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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.
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: