The Mets revealed the city’s worst-kept secret today (hint: if you want to keep something from leaking out, try not to put it on a giant sign) with the announcement that when the team’s new stadium opens in 2009, it will be known as CitiField. Under the terms of the naming-rights agreement, Citigroup will hand over $20 million a year to team owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon in exchange for the naming rights to the new edifice plus cable ad time and other sundries, shattering the old record of $10 million a year paid by California blackout-mongers Reliant Energy for the rights to the Houston Texans’ stadium.
Even aside from gripes from Mets fans who’d been hopeful of honoring a local great like Gil Hodges—the stadium will instead feature a “Jackie Robinson Rotunda”—and worries about the stadium’s obvious new nickname, there’s another issue that’s been largely overlooked: Though the city of New York will own CitiField and put up about $200 million toward its construction, city taxpayers shouldn’t expect to see a dime of revenue from the big CitiPayday. That’s because as part of their lease with the city, the Mets keep 100 percent of all stadium revenues, including naming-rights fees, while their sole “rent” payments go not to the city but to pay off their own construction bonds.
As for the Mets’ own finances, they look to be sitting pretty: After collecting city tax and rent breaks and deducting their stadium construction costs from revenue-sharing payments to their fellow baseball owners, the ballclub will be left spending a little under $30 million a year to pay off their new stadium. With about two-thirds of that now set to be covered with CitiBucks, this means the Wilpons will end up getting their new stadium for about the price of a mediocre right fielder. Not too shabby for a “privately financed” ballpark.