Initial Impressions

Last night I took my maiden voyage out to the new ballpark in the Bronx, joined by Ivan D. (aka AngelsFan), longtime friend and contributor to YFSF. For better company one could not ask. Our seats, for as long as we stayed in them, were in the very front row of the left field bleachers, which gave us an excellent view of the action. By now the team has had the chance to work out a few of the kinks in the place, here are some of my thoughts:

-I've read a lot about how "monumental" the new place appears from the street, but to me it has the look of an overgrown post office. The hulking monster across the street is a lot more imposing. 

-The phalanx of turnstile entries is a big improvement. You get in quickly. It's not nearly the clusterfuck of the old park. Of course, there are a lot fewer people….

-The Great Hall, or whatever they call it, is also underwhelming; it's a nice space, but the team hasn't done much with it besides banners, and it crowds up pretty quickly.

-That video display is immense. And sharp. 

-The graphic standards are generally excellent (except on that video board), but there's not nearly enough wayfinding signage. 

-The upper deck is far away. And it really sucks, especially the top regions, where you're stuck in the dark under the overhang and the frieze. From the bleachers, it looks like it's in another time zone.

-The place is basically a giant food court where a game happens to be going on. Some people watch, some don't. It's like dinner theater. On the train ride home, a guy heard us chatting and just piped in "I call it a mallpark. It's not a ballpark." He was wearing all kinds of Yankee gear and he had a scorebook—this was a true baseball fan—and he was absolutely not happy about his seat relocation.

-As Ivan noted, fan diffusion is kind of an inversion of what it was at the old stadium. Back then, the good seats behind home plate and up the baselines were always packed, and then there'd be empty sections out at the far wings. Now it's the wings (ie, the cheap seats) that are packed, and the good seats that are sparsely occupied.

-The bleachers were packed. And the atmosphere was good and loud as ever, the sitelines excellent unless you were in obstructed seats. 

-Around the fifth, we moved to the concourse, and watched the rest of the game from basically right behind home plate. It was fantastic. And democratic. (Though everyone there was carping about how bad their actual seats were and the costs….) We made friends. "Everything about this place is unbelievable," said one woman, both impressed and outraged by it. By the 8th, the entire ring of the concourse was 5 deep with fans, which was nice but an indication of what a terrible missed opportunity the place is. You shouldn't have to line up like some kid at a construction site to get a great view, especially at these prices. You don't see this at other new ballparks. But at least it's possible.

-I was expecting the place to be quiet but it's not. It's loud, but diffuse loud, because the bowl of the stadium is so extended. No "Let's Go Yankees" chant broke out. There's no intimacy. The fans most likely to do the chanting are WAY far away from the stadium, and also from each other. 

-I thought the employees were making a big effort to be friendly. Not all of them, but most of them. The place has a jovial atmosphere. Winning helps.

-I spent $10 for an inedible pretzel and lemonade that was off. 

-Those who believe the carping about prices is media driven are mistaken. Many fans brought up the cost/caste structure absolutely unprompted. Here's another outrageous fact I had not realized and I think has been unreported: a Wall Streeter on the 4 train up to the ballpark was carping that his excellent season-tickets in the second rung actually cost TWICE their face value; the extra costs are justified as an access charge to the exclusive lounge/bar club behind the seats. By not placing that charge on the ticket, the Yanks shield profits from revenue sharing (according to the ticket holder; I'm not so sure). Certainly it makes it hard for sellers to recoup their money on the secondary market. And the lounges, with their $18 drinks, are empty. 

19 replies on “Initial Impressions”

Ya, I remember I mentioned that I thought it was PSL, but apparently that’s what it was – the access charge. It’s totally lame, and it made a 65$ ticket (excellent value) to an 115$ ticket (maybe for my first game here..)
My first game is tonight, so I’ll see how I feel!

Gerb, I made the same observation two weeks ago here, and therefore I concur with your description of YF’s uncanny abilities!
Oddly, the view below is the opposite of what you expect – filled to the brim behind home plate and above, and filtering out to the perimeter. Today it was inverted – empty seats galore at the heart, full at the fringe.

SF: This is a tough one. If the park is not sold out (with real “asses” {heheh} in 99% of the seats) when Boston comes to town, or on ANY weekend, what did the Yankees do?

Those who believe the carping about prices is media driven are mistaken. Many fans brought up the cost/caste structure absolutely unprompted.

Questionf for you guys up in NYC…are we going to have a game tonight??? We’re supposed to go out and watch the game and…

Overcast, darkish, cool. No precipitation at the moment, krueg. Skies are gray but not that threatening. No idea what the forecast is though.

Ya, I hope it gets called early or something. I have tickets to tonight’s game and it looks absolutely dreadful out..

> That video display is immense. And sharp.
Is it a technological feat that implemented as a good idea or a bad one?
Watch the game without watching the game. kinda don’t like it much. Because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Looks like from the radar that the worst of it is hitting NYC right now…nothing behind it. I really hope they play, I’ve had a tough week at work and need some frosty beverages and a Yankee victory! Of course, I don’t need all the shit I get from the redneck Cardinal fans down here but what can you do? Yankee fans are marks, especially in the God-forsaken South…

I just don’t want to go all the way up to the Bronx (from Brooklyn) just to see it rain out!

Having finally visited Yankee Stadium 2.0 on Saturday I have some personal reflections I’d like to share. The awfulness of the game allowed me to reflect on them that much more. Bear with me.
First up, I hated, absolutely so, the idea of building a new stadium if it meant destroying the old playing field. As it became more obvious that was never going to be an option, I raged and then even more when the new plan, replacing public parks with grass covered parking garages, took shape. But I did almost nothing to take these feelings and apply them. My one bit was exchanging emails with a fellow in the Bronx who was fighting the Yankees, and suggesting they push to have the old park given national and/or local historical landmark status. I gave no money and did nothing. My one contribution was a half-baked idea.
So having attended my last games at the old place, I’ve long reconciled the change. It’s not change I believed in, not even close, but it was change I came to slowly accept. No doubt that eye on the game colors my current opinions and I think I may be overcompensating to see how necessary it was. Without a doubt the new park is a vast improvement, improvements both small and grand, over the old place. The more I studied the more I came to recognize that these upgrades would not have been possible with the old structure. That’s not to say there aren’t flaws. There are plenty of flaws. But the more I thought about them, the more it became obvious I was nitpicking, even as many can be addressed, especially relative to the experience in the old place. With that prelude, my comments should be seen in the light they occurred to me. In my first game in this park, I found myself not comparing to what it could have been, but to what it was supposed to improve upon. There the Yankees clearly succeeded even as I have some clear problems.
The Yankees had some low bars to hit to improve the ballpark experience for its fans. They needed a stadium where the concourses could accommodate the large swells, the game flowed through the park, seats where watching the action meant comfort for every price level, and finally where history was updated and re-rooted. I have to say that they succeeded beyond my wildest dreams on all of these basic roles. Entering into the stadium at Gate 6 a large crowd was lined up at the first few turnstiles Smartly, they had a ballpark attendant directing fans, of which only a few were paying attention, to the much shorter lines only 20 feet further down 161st. I immediately noticed what YF had pointed out by looking back and forth at the old and the new. The old place was much more imposing. But this new place is much more inviting – more turnstiles and more windows suggests this a park worth exploring. The difference in stature though is glaring. On entry, it’s less a cathedral and more a mausoleum. The black and white photos tell a story of what was rather than what could be.
Turning the corner and seeing the field for the first time, it’s jarring how close it looks to the old place. I got the same feeling as when I was a kid in seeing the old immense field surface. And on the Main Level the huge technology influence in centerfield is lost until you’re just about to enter the seats. Looking around, it’s immediately a calm reflection on a new, but familiar, place that you can easily take in and study. As Belth points out there are few nooks to get lost in, but to me that’s a huge plus. It’s open and freeing where the last place was dank and dark. Visiting every level, and with wide open ramps, the same feeling takes root. This is a ballpark where I was less likely to get lost in stank of capitalism. The field demands your attention because it’s right there and rarely out of view. The assorted billboards and menus easily lose this battle for my eyes… until I sit down. I noticed all the shops and foodstuffs, but I was drawn more to the field.
With seats in 314, it’s crazy how much it feels like the upper deck in the old joint. You look around, see the steep incline (but not as drastic) upward to the lights and you look down with the field a good bit closer. Looking toward the right field corner is almost an exact replica of that sightline. Then you look up and the edifice in centerfield demands your worship. The screen is so large and so clear it seem like a magnifying glass for the rest of the park. You want to look there to look closer at everything else. But it’s in that role that the screen completely fails as a technological leap forward. Rather than giving fans greater intimacy, as the rest of the experience has primed me for, it masters superficiality. The first thing I should see on that screen a half hour before the first pitch is the lineups. But they’re nowhere to be found. I’ll keep looking at the screen throughout the game (especially trying to find things like pitch count and speed) and yet the only time it serves its purpose is when showing replays. Even then, the controversial, and close, plays aren’t shown and there’s no effort to further promote the game in the way that you’re used to when seeing a big screen – no close-ups of the dugout, shots of the on-deck circle, or views of baserunners taking a lead. Instead, we get a loose diarrhea of crowd shots – feigned expressions, silly dances, and interested egos. Baseball becomes what happens in-between the audience exhibitions.
Centerfield is a further mess based on how much is jammed in there – commercially, historically, architecturally, and still technologically. Besides the screen not being used well, the glare of the restaurant gives it the glossy look of shiny lips but with a butter face. There is nothing beautiful about centerfield. It vamps for attention but you soon realize how empty it is. The endless signs demand you read them but not one transforms the commercial affiliates . Somehow a watch company, with their cheap but double-branded clock, makes me less likely to buy their product. The ridiculous font on the interior label of the stadium looks out of place amidst all the sans serif and absurd once you realize you’re being reminded, in twenty foot letters, of where you are. Then, as you look closer, you see the completely wasted opportunities. The retired numbers and championship years are buried on back walls behind the bleachers. Monument Cave looks like a few whispers of hair on the double chin underneath those glossy lips. And because the whole area is loud and flashing, the potentially intimate details, including the manual scoreboards, are completely lost within the rest of the stadium. The centerpiece is a red light district, without any framing of the surrounding city, one that drags you back as a voyeur even after you’ve tried to escape to think and watch quietly. The only solace is walking around the park and catching views from almost every angle. Especially on the main level, the overhangs mostly block centerfield and allow more of a focus on the field.
By the 7th inning, my Dad decided to take off to end the misery of a 30 year old rookie throwing a three-hitter, and being by myself, I used it as an opportunity to test the vaunted security apparatus guarding the lower level sections. In my first attempt to the right of homeplate the guard turned around just as I scooted past. I thought if I kept walking he’d let me go. But the bugger chased me down, probably because I was walking just a bit too quickly, and demanded to see my ticket. I showed him my printout, and seeing the 314, he simply said “You’re in the wrong section” and I meekly ran back toward the concourse. Walking around and seeing how the guards were positioned, they had obviously been trained. But, human nature being what it is, within five minutes I found a distracted guard and made my way 15 rows, and one concrete and steel barrier, from third base where I watched the last two innings. I made a mental note that the section guards don’t carry ticket scanners, and if we fans wanted to wreak minor havoc, or at least sit in empty seats in almost section we want, a little Photoshop goes a long way. Next time, I will be sitting in the section I got kicked out of. Sure they can raise the stakes and put scanners throughout the park, but they’re in no PR position to do so.
Overall, and in comparison to the old place, they got the big things right. This stadium is more open, more accessible, and more inviting…until you sit down. Once in your seat, the centerfield hooker is as cheap as she looks. But the more I reflected on those things, the more it became obvious how easy they are to change and many will as the team gets its senses. Replace the glossy glass of the restaurant with something with a flatter finish. Utterly destroy the twenty-foot letters and find a way to put the retired numbers and championship flags atop the huge screens. The technology should be subjugated to, and framed by, the history. Right now it lords over the field. Monument Park needs to be brought out into the open, and that would further serve to ground the field. Swapping it with the visiting bullpen would seem to be the best solution based on the history, but if not, putting it on top of the restaurant and keeping it open all game long would certainly help. I hope the technology directors begin to understand that HD is an opportunity to get more intimate looks at the game, not a continual stream of silly faces in the crowd. Finally, the pre-game access policies need to change and I have little doubt they will. Though, to put these things into proper perspective, all of these complaints, even moving Monument Park, are relatively minor. HOK got the big things right and they deserve credit for trying something innovative with the batter’s eye. They got that, and the rest of centerfield, utterly wrong but there’s plenty of time to get it right. Unfortunately, it will probably be another thirty years or more before they have the wisdom to fix the most egregious mistake and move back across the street.
Grade: B+
Quick shots:
Food: None. We ate an early lunch at the Court Deli (161st Street, $20 for two huge sandwiches and a side of “disco fries”) and brought in water and snacks from a local convenience store. At the Court they say business is down and the line was noticeably shorter. Once in the stadium and looking at the menus and the fare, nothing tempted me nor stood out. That wasn’t surprising. Perhaps the free food with the trust fund seats is worth paying for, but then that section isn’t open to SOBs like me.
Noise: I thought the place was as loud as similar crappy games I’ve been to. In the open air, it does seem like the noise in more dispersed especially on coordinated cheers and the roll call. But sitting in the lower section, even with a 30% full park at that point, I thought it was very loud. It will be interesting to see how a full park sounds and feels and from different places. If most fans were like Sam and I, they’re still getting used to the joint.
Experience: They’ve been smart to hire Park guides, and they’re all over the place, so if you’re not shy you can get quick answers to questions. Entry took less than thirty seconds after we navigated around the long lines at the first turnstiles of Gate 6. The section guards aren’t overly off-putting, if you stay in the public places. From those, you can get many very good sightlines. If you choose to test the section security, be slick or be okay with getting slightly embarrassed.

Nice write-up, Rob.
Sounds like you had a good time, and that’s an excellent point about the guards carrying ticket scanners:)

Thanks Brad . We did, except for the game itself which blew.
It will be fun testing my skills. Besides, what are they going to do? Arrest me for trespassing? Ha! We’re born free and learn to accept control (or don’t!).

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