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New stadium raises funding questions

Associated Press
NEW YORK ó State lawmakers and fiscal watchdog groups cried foul Thursday over the Yankeesí bid for another $350 million in public financing for their new stadium, saying it could soak up funds needed for parks and transportation.
Three state Assembly members from New York City called for a public hearing to examine a proposal to provide public support for one the richest franchises in sports.
iThese sports teams are private companies that appear addicted to keeping their hands in the government cookie jar,î said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn.
Jeffries and Assemblymen Ruben Diaz Jr. and Jose Peralta asked for a hearing on the use of public funds for the Yankees that they said were negotiated iin secret and without the control of elected officialsî while other community projects are desperate for funding.
About $941 million in tax-exempt public bonds have already been issued for the $1.3 billion stadium that the Yankees are building across the street from their current ballpark in the Bronx.
Under current Internal Revenue Service regulations, the Yankees cannot ask for more public debt to be incurred for the stadium.
But city officials have been lobbying Washington for a change in IRS regulations that would allow the Yankees to get the $350 million in additional tax-exempt bonds they say they need. Such a change could help other big stadium projects ó not just the new Yankee Stadium.
iThe city along with the state as well as others have been working in Washington to seek relief from the applicable IRS regulations,î said Seth Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corp.
Yankees president Randy Levine confirmed Wednesday that the Yankees were seeking additional bonding. A team spokesman said Thursday the Yankees had nothing to add.
The Yankees still plan to have the stadium completed by Opening Day 2009, regardless of whether they secure the additional funding.
The fact that the Yankees were seeking more financing didnít go down well with activists who questioned the need for a new stadium all along.
The Yankeesí Opening Day payroll of $209.1 million was by far the highest in the Major Leagues. And when their new stadium opens next year it will be feature amenities like luxury suites, conference meeting rooms and a concierge service that should guarantee that the teamís fans will be the richest in the majors as well.
Ticket prices will go up as well, with the team charging $500 to $2,500 for seats near home plate in the first five-to-eight rows of the new ballpark.
Critics of the stadium said other projects are more deserving of the money, such as transportation improvements, hospitals, schools, and the Hunts Point Market, Americaís biggest wholesale produce market, which is looking to leave New York if the city doesnít help rebuild its aging facility in the Bronx.

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