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Friday, April 17, 2009

At New Stadium, a Distant Crowd

Just before the first pitch at the new Yankee Stadium was thrown, the bat that Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run in the old Yankee Stadium was placed across home plate. Afterward in the dugout, Yankee players and staff alike, were seen marveling at the 40+ oz. hickory club that the Great Bambino brandished. It was a spectacular end to what had otherwise become just one of any another thrice yearly self-aggrandizing Yankee pre-game spectacles.

There was, however, something different about this game (other than the new digs). Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated and Peter Abraham of the Journal News both noticed it. Despite the historic game and its pitchers duel (through six innings), the crowd was eerily quiet. Muted, even.

Verducci took the polite root, blaming this very un-Bronx crowd on the stadium's construction. He noted:

Only time will tell, as its opening day hinted, if the Yankees lost something in gaining such an elegant manor. For as much as the Yankees planned for and built a worthy heir to its two forefathers, neither money nor architects can create the atmosphere that makes a building a ballpark. For one day, and even before the Indians turned a pitchers' duel into a 10-2 rout with a nine-run seventh inning, Yankee Stadium sounded nothing like the old place. It sounded much quieter, much more refined.

Verducci: New Stadium an instant classic

Verducci went on to point out the most striking difference between the old and new parks, the upper decks. In the old stadium, when you sat in the upper deck, you still felt near to the game. The seats were practically draped over the lower decks and onto the field. In other words, you got some bang for your buck. Not so, anymore.

The Yankees made a dramatic statement with their new stadium. They said, "if you think you can get away with seeing our ballgame for (relatively) cheap (as compared to the prices in the lower decks), then you had better pack binoculars....Also, make sure to bring said binoculars in a plastic bag, no backpacks are permitted on the premises."

There was more to the quiet than the distance, though. Abraham may have hit the nail on the head when he wrote that "You have to wonder if the Yankees priced the real fans out of the place and are left with a wine-and-cheese crowd." With the average price of a ticket at Yankee Stadium at $72.97, outside the bleachers ($14), Yankee games are no longer an event for the average fan.

In the mid-to-late 1990's, George Steinbrenner raised a stink about attendance. Due to traffic congestion and safety concerns, he said not enough fans were coming to games. Steinbrenner challenged fans in 1998. He said that if the Yankees drew 3 million fans, he would "consider" keeping them in the Bronx, instead of finding a new home for them in upper-Manhattan.

While the Yankees would go on to bring in 3 million attendees that year, the extra attendance apparently only guaranteed the fans that the Yankees would stay in the Bronx. The Yankees' devoted followers heeded Steinbrenners call and streamed into the old Yankee Stadium and when the new Stadium was built, they found themselves in a Bronx home with fewer, but more expensive seats, completely devoid of the intimacy that had made the old place the greatest stadium in baseball. Those fans have now been taken out of the game.
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  1. i guess no one can please new yorkers.

    at the same time that citifield is getting ripped because the proximity of the stands to the field is obscuring some of the outfield in some seat locations, here comes this blog entry that the size of the new yankee stadium causes a loss of intimacy and why, oh, why can't we have it like the old stadium when the grandstand hung over the field... and obscured the outfield in many seat locations.

    make up your mind!

  2. This is an issue across many sports. For the sake of making money, teams are likely to build new stadiums with a plethora of luxury suites and charge lots of money for seats that the average person can no longer realistically afford. There's no denying that this creates a "wine and cheese" crowd; if you are not convinced, watch a Lakers game at Staples Center and pay attention to how invested (or not) the crowd is.

    As far as the differences between Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, I suppose that just shows the difference between Yankee fans and Mets fans. :D

  3. Gary, unless I missed something, Graham didn't offer an opinion on Citifield. He doesn't have to "make up his mind." This is his opinion on Yankee Stadium.

  4. GAX - Other stadiums aside, the issue here is that New York residents (and Yankee fans in general) paid a lot of money to keep the Yankees in the Bronx, but that money went to a facility that offers a lesser value product at a higher price.

  5. But the real question comes down to karma -- will the Yankees be cursed by this new stadium?

    Regardless, it gets harder and harder every year for me to root for them.

  6. Gregory - While the real Yankee curse has been poor team formulation, there is something to the "karma" factor. Derek Jeter used to refer, often, to the "ghosts" of the old stadium. Yankee Stadium was an intimidating place for visiting teams. It wasn't just the rabid fans who hung over the field in the upper decks, it was the two dozen world series' and three dozen pennants. There are countless stories of visiting players (and new Yankees) being overwhelmed by the history and spotlight of Yankee Stadium. We'll have to wait and see if that effect carries over.

  7. you missed my point or maybe i didn't malke it clear.

    no HE didn't make any comment about citifield... but the talk on WFAN and everywhere else about citifield is largely complaints that they made the stadium so intimate and so small with the upper decks hanging over the field and as a result the outfield views are obstructed - just like they were at the old yankee stadium.

    and now here's this blog entry about the new yankee stadium yearning for the old intimate stadium with upper decks hanging over the field - which is the cause of obstructed views!

    so my point is that i guess new yorkers can't be pleased because one place wants it bigger so you can see everything and the other wants it smaller and intimate - which is the cause of not being able to see everything.

    i wasn't saying that graham should make up his mind, but that in general, new yorkers should make up their minds, because you can't have it both ways.

    got it?

  8. Good point.

    But I would have been glad to make up my mind when the stadium was being developed. Unfortunately however, taxpayers weren't consulted. So, since the only design critique I'm granted is in retrospect, it'll have to do.

  9. taxpayers weren't consulted/considered on a lot of things having to do with this stadium project, to say the least.


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