New York public radio station WNYC paid a visit to the Yankees’ new taxpayer-subsidized baseball stadium and discovered that neighboring businesses aren’t feeling any of the much-promised economic revitalization:
REPORTER: But that’s the problem. Businesses just a couple blocks down 161st street didn’t think they’d be competing against a new mega-mall. Abdul Traore is managing a near-empty store called Jeans Plus. It sells Yankee souvenirs – many of them identical to the ones sold at the stadium, but about 30 percent cheaper. Traore’s been sitting on a stool by the door during the playoffs, as if waiting for customers to come in.
TRAORE: This playoff is different. Totally different. Like Saturday, I stay here until two o’clock in the morning – from the time the game start until two o’clock in the morning. I don’t even make thousand dollars.
REPORTER: Traore says in the days of the old stadium, he would make about five thousand dollars on a typical game night. His business is down 60 percent right now. And he says it’s not just the recession – it’s the new stadium. Fewer shoppers walk down 161st Street these days. For a lot of reasons. The new Metro-North station spits people right into the stadium. Fans who drive to games don’t park further down 161st and walk up anymore – they have new garages right by the complex. And the new ballpark has 4000 fewer seats. That’s a lot less people over 82 home games.
There’s also this cheery cheery segment with Stanford economist Roger Noll:
NOLL: For some reason in the last 20 years, people have decided that, as a political matter, it makes sense to try to sell new sports facilities not as entertainment and recreation and fun, that this is something that’s nice for a community to have, but instead, as a way to try to make money for an entire city, and that’s just completely wrong.
REPORTER: According to the New York City Independent Budget Office, the city forked over more than $360 million in tax exemptions and subsidies to help pay for the stadium. Much of the rationale was that the new ballpark would be good for the city’s economy. But Noll says local businesses won’t see returns on that investment. The fundamental business model for the modern stadium is to keep shoppers inside its walls. In fact, he says, the fastest-growing source of revenue in professional sports is stadium sales – food, alcohol, clothing.
NOLL: If you compare the size of old parks versus new parks, the new ones are much bigger than the old ones. The size of the baseball field is still the same. The number of seats is, if anything, smaller. But the footprint of the entire facility is usually three or four times as big as a baseball park would have been 40 or 50 years ago. The difference is putting all this concession activity into the new facility.
The full WNYC report is here. Matt Welch explains why the Yankees are baseball’s biggest welfare queens here, and Reason.tv asks whether sports subsidies are worth it below: