In the Excitement of an Olympic Bid, a $1 Billion Stadium
By CHARLES V. BAGLI
COLORADO SPRINGS, Nov. 3 — The latest proposal for an Olympic stadium, a striking glass and steel structure that would sweep down to the edge of the Hudson River, was unveiled Saturday before New York won its bid to be the United States nominee to serve as host city for the 2012 Summer Games.
The billion-dollar stadium complex, to be built above the West Side rail yards in Manhattan, was described to the United States Olympic Committee here by Daniel L. Doctoroff, founder of New York's bid committee, as the most environmentally advanced in the world. It is also the single most controversial element of the New York City bid's $5 billion proposal for new parks, sports complexes, subways and housing.
"The big question mark is the Olympic stadium," said Richard T. Anderson, the president of the New York Building Congress, a trade group that supports the Olympic bid. "The good news is that we can build anything. The real question is political: Is there the political will and public consensus to do it?"
The stadium is opposed by neighborhood groups and the local community board and will almost certainly need an extensive environmental review. Mr. Doctoroff said the 86,000-seat stadium would be paid for largely by the Jets and the National Football League (it would become the Jets' home after the Summer Games end). But under the proposal, taxpayers would pay $500 million or more for a retractable roof and a platform to build the stadium over the rail yards, between 30th and 34th Streets and 11th and 12th Avenues.
"The New York Jets' own study predicts 10,000 more cars in gridlocked Manhattan," said John Fisher, president of the Clinton Special District Coalition, which opposes the plan. "A stadium in Queens would likely cost about one-third as much as one in Manhattan and it would be closer to the team's fan base. Just when Lower Manhattan needs help and the city is scrambling to pay for its firefighters, Mayor Bloomberg and Doctoroff are pushing this boondoggle just for a little glory."
The city's bid committee, NYC2012, does have a backup plan to put the stadium in Flushing, Queens, but Mr. Doctoroff, who is the city's deputy mayor for economic development, dismissed many of the criticisms. He said the stadium would enliven what many people see as a largely barren neighborhood and raise the possibility that the Super Bowl might be held in New York City. The stadium itself, he said, would normally be used for 10 football games a year, on Sundays, when traffic congestion is at its lowest.
The proposal unveiled in Colorado Springs is actually the latest commissioned by L. Jay Cross, president of the Jets, who was part of the New York delegation to the United States Olympic Committee's national meeting this weekend. Mr. Cross has been quietly showing the designs to state and city officials since the spring, and more recently to real estate developers and others. But in deference to the politically charged nature of the proposal, state officials had urged him not to show it publicly until after Election Day on Tuesday.
On Saturday, Mr. Cross declined to discuss details of the stadium.
The original proposal described a venue that would be used for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, as well as for track and field events. The stadium would then serve as both a home for the Jets, which now share a stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands with the Giants, and as an expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, just to the north of the rail yards.
But the chairman of the Javits Center, Robert E. Boyle, said he would not consider the stadium a substitute for what he contends is a badly needed expansion of the convention hall. He favored extending the Javits north to 42nd Street, rather than south to the stadium.
So Mr. Cross went back to the drawing board. He largely abandoned the notion that the stadium would become an addition to the Javits Center, although the latest plan does show an underground connection to the center, which would allow the stadium to be used occasionally for events like boat shows.
Mr. Cross also came up with a new look for the stadium, with a nearly transparent exoskeleton of glass and steel and wind turbines and solar panels to provide power. According to people who have seen the plans, the basic stadium (without the platform it would be built on) would cost about $800 million. The Jets and the N.F.L. have told city officials that they would put up more than $400 million toward the cost; they presumably would borrow the rest.
But Mr. Cross's most elaborate plans call for the building to be used, at separate times, as both a 75,000-seat football stadium and a new Madison Square Garden, which could seat 23,000 for basketball and hockey. He has had promising talks with Cablevision, which owns Madison Square Garden, according to several people familiar with the talks.
Cablevision, however, has told city and state officials that it thinks the property tax exemption that Madison Square Garden received in 1985 would remain in place if it moved to the rail yards. Under that exemption, the city has foregone more than $100 million in taxes, even though the Knicks and the Rangers are among the most valuable franchises in their respective sports.
Many residents of the area around the convention center say they are resigned to its expansion, but remain opposed to a stadium, Olympic or otherwise.
"We are not against the Olympics," said Simone Sindin, chairwoman of Community Board 4, "but we are against the siting of the stadium in Manhattan."