Taxpayer Field

While name changes at stadiums are fairly common, two New York City Council members have proposed an interesting idea – naming the New York Mets’ new stadium Citi/Taxpayer Field instead of Citi Field.

Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo say the ballpark’s name should be changed as a thanks for taxpayers help in its federal bailout.

While Citigroup locked in a deal years ago to pay $400 million over the next 20 years in exchange for its name on the Mets’ new stadium, it also signed a multibillion-dollar emergency “backstop” deal with the U.S. government, according to ABC News.

Citigroup was forced to let 53,000 workers go as a result of billions in bad mortgage-related assets on its books. Citi also recently saw its stock price lose more than half its value.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., is another public official who isn’t too pleased with Citi’s naming rights deal.

“This type of spending is indefensible and unacceptable to Citigroup’s new partner and largest investor: the American taxpayer,” Cummings said in a statement Nov. 24. “I strongly urge Citigroup to find a way out of this contract and instead spend that $400 million on retaining its employees and restoring confidence in its operations.”

Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and Citigroup spokesman Steve Silverman had no comment on the Citi/Taxpayer Field proposal.

In an Nov. 24 interview Citigroup chief financial officer Gary Crittenden said the bank is not reviewing its deal with the Mets. He told CNBC the contract was “legal and binding” and “not an issue.”

A Citigroup spokesman said “there is absolutely no relationship between our sports marketing expenses, including Citi Field,” and the government bailout, according to ABC News.

Citigroup initially tried to help bail out another banking institution by agreeing to take over Wachovia’s banking operations Sept. 29 with a $2.1 billion deal brokered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Wells Fargo eventually received the OK from the Federal Reserve Oct. 12 to go through with its $11.7 billion deal to buy out Wachovia.

ABC News reported that other financial institutions accepting funds from the Treasury’s Troubled Assets Relief Program while holding sponsorship deals include Capitol One and its Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., Comerica and its Comerica Park in Detroit, J.P. Morgan Chase’s Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz., and PNC Bank and its PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Insurance giant AIG is holding steady with a $150 billion bailout from the U.S. Treasury while paying $125 million in exchange for having its logo on the British soccer team Manchester United’s uniforms.

A spokesman for AIG said that while the sponsorship deal is still in effect, AIG is “reviewing all sponsorships to identify any relationship that might be essential, to maintain the value of the business and service customers, so we can repay the [government] loan,” according to ABC News.