I was not really looking forward to the new Yankee stadium. I didn’t mind the old one all that much. I’m never going to buy a luxury box nor am I really desperate for more premium seats. Sure, the old stadium was a bit “worn in” but that was part of its charm. And it didn’t seem all that dysfunctional to me. So sinking $1.5 billion into a new stadium – much of it supported by my tax dollars – didn’t really seem like a great thing to me. Still, the stadium was built and I don’t really have much choice about the situation now. So if I want to see baseball that means a visit to the new building at 161st Street and River Avenue. Despite the overcast skies and cool temperatures we mustered the energy to pay a visit to the park this afternoon and took in a game. Overall it was nice, but not $1.5 billion nice.
The first thing you notice exiting the subway and heading up River Avenue is that the building is clean – shockingly so. That is nice, though I doubt it’ll last too long. Still, it does look pretty gleaming there in the Bronx. The bad news begins as you move to head inside. For starters, they have the typical sign about items prohibited “for your safety.” Firearms are listed just above beach balls on the list. Yup, beach balls are apparently hazardous. They do allow you to bring your own water into the facility, but only if you tell the guy asking that the bottle is unopened. Considering that a 20 ounce bottle in the stadium is $5, I’d bring one next time.
The old Yankee stadium had a glorious entry concourse. As you entered you could see the bright green grass of the field and you really felt like you were at a ballpark. I think we passed six different Yankees merchandise stores before we saw the green of the field this afternoon. The “cathedral of baseball” is now a shopping mall. So sad. The great hall actually is architecturally rather stunning, so it isn’t all bad. But it doesn’t make up for the other shortages that you experience.
We did a lap around the building and saw the view from most angles, high and low, first base and third base lines and the outfield. The good news is that almost every seat can see the whole field. The bad news is that there are a bunch that cannot. The Mohegan Sun Casino Bar that they built out in the middle of Center Field juts out so much from the bleacher seats that they are obstructed view. Depending on just how close you are to the bar you could be missing a full half of the outfield from your view. Not good. At least they sell those seats cheap ($5, I think). You can sortof see how bad those seats are in the photo below.
The big screen in the outfield is rather impressive. It is outright huge. But for some reason they didn’t now replays for the vast majority of plays. I think there were maybe three replays all game long. And considering that there were a couple very close plays (including a HR that actually went to official review) as well as a couple great defensive plays, a replay or three on the big screen would have been nice for the fans. They seemed to be too bust showing ads that had been sold to one company or another instead. Gotta pay for the new digs somehow, right?
We ended up with seats in the wheelchair row on the 300 level. The fine print says that they reserve the right to evict you and take legal action against folks who fraudulently obtain seats in that area, so that was a bit disconcerting, but after a couple calls to the box office and a stop by the in-stadium box office we were told not to worry about it. We had the companion chairs in that area, along with all 12 others in the row, so the seats were quite comfortable and we could move them around to get comfortable. A very nice touch. And the view was pretty good, too. It is steep up there and not too many rows in the 300 level (it is the section just above the red display screens in the picture above, with the wheelchair row at row 8 of that section).
There also were a LOT of empty seats in the stadium today. They were pretty much all in the very expensive seats down at the bottom tier. One of the sections – 029 – actually only had one single person in it. That was pretty sad. At least the affordable seats were pretty crowded with folks who actually care about the team rather than buy on an expense account.
And, the most important part of a trip to any new stadium: a review of the food and beverage options. There are many.
The main beer options are Budweiser and Miller Lite. One or the other is available at all the “main” food vendors built in to the building but the carts often do not have beer. There are also a few “Beers of the World” booths scattered about. At least one is located behind section 313 and that is where I spent a fair amount of time this afternoon. Available there were the following bottled beers: Amstel Light, Bass, Beck’s, Blue Moon, Bud Light Lime, Corona, Heineken, Heineken Light, Hoegaarden, Peroni, Stella Artois, Yeungling and O’Douls. All the bottled options are $8.50. They also have 24 ounce draft options of Beck’s and Stella Artois for $11. At the regular food vendors the Bud or Miller Lite draft cups are $6, or – the best value in the park – a 24 ounce draft in a collectible cup for $10. The vendors walking around selling beer had Miller Lite, Bud and Bud Light for $9.
On the food front they have a number of local franchises operating (sorry, I didn’t write down full details on everything):
- Brother Jimmy’s – Pulled Pork Sandwich ~$10
- Moe’s Southwestern Grill – Chips & Queso ~$6; Nachos ~$10
- Carl’s Cheesesteaks – Cheesesteak (American cheese or dry; onions or not) $10.75
- Popcorn, Indiana – Popcorn, I suppose
- Nathan’s – Hot Dog $6; Fries $6.75; many other options, too.
- Kosher Catering – Hotdog ~$6; Knish $4.50
- Carvel – Ice cream, I suppose
- Famiglia – Pizza, but I didn’t pay attention to how much they cost
There were also Hebrew National hot dogs for $5.50 with generally much shorter lines than what Nathan’s had. Oh, and thanks to the new NYC law they post the calorie count next to all the food items. Those Nathan’s fries weigh in at 1236 calories. Splurging for the cheese sauce at that point adds a relatively insignificant 105 calories to that total and only 50 cents to the cost. Vendors walking around had Nathan’s hot dogs for only $5, a dollar cheaper than at the stand, but I don’t know that they are the same size. I also saw a guy deliver a cotton candy on a silver tray to someone sitting in the super-expensive seats right behind home plate. That was strange.
A few other random observations:
- The closed captioning system on the big screen has an entry for “(crowd boos)”
- They have an option for texting guest services if you have a problem
- They played klezmer music when Jeter is at the plate
All in all, it was an enjoyable afternoon. The new stadium is nice. Very nice. But I’m still not convinced that it was a good idea to spend $1.5 billion on the new facility, especially if it means that they aren’t going to be able to sell the seats or that they have to charge so much for a beer.
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