Double play: Giuliani nears deals with Yankees, Mets for new parks

Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2001

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees and Mets could make their biggest off-season acquisitions with the help of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani: a pair of new $800 million stadiums.

The cost of the proposed new ballparks, each with a retractable roof, would be divided evenly between the city and the two teams, Giuliani said Wednesday. But it won't be the baseball-crazy mayor or the two franchises that have final word on the plan; that will belong to incoming mayor Michael Bloomberg.

''We haven't concluded all the negotiations with the teams,'' said Giuliani, who appeared determined to work out the deals in the five days before his term in City Hall expires.

Under the proposal, the state would pick up a $150 million tab for infrastructure improvement around Yankee Stadium -- including parking and a new Metro-North station in the South Bronx, Giuliani said.

The city would issue tax-exempt construction bonds to cover the construction costs, with the teams and the city dividing the $50 million a year debt service.

Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz confirmed the terms of the proposed deal as contained in a series of published reports. A spokesman for the Yankees was traveling and unavailable for comment.

Bloomberg, who would need to sign off on any deal cut by the current administration, said the stadium package is a good one because New York is a ''first-class city'' that deserves ''first-class facilities.''

''Even though we have a current budget problem, we should not forget the future,'' Bloomberg said Wednesday. ''This is a city of big ideas and big projects and a big heart, and things that take many years to do you have to continue to work on even when you have tough times short-term.''

According to Giuliani, the teams would sign 35-year leases with no escape clauses. The Yankees' current lease with the city expires after the 2002 season.

The outgoing mayor insisted the stadium deal, believed to be the largest private-public venture in baseball history, would pay for itself. Administration members said the roofs would allow year-round use of the stadiums, and would help lure major events to the city.

New York is one of four finalists to make the U.S. bid for the 2012 Olympics.

''Baseball is a tremendously big business,'' Giuliani said. ''It's like keeping the stock exchange here. This is by far, without any doubts, one of the best deals in sports.''

The stadiums were among Giuliani's pet projects, and the devastation of Sept. 11 didn't change his mind. According to the mayor, the stadium proposals would not require any new taxes as the city rebuilds lower Manhattan and battles a faltering economy.

The city has estimated that the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center will cost New York 100,000 jobs in the current fiscal year. Gov. George Pataki has estimated the cost of rebuilding lower Manhattan, including its subway lines and PATH train connection to New Jersey, could run as high as $34 billion.

Pataki said Wednesday that the stadium deal was a ''city issue'' and that the state would not help out with any money except for local rail and subway improvements.

''I've said from the beginning that the state is not going to put any money into a stadium. That's between the city and the private owners. But we will keep the commitment that has been made to help with infrastructure,'' he said.

Giuliani stressed that new construction would actually ''show how determined we are'' to bounce back from the attacks.

In the past, the mayor has talked about building a new stadium in Manhattan. But the current plans appear to center on building the new stadiums next to the teams' current ballparks -- Shea Stadium in Queens and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

Yankee Stadium, opened in April 1923, remains one of the sport's sacred cathedrals -- a direct link through baseball history, from Ruth to DiMaggio to Mantle to Jackson to Jeter.

Although renovated in the mid-1970s, it has remained in the same location at 161st Street in the Bronx. The Yankees have repeatedly complained about traffic and parking problems at that site, although the complaints waned as attendance climbed above 3 million the last three seasons.

Shea's history is less illustrious. Opened in April 1964, it became home to the National League expansion team created to fill the void left when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants abandoned the Big Apple in 1957.

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