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April 03, 2009

The new Yankee Stadium: What we got for all that money

I made my first visit to the New York Yankees' new stadium yesterday and, well, the earth didn't open, and the sky didn't fall. I've already written extensively about this for the Village Voice and Baseball Prospectus (coming later today), so allow me the luxury of quoting from myself:

It's a bit like visiting a Grand Theft Auto version of the old ballpark, where reality has been twisted to make it easier to render on a computer. (All that was missing was a sign reading "Pinstripe Cathedral" or "Bomber Field.") Yanks execs' claims to the contrary, the new stadium feels less like the 1923 original than like the 1976 rehabbed model, right down to its cinderblock-and-painted-aluminum-panel aesthetic — or rather, like another, more dramatic rehab further along, a faded copy of a faded copy...

The Yankees at last have their own souvenir stands that can compete with Stan's Sports World, with team stores offering every variety of pennant, shirt, jersey, and jacket imaginable — as well as, bizarrely, officially licensed "team gnomes" at a mere $35 a pop. Fans in the lower deck can now enjoy their pick of food stands serving such specialities as sushi, garlic fries, and Cuban sandwiches (as well as possibly the worst idea ever at a ballpark: a gallery selling artworks by Peter Max). Those who are denied entry into the fine dining class will still find improved food options — though with bottled beers going for $9 apiece and "Popcorn Indiana gourmet kettlecorn" starting at $6, it's unlikely anyone up in steerage will be able to afford to sample more than a tasting at any one game.

Speaking of steerage, the upper deck is one place that diverges dramatically from the old stadium: Shrunken and set back farther from the field, it's no longer as steep as at the old park, but also no longer on top of the action. Though the new stadium seats 5,000 fewer people, its worst seats are easily as distant as the back row at the old ballpark across the street, if not quite as vertiginous; think Shea Stadium upper deck, and you're on the right track. (Not that this will matter much, as most fans will no doubt spend most of their time watching the real star of the show: the Yankees' high-def centerfield video screen, which is the one item at the new stadium that looks worthy of the stratospheric price tag. It's probably only a matter of time before the Yanks start advertising a night at the ballpark as "just as good as watching it on your own computer!")

And from BP:

As at many if not most new stadiums, the class segregation here feels both deliberate and complete — only further compounded by the obstructed-view bleacher seats (the TV screens set up as a belated fix, I found yesterday, didn't help much), by the team's decision to exclude cheap-seats denizens from even eating at field-level concessions stands, and by a sunken walkway behind the "Legends" seats at the field's edge that gives the odd impression that the Yankees have surrounded their highest-priced seats with a moat.

Needless to say, opinions differ: The Daily News editorial page has a rave review ("limestone and granite hewn large to shoulder among the big town's big places"), and Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon love it (though Jeter still finds it "a little weird"), while Bloomberg News architecture critic James Russell is less impressed ("The peculiar choice of metal mesh as a wall finish suggests imminent arraignment, rather than an afternoon's leisure"). Team owner Hal Steinbrenner, meanwhile, actually admitted that some of the tickets "might be overpriced ... we're continuing to look into that," which may have something to do with the fact that plenty of premium seats are going unsold.

For photos from my day at The House That Randy Levine Built With Lots of Your Money, see below the jump:

A view from the back of the field level, where during regular-season games mere mortals may not venture:

The Great Hall, which, so far as I could tell, serves no actual purpose other than to soak up Bronx real estate and give the Yanks somewhere to display giant banners:

The field-level "moat":

The HD video screens set up on the side of the view-blocking Mohegan Sun Sports Bar. Yes, they're turned on:

Come for the game, stay for the cupholders:

If you've been dying to wash down a $12 bucket of popcorn with a $5 bottled water, here's your chance:

No friggin' comment:

The first signs of demolition at the old stadium:

The old seen from the new:


Hey, it's better than a Thomas Kinkade gallery, right?

Posted by MarkH on April 3, 2009 04:26 PM

As far as the "Great Hall" is concerned, it is worth it to see this new stadium. There is no way that they would be able to get a hall like that into the old ballpark without destroying the front of the building.

Posted by Jessy S. on April 3, 2009 08:47 PM

The Old Stadium could have been renovated and expanded outward connecting a wider concourse via the old Stadiums vented arches.....
The Great Hall is just a shell hiding the generic interior of HOK ballparks.

Posted by Anonymous on April 3, 2009 10:08 PM

What about the left field bleachers? Is that sports bar blocking their view of right field too? That design is an epic fail. A moat. Nothing discriminates like them.

Posted by Mark on April 4, 2009 03:52 PM

It's the same problem in both the LF and RF bleachers. And it's not just the seats right up against the restaurant that have the problem: I tried sitting in the last couple of rows of Section 202, which is two sections over, and there was a large stretch of left-center where I couldn't see the wall or warning track.

Posted by Neil on April 5, 2009 07:22 PM

Respectfully, the problem here isn't artwork, ticket pricing or the option to buy a $17 snack of popcorn and water (available for $2 out of a vending machine at my place of employment, and still not worth it, but I digress). No, the problem is the capture of government taxation authority to take $1,000,000,000.00 from Joe Public's wallet and give it to a non-essential, non-productive, otherwise private enterprise, before he never sets foot in the place, and regardless of whether he would ever choose to do so. Of course, compared to what's happening at the south end of Manhattan, this is petty larceny.

Posted by fred276 on April 7, 2009 03:47 PM

They claim it looks just like the old Yankee Stadium. No way, I was in the old stadium as a kid and this is very different. This is a cross between JFK Airport, The Seaport, a prison, and a hospital. You can't fool all of the people with your greed!

Posted by rujim on April 10, 2009 12:10 AM

Butthurt detected. Someone call the waaambulance!

Posted by big brother on August 17, 2009 05:23 AM

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