Looney supports baseball stadium

Both the New Haven Ravens and Democratic mayoral candidate Martin Looney are seeking a new stadium in the city for the Double-A baseball team, but if Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has his way, the club won’t be getting one in the near future.

After Looney, a state senator from New Haven, announced last week his support for a new Ravens stadium, DeStefano’s re-election campaign responded with a report, released Monday, calling the stadium project an economic risk that would sacrifice more beneficial projects. The report also outlined the current administration’s vision of how to best use $30 million in state bond funds.

The Ravens, who signed a two-year affiliation deal with the St. Louis Cardinals last year, want to build a new facility for the team to play its 71-game home schedule. The team currently plays at the 74-year-old Yale Field about two miles west of the central campus.

Ravens general manager Bob Flannery said the team is seeking an all-purpose site that has the amenities of a modern sports facility, such as luxury boxes and conference rooms. Possible stadium sites include Church Street South and near the junction of I-95 and Route 34.

“Our current situation limits us in ways that other teams are not limited,” Flannery said. “This would be a morale builder for the community and a facility all could be proud of.”

Flannery said a new stadium would lead to increased tax revenue and would help New Haven attract more people to the city from surrounding communities, an assertion Looney has supported.

DeStefano doesn’t agree. His campaign’s report, titled “Striking Out: Why a New Stadium Should Not be a Priority,” states that a new stadium would be a tax-exempt facility and would produce no tax revenue for the city. The report also said the concept of stadiums as growth strategies is usually a failure because a stadium would not create significant jobs and would take money away from other local entertainment businesses.

DeStefano campaign manager Julio Gonzalez ’99 criticized Looney’s plan to help fund a new stadium through government subsidies.

“Looney has assumed he needs a home-run project, but the concept is risky and self-defeating,” Gonzalez said. “Examples in other municipalities has shown that such projects hurt other entertainment businesses and don’t create jobs.”

Looney could not be reached for comment last night. Looney campaign manager Jason Bartlett said the DeStefano campaign is trying to save face in the wake of Looney’s proposal.

“DeStefano’s campaign seems afraid Senator Looney has a vision for the city, and now they’re trying to play catch-up,” Bartlett said. “The senator’s proposal will have economic advantages and make New Haven a tourist destination.”

Bartlett added that DeStefano has not put together a plan to demonstrate how the city will spend the $30 million in state development funds it is expected to be awarded.

City Economic Development Administrator Henry Fernandez said those claims were inaccurate.

“We have specifically laid out plans that the governor and the entire state delegation have seen,” Fernandez said. “If we had no plan, then why would the governor put $30 million in the budget for New Haven?”

Fernandez said the mayor’s proposals include using state funding to increase home ownership, and to stimulate downtown projects and harbor development.

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