Sports

Yankees Lose Game 1, Bronx Business Owners Lose Every Game

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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 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:

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  1. You know, I blame Seinfeld for this. For making Steinbrenner seem human. It’s like what the aliens pulled off in V. No one remembers George eating rodents any more.

    1. In fairness to George, that chinchilla was on a plate on top of the garbage, not actually in the garbage.

    2. But I remember George Costanza as a communist that Steinbrenner sent to meet Castro for player recruiting.

      1. Why would George steal from the Yankees?

        1. The Jerk Store called, they’re running out of Steinbrenners.

  2. Matt Welch explains why the Yankees are baseball’s biggest welfare queens here

    Although this is true, we all know that Matt’s personal motovation for attacking the Yankees is that he is an Angels fan.

  3. I go to like twenty MLB games per year, and I’ve never bought anything inside a stadium. If you can’t last three hours without food, non-water drink, or new clothes (?!) there’s something seriously wrong with you.

    1. Some of us consider eating and drinking part of the fun. What’s “seriously wrong” is the behavior of boorish sports fans in mob numbers.

  4. Episiarch,

    I can’t criticize the man as much as I hate the Yankees and the effect teams like that have on the game (cap the damned salary!). Why? Because he spends tens of millions on stuff here in Tampa. He’s buying our silence.

    1. A salary cap won’t work in baseball. TV and ad revenue is far more local than it is with football or basketball, so you’re always going to have income inequities.

      1. They can cap player salaries at some level and just be insanely profitable with what they keep in their market. Bad league helps no one.

    2. (cap the damned salary!).

      Socialist. Real sports don’t have salary caps and you can still have parity without a salary cap (just ask Real Madrid).

        1. I request that the ban hammer be applied for this worthless habit of ascribing points. If this is an inevitable consequence of the threaded comments, I will join ProGLib’s ragtag revolutionary battalion which has yet to be pithily named.

      1. It’s not socialism. I’m not asking for government intervention. Heck, why not let wealthier teams field more players, then? Similar logic.

        1. Okay, it’s not Socialism. You are advocating a Kibbutz. Go forth with your new word and use it well.

          1. Look, I’ve been the beneficiary of caplessness as a Braves fan back in the Turner days. But how is having the same teams near the top all the time (with the occasional surprise, like the Rays) entertaining?

            Of course, while I’m at it, kill the DH and get rid of the wild card and maybe even the playoffs altogether.

            1. We need to bring flogging back into the sport too.

            2. Get rid of the wildcard and 1/2 of the recent Yankee World Series wins go away.

              It is all that is needed, salary cap is unnecessary.

              1. That would work for me, but why not go all the way? The teams play 162 games, for Pete’s sake. Get rid of interleague play, make sure every team plays the other an equal number of times, and have two pennant winners slug it out in the World Series.

                I used to favor the last system–playoffs without a wildcard–but I think playoffs suck altogether with the long season.

                1. I suppose you oppose the DH and instant replay too, you reactionary.

  5. This whole issue confuses me. I don’t understand why cities build stadiums at all. Why do these things get the public treatment? Shouldn’t they just be funded by investors hoping to make a buck?

    I have no issue with giving them tax breaks, but then I don’t think businesses should be taxed to begin with.

    1. Because sports fans are fucking stupid when it comes to spending what they perceive as someone else’s money.

    2. It makes sense once you understand that Sports is the #1 religion in the whole country. For many, many, many, many Americans, there is virtually nothing more important in life than sports.

      1. And these fanatics are often as stupid and confrontational as adherents of fundamental religions. Um, go Cubs!

  6. I’m sure WNYC’s preferred solution is to pass a law making it illegal to sell things inside a stadium.

  7. I like the malaprop at 50 seconds from the guy who called the Washington Senators the Sinners.

  8. Fuck the Yankees. Phils in five.

    1. Do you want to fuck all of the Yankees or is there a particular Yankee that gets you hot?

  9. How much revenue is generated for the city from surcharges on concessions? Parking? Ticket prices?

    1. There’s also enegy use, which benifits the electric company. And water use…natural gas…

  10. Are you big-leaguing me, TP? You big-leaguing me?

    GREENMAN

  11. Baseball? Meh.

    As I’ve said before, baseball is three minutes of action crammed into three hours.

    1. Dude, that’s football.

      And yes, I’m a fan of both. But let’s call it like we see it!

    2. I thought that was soccer.

      1. No, that’s futbol.

  12. Yankees sack! Yankees sack! Fack you Jetah!

    1. Yeah, they suck, too. I wish they were still 100 years and zero.

  13. What is this “World Series” I keep hearing so much about?

    1. The Ricketts are in charge now, so the championships should come straightaway.

  14. 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.

    Aren’t the teams themselves and the concessionaires who rent space in the stadium local businesses?

    1. Much of the team’s revenue is exported from the local economy in most places, if for no other reason than the player’s don’t live where they play.

      As for the concessionaires, well, they are now tax-payer subsidized competitors for the “other” local businesses, located in a facility that, in New York at least, seems designed to drain business from its environs, not bring it in.

      1. Good points, R C Dean, but in no way evidence for the claim that local businesses won’t see returns on that investment. Once you’ve opened the story with an anecdote that shows businesses that profited from the old stadium aren’t profiting from the new one, it’s hard to make the general argument thst stadiums never provide a benefit to local businesses. The problem is when they don’t provide a net benefit to the local economy as whole.

  15. eff the ysnkees

  16. For my entertainment I like expensive whiskey and cheap womem. Where’s my subsidy?

  17. OK, can we work on a solution here? I mean, we can be practical when we’re not theorizing, right?

    Mr. Traore, if we trust his figures and they are constant, now sees an 80% decline in business because nobody needs his stuff, even if it is cheaper, because said stuff is more conveniently presented in consumer nodes throughout the stadium. The government’s massive subsidy to the Yankees amounts to the destruction of capital for businesses outside the clique. We are not going to UNbuild Yankees stadium, nor is any of that money going to be diverted to business outside the new profit-zone. Using their own rules of late, good progressives would say that Mr. Traore is entitled to some relief — from the government (no double entendre intended). A stout libertarian, faced only with the facts at hand, would suggest that Mr. Traore, despite his status as victim at the hands of corporatism, should close shop and go someplace where he can make money.

    Theory and rumination aside, what would you, as financial adviser to Mr. Traore, suggest that he do?

    1. Giving Mr. Traore government relief would only increase the overall cost to the community of the stadium. Because Mr. Traore’s location will in all likelihood never be profitable, this extra cost would be borne indefinitely. This would be throwing bad money after bad money, so yes, Mr. Traore should move. If he had more foresight, perhaps he could have moved into the stadium as one of the “evil” concessionaires. Since he lacked the foresight, capital, or ability to raise capital necessary to make that move (otherwise he in all likelihood would have), it’s in some sense his fault that he ended up out in the cold. Nobody gets a guarantee in this life, and perhaps its unfair. In a cosmic sense, I guess it’s also unfair that cute and cuddly bunnies get eaten by foul, diseased coyotes. Weep for the bunny, at least Mr. Traore isn’t getting eaten alive, which is more than the majority of life on this planet can say.

      1. Hmmm, so Traore should have the foresight to predict what lamentable government subsidies will cause in a business environment that, without such forces, might have allowed him to remain profitable?

        That’s foresight based on the absence (or gross abridgment) of actual free-market dynamics. Sounds to me like he had a pretty damned good idea to undercut concession competition by offering significant discounts. Significant discounts are one way to compete in a fair playing field. Strikes me as queerly dismissive to say that a shop that has been presumably profitable must rely solely on the libertarian platform of voting with one’s feet to offset the damage inflicted by government involvement and the attendant corporatism. That’s running away and rebuilding because the government has involved itself in the business of business.

        If your bunny reference is meant to suggest that survival of the fittest is at the heart of Traore’s problem, then I’ll extend your metaphor by adding that coyotes who eat lots of pork and don’t need to eat bunnies just eat bunnies because they can.

  18. Baseball is pretty lame and how anyone can closely follow an already boring sport through a 160-game season is beyond me. Still, I’d rather the stadium spontaneously combust during the World Series than see one of these two teams take another pennant. They are both very good candidates for the two most obnoxious fanbases in any sport.

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