By RONALD BLUM|
Mets owner Steve Cohen hopes to construct a casino adjacent to Citi Field as a way to attract people to the area near the ballpark.
Cohen, who bought the Mets before the 2021 season, wants to create attractions near the stadium in Queens in the manner of other teams.
“There’s nothing going on. The only thing you can do at Citi Field is get your hubcap changed or maybe get back a catalytic converter,” he said Wednesday during the closing session of Sportico’s Invest in Sports conference. “The way I would describe it is 50 acres of cement.”
New York State this year authorized three casino licenses for New York City, Long Island and Westchester, and many groups have discussed proposals.
In addition, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced plans last November to build a stadium adjacent to Citi Field for Major League Soccer’s New York City team, owned by the parent company of England’s Manchester City.
Watch: Videos of the new NYCFC stadium announcement and renderings
“The fans want something to do before the game, after the game,” Cohen said.
Cohen also is thinking about changes inside Citi Field.
“We’ve done some investing in ballparks and trying to create a fan experience people are excited about. I have tons of ideas I want to implement,” he said. “You can’t spend an unlimited amount of money, so you’ve got to budget. And also, dealing with the underinvestment that I had to deal with coming in. I call it the money pit.”
Cohen bought the team from the Wilpon and Katz families in a deal valued at $2.4 billion.
“I felt like this was like an unpolished gem and if I could turn this sucker around, it would be really cool,” he said.
Approached by reporters after his session, Cohen refused to discuss Billy Eppler’s surprise resignation as general manager last week.
New York finished fourth in the NL East at 75-87, 29 games behind first-place Atlanta. The Mets fired manager Buck Showalter on the final day of the season and hired David Stearns the following day as president of baseball operations. Three days later, Eppler announced his resignation after less than two years as GM.
New York set a major league payroll record this year with a figure projected to finish at $346 million and is on track for a luxury tax of $102 million — more than double the previous high of $43.6 million by the 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers.
Out of contention, the team traded Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander during the summer as part of a sell-off of veterans for prospects. New York agreed to pay $62.1 million next year to cover much of the 2024 salary due the two pitchers.
“That was a hard decision. Actually, it wasn’t,” Cohen said. “It was a clear decision. I was patient. I was waiting for the team to demonstrate some consistency. We’d win three or four in a row and then we’d lose three, four in a row. We never really got it going. I think at that particular time our odds were like 15% to get into the playoffs.”
Cohen also said he is interviewing candidates to become the team’s CEO.
“Usually I like everyone the first time,” he said. ”It’s the second where I really start to dislike them.”
He has enjoyed becoming a team owner.
“You’re a hedge fund manager. It doesn’t mean much to people,” he said, “But if you’re the owner of a sports team, just people care. And so it’s been transformational for me and my family.”
Cohen would consider buying another team, but not yet.
“Maybe down the road, but I got to get this right, and I haven’t gotten it right yet,” he said.
Top: New York Mets owner Steve Cohen looks on before the start of a baseball game between the New York Mets and the Cincinnati Reds, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)