In the shadow of the new house, local business suffers

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Stan the Man’s Baseball Land sits across from the old Yankee Stadium. (Photo by flickr user DustonThomasJohnston)

During the build-up to the opening of the new Yankee Stadium, team officials touted the economic benefits it would bring to the South Bronx, and many of Yankee-centric merchants lining River Ave. supported the stadium. Even with its smaller capacity, the new stadium would attract more people to the area and thus, they reasoned, business would boom.

As the World Series drew to a close nearly two weeks ago, that economic reality was far from the truth, and in Year One, the new stadium had a negative impact on local businesses. As The Times, the Associated Press and WNYC all explored during the playoffs, sports stores and other businesses lining River Ave. have seen sales drop by nearly 20-40 percent this year.

“Many people who thought that their business would be greatly increased have not experienced that,” Ramón J. Jimenez, a South Bronx lawyer and community activist, said to The Times. “I think a lot of people are disappointed.”

The reasons for this downturn in sales are numerous. First, the bad economy has led consumers to curtail spending. Second, the Yankees averaged nearly 8000 fewer fans per game this year than last. Even with eight additional home games in the playoffs, attendance totals for 2009 were still lower than they were for 2008.

More important though are the amenities in the new stadium. The old Yankee Stadium was not a shopper’s paradise. It featured a few cramped souvenir stands, few dining options and concourses that made heading straight to the seats an attractive option for all fans. The new stadium features 125 concession stands, 56 souvenir shops and multiple dining options. It was designed, as all new stadiums are, to be a self-contained economy. Get your hat, get your t-shirt, get your beer and your fries and even your Porterhouse steak all right here.

Many aren’t — and shouldn’t be — surprised by this turn of events. Neil deMause culled reactions from those who had foreseen this unfortunate impact. “When you look at this new generation of stadiums, they’re little walled cities,” Robert Baade, sports economist said. “They’re trying to capture as much spending as possible inside the stadium, and that really works against spillover to the neighborhoods. Why go out into the neighborhood if you can get everything you want right there?”

Others — such as Joyce Hogi — noted that, earlier in the year, the police had barricaded the streets so that people could not cross to the businesses. A few weeks into the season, though, the barriers were gone, and by the end of the year, businesses weren’t suffering as much.

As Yankee Stadium heads into Year Two, merchants will nervously await the economic reality of it for Year Two will be the true indication of impact. One River Ave. vendor during the World Series noted that the Yanks sold the on-field World Series patch hat in the Stadium for $50 while merchants outside were willing to accept $40. (Editor’s Note: The same cap was available at the Yankees Clubhouse store and online for $35.) If the economics of merchandise continue in this vein, equilibrium will soon be restored, and the losses would represent a one-year dip as fans recover from the novelty of a new stadium.

Maybe we Yankee fans should make more of an effort to visit those River Ave. merchants and give them some business. They are, after all, a colorful part of the Yankee experience in the Bronx, and we should be mindful of them as the Yankees fortify themselves with a new stadium and the monetary benefits of it.

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  • Rose

    The Stadium is so expensive…people are just going to the game and staying put. Nobody is throwing descretionary income around like wildfire during these times. The tickets are expensive enough…when you’re walking around before the game you’re saving money for when you’re inside…and when the games over…the stores surrounding are either closed or you don’t want to spend anymore money after spending so much inside the game already.

    I don’t know how they thought it would have brought more business to the area. People who fly in to catch a game don’t stay in the Bronx either…they stay in the City and take the subway to the stadium from there.

    • Rose

      Maybe once people feel more comfortable spending money, have more job security, or prices in the stadium decrease…maybe then people will start to mutter around and peek at the surroundings a little more. But until then…nobody’s interested…

  • jsohie boy

    While it makes for a nice little guy vs. the man story I think people should just relax on this one. This was the first year of the new stadium and understandably people wanted to get inside and see the place not hang out on the streets outside. Once the newness wears off the economic benefits will kick in.

  • tommydee2000

    How about another take on it: the old Stadium was cramped and dirty with few amenities, and the old hangouts were the cramped, worn amenities.

    The new Stadium has clean, nice bars and places to eat, albeit more expensive for drinks. In addition, there is beer in the Bleachers again.

    The bars’ competition is no longer each other with very little in the Stadium. The Yankees have exercised their right to go for those dollars.

    • Rose

      Good point. The new stadium has so much to do inside of it where it eliminates the need to meander around outside at the dirty cramped up places. Also, the bleacher seated people have no need to sit at the bar and get liquored up for the game as much…knowing that they’re allowed to order a beer there if they’d like.

      • tommydee2000

        I’ve had a Saturday plan for the last 11 years, and before this year, we rarely ate in the Stadium, and except for McDonald’s when I brought little kids, I never considered eating in those places outside. If we had extra time, we stopped on Arthur Avenue at the real Mike’s Deli, but wouldn’t deal with the prices, crowds or hygiene of the bars on River Avenue.

        During the course of this season, I think I tried everything inside the Stadium besides the Carl’s and NYY $teak. I found all the choices to be of good quality, and reasonably priced.

        I have more sympathy for the souvenir guys, because their prices and selection are more in line with demand.

  • A.D.

    Interesting to know what the sales of apparel in the Yankees store’s might be & in general how sales of MLB apparel did.

    Personally I prefer going to the shops on river ave, they just have more selection if nothing else.

  • Ed

    The horrible economy makes it really hard to compare this merchandise sales this season to last.

    One concern for next season though – will the demolition of the old stadium limit access to the businesses across the street from it? I’m assuming they’ll never completely block access, but I would expect periods of time with restricted access to the surrounding streets, whether it be to allow more room for moving demolition equipment or for safety reasons while things are coming down.

    • vin

      Very good points.

    • Neil deMause

      The old stadium is supposed to completely come down by June, and it looks like they’re starting at the bleacher/River Ave. end. So there’s some reason to hope that River Ave. will be passable by Opening Day. Though with the city and the Yankees, you never know…

  • A.D.

    While working in his father’s souvenir shop up the block, he recalled, there was no time to fold the T-shirts before selling them. Customers were lined up three and four deep at the counter yelling out orders and tossing wads of bills.

    Well no kidding, the drought between titles/ general sustained success was a ton greater, their was much more surprise at the Yanks in the WS that year, and 1996 saw some loser spending by households.

  • vin

    “During the build-up to the opening of the new Yankee Stadium, team officials touted the economic benefits it would bring to the South Bronx, and many of Yankee-centric merchants lining River Ave. supported the stadium.”

    As someone in the development industry, I can tell you that this sort of thing always happens. A developer will always claim that his/her new project will bring X amount of new jobs, Y amount of tax revenue, boost property values, etc. Sometimes it works out that way, sometimes it doesn’t.

    These merchants were out of their collective minds if they thought the new ballpark would be good for their businesses. Of course the Yanks were going to try to capture as much of potential revenue within the stadium as possible. The only reason those merchants exist is because the old ballpark couldn’t adequately meet the consumers’ demands.

    Not to mention the fact that the old ballpark was always full (last 10 years at least), and the new ballpark would have a smaller crowd capacity.

    Just give it 5 years and a new available revenue sector will become apparent. Who knows, maybe Yankee themed furniture will be all the rage in 2015, and there will be some licensing snag that prevents the Yanks from selling it at the ballpark… in comes the little guy. (goofy example, but you get the point)

  • vin

    ““When you look at this new generation of stadiums, they’re little walled cities,” Robert Baade, sports economist said. “They’re trying to capture as much spending as possible inside the stadium, and that really works against spillover to the neighborhoods. Why go out into the neighborhood if you can get everything you want right there?”

    IMO, this is the biggest point of the post.

    We’re seeing this approach in all types of development. Why do they charge $20 for a hamburger at Disney World? Because people are willing to spend that much. It’s certainly easier than going to the parking lot, taking the tram to your car, driving around in an attempt to find a god-awful Applebees.

    Mixed-use development was all the rage here in the Sunbelt until the economy fell apart. The thought from the developer was – If we create an interesting place, people will be more likely to buy our condo, shop at our retailers, eat at our restaurants, and work in one of our offices.

    This is the way most new developments have been conceived. I assume it will persist when things start getting built again.

    • JMK aka The Overshare

      As someone who works in urban planning and has also worked at an Applebee’s, I am uniquely qualified to note that some of the perils of mixed-used planning can be attributed to its cost (and god-awful Riblets). Simply put, to develop mixed-use layouts requires significantly more spending in the actual construction, but also, for it to function effectively, it requires highly efficient public transportation or enough business within said area to retain local growth and large community parking lots, something most in the neighborhood feel is self-defeating. Sure, the model can work well in communities that are high-density and urban, but moving the model to more remote communities is often far more difficult, something it sounds like you’re describing in the Sun Belt.

      Have you heard about the commuter rail plans in Madison, WI?


    Despite the cheer leading of politicians and team owners, studies have shown that new stadiums don’t add revenue to the local economies, and in several cases, actually correspond to declining revenue both in terms of available city resources and in terms of local jobs and wages. The promise of increased revenue and job creation is simply part of the narrative used to sell public financing to taxpayers or, in the case of the current stadium, to get better land deals and/or tax breaks.


    More details of the research:

  • Reggie C.

    Sales figures are also hurt by the job losses many Bronx residents have had to endure this past year. That borough has a very high unemployment rate (highest in city). So we’re talking about an overall lack of disposable income.

    • Zack

      Yeah that’s a huge variable that messes up the numbers while trying to compare 2009 to the last 8 years.

  • Tony

    Those stores are old & decrepid. I hope they renovate & they may see some more customers. The stores need to try to attract customers not just expect that they will show up. They need to earn my business.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      I guess undercutting the competition by offering better prices isn’t enough for you. You want a shopping experience too?

      • Tony

        Yes – I would rather have River Ave renovated with new stores than what is currently there.

        • DonnieBaseballHallofFame


  • DonnieBaseballHallofFame

    I do not get why as Yanks fans anybody would feel they owe anything to “the neighborhood businesses”. I at times went to some of them out of sheer necessity. I also use to do quite a bit of business in the BX and would be around before the park opened. None of those places had good food. Most merch stores sucked but one of them did have much more than any store inside the old stadium.

    Those places existed only because the Stadium did not have any real amenities inside. The merch stores were a joke, the food you could get at a game was not up to most peoples going out to eat standards. I could care less either way I go to a game to watch the game not eat. While over priced the new Stadiums merch stores have damn near anything the modern fan could want (yet I can still not find Yanks tees without names on the back)

    The local stores need to reinvest as well. Why go to a dump when you can get your hat, sushi, non yankees colored leather jacket, and jersey with the name on the back inside?

    I would the Yanks rather see the revenue than the outside vendors just trying to cull a buck off the Yanks name. MLB merch is slit between all the teams so the Yanks only saw 1/30 of that licensing buck anyway.

    Only mentioning this due to the fact I saw it brought up here about the bear sales in the bleachers.

    I really wish they would stop selling beer in the bleachers. Had to endure the creatures for an ALCS game this year and it was brutal. Half the section I was in had been individually booted by security by the 8th. If I was there with children or a lady, or an elderly person I would have not felt safe for them. Bobby Abreu had to hear some really horrible things that night, things you should get booted for saying to anybody ever. Loved the game that night but man did not feel really proud of my fellow “fans”.

    • Moshe Mandel

      You won’t change that by not serving beer. I sat in the bleachers 15-20 times in the old park where they did not serve beer and it was exactly the same. People just came to the game totally wrecked.

      • DonnieBaseballHallofFame

        I sat in the bleachers only a few times (in the old stadium) but I have sat in many seats where it is predominantly neighborhood types (i think they used to call the one section “community seating” especially in the late 90s early 00s when I had to get walk up tix day of game. There is some of that but nothing like what I saw that night.

        There were quite a few flasks being passed around. I was offered more booze before and during that game than I have ever seen at a Yanks game.

  • cqmurphy

    while i recognize i would be foolish to go head-to-head with any of youse with a background and development or to defend the quality of any of the local businesses, i cannot help but hope that they see some sort of turnaround next year and thereafter.

    having seen a good number of MLB (and some miLB) ballparks over the course of the last 10 years, one of the most striking contrasts between Yankee Stadium (old or new) and EVERY other stadium (old or new), save Wrigley, is the “culture” or “experience” that surrounds traveling to the park to see the game. one of my favourite parts of going to the games is not only seeing the games, but bumming around the neighborhood before and after the game to grab a beer or buy a shirt from one of the local merchants. hanging out with fellow fans and having the opportunity to partake of a larger experience makes the afternoon or evening more exciting and lets me feel a little more like i am a PART of said experience and not just another spectator. the sterility i have found in so many ballparks around the country stems from the fact that people drive to the game, go inside, see the game, and drive away.

    if these businesses go, we’ll have just another team to root for. one can celebrate the grandeur of tradition, but without the larger experience, there will be little that differs between and Yankees game and any other game.

    • DonnieBaseballHallofFame

      I understand what you are saying but when were there a really nice atmosphere around the Stadium ever? The Bronx is a hole that without Yankee Stadium would be a place that nobody that did not live there would go to.

      If George had really lived up to his threats of moving to somewhere right off the Jersey turnpike years ago, nobody would really make a big deal today. Sure the few years before it happened, and a few years after, but how many of you “New York” football fans really give a damn that they are in Jersey?

  • Glen L

    Good thing the city gave them all those tax breaks! just bringing SO much money back into the community …

    corporate welfare never, ever, ever helps anyone but politicians and the direct recipients … disgusting

    • DonnieBaseballHallofFame

      I think the amount of people who drive from Jersey (and anywhere else that is not Bronx) and send money at JUST the Stadium and the tolls, is helping the City.

      I do agree corp welfare is wrong but it sounds like some would like there to be welfare for the lil biz’s who ONLY make money because the Yanks are there. Is that part fair to the Yanks?

  • Pasqua

    I wonder if, once the old stadium is gone and the parks are (finally?) in place, the River Ave. businesses will begin to benefit even more. People might be more willing to stroll around a communal area like a park before and after games more so than the empty shell of a stadium. This could attract more “window shoppers” and casual buyers. Hope so.

    • DonnieBaseballHallofFame

      You been to the boogie down at night before and took a stroll? Fat chance that EVER happens with the average fans. I know you will not see people from the moat seats doing that unelss they are collecting their rent checks.

      • Pasqua

        The area being referred to in the post is adjacent to the stadium. There are / will be thousands upon thousands of people wandering there before and after games. Yeah, I’ve been there at night and taken a stroll (we’re not talking about the “inner sanctum” of the Bronx here). No worries. And the moat sitters are a small percentage of attendees. Lots of “regular folk” will be out and about. My point was, if you add the parkland, it will only improve the situation.

  • Kiersten

    River Ave needs a total renovation. Those bars and stores, for the most part, are old and disgusting. No one is going to go up to the Bronx to watch a game at a surrounding bar. When I went up to Boston this summer, I watched Friday night’s game in a very nice, upscale-ish, packed bar/restaurant right across from Fenway. There are so many nice places to catch the game right outside of the stadium and it makes for a nice atmosphere when you exit and all the fans are all in one place, coming from the game and the bars.

    With that said, River Ave still kicks Flushing’s ass with their auto repair shops.

    (And oy, I just praised Boston/the Sox for something)

    • Matt :: Section 105

      What bars are you refering to that are old and disgusting?

      Stan’s, perhaps the most popular bar on River Ave (old stadium side), is always packed.

      Billy’s is always packed, as well.

      There is another place, the Eatery, which is expanding, and didn’t see much of a drop off (only some due mostly to the economy).

      • Matt :: Section 105

        I mean, all those places I refereed to, are old, but it’s not like super dirty.

    • Esteban

      Yea,the area around Fenway is just MUCH nicer than the area around Yankee Stadium

  • Will

    How exactly are the “River Ave. merchants a colorful part of the Yankee experience in the Bronx”. I always thought they were business people trying to make as much money as possible. I know when I have always gone into them, the overpriced (relative to everywhere but inside the Stadium) merchandise didn’t make me feel like I was being treated like family.

    If the businesses did better in the past, it is because they offered a reason for people to spend their money there. Suggesting that Yankee fans owe these people charity is kind of silly. Something tells me that if a Yankee fan couldn’t afford to buy a nice new shirt, these people wouldn’t be giving it away for free either.

  • crapula

    The Yankees also opened their doors earlier this year. I remember waiting at Stan’s for the doors to open. And once inside, there really wasn’t anything.

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