Just as New York and the rest of the country stagger into a profound recession, we’ll be dedicating two new towering, taxpayer-subsidized monuments to excess and misplaced prioritiesótwo of the core impulses that have always animated the city. Let Seattle, which allowed the NBA SuperSonics to leave town rather than build a new arena, feel virtuous; we’re New York, and we need our overpriced diversions, now more than ever. Hey, we may not be able to keep our firehouses open, or overhaul Penn Stationóbut we’ve got $3 billion in shiny sports palaces!
Both ballparks are also intimately tied to the financial-industry mess. In early September, the Yankees were on the verge of announcing a multi-million-dollar endorsement deal that would have splashed Bank of America’s logo all over the new Yankee Stadium, but the economic meltdown has tangled the negotiations.
In Queens, the stadium-naming rights were sold way back before Citigroup laid off 75,000 people and taxpayers forked over more than $20 billion to keep the company from collapsing. So beyond root, root, rooting for the players on the field, we are all now quite literally invested in the success of the Mets’ new home. Each spring, baseball’s opening day is celebrated as a fresh start, when anything’s possible, and perhaps that’s the best way to think of both ballparks: as signs of optimism, pointing to a future when it will be possible to walk through the turnstiles of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field without a rueful, ironic chuckle.