The New York Yankees and Mets could make their biggest off-season acquisitions with the help of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani: two new $800-million stadiums.
The cost of the proposed new ballparks, each with a retractable roof, would be divided evenly between the city and the two teams, Giuliani said Wednesday. But it won't be the baseball-crazy mayor or the two franchises that have final word on the plan; that will belong to incoming mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"We haven't concluded all the negotiations with the teams," said Giuliani, who appeared determined to work out the deals in the five days before his term in City Hall expires.
Under the proposal, the state would pick up a $150-million tab for infrastructure improvement around Yankee Stadium--including parking and a new Metro-North station in the South Bronx, 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.
Met spokesman Jay Horwitz confirmed the terms of the proposed deal as contained in a series of published reports. A spokesman for the Yankees was traveling and unavailable for comment.
Bloomberg, who would need to sign off on any deal cut by the current administration, said the stadium package is a good one because New York is a "first-class city" that deserves "first-class facilities."
The outgoing mayor insisted the stadium deal, believed to be the largest private-public venture in baseball history, would pay for itself. Administration members said the roofs would allow year-round use of the stadiums, and would help lure major events to the city.
In the past, the mayor has talked about building a new stadium in Manhattan. But the current plans appear to center on building the new stadiums next to the teams' current ballparks--Shea Stadium in Queens and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
Yankee Stadium, opened in April 1923, remains one of the sport's sacred cathedrals--a direct link through baseball history, from Ruth to DiMaggio to Mantle to Jackson to Jeter.
Although renovated in the mid-1970s, it has remained in the same location at 161st Street in the Bronx. The Yankees have repeatedly complained about traffic and parking problems at that site.
Free-agent outfielder Ruben Sierra signed a one-year, $1.9-million contract with the Seattle Mariners. Sierra hit .291 with 23 home runs and 67 RBIs in 94 games with the Texas Rangers last season.