Saturday, November 22, 2008

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How we spend our money in hard times

These are difficult financial times. People’s nest-eggs, once sized like hens’ and hoped to grow to the size of ostriches’, now appear to have been laid by sparrows. Many have lost their jobs, and many more are in fear of that. Worse, many are losing their houses, as they find it impossible to keep up with their mortgages, and many more are in fear of that as well.

Restaurants and other purveyors of goods and services that depend on discretionary income are seeing the effects. Fewer people feel that they can afford to go out to eat as often as they had been. And even for eating in, some areas are seeing stronger sales of beans and of rice than of meat.

Give that, well, you might think that the last thing we’d continue spending billions of dollars on would be a new football stadium. Surely, we’d put that on hold and use that kind of money to help people stay on their feet and weather the crisis.

But you’d be wrong:

Owners Say Downturn Won’t Harm Stadium

And as the new Meadowlands takes shape — that same bowl shape of the old Meadowlands — the men overseeing it are satisfied with its progress. On a hard-hat tour for the news media Thursday, the Jets’ owner, Woody Johnson, and the Giants’ president and co-owner, John Mara, proudly announced that the project was on budget and on schedule. This means that by opening day of the 2010 season, the teams will be playing in a $1.6 billion, 82,500-seat monument.

$1.6 billion, yes. To put that in some perspective, with a median household income of around $50,000, as ours is, you could cover entirely the incomes of 32,000 “average” U.S. households with that money. Or you could subsidize many more to help get them through.

But we’d rather build a football stadium with it.

A football stadium in which out-of-work people can’t afford seats. Two teams will be playing in the new stadium:

The Giants announced their new ticket plan before the Jets, putting a price tag of $1,000 to $20,000 on every seat license in the stadium, with a cluster of 2,113 elite seats behind the bench called the Coaches Club fetching the most money.

The Jets chose to exempt the 27,000 seats in the stadium’s upper bowl from seat licenses, and to auction 2,028 Coaches Club seats instead of selling them directly. The auction was held in October on StubHub.com; the Jets sold 620 seat licenses for a gross revenue of $16 million.

So, once again, “Joe Sixpack” might paint his face green and grill hot dogs on the back of his pickup truck while screaming “Go, Giants!”, but at the ticket prices we’re talking about he’s more likely to be watching the game on television. He is not of the “elite”.

And at the same time and in the same region, we’re building at least two other new stadia for the two New York baseball teams: both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium are being replaced before the 2009 baseball season.

It’s a society obsessed with sports that would put its priorities on sports arenas. And its many of the people who can’t afford tickets to these expensive monstrosities who are the most eager supporters of building them — especially when teams threaten to leave town otherwise.

Me, I’d be waving goodbye and telling them they shouldn’t bother to write.

1 comment:

W.M. Irwin said...

The only time I ever attended a college or pro football game live was during the University of Florida's homecoming game in 1977. I had a great seat at the 40-yard line with an optimum view of the game. It was a close game as well, with a lot of scoring from both sides. By all accounts, this should have been an exciting game to watch. But I never could tell what was going on or even where the ball was.

Watching football on TV, for me, is so superior to being in a stadium crowd that, if left to me alone, I wouldn't attend a game even if it were free and one of my favorite teams were playing.

Also, being in a massive crowd of people, all chanting and yelling the same things, is kind of disturbing to me. But others must obviously think that doing this is a real treat worth shelling out big money for.