The Yankees' Cautionary Tale
Just in time for the World Series, WNYC has a seriously fascinating report on the effect the new Yankee Stadium is having on its Bronx neighborhood. With the team having built what one fan approvingly describes as a mall, brimming with pricey dining and shopping options, there's correspondingly less economic benefit to area restaurants and stores -- though local impact is always a significant part of the argument when a sports team, or any other organization, is seeking incentives and concessions from municipal or state officials. Nationwide, reporter Ailsa Chang says, that's the trend: New athletic facilities are designed to get and keep visitors inside, spending money on concessions there.
To a lesser extent, in-house dining and shopping have been the trend in arts facilities as well. But it would be a rare theater, concert hall or museum that could meet the needs of every visitor who wants to pair a cultural outing with lunch or dinner, coffee or a drink. The actual numbers can be squishy in the extreme, but arts patrons really do flock to neighboring establishments before and after they get their culture fix. Even die-hard Yankee fan (and opera buff) Rudy Giuliani acknowledged as much in the weeks and months after the September 11 attacks, when he begged tourists to come back to Broadway not just for the shows but for the sake of the surrounding businesses.
The self-sufficient new Yankee Stadium, then, is both ammunition, in that it appears to provide another argument against sports teams in the battle for government funding, and a cautionary tale -- albeit maybe not for the Yankees, who have an annoying habit of getting whatever they want the instant they want it, and throwing a tantrum otherwise. But arts organizations have to tread more lightly. For them, the lesson is this: If, with the help of public dollars, you engineer things so that the rising tide helps only your boat, people might get the idea that their aid, next time, might better be directed elsewhere.