NYC pledges $5 million to upgrade Staten Island Yankees stadium
The city plans to spend more than $5.1 million to upgrade the Staten Island ballpark the New York Yankees recently abandoned.
Officials for the city Economic Development Corp., which owns Richmond County Bank Ballpark, confirmed it plans to allocate the government funds to make improvements to the 7,171-seat former home of the Staten Island Yankees.
The improvements will include replacing a worn-out grass field with synthetic turf, adding new seating and altering the field’s dimensions to accommodate other pro sports besides baseball — including soccer and rugby.
Borough President James Oddo said it’s about time the city steps up to the plate and invests in the ballpark with vistas of the downtown skyline, adding that the Yankees’ decision two weeks ago to drop the “Baby Bombers” as part of Major League Baseball’s minor-league consolidation “needs to serve as a wake-up call.”
“This is a moment of time where we have to extract something more than the status quo,” he told The Post. “You have this great stadium that’s underused, and we have to make it a bigger part of the Island’s community than it’s been.
“It was a major investment in tax dollars to build, yet the stadium is dormant for the overwhelming majority of the year.”
Oddo said a synthetic turf field would require less maintenance than grass, allowing the ballpark to increase usage — including for concerts, comedy shows and other non-sporting events.
The borough president and the EDC also said they’ve been working behind the scenes trying to keep minor league baseball on Staten Island by attempting to secure a franchise from the independent Atlantic League to play at the waterfront ballpark in St. George.
Meanwhile, the pro rugby franchise Rugby United New York has expressed interest in playing there once it’s reconfigured, according to officials.
Two decades ago, the city under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani spent $71 million in taxpayer dollars to build the ballpark as part of a larger plan to have Yankees and Mets set up minor-league teams in the Big Apple.
Both the Baby Bombers and Brooklyn Cyclones began playing New York-Penn League games at new city-owned venues in 2001. The Cyclones, which play at MCU Park on Coney Island, were spared during MLB’s consolidation and remain a Mets farm team.
George Steinbrenner, the late New York Yankees owner, lobbied specifically for the site in St. George, so the ballpark could be closer to the Staten Island ferry terminal and attract people coming from Manhattan, according to sources. However, critics say it should’ve been built much closer to a highway to accommodate the borough’s large driving community.
Glenn Reicin, co-owner of the Staten Island Yankees, said he and his partners are currently weighing their options. Under the group’s lease with the EDC, which runs through 2030, it can walk away from operating the ballpark because the former Single-A farm team is now defunct, or it can try to find a new baseball team to play there within the next year.
The ballpark has been a big money pit for the city and Reicin’s Nostalgic Partners, which bought the Baby Bombers 8 years ago and took over an existing lease to operate the venue.
During the ballpark’s 2000 groundbreaking, Giuliani projected it would annually generate $16.1 million worth of “recurring economic impact” with the city collecting $2.5 million in fees and tax payments. However, sources said the ballpark continues to operate at a loss year after year for both the city and Nostalgic Partners.
Reicin said he and his partners feel betrayed by the Yanks and have not ruled out suing the club and MLB.
“The damage inflicted by the Yankees is definitely intentional,” he said. “The stadium was built specifically for them, and they’re now leaving the City of New York and our ownership out in the cold.”
EDC spokesman Chris Singleton said the agency is “disappointed” by the decision to drop the Baby Bombers but is “encouraged by the possibility of an Atlantic League team making the stadium home.”
“We are also focused on upgrading the Richmond County Ballpark and bringing additional forms of live entertainment to the facility,” he added.
Messages left with the New York Yankees were not returned.
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