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New Yankee stadium: Who can afford peanuts, Cracker Jack?

September 25, 2008 |  4:22 pm

A view of constructuion under way on July 15, 2008 at the new Yankee Stadium.
Swirling around in the background as the wave of nostalgia continues to crash over the old Yankee Stadium are questions about who is paying for for -– and will benefit from –- the $1.3-billion ballpark the Yankees will inhabit next April.

Though it’s a New York story, these questions tend to surface whenever a new sports facility is proposed. Unless, that is, the stadium/arena/ballpark is financed entirely by private money.

Citing “previously secret and undisclosed legal documents, sworn testimony before Committees of the Legislature, and direct discussion with involved public and private persons,” New York Assemblyman Richard Brodsky last week used a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., to allege that “in spite of public claims by elected officials and the Yankees, there are almost no new permanent jobs, private investment or local economic impact” to be generated by the project.

“The public is paying for the cost of construction of the new stadium,” Brodsky claimed, but “the massive ticket prices announced by the Yankees ... will make Yankee games largely unaffordable to the very taxpayers who are paying for it.”

And that ugly assessment came even before the troubled financial markets took a huge bite out of the Big Apple’s economy.

At the core of Brodsky’s argument is a disagreement over the value of land underneath the new stadium. How much that dirt costs is important because the value of tax-exempt bonds like those being used to finance new Yankee Stadium depend in part upon the assessed value of what’s underneath.

The assessment that the city used to qualify the Yankee Stadium project for tax-exempt bonds set the value of that land at $204 million. A second assessment done by the National Parks Service set the value at between $21 million and $28 million. A third assessment came in at $40 million.

The Yankees and New York City officials say that nothing improper occurred, and that the stadium project makes financial sense for fans in particular and taxpayers in general.

Critics, including U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland), who chaired last week's congressional hearing,  suspects that taxpayers aren't getting a fair shake in these deals.

-- Greg Johnson

Photo: A view of constructuion under way on July 15, 2008 at the new Yankee Stadium. Credit: Jerry Lai / US Presswire