Lupica Waves at One

Better work on stadium financing, please

Sports columnists aren’t required to read balance sheets or anything, but surely Mike Lupica can do better than this lazy column today that tries to decry the high cost of the new Yankee Stadium and the (truly outrageous) fact that it is publicly subsidized, but can’t be troubled to mention how much the public subsidies are or even how much the stadium is going to cost ($1.3 billion, most of it publicly financed, if you can believe it).

This is the richest ballpark in history, built by the richest team in history. Oh, and it is also built by you, because the government of the city and state signed off on all this, the new Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ Citi Field, before the economy fell apart the way our baseball teams did the last two months of the season.

“The city and state signed off on all this?” I’m not even sure what that means.

The Times in September wrote:

The city and the state agreed to provide the Yankees with more than $300 million in cash subsidies for garages, a Metro-North train station, replacement parks and road work. But the teams do not pay rent for playing on city land, nor do they pay property taxes.

That wasn’t hard, was it?

Actually, the cash subsidy is closer to $350 million, according to this report by Westchester County Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who says interesting savings on inappropriate tax-exempt bond financing pushes the figure to between $585 million and $826 million.

He doesn’t need to go into detail, but would it kill Lupica to mention the subsidies or even use the word “subsidy”? No. No, it would not.

(I’m not even going to get into the idea that you can pay Carl Pavano $39.5 million over four years, but cannot pay property taxes like every other home and business owner. That’s a scandal.)

The main point of the Lupica column is to lament the Yankees’ high payroll.

Nobody knows how much the Mets plan to spend once the Series is over. The Yankees, though, the Yankees are expected to spend bigger than ever so they don’t have to open their new palace with another team that can’t win 90 games and can’t beat the Rays and the Red Sox.

Okay. Not original. But okay.

But why bother writing about the Yankees’ payroll if you’re not going to mention ticket prices? Otherwise, who cares what they spend?

In case you were wondering, the box seats next to the field are $400 each.

The point: If you’re going to denounce the high cost of Yankee Stadium, denounce it.
Stronger work on this subject is needed, and that goes for sports writers, too.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.