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Amid scheduling woes, Yankees fans shouldn’t pine for the retractable roof

Even though an element-free ballpark sounds nice, there is a cost.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

As the baseball season heads into its third week, there have already been 21 postponements throughout the sport, six of which just occurred on Sunday afternoon. The Yankees had their second and third game of the Tigers series postponed until a split doubleheader on June 4th. This comes after having their home opener postponed to the next day due to snow.

The reasons for this issue through the sport is two-fold. One is that the season started earlier. Because of a new schedule featuring the earliest full-slate of games in history, the league is aiming to be able to both add off-days later in the season, and end the World Series before November. Well, the weather didn’t agree heading into April:

Because of below-average temperatures, a few Nor’easters, and extensive precipitation, the early schedule backfired. Games that were slated to be earlier got pushed to the off-days the league thought they would be earning later down the line.

I can understand the frustration from Yankees fans. For the home opener, for instance, spending $200 for a no-frills seat and taking the day off from work only to be postponed is a real bummer. It’s even more of a disservice to fans who want to make the trek from out of town. Yet the alternative—a Yankee Stadium with a retractable roof—would have quite a few poor side-effects.

The reason why the stadium never ended up with a roof is now ancient history. In 2001, Mayor Rudy Giuliani secured preliminary agreements with the Wilpons and Steinbrenners for new stadiums for both teams, and the early plans included a retractable roof. Yet when the negotiations picked up later in the decade, the roof was dropped, based on this reasoning from Randy Levine:

“The Boss very much wanted it to look like the original Yankee Stadium and have all the tradition and everything involving Yankee Stadium... No matter how many architects and engineers you went to see, a roof is a giant physical thing and you couldn’t make the building look like Yankee Stadium. All the attention would be drawn to the roof.”

I think I understand that, and it seems to coalesce with George Steinbrenner’s obsession with branding the team and stadium with its history, but you can’t deny the costs coming into play. In the renegotiation with Michael Bloomberg, the roof was dropped and the terms adjusted so the public bore as little cost as possible. Ultimately, the cost of the roof came to $200 million, paid for in tax-free municipal bonds.

Let’s be clear: If the Yankees wanted to spend the $200 million, they very well could have given the perks in the still-team friendly contract. Not only were there $458 million in “parks, garages, and transportation improvements” associated with relocation and redoing the area around Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, but the government issued them an “estimated $480 million in city, state and federal tax breaks.” The Steinbrenners and Wilpons used private funds to pay, sure, but they took tax-exempt bonds from your pocket to finance it.

So this is the cost we bear, unfortunately. While the roof would have been really nice during a time like this, and it would have eased the burdens of a different schedule, the costs, unfortunately, are borne by the taxpayers for what will ultimately benefit the fans 10-15 times a year.

Unless we move to a world of dropping tax exemptions and subsidies for stadiums, then I’m never going to cheer for teams to build more. Even in that more ideal universe, they’d be even more justified in leaving the roof out. While an inconvenience for now, the friendly confines will be just as enjoyable as we remember it come May.