Architectural praise for the new Stadium

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Yesterday afternoon, my flight back north from West Palm Beach went north up the Hudson River past all of New York City. After spying Coney Island out the window, I followed the city north through Brooklyn (where I could spot my own block) and north up Manhattan. So many familiar landmarks flashed by underneath, and as we approached the Bronx, two Yankee Stadiums caught my eye.

While one of those stadiums is slowly and sadly being dismantled, the other is approaching is big debut. Already, reviews are trickling out from the Bronx. While it’s really impossible to pass judgment on a baseball stadium until games are being played and fans can review the whole experience, architectural critics are having their say.

First up in what promises to be a never-ending stream of stories critiquing and praising the city’s two new stadiums is Paul Goldberger’s take in this week’s New Yorker. He likes it, especially when compared with the oddly fake-looking Citi Field in Queens. Goldberger writes:

The new stadium feels more tightly woven into the fabric of the city than the old one did. (It will feel even more so once a Metro-North station opens there, later this year, and once the city finally makes good on its obligation to replace the Macombs Dam Park facilities lost in construction of the new stadium with parkland on and around the site of the previous one.) If you approach it by driving along Jerome Avenue, you see a couple of the Bronx’s finest Art Deco apartment houses across the street from the west façade, and you get a hint of the subtle counterpoint that once existed between a baseball park and an urban setting. The stadium is bigger and more imposing than everything around it, of course, but it seems to grow out of its surroundings, and this somehow rescues the building from its own pomposity. In a way, the apartment houses on Jerome Avenue, the jumble of storefronts and bars under the elevated tracks on River Avenue, and the constant presence of street life shape the stadium as much as its designers have.

At Citi Field, conversely, the Ebbets Field façade, stuck in the middle of acres of parking (as Shea was), seems more like a theme park than it would if it were in the middle of the city. HOK has tried to make the stadium feel more urban by placing a long brick building, containing the Mets’ offices, just beyond right field, along 126th Street, where it faces a favela of auto-body shops in Willets Point. But, since the site is defined mainly by expressways and parking lots, the architects are fighting a losing battle. It’s a pity that the Mets didn’t build on the far West Side of Manhattan, where Colonel Ruppert first thought of putting Yankee Stadium, ninety years ago, and where the Jets recently tried to build a football stadium. A football stadium doesn’t need to be in the middle of a city, but a baseball park, smaller and used much more often, does.

A stadium is a stage set as sure as anything on Broadway, and it determines the tone of the dramas within. Citi Field suggests a team that wants to be liked, even to the point of claiming some history that isn’t its own. Yankee Stadium, however, reflects an organization that is in the business of being admired, and is built to serve as a backdrop for the image of the Yankees, at once connected to the city and rising grandly above it.

I am predisposed to both hate and like the new Yankee Stadium. I hate it because it’s replacing something that never needed to be replaced. I like it because I can appreciate the grandiosity of the whole park. This new garish Yankee Stadium is Yankee decadence in 2009 when no one else can or will spend what the Yanks have spent.

After spying a completed Citi Field for the first time from Laguardia last Friday, I can echo Goldberger’s thoughts. From the outside at least, Yankee Stadium looks like it belongs. Citi Field, on the other hand, looks like Any New Ballpark, USA. I’ve seen Citi Field in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, in Detroit and Atlanta. It may evoke Ebbets Field if you look at it from the front, but from any other angle, nothing screams unique New York.

When Yankee Stadium — the real old Yankee Stadium — meets its end in a few months or a year, a part of New York City history will join old Penn Station in the great pantheon of landmarks in memory. The new stadium won’t replace the old one in our hearts. If the early word is to be trusted, it will, however, be a sight unto itself.

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  • Chris C.

    Ben, I agree with your take on the new stadium 100%.
    It is replacing something that didn’t need to be replaced. But I am curious to enter the new ballpark. But I am sure of this…….I won’t be going as often as I did to the old one……..they have pretty much priced me out.

  • steve (different one)

    eh, i’m torn on this. of course the old stadium didn’t NEED to be replaced.

    but it’s not like replacing it was the craziest idea in history. there were plenty of reasons why the old stadium, as much as we loved it, could have used an upgrade.

    the concourses were too narrow. walking down the ramps from the upper deck after a game sucks. if you want anything other than a hot dog from your seat, you are basically guaranteed to miss half an inning on line. the upper deck, which is my favorite place to sit, is too steep and almost impossible to navigate carrying food and drinks. the bathrooms are pretty inadequate.

    and with all the bitching over the $5 bleacher seats, there are tons of obstructed views in the old stadium. the upper deck precludes you from seeing the corners of the OF in certain spots.

    now, i realize this is sacrilidge. and to me, Yankee stadium was one of my favorite places on the planet, but i am trying to be objective.

    once the yankees win a title in the new stadium, it will feel like home again, and all of the improved amenities will hopefully add to our experience.

    there are going to be growing pains, the ticket situation went poorly and there are going to be some other unforeseen obstacles as opening day gets nearer, but i expect those things to iron themselves out over time as well. in 5 years, we’ll hopefully look back and love the new stadium as much as the old one.

    • Chris C.

      “the concourses were too narrow. walking down the ramps from the upper deck after a game sucks. if you want anything other than a hot dog from your seat, you are basically guaranteed to miss half an inning on line. the upper deck, which is my favorite place to sit, is too steep and almost impossible to navigate carrying food and drinks. the bathrooms are pretty inadequate.”

      I have gone to Yankee Stadium my entire life, and these problems you mention have never ever occurred to me while I’m sitting there watching a baseball game. Honestly….never occured to me. Maybe it’s because I’m so into the team itself, everything else seemed so trivial.

      Ever go to Wriggly Field?? You’ll find the same archaic inconveniences…..probably more. And do you think those fans want to tear that place down? Never.

      Let’s be honest here……George Steinbrenner did not tear Yankee Stadium down because he was concerned about the inconveniences the poor fans had to go through on a daily basis, and they were picketing across his front lawn for a new park. The guy’s drawing over 4 mill a year…..think he cares that the bathrooms stink, or that you have to get your fat ass up to get some cracker jacks?

      The new palace stands for one thing……NEW INCOME POTENTIAL.

      Wriggly and Fenway have way more issues than Yankee Stadium ever did. How many Yankee fans do you know of that were clammoring for a new ballpark? I personally don’t know any.

      Greed won out over history.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        W-R-I-G-L-E-Y

        • Chris C.

          Sorry……don’t have a gum wrapper in front of me.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            You have the internet in front of you.

            http://www.google.com

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

              Play nice. A misspelled word now and then is no big deal.

              • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                I was playing nice. (I had other comments I chose not to share.)

              • headstand

                Acting like a pompous prick is a big deal though. Mr. maybe I was too into the game to notice the trivial stuff you did, should have gotten it 100 percent correct since he is so awesome and better than all of us. Christ.

        • jsbrendog

          Wrigely?

      • steve (different one)

        The new palace stands for one thing……NEW INCOME POTENTIAL.

        sure.

        but you say this as if it were a bad thing.

        that the owners of a business should somehow FOREGO hundreds of millions of dollars to placate our misguided sense of history (“misguided” b/c the stadium really isn’t the same stadium since the renovations in the 70’s) doesn’t really make any sense.

        of course they are going to explore an opportunity to massively increase their revenue. why wouldn’t they?

        it’s not even “greed”, it’s just smart business.

        and if that additional revenue allows the Yankees to build better teams and win more titles, the history will write itself.

        • Chris C.

          “The new palace stands for one thing……NEW INCOME POTENTIAL.

          sure.

          but you say this as if it were a bad thing.”

          When it comes to Yankee Stadium, it kind of falls into the “when is enough, enough” category. I mean geez, it’s not as if the Yankees were struggling to make money and replacing the most storied cathedral in all of sports was unavoidable.

          The Yankees can also make a few more coins by selling the naming rights. Do you want that do be done as well?

        • Chris C.

          “that the owners of a business should somehow FOREGO hundreds of millions of dollars to placate our misguided sense of history (”misguided” b/c the stadium really isn’t the same stadium since the renovations in the 70’s) doesn’t really make any sense.”

          Boy, you’re a real killjoy, aren’t you?
          It was still on the same ground, dude.
          Misguided sense of history??? Geez.

          “it’s not even “greed”, it’s just smart business.”

          No, it’s greed, pal. Smart business is starting a new network. Smart business is forging relationships with foreign leagues.

          But unless your reporting losses, tearing down Yankee Stadium and building a new place that prices out longtime fans is shitty business.

        • Chris C.

          and if that additional revenue allows the Yankees to build better teams and win more titles, the history will write itself.

          Ahh, right. THIS is what’s been keeping the Yankees from winning championships. They haven’t had enough money to spend on players in the past.

  • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    I don’t like piling onto the Mets, but I totally agree with Goldberger regarding Citi Field. I’ve been disappointed with the Mets’ decision to build a new stadium in the middle of a parking lot. Anyone who has been to the ballpark in Philly, I’m sure, will echo this sentiment. I’m sure the park itself will be great and a very nice place to watch a game, but it’ll always look weird and fake and Disney-ish sitting in the middle of a parking lot. I’m not a Mets fan but as a NYC resident I would have really liked to see them at least make a minimal attempt to build something somewhat contextual with its surroundings (or build the park they built in a different location).

    I think there’s also something to be said for progress and originality in architecture. Camden Yards was built in 1992. Don’t get me wrong, Camden Yards is fantastic and has aged very well, but at some point the proliferation of Camden clones became hackneyed overkill. One thing that’s cool about the new Yankee Stadium is that it flaunts its modernity and also pays tribute to two different eras (the original limestone stadium and the 70s re-do). The Mets, on the other hand, chose to just build another retro, brick stadium that could be in Cleveland. Yawn.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I thought this was the most interesting line:

      “Citi Field suggests a team that wants to be liked, even to the point of claiming some history that isn’t its own.”

      The Mets co-opting of the histories of the Giants and Dodgers always struck me as somewhat inauthentic and unseemly. Hence, I think attempting to recreate Ebbets Field with their new ballpark is tacky.

      But then again, I root for a team steeped in history, so it’s easy for me to chide a younger team that has been forced to emulate my team for it’s own self-survival. The Mets sorta NEED tradition in order to not be a permanent also-ran to the biggest behemoth in North American sports.

      • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        I agree with you. It kind of bothers me that they co-opt Dodgers/Giants history. It’s one thing (and I think would bother me less) if they were just reverential of that history, but at times (the most egregious example being Citi Field) they go too far and act as if they are actually descended from the Dodgers/Giants, and that’s not true (and those teams still <exist, to boot). Then again, it also kind of bothers me when the LA Dodgers or San Fran Giants celebrate the history of those teams before they left NY, so maybe I’m just a curmudgeon on this topic. On this note, though, it does bother me when the Mets choose to celebrate their history/”connection” with the Dodgers OVER their own history, and I think they did exactly that with Citi Field. Be proud of what you have, don’t try to co-opt someone else’s history and treat it like it’s more important than your own.

      • radnom

        Eh, I have no issue with them paying tribute to NL New York baseball. Especially regarding the stadium, Ebbets field (like the Polo Grounds) is just as much as a part of New York tradition as it is the Dodgers.

    • Chris C.

      “I don’t like piling onto the Mets…..”

      You don’t? Get off this board, immidiately.

  • FL Yank

    What where you doing in my neck of the woods?

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Oh, I’ll tell you what our necks are doing in your woods:

      Where’s our muthaf$%#n movie check?

      • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

        Look at these morose mother fuckers right here. It smells like someone shit in their cereal. BONGGGGG!

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      Visiting my grandparents. They live down there these days.

  • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Driving by it every day, the outside looks truly beautiful up close. Along River Ave by the elevated tracks, they’ve begun hanging up dozens of muge three-panel 6’x6′ posters of Nails, Jeter, Mo, Posada, Damon, Wang, Matsui, etc. (Yes, Jeter and ARod were right next to each other).

    Everything is glorious white and blue. My excitement is building.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      “… hanging up dozens of muge</strike huge three-panel 6?x6? posters…”

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Damn, I suck.

        “… hanging up dozens of muge huge three-panel 6’x6′ posters…”

        My argument is invalid.

        • Chris C.

          Dude, nobody cares if you spell a word or two incorrectly. You’re not being graded.

          BTW…….I think Nails has given the Yankees a brand new photo to put on that three-panel 6′ by 6′ poster.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            BTW…….I think Nails has given the Yankees a brand new photo to put on that three-panel 6? by 6? poster.

            Unfortunately, you’re right.

            I’m finding it very hard to keep selling the Nails Krzyzewski image rebranding. Being ARod’s publicist has to be the worst good job in the world; dude constantly goes off message and undermines the work you do to make him look less of an Oscar De La Hoya-esque douchetard. For someone constantly derided for being too meticulous, inauthentic, and calculating, he sure seems to overcalculate himself into the wrong decision, doesn’t he?

            • Chris C.

              “I’m finding it very hard to keep selling the Nails Krzyzewski image rebranding.”

              BTW…….where did you get this name for AROD? It’s hilarious. I have no idea what it means, but it just sounds awesome.

              It’s like a mixture of Dykstra and the Duke coach.

              • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                That’s exactly what it is.

                Fat, white, unathletic sportswriters hate ARod due to a healthy mixture of unintelligent stereotypical elitist racism and seething vicarious jealousy. But you know what those sportwriters like? Gritty grinders with uber-masculine nicknames that they love to romanticize and overrate. And white guys with non-Dominican names.

                It doesn’t get more uber-masculine nicknamey than “Nails”, and it doesn’t get more white non-Dominican namey than “Krzyzewski”.

      • usty

        oof double fail. haha

      • steve (different one)

        i can’t wait until Phil Mughes gets his own 6X6 panels.

        • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

          They don’t give 6X6 panels to busts!

          • bobtaco

            Not until he is Chinese…

        • jsbrendog

          who is this phil mughes you speak of, does HE throw 95?

  • putt

    “nothing screams unique New York.”

    I agree. Also, the arsonist has oddly shaped feet.

    • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

      That’s bush. That’s bush league.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        BEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUU-
        WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP!

        • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

          We’ve been comin’ to the same party for 12 years! And in no way is that depressing!

  • Januz

    I happen to be a person who is all for the new stadium (Perhaps the most solid supporter who posts here).
    The New York Yankees started out behind the eight ball with this project. Not only did they have to overcome the Community Board #4’s opposition, the various politicians, and the financing involved, but the park issue, and the fact, the preservationists, the media, and the fans all displayed huge opposition to this (Something the Mets did not have to deal with), and last, but certainly not least, being able to keep the tradition of a classic ballpark alive. They succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations, and deserve a grade of A+ for it.
    Yankee Stadium has returned to the 1923 version, not the 1976 version (Except for the field dimensions and the monmument location). Everything is the way it should be (Such as the frieze (And even Col. Ruppert’s dream of a surburban train station is finally being realized)).
    Finally, is everything perfect? Of course not. People will complain about prices, tickets, and bonds for the next several years. But once the parks are finished, and the economy improves, those issues will disappear. In the end, the Yankees did things the right way, and because of that, they overcame the obstacles and created a modern masterpiece.

    • Chris C.

      “I happen to be a person who is all for the new stadium (Perhaps the most solid supporter who posts here).
      The New York Yankees started out behind the eight ball with this project. Not only did they have to overcome the Community Board #4’s opposition, the various politicians, and the financing involved, but the park issue, and the fact, the preservationists, the media, and the fans all displayed huge opposition to this (Something the Mets did not have to deal with), and last, but certainly not least, being able to keep the tradition of a classic ballpark alive.”

      How do you not succeeed when tax-free bonds are paying for about 85% of it?

      “They succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations, and deserve a grade of A+ for it.”

      What grade do you give them for long-time ticket holder treatment? I pesonally know some people who would love to help you grade those papers!

      “Finally, is everything perfect? Of course not. People will complain about prices, tickets, and bonds for the next several years. But once the parks are finished, and the economy improves, those issues will disappear.”

      Right……..once the economy improves, everyone will be rich and stupid again. Just like that.

      “they overcame the obstacles”

      OBSTACLES: Squeezing money from the state to build an office for their own personal profit.

      Those are obstacles you or I would never have to overcome, because that plan wouldn’t even be an allowable option for us.

      • Ed

        How do you not succeeed when tax-free bonds are paying for about 85% of it?

        Making the bonds tax free makes it a little easier to sell them, and saves the team a little bit of money, but doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees still have to come up with a billion dollars or so plus interest.

        OBSTACLES: Squeezing money from the state to build an office for their own personal profit.

        Bonds are loans. The state sells off the bonds to investors, recovering the money they dealt out when issuing the bonds and turning a profit.

  • http://www.pinstripesplus.com ansky

    way to go Ben, im in WPB right now on some much needed vacation from NYC