You know me; I love writing about the new stadium. How could I possibly let an off-day go by without mentioning something — anything — about the House that A-Rod Built? Well, I can’t, and MLB.com happened to provide me with one of the more in-depth pieces on the stadium we’ve seen in a long time.
Let’s just jump right into Barry Bloom’s latest on the stadium. First off, we hear that the new stadium has reached its apex, and construction is right on schedule:
They topped off the last bit of white steel, high above what will be the wrap-around scoreboard and gigundo video screen at the new Yankee Stadium this past Thursday.
And around the construction site, many of the upbeat workers are wearing dark blue buttons with the name of the famous ballpark in white capital letters set above this date: Feb. 17, 2009, less than two months before Opening Day.
“That’s when we’re turning the stadium over to the Yankees,” said Harry Olsen, the project manager for the company that’s overseeing the construction and site.
As we already know, the new stadium design is heavily influenced by pre-renovation Yankee Stadium. “This new stadium is different,” Yankees President Randy Levine said, comparing the stadium in progress to the one we know and love. “There may never be another one like it.”
Yankees officials dug up those first Yankee Stadium architectural plans, and from it, they are remaking the famous curved and striped “frieze” that hovers high above the bleachers in the renovated ballpark, putting it where it once was: running around the stadium below the lights on the fringe of the upper-deck overhang, from left field all the way around to right.
Secondly, they replicated the monumental Gate 4 entrance, cast in limestone with each letter of the words “YANKEE STADIUM” set between stone emblems and chiseled in gold leaf. The limestone façade gives it a decidedly old-time texture and runs most of the way around the new ballpark.
“And it’s built to last for the next 50 years or more,” Olsen said.
But the real meat of the article — the devil, if you will — is in the details. We finally have the field configuration information; according to Bloom, the field dimensions will be exactly the same to those in current Yankee Stadium. Bloom says that the field will be “318 feet down the left-field line; 314 feet down the right-field line; 408 feet in dead center; 399 feet in left-center, and 385 in right-center.” All of the Yankee fans worried about a boring symmetrical outfield can breathe easy.
Even more enticing is Bloom’s descriptions of the seating confirguration:
It will seat 53,000, but somehow, as MLB.com learned on a recent tour that traversed almost every nook and cranny of the new facility, every one of those seats has an unencumbered view of home plate, even though the new stadium reaches about the same height as the existing one.
Most are much closer to the field than the current stadium, where the catcher squats about 70 feet from the backstop. In the new park, that distance will be about 50 feet. The grade, which seems nearly flat at 35 percent in the current lower deck, has been changed to a much steeper 45 percent. That’s akin to a pitcher peering down from a mound 10 feet above the ground, as opposed to a mound that’s about six feet high. There are also many fewer rows in each deck.
Every time I go to a game this year — and my trip this Wednesday will be my fifth of the season — I look across 161th St. with a mixture of wonder and trepidation. I don’t want to see Yankee Stadium, one of the few places in New York City that’s been a constant for my entire life, to meet the fate of Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field. I don’t want to see the Yankees leave their hallowed grounds and knock down the ghosts of the Babe, the Mick and Joe D. With the echoes of 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 still reverberating through the stadium, it will be hard to leave for that final time in September or October.
But at the same time, New Yankee Stadium looks every bit as beautiful as a $1.3 billion baseball temple should be. I’m excited to see the new stadium and explore a new home ballpark. It will be historical, intimate and brand new at the same time. It’s easy to pacify uneasy fans with the promise of a new toy, and that’s just what this new Yankee Stadium is. I just wish we didn’t have to say good bye to the old Yankee Stadium at the same time.