Yankees hope to break ground next spring
NEW YORK -- Babe Ruth got a short right-field porch in the original Yankee Stadium. Alex Rodriguez won't be getting similar assistance in New York's new $800 million ballpark.
"A-Rod doesn't need any help," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said Wednesday as the team unveiled plans for the ballpark it hopes to move into in 2009.
Flanked by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Gov. George Pataki, Steinbrenner did not make a formal statement but responded to questions. Since he bought the team in 1973, the Yankees had examined several ballpark alternatives, including a move to New Jersey or to Manhattan's West Side -- the site where the NFL's Jets hoped to have a stadium before the plan collapsed this month.
"We've had a lot of different things in front of us, whether we go over to there, over here," Steinbrenner said. "But we decided to stay in the Bronx and do the job for the Bronx."
Much of the hour-long news conference was dominated by politicians congratulating each other for the plan, which the Yankees hope gains approval in the fall from the state Legislature and City Council. The new ballpark will be just north of the current stadium, which opened in 1923, and the Yankees hope to break ground next spring.
"They're not the Westchester Bombers, they're not the Manhattan Bombers, they're certainly not the New Jersey Bombers," Pataki said. "They're the Bronx Bombers and they're going to be in the Bronx for a long, long time to come."
It will be just the third privately financed stadium in the major leagues since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, joining the San Francisco Giants' new ballpark (2000) and the park the St. Louis Cardinals are to move into next year.
Working with Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, the Yankees intend to pay for the ballpark by having a local development corporation created by the city and state issue 40-year tax-free bonds. The bonds will cost about $50 million annually for the team to pay off, with the exact depending on interest rates at the time of the issue.
The team estimates its annual stadium expense will increase from $22 million to $68 million, money that will be deducted from its locally generated revenue when calculating revenue-sharing payments to major league baseball.
Assuming the revenue-sharing rules don't change substantially after the current collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2006, the ballpark payments will cut the revenue-sharing money some teams otherwise would receive.
"They may be the only unhappy people as a result of this deal," Yankees president Randy Levine said.
Yankee Stadium is the third-oldest ballpark in the major leagues, trailing only Boston's Fenway Park (1912) and Chicago's Wrigley Field (1914). The Red Sox intend to keep improving Fenway.
"We can't spend all our time worrying about what might or might not be in the Yankees' plans," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. "I say, 'Good luck' to them. We chose a different path, one that we think will enable us to compete with them, because money ain't everything."
The Yankees unveiled a model of the ballpark, which on the outside will be treated with limestone and resemble Yankee Stadium prior to its 1974-75 renovation. It will seat from 50,800 to 54,000, with about 30,000 seats in the lower deck, an increase of approximately 10,000. The field dimensions will remain as they are currently, and the bullpens will be moved back to right field. Monument Park will move to the new ballpark, and a stadium club will be added above it.
Levine said the new ballpark also will be called "Yankee Stadium," but that the team may sell naming rights and have the ballpark called "Yankee Stadium at 'X' Plaza." Steinbrenner said the team rejected having a retractable roof.
"There was a discussion, but the cost was very extraordinary," he said.
Yankees captain Derek Jeter didn't think the team would lose any of the advantage it holds at Yankee Stadium.
"It's the team, it's the stadium, it's the atmosphere," he said. "It's going to be a new stadium, but it's going to be the same atmosphere."
Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella, a former Yankees manager and player, said a new ballpark was in order.
"It's been a wonderful place -- and it still is -- to play. But for fans' convenience and the luxury suites and all those things, yeah, I think it's time," he said.
Because the new stadium is in what currently are Macombs Dam and John Mullaly parks, the city will spend $135 million to develop 28 acres of new parks and sports facilities, including six acres along Harlem River. The current Yankee Stadium field will be used for Little League, high school, college and softball, and the dugout and some stands might be kept.
There also will be tennis and handballs courts, a basketball court with bleachers and soccer field surrounded by a running track and seating.
The state will spend $70 million for four parking garages that will increase parking from about 7,000 to approximately 11,000.
Bloomberg, who announced a new ballpark for the Mets on Sunday, said the city had spent $30 million on Yankee Stadium upkeep over the last five years and would realize $350 million in revenue and savings from this deal over the next 30.
In New York, lawsuits and construction delays often postpone openings. Even if the ballpark is ready in 2009, that's a long time away for many.
"I could be three teams removed by then," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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