Yankees fans and Mets fans, unite! Giants fans and Jets fans, stand together! Knicks fans and Nets fans, make some noise!
It's time for all sports fans to get off the sidelines and into the game. We've been fouled, blind-sided, leg-whipped, and hip-checked for too long. For years, sports team owners and leagues have played on our loyalties and preyed on our wallets, forcing even the most marginal fan to subsidize sports stadiums and arenas that then enable them to charge us ever-higher prices for tickets to games.
Not only do they charge outrageous prices for the tickets, owners black-out games and deny us the best-quality broadcasts that we already pay for on our cable TV bills, threaten to relocate teams if their demands aren't met, and even shut down and lockout their leagues to get their point across.
Consider the New Meadowlands, where the owners of the Jets and Giants received tax breaks, debt retirement, road improvements and rail links. In return, the Jets and Giants raised average ticket prices 32 percent and 26 percent, respectively, in 2010. Compare that the NFL average of a 4.5 percent increase in 2010. Then there are the personal seat licenses required to buy season tickets, which can cost up to $30,000 for Jets games and $20,000 for Giants games. Oh, and by the way, there may not be a 2011 NFL season unless owners' demands of players are met. Never mind that countless workers and businesses in and around NFL stadiums will be adversely affected the longer the lockout drags on.
Yankees Stadium received over $1 billion public subsidies and yet the average cost of a Yankees ticket this season is $52, which is second highest in the majors and $25 more than the national average. The land was free, too. Many South Bronx parks and recreation areas were leveled for the new stadium and replacement ballfields were promised. Three years later, there are still no ballfields for youth baseball teams.
And in Madison Square Garden, Knicks owner Jim Dolan has raised ticket prices 49 percent for 2011-12 even while the stadium (also owned by Dolan) receives property tax exemptions worth over $10 million per year from taxpayers. Further, Dolan and Cablevision are illegally screening some Knicks and Rangers fans, withholding MSG HD from fans who don't want to use Cablevision, but would rather use other carriers like Verizon or DISH. The Federal Communications Commission last year declared that practices like what Dolan and Cablevision are doing to sports fans are a violation of federal law, but the FCC still won't step in and fix the situation for fans. Of course, that may not even matter, because if Dolan and the other NBA owners don't get their way, there may not be 2011-12 season. Yet another lockout looms on the horizon for sports fans.
Right now, our system socializes the costs of sports while it privatizes the profits. It's time for the gravy train to stop. In March, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan) and several co-sponsors introduced the "Public Benefits for Professional Facilities Act." The legislation would, among other things, condition future stadium spending on providing affordable tickets to the public. At least 7 percent of tickets in a stadium receiving some sort of public financing or support would have to be available at prices that all the members of a community can afford.
The legislation is a great start. Affordable tickets are the least we should expect of owners, teams and leagues who ask us to help pay for their stadiums.
Fans should be able to see our teams play on television without having to worry about blackouts, or not getting the type of broadcasts we pay good money for. And we absolutely should not have to continue paying for access to sports via season-ticket deposits of seat licenses despite owner-imposed work stoppages. All fans can agree on these things.
But things won't change until we get off our feet and do what we do best -- make some noise. If we all join together, we will be heard. Join us at SportsFans.org.