Summer in the City

Last Friday was a weird day. I planned on attending the new Yankee Stadium for the first time with a Saturday matinee against the White Sox. But given that I just golfed in the searing heat that has gripped the country and the last thing I could think about was sitting in a stadium under a hot sun, I decided to sell my tickets back to StubHub and go to the stadium another time (since I only live an hour and a half away). Saturday Morning, I woke up and came to my senses. This was a stadium visit! So after double checking with the wife, I bought a pair of tickets again (only a net loss of $2) and we were back on. Normally, I wouldn’t pick a day game in the middle of summer, but at night we were heading into Manhattan for a Broadway show.

So through the heat we went and it wasn’t all that bad. After driving to Secaucus, NJ, taking the train to Manhattan, then taking the D line to the Bronx we arrived at Yankee Stadium. I am a Yankee hater, but vowed to visit putting all those feelings aside and have an impartial take on the stadium. It started out very well as the exterior is a beautiful limestone with a striking image to the appearance of the old stadium (pre 1970s renovation). After walking through the impressive Great Hall, we ventured to Monument Park. It was 11:30 AM, a full hour and a half before game-time and the park was closed as the line snaked on forever. How early do you have to come to see this thing? So, we headed to the other attraction, the Yankees Museum. After a good 45 minute wait, in we went to a decent little museum. Though, I feel it should have been much bigger to accommodate the crowds and include more of a detailed Yankee history timeline, there are some really good things in here. The recreation of the Perfect Game with Don Larsen and Yogi Berra is impressive as are the displays of World Series rings and trophies. We wandered around the three wide and main concourses for awhile, occasionally greeted by the super-nice (almost manufactured nice) ushers. Though if I heard “Welcome to Yankee Stadium” one more time I was going to lose it.

For the game, we sat up in the 400-level grandstand, which provided both shade and a good vantage point of the game. We also got to be close to the iconic frieze that the Yankees returned to the front of the roof on the main seating level. The whole interior is well done and though I missed the steep and close upper-levels of the old stadium, the set-up here is decent. Outfield appearance is great too with the use of the bleachers (though there are obstructed views) and a monster, clear scoreboard that helps block a little of the bleak Bronx skyline. Two main points with the new stadium are that it is essentially a cathedral to honor the storied history of the Yankees and many of the features from the old stadium exist here, just in an improved form (the frieze, closer bleachers, Monument Park, the exterior, to some extent the seating shape, the short porch, etc). Overall, I really did like the new stadium and feel that it is better than Citi Field….however, there are two features here that are big turnoffs:

Cost is the main one. A Yankees game was already a pricey venture to begin with. Between the $35 parking garages (just use the great NYC transit system and avoid the parking, tolls and traffic) and the insane concession costs ($4 for a small bag of Lay’s Potato Chips!) to the ticket prices, expense has kept some fans away. With tickets, you now have nearly half of the pricing levels in the stadium costing over $100 per game! The one good part is that nearly 30% of the stadium are the Bleacher and Grandstand seats and these sections have stayed affordable (between $15 – $30). Of course, luxury and club seating was going to be a big part of the new experience, but the debacle that is the “Legends Suite” was a huge mistake. The closest seats to the field are normally half empty, even during playoff games, as many cost between $1000 and $1500. This has taken away from the other factor that made the old stadium special….atmosphere. It just doesn’t feel or seem the same here. Maybe, because it is a bigger stadium or the fans are now of a different class. When I think of Yankee atmosphere, this video comes to mind with the passion, noise and atmosphere. I haven’t seen anything come close to that yet in the new stadium during playoff games I’ve seen on TV.

With that being said, where we were sitting, it did get loud in the Grandstand and there is still a better than average atmosphere in the park. It was great to see all the Yankee traditions be maintained in the new stadium: the Bleacher Creature’s first inning “Role Call”, the grounds crew doing the “YMCA” in the 6th, “God Bless America” in the 7th, “New York, New York” after a win and of course 2Unlimited’s “Workaholic” after a home run. Unlike losing some other historic sports venues, I’m OK with the Yankees building a new stadium as the old one lost it’s historic tag after the 1974-1975 renovation. The new ballpark really is great and there a ton of features to like…it’s just a shame how expensive a game can be.

As for the game itself, the Bronx Bombers were their true selves as three solo homers powered them to an easy 4-0 win. Hiroki Kardoa was stellar with 11 strikeouts and only 3 hits given up. Him and Jake Peavy helped to make for a quick game in an un-Yankee like 2:25. Afterwards, we jammed into the subway back to Manhattan, where the wife and I enjoyed some dinner at Sosa Borella and then took in a Broadway Show. We saw the Book of Mormon and though I’m not exactly a guy up on Broadway shows, this one was unbelievably awesome and funny. Highly recommended. Overall, it was great day in the city. Yankee Stadium‘s review has been posted here and within a week Stadium Journey will have my updated review as well.

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