Friday, April 3, 2009

New Yankee Stadium Inspires, Looks to the Future and Remembers the Past

So, how was your cool, damp Friday night?


Mine was better.

After six stifling hours of class, subsisting on cheap sushi and stuff you get out of the vending machine, my friend Brent and I headed to the New Yankee Stadium to catch the exhibition Cubs-Yankees game.

Okay, I lied. We headed to the new Stadium, but not so much to watch the game as we did to see the Stadium, which would explain why we were in our seats through innings 2-4, and then did not return to them for the rest of the game.

What was on the field to a back seat (once, and only once) to the building in which it was situated.

Brent and I arrived at the Stadium around 7.30, as my last class did not let out until 10-to-seven (I purchased the tickets conveniently forgetting the scheduling mishap, knowing only that I would not be able to attend Saturday's game).

The new Stadium, even from the outside, looked amazing in the dying evening light:

The ticket scanners are automated, which is kind of futuristic, but I think it's still a little, well, kinky

Upon entering the Stadium, the first thing that strikes you is the Great Hall, which at once pays homage to the past with banners honoring past Yankee greats and invites the future with a giant indoor LCD screen. However big you think that screen is on TV or in pictures, it's bigger.

After standing in awe and various incantations of OHMIG-DHOLYSHIT, Brent and I made our way to our Grandstand seats.

We went up, and then up again, and up some more, and still we were not as high as we needed to go: when we finally ended up in section 434, row 10, we were higher than both the flag pole and the foul pole, and the rumor that the upper deck is recessed is very, very true. While there was no problem seeing any of the players, the players themselves were so small that one had to remember there was a game going on at all. Still, you really can see EVERYTHING, even the screens by the obstructed view seats, so complaining would seem inappropriate.

However, there was so much else to see, that this minor detail is really, well, a minor detail. We sat and watched the game for a couple innings. Some people hit, Matsui hit a home run, and that screen in center field will eat your children alive.

The field itself, however, is very reminiscent of the old Stadium. Since the dimensions are the same, all you have to do is forget everything that surrounds the field, and you may very well find yourself whisked back to 1923 or 1977, your choice.

After the fourth inning, Brent and I decided to scope out the culinary options. Most of the really attractive food options are on the lower level, and, compared to the old stadium, at least, there really are options!

We had an adventure getting downstairs--we tried first to take the elevator, but after a ten minute wait decided to follow some other people down the stairs. However, it seems we took the wrong stairwell, as we ended up not on the main concourse as we'd hoped, but instead inside the press gate (marble floors? Guys in suits staring at you like you've just gone to meet the Queen in your pajamas? Yeah. Press gate). The concierge there was nice enough to point us in the right direction--first day at a new place, you are bound to get lost--but I wouldn't count on the same politeness in the middle of July, when fans have had the chance to 'break in' the new building.

One caveat, however: the food options are all still Stadium food: lots of fried, greasy, midnight snack, ramen noodle types...which is fine, unless you are me and suffer from a very sensitive stomach. The options now are better than they were, in that I can eat salmon roll and some of the candy options, but then again, if I really cared about my food options that much, I wouldn't go to the games.

I also, on the advice of a friend, checked out the bathrooms: there really are twice as many women's rooms as men's rooms, and the one room I entered had something like 20 stalls. The stalls are Spartan in appearance, but it doesn't look like us she-fans will have to deal with long waits.

After working our way across the lower level, incuding stops in the team store (I bought a t-shirt that may or may not actually fit, a shot glass and a program; I'll buy the media guide when I return on the 18th) and going past the entrance to the sports bar by the bleachers, Brent and I worked our way up the ramp and to the Yankee Museum which is, believe it or not, a museum.

It's a very *small* museum, perhaps the size of the dorm room where I am spending the evening, and the main exhibit is a collection of baseballs ostensibly signed by as many players and important personnel as possible--there are balls ranging from Babe to Brett (Gardner) to Carl Pavano to Yogi Berra to Mariano Rivera to pick your era, pick your player. There's no real sense of organization to the baseballs, they aren't by number, alphabetical, by position or chronological; a computer at the exhibit entrance lets you choose the player you wish to see and tells you where to find his baseball, or you can do as Brent and I did and just look and see who you find.

Wil Nieves even has a baseball, and his name is spelled Will Nieves...Brent has a picture but it's too late for me to go searching through his files.

By the time we left the museum, it was the middle of the eigth inning, and since I wanted to get this post up before having to call it in for the night, we said good bye, albeit temporarily to the new Stadium.

Still, no place is perfect, especially on night one, and it would do to point out some of the flaws-mostly minor, though one major.

The major flaw/annoyance/what have you, that I found is that there seemed to be an ever-present reminder as to whether you were seated in the lower bowl, the loge-ish level, the terrace or the upper deck--in the baseball stadium world, as close to pure class distinctions as you will find.

The staff seems to be incredibly strict about letting people into a seating area--which means that even if you spot empty seats even just a section lower than the one your ticket is for, you will have a hard time gaining entry. I understand the need for security, but does New York really need any more reminders of the difference between those that can afford to park their cars in midtown and those for whom attending a game in a halfway-decent seat is a major expense?

The other thing--the bleacher seats next to the bar really are obstructed in the periphery--if you're seated there, you'll have no problem seeing in front of you or towards one side, but the other side will be blocked. It seems odd that a $1 billion park would not have this fault corrected, but we must remember that Yankee Stadium, in any form, is built by men and not, in fact, by the baseball g-ds.

Over all, the conclusion I drew was this:

The new Stadium is not the same as the old Stadium. If you can get past that, if you can observe the new Stadium for itself and only itself, you will be impressed--it is the most up-to-date ballpark/arena in New York City, and while the Prudential Center is a marvel, the new Yankee Stadium is a baseball palace--but if you look at it in comparison to the old Stadium, there probably will be some disappointment.

The thing to remember, however, is that the old Stadium itself was not all that spectacular--it was everything that occured on the field that made it what it was. The new Stadium may or may not create similar memories (hopefully it will), but unlike the old Stadium, it, itself, is an attraction.

So, should you go to the new Stadium? Yes. And make sure you don't go just once--go twice.

Go the first time so you can marvel at the Stadium in all its granduer and spend the entire game just wandering around, seeing what's there and what's hidden away, and go a second time (with better seats) so you can see and enjoy the baseball game.

The new Stadium is everything you'd expect from something Yankees--behemoth, grand, classic and just a little bit flawed.

And since we must always end with the Sandman:

Up next:


  1. thanks for sharing rebecca!

    mike eff

  2. oh i forgot to ask you--was it very windy there tonight or were the balls flying out maybe because of the open concourses? any ideas on that?

  3. Great job on the night shots! (What kind of camera did you use?) You did even more exploring of the new Stadium than I did during the workout on Thursday. My ballpark photography blog also plenty of shots from Spring Training last month in Florida. Check it out and enjoy the memories (there are a pair of postings on the original pre-renovation Stadium).

  4. Mike; It was pretty windy.

    Mike M: I use a Canon Powershot SD 630. It's a relatively cheap handheld, but it probably means more to me than anything else I have save maybe my computer

  5. Love the pics....I think i filled my memory card full of pics last night. I agree about the different classes of seating. I was asked to present my ticket almost every time I returned to my seats. When are you headed to your next game?

  6. Thanks for sharing Rebecca. Awesome pictures.

  7. Rebecca, this was so great I had to blog it and link to it from our blog. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Wow awesome job putting together all these pictures Rebecca. Just a tip if you want to upgrade your seats without upgrading from the peasants to the nobles, carry so much food and drinks in your hand so that you can't even take out your ticket to show the attendant. I used it in the old stadium effectively.

  9. Hi Rebecca, great read. I hope to come down from Toronto some time in July and check it out. Before the Blue Jays came to town, I too was a Yankees fan. I still root for them, but don't tell anybody in T.O.

    The Captain,
    PS maybe you'll let me re-post your article on

  10. Sure, feel free to share it! I'd be honored!

  11. Coming late to this post - playing catch-up, you know - but this was great, Rebecca. Super pictures, great overview of your first experience in the new stadium. Can't wait to experience it for myself!