Stadium plans centerpiece of Olympic bid

Updated: February 4, 2005, 7:29 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- If you can't beat 'em, outbid 'em.

Madison Square Garden, the highest-profile and highest-decibel opponent of the proposed $1.4 billion West Side stadium, announced Friday that it was offering $600 million for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority-owned property targeted for the project.

West Side Stadium
A contentious battle between MSG and the Jets is underway for the coveted West Side property.

"Please let us know as soon as possible if the MTA is prepared to proceed with this exciting proposal," said an out-of-the-blue letter from Hank Ratner, vice chairman of Madison Square Garden, L.P., to MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow.

The value of the property has become a huge sticking point in negotiations between the MTA and the New York Jets, the team that hopes to become the stadium's prime tenant at the start of the 2009 season.

But the Garden, owned by the Dolan family, proposed a "dynamic mixed-use community centered on residential development" as opposed to the NFL stadium that would also serve as the centerpiece of the city's bid for 2012 Olympics. The Dolans fear the new stadium could draw events away from the Garden.

The new proposal was quickly hailed by state Sen. Tom Duane, one of the more vocal opponents of the stadium.

"I'm happy to have other options on the table," said Duane, whose district includes the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. "We really want to see a variety of proposals so we can see the best one. Everything's been geared toward giving this to one organization, the New York Jets."

Jets spokesman Matt Higgins dismissed the Garden's bid as "a desperate ploy and a PR gimmick by a company that will do anything to hold onto its monopoly. At least now their true motives have been revealed to everyone."

A spokesman for the NYC2012 Olympic organizing group had no immediate comment. Tom Kelly, spokesman for the MTA, said the Garden's bid came as a surprise.

"This is first indication we have received from Madison Square Garden, after months of public discussion, that they are interested in our property," Kelly said. "We will review the proposal."

The Jets and the MTA were at an impasse over the worth of the property that currently serves as a rail yard.

The MTA's appraisal set the site value at $923 million for 6.8 million square feet of development rights. Since the proposed stadium would occupy only 2 million square feet, the appraisers subtracted about $600 million.

The end value, according to the MTA: $330 million.

The Jets appraiser came up with a price tag for the property of $36.9 million -- the presumed worth of the site minus the $316 million cost of building a platform over the rail yards. Politicians immediately questioned why the Jets would receive credit for building the platform, considering that the city and state had agreed to pay $600 million for it and a retractable roof for the stadium.

The MSG bid came one day after state legislators grilled Kalikow over a plan to have former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell act as an arbitrator in determining the worth of the stadium.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the stadium as a key component of his plan to redevelop the far West Side of Manhattan, and he has warned that the Olympics bid will be doomed without it. Bloomberg's office had no immediate reply to the proposal.

Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff in a statement called MSG's offer "a desperate, last minute attempt to derail a project that will create thousands of jobs, more than $1 billion in tax revenue and allow New York to realize its Olympic dreams by building a world class sports and convention center.

"A Friday afternoon press release doesn't replace years of planning, design, negotiation, and public review from which this project has benefited," he said.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press