I love this idea: two New York City council members are proposing to rename the new Mets ballpark from just Citi Field to Citi/Taxpayer Field in recognition that Citigroup is the recent benefactor of federal bailout money. I suppose that the public funds that already subsidized more than 50% of construction costs didn’t matter, but better late than never.
This whole arrangement epitomizes what is wrong with our economy. I’ve always thought that selling naming rights to support stadium construction and operation is just stupid. If revenues combined with substantial public subsidy are still inadequate to run your business, then perhaps your business model is flawed. Just as with executive pay, the advertising costs of sponsoring a stadium or ballpark are insanely overinflated and of dubious sustainability. Citigroup is slated to pay $400 million over 20 years for the honor of having its logo emblazoned on the Mets’ field. Oh wait, you and I will end up paying for some of that through the bailout.
So how stupid is that? We’re bailing out Citi to pay the Mets an exorbitant sum of money so we can be charged an outrageous ticket fee to sit in the ballpark we already paid for, at least in part, with public funds. Somehow we have collectively come to value this arrangement, even though it clearly makes no sense. I don’t favor the use of private funds for this sort of use, so it’s doubly difficult for me to justify using up to $20 million each year in public funds to cover naming rights for a company whose survival is dependent on a federal bailout. The least Citi could do is share naming rights with us; the best course of action is to void the contract altogether and name the field after Jackie Robinson. If the Mets can’t afford to do that, then I guess we can bail them out, too. But really, how many times do we have to pay for this ballpark?