Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 2:52PM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 4:17PM
Citi Field, the new home of the Mets, is being built in a lot adjacent to Shea Stadium and will cost $600 million.
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That's where Steinbrenner, Wilpon and Wolff are setting a good precedent. Let's not get carried away here -- these are all large-market owners and each of their respective team's planned parks are mammoth projects with price tags to match. The Mets' Citi Field will cost $600 million, and New Yankee Stadium is the new Rhodes Colossus of baseball, topping $1 billion in projected costs. (Plus, the clubs reportedly will be able to count their stadium expenses against their gross revenues, allowing them to save money on that pesky MLB revenue-sharing bill for a decade.) But in these cases, their owners are putting their money where their mouths are. They're willing to cover most of the costs of their new parks without burdening their fans.
Out in the Bay Area, it's the same story with slightly different circumstances. A's owner Wolff is a savvy hotelier and commercial developer who has a history getting deals done both using bond money and private funding, often a combination of both. That's good experience to draw from, because Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis probably made it impossible for a Bay Area sports-franchise owner to ever draw on public funds again. Contrary to the plans Davis and the Raiders drew up, the city is still paying for renovations made to McAfee Coliseum solely for the team's move back to the Bay a decade ago. That's why Oakland is unlikely to ever dip into taxpayer funds for another sports franchise, and that's partially why San Francisco gave up zero public money for the Giants' AT&T Park, built in 2000.
Wolff negotiated with the city of Oakland in good faith for a new stadium within city limits, but most politicians didn't expect him to reach a deal, especially since there wasn't enough land to be had. The agreement he struck with nearby Fremont was negotiated almost exclusively with Silicon Valley giant Cisco Systems and will involve no taxpayer money. That's something even Wolff can relate to.
"I am a taxpayer and I don't want to burden myself," he told me last week. "It's not because I'm a good guy, it's because I think there's a better way to do it."
Wolff is also tapping into a lucrative San Jose/Silicon Valley fan base, where he can grow support for his team and perhaps kiss the Moneyball era goodbye forever.
To any baseball fan's ears, that sounds like money well spent.