The Mets have OK’d a blockbuster deal to build a self-financed stadium by 2009 as part of a frantic, city-brokered effort to save New York’s Olympics bid.
As part of the pact, the team has agreed to temporarily vacate the ballpark so it can be converted into the main venue in time for the 2012 Summer Games.
The Mets will get their new home, built on a parking lot next to Shea Stadium, even if the city doesn’t get the games, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a rare Sunday night news conference.
To sweeten the deal, Bloomberg has proposed spending $160 million in state and city money on infrastructure improvements for the team. A similar deal for another new stadium is being finalized with the Yankees and will be announced in the next few days, according to city officials.
The plans represent a reversal of Bloomberg’s opposition to committing city cash for baseball stadium projects. Bloomberg’s sudden switch to Queens came a week after his West Side stadium plan was killed by State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — and after months of Bloomberg’s dissing the bedroom borough as unsuitable for the Olympics.
“It’s one of the most wonderful things, I think, that would ever happen to Queens,” Bloomberg said. “If we couldn’t get the one that we really wanted to do … we’ll go with out next best chance.”
The announcement capped four days of frantic behind-the-scenes planning, deal-cutting and cajoling orchestrated by Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, the impresario of the 2012 bid.
“Obviously, it was not our first choice, but we think this is an option we can win with,” Doctoroff said.
Though the prospect of the Mets playing the entire 2012 season in the Bronx is daunting, let’s be honest. This Olympic bid is doomed and there might not be enough cash on earth to bribe the IOC into picking New York over Paris, who coming on the heels of the ’98 World Cup, has more recent experience with this kind of thing (the MTV Music Awards doesn’t count). If the Mets have managed to secure a new ballpark from this episode, however, I’ll certainly be willing to pretend that the Olympics aren’t a complete waste of time, at least until the next one rolls around. And never mind John Franco, is there any chance Ugly George could come out of retirement to light the Olympic flame? It’s between him or someone with the proper job experience from Tad’s Steaks.