Parks built to replace those destroyed by Yankees are contaminated, need city cleanup

Remember those new Bronx parks that New York City paid a couple hundred million dollars to build to replace the ones that the Yankees had obliterated to make way for their new stadium six years earlier? Well, the good news is they’re open now, and full of kids. The bad news: They’re contaminated with leaking underground gas tanks.

Department of Parks and Recreation officials said there are no such dangers from the contaminated groundwater.

“It doesn’t sound good, but again, there’s no exposure to the public here,” said Liam Kavanagh, First Deputy Commissioner at the Parks Department…

CBS2 has learned the cleanup effort has been under way since 2009. CBS2 also uncovered the contracts between the city and the engineering firm doing the decontamination work, and found it has already cost taxpayers $410,000.

If the gas is just getting into the groundwater, then yeah, it’s probably not a threat to kids playing up on the surface. (Or no more threat than it is to all kids in the neighborhood, who live atop contaminated groundwater.) Still, it’s a reminder that Bronx kids used to play on ballfields that had always been ballfields, never gas stations — until this happened.

Two days before NYCFC opener, Yankee Stadium field is a dirt pile

And elsewhere in F’ed-Up Field Friday, the stadium that inherited the name Yankee Stadium from the real Yankee Stadium is set to host NYC F.C.‘s home opener in just two days, and yow:

That’s one bad-looking soccer pitch. Presumably they’re laying down sod as you read this (for once it’s not snowing in New York right now) — which they have to do in part anyway to cover the dirt infield — but playing sports on freshly laid sod doesn’t always work out so well. As with the Wrigley Field situation, conditions will no doubt be playable, but it’ll be interesting to see how well it works out.

And as for when the baseball season starts, at least one Yankees player is already preparing for the worst:

“It’s going to suck,” Teixeira told the Daily News, “but you have to deal with it. It’s going to tear up the infield, but there’s nothing we can do about it, so we’ll deal with it.”

But then, Teixeira already has years of experience with unavoidable situations that destroy his infield.

Yankees exec says destroying parks for stadium actually built parks, wins Nobel Prize for Chutzpah

There was a long article by Eliot Brown in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal on stadium subsidies, which you probably can’t read because it’s paywalled, but it gives a good rundown on the basics. (Cities give up piles of dough, economists say it’s not worth it.) I just wanted to single out, though, one jaw-dropping quote from New York Yankees president Randy Levine in the middle of the piece about the team’s new stadium:

The team and city officials said it employs 1,600 more people than the old facility and brought new parks to a poor neighborhood. “Since Yankee Stadium was built, it has lived up to what it said,” Yankees President Randy Levine said.

This for a stadium that left a poor neighborhood without any parks at all for six years, that arguably didn’t even replace all the existing parkland it displaced as required by law, and that team execs promised would use “no public subsidies” and which ended up using more public subsidies than any stadium in U.S. history. Maybe Levine deserves his own plaque in the grandstanding Hall of Fame.

If new Yankee Stadium is “venerable,” does that make Madison Square Garden 135 years old?

Today in rewriting history:

Jeter, 40, slashed a 3-1 knuckler from R.A. Dickey into the stands behind left field in Yankee Stadium for his first home run in 158 at-bats and his first at the venerable Stadium since July of 2013.

Yankee Stadium is five years old. I know this is only a sports column at (which is, sadly, apparently the site of the Birmingham News and several other papers, not what you might think it would be), but news of the demolition of the stadium built in 1923 and renovated in 1976 has trickled down to Alabama, hasn’t it?

Of course, this article also says of Jeter, “we know nothing about whom he dates,” so maybe columnist Roy S. Johnson lives in an alternate reality where the original Yankee Stadium is still standing, and Derek Jeter is an underappreciated star who toiled far from the limelight. If so, can I go there too?

NY Times credits Yankees for imaginary recovery from pretend home-field disadvantage

This is more a “stupid sportswriting” story than a “stupid stadium coverage” one, but there’s a stadium angle, so: On Saturday, the New York Times’ Jorge Arangure Jr. wrote an article about how the Yankees haven’t had the same home-field advantage at Fake Yankee Stadium that the did at the original Yankee Stadium, but now that’s turning around. How does he know? Because they had a really good couple of weeks:

Through the end of its 85-year tenure, the old Yankee Stadium remained a place where opposing teams feared playing. The lore grew to the point that ghosts were rumored to inhabit the building.

The opening of the new stadium in 2009 brought along a different atmosphere, more corporate, less rowdy, and gradually, it seems, Yankee Stadium has lost some of its intimidation.

The Yankees carried a lowly 18-23 record at home into the All-Star break this season. If they were going to contend in the second half, Manager Joe Girardi had said, the Yankees would need to turn the Stadium into the imposing place that it used to be.

They appear on their way to doing just that: With a 10-6 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday, the Yankees improved their home record to 29-27. They have gone 11-4 in the Bronx since the break and have won four of five games on their current homestand. Finally, these Yankees have turned their home park into an advantage for themselves, even if it is not yet the fearful place its predecessor was.

In the Big Book of Journalist Fallacies, this should be familiar as the sin of small sample size. During the course of any season with lots of wins and losses — and a 29-27 home record definitely qualifies there — there will be stretches where the team does exceptionally well, or exceptionally poorly, if only by random chance. If you doubt, this, try a simple experiment: Flip a coin 81 times in a row. The first time it comes up heads four out of five times, write an article for the New York Times on how the coin has really turned the corner and figured things out.

(The Yankees, as if eager to make this point, promptly lost their next two games on Saturday and Sunday. So now they’ve won four out of seven at home, and are 11-6 since the break. Good thing Arangure filed on Saturday morning, huh?)

So are the Yankees actually being hurt on the field by their new stadium? Over the first almost-six years of the new stadium, the team is 287-176 (for a .620 winning percentage) at home, and 249-215 (.537) on the road. Over the last six years of the old stadium, they were 310-177 (.637) at home, and 267-218 (.551) on the road. So that’s an 83-point bump in place of an 86-point bump, or as near to statistically meaningless as you’re likely to get. So while there are plenty of things to complain about at the new stadium, less of a home field advantage isn’t one of them.

Come to think of it, that’s the kind of thing that a major newspaper might normally want its reporters to check before writing news stories based on what turns out to be a false premise — but it took me ten whole minutes to Google the stats and paste them into Excel, and I know these Times writers must have important places to be.

NYC F.C. finally admits they’ll be playing at Yankees’ stadium already

In news that should surprise absolutely no one, the New York Times is reporting that the MLS expansion team New York City F.C. will announce next week that it will play at the Yankees’ stadium for the 2015, 2016, and 2017 seasons while working on getting a stadium of its own built. This was really the team’s only option: It’s not going to get its $350 million Bronx stadium plan approved and built by next March, there aren’t a whole lot of available soccer-ready stadiums sitting around in New York, and the Yankees are part owners of the team, so it’s the only port in the storm for now. There were (and are) concerns about the impact of soccer usage on the baseball field turf, but apparently those pale in comparison to having to have their soccer team play in the street.

The big question now is how long NYCFC will be stuck in this port. Melissa Mark-Viverito, the new city council speaker who represents the district where the team owners want to build their stadium (with city land and tax subsidies that could amount to more than $250 million), isn’t going anywhere for at least the next four years, and from all accounts she’s just as dead-set against this deal as ever. NYCFC already tried and failed to get a stadium built in Queens, and is rapidly running out of possible sites that are accessible to public transit; I predicted last summer that this could end up as a D.C. United situation, with the team in “temporary” digs for a lot longer than anybody anticipated, and that’s looking even more likely now. Though being stuck in the world’s most lavishly expensive baseball stadium isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world — if NYCFC fans don’t like the view of the pitch, they can always drown their sorrows in $60 steaks.

Yankees replacing some of best seats with tables to “enhance fan experience”

The New York Yankees have announced their latest plan to sell those crazy expensive field-level seats that no one wants to buy at those prices, and it involves a twist even I didn’t see coming: replacing one seat out of three in some sections with snack tables.

In a continued effort to enhance your gameday experience, the Yankees are excited to introduce the addition of brand new side tables between select seats in the Champions Suite. This new feature will offer enhanced comfort for your family, friends and clients to enjoy the all-inclusive food and nonalcoholic beverages that the Champions Suite has to offer.

The “Champions Suite” moniker notwithstanding, these seats are actually down the lines in left and right field, and go for the marginally less insane sum of between $260 and $540 a ticket. (You do get free cafeteria-style food and non-alcoholic drinks with that.) Still, I’m pretty sure this is the first recorded instance of a team actually ripping out good seats and replacing them with places to rest your chicken fingers as an enticement for deep-pocketed ticket buyers.

Area Americans disagree on what sports facilities do for (or to) cities that build them

Moyers and Company has a bunch of stadium-related stuff up on its website, including a repost of its 2008 segment on the funding of the New York Yankees‘ new stadium, plus a collection of essays by local community activists and stadium experts on what new sports facilities have done for their cities. (Disclosure: I helped suggest a couple of the essayists.) Among the highlights:

“I invite you to take a walk around the neighborhood and see for yourself if that has happened. Businesses have closed and the remaining ones are hurting as the Yankee organization has moved many of the services inside the stadium.” —Joyce Hogi, Bronx community activist

“Forbes Magazine consistently lists Stockton as the most miserable city in the nation. For those who love Stockton, the arena is a great addition to the city; ‘I never thought Stockton could have something this nice,’ is a common refrain.” —Lori Gilbert, Stockton Record features writer

“When someone sits down with a beer and hot dog, virtually everything they see is owned by the District of Columbia. Yet all of the money earned from the stadium — tickets, concessions, advertising — goes to the team owner, Ted Lerner.” —Ed Lazere, D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute

“The stadium’s opening has been one of the greatest economic drivers for our city, providing thousands of jobs and an expanding sales tax revenue. If you combine this new revenue stream with the $500,000 expected annually from the Cowboys’ new naming rights deal with AT&T then Arlington is on pace to pay off the stadium ten years earlier than anticipated.” —Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck

Add it all up and, well, I’m not sure there’s any consensus, other than that stadiums are expensive, and that people like sports. But it does do a decent job of describing the elephant.

How a bill becomes a law: Christine Quinn and the Yankees stadium vote

Former Village Voice investigative wizard Wayne Barrett has a great article for WNYC radio’s site on the political record of New York city council speaker (and current mayoral candidate) Christine Quinn that includes some juicy scuttlebutt on her role in the New York Yankees stadium deal. As Barrett outlines it:

  • Leading the Yankees’ push was Bronx Democratic Party leader Jose Rivera, a state assemblymember whose son Joel had taken over his spot on the New York city council. (This is the kind of thing that happens a lot in the Bronx.) Quinn was tight with Rivera after he’d helped her win the council speakership in 2006 — helped along, Barrett alleges, by Quinn’s arrangement of a plum city job for a Rivera associate.
  • Jose Rivera’s top adviser Stanley Schlein was “driving the Yankee negotiations” at the council, according to another Rivera aide. In addition, the Yankees had Rivera’s predecessor as party boss, Roberto Ramirez, on the payroll as well.
  • Quinn helped shepherd the Yankees project through the council, including getting the team a new Metro-North commuter rail station near the stadium at no cost to the team.

Quinn denies any notion of a quid pro quo, but it’s long been clear that something made her get behind the project 110% — I was at the council hearing the day that the Yankees project was approved, and recall the word coming down to the press table that the long delay in getting started was because “Chris Quinn has the Democratic caucus down in the basement and is lecturing them about how to vote.” In the end, only two members of the council voted against the plan, with several members ending up making speeches about their concerns and then voting yes regardless. And thus are the sausages made…

Bloomberg press release hints that NYC F.C. will play at Yankee Stadium

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced that the new NYC F.C. MLS team will play at Yankee Stadium when it starts play in 2015, oh wait, he took it back:

Bloomberg announced the move as part of a press release celebrating New York’s status as the nation’s “sports mecca.” The release has now been edited.

The slip was pointed out by the website Empire of Soccer. A Google cache version of the press release confirms the original version… “Yankee Stadium will become the home of the New York City Football Club, the first soccer club in the five boroughs since the 1970s.”…

Bloomberg’s release has been changed to, “And soon a new stadium will become home to the New York City Football Club.”

So, either Mayor Bloomberg knows something we don’t know, or he just assumes what we’ve all assumed ever since the Yankees were named co-owners of the team. Cut him some slack, his press officers are all busy sending out resumes as their boss’s 12 years in office wind down, they can’t be expected to pay attention to what they’re actually writing.