This is a weekly feature in which I (and maybe you, too, readers) detail the various reasons for hating your ballpark. This week: Yankee Fucking Stadium.
For this, the season's final installment of our stadium series, I asked a wide range of writers, critics, community activists, urban planners and fans to explain all that's loathsome about Versailles-on-the-Harlem River.
The 1970s-renovated Yankee Stadium Mark II bore all the hallmarks of that decade's architecture — bland poured concrete, ugly escalator ramps tacked onto the exterior — but they were at least still slathered over the original skeleton of the House That Ruth Built, its tight upper-deck overhang and sweeping grandstand making it far more intimate than any stadium seating 57,000 had a right to be. By comparison, the new building bearing the Yankee Stadium name has taken all the worst aspects of the 1970s stadium and discarded anything worthwhile. Enough sloppily painted concrete and crappy aluminum panels to fill a dozen commuter rail stations? Check. Field-level seats that require a credit check, and upper-deck seats where the game is only a rumor? Check. The eradication of any genuine baseball flavor in favor of the kind of faux-history that usually is restricted to Las Vegas tourist traps? Check. A hideous restaurant in the batter's eye that simultaneously blocks the view of the field from the bleachers while submerging the markers to Yankees greats in a dark hole dubbed "Monument Cave"? You got it. If you're going to spend $1.2 billion in public money and leave local kids with no public parks to play in for five years, you'd hope you'd at least get a nice place to watch a ballgame out of the deal. Instead, the designers of Fake Yankee Stadium effectively turned their back on any populist tradition of the Bronx Zoo days and instead institutionalized the team's most grandiose, corporate traditions: They might as well have inscribed "Where It's Like Rooting For U.S. Steel" over the entrances.
John Pastier, architecture critic:
I used to play football on the grounds of today's Yankee Stadium more than 50 years ago, and now, as an enfeebled and doddering old geezer, I just don't have the wit or energy to kvetch about the monumental and hyperactive commercialism that saturates every nook and cranny of its interior, its outrageously inflated ticket prices, its officious bag-checkers ("We're the number two terrorist target" — oh, if only it were so!), its whopping Giuliani-concocted public subsidies, both visible and concealed, the inadequate bathrooms in its Hard Rock Cafe, its dimensionally-challenged right field porch (even shorter than the old joint's), its confiscation of public parkland, the pretentious banality embodied in its mausoleum-like limestone exterior, and the inexcusable lack of any historic plaque commemorating my athletic presence on the site well before Roger Maris even thought of setting foot in the Bronx.
And to think that George Carlin, Martin Scorsese, and I went to high school just six blocks away. Had George lived long enough to witness this outrageous intrusion into his old neighborhood, he would have been able to do full justice to this travesty. Now my last hope is that Scorsese will someday be moved to make a movie revealing how this all came to be. It'd be a film noir.
Martin Pedersen, executive editor, Metropolis Magazine:
Why Does Yankee Stadium Suck? Let me count the ways:
1) IT WAS THE PRODUCT OF A THOROUGHLY UNDEMOCRATIC POLITICAL PROCESS. The Yankees had spent the better part of three decades ignoring, criticizing or exploiting the South Bronx. Now in exchange for a new stadium, they get the promise (and remember here, the Yankees made and broke a lot of promises to the neighborhood, following the botched 1970s renovation of the original stadium) of a new park, located...on top of a parking garage (thank you very much). In the meantime, a woefully underserved neighborhood goes without a park for who knows how long?
2) IT'S DESIGN IS PROFOUNDLY UN-AMERICAN. Baseball has traditionally played a unifying role. The ballpark is where people of different classes and races and religions actually mingled. The box seats, where the swells sat, weren't physically separated from the proles. The new stadium is like an architectural system of class apartheid, with far fewer cheap seats pushed way up to the heavens (closer to God, at least) and many of the bleacher seats (home to the most loyal and ardent fans) with obstructed views. There is actually a concrete and plexiglass moat separating the I-bankers paying two or three thousand dollars a pop from the mere middle-management types paying, oh, three hundred dollars seat. (It's interesting: After the first playoff game against the Twins, Michael Kay and David Cone were speculating about the subdued nature of the crowd. Was it the 6 o'clock start? The early lead by the Twins? "Excuse me, guys," I shouted at the TV, "it's the fucking architecture!")
3) IN A BUILDING THAT'S ALMOST TWICE AS BIG, THERE ARE ABOUT 5000 FEWER SEATS. This is baseball stadium-as-mall.
3) THE NEW YANKEE STADIUM IS NOT A PRIVATELY FINANCED. We paid for a large portion of this stadium. Why Bloomberg, who had no stake in seeing the Yankees get a new home, went along with it is a mystery to me. It's simply unconscionable for a city, with children attending classes in janitor's closets, to spend money on for-profit sports franchises.
4) THE ORIGINAL STADIUM, AN AUTHENTIC PIECE OF AMERICAN HISTORY, COULD HAVE BEEN RESTORED. The truth is, it badly needed it. It wasn't build for 4 million fans a year, but that's why you hire architects and designers. To examine the problem and propose solutions. Why was Fenway Park, which is far smaller than the original Yankee Stadium, renovated and not "The Cathedral of Baseball"? (By the way, this is how the Yankees referred to the old stadium during its final year.) The original stadium, even deftly re-configured, wouldn't include as many luxury boxes and theme restaurants as the new stadium. It also would have forced the Yankees to share a stadium with the Mets for two seasons, thereby forgoing the opportunity to milk the original stadium's Final Season for all its worth. It was simply far easier and more profitable to take a neighborhood park and start fresh.
5) WHY DEMOLISH A CATHEDRAL?
David Gratt, former season ticket holder (sec 37 Row C seat 1) and former director, Friends of Yankee Stadium:
Because the $400,000,000 direct public investment is the equivalent of 8,000 teachers or cops or firemen at $50,000 per year.
Because the remaining $800,000,000 of the city's bonding authority was supposed to go to build things that we actually need, like the Second Avenue Subway, improved parks, or new or improved schools, police stations, firehouses or hospitals.
Because it would have only taken about $40,000,000 to fix up Macombs Dam Park, the Park that "new Yankee Stadium" sits on top of, while it will cost $120,000,000 to demolish Yankee Stadium and build replacement parks.
Because one of the rationales for the "new Yankee Stadium" was the Macombs Dam Park was too heavily used and needed to be replaced…indicating that success equals obsolescence.
Because attendance will never be higher than in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, again indicating that success equals obsolescence.
Because all of the potential move locations (New Jersey, Midtown, Yonkers) were off the table so the Yankees had no place to go…except Yankee Stadium.
Because the city had the Yankees over a barrel, and instead of dictating the terms, the city just gave the Yankees everything they wanted.
Because the city and the Yankees made all of the important decisions without public input; all that was left for the public to weigh in on was the terms of surrender. The public input process in NYC is a sham.
Because the city was paying the Yankees to develop a new stadium proposal …so when city officials met with Yankee officials about the proposal, both sides of the table were being paid out of the same pot of money.
Because the economic analysis rationalizing the project was primarily predicated on enormous increases in ticket prices…which were also possible at Yankee Stadium.
Because the same economic analysis double counted some job creation figures and revenue estimates creating to misleadingly sunny figures.
Because any new stadium has the same economic impact as a department store.
Because no one who actually studies these things believes that a stadium is a good municipal investment; there are just really bad deals and much, much worse deals.
Because, despite all the evidence against stadia as municipal investments, NYC politicians pushed through, not one, but two.
Because increasing the amount of Yankee operated concession space eight-fold, while good for the Yankees, is bad for the neighborhood.
Because the new stadium cuts down on seats but increases parking spaces.
Because city traffic and transportation engineers claimed that additional parking spaces would actually improve the traffic situation, a statement which is just wrong.
Because Reggie Jackson embarrassingly prostituted himself at a City Council hearing. So much for that alleged 160 IQ.
Because, while the Yankees did a great job of demonstrating why they wanted a new stadium, they never actually got around to demonstrating why they needed one.
Because city officials claimed that the Yankees needed a new stadium because the "cramped conditions" were impacting the Yankees' business operations; as if that is a concern of the city.
Because the same city officials claimed that it was impractical to have the Yankees play at Shea during a renovation process because Coke was a Yankees sponsor and Pepsi was a Mets sponsor.
Because the city never bothered to determine a cost estimate for a full renovation of its own asset.
Because a renovation might have cost $250,000,000 and kept Yankee Stadium current for the next 85 years.
Because the outside looks like a mausoleum…a mausoleum for baseball.
Because the inside looks like the Ballpark at Arlington. Way to go, HOK. Once other ballparks were modeled on Yankee Stadium. "New Yankee Stadium" is modeled after the AL West.
Because no one will ever care whether anyone hits a home run out of the "new Yankee Stadium"
Because Thurman Munson never played there.
Because it's not Yankee Stadium.
Lukas Herbert, urban planner and former member of New York City's Community Board 4:
Yankee Stadium sucks because it epitomizes everything that sucks about corporate America today, all rolled into one stadium.
The Yankees, probably the biggest corporate bastards of all baseball teams, started out by receiving a huge amount of corporate welfare from the City and State governments. Just like Wal-Mart plays off one town against another as a way to exact taxpayer dollars to improve their bottom line, the Yankees unbelievably told the City that they would "move somewhere else" if their demands for free land, free infrastructure and direct construction subsidies were not met. While few New Yorkers actually believed such a threat, Mayor Bloomberg had no problem using it as cover to shower the Yankees with financial gifts. So instead of using the money to fix crumbling schools, repair a subway system that's practically held together with duct-tape or keep firehouses and libraries open, the money went to build one of the fanciest stadiums in human history. Take from the poor and give to the rich!
Then of course, the taxpayers who helped to fund the stadium can barely afford to buy a ticket. Just like those corporate fat-cats who took government bail out money to reward themselves with high salaries, why should the Yankees do anything differently? If the taxpayers are helping to build this stadium, why not just use the money to provide more luxury seats for the rich? Or subsidize the outsized paychecks of the players? Clearly intended for the pre-bust era, the only irony of this situation was that nobody had any money to buy these fancy seats after the stadium got constructed, leaving the lower bowl noticeably empty for so many of this season's games.
Green buildings? What's that? The Yankees were apparently asleep for the last couple of years when it suddenly became un-cool to waste natural resources like oil and electricity. The lights that light up the stadium's field are often on 24-hours a day. The lights on the roof of the VIP parking garage were apparently installed with no off-switch (as a way to save money?) and have been on morning, noon and night since the stadium opened. Having suddenly realized that they were now driving the "Hummer" of stadiums in a world that was now desiring Priuses, the Yankees made a truly lame attempt to "greenwash" their stadium through token efforts like using hand sanitizer in bathrooms, instead of soap, to save water. Or biodegradable cups for soda. (You mean, like paper cups?) Tons of new buildings are being built in NYC with true "green" building amenities, but the Yankees never even gave it a thought. Now this lame "greenwash" public relations effort will probably only dupe the stupidest of people.
But perhaps the worst offense of the new Yankee Stadium is what you no longer see: 16 acres of parkland that were taken away from one of the poorest communities in the country. Playing the subsidy game, the Yankees asked for free land –- a community park -– to build their new stadium. Since poor people, minorities and immigrants don't count for much in Michael Bloomberg's New York, why not just give the park over to the Yankees? Sure, the parks will be replaced (at City taxpayer expense), but that will only happen after the needs of the Yankees are met and the old stadium is demolished. (Which is taking way longer than anybody thought it would.) Just like a greedy oil company that goes into a poor country and screws everyone over in the name of "economic development", the Yankees have employed the same model in this community, promising economic benefits while damaging people's lives. Asthma and childhood obesity are issues that plague the inner cities. They way to solve these problems is through more active open space and more trees. The Yankees chopped down 300 mature trees and took away 16 acres of parkland for the next several years to have their stadium. Public health ills be damned! Just like life expectancy is shortened when a greedy corporation opens a pollution-spewing factory in an area with few economic resources, so has this been the situation with this greedy corporation (the Yankees) in the South Bronx chopping down our trees and taking away our open space. People now have crappier lives and worse health because of this stadium.
There are some people in this world who make consumer choices based on their moral beliefs. Maybe they don't wear fur, or eat meat, or buy food shipped in from China, or drive gas guzzlers, or buy from companies that support oppression around the world. So if you are already making these choices with your wallet, why should major league baseball be exempt from your scrutiny? The Yankees have shown themselves to be an evil corporation willing to take massive taxpayer subsidies and waste them on an energy-inefficient stadium priced only for the rich, all while screwing over a poor community and stealing what little they had in terms of trees and open space. Just because they are a baseball team, does that make them any less responsible?
Joyce Hogi, Bronx resident and 2nd vice president of the Bronx Council of Environmental Quality:
I think Yankee Stadium sucks because it was built on valuable parkland that was taken away from the community and they haven't been fully replaced. It will be at least another 2 years; possibly longer, until that happens. I think the stadium sucks because the attention paid to the construction of the bleacher areas is an insult to those fans that cannot afford the pricey seats. It sucks because the stadium's lights are on 24/7 and those residents who live a mere 100 ft across the street can get no relief from them. It sucks because the police become super aggressive toward the community during games by blocking streets, putting up barricades to direct fans from the garages and train stations right into the stadium so there is little or no pedestrian traffic to the local businesses.
Killian Jordan, Yankees fan and Bronx resident:
Yankee Stadium is hateful because it's a monolith, more than a building — huge and looming. Imposing, but far from beautiful. It has turned a neighborhood of parks into a neighborhood of parking garages. It charges more for beer than a Dubai country club. While the team has some personality, management has only an overheated ego and absolute contempt for its surroundings. Like any royal with a proud history of droit de seigneur, it just fucks everything it touches.
The view from the stands (everything sic'd):
Yankee stadium sucks because they had to spend 1.5 BILLION dollars to make it look like an older one they fucked up in the ‘70s.
Yankee stadium sucks because it's in the armpit of the Bronx – why do you think they show pictures of manhattan when they show "outside shots of the city" on tv. Where is the shot of "Ball Park Sports Bar & Grill" under the tracks?!
Yankee stadium sucks because even during a rain delay you can't move down beyond the "moat" – they have armed guards keeping you and the black knight at bay even in monsoons.
Yankee stadium sucks because beers are $9 at the cheapest, and after the 3rd inning, you actually start to believe you are getting a good deal.
Yankees stadium sucks because the morons who built the pathways to monument park didn't account for proper head height, so there is an triangular cut in the concrete as you pass underneath an angled beam – this is the what the millions and billions went towards? Getting Ortiz's jersey out of the foundations and correcting stupid mistakes.
Yankees stadium sucks because the towel dispensers in the bathroom are 2 inches above the sinks. I dare you to try to finish using a towel dispenser and try to be dryer than when you first stepped up to it.
Yankee stadium sucks because of the legends suites. Douchebag McTools from around the Tri-State area show up at these "exclusive" restaurants and bars and seats just to express their douche-iness.
Yankee stadium is awesome because when it's time to dance the camera men do a great job of showing hot and/or skanky women rocking out seemingly to themselves until it is too late. (John B.)
I was able to score 4 tickets to the first exhibition game at the new yankee stadium. with little interest in the game, we took a tour of the concourse, where we happened upon an art gallery. at a baseball stadium. I couldn't believe my eyes. However, it got worse. As I entered the gallery, I saw a guy take a painting off the wall and take it to the register. After placing the art piece on the counter, he asks if he can keep the price tag that was still hanging on the wall. The lady agrees, but before he grabs it I see the price: $3,000. (Pedraic)
I went to a Yankees-Angels game in May with my father, father-in-law, and brother. A foul ball came towards us and my klutzy brother, who was sitting on the aisle, got up, turned around to try and catch it, and tripped over the step, falling into the person sitting across from him us in section 112. This man, who was at the game with his wife and three daughters (who looked to be about ages 5-10), violently shoved my brother back and threatened that if he touched him again, he would punch my brother in the face. My brother is fifteen years old. I explained to this lout that it was an accident and his response was that he was pushed into his kids and he was going to protect them (ostensibly by punching my brother in the face). I told him my brother was a kid too and that there wasn't going to be any punching of anyone. I think it failed to dawn on this person that maybe it would do more good for his children if he were a good role model rather than threatening to punch another child in the face at a baseball game.
Anyway, it's people like this (not to mention the ones who yell awful, racist stuff when the Red Sox are in town) that make me somewhat embarrassed to classify myself along with them as Yankee fans.
Also, attached is a pic I took of Father of the Year.
I was up there for the Phils - Yanks series on Memorial Day weekend. How is that Phillies fans are there in equal numbers to Yankees fans? What a complete joke, how many people live in New York, 15 million and you can't fill a baseball stadium with your own fans. Pathetic. Riding the subway up there was hilarious, the whole subway car was chanting let's go Phillies the entire time.
So we start off the afternoon by heading over to Stan's to stock up on beers that don't cost us 10 dollars (we remembered after arriving at said bar that in NYC everything costs double what it should). Highlight of Stan's was one of my buddies puking all over a middle aged lady and two of are other friend's pants. We arrive in the stadium to find out that like most other Phils fans who never been there before it takes 20 minutes to reach your seats in the upper deck. After riding on an endless parade of escalators we reach our seats. Now had I never been to the old stadium I would have thought that the view wasn't that bad. But as anyone who had been to the old stadium can tell you, the new place cannot even compare. You are twice as far from the field and the ticket is more money. Awesome. Now I'm spoiled after going from the Vet to CBP but shouldn't a brand new stadium result in a better product for the customer? Well, I'm sure the BOA suite is an upgrade on the old one. The other obvious thing about that place is the center field eyesore. Who puts something that looks like a 1980's haunted house in the center field seats of a major league ballpark? That, and the fact that Steinbrenner decided to put ads all over the place. Its like watching a game being played on a giant billboard. I understand a few ads here and there but that is out of control. I guess you have to pay for that team somehow. Anyway, the old Yankee Stadium was amazing, the new place sucks. (Bob E.)
I learned this year that the new Stadium isn't immune to the...enthusiastic nature of Bombers fans. In the middle of an otherwise unmemorable and totally meaningless September loss to Baltimore, Edwar Ramirez came in and promptly gave up 3 or 4 runs (as is his nature.) The guy sitting in front of me was not amused. I believe the exact quote he screamed was "GOD DAMNIT! I'VE HAD IT WITH THIS BUGS BUNNY MOTHERFUCK! THIS TIME I'M GOING TO KILL HIM, I SWEAR TO GOD! HE'S FINISHED!" He then proceeded to storm out of his seat, presumably to go from the second to last row of the stadium down to the dugout to kill Edwar Ramirez.
What's crazier than that? I had seen almost the exact same scene play out 2 years earlier, only Kyle Farnsworth was the one in mortal danger.
Go Yankees. (Henry D.)
Every year my family and a few close friends do a big group trip to see a game in a different MLB ballpark. This year, we decided to go see a game in the new Yankee Stadium. Now, I used to live in NY and CT so I've learned to really hate the Yankees, but I am a baseball fan so I was looking forward to seeing Monument Park. The Yankees' website advises us that it's open until 45 minutes before game time. We arrive about an hour and a half before game time and find a line longer than my...well, it's long. Whatever, we decide to wait in the retardedly long line...only to have two security guards who couldn't give a shit about their job tell us that the line was cut off at the person right in front of us. Never mind that some of us had flown cross-country, or that it's still open for 45 minutes, they assure us there is no fucking way we are getting in. Three of us say fuck that and go watch BP. The rest of our group decided to take their chances at the end of the line. 45 minutes later, the rest of my family catches up with us. They wouldn't let them in. Fucking dicks.
So while we're watching BP, Phil Coke is shagging balls in the outfield, and he throws one up into the first few rows. The first few rows are nice, individual seats, which are separated from the bleachers and the fans who just wandered down for BP by a big concrete wall. One of the fans in the bleachers, who is proudly sporting a "Bleacher Creatures" shirt, yells down to Coke, "Hey Phil! How 'bout one for the REAL fans?" The bougie fans in the first few rows did not take kindly to that remark and turned around to advise the Bleacher Creature to shut the fuck up. Nice caste system the Yankees are creating with their fans. To Phil Coke's credit, he did throw the guy a ball.
Also, Yankee Stadium, in all of its corporate branding glory, features the most pathetic beer stand ever:
Thanks for all your contributions, and please start racking your brains for nasty things to say about Tropicana Field, Chase Field, Minute Maid Park, Rogers Centre, Great American Ball Park, Progressive Field, Coors Field, Comerica Park, Land Shark Stadium and PNC Park. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.