The New York Times on Public Funding for the New Yankee Stadium:

I have written several posts criticizing the massive public financing of the new Yankee Stadium, which has received more government subsidies than any other stadium project in American history (see here for the most recent, with links to earlier ones). Yesterday, the New York Times had an interesting article on the evolution of sports stadium financing in New York:

In dimensions and decor, the new [Yankee] stadium, handsome and comfortable, is meant to evoke the old one. But the resemblance is only concrete deep. This is not history, but a costume party, a rigging of familiar geometry. It disguises a radical departure from New York’s baseball history: the embrace of public subsidy — around a billion dollars when all the costs are added — for private wealth.

The first incarnation of Yankee Stadium opened in 1923. The owner, Jacob Ruppert, bought private land, raised private funds for the construction, and maintained the place with money he made in ticket sales. Ruppert and his successors paid taxes on the property: the land alone was assessed at $1.75 million in 1923. By 1970, the stadium and land were valued at $5 million.

If you were to page through the annual city tax rolls, you would find the valuation of Yankee Stadium — as well as the Polo Grounds in Manhattan and Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the homes of the Giants and Dodgers — listed right alongside the other big properties in the city, like Rockefeller Center, the Metropolitan Life building and Loews Paradise theater.

What do those old tax rolls tell us?

They say that for much of the 20th century, baseball in New York was recognized by the government as another commercial venture, with all the opportunities and responsibilities of owning property.

Not at the new “cathedral of baseball.” In fact, the stadium is being treated by the government as if it were a house of worship, not a place to sell $10 cups of beer. The partnership that owns the team has a 40-year lease on what had been city parkland. The partners will pay neither property tax nor the “payments in lieu of taxes” that are made when a private business venture occupies public space.

The fact that sports stadiums were routinely built and financed with private funds up until the 1960s and 70s - at a time when the business of pro sports was far less lucrative than today - undercuts owners' claims that they need government subsidies to survive. Indeed, in that earlier era, sports team owners not only paid for their stadiums themselves but also paid property taxes on them at the same rates as other landowners.

Ironically, as the NYT article points out, the Yankees opposed public financing and tax exemptions for the construction of the rival New York Mets' Shea Stadium in the early 1960s. Then-Yankees General Manager George Weiss warned that publicly funded sports stadiums would become "white elephants" for city governments. Weiss' prediction has turned out to be accurate. Today, public funding for sports stadiums routinely fails to provide economic benefits that even begin to approach their costs. Perhaps it is time for New York and other cities to take Weiss' warning to heart.

UPDATE: The original version of this post wrongly referred to to George Weiss as "Al Weiss." The mistake has now been corrected.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Exorbitant Ticket Prices at the New Yankee Stadium:
  2. The New York Times on Public Funding for the New Yankee Stadium:
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Exorbitant Ticket Prices at the New Yankee Stadium:

I have written several posts criticizing the massive public subsidies for the new Yankee Stadium (see here, here, here, and here). Hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds were expended, more than on any other stadium project in American (and possibly world) history.

In exchange for all this public largesse, you might expect that New York taxpayers would at least get the opportunity to purchase tickets at reasonable prices. Not so much... The prices are so high that many seats are going unsold, creating public relations problems for the team. Even after the franchise cut prices in reaction to anemic sales, the new rates are still extremely high. For example,, seats near home plate still cost $1250 each after a 50% price cut. For New Yorkers looking for really high-end seats, it would be much cheaper to fly to see the Yankees play in Seattle [HT: Tyler Cowen]:

Ticket prices at the new Yankee Stadium are so high that if a New Yorker wants to watch a Mariners/Yankees game from the best seats, it would be a lot cheaper to fly to Seattle, stay in a nice hotel, eat fancy dinners, and see two games.

Option 1: Two tickets to Tuesday night, June 30, Mariners at Yanks, cost for just thetickets, $5,000.

Option 2: Two round-trip airline tickets to Seattle, Friday, Aug. 14, return Sunday the 16th, rental car for three days, two-night double occupancy stay in four-star hotel, two top tickets to both the Saturday and Sunday Yanks-Mariners games, two best-restaurant-in-town dinners for two. Total cost, $2,800. Plus-frequent flyer miles.

Normally, I wouldn't have any comment on the pricing policies of a private business. If a firm charges ridiculously high prices, they will be punished by the market and consumers will go elsewhere. People who don't like the price don't have to buy the product. In this case, however, the Yankees' insistence on extraordinarily high prices further cuts into the taxpayers' ability to get even a slight return on their investment. Government subsidization of sports stadiums almost always inflicts more economic harm on the public than it creates benefits. Charging exorbitant ticket prices adds insult to injury. Moreover, it's possible that the taxpayers will end up covering part of the Yankees' revenue shortfall, since the team has a consistent record of asking for (and getting) additional government subsidies each time the new stadium project ran into trouble.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Exorbitant Ticket Prices at the New Yankee Stadium:
  2. The New York Times on Public Funding for the New Yankee Stadium:
Comments