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.