports on freshly laid sod doesn’t always work out so well. As with the Wrigley Field situation, conditions will no doubt be playable, but it’ll be interesting to see how well it works out.
There was a long article by Eliot Brown in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal on stadium subsidies, which you probably can’t read because it’s paywalled, but it gives a good rundown on the basics. (Cities give up piles of dough, economists say it’s not worth it.) I just wanted to single out, though, one jaw-dropping quote from New York Yankees president Randy Levine in the middle of the piece about the team’s new stadium:
The team and city officials said it employs 1,600 more people than the old facility and brought new parks to a poor neighborhood. “Since Yankee Stadium was built, it has lived up to what it said,” Yankees President Randy Levine said.