Should Bail-out Bound Citi Still Fund Mets Stadium?

Last Updated Nov 27, 2008 12:25 PM EST

You have to wonder with all these massive taxpayers bailouts going on, why it still seems business as usual for the beneficiaries.

Consider Citigroup, the troubled banking behemoth that will be getting $45 billion in federal bailout money. Citi is deemed too big to fail as American International Group was, but Lehamn Brothers was not.

But now questions are arising about whether Citi should consider cancelling its planned $400 million expenditure for naming rights to the new Mets stadium in New York City. Five other financial institutions which together will get about $62.3 billion will continue their sponsorship of sports teams.

At the moment, New York City is in the midst of a big stadium changeover. Venerable Yankee Stadium will be replaced by a more modern facility next door. The Mets are giving up Shea Stadium for new digs, too.

Back in 2006, when sub prime mortgages still looked A-OK, Citi signed a 20-year deal to name the new Mets stadium Citi Field for $400 million. It may be hard for Citi to get out of the deal, but then, just how desperate should we all be when we're getting billions from taxpayers?

This reminds my of a predicament about 12 years ago. BusinesssWeek, where I worked at the time, transferred me to Cleveland after my second tour in Moscow. The Cleveland Browns had snuck out to Baltimore but the NFL promised Cleveland a new Browns team if they built stadium on a tight deadline. Being a long-time football kind of place, Clevelanders gave big money for the new stadium to replace the old wind-swept, clap-trap one by Lake Erie.
The business community contributed handily so they could get those guest boxes. But at the time, Cleveland's schools were among thr worst in the nation. Kids in one building had to bring umbrellas to Spanish class because the roof leaked so badly.

But, hey, we know where our priorities lie.