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October 28, 2009

Main Street NYC Returns to 161st Street in The Bronx

WNYC Radio
by Alisa Chang

How has a heavily subsidized, gleaming new sports stadium in the Bronx helped the local economy? It hasn't. In fact, it's had the opposite effect.

The first World Series in the new Yankee Stadium begins today. In the third part of our Main Street series, WNYC returns to the shopkeepers on 161st in the Bronx.

They’ve seen their businesses suffer in the shadow of the new stadium, and the playoffs didn’t improve matters much. Many of these shops expected to do better with the new stadium. But WNYC’s Ailsa Chang takes a look at how the new Yankee Stadium is getting Yankee fans to spend more money inside rather than outside the ballpark.

Businesses just a couple blocks down 161st street didn’t think they’d be competing against a new mega-mall. Abdul Traore is managing a near-empty store called Jeans Plus. It sells Yankee souvenirs – many of them identical to the ones sold at the stadium, but about 30 percent cheaper. Traore’s been sitting on a stool by the door during the playoffs, as if waiting for customers to come in.

TRAORE: This playoff is different. Totally different. Like Saturday, I stay here until two o’clock in the morning – from the time the game start until two o’clock in the morning. I don’t even make thousand dollars.

REPORTER: Traore says in the days of the old stadium, he would make about five thousand dollars on a typical game night. His business is down 60 percent right now. And he says it’s not just the recession – it’s the new stadium. Fewer shoppers walk down 161st Street these days. For a lot of reasons. The new Metro-North station spits people right into the stadium. Fans who drive to games don’t park further down 161st and walk up anymore – they have new garages right by the complex.

NOLL: The whole point of a modern athletic facility – whether it’s an arena for hockey and basketball or a stadium for football or baseball – is to get all of the money to be spent inside the stadium.

REPORTER: Economist Roger Noll at Stanford University has looked at every stadium built in the last 20 years. In each case, he wanted to find out whether the new stadium gave a real, substantive boost to neighborhood businesses. The answer? Not a single one did. In fact, many local stores ended up doing a lot worse.


Additional coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, A Cautionary Tale for Local Businesses Around the Proposed Atlantic Yards Arena Site

WNYC radio has broadcast a disturbing story for anyone who thinks or hopes that the Barclays Center Arena will be good for local businesses on Flatbush or Atlantic or in Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill or Clinton Hill. It won't be.

As the sports economist Roger Noll makes clear, and the report emphasizes and illustrates, the whole purpose of the modern day arenas, such as Barclays, is to keep its visitors spending and buying stuff inside the arena.

Posted by eric at October 28, 2009 11:01 AM