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Houses Rudy Wants To Build

In a tentative agreement finalized Friday, the New York Yankees and the New York Mets signed deals with the city for a pair of $800 million, retractable roof stadiums, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced.

"You can't underestimate the effect on civic pride and the economy of the city," Giuliani said at City Hall in announcing the two deals. Incoming mayor Michael Bloomberg will have final word on what one Met executive called "the framework of a comprehensive agreement."

"We're happy to be able to do this for New York," said Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner. "Hopefully, the new administration will believe in the value of these two stadiums for New York."

Under the deal, the Yankees would stay in the South Bronx — a neighborhood that Steinbrenner had threatened to flee for most of the last decade. The new Yankee Stadium would be built across the street on city-owned parkland called Macombs Dam Park, while the new home of the Mets would be built on the parking lot of the existing Shea Stadium.

If the deal goes forward without delay, the Mets could open their new park in 2006, while the Yankees' new stadium would be ready in 2007.

The $1.6 billion cost of the proposed new ballparks, believed to be the largest private-public venture in baseball history, would be divided evenly between the city and the two teams, Giuliani said.

The baseball-crazy mayor insisted that no new taxes would be necessary to build the new stadiums at sites adjoining the current facilities — Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx, and Shea Stadium in Queens. Under the plan, the city would finance the stadiums by issuing $1.6 billion in bonds, and the teams would have to reimburse the city.

Giuliani, a renowned Yankees fan, had wanted to stop the Yankees from moving to New Jersey by offering them a new home on Manhattan's West Side. But he said he dropped that idea because the West Side community opposed it.

The Mets stadium will be designed to recapture the ambiance of the long-gone Ebbets Field, home of the old Brooklyn Dodgers. The Yankees ballpark will resemble the existing stadium, although this one is more "The House that Rudy Built."

Bloomberg, speaking before Giuliani's announcement, said the final word on the proposed stadiums still belongs to him.

"The issue is really, 'Can we afford them?'" Bloomberg said Friday. "I will have to take a look down the road as the economy develops. Nobody knows today how deep or how protracted the current economic downturn is."

Despite Bloomberg's skepticism about new stadiums, Giuliani appeared confident the mayor-elect would approve the deal.

"I can't imagine he won't support it," said Giuliani.

Post-Sept. 11 projections showed the city facing serious financial problems as it rebuilds lower Manhattan and battles a faltering economy.

Officials estimated that the World Trade Center terrorist attack will cost the city 100,000 jobs, and create successive $4 billion budget deficits in uture years.

But the stadiums were among Giuliani's pet projects, and the devastation of the terrorist attacks didn't change the longtime Yankee fan's mind.

Yankees President Randy Levine called the agreement "a terrific deal for everybody."

"Both the Yankees and the Mets and the city of New York have shown innovative leadership in putting together a deal that's fair to the taxpayers and the teams," Levine said.

Dave Howard, senior vice president with the Mets, said the new deal "demonstrates our love for the city and for our home borough of Queens."

Under the proposal, the state would pick up a $150 million tab for infrastructure improvement around Yankee Stadium — including parking and a new Metro-North station in the South Bronx, the mayor said.

Gov. George Pataki, who will run for re-election next year, has already said the state will kick in no money toward the stadiums.

The city would issue tax exempt construction bonds to cover the construction costs, with the teams and the city dividing the $50 million a year debt service.

According to Giuliani, the teams would sign 35-year leases with no escape clauses.

The outgoing mayor insisted the stadium deal would pay for itself. Administration members said the roofs would allow year-round use of the stadiums, and would help lure major events to the city.

New York is one of the four finalists to make the U.S. bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Yankee Stadium, opened in April 1923, remains one of the sport's sacred cathedrals — a direct link through baseball history, from Ruth to DiMaggio to Mantle to Jackson to Jeter.

Although renovated in the mid-1970s, it has always remained in the same location at 161st Street in the Bronx. The Yankees have repeatedly complained about traffic and parking problems with that site, although the complaints waned as the team attendance climbed above 3 million the last three seasons.

Shea's history is less illustrious. Opened in April 1964, it became home to the National League expansion team created to fill the void left when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants abandoned the Big Apple in 1957.

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