Where Dennis Kucinich and I Agree:

I don't often find myself agreeing with Dennis Kucinich. But I have to commend him for his opposition the the massive state and federal subsidies for the construction of the new Yankee Stadium:

A congressional panel has taken tough swings at the New York Yankees and New York City government over a new stadium for the Yankees. But neither the team nor the city budged from their positions on the $1.3 billion structure.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich said Thursday he found "waste and abuse of public dollars" in the financing of the new stadium under construction in the South Bronx.

Kucinich is an Ohio Democrat who heads a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee. He charged that city officials misrepresented to the IRS the value of the property, helping them to get special tax deals from the federal government and in effect dumping the cost of construction onto taxpayers.....

"In the case of the new Yankee Stadium, not only have we found waste and abuse of public dollars subsidizing a project that is for the exclusive benefit of a private entity, the Yankees, but also we have discovered serious questions about the accuracy of certain representations made by the City of New York to the federal government," Kucinich said.

The panel's investigation found "substantial evidence of improprieties and possible fraud by the financial architects of the new Yankee Stadium," he added.

The criticism highlights tensions felt nationwide as governments increasingly support stadiums for profitable pro sports teams with multimillion dollar payrolls.

As I discussed in this post, construction of the new Yankee Stadium is being subsidized with up to $450 million in public funds, plus an additional $941 million in government-backed tax-exempt bonds. This is the largest government subsidy for stadium construction in the history of the United States, and there is no good justification for it.

I first criticized the Yankee Stadium deal in this 2006 post, where I summarized the extensive evidence that there is no public benefit justifying subsidies for sports stadium construction. In fairness, what the Yankees have done is similar to what many other pro sports teams have gotten away over the last several decades. The Yankee Stadium situation is unusual primarily because of its massive size. Hopefully, Kucinich's hearing and others like it will succeed in exposing this kind of sports stadium socialism to public scrutiny and eventually put an end to it. But I am not optimistic.

NOTE: As a Red Sox fan, I'm obviously unhappy about government subsidies to the rival Yankees. However, I would oppose similar deals for any team, including Boston teams. For example, I was against various proposals that have come up over the years to build a new government-subsidized stadium for the Red Sox. I love the Red Sox, but I could not love them half as much loved I not liberty more.


Yankees Ask for $259 Million in Additional Government-Backed Bonds for New Stadium:

During recessions, many people have to make do with less money than usual. But not major league baseball owners. The New York Yankees have just asked New York City for an additional $259 million in tax-exempt government-backed bonds to finance the construction of their new stadium. This comes on top of the $940 million in previously approved bonds and up to $450 million in direct government spending on the project. Even prior to the current funding request, the new Yankee stadium had already gotten more government subsidies than any other stadium project in American history. The rival Mets are also asking for additional government bond for their new stadium, albeit a much smaller amount.

I previously criticized government funding of the new Yankee Stadium here, here, and here. In my first post on the subject two years ago, I summarized the overwhelming evidence that sports stadium construction provides few if any broader economic benefits to the community, and noted that Yankees ownership chose to build the new stadium primarily because it will increase luxury box revenue for the team. The old Yankee Stadium - built entirely with private funds - was perfectly adequate for most fans' needs, and indeed a great place to see a game. Unlike in some other cases, the government officials who granted the money can't even claim that the team would leave the city if they refused. It's not as if the Yankees would depart the biggest and most lucrative market in all of baseball.

In fairness to the Yankees, many other professional sports teams have successfully lobbied for government subsidies for their stadiums. The Yankees have managed to extract more money than any of the others. But it's more a difference in degree than kind.

UPDATE: New evidence suggests that public financing for the new Yankee Stadium was secured in part by promising free luxury box seats and other perks to aides of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

When it comes to getting a luxury box at the new Yankees and Mets stadiums, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's aides appear willing to play ball.

Recently released internal e-mails between the mayor's aides, city lawyers and Yankees officials show that City Hall gave the team even more parking spaces than had been negotiated previously, plus the rights and revenue from three billboards near the stadium in exchange for a suite.

For months, the city had publicly played down the importance of having exclusive use of the suite, but the e-mails obtained and released by state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky show luxury boxes in both ballparks were "a big issue to the mayor," as one official put it....

When city officials were angling for exclusive suites, their list of demands included perks such as free food, the e-mails show.

"Yankees said they don't want to pay for food for our suite," wrote Seth Pinsky, who was then the executive vice president of the city's Economic Development Corp., in an e-mail to Dan Doctoroff, then a deputy mayor. "My position is: if others get food with their suites, so should we."

In a separate conversation, city lawyer Joseph Gunn wrote Yankees officials to say, "if others get food as part of a base price, then so does nyc." It wasn't clear whether the Yankees gave in.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Yankees Ask for $259 Million in Additional Government-Backed Bonds for New Stadium:
  2. Where Dennis Kucinich and I Agree: