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Roadside explores the back road and Main Streets of America. Our recipe for an American renaissance:
Eat in diners, ride trains, shop on Main Street, put a porch on your house, live in a walkable community.

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Roadside Magazine Archive 1990-2001

Sports stadium subsidies kill Main Street

Public Radio station WNYC in New York recently ran this piece about the economic spinoff yet to come to the neighborhood surrounding the new Yankee Stadium. When the Yankees and the City of New York  proposed the new stadium, they argued in favor of more than $350 million in subsidies and tax breaks reasoning that the business from the fans would more than make up for the outlay. Trouble is, the new sports arenas function much like many of the new casinos we see sprouting up all over the country: Each one is designed to keep customers and their money within the building.

Now, it's no secret that I'm a Yankees hater, but I oppose spending any public money on professional sports facilities. These are private, profit-making enterprises and should be financed with private investment. Study after study show that public financing of stadiums show no positive financial return for the governments that pay for them.

As this article shows, the problem gets worse because the surrounding businesses not only do not see any additional business, the City's ill-considered actions have the opposite effect.

NEW YORK, NY — The first World Series in the new Yankee Stadium begins today. In the third part of our Main Street series, WNYC returns to the shopkeepers on 161st in the Bronx.

They’ve seen their businesses suffer in the shadow of the new stadium, and the playoffs didn’t improve matters much. Many of these shops expected to do better with the new stadium. But WNYC’s Ailsa Chang takes a look at how the new Yankee Stadium is getting Yankee fans to spend more money inside rather than outside the ballpark.

REPORTER: Eddie Morrison has been coming to Yankee Stadium for 30 years, but right now, he’s chomping on the fanciest nachos he’s ever bought at a game. He’s sitting next to Gate 6, in the brand new Hard Rock Café.

MORRISON: It should say THE BRONX Hard Rock Café, not just the Hard Rock Café. Because this is the Boogie Down Bronx, so you gotta show respect.

REPORTER: It may be the Bronx, but those nachos just set him back 13 dollars.

MORRISON: That’s just a part of the tradition. You have to uphold the tradition of buying very expensive food at the ballpark.

REPORTER: And there are more than a hundred separate spots in this stadium where you can spend lots of money to uphold that tradition. They’re mostly big chains – like Nathan’s hotdogs, Johnny Rockets and Carvel Ice Cream. Yankee fan George Figueroa says he forgets he’s at a ballpark.

FIGUEROA: You walk around and it’s like you not even in a game. You walk around and it’s like you in a mall. You have whole bunch of stuff you could do. You can buy food, you can buy merchandise – whatever. It, like, takes you away from reality. That’s a good thing. I mean, we don’t have that in the Bronx. We don’t have a big mall to walk around, so this is our mall right now.

REPORTER: But that’s the problem. Businesses just a couple blocks down 161st street didn’t think they’d be competing against a new mega-mall. Abdul Traore is managing a near-empty store called Jeans Plus. It sells Yankee souvenirs – many of them identical to the ones sold at the stadium, but about 30 percent cheaper. Traore’s been sitting on a stool by the door during the playoffs, as if waiting for customers to come in.

TRAORE: This playoff is different. Totally different. Like Saturday, I stay here until two o’clock in the morning – from the time the game start until two o’clock in the morning. I don’t even make thousand dollars.

Read the full story here.

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