The NYT’s Ill-Conceived Backdoor Stadium Endorsement

In an editorial today, the NYT rightly argues that the public should not be granting sweetheart deals to the Jets, Nets, and Yanks, all of whom are looking for monster handouts from the public to build themselves new stadia. That’s fine as far as it goes, but we haven serious qualms about the Times’s tacit endorsement of both the Nets and Yankee projects, should the financing be more equitably distributed. We’ll set the Nets project aside here, but what the paper says about the proposed new Yankee stadium in Macombs Dam Park is disturbing. Apparently, this new park would be accaptable to the paper if the team:

-spends some (how much?) money on upgrades to the South Bronx
-pays for its own garage
-replaces the parkspace it uses for its new stadium elsewhere
-preserve the stadium “facade”

Hasn’t the Times jumped the gun here? Why is it even suggesting that a new ballpark is something the City should be willing to accept under any circumstances? Shouldn’t there be some kind of public discussion here before the Times goes off making endorsements? The last point on the above list indicates just how ill-conceived the paper’s position is. Save the facade? That’s the one part of the Stadium that really does not need saving. It’s no longer “historic,” and it’s not especially distinguished. The truth is that Yankee Stadium is a dump right up to the moment you walk through one of its tunnels and that field appears before you. Then it’s a magical place. Fifty-seven thousand fans packed cheek-by-jowl and hovering right over the field. When the place is packed—and its condition seems to be doing nothing to keep people away—it’s the most electric public space in New York. This would all be lost in a new park. ADA rules don’t allow for the kind of tight seating that gives the Stadium its energy, and the paying public would be removed from the field by massive luxury suites. There’d also be less room for the public: this new Stadium will—no surprise here—charge more for fewer seats.

We could go on about why a new park is unnecessary, and how the present park might be renovated, but the point here is that the idea should not be taken as some kind of foregone and acceptable conclusion by the paper of record.

19 comments… add one
  • Not much I disagree with here, but thinking that a new stadium is undesirable because ADA rules might lessen the energy at such a place is unacceptable. We should all wish for a public space that actually acts for the public, and not against some segment of it. I find this point particularly repellent, and that YF makes it (I know him to be a design sensitive and savvy observer) is quite a shock.

    SF March 27, 2005, 8:11 pm
  • Shock? It’s pretty much a demonstrated case at this point that the wider aisles and seating arrangements required by ADA have had an impact on the way stadiums are seated. The kind of seating arrangements you have at Fenway, the Stadium, and Wrigley are simply not possible now. But the poSFint is essentially moot, as no owner would opt for that kind of seating arrangement anyway; the new “mall” style aisles and seats facilitate circulation to high profit concession and retail spaces and allow for a more family-style “luxury” environment.
    If SF thinks this is repellent, we’d point out that he’ll hear the same thing from no less an authority than Janet Marie Smith, the Sox chief architectural advisor and the brains behind Camden Yards. Here’s Smith, from an interview on the Business of Baseball website:
    “Of course, all the rules that come with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), frequent number of aisles in order to be able to sell a certain number of box seats and not having fans stepping over 20 people. And a construction methodology that says lets not have any columns, lets pull the upper deck far enough back that you can see the trajectory of the ball. If you do all of those things, even if you only put in 30,000 seats, you’re 1½ times as large as Fenway is, because Fenway and Wrigley were built to completely different set of standards. There is an energy to Yankee Stadium that you’re not going to find someplace that’s designed for all these sort of wonderful things that allow you to stay there with your newspaper and never be disturbed.”

    YF March 27, 2005, 8:40 pm
  • The fact is that she is right, and you are too. Sure, ADA is restrictive. But it’s also fundamentally inclusive. So it’s just too bad that the ADA puts a crimp in your stadium-enjoying experience, YF. Your understanding of what it does to the design of an arena is impressive, but also incredibly selfish, elitist, and yes, repellent. Your explanation for your horrid position is to pass it off on Ms. Smith and to try to make her look bad in your stead. Weak stuff.

    SF March 27, 2005, 9:31 pm
  • My explanation was clear. That Ms. Smith, the foremost expert on baseball stadium design in the country, seems to share it is a demonstration of its validity; it’s not the explanation itself.
    In any case, the “selfish, elitist, repellent” line of attack is (a) bullshit and (b) utterly missing the point. New stadiums can be wonderful, energetic, inclusive places–as they should be. But what they offer is by nature different than what our few remaining antique stadiums provide. And we shouldn’t throw them away to make a few extra bucks.

    YF March 27, 2005, 10:20 pm
  • It simply does not miss the point. We agree on basically everything else about the route to a new stadium – I make that point clear immediately in my first comment. But I find the criterion you cite, that the ADA makes places less energetic, to be invalid as a reason not to build. It’s a shame that the ADA restrictions create vast, wide-aisled structures that don’t allow the same kind of cramped and frenetic places like Fenway or Wrigley. But that shame is more than compensated for in the spirit and in the execution of the statutes. What your experience and memories define as energetic and intimate are to this date unavailable to a certain segment of the population in any form whatsoever, and that’s pretty damn indecent.
    So we can agree – new stadia should be undertaken with very serious considerations of many factors, and most of those have to do with the public good. But having to design with the ADA in mind isn’t one of those that goes in the “nay” column, and I find your “valid” observation just a backhanded way of decrying the legislation; the fact that it makes your own stadium experience a bit less intimate is simply not a good reason not to build. All the others you cite are. We actually don’t even need to get as far as the ADA.
    Mind you, I do think that if retrofitting is the way out in lieu of new construction, then everything possible should be done to ensure accessibility, even it means displacing a few higher paying and long-time season ticket holding customers down near the field (hell, especially if it means that) back up to the cheapies.

    SF March 28, 2005, 6:46 am
  • Again, you’re missing the point. What we have now is both special and not replicable for–yes–a variety of reasons, ADA being one of them. We shouldn’t junk it, because we’re not going to get anything like it again. I’m not an expert on the intricacies of the ADA. You’re going to have to find another patsy for that debate.

    YF March 28, 2005, 9:40 am
  • OK, so ADA makes rebuilding Yankee Stadium like it is currently impossible. So what? That’s not a good reason not to build a new stadium. There are TONS of other, far more valid reasons. What’s so hard to grasp? What are you missing about what I am saying? You made ADA a point of your argument, not me, and you continue to evade responsiblity for your own post, sloughing it off on others, making it sound like you were just making a simple observation. I find it, in spirit, an offensive observation, if that’s all it is.
    But if you won’t say it clearly then I will say it for you, in all of its offensiveness: one reason you don’t want a new stadium is because of the restrictions ADA would place on the design, and you value the existing design more than you value equitable accessibility for those with disabilities. You don’t even acknowledge the proposal I made about retrofitting the current stadium in places to accommodate those with disabilities, so who’s paying attention here?
    It’s not so hard to say, what I think you mean. But it’s not very pretty, either.

    SF March 28, 2005, 10:10 am
  • What’s not very pretty is your demagogic, rovian, smearing debate technique. Pull the (ADA-compliant) poll out of your ass. “You value the existing design more than you value equitable accessibility for those with disabilities” is a false apposition. Your comment regarding retrofitting the current facility for ADA did not warrant a response, as neither I not you have any idea whether such work is even necessary. (My guess: the Stadium complies with all current laws; if it doesn’t that’s another story.)
    That’s it for YF on this thread. If you want to paint me as some foe of the diabled, knock yourself out. It’s wrong, but that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for you.

    YF March 28, 2005, 10:42 am
  • Oh, please, Rovian? You’ve got to be kidding. I only attacked a point you made yourself. Cut out of the discussion if you want, but this is typical stuff – can’t defend your position, paint me as the attacker (note: no attacks until you opened yourself up to one), cut out when it gets too untenable. Move on, fine. We know where you stand. I agreed with about 99% of what you posted, but since I don’t agree with 100% of it I am somehow the Rovian one. How ironic.
    (And screw the cripples)

    SF March 28, 2005, 11:03 am
  • Smear away, then force me to sit here defending myself ad nauseum? No thanks. I’m busy, and, for that matter, I know SF is hard at work on the Bill Buckner Cinema for the Blind.

    YF March 28, 2005, 11:27 am
  • This is the best line: “My guess: the Stadium complies with all current laws”. I won’t venture a guess as to YF’s knowledge of NYC Building Code, but as a semi-competent design professional my own guess would be that Yankee Stadium is a poster child for non-compliance (how’s THAT for an ADA-type reference?). YF’s reflexive bias for the Bombers extends even in his assessment of their toilet/stadium. To be truthful, Fenway’s probably a bigger offender, so don’t bother trying that line as some sort of defense.
    Whether they are both in violation and grandfathered in some places I don’t know. I’ll call my expediter…

    SF March 28, 2005, 11:39 am
  • SF, wrong as usual. From the Yankee website:
    “Yankee Stadium has undergone major construction to provide easy access for our Guests with disabilities. Designed to meet new structural and service requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the following areas have been upgraded: restrooms, suites, ticket windows, drinking fountains, telephones concession counters and seating areas….Our goal is that your visit to our ever-improving Stadium will be a pleasant and memorable experience.”
    Need more info? The Yanks have an ADA Manager you can call, fax, or email:

    YF March 28, 2005, 12:10 pm
  • You cite words in a convenient fashion. The statement says that “the following areas” have been upgraded, which limits the scope of what is actually in compliance – my guess is, again, there’s a good deal of non-compliance within the park (that’s not the same as saying the stadium is violating the law in a prosecutable manner). Clearly the stadium is in compliance in places only where it needs to be in order to pass snuff. That’s different from saying the stadium itself is compliant, which you imply in your post, whether you think you do or not.
    And before you get all huffy, realize that I am just parsing words, though one would think that’s the territory of book editors and not design professionals.

    SF March 28, 2005, 12:25 pm
  • Word parsing isn’t necessary. If the Stadium, as a whole, is in compliance, then it’s in compliance. I’m not sure why or how it matters whether tier reserved section 29, row TT may or may not be. And that, in any event, is an entirely different discussion.

    YF March 28, 2005, 4:03 pm
  • Holy smokes!

    Clay March 28, 2005, 4:17 pm
  • Wrong (as usual, YF). The stadium may be in compliance, but that doesn’t mean it is completely compliant. There are tons of places in Yankee Stadium (and most other grandfathered stadia) that will never be able to be ADA compliant, no kidding. Usually places have to adhere to a minimum upgrade to comply, which one could still argue isn’t enough, but that’s subjective. And Yankee Stadium is hardly the worst offender – just take a look at our transit system for truly inaccessible and discriminatory architecture.
    But you dissemble, and continually. Let’s sum up, just to be clear, and then maybe we can move on. I believe that any discussion of a new stadium should have nothing, zero, nada, to do with the restrictiveness of the ADA (which, we agree, exists – it IS restrictive, kind of the point of the law – in a good way, though), whereas you think that the fact that it contributes to a less energetic environment makes it a valid criterion. On this we have a major philosophical disagreement. In fact, as I said, I find your position quite horrid.
    As for the merits of a new stadium in the Bronx, I believe that it is probably unnecessary – the dump that exists befits it typical occupants. But that’s a different thing altogether. Let’s cut the ADA out of it entirely and discuss the real demerits of a new construction plan (all those items you cite that would be detrimental to the public, and which I agree with).
    Simply put, the ADA doesn’t qualify as a valid reason not to build anew, and I don’t see why that’s such a tough admission for you to make.

    SF March 28, 2005, 5:16 pm
  • Are you intentionally channeling Joseph Heller? “The stadium may be in compliance, but that doesn’t mean it is completely compliant.” Like, maybe they should install a walker out in center for Bernie–he is a team debility! Then also something to help Jeets go to his left! BRILLIANT!
    My argument was that a new Yankee Stadium will never have the atmosphere of this Yankee Stadium, ADA being one of the reasons. If that fact makes you unhappy or think I’m one step up (down?) from Pat in There’s Something about Mary, I’m sorry.
    Why are we still discussing this?

    YF March 28, 2005, 5:43 pm
  • God, you guys make me laugh. Where else would I find a 2452-word discussion of Yankee Stadium’s ADA-compliance? Thanks!

    Anonymous March 29, 2005, 1:49 am
  • Let’s put the ADA aside for now. Yankee Stadium is Yankee Stadium, there is no other, and there can never be another. That’s for starters.
    I visit all of the Yankee sites that I see, good, bad, whatever, and half of those are by some guy who just rolled into town, and is going to the Stadium for the first time. He’s from Iowa, or Nebraska, and his lovely wife is with him. When he gets home he’s gonna’ create a website about his experience in the Bronx. He will write “the people are loud, there’s no place to park, the food in the Stadium is overpriced and tasteless, the aisles are narrow, as are the concourse, the place looks like crap and it takes a half hour to get out of there. My wife and I thought the entire evening was disgusting.” Other than that, Jethro, how’d you like the game?
    I was born and raised in South Philly, but have lived in Southern California most of my life. I live minutes from Angel Stadium, or whatever the hell they call it today, and I could see the Yankees there, but I fly to NY every summer to see the Yankees play in their kingdom. Angel Stadium was recently renovated, (not that it needed it) and it looks good, is spacious, has plenty of parking, (the ballpark was literally built in the middle of a parking lot) and damn good food. It has everything that you could want except the atmosphere of being at a ballgame. Build a new stadium for the Yankees and you will have Angel Stadium in the Bronx. You want gourmet food, go to a four star restaurant. You want space, go to the park. You want a faster exit, go to Shea. You want to experience a major league game, then go to Yankee Stadium. That’s where they play baseball, great baseball. Twenty-six titles speak for themselves.
    There isn’t a damn thing wrong with Yankee Stadium. It isn’t falling apart, it’s made of concrete and steel. If a wall has a bad crack, blast that section out and build a new one. The original configuration was something to behold, and should never have been tampered with. I was stunned when I saw that the facade was removed. It never occured to me that anyone would even consider doing that. That’s like changing the facial expression on the Mona Lisa. Look, the place was built to watch baseball, period. If it or any aspect of it offends you, don’t go. With a $90 ticket behind the plate selling for $500 you will be replaced quickly enough. There is no shortage of people wanting to see the game. The only people I hear bitching about Yankee Stadium are the ones who go there once, maybe twice. Go milk a cow, or a goat or something. When I go there I am always amazed at how intense it is. It’s beautiful, and anything else just wouldn’t do. Yankee Stadium is Yankee Stadium. Put it across the street and it’s Yankee Stadium across the street. Ain’t the same place. Visualize this. They build a new place at Macombs Dam Park, then the wrecking ball comes, and starts smacking the side of the Stadium until the walls start to collapse. Do I need to go on? A few months later there’s a parking lot there for the new joint. A PARKING LOT where Yankee Stadium used to be. This is no shit, I hope I’m gone before that ever happens.

    Eddie June 5, 2005, 4:34 am

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