When the new house almost had a roof

Open Thread: Drew Henson
Fan Confidence Poll: February 14th, 2011

A few days ago, someone I know pointed me to StadiumPage.com. The site was first established in 1998, and I’m sure I’ve run across at some point or another while aimlessly browsing the Internet. This time though I dug into the unrealized concepts page and found a treasure trove of material. Included on that page were models of a new Yankee Stadium with a retractable roof, and so let’s hop in the Wayback Machine.

A model of Yankee Stadium with the roof closed. (Photo via Stadium Page)

This is a tale that can begin in the late 1980s, the early 1990s or the dawn of the current century. Since the new stadium boom embraced baseball, George Steinbrenner had lusted after a new park. He saw the revenues and sellout crowds in Baltimore and Cleveland and wanted a piece of the action. After all, this was a time before the Yankee Dynasty, before A-Rod, before sellout crowds every night. The 1993 Yankees, in fact, averaged just 29,800 fans per game in a stadium without luxury boxes that could seat nearly 57,000.

As the Yanks won, Steinbrenner’s calls grew louder. He wanted to tap into the unrealized potential that a stadium with its new amenities, fine dining and corporate suites would bring into the Yanks’ coffers. Even after winning four of five World Series, the Yanks’ average attendance in 2000 was just under 38,000 fans per game, and Steinbrenner was quite content to blame it on the stadium.

The Boss knew as well that he had a sympathetic ear in City Hall. Rudolph Giuiliani was an unabashed baseball fan, and he took seriously the Yanks’ idle threats to move to New Jersey. In the mid-1990s, he promised a solution to the city’s baseball teams’ stadium woes, and in 1998, for instance, George Steinbrenner was eyeing the West Side as a new home for the Yankees. HOK had proposed the Hudson Yards area as a perfect site for a $1.06 billion with a retractable roof, and the Boss loved it.

The stadium model shown here with the roof open. (Photo via Stadium Page)

As the late 1990s dragged on, city agencies though started pushing back against Giuliani’s plan. He wanted to give major subsidies to both the Mets and the Yankees for the new stadiums, and the Citizens Budget Committee pushed back hard in 1999. Much to the chagrin of the mayor, they proposed a cap on the city giveaways. Much to the detriment of late-2000s New York City, the CBC would be last major governmental opposition to city subsidies for the two baseball stadium.

By early 2001, Giuliani had yet to come through on his stadium vows, and with his two-term stay in Gracie Mansion nearing an end, he had to act fast. In April, he recognized that his successor wouldn’t be so generous with their grants and vowed to find the dollars before the year ended. ”I think it is good for the city if we get them wrapped up now,” he said, “because I do have a different view than at least some of the people who would like to succeed me.”

In July, stadium rumors reached a crescendo as rumors of a July 4th announcement swelled. As then-Times columnist Murray Chass noted, many in the New York sports world expected the city and Yankees to announce a new stadium, complete with a retractable roof, in the Macombs Dam Park. It did not come to pass.

As the summer wore on, the mayor kept up the pace. A September 9 article made it clear that Rudy was staking part of his legacy on the new stadiums. One opponent spoke out against what he feared would be “a midnight deal that is inherently against the public interest.” Two days later, history intervened, and the stadium issue would escape much public scrutiny until the waning hours of Giuliani’s term.

An overhead shot of the open roof. (Photo via Stadium Page)

On December 29, 2001, armed with models complete with retractable roofs, Guiliani, the Yankees and Mets neared stadium deals. For a combined cost to the city of $1.6 billion, the two clubs would build their stadiums where their new homes currently sit today. Each team would receive $800 million in tax-free municipal bonds, and the city would keep various stadium revenues. When the deal became official, Steinbrenner seemed annoyed that he — and not the city — would have to pay for the stadium costs, and the price tag — with roof — was set at $800 million.

These deals rapidly unraveled. Mayor Michael Bloomberg worked to torpedo the deals in 2002 because they were too team-friendly, and he eventually worked out a new arrangement in which the Yanks would front more — but definitely not all — of the costs associated with the construction. Gone from the plans that emerged in 2004 and 2005 was the roof. The Yanks decided to save the $200 million and build an open-air park instead.

When I see the renderings from early 2001 and the plans that emerged, I’m struck by how similar they are. Perhaps I shouldn’t be though. HOK designed the stadium with a roof, and HOK designed the current stadium without a roof. For the most part, they simply took the roof off of their earlier models and changed the outfield configuration. The plan to reimagine and recreate the original look and feel of old Yankee Stadium had been a part of the replacement plans since Steinbrenner got the new stadium itch.

Should we rue the lack of a roof? I know in 2009 a lot of fans were bemoaning the price tag. For one point whatever billion dollars, couldn’t they stick a roof on that thing? But of course, the Yanks saved some money keeping the park roof-free, and they saved the atmosphere of the game. When it comes to baseball outside, I’m a traditionalist. I’ve seen games in a dome, and it’s surreal to watch baseball on a carpet with a roof over your head. Even with the roof open, it hovers over the stands and the field. Furthermore, the space needed for the roof would likely have stretched further into the Bronx parkland. I’m happy to take games in the new stadium without that hulking contraption overhead. The Yankees were too once the city made them pony up the dollars.

Open Thread: Drew Henson
Fan Confidence Poll: February 14th, 2011
  • http://www.facebook.com/cecala Joseph Cecala

    It looks so ugly!

  • http://www.yfsf.org AndrewYF

    Very cool, glad the new stadium didn’t end up looking like some awful football stadium with all that ugly wire-looking crap on top.

  • mbonzo

    Looks like the Yanks only had 3 rain delays last year. Its hard to imagine justifying all those millions, the ugliness, and the astro-turf (or whatever they call it now) for 3 games and a few delays. Who doesn’t like double headers anyway?

    • Rick in Boston

      They wouldn’t need to do field turf (the grass-looking stuff made from recycled materials and rubber) – grass is definitely an option.

  • long time listener

    I’m torn. I hate rainouts, and it seems like the Yankees could have made the money back from the roof by hosting some indoor events (though if the Stadium was open-air that might not have been possible – I can’t imagine them play NCAA tournament games in 40 degree March weather, even with a roof over their heads). On the other hand, indoor baseball is atrocious, and the extra cost is unattractive if they couldn’t find enough events to make up the cost within a reasonable time frame. I guess I’ll come down on the side of tradition and be thankful for the lack of dome.

    • Rick

      There are NCAA tournament games at the Prudential this year, the garden has hosted the event numerous times. The sport is played indoors regardless so I’m not following your assumption that they wouldn’t have NCAA tournament games here.

      • twac00

        I think he meant at the stadium.

  • Ed

    Not a fan of the roof design. Can’t see it being worth the money, so I’m glad they scapped it.

    Comparing the old and new financials was interesting. The original deal had the team splitting the construction costs with the city, while the final deal had the team paying it all. The old deal also had the city getting 4% of gate revenue, plus 35% of all revenue from non-baseball events. The final deal replaced all that with the city getting 100% of parking revenue. I’m still amazed at how the parking deal looked great for the city at the time, but just 5 years later things changed so much that it ended up being terrible.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      The parking is a prime example of urban development in a blackhole. The city pumped nearly $100 million into transit improvements as part of the new stadium and seemingly failed to account for how many people take mass transit to baseball games. The demand for all that parking just isn’t there and never will be.

      • Ed

        I agree with that the demand isn’t there, and probably won’t be anytime soon. I completely disagree on the rest though.

        The problem isn’t related to mass transit. There’s been a *huge* shift in the demographics that attend Yankee games. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, the vast majority of the fans in attendance came from NJ. Mass transit from NJ to NYC wasn’t nearly as good then as it it is now, so most of them drove to the stadium. All the parking lots nearby used to fill to capacity. If you didn’t get there early, you had to really hunt for parking.

        Somewhere along the way after the new stadium plans were finalized, the attendance shifted to be primarily New Yorkers. With that shift came a huge decrease in parking demand. I’ve never heard anything about exactly when or why the change happened, but I’m curious to read more about it.

        • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

          Back in the 90s and early 2000s, the vast majority of the fans in attendance came from NJ. Mass transit from NJ to NYC wasn’t nearly as good then as it it is now…

          I’m not really sure that first statement is accurate. The issue is more one of people. As I mentioned in the past, attendance throughout the 1990s never reached 40,000 and peaked in 2000 at under 38,000 a game. In the two years of the new stadium with its smaller capacity, average attendance has hovered around 48,000. Simply, more people from all over are going to games, and fans from New York haven’t displaced fans from New Jersey.

          Meanwhile, doesn’t your second sentence support my point? Even in the 1990s, there was more than enough stadium parking for the number of fans going to games. That hasn’t changed as more people go to games and as mass transit improves. The parking for the new stadium was always overkill.

          • tommydee2000

            Don’t forget the biggest change: the direct Metro North link servicing Westchester and Connecticut. Those are prime Yankee areas.

            That station was promised to Jacob Ruppert in 1923.

          • Ed

            Meanwhile, doesn’t your second sentence support my point? Even in the 1990s, there was more than enough stadium parking for the number of fans going to games.

            There wasn’t really enough parking in the 90s. As I said before, it was a challenge to find parking if you didn’t get there early. Stories of people missing several innings of the game because they couldn’t find parking were common.

            As for my comment on mass transit improving – my point was that NJ Transit was a terrible option for getting to Yankee Stadium when the stadium plans were created. Parking demand was much higher then, and could reasonably be expected to stay higher. NJ Transit started making massive improvements to their train service around the time the stadium plans were finalized, hence a reduction in demand for parking that the Yankees wouldn’t have foreseen.

          • Ed

            Simply, more people from all over are going to games, and fans from New York haven’t displaced fans from New Jersey.

            Also, you do have a point with that comment. It’s certainly possible that the fans from NJ have stayed relatively constant while more fans from elsewhere have come. The Metro North line would certainly do a lot to support that.

            It’s still a shift in percentages though, which I think it’s safe to say the team didn’t expect based on the amount of parking they built.

  • Clint Holzner

    Really fascinating arcitle, great read. I can’t imagine how much Yankee bashing there would be if we played with a roof over out head. I miss the old stadium a lot, but I can’t think of a better place to have moved to than the new Yankee Stadium and it did truly feel more like home this year, we should all thank that 2009 World Series championship.

  • http://twitter.com/joerosinski Joe R

    We’re very fortunate that Yankee Stadium was built without a roof. I tend to find roofs very intrusive, especially when they’re hulking over the outfield, like at Safeco or Minute Maid. Even when the roof is open in those stadiums, they still don’t feel like completely open air ballparks (that’s not to say they aren’t both very nice ballparks).

    Judging by the renderings, Yankee Stadium’s roof would’ve been positioned much like Minute Maid’s, only with the roof in LF instead of RF. Minute Maid is a nice place to walk around and take in a ballgame, but it never really feels like an open air park, and that roof just looms overhead. Baseball is meant to be played outdoors, and I’m glad it’s always guaranteed to be at Yankee Stadium. I’ll gladly put up with a few rain delays and less-than-ideal weather for outdoor baseball and a better looking stadium.

    (Where the mistake was made was not putting a roof on the New Meadowlands Stadium. NYC would be a guaranteed Super Bowl, Final Four, WrestleMania, etc., destination if that occurred. Those events are much, much more suited to football stadiums than baseball stadiums, and if the Giants and Jets were that adamently opposed to a roof, they could’ve mandated that the roof never be closed for their home games. The cost of the roof would be probably be covered by two Super Bowls, much less the various other events that would be made possible with it.)

  • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

    I guess I’m in the minority, I think the roof is pretty cool

  • Urban

    Maybe one day a roof can be designed that truly is retractable. Until then, I’m happy there is no roof. I can live with a rain-out every once in a while, and I love a cool October evening in the Bronx. It means play-offs are here!

  • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

    Oh god, that roof is awful.

    Does the shape of that original model remind anyone else of the Polo Grounds?

  • mko

    I love ballparks with a retractable roof. I watched a game at Chase Field once and I loved it.

    I think most people are against it because of the “tradition” of open air baseball and Yankee Stadium without a roof. But I say let’s use all the great features that are available to us and let the place make it’s own tradition instead of trying to copy some old tradition.

  • henry frisch

    I recently visited Minute Maid (two weeks ago). The roof was open to no discernible sense of it not being a baseball park. It definitely is less
    indoor-ish than Toronto and not so pronounced in the dome quality as Safeco.

    As a season ticket holder who has suffered rain delays and rainouts (the 2009 season was particularly annoying) I would have liked — would still like– the dome depicted here.

  • Pete C.

    I’ve been to parks with covers. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m in one, I can’t see the ball come out of the pitchers hand. I see a wind-up, and then the pop and deflection as the ball hits the mitt, it’s almost like something in a bugs bunny cartoon.
    If it’s like that for someone in the stands, what must it be like for the guy at the plate?

  • http://twitter.com/bryanl26 Bryan L

    I must say, that looks horrendous. It feels like they took Yankee Stadium and added an airplane hangar.


    You obviously arent a season ticket holder who sits in CT on drizzly days at 4:30pm-5pm, who has to get a babysitter to go to games – wondering – “is there going to be a game, or isn’t there going to be a game?”. When they got rid of the roof, they added lots of angst to alot of people. “I’m glad they didn’t put on a roof?”…for a single person living in manhattan, wonderful. For people in the ‘burbs with families – IT BLOWS!(Did I mention the cost of the train/parking & food if there ISN’T a GAME due to rainout?)

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      I mean, people coming from other parts of the city also have to deal with the same thing. It takes me an hour to get to Yankee Stadium from Brooklyn, and while I take the train — something you can do from Connecticut to avoid parking fees — that’s a major time commitment. But the number of times the roof isn’t necessarily far, far outweighs those 2-3 games a year early in the season when it’s cold and drizzling. The roof didn’t create angst among fans any more than not having one for 85 years did in the stadium before this one. Those are just my two cents though.

      • BINNER

        Ben, it’s $20 P/person for the train….so that point is out. it’s not the $2 subway….

        And for the 12 years I had season tickets in the old stadium, I screamed we need a roof.

        Last year was a good year weather-wise. It’s usually more like 10 games I take a chance or don’t on….

    • Yankeegirl49

      Doesn’t blow for me….I come from Staten Island by ferry/train, takes me about an hour and a half each way. Ive spent many an afternoon wondering if I should go and many an evening sitting in the Yankee Tavern waiting for the tarp to come off (or not). I am STILL glad they didn’t put on a roof, retractable or not. To me, baseball should be played outdoors, or not at all.

    • http://twitter.com/joerosinski Joe R

      I live in CT and never once wanted a dome. I’ve also had very few weather-related issues with Yankee games in my lifetime – rain delays aren’t really something that occurs often enough here to warrant a dome.

      • BINNER

        You guys are not season ticket holders then….if you go to 3 games a year, yeah it makes no difference….duh

  • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

    When A-Rod heard about the roof he was outraged and refused to play. Ergo, no roof. However, Dustin Pedroia welcomes the challenge of playing on turf.

    Source: ESPN.com

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Tired meme is tired. ;)

      • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

        But it’s all I have :(

  • Jesse

    Ben, fine piece of original reportgae. Very entertaining and informative.. Those pictures are like a nightmare from the future. Thank Babe that did not get built.

  • mike_h

    good riddence, we didnt need a stadium with a roof anyway. The backend looks ugly. In 2009 we had what I think 3 rain outs, and in 2010 we had none though I think only 1 rain shortened game.

    NYC isnt a rainy city and a retractable roof isnt practical.
    Nice article though Ben

  • henry frisch

    The Red Sox game that started at 9:30 PM alone was enough to make me yearn for a dome.

    Clearly, the season ticket holders have a different agenda from those who only go very occasionally.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Besides the fact that my family goes in for part of a season-ticket package, I’m going to respond to this. Don’t take this too personally, but season-ticket holders complaining about a roof because of the handful of games that get delayed sound way too entitled. You’re talking about a solitary game causing you to want a very ugly roof. Plus, if you’re eying anyone with an agenda, focus on the team. They made the choice for economic reasons and because the need just isn’t there. It’s much, much nicer without a roof.

      • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        I think henry and some others are over-generalizing about the season ticket holders vs. everyone else thing, but just to add my two-cents as someone who was a season ticket holder and now is not, there were definitely times when I was a season ticket holder that I’d be like ‘man it’d be nice to have a retractable roof,’ and I definitely don’t feel the same way now.

        It’s really not all that surprising that people sense that difference (btw season tix people and others). Everyone who goes to a game that gets delayed and/or eventually postponed gets annoyed, it’s a very frustrating experience. The season tix people just have it happen with more frequency, so it feels more annoying to them.

        And I’m not sure the ‘entitled’ knock is really all that fair. Season ticket holders pay a ton of money for their tickets and make a large time commitment to the endeavor(commuting and game-time), all of which just amplifies the annoyance-factor when the delays/postponements happen.

        • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

          Maybe entitled is the wrong word, but I find it to be an odd attitude. I go to 25 games a year at the stadium, and I’ve suffered through some terrible rain delays. Last year, for instance, Joe, Leo and I got absolutely drenched while waiting out a storm. I still don’t think that justifies roof on both aesthetic or practical grounds.

          Considering how the stadium has never had a roof, I think season ticket holders pay knowing that some early-season rain delays are just a part of baseball. The area just isn’t rainy or cold enough to justify the roof in my opinion.

          • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            No arguments there, I just don’t think it’s all that surprising or unreasonable that season ticket holders might be a little more annoyed with rain issues and more inclined to be receptive to the idea of a retractable roof. I agree with you – even at my most frustrated, as a season ticket holder, I never actually wanted them to put a roof on the stadium.

  • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    This point is purely about aesthetics so it’s clearly totally subjective, but my problem with that (retractable) domed design is that it’s just such an unfortunate architectural mishmash. It’s like someone dropped a modern, industrial-looking airplane hanger on top of a structure with a classic design; it just doesn’t go together. And to make matters worse, the classic design is a fake, it’s a new building built to look old. I mean, when they built the new Soldier Field in Chicago people laughed at it because in trying to preserve some of the history of the original Soldier Field they wound up building something that looked like an alien spaceship landed on top of Soldier Field, but at least in that instance the “classic” part of the design was actually, like, classic and original.

    I don’t have a problem with YS3 taking its design cues from the past, it’s not that I don’t think a new stadium should look like YS3 looks. I tend to not be a big fan of the faux-retro thing, but I totally get it with YS3 (YS3 would just be awful if it didn’t stay in keeping with Yankee and Yankee Stadium tradition). But to plop down a modern roof and structure on top of a faux-retro design would just be too much for me, it’d be like if they wanted to build an homage to Yankee Stadium in Disney World. Just totally fake and weird.

    • CS Yankee

      I went to Chicago this past Thanksgiving as my youngest had a hockey tournament. What they did with Soldier Field is incredible (in a good way).

      I love the HOK designs on many of the newer “old parks”…Camden is the best, I heard that all the seats at Jacobs are turned towards HP, Coors Field is done real well, and Minute Maid, the BOB, & AT&T (or whatever the Giants thing is called) all seem to be well done.

      I agree, that this version of a domed (or doomed) YS3 would of been a disaster. They did YS3 so incredibly well, I just wish the luxary section (& its bad PR) and overall size was larger (for more of a loud feel, increased revenue and bragging rights).

  • henry frisch

    Again, I say look at Minute Maid. The dome does not detract from the appearance. The only dome I have been to that I really do not like is Toronto’s because the whole place is reminiscent of an indoor MSGarden type place.

  • CS Yankee

    I have made several trips from Colorado to Mass/Conn/NYC for business and family reasons throughout the years and have missed 3 of 6 games that I have bought tickets for and the two of the others were rain delayed.

    This occured when things were tight and I really had to save and had a small window to see a game and I also missed out to when things were great and I wanted to take my boys to a game.

    I have easily spent $4,000 on missed games and disappointed trips to the old & new stadium, but looking at that metal hanger and comparing it to the cathedral that stands in my mind are worlds apart.

    Houston, Arizona, Seattle, etc makes good sense to beat the extreme heat and wet weather and perhaps a city like Detroit or Pittsburgh; whereas all that steel has a different tie to the city…or even in Flushings whereas they need every reason to get people attending games…Yankee Stadium, no way.

  • Opus

    Interesting site. It reminds me of a full color blueprint that the Newark Star Ledger ran about 12 years ago of what a stadium would look like if they moved the team to New Jersey. I can’t remember if there was a roof, but I do recall that the dimensions were modeled on the original stadium, meaning a cavernous left field. Even then I knew that would never fly. Does anyone else recall this article? I might still have the newspaper with the design at my parent’s house.

  • twac00

    Do you know if a retractable roof can be added on at a later point? A roof would bring in so much more revenue. The Yankees could hold concerts year round, boxing all year, March Madness, etc. And when NY finally legalizes MMA UFC and Strikeforce events could be held at the stadium. The roof may not look pretty, but who really cares when you can have a payroll of $400M.

    • Evan3457

      Not to mention becoming a viable Super Bowl site. Sorta.

  • Evan3457

    I would’ve preferred the retractable roof.

    To me, there’s no reason to be pestered by rain delays, not to mention losing starting pitchers and/or re-warming them, if it can be avoided.

    If you had been there last year, like I was, the night the tornado ripped through the Bronx nearby…well, OK, a roof ain’t stopping a tornado, and, in fact could come crashing down in a tornado. But there are a lot more near-misses than direct strikes from tornadoes and straight-line and bowline supercells, and it would be nice not to have to stand for hours at a time waiting for the rain to stop.

    On the other hand, the lack of a roof isn’t going to stop me from going to my 5-10 games a year.

  • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

    How would the roof affect home runs?


    Indoor baseball isn’t all bad, the stadium in Seattle is beautiful and the stadium in Houston is nice. I think if the climate is such that it demands a roof like the heat in Arizona or the humidity in Texas and Florida not to mention a place where it rains like Seattle or subtropical southern states then you have to build a roof to suit your climate. Another great thing about a roof is the temperature is always a nice 70 degrees. And to an earlier post above me retractable roofed stadiums in MLB all have real grass all that being said I am glad New Yankees stadium did not get a roof I think the roofed Yankee Stadium was quite ugly. What we ended up getting in New Yankee stadium is a gorgeous take on old Yankee stadium.

  • julian

    well im sure nobody will ever read this since its now the end of the 2011 regular season and we are nearly in october but that roof sure would have saved the yanks some trouble this year with so many rainouts their schedual is now a grind with marathon stretches with no days off and doubleheaders heading into the playoffs not to mention literally hundreds of thousands of fans who got left out in the rain with no game to watch and a long commute for nothing. but hey im sure the freakin steak house and hard rock were worth it