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Mets target minority biz for new park

Dave Howard, executive vice president for business operations for the Mets, spoke to about 150 people gathered at a Queens College business forum Friday morning on the campus at 65-30 Kissena Blvd. in Flushing. "We have a ways to go yet we are confident we will meet that goal," he told the audience. The Mets are constructing a new stadium next to the old Shea Stadium, which will be razed.During his presentation he brought the audience up to date on the finances, the architecture and the ticket sales involved in the project, expected to cost approximately $800 million and be completed by Opening Day 2009 for the field named Citi Field.He said the Mets had awarded two-thirds of the total dollar value of the contracts, with 45 percent of them going to Queens-based businesses. The goal was for 25 percent of contracts to be awarded to minorities, he said. Howard also said the stadium would be a tax boon for the city and state. The Mets were kicking in $635 million for the stadium and the city and state together another $165 million for infrastructure. The tax dollars were well spent, he argued, because financial forecasts projected the state will get $125 million and the city will get $126 million back over 37 years. "That's a good return on an investment by any measure," he said.He showed a short video on the stadium, highlighting the amenities of the new arena that will have 12,000 fewer seats than the current stadium. He did not specify if the price of tickets would rise."We are going to have some very expensive seats and some very inexpensive seats. But we don't want to disenfranchise fans," he said and added later that there would "probably not be as wide a diversity of plans." He said that over the last year the Mets sold about 3.5 million tickets, but with the smaller stadium they would shoot for 2.8 to 3 million annually.The Mets executive speculated that the smaller stadium would ease parking issues. He also noted that during the most recent post-season, the number of people riding on mass transit increased to about 25,000 for the games, which was about double the number for regular season.The modern amenities of the new stadium will bring larger seats with more legroom, a wider concourse, more toilets and more places to shop and eat. "The number of points of sale is very high. If someone wants to get a soft drink and a hot dog - or even a beer," he can make the purchase and return to his seat quickly, Howard said.A restaurant in left field also provides better views of the field, giving each table a view of the game behind a huge glass window.The stadium will be open-air despite earlier discussions of a retractable roof over the field.In negotiations for the new stadium during the administration of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani the city offered a greater percent of public money for the stadium. But Howard said the competition to attract prime events often made such venues money-losers for the owners even as they generated revenue for the city."At the end of the day we had to take it out of the project," he said.Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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