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April 06, 2011
Yankees fans disguising selves as empty seats again
Another April, another batch of stories about disappointing New York Yankees attendance. River Avenue Blues reports that the Yanks have set new records for lowest attendance at their new stadium for four games in a row, which isn't good when you consider they've only played five games this year.
There are as many theories as empty seats, ranging from fans growing detached from the Yanks' ever-changing roster to those hefty parking fees — I've laid them all out in an article over at the Village Voice news blog. One intriguing possibility, though, is that the new stadium is proving to have a short honeymoon period because fans hate it and would rather stay at home and watch on TV:
"Our seats in section 428, row 10 offered an awful view of the playing field and they weren't going to get any better," wrote NYY Stadium Insider in a January post on "Why We Canceled Our Yankees Season Tickets." When the new stadium opened, they write, they put up with it for the new-car smell, but "in the 2009 ALDS when Joe Mauer hit his controversial ground rule double that was incorrectly called foul, and when Mark Teixeira hit his game winning home run to left field, we were completely in the dark. There are blind spots in the wings of the far-recessed upper deck at Yankee Stadium III and as the season wore on, we realized that we'd be better off watching the games at home."
Now, I doubt that this is a huge factor, at least not compared to things like $35 parking and the fact that the Yankees raised ticket prices after an offseason in which the Red Sox stocked up on free agents while the Yanks largely stood pat. But it's still interesting to see that some fans, at least, are citing the poor game experience at the new stadium as a reason why they're not buying tickets. Too bad the Yankees don't have a beloved old ballpark whose quirks fans were willing to put up with for the chance to visit history, like up in Boston — oh, wait...
Meanwhile the Red Sox continue to be a hot ticket in their old antiquated stadium. Maybe the real problem is that the Yankees destroyed what was left of their landmark House that Ruth Built and replaced it with a shadow of the old place.
I have to say I am something of a 'convert'. I use to watch sporting events in their entirety, and tried to see them live as often as possible.
But now, I am deluged with highlight packages which condense several 3-hour games into an appetizer of several minutes. Even in this brief display, I see the repetitiveness and shallowness of each sport.
The internet beckons, as do video games and films/TV on-demand. The content I want when I want it. Content I control to suit my ever-decreasing attention span. I am less and less inclined to stop everything and watch a 3-hour game at a scheduled time.
And when I do watch sports, it will be on my HDTV in my living room, which is adjacent to an inexpensive snack bar called the fridge. Down the hall no lines form in front of the bathroom. The recliner is comfortable, and costs the same as 2 tickets to a game, except I get to keep it.
All this luxury and comfort at home! Why spend hundreds on tickets? Why travel across town to climb up to the cheap seats of a stadium for a fixed view? Why subject oneself to getting gouged at every turn? What is the incentive to attend a sporting event?
The simple pleasure of the live experience. Nothing beats it. Yes it's a fixed view, yes you can pay too much, and yes it's often not as comfortable as you home, but that's not the point. The point is to get out there and enjoy a life experience, to be at a place with 42,000 people who see the world as you do if only for a few hours, to smell the grass, hotdogs, and yes even people sometimes. To hear the crack of the bat, smack of the ball in a glove, to hear the players and fans yelling. I spent my afternoon at PETCO Park yesterday watching the huge field size flag wave, the jets fly over, the fireworks going off, and the Padres taking the win from the world champions and no amount of 3DHDTV could ever hope to match the experience I had in person. Yes TV has made the home experience better, but it is still a pale shadow of the experience in person, and likely always will be.
As much as I'd like to pile on, the old YS had seats at more of an acute angle around home plate, so there were more severe blind spots in the left and right field corners. Of course, those seats were closer to the field as well, but the obstructed view complaint (which is the case in most ballparks in those areas to some degree) is a little misguided.
The Yankees are making mistake after mistake with the new park. My friends have now given up their season ticket plans because of having the ability to go to every playoff game taken away. They were really abused during the seat relocation process and this was the final straw.
In addition $35 to park your auto is crazy. NY fans really don't care how much it costs to park at RedSox games. I don't go because of the fact that I can't stand the new Yankee Stadium along with all of the other reasons that have been mentioned.
Yeah, and ever-changing roster seems like a bit of a stretch too - I think they said that this is the first time the Yankees started the same OF and IF on consecutive Opening Days since the 1920s.
Yeah I think it's pretty obvious the one big change from the old stadium... is the stadium and the resulting price increases. The Yankees have always had a somewhat fluid roster, they've had a single bad year, but they did win the WS the year before. The "they suck this year" claim makes no sense since we're not even a week into the season, how can we tell if they suck? The mercenary aspect of the Yankees has never hurt them previously so I don't buy that, neither has the cold. And TV didn't have an impact before they moved so while it may be a contributing factor it's not the main one. The main issue is the stadium and the resulting rise in ticket prices mainly. They tore down part of the Yankee mystique by tearing down their long time home, and then compounded the error by pricing out the heart of their fan base... and they wonder why attendance is down. And unfortunately for them only half that problem can be rectified, maybe (assuming they can still pay off their new 1.4 billion dollar toy with lowered ticket prices). As for the stadium itself, they've already made their bed by tearing down the old place and can never go back.
Neil writes: "Too bad the Yankees don't have a beloved old ballpark whose quirks fans were willing to put up with for the chance to visit history, like up in Boston..."
Granted, we're giving the Yankees a little bit of a headstart, just to make it sporting, but if you want to see what can be done for under $300 million instead of a Billion, see: boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/history/improvements_intro.jsp
YS was beautiful. Knocking it down was a sin and was not necessary. Empty seats in the new place? You reap what you sow.
I've been an avid fan of the Yankees for a long time. The Yankee Mystique was Yankee Stadium.
The ownership has never cared about Yankee history and tradition.....They only know how to sell it to gullible individuals. They wanted a new Stadium at all costs and never asked HOK for a renovation plan of the Original. Sorry but a Las Vegas replica can never compare to the real thing.
When was the last time you could buy Opening Day tickets at Yankee Stadium the day before the event on Ticketmaster......Affordable seats....Four together at $26.00 each....Or at The Yankee Stadium box office.
I've been going to Opening Day for a long time and I can tell you it was probably the late 1980's when that last happened.....And that has nothing to do with the weather or the economy.
Can you say, "TICKET PRICES ARE TOO GDAM EXPENSIVE!" I knew you could.
Careful Dave - with that logic, the Yankees may pull a Bill Wirtz & pull all Yankee home games off TV! BTW I totally loved your synopsis.
Doesn't surprise me one bit what's going on at Faux Yankee Stadium. They destroyed the most hallowed diamond there was. NYS's starting design points were the luxury suites, the front rows in the lower deck & the restaurants, and everything & everyone else was secondary. Yankee management got greedy & only had the Olbermann's, Giuliani's & Seinfeld's in mind; the stadium is a complete symbol of waste, greed, modern electronic excess, poor design & shoddy building practices & political shenanigans without any real nostalgia whatsoever (unless the hidden monuments count). It's going to be interesting to see if the Yankees' bubble stays burst years to come.
And as for the live experience; just like anything if done repeatedly enough; gets old & repetitive after a while, and I don't find the ballpark experience worth the dollar amount anymore. It's just not fun when things cost twice to 10 times more than it should. Basically the new standard is: walk to the ballpark, come fully fed & refreshed, get out alive & unscathed.
I also think Dave's analysis is correct.
I was a professional sports fan for decades. But eventually the greed became all emcompassing and impossible to ignore. That's a large part of what this very website chronicles...
I'm the youngest of the old who can actually remember when W.S. games were televised in the afternoon. It was special and our elementary schools would allow us to take classroom time to watch them. Images of Bob Gibson's glare are still fixed in my mind over 40 years later. It made me a fan and I attended Giants and A's games for many years afterward and read much of the history and lore of the game in my free time.
Now sports teams are devouring their young by putting games on when kids can't watch them and having incessent interruptions that makes sitting though an entire game an ordeal.
I don't even bother telling my own son about pro-sports.
Well said, Dave. Turns out that there is something that beats being there - especially in the age of HD and 21st century coverage. If that wasn't so, there would be fewer empty seats.
Jerry Jones new palace is pretty much all about wonder, except the part where you get a living room view from your seats (hence the massive scoreboard). In years to come, even more fans will be wondering why they fought traffic, paid to park, paid for water, paid through the nose for beer and lousy hot dogs etc etc.
The Yankees have just followed that time honoured tradition of squeezing your customers until they quit (or die). Seems like they've hit the wall in that respect. Too bad the taxpayer's share of the stadium cost can't be reduced after the fact, like ticket prices can.