"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 AdamsThe 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.