Baseball fan Giuliani announces tentative deal for new Yankees, Mets stadiums

Saturday, December 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Mayor Rudolph Giuliani used one of his last days in office to announce what could become a historic investment in one of his great passions: baseball.

The outgoing mayor said Friday that New York's two major league teams, the Yankees and the Mets, had reached tentative agreements with the city to build a pair of new stadiums.

The $1.6 billion cost of the proposed ballparks _ believed to be the largest private-public venture in baseball history _ would be divided evenly between the city and the two teams, Giuliani said.

Incoming Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is scheduled to take office Tuesday, will have the final word on the deal.

``I can't imagine he won't support it,'' Giuliani said in announcing the deals at City Hall.

He insisted that no new taxes would be necessary to build the stadiums, both with retractable roofs, at sites adjoining the current facilities _ Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and Shea Stadium in Queens.

But Bloomberg, who happens to be a Boston Red Sox fan, was cautious Friday, telling reporters he wanted to wait to see how the economy rebounds from the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks.

``The issue is really, 'Can we afford them?''' he said. ``I will have to take a look down the road as the economy develops. Nobody knows today how deep or how protracted the current economic downturn is.''

Officials have estimated that the World Trade Center attack will cost the city 100,000 jobs, and create successive $4 billion budget deficits in future years.

But the stadiums have been among Giuliani's pet projects, and the devastation of the terrorist attacks didn't change his mind.

Under the proposal, the state would pick up a $150 million tab for infrastructure improvement around Yankee Stadium _ including parking and a new commuter rail station, Giuliani said.

The city would issue tax exempt construction bonds to cover the construction costs, with the teams and the city dividing the $50 million-a-year debt service.

According to Giuliani, the teams would sign 35-year leases with no escape clauses. If the deal goes forward without delay, the Mets could open their new park in 2006, while the Yankees' new stadium could be ready in 2007.

The outgoing mayor insisted the stadium deal would pay for itself. Members of his administration said the roofs would allow year-round use of the stadiums, and would help lure major events to the city. New York is one of the four finalists to represent the U.S. in its bid for the 2012 Olympics.