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Stadium debate rages as Yanks battle Braves.

Now that the New York Yankees are in the World Series for the first time since 1981, and fans are flocking to the Bronx - sited stadium to watch them battle the Braves, folks are wondering whether this will influence owner George Steinbrenner's decision about moving the team elsewhere when the lease expires in 2002.

One of his arguments, that fans are afraid to come to the Bronx, has certainly been negated by the thousands of people who not only slept overnight on line and in a nearby soccer field, but carried hundreds of dollars in cash with them to purchase the coveted Series tix.

Fans patronized the River Avenue and 161st Street businesses while waiting for days to get to the box office. They brought and later abandoned sleeping bags and aluminum chairs, that were then collected and recycled by other entrepreneurs.

Even as buyers exited the line, scalpers and more financially-able than time-enabled fans asked if they had extras in full view and hearing of the police, who left them alone. The officers did, however, arrest a New Jersey individual who brought a dozen people with him to buy tickets so he could resell them.

Other scalpers were getting anywhere from $125 to $250 a ticket, even while tickets were still being sold at the box office for $25, $45 and $70 each.

There were also hot dog and souvenir vendors who took advantage of the party - like atmosphere in the exit area. The dollars rolling in were even being compounded, as fans congregated in bars to watch the Braves and Cardinals struggle for the right to play the Bronx Bombers.

Comptroller Alan Hevesi estimated that the playoffs alone generated $26.6 million in revenue for the City of New York, while a seven game World Series will pull in $42.4 million. That estimate counts tickets, concessions, television and radio fees, hotel rooms, bar and restaurant revenues and souvenir sales for total revenues of $69 million.

If only two World Series games are played in New York, the city will gain $21.2 million, in addition to the playoff money, according to Hevesi's estimates.

If anything, this demonstrates that the Yankees are a valuable commodity for New York, says James D. Kuhn, chairman of Newmark, and should influence the political decision about whether to spend the money on supplementing the construction of a stadium and keep the team in New York. "The emotional frenzy doesn't hurt," he said. "It reminds the city of what their potential loss is."

But Kuhn says he wants the Yankees in Manhattan and believes a more centralized ballpark would lead to more attendance. He says the question for the City should really be, "Do you commit the resources to keep them in Manhattan?"

As a season ticket holder, Kuhn is not going to all the games in the World Series, he says, strictly because they are held in the Bronx.

And he also doesn't think Yankee owner, businessman George Steinbrenner, should be influenced by the passions stirred up in the Series because for 15 years his team struggled in the Bronx with low attendance and bad ball games.

The city's President of the Economic Development Corp., Charles Millard, says they are studying what to do with the team and will "come up with something after the Series." But he doesn't believe that being in the World Series will change anything, because those figures have already been accounted for. And he notes that everything they have seen touts the most economic benefit by bringing the Yanks to Manhattan's West Side. The question, he agreed, was how to pay for it. "That's the harder part," he said.

Devoted Yankee fan Michael Myers, chairman of Corporate Realty Partners Chairman, would also like them in Manhattan for the convenience, although he too attends games in the Bronx.

"Taking the subway is a pain," he said. "Parking is impossible. Now, when I go, I get a car and driver and a friend and we go up together."

A Manhattan stadium would also provide an alternative destination for foreigners and tour groups believes Peter Hauspurg, chairman of Eastern Consolidated Properties.

"There would be a wider reach in Manhattan because you would get the foreigners and tour groups who would happily fill up the inside bleacher seats in a heartbeat," he said. The Bronx, he noted, "for them, is like enemy territory."

Hauspurg recalled times when his father, then chairman of Con Edison, would buy up the stadium bleacher seats and give them away to underprivileged kids, helping the ballclub survive as well.

While the Yankees are now generating enough excitement to host sold-out games, Hauspurg said, "The problematic thing is that it took 15 years to get people to go."

Their views were in sharp contrast with others who are concerned about emotion and Bronx economics more than convenience.

"Of course I'd like to see the Yankees stay in the Bronx," cheered Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey Ross. "They're the Bronx Bombers."

Architect Ted Moudis, who heads his eponymous company, said, "I think for tradition and for exactly what's happening right now, they should stay."

Real estate attorney Kevin R. Hackett, a partner with Shearman & Sterling, "dutifully" came up on the subway to see the Yanks play the Orioles and didn't feel unsafe at all.

"You look around in the stands and see all that cheering, and people are united in a happy and fun cause. It's a great place for baseball," he said. "If I were the owner I would say, 'This is what is possible here,' and I'd be excited at the possibility of staying and capturing that excitement."

But it would also safeguard the Bronx's future, Myers believes. "If not a coup de grace, it would be a real body blow if the Yankees were to leave."

That is also troubling to Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer, whose spokesperson naturally said Yankee Stadium is the best place for the Yankees.

"Being in the Word Series shows that fans will come here," said Clint Roswell. "There is no place to witness more excitement at any venue in sports than Yankee Stadium. We can, with a reasonable effort and financial commitment, work something out with the Yankees here that will improve the area around it and make it into an economic engine. We're positive that the clouds hanging over the stadium have been cleared."

To pave the way, last Friday, Ferrer, a probable candidate for mayor, presented a plan for the Stadium and adjacent area that would cost $450 million.

This would include $35 million to create a South Street Seaport-like shopping and restaurant district in the Bronx Terminal Market area. It would encourage people to come before games for lunch or dinner, and to spend time there shopping on other occasions.

More garages should be developed privately, while the Federal government should help with highway improvements, said Ferrer's spokesperson.

"We should make the stadium and the area fan friendly," Roswell said. "The borough president believes there is less of a rationale now for the Yankees to move out of the Bronx. The problem hasn't been parking as much as pitching. This is not the last hurrah, but could be the start of something big."

Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger isn't playing tug of war for the Yankees either, but is taking the good-for-the - city stance, not surprising, as she is also running for mayor.

"They should land where they is," she quipped. "They should stay in the Bronx. It doesn't take a move to the West Side to get business - it takes a great team that does well in the season. I think the Yankees belong in the Bronx," Messinger continued. "The city has many plans it ought to be pursuing with Steinbrenner to enhance the Bronx. Maybe now he'll be willing to sit down and look at them."

The long-desired Yankee area commuter rail station might also stop being held hostage to the Steinbrenner decision. Metro North recently conducted a telephone survey of commuters to determine if a station is needed as an adjunct to a park and ride facility. There is already $900,000 budgeted for a station design that was never spent. "We don't know what the ultimate cost of the station will be," said Dan Bruckner, the Metro North spokesperson. "That's what the design study will show."

It is believed the stop would also eliminate much of the game-generated auto traffic, as commuters could leave their cars at their home stations.

"We believe it's something necessary," said Roswell of the station.

While the West Side area proposed for a Manhattan stadium is just south of the Javits Center and relatively near Penn Station and the 8th Avenue subway line, it is also a fairly long walk. That worries some people who portend taxi-lock around game time.

The MTA will be involved in orchestrating a proposal for public transportation to the West Side, said Mark Freud of CB Commercial. "It's great the Yankees are in the Series and I'll probably end up going," he added.

The possible Yankee relocation is already translating into economic decisions for owners who were considering selling their properties, and who now want to wait to see what the Yankees are going to do.

"It's mostly the owners who have had properties for a long period of time that are thinking about the cap gains, and in light of the change with the Yankees, want to hold," said Freud.

But it's that same economic impact that has Bronx boosters putting their money on the northern borough.

"They should stay where they are and renovate, and put the money into that area," said Jonathan Bernstein, a partner with Jonathan Barry Associates, who is the broker who repped the purchasers of the Daily News Building." [Steinbrenner's] argument [about crime] is no longer real valid. It's so unsafe that people are camped out there. C'mon."
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:relocation of New York Yankees baseball team from Yankee Stadium
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 23, 1996
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