As the plans for new Yankee Stadium took shape a few years ago, livable streets advocates and community activists bemoaned the seemingly ridiculous number of new parking spots included with the plan. While the new ballpark’s capacity would prove be around 7000 seats fewer than the old, the South Bronx would see over 2500 whose construction was to be subsidized through $237 million in tax-exempt bonds. To add insult to development injury, the company the city selected to build the parking lots had a history of defaulting on its bond payments.
It comes as no surprise then that Bronx Parking is in trouble. Because of the increased availability of public transit options and the smaller stadium capacity, fewer fans are driving to the games, and the company may soon default on its bond payments for the third time. According to Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News, revenue from parking was just $4.8 million through the first half of 2010, nearly half of Bronx Parking’s initial projections, and the company may have to run down its $4.5 million emergency fund, risking a potential default in the near future.
The company itself, says Gonzalez, blames three factors:
- More than 800 fans are heading on game days to the Gateway Shopping Mall five blocks from the stadium, where they pay only $10 to park instead of the stiff $23 self-parking fee ($35 for valet service) at the stadium garages.
- A new Metro North station has lured many fans (about 5,000 per game) to ride the train. [RAB note: Metro-North says it lures approximately 3200-3800 fans per game.]
- The Yankees prepaid for only 190 parking spaces this year for their season ticket holders instead of the 900 spaces they prepaid last year.
Some unnamed city officials, meanwhile, aren’t surprised. “If these garages are only at 60% of capacity after a World Series victory, you know it can only get worse from here,” one said to the News. “There’s just too much unused parking around the stadium.”
For Yankee fans who drive, the news will only get worse next year. Bronx Parking — or the surviving entity — will have no other option but to raise rates to cover the lost revenue. Parking at the stadium could cost nearly $30 next year, and such a steep price could perpetuate a cycle where even fewer people drive. Yankee Stadium is, after all, one of the most transit accessible ballparks in the nation, and the South Bronx neighborhood has very low car ownership rates.
It’s clear that the city, at the behest of the Yankees, botched this parking deal. The team wanted more modern and convenient parking lots, and now a South Bronx area suffering from a dearth of green space and high asthma rates has lots of vacant space surrounding the stadium. This parking decision was not the city’s Economic Development Corporation’s and the Industrial Development Agency’s finest hours.