Wednesday, April 22, 2009

That new ballpark of mine

I'm slowly working my way through last night's TV. (I already dropped a few "American Idol" thoughts in the comments on that post.) In the meantime, because several people asked, I want to share some thoughts on my first visit to the new Yankee Stadium. Just as I did with my farewell to the old Stadium, I'm going to suggest that anybody who doesn't care about baseball, and/or the Yankees, just skip down to the next post. We'll get back to TV very shortly, I promise.
"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the drug store, but that's just peanuts to space." -Douglas Adams
The new Stadium is vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big. And yet for the most part, it manages to feel like a bigger, mostly better, version of the old Stadium. By the time my buddy Mike and I had sat down in our seats in left field, we already felt like we'd been coming here for years -- that somehow in the offseason, they had just done a massive makeover to the old girl.

The flaws in the park are obvious, and have been written about extensively elsewhere: Monument Park is more like Monument Cave. The center field restaurant makes the bleacher seats on either side of it the worst views in the house. Because no one can afford the Legends seats, and/or because those who can afford it are afraid to go, the Stadium can become disturbingly quiet even when the Yanks are playing relatively well. And the level of commercialization is obscene, not just with the signage, but with things like playing the "Gotta go to Mo's!" Modell's jingle whenever a Yankee steals a base.

(There are some other more minor kinks that still need working out, as well. For instance, After 9/11, the old Stadium introduced a policy where, other than purses or diaper bags, the only bags allowed in had to be clear plastic. But they always provided clear plastic themselves, so I would just toss my stuff into an A&P bag, go and swap the contents into the one they gave me. Here, the rule's still in effect but they didn't have any clear replacement bags. When I pointed this out to the security guy, he waved over his supervisor, who admitted I had a point and let me in. Of course, this happened several hours before gametime when there wasn't a crowd and everyone was still in a good mood. Who knows what would have happened if I'd showed up at 6:45 p.m. and there were hundreds of people behind me?)

But on the plus side, the thing just looks great. The open concourses, which allow you to keep track of the action while you walk around, are wonderful. While it's inexcusable how much the center field restaurant obstructs the views of the bleacher people, the view from the balcony on top of it is amazing. (It's where I shot the above picture from my camera phone.) And the giant hi-def jumbotron in center field is the greatest television I've ever seen. I'm glad they can't show live game action on it (it'd be distracting to the batters), because I imagine I'd have had a hard time pulling my eyes away to actually look at the field.

Where the old Stadium was infamous for having surly, unhelpful employees, the new one employs a small army of people carrying "How Can I Help You?" signs, and they turned out to actually be helpful. When I was on line to visit the Stadium museum (which is very cool, particularly the statues of Don Larsen throwing to Yogi Berra, and Thurman Munson's preserved locker), I asked one of those people how to find the BBQ stand I'd heard good things about. He didn't know exactly (they're still learning the layout like the rest of us), so he immediately got on his walkie, and within 30 seconds another Helper had come over and they were showing me exactly how to get there on a map.

Speaking of which, all the food that I sampled (including a pulled BBQ chicken sandwich, and garlic fries) was very tasty, if overpriced. (Though the prices didn't seem that much worse than the original Stadium, which was already charging an arm and a leg.)

Some traditions moved from one park to the other. The Bleacher Creatures' roll call is still blessedly alive and well (and Nick Swisher's Elvis-like response to his name cements his position as the greatest Yankee comedy god since Sparky Lyle), and while I've never liked the groundskeepers' "YMCA" dance (not least because nobody who's dancing along seems to know what the song's really about), other people are enthusiastic enough for it that I can deal. And, mercifully, "Cotton-Eye Joe" was not played at any point.

After all the talk of the new park as a launching pad of epic proportions that turns lazy pop flies into home runs, the only homer we saw was a Johnny Damon no-doubter that would have gone into the second deck in any modern park. So we'll see if those first few games were a statistical fluke or if there's something in the construction that nobody accounted for.

The place definitely needs some tweaking in the offseason, but assuming I can afford to go as frequently as I did to the older, cheaper version, it's a place where I could find myself really enjoying both the game and the atmosphere, while still feeling like it's part of the team's history.

26 comments:

sc said...

Alan,
I went last Thursday, opening day. It was thru work, so we took a limo to avoid traffic, but I still have no clue where to park when I go on my own. Also, a pretty surreal experience walking down river ave. seeing the old stadium on the left, and the new park on the right. I agree with you, that the from the stands, the interior and field looks very familiar, but the rest of it is is so incredible, from the Great Hall, to the wide concourses, to the restaurants.....really nice. And I agree, the folks working were so helpful I had to make sure we were at Yankee Stadium and not an away game!
Have you heard any first hand comments from anyone about Citi Field? I hope to check that out soon. Now we just have to hope for a new banner to christen the new staduim!

Grunt said...

Let's Go Mets?

Sigh...you Yankee fans always get the big news.

JonSel said...

For those that care, they will allow CLEAR backpacks in as well. I've been carrying one for the past few years and have never had a problem. They let me in as well on Sunday at the new park. So, if you need to bring more than a flimsy plastic bag will carry, get yourself a clear backpack.

I really hope they find a way to get some fans into the over-priced seats. It looks barren on television.

Jen said...

Thanks for this Alan. I'm hoping to get to a game soon though it looks like I'll have to use stub hub since the yankees site is useless if you don't want to spend $300+ per ticket. It makes the sight of all those empty field level seats even more depressing to me sitting at home.

Disappointing to know that their inconsistent bag policy is still being enforced ineptly.

Sonia said...

The new stadium field and interior LOOKS like the old on on TV...which I think is great! I didn't know about the resturant onbstructing the view from the bleachers -- that is such a shame -- the bleacher creatures are likely not too pleased about that.

And it is SO weird that those seats behind home plate are empty every game...on TV it makes it seem like no one is there. They should take the obstructed view bleacher people and move them down when space like that is available.

Glad to hear that the stadium employees are helpful also -- THAT was always th ebiggest issue for me. I took my daughter to a game a couple years ago and I was never treated so rudely in my entire life. It was so bad I swore I'd never go to another game and I wrote to the Yankees organization AND George Steinbrenner telling them about my experience trying to take my 10 year old daughter to America's pasttime, only to be cursed out by a surly miserable concession stand worker while I was buying an overpriced hot dog. About a month later I received a box with various NY Yankee memorabilia and a shirt for my daughter, with a letter apologizing. That was nice...but they couldn't do that for everyone who complained, right? LOL

Danny said...

If you believe the countless articles written about the subject, new yankees stadium all of a sudden is coors field east after three games of windy conditions and horrible pitching. please. It never ceases to amaze me how obtuse the media can be re: sample sizes.

But anyway, good review. I went last Friday and agree on a lot of this, especially the lcd jumbotron. However, I thought the usage of the jumbotron space was lousy. I found myself constantly looking around to see the count and even the score, which were either at the very bottom of the jumbo tron (and blocked by the bar) or on the other scoreboard mixed in with all the other crazy crap (Uncle Moe Sizlak must have designed the scoreboard). But do I really need to see a 40 foot mugshot of derek jeter everytime he comes to bat?

The craziest (and most depressing) part about the stadium is the fact that the place was completely packed, from the outfield corners of the upper deck to the bleachers - except for the vast stretch of lower box seats which surround the entire infield. This section was about 30% full, including whole sections that were completely vacant. the luxury suites were also about 40% full. it was a constant reminder of the state of the economy, and the yankees were too stupid/arrogant to lower those prices in time for opening day. Because of this, the place looks empty if you're watching on tv since the cameras only tend to focus on these sections. Rob Neyer from espn.com has some pretty good pics of this.

A tip for purchasing beer - even though the $10 souvenir cup seems like a scam, it's still a better deal than the $9 bottles or $6 cups since you get more oz/$. oh, and a free souvenir cup.

Frankie J said...

How much does it cost to take two kids and sit in the bleachers, buy them each a hot dog and a soda? $100?

Bring back the old place!

der Hundepo said...

Heartfelt congratulations on them not playing Cotton-eyed Joe anymore. The minor league team where I live picked that up, and it drove me crazy. It has absolutely nothing to do with baseball, and should never, ever, ever be played at a stadium.

Nicole said...

Do they have metal detectors at the entrance? If they want to increase safety, it would be much better than a clear bag policy. And do they check bags or just wave people through if the bag is clear? I know that all bags and purses are checked at Rogers Stadium (Toronto), but no clear bag requirement.

David J. Loehr said...

I do so wish I could go, and maybe the next time I'm in the area, I'll try to plan around that.

We have Slugger Field down here in Louisville, and it's lovely for a minor league park, classic design, not overwhelming. And they serve Red Hook alongside Bud et al, so that's a plus. I just don't understand why they didn't go ahead and name the team the Louisville Sluggers, considering the sponsorship is already there.

And that picture looks amazing...

BF said...

What's the policy on "man purses" and/or semi-translucent drawstring backpacks? I'm an out of towner that's planning a trip in June, and will in no way be able to deposit my touristy goodies collected before the game.

And exactly where is that BBQ stand?

Bianca said...

I think I'm the only person who didn't mind Cotton-Eye Joe haha.

Going to my first game on May 1st. Very excited. I am in the bleachers though, so we'll see how of the game I actually see lol

Alan Sepinwall said...

What's the policy on "man purses" and/or semi-translucent drawstring backpacks? I'm an out of towner that's planning a trip in June, and will in no way be able to deposit my touristy goodies collected before the game.

Here's security policy, with a list of forbidden items. Worst comes to worst, the bars across the street from the old Stadium will check your bag for you for a small fee.

And exactly where is that BBQ stand?

Field level, behind section 132.

Anonymous said...

Nothing will EVER beat Wrigley. (They might beat my beloved Cubs in the postseason.) However Wrigley is the best stadium, and you can get bleacher seats pretty cheap. Although I will admit that the new Yankee stadium looks and sounds pretty posh.

Ted Kerwin said...

Alan,

I was at the game last night, if you want to see some photos I took they are posted here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tedkerwin/sets/72157617080989297/

I like the overall feel of the place as well, I am a Met fan but I agree that once I sat in my seat I felt I was at Yankee Stadium. Nice use of the photos on the lower level, the butcher in left field is fun (but $15 for prime rib sandwich was too much) I was sitting in the main level, 16 rows up, first outfield section, face value $75 one section to my right was 3/4 empty which is where the prices jump to $110 (that is the consensus of the people sitting around me) whatever the difference I feel that this would have been a $40 dollar seat last year and this is where all the field level season ticket holders migrated too.

Pamela Jaye said...

hey, it's your blog ;-) (see your first post)

(I'm off to find the link to the commercial during Chuck)

BF said...

Uh oh, stadium fight!

The best is PNC Park and it's not even close. Too bad the inhabitants stink.

2. Citizen's Bank Park
3. Dodger Stadium
4. Jacob's Field
5. Minute Maid Park (seriously!)

Worst:
1. Oakland
2. Minnesota
3. White Sox

Honorable Mention: Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Worst sporting venue of all time!

Haven't visited yet: Fenway, SkyDome, The Trop, The Fishtank, the new parks in SD,DC,NYC.

Danny said...

Frankie J - I sat in the bleachers. 3 seats = $60 ($14 per ticket, $6 ticketmaster per ticket). 2 hot dogs = $11, 2 sodas = $10, so it's around $80 total. However, depending on their ages, i'm not sure if I recommend bringing children to the bleachers. There's a fair amount of cussing, fighting and general lewdness. The c*%t word was shouted about every other inning or so.

As for bags, they inspected your bags, but let you take them through once it was inspected at the gate I went through. I thought this was odd because you'd have to check your bags at the stores across the street at the old stadium.

Gayle said...

Thanks for the review. I hope to make it to the new stadium this summer.

I'll put two cents in for Dodger Stadium--nothing special inside or out, but, damn, that field is beautiful (and I was there when Fernando Tatis hit two grand slams in the same inning).

But, my allegiences lie with my Brewers and Miller Park. I still can't believe that place is in Milwaukee, especially after growing up going to games in the old County Stadium.

I'm in Chicago now and don't think that U.S. Cellular is bad at all. They did a great job of fixing the place up over the past few years.

Holly Martins said...

Thanks Alan, can't wait to get up there myself.

So "Cotton-Eye Joe" is finally dead! I will wear a red dress to its funeral.

Anonymous said...

I believe the original baseball justification for "Cotton-Eyed Joe" was that they used it as background music between innings when they ran down how the farm teams were doing.

I don't think the two are connected anymore. I suppose "farm teams" is probably a misnomer now that you're referring to Scranton, Trenton and Tampa.

My favorite long-gone scoreboard feature is when they used to run a montage about a half-hour before first pitch with clips from baseball movies (or baseball scenes from movies like "Parenthood"). The background music was "Act Naturally."

Jen said...

Frankie J, I'd say that unless you've gotten bleacher seats already, you'll be paying 40-50 bucks a pop for them on stub hub since the yankees ticketing site is no longer selling them. 90 bucks is the cheapest seat I've been able to find through the yankees. Closer to game day you may have better luck.

Rehan said...

I was at the 14-inning marathon today, and just want to add that Cotton-Eyed Joe is not dead. They played it at some point. I think it was in the middle of the 8th, but when the game lasts that long, all the innings kind of run together. They had the "live feed" from whatever booth that guy sits in too.

Baylink said...

<nit action=pick>
Jumbotron is a trademark for Sony super-big-screens, which I don't believe the actually make anymore.

And it's "chemist". Long way to the corner chemist. What is this, Harry Potter? :-)
<nit>

Otherwise, nice piece. Thanks.

Adam said...

Hi Alan, I was at that same game, left field bleachers, and I thought a lot of the same things you did. There's no excuse why a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium should have obstructed seat views anywhere. And the empty seats around the infield remind me of shuttered storefronts. There's a ghost town feel to it... is this what the Yankees want???

The open concourse is great, but they couldn't spring for a few extra TVs to go on the walls behind the giant scoreboard, through which you have to travel between bleacher sections?

Dan said...

I was at Wednesday's game too, proudly wearing my A's cap and marching up to the very last row in the top tier behind third base ($22 tix I think). That Jumbotron is freaking amazing.

My girlfriend had a messenger bag (mostly filled with a rain slicker) and when security told her it was too big, I just started to raise a stink and they let us in posthaste. It was past 7:00 and there were plenty of people waiting behind us. We would have been happy to throw it in a clear bag - hopefully they will procure some!