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The Giants have finally paid off their debt service

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They own a ballpark now. They can start tearing up the floors and everything.

Oakland Athletics v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Some of you twits don’t even remember Candlestick Park. And I’m not just talking about the precocious teenagers among us. There are people who can legally drink, yet don’t have a single memory of a home Giants game being played anywhere but AT&T Park. I’m not going to suggest that my memories of Candlestick make me a better Giants fan, but we can probably all agree that anyone who has been to a baseball game at Candlestick is a far better Giants fan than someone who hasn’t.

This comes up now because AT&T Park is officially old enough to be paid for. The debt service is over. John Shea has the scoop:

On Dec. 15, six days after their news conference to introduce Mark Melancon as their $62 million closer, the Giants made the final payment on AT&T Park.

The 20-year mortgage on the $170 million loan that helped fund construction of the waterfront park at Third and King was quietly paid off without fanfare or a news release.

It was big money at the time, and there were important baseball people who were absolutely appalled that the Giants were going to pay for it themselves. From 1996:

One of the most influential owners in pro sports, Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox and the mega-successful Chicago Bulls, does not think it can be done.

"The best they will be able to do is cover their debt service. So what's the point of building it?" he said at the conference organized by the National Council for Urban Economic Development and several corporate sponsors.

You visionless tub of entitlement. Look at where we are now. The Giants own their ballpark, and the White Sox still pay $1.5 million every year in rent. Which is a bargain, sure. And, also, U.S. Cellular seems like an ongoing scam on several levels. So they’re doing fine. BUT WHEN YOU HAVE TO RE-NEGOTIATE IN 2029, WE WILL BE THERE TO LAUGH AT YOU NOT OWNING THE BALLPARK, REINSDORF.

The debt service was $20 million every year, though the organization refinanced at one point to develop the area around the park, which got payments down to $18 million. Considering the payrolls for the first 10 years of the park, that total seems even more impressive:

2000 - $53.7 million
2001 - $63.3M
2002 - $78.3M
2003 - $82.9M
2004 - $82.0M
2005 - $89.5M
2006 - $90.0M
2007 - $90.2M
2008 - $76.6M
2009 - $82.2M

In the free-spending years, the Giants’ debt service would be close to a quarter of their payroll. In the leanest year, it was more than a third. Obviously, this doesn’t take inflation into account, but it was always a chunk of change. Eliminating the service back then would have been a huge deal. The kind that could have brought Vladimir Guerrero. Maybe even Barry Zito and Alfonso Soriano!

Now, though? It’ll help the Giants, certainly, but don’t expect them to hand out the next Albert Pujols contract. Larry Baer doesn’t commit to the money going straight into payroll, dollar-for-dollar, citing the salary-cap tax that the Giants have been paying for years, and that’s fair. The Giants have one of the highest payrolls in baseball again, so tell it to a Rays fan.

Although, the debt service is roughly the price of one (1) Yoenis Cespedes, give or take.

Oh, man. That guy would be sweet.

Regardless, the Giants own their ballpark now, and that’s unquestionably a good thing. Also, a lot of you are going to want to pat yourselves on the back, because you helped pay for it, too. Not just with $48 crab sandwiches, but with the personal seat licenses, which were absolutely crucial to the ballpark plan working in the first place.

The Giants can be proud of having one of the only privately financed ballparks in baseball. They’re an example for the rest of professional sports, and I hope like heck that the A’s do the same thing soon. After years and years of failure and dumb ideas*, the Giants finally did it. Now the payments are gone, and it’s over. We don’t even have to worry about the team deciding they need a new ballpark in the near future, like the Rangers or Braves. (Edit: Though I should point out that when you factor in the property taxes that San Francisco isn’t collecting from the Giants, it’s disingenuous to say the team paid for the whole thing themselves.)

It’s still hard to believe the thing is real. Every time I go there, I have to remind myself that it exists, and it’s better than we ever could have expected.

Does anyone remember the live construction cam that was up on SFGiants.com in ‘98 and ‘99? It was about 50 pixels by 50 pixels, it looked like an Atari 2600 game on the fritz, and it didn’t work half the time. My word, how I loved that thing.

[wipes tear]

The debt service is gone. Let us celebrate, even if it isn’t going to change the payroll much. It’s just more proof that the Giants are financially thriving in a way that no one could have predicted 20 years ago.

* No, seriously, check these dumb ideas out, I can’t remind people of this enough