Wednesday, July 01, 2009
New Yankee Stadium...
The year was 1992, The Baltimore Orioles opened up a new ballpark in Camden Yards. It set a trend in baseball park building that combined modern amenities with classic architecture style. It was such a hit that almost every baseball team followed suit. Texas, Cleveland, Colorado, Atlanta, Detroit, Seattle, San Fransisco, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Washington, Milwaukee, San Diego, and Houston to name most of them have built new ballparks prior to 2009.
Would New York get a new stadium? Certainly the Mets needed one. The New York Mets have been talking about a new stadium for a long time, as far back as the mid 90's when this trend started. Shea Stadium was aging, charmless and a dump. The Mets were trying to work out public financing for years and then 9-11 happened. Priorities in the city would not include stadium financing. So, the Mets put their plans on hold and waited out any opportunity to bring it up again.
The Mets opportunity came when the New York Yankees were crying out to replace Yankee Stadium "The House Ruth Built"with a new one. The Yankees had the advantage of having "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani on board to sell the plan. In a typical Republican move, he used the bully pulpit to wrangle sweetheart deals involving tax payers money, the destruction of Macombs Dam Park, cheap electricity and tax breaks one can only dream of. All to please the most profit making team in all of sports. This made it easy for the Mets to demand half as much money and construction permits to build on their own property in Flushing.
But this entry is about Yankee Stadium. In New York it's about the Yankees. They are the icons. And apparently they are iconoclasts. "The House That Ruth Built" was no good anymore, not even a massive renovation would be acceptable. They could have played at Shea Stadium for a few years, set attendance records in the Mets own ballpark while waiting for the real Yankee Stadium to be finished. But no, it had to be a new ballpark, built to the same dimensions of the old one across the street. All for 1.5 billion dollars.
Last night was my first chance to see the new ballpark. The Mariners were in town, they're the only team I'm willing to go to Yankee Satadium to see. I took the bus to the Port Authority, and grabbed the D train up to 161st to the poorest district in the state of New York. My first impression was not good. The neighborhood hasn't improved much since I was last there 20 years ago. It didn't rise up in glory like New Shea. The gray exterior didn't wow me at all. I've been to 7 of the new ballparks and New Yankee gave me the worst first impression.
It reminded me of a dying neighborhood putting in a new supermarket and going half-ass building it. I looked around to take pictures of the old stadium. Unlike Shea, The Yankees are taking their time taking down the old place. It still looked good enough not to be replaced. It fits the neighborhood better. The Red Sox can live with Fenway and the Cubs can live with Wrigley. The Yankees easily could put up with the house that Ruth built.
Anyway, I went inside and got a better impression. First thing was getting a free "Inaugural Season" T-Shirt. One thing that is essential in building a new stadium for the Yankees is it has to be grand and majestic. Although it comes across like a McMansion, Yankee fans will appreciate the Great Hall with pictures of Yankee greats from the past. The black and white banners were pre-60's and the color ones were of the 70's-80's era, the "cool" era. It's here that you'll find Steiner collectibles selling the remnants of the old stadium.
I turned a corner to walk the main concourse. This is the best feature of all the new ballparks out there. The Yankees have two concourses on two levels. ALL the fans have the opportunity to see the action up close while walking around the perimeter. It's much less the dungeon the old stadium was. Another good feature is the wideness of the concourse that came in handy when the clouds erupted with rain. Heavy rain. The rain in Yankee Stadium went on for two hours, delaying the game for an hour.
Meanwhile, I took in as much of the place that wasn't reserved for the "elite" fans. Did you know that the Yankees won 26 World Series? Well, you get reminded of that at every turn. 26 titles. Yankee fans have been reminding us that for almost ten years now. I'm sure they'll mention the 26 number for the next 50 years.
We can hope.
Also, the Yankees are quite generous in retiring numbers, retiring 15 numbers for 16 players. In the near future Mariano Rivera, Joe Torre and Derek Jeter will have their numbers retired, With Jeter and Torre, there will be no opportunity to wear a single digit number as a member of the Yankees in the future. Except the number "0". No Yankee will be allowed to wear that number, even if Al Oliver comes out of retirement.
Anyway, the rain let up, and the game between the Seattle Mariners and Yankees would resume. I was impressed that there were cheers for Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro when they walked on the field. It then dawned on me. In the 14 years I was in Seattle and with all the games I saw in the Kingdome and Safeco, I witnessed at least 4 future hall of famers play for the Mariners and three of them were on the field last night. A-Rod will go in the Hall Of Fame as a Yankee unless somehow the Yankees are able to move him. this is the second time I've seen these two teams meet live and not once was it in Seattle. I hate to say it, the Yankees are a much bigger draw in Seattle than the Mariners are in New York.
I bought the cheapest tickets available and went to my seat to take in the view. I was in the very last row, sheltered from the trickling rain behind the celebrated frieze. Guess what? The view was quite good. I saw all the field. It was far away but it didn't seem bad at all. It wasn't obstructed like the last row at new Shea. So I recommend getting these seats. As far as I'm concerned it beats the 2000 dollar seats. You get a great view of the whole stadium and of the neighborhood around the park. There is still boarded up structures across the street. I highly doubt that the neighborhood will benefit by the presense of the new building.
I never got a chance to see Monument Park because the rain made the line too long, that it shut down before I got in. The museum on the other hand was okay. It was cool to see Thurman Munson's locker and yes the World Series trophies from the six times they had received it since it was created in 1967.
The game? Well, the hometown fans got what they wanted. As a Mariners fan, I did not, of cours. Still it's cool to see Ichiro and Junior in a different setting. I left before the game was over, buying only ice cream for the souveneir helmet from every ballpark I've been to recently.
So, my ranking of this park to the other 6 new ballparks I've been to? (Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle, Mets, Baltimore) I rate these based on several criteria.
Was it necessary to build?
Is it an improvement over the old park?
Does it improve the surrounding areas?
Is it more fan friendly?
Is it more comfortable?
It's the worst. It's the most expensive of all of them and doesn't look like it from the fan's point of view. I heard the players have it great, but I'm not a player so that means nothing to me.
It's way too gray. All the other parks I've been to have some splash of color. The gate signs outside the stadium looks cheap. The cracks on the floor is aleady out of hand and already the garbage is piling up.
It doesn't improve the surrounding area. They tore down a park and haven't brought in new businesses. It seems it was built for people who will never set foot outside in the neighborhood. There were several bars and restaurants I wasn't able to enjoy because I didn't have the right ticket. They have these places right out there to remind the average fan how they don't matter.
They spend 1.5 BILLION dollars for a new ballpark and they don't change the layout one bit? The concourses are an improvement but the merchandise stands are generic, looking more so because the Yankees are one of the most generic team out there. A black and white color scheme limits the look.
The beer selection was poor and expensive to boot. Maybe there was a good selection in the clubs I wasn't allowed to go into.
There were some good parts...
Yankee fans will like this place. A lot of space is dedicated to Yankee history. The Mets struck out in this department. The World Series highlights and a scene dedicated to Yankee MVPs is terrific.
The food is good, if you have money to burn. A carving station is something unique and fit for Yankee fans.
It is majestic. The frieze is back and looks great from the farthest seats in the house. The stadium is well lit and there is a good spot to watch the action from right field but that pales compared to the Pepsi Porch at New Shea and the other ballparks I've been to.
The Mets play in a ballpark named after a corporation that got government handout. The Yankees on the other hand named it after themselves...
Wait a minute, the Yankees ARE a major corporation that gets government handouts.
In short, New Yankee stadium was unneeded. The new one doesn't break ground and doesn't improve the neighborhood, all at a cost of 1.5 billion dollars.