West Side Stadium, Manhattan, New York City
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The West Side Stadium (also known as the New York Sports and Convention Center) was a proposed football stadium to be built on a platform over the rail yards on the West Side of Manhattan in New York City. The arena would be an all-weather facility with a retractable roof, allowing it to be used as either a 200,000 square foot (19,000 m²) indoor convention hall, or a 75,000 seat indoor/outdoor sporting event stadium. It was to be the new home for the New York Jets, currently based at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The stadium was to have served as the centerpiece of New York's bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics, but, after heated debate, the proposal was finally defeated politically only a month before the International Olympic Committee was to make its decision.
The site was to link the transportation, hotel and business hub centered on Herald Square and Madison Square Garden with the Jacob J. Javits Convention Center. It was promoted by New York Governor George Pataki, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Congressman Charles Rangel, but opposed by most of the local elected officials representing the area. The centerpiece of the city's bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics, the stadium would have been part of a larger project to revitalize a long-underdeveloped area, including an expansion of the Javits Center and the 7 Subway Extension. It was going to host Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.
The stadium proved highly controversial because it would have been a major construction project requiring public financing. Though many of its opponents supported the larger West Side development program, they questioned the economic benefit of a stadium which would have spent much of its time unused, as well as the general premise of subsidizing a football team which generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Opponents felt that the budget could be better spent on mixed-use facilities. Supporters of the stadium said the cost to the city (over $1 billion) was an investment and would create thousands of jobs and billions in commercial revenue for the area, perhaps leading to increased tax revenue that could be used for vital infrastructure. However, powerful city unions, including the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, argued that the inevitable tax-breaks for the stadium's developers would cut sharply into State funds that should instead have gone to salary increases.
Public opinion was mixed. Some citizens of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut were in favor of the stadium because they wanted the 2012 Summer Olympics to be held in New York City. In order to host the Olympics, cities typically must build modern stadiums and prove to the International Olympic Committee that they have the resources to support the event. Moreover, many residents outside Manhattan could have gained considerable money by renting out their homes or apartments during the Olympics.
But many Manhattan and West Side residents did not want the hassle, traffic congestion, and resource drain that the Olympics would inevitably bring to the already overcrowded city. The New York Daily News reported that 59% of New Yorkers were not in favor of holding the Olympics in New York at all. Many Jets fans wanted the stadium built, no matter what the cost, while some New York Giants fans opposed the stadium solely because they disliked the rival Jets.
The stadium was also notably opposed by Cablevision, the sixth-largest cable television company in the United States and the owner of Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks and New York Rangers teams that play there, and the MSG Network which shows most of their games. A major new Manhattan sports venue might have threatened Cablevision's ability to secure major concerts and other events for the Garden, especially if the stadium had in fact been built with a retractable roof.
The controversy spawned an unusual political ad war on local television, with rival campaigns financed by the owners of the Jets and Cablevision. Proponents of the stadium said that the opposition ran deceptive television and radio ads claiming that a large multi-organizational coalition opposes the stadium, while many of these ads were funded by Cablevision (the ads generally restated arguments of the PBA and other unions). Cablevision said it was presenting arguments other groups had actually made, and was within its legal rights in refusing to run advertisements supportive of the stadium on its local cable systems, while running many ads criticizing it.
The New York Yankees were also displeased, because they had tried for many years to build a stadium on virtually the same site before conceding defeat and reaching a deal to remain in the Bronx.
The rail yards are owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which originally negotiated privately with the Jets without seeking other possible buyers. After Cablevision presented a rival proposal for West Side development without a stadium, public sentiment against an apparent no-bid contract for the Jets prompted the MTA to establish an open bidding process for the site. There were three bids, from the Jets, from Cablevision and from Transgas, a power company. On March 31, 2005, the MTA board voted to accept the bid from the Jets, even though the Cablevision bid included more cash up front. Attorneys for Cablevision announced that they would file suit to challenge the decision, and many other media outlets lambasted the MTA's decision as simply doing Governor Pataki's bidding rather than accepting a plan that would best serve the public.
The stadium issue was also a political issue, as 2005 was an election year. Some individuals, most notably mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner suggested another location in Queens, which has large open spaces and is home to other sports facilities such as Shea Stadium, as a possible alternative site for a stadium, but the Jets said that any site other than the West Side would be no better than remaining in New Jersey.
Two components of the stadium plan ($300 million in state funding and the MTA's transfer of the land) were subject to the approval of the state's Public Authorities Control Board. The Board's approval could be given only on a unanimous vote of its three members, who were representatives of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Pataki. On June 6, 2005, Silver and Bruno directed their representatives to abstain on the vote, thus denying the needed approval and scuttling the proposal (Pataki's representative voted in favor).
Also on June 6, the International Olympic Committee released an evaluation of each city's bid, in which it noted that the New York City bid could not guarantee that the stadium would be available. With the defeat of the West Side Stadium plan, Mayor Bloomberg and the New York 2012 campaign shifted their focus to the construction of a new Mets ballpark, Citi Field, as the centerpiece to the Olympic bid, but the 2012 games were eventually awarded to London.
In reaction to the state representatives' decision to reject the stadium's funding, the NFL decided on August 11 to reopen the bidding for the game site of Super Bowl XLIV. The eventual winner was Dolphin Stadium.
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