The Yankees played their final game at Yankee Stadium Sunday night. It was marked with pomp and circumstance and a lot of former Yankees on hand.
Across the street in the Bronx the new Yankee Stadium rises like a Taj Mahal, an imposing edifice glaring down on those who dare enter its domain.
Even before those gates are open, the battle is engaged in New York and Washington on just who is paying for the edifice and whether the monies been legally directed for that use.
Last week New York City Assemblyman Richard Brodsky issued a report that claims the city and state (the taxpayers) are footing the bill for the $1.3 billion structure through the use of $943 million in tax-exempt bonds.
Brodsky said, “This stadium is being built by the people of the city and state of New York. In return, they’re getting almost nothing in return. This deal does not serve the public’s interest. It serves the Yankees’ interest.”
In Washington, the Yankee deal is now part of Congressional hearings being held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich said last week the testimony shows there has been a “waste and abuse of public dollars.” He said there is “substantial evidence of improprieties and possible fraud by the financial architects” of the stadium.
That committee has taken testimony on the ongoing issue of the use of public funds for construction of sports facilities for pro teams.
Last March, the committee heard from economist Brad Humphreys, a professor at the University of Illinois, who reiterated what is now a common theme: The use of public funds to build sports structure for pro teams is a losing cause for the public.
Humphreys said that while economists may disagree on a lot of matters, there is no question that the consensus is “that professional sports facilities and franchises have no positive tangible impact on incomes, earning employment and tax revenues in American cities.”
That conclusion is based on a multitude of independent studies conducted over the last 30 years in every city that hosts a professional team.
Those studies make clear the money spent for professional sporting events is predominately disposable income from people living in the metropolitan areas and that money would have been spent on other activates in the area if not on pro sports.
As Humphreys said, “… Sporting events only concentrate spending, they cannot generate new spending.”
Regarding Yankee Stadium, Brodsky says the Yankees will pay no rent or taxes for the use of the city land the building sits on and that the yearly payment of $56.7 million from the Yankees will only cover the debt on the bonds.
The Independent Budget Office in New York says the savings to the team from the use of the tax exempt bonds will be $181 million. Plus, the city agreed to provide the $300 million in cash subsidies for parking garages, road work and train station construction.
All this for a team valued at more than a billion dollars that was purchased by George Steinbrenner for $10 million.
As Brodsky so succinctly stated, “When it comes to professional sports, we become socialists; for everyone else, we’re capitalists.”
Like all those “savvy” business people on Wall Street, American businesses, sports included, love to hack away at anything labeled “welfare” when in fact they are the biggest welfare recipients in the country.