When the federal government decided to direct billions of dollars into Citigroup's coffers over the weekend, one of the easiest punching bags in the country became their sponsorship of the new Mets stadium. The bank is supposed to pay $20 million a year over the next 20 years to have their name on the outside of the stadium, something that seems quite profligate in the face of the reality of their company's status.
Two New York City Council members, James Oddo and Vincent Ignizio, are trying to make hay of the situation. They're saying that the name of the stadium, Citi Field, should be changed to Citi/Taxpayer Field so it better reflects where the money is actually coming from.
"Perhaps a name change is in order, since it will be the taxpayers of the country who will foot the bill for not only part of stadium, but for the company itself," Mr. Ignizio said. "The taxpayers are spending billions for this company to maintain its operations and deserve the recognition for their largess."
With the understanding that neither of these guys actually care about this issue beyond the extent it helps them get their names in print, there's a question for Oddo and Ignizio to answer. Why shouldn't it be called Taxpayer Field regardless of who paid for naming rights?
The money to actually build the stadium, after all, didn't come from Citigroup, but from public monies in the guises of various bond issues, subsidies and tax breaks. The same is true of Taxpayer Stadium in the Bronx and just about every other new edifice constructed for sports teams in this country. Millions of other structures with private uses are also financed this way, but it is the sponsorship that gets these guys all riled up?
That's not to say the stadium should remain Citi Field. When you lay off 52,000 people and need a government bailout, you have bigger fish to fry than extravagent advertising. It's up to the Mets how to proceed, and they should have a better ear for what's going on in the world around them and allow Citi to slink off and lick their wounds.