Yankees try to get more fans to games by ripping out worst seats, adding “patio bars”

The owners of the New York Yankees, facing slipping attendance during the team’s 4th-place finish and a growing acknowledgement that their new stadium is kind of crappy in many ways for watching baseball, have announced some tweaks to the building for next year, including replacing some of the notorious obstructed-view bleacher seats with new “patio bars” and adding a kids’ play area in right field similar to what the Mets have:

Three other lounge and patio areas will also be built. All the additions will be open to all ticket-holders.

The team also said it would make available about 2,500 seats per game at $15 or less.

This wouldn’t normally be big news — offering some discounted seats and additional amenities is common for a team seeking to boost attendance during a rebuilding phase on the field — except that it’s the Yankees, who have traditionally stuck to the line that such niceties as entertainment areas and being able to see the game from your seat are amenities that are beneath them. (The last major change at the stadium prior to this was to remove seats and add tables for rich fans to rest their beers on.) There was no immediate clarification as to which seats will be available for $15 (I wouldn’t hold your breath about “for less”), but at least some of the crappiest views will now come without quite such crappy price tags.

The Steinbrenners will presumably be paying for the renovations out of their own pockets, though again given that it’s the Yankees, we can’t entirely rule out them somehow trying to wheedle a tax break of some kind out of this. More news if and when it becomes available.


7 comments on “Yankees try to get more fans to games by ripping out worst seats, adding “patio bars”

  1. The Padres have done something similar with Petco, replacing various areas in the ballpark (beneath the scoreboard, the former “beach” in centerfield, and virtually ALL of the seats along the center and right field fence with patio bars. The emphasis is on group sales, which seems to be the Padres strategy to get people into the park, buy lots of concessions, socialize, enjoy the “ballpark experience” and not watch baseball (no one in these seats is watching the game; it’s basically happy hour after work).

    I’m seeing this all around major league baseball and it’s beginning to creep into the NFL: stadiums are no longer places to watch a sporting event, they are “entertainment complexes” meant to compete with other forms of entertainment like county fairs, movie theaters, and Chuck E. Cheese. The event is irrelevant as long as the expenditure per attendee is maximized.

  2. Incisive comment & write-up reminds me that 19th C brewers owning AA teams built ballparks as drinking venues. The stadium was a beer garden where baseball was played but the point was selling (or downing) suds. I am transfixed by the game but this decentering is interesting. Purists need no palace, but owners don’t make out from old guys with scorecards. Sell, sell, sell — and have the fans pay for the privilege of being sold to. Nice work if you can get it.

    • There were also some early ballparks (St. Louis, I want to say?) that were built at the ends of private streetcar lines by the streetcar owners to encourage ridership.

      I suppose if stadiums are becoming multi-level sports bars with a field next to them, that’s not inherently bad. Though then they should be designing them with the bar areas not taking up valuable seating space, so those of us who do want to watch the game with our own eyes are a bit closer to the field.

  3. This seems to be the trend. The modern “fan experience” patron goes to one or two games a year, buys tickets on StubHub, spends half the game in his seat pounding $15 tall-boys, and the other half walking around the concourse, checking out the venue and the amenities, sampling craft beer and “gastro-grub,” and kinda-sorta following the game on the ubiquitous flatscreen TVs.

    That’s who every new venue and remodel is designed for. Compare the Lakers/Kings former home to their current one. The Forum – once considered a “flashy” venue – has one enclosed concourse, and it’s just a windowless hallway with food stands and restrooms, and doesn’t even go all the way around. Staples Center has *FIVE* 360-degree concourses, featuring huge multilevel bay windows, scenic escalator rides, a huge skyline-view upper patio, all kinds of food and specialty drink vendors, sit-down restaurants, sports bars, club/lounge-type bars, team apparel shops etc.

    That’s the modern “fan experience” model, and that’s what you see in every stadium/arena rendering Neal posts here. Catwalks, game-view patio bars, sit-down restaurants, just more and more areas where people can stretch their legs and kinda-watch the game while not in their seats. And spend more money, which is obviously the whole point.

  4. Someone — Allen Sanderson, maybe? — told me years ago that he was griping to a sports marketer about all the non-sports crap at stadiums, and the guy replied, “You’re what we call a traditionalist: You go to watch the game. Let me tell you something — there aren’t that many of you.”

    It was a memorable anecdote, but I’d love to see any marketing surveys showing the actual breakdown of types of fan. The big-spender occasional fans are clearly who they’re marketing to, but I’m slightly skeptical that they’re actually the majority of fans, even if they may be the best way to maximize profits.

    • I don’t think they’re the majority, but they’re a pretty sizable and growing percentage. For all the complaints about suites, distractions, $15 beers, etc. people sure seem to love all those things.

      Old Woody Allen joke: “This food is terrible!” “Yes, and such small portions!”

      Modern sports-fan version: “$15 for a beer is insane!” “Yes, and such long lines!”

  5. Stadiums people generally like (PNC Park, AT&T Park) have many or all of these amenities; and ballparks that don’t are often criticized as having something that’s missing. Though only a few complained before, LA fans appreciated the Dodgers newest owners adding some kid-friendly stuff. And I’d still rather have patio bars than the all you can eat foot fight I’ve seen in their right field.

    Some of it is that people reach their seat and realize they maybe can see the game with more detail at home, so consequently seats high up and far away become for alcohol consumption. But what’s really happening is that in many cities the sports stadium is becoming a surrogate Disneyland for people who are too far from Orlando. People want that all day amusement experience, and a stadium will even let the adults carry a beer while they do it.

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