Hartnett: Why The New Yankee Stadium Will Never Feel Like Home
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By Sean Hartnett
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The new Yankee Stadium is most definitely a stunning palace that can rival any professional sporting arena worldwide. It is a majestic beast of a building that is everything the late George M. Steinbrenner III envisioned it to be. I can picture the old Boss in the initial planning meeting barking at his subordinates something along the lines of: ‘You gotta make it the biggest. I want everything to be greater, louder and better than the next guy.’
And that’s exactly why I’ve never entirely fallen in love with the new ballpark. When viewing it from the outside you are overcome by the impressive original design that is a throwback to the days of Babe Ruth. Once you turn the corner though, you gaze upon the Hard Rock Café which looks entirely out of place. It’s almost like the building is going through an identity crisis on whether to be a historic landmark or a kitschy tourist trap.
Once you’re inside, the stadium becomes even more contradictory with itself. I enjoy viewing the large banners of past Yankee legends and the shot of Reggie Jackson inside the Great Hall but right above Reggie is the Tommy Bahama Bar. Similar to the Hard Rock, I don’t like seeing another resort-type distraction on the way to my seats and what are we trying to get away from? We’re at a ballpark where you should be able to forget about your troubles anyway.
Passing by the various suites, you’re struck with the unwelcome feeling of class hierarchy that exists throughout the stadium. None worse so than the Legends Suite seating that separates your ‘average Joe fans’ from privileged high society via a ‘concrete moat.’ Even kids hunting for autographs and foul balls are turned away by guards (I’m sorry stadium security) if they don’t possess tickets within the field sections. It’s a shame that your regular kid won’t have the chance to chat with one of their heroes pre-game, a shot at a foul ball or come away with a prized autograph. These were experiences that I took for granted as a boy at the old stadium.
As for a franchise that is obsessed with their own history, there is an embarrassment of replaying modern day Yankee classics with empty seats in the lower section. The clientele that are lucky enough to sit there prefer to hang out inside the indoor club and lounges. Wouldn’t it be nice to open up the unclaimed front row seats for fans after the 7th inning? It would save public face and allow average fans a more enjoyable experience.
We’re all aware of the 1,048 obstructed view bleacher seats that are created by the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar. It’s just another example of luxury over the everyman. Below the centerfield bar is Monument Park, which is a condensed version of its predecessor’s former home in leftfield of the old ballpark. It is hardly distinguishable from most viewing areas of the stadium and isn’t nearly as spacious or pretty as the original Monument Park.
The whole centerfield situation is what really hinders the new stadium most. Adding to the obstructed seats and shrunken Monument Park is the monstrous 5,925 square foot, 1080p HD scoreboard. Is it a beautiful screen? Yes… but maybe too beautiful as it’s too distracting for first-time visitors and diverts fans from the interesting moments between pitches.
That combined with the loud noise constantly being pumped throughout the stadium doesn’t allow fans to generate an atmosphere of their own. The message board continually prompts you to ‘do this, cheer for this, look at this.’ It’s little wonder why the Yankee Stadium crowd is listless compared to the fans at Citi Field who attempt to create their own colorful ambiance.
I remember the feeling when I first entered old Yankee Stadium as a 7-year old boy in 1992. We may hold memories of our childhood with heavy nostalgia but there was a real aura about that place. The Yankees weren’t a winning ballclub at that time but the fans were lively and into the game. There was a charm there that somehow didn’t make its way across the street to the new stadium.
At the age of seventeen, I first became a Yankees’ partial season ticket plan holder in 2002. I continue to renew my plan but now I come more for the product on the field rather than the ballpark experience itself. It should be an equal ratio as baseball is the kind of sport where the venue genuinely matters.
I’m wondering how the young boy or girl will remember their first visit to the new stadium. Being turned away for close seats during batting practice and forgetting the events of the game because of all the gimmicks shouldn’t be their first memory.
Does the current incarnation of Yankee Stadium fail to convey the aura of its predecessor? Are the policies at the new stadium less fan-friendly? Share your feelings below and send your feedback to @HartyLFC.