Yanks unveil a sign etched in gold

Time to drop in on the construction in the Bronx. When last we saw the New Yankee Stadium, work on the Yanks’ future home was moving right along. Since the end of the season, the stadium had grown a second deck and an entry way. Today, we’ve got another update courtesy of the AP, the New York Post and Yankees.com, and now the stadium has a name.

The Post – and a hat tip on this one to Curbed – goes inside the construction, and the Yankees are definitely making progress. While they still may be behind schedule, the stadium is coming together. Bill Sanderson reports:

The words “Yankee Stadium,” solidly etched in gold-leafed stone, were hoisted by crane onto the team’s new South Bronx home this week. And now there’s rock-solid proof that unlike countless other sports teams that have given up stadium-naming rights to big corporations, Yankee tradition is not for sale. The words appear on the façade of the stadium’s 30,000- square-foot Gothic-style Grand Hall, which will be the main entranceway to the new ballpark and is expected to offer retail and restaurant space year-round.

“Yankee” went up Monday, and “Stadium” went up first thing yesterday morning, team officials said.

Sounds pretty nifty, right? But what does it look like? Well, MLB.com comes through with a new photo gallery on Yankees.com. For now, you can also see the images in the flickr set embedded below or on flickr in this set.

As Yankee Stadium nears its final season, progress on the new stadium is coming along apace, and I, one of the new stadium’s great detractors, will admit that the House that A-Rod Built sure does look pretty spectacular for now.

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South Bronx community activists upset with Yankee Stadium land deal

I know a few readers here have grown tired of my new stadium posts, but I have my reasons for following this story. I’m a firm believer in good government (as is evidenced by my other blog focusing on the MTA), and I don’t think the stadium financing and the land deals represent anything close to good government. So bear with me, and if you don’t like it, read about Huston Street.

The latest news comes in the form of land deal that Bronx activists say will turn former park land into commercial developments. That wasn’t supposed to be part of the original deal. Bill Sanderson has more from the Post:

A sneaky city land “giveaway” will turn over former Parks Department property to real-estate developers – and further infuriate activists in the park-starved South Bronx neighborhood near Yankee Stadium, The Post has learned.

When the city gave up plans for a parking garage on East 151st Street between River and Gerard avenues last fall, the property was set aside for “neighborhood-oriented mixed use, retail or parking,” according to documents…

What’s unclear, said Geoffrey Croft, of NYC Park Advocates, is whether a state law allowing South Bronx parkland to be used for the stadium project permits commercial development on the site, south of the stadium and adjacent to the Bronx Terminal Market shopping mall now under construction.

In the grand scheme of problems with the stadium deal, this little trade-off isn’t nearly as sneaky as the Post would have believe, and the Parks Department didn’t consider their former holdings at E. 151st St. as green parkland. However, with parkland at such a premium in the South Bronx, the city’s surrendered land shouldn’t be going to real estate developers.

The Stadium project came with real estate development plans and a new mall has spurred on talk of a Bronx boom. With concerns over increased traffic due to increased parking spots around the Stadium, the city should be pressing for more parkland in the Bronx. Those parks were part of the original deal, and so far, no one – not the Yankees, not the city – has delivered on that front.

Yanks have yet to give promised stadium money to the community

When the Yankees and City officials negotiated the new stadium deal, part of the agreement focused around a community benefits program. Under this deal, the Yankees were supposed to give $1.2 million a year for thirty years to a variety of community groups upon the start of construction. Well, 17 months later, and, as Timothy Williams writes in The Times today, the Yanks haven’t given out any money. Furthermore, the Yanks have yet to form the organization tasked with administration with the donations. The Yanks say the money is in eschrow and will be given out. I see no reason not to believe them. But the secrecy and delays as detailed in Williams’ article do not reflect well on the organization.

Will Leitch hates Yankee Stadium for very obvious reasons

Last night, Gelf Magazine hosted its monthly Varsity Letters reading series. With Will Leitch’s reading from his new book and Dan Shanoff and David Zirin on the roster, I ventured down to Happy Endings in Chinatown for the readings.

Good times were had, but that’s besides the point. The point is that Will Leitch does not like Yankee Stadium, and I have to wonder if, despite the history of the stadium, he’s tapped into something about the whole experience that speaks to everyone. In the new book, one of the chapters is a running diary surrounding a trip up to Yankee Stadium. It’s a narrative familiar to many.

In a nutshell: Ride the overstuffed subways up to Yankee Stadium after buying tickets at way above face value; find a sketchy place to check your bag for too much money; spend 20 minutes waiting in a pointless security line; shell out the most money at any MLB ballpark for food and beer; get inundated with loud between-innings promos; get serenaded yet again with “God Bless America”; hear Cotton-Eyed Joe for the one billionth time; inch down the ramps after the game; retrieve your checked bag; get home.

As Leitch puts it, that doesn’t sound like fun. From the money to the crowds to the incessant noise emanating from the scoreboard, Leitch doesn’t understand why Yankee fans are so attached to the House that Ruth Built. And I’m not even mentioning his critique of our inexplicable love for Paul O’Neill because, hey, that’s just a New York thing. My answer to that question: We love Paul O’Neill because he’s Paul O’Neill. You just had to be there.

But on a lot of the other points, I found myself laughing in agreement with Leicht. I know you’re shocked; me, the most outspoken blogger on the new stadium thinking bad thoughts about Yankee Stadium.

Well, in my opinion, going to Yankee Stadium has become something of a burden when you break it down like that because the Yankees have not tried to make the stadium more welcome and because of an odd sense of short-term tradition that no one really likes. How many people fly into a murderous rage whenever the grounds crew come out to the YMCA? How many people dread hearing John Sterling scream “Theeeee Yankees win” at the end of the game? We came to the game to escape John Sterling! And really, does anyone like Cotton Eyed Joe or the other music clips thrown at us at maximum value?

Inside the stadium, the Yankees haven’t made the concession stands easy to negotiate. Serpentining lines could have solved this problem years ago. Admittedly, “God Bless America” is a sensitive subject and one I’d rather not get into here, but the security lines outside have gotten ridiculous. Sometimes, the guards check cellphones; sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes, they check cameras; sometimes, they don’t. It’s very easy to fold up a backup and take it into the stadium in a clear plastic bag, and it’s incredibly easy to take a camera in without anyone noticing. Considering that the Yankees seem more concerned with opaque plastic bags rather than true security measures, can we really just ditch the charade already?

At the end of his segment, Leitch said he won’t miss Yankee Stadium when it’s gone, and that’s where he and I differ. To me, Yankee Stadium is where I grew up. Some of my earliest memories are night games in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Yankees just weren’t that good and the team drew about 26,000 to night games. I remember ditching high school to get to the 1 p.m. mid-week day games and just buying Tier Reserve tickets at the game for $14, the cost of a 2008 bleacher ticket. I remember watching Game 6 of the 2000 ALCS from the Upper Deck, and I remember the crowd’s energy during Game 3 of the 2001 World Series.

After this year, nothing will be left but memories. I can forgive the high prices and obnoxious music because it’s still Yankee Stadium. What I learned from Leitch is that fans of other teams just don’t get it. Maybe that’s why I find Fenway Park to be an insufferably small stadium with poor sight lines, no leg room and rather disgusting facilities. It’s all about your team’s memories, and that’s what fills up Yankee Stadium every night.

Bloomberg: 700 free parking spots seem excessive

After yesterday’s news about the free parking spots at Yankee Stadium, Presidential candidate Mayor Mike Bloomberg expressed his displeasure with the plan. “It does sound like a large number,” Bloomberg said, as he reminded the public that he controls two of the five seats on the board that will set parking rates the Stadium. Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion also said that the number of free spots would be “examined and addressed” before the deal is sealed, according to The Daily News.

A Stadium arises in the Bronx

Last week, on the same day as my trip to the Museum of the City of New York, I trekked a little bit further north to the South Bronx. Rare are the days when I find myself at Yankee Stadium without the intention of going to the game, but that’s just what happened on Thursday.

It had been a while since I had checked out the stadium construction progress, and I thought that a vacation day when I’m already most of the way to the Bronx would be perfect. A short ride from 103rd St. dropped me off at that 161st St.-Yankee Stadium stop where I was greeted with a stadium looking much further along than it had been at the end of September when I last went to a Yankee game. With my trusty camera, I snapped a whole bunch of photos, and the slideshow is below.

But first, some highlights. All links open in new windows.

And now the slideshow. The next update on the photos probably won’t be until April now, and I expect a lot of progress in the meantime. I’ll miss the old stadium when it’s gone.

Parking the next aspect of the Great Stadium Swindle

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New Yankee Stadium looms over the 4 train platform. With parking prices through the roof, taking the subway is looking ever more appealing. (Photo by Ben K.)

It’s new stadium day on RAB. I’ve got a post of photos from the construction site set to hit later this afternoon at 2 p.m., but first, let’s delve into the ever-popular realm of taxpayer-funded subsidies for Major League Baseball’s richest team.

At the end of November, I looked at how the city is being bilked out of money for the Metro-North station, and it’s no secret that taxpayers are picking up more than their fair share of construction considering initial reports that the Yankees were willing to pay for much of the stadium costs. And of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve looked at parking. We know that it may cost as much as $25 to park at the new stadium. But today’s story is all kinds of special.

Via Juan Gonzalez at The Daily News comes word that taxpayers are going to fund Yankee employee parking at the new stadium. Say what?

The Yankees and hundreds of their VIPs will get free valet parking for the next 40 years, courtesy of New York taxpayers.

The startling revelation of yet another subsidy for the richest team in baseball is buried deep in the fine print of a $237 million tax-exempt bond offering that city officials quietly issued the week before Christmas.

The documents say a $70 million state subsidy for parking improvements for the new Yankee Stadium (slated to open next year) has been earmarked for a new 660-car valet parking garage where virtually all the spaces will be reserved for the free, year-round use of the Yankees and their VIPs.

But wait, there’s more: The total cost of the parking lot project is now $80 million over budget, and the Yankees will receive a total of 600 free spaces for team personnel cars, 120 gameday spaces for private cars of city cops – who could take the subway )Ed. Note: Or they could drive. We have nothing against the cops at RAB.) – and another 130 spots for days without games reserved for, as Gonazlez writes, “city vehicles on ‘official business.'”

While most taxpayers in the City won’t really feel the effects of this hit, fans of the Yankees are in for sticker shock as well. Parking at the new stadium will cost $29 in 2010 and could reach the $35 level by 2014. At this point, people coming to the new stadium just should take the subway or Metro-North. It’s much easier and cheaper to park and ride somewhere than it will be to drive to the South Bronx come 2009.

The city probably won’t recoup the projected $3.2 million in annual parking lot rents until 2014 and even then, Gonzalez and his sources estimate that parking may have to reach around $40 for the lots to realize their full earnings potential. Nothing can really halt this public fleecing right now, but we should hold public figures accountable for deals that harm taxpayers.

Update: I missed the Juan Gonzalez companion piece this morning. The company building the parking lots at Yankee Stadium has a track record of defaulting on payments. In a nutshell, this means that New York taxpayers could be out another few hundred million dollars if the Community Initiatives Development Corporation keeps up its stellar payment track record.