Reviewing Yankee Stadium’s new features

More food, more fun? (Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
More food, more fun?
(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

On Tuesday, the Yankees gave media members, including yours truly, a tour of the new features of Yankee Stadium and a tasting of the new menu items coming to the ballpark starting on Monday. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it.

Above the Bullpens

(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
View from Toyota Terrace area in right field (Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

The biggest thing to happen to the stadium this offseason was easily the ripping out of the bleacher seats closest to the centerfield batter’s eye. Many of the seats were obstructed view and the organization decided to go for more areas to socialize and walk around rather than need these seats, which were among the cheapest at the park.

What replaced it are multiple rows of standing room with table tops for food, bags, scorecards, etc in the Toyota Terrace (right field) and Frank’s RedHot Terrace (left field). It reminds me a lot of the area down the right field line at Progressive Field in Cleveland if you’ve ever visited that park. The first of these rows gets a really nice view of the bullpen, just like the old bleacher seats did, which makes it a prime spot to get to, whether you want to watch the Yankees’ guys warmup or to heckle the opposing relievers, if that’s something in which you’d like to partake.

If you’re further back in the terraces, you’ll still deal with some obstructed view of the rest of the outfield, but this also won’t be your ticketed seat, so you’re not necessarily tied down to a poor view as some would be in the past.

Perhaps the best feature of this new area is outlets. Beautiful, wonderful electricity! I’m sure the Yankees got plenty of complaints about the lack of places to charge your phone and they delivered with an area where you can both watch the live game and plug in, whether via a normal outlet or USB. I imagine there may be a day where there’s some sort of plug near all seats at ballparks, but that’s probably way off in the future. This is a pretty cool step though.

The batter’s eye area itself, now called the Masterpass Batter’s Eye Deck, has been expanded with more open space, charging stations and food. The view over the drink railings in centerfield is very pretty. There’s also plenty of new food in the terraces with new structures that include a bar and open space next to the new standing room sections.

New Food!

(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
New Lobel’s (Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

I can’t say I’m a professional food critic, but I did have the opportunity to try a lot of the new food. There are signature foods to each new area, both the Masterpass deck and each terrace. The Frank’s RedHot Terrace in left field features the Yankee Dingers (which the chef joked were called that because they’re a real home run) and a sandwich with, you guessed it, Frank’s RedHot sauce. The Dingers are solid mini-burgers. Yay mini-burgers. The Toyota Terrace has four non-traditional kinds of baos. The vegetarian one, the cauliflower buffalo one, was a nice small treat.

The batter’s eye deck features new items, including a really tasty hand-pulled mozzarella sandwich. One of the better things I tried Tuesday.

Then, in section 134, there’s new Lobel’s food. I didn’t try their new burger/sandwich, which both appeared delicious, but I did go for their steak and potato fries. Those, seen above, look incredibly fattening but are really really good. Don’t know if the latter offsets the former, but hey, ballpark food!

(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
Mighty Quinn’s (Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

The highlight of the new food was probably the addition of Mighty Quinn’s and Bareburger in section 132 (left field). The BBQ Mighty Quinn’s is serving up is legit and I can’t recommend the brisket sandwich enough. Bareburger has both a solid sandwich called El Matador (it features bison!) and a quality turkey burger. There are also new Jersey Mike’s and Ben & Jerry’s spots located in assorted sections throughout the park.

As always, the price for each new food item will be key. Each of the new food items, even the ones I didn’t try, look appetizing, but the price — which we’ll find out on Monday — will decide whether they are worthwhile fanfare. The tour emphasized that all of the food will be available to anyone going to the park and so it will depend not on your ticket but on your wallet whether you can go for the new treats.

Kid’s Clubhouse

(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

Whether it’s with the Legends Seats restricting the ability of young fans to get autographs/interact with players or just the general vibe at times from the stadium, there was a feeling that the stadium isn’t kid/family friendly enough. That may still be true, but the team has taken a step towards fixing that with the creation of the Sunrun Kid’s Clubhouse (yes, there’s a corporate name on all of these new areas).

The space, which is on the first-base side of the 300 level, is 2,800 square feet or so of space for young children. A spot to throw wiffle balls at a player. A mock field. Essentially, a baseball-themed playground for young kids. There’s also a mother’s nursing station there, too.

It’s a good step for the park. There’s plenty of times where the Yankees seem to take themselves too seriously, but this area was most reminiscent of similar constructs at minor league parks. You’re not going to sustain a fanbase without young fans and there has to be a way to keep them entertained at the park. Not everyone is a crazy baseball fanatic from age three onwards.

AT&T Sports Lounge/Budweiser Party Decks

(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

I’ll group these together because they’re both new areas featuring a bar and tables/seats near the normal concession area. The AT&T sports lounge in section 134 has plenty of large screen TVs that will be tuned to Yankees and non-Yankees games going on. It’s right next to all the new food selections, so it could be an area to sit and each.

Meanwhile, the Budweiser Party Decks are on the first base and third base sides of the 300 level. Some of the carts on the 300 level create these two stand-alone bars. Once again, more gathering areas. That definitely seems like it was a mandate from up above to create and this version of the stadium certainly has more than when originally constructed.

The new seating/standing room areas were certainly well designed and I expect them to be sought-after places to meet in the park. Whether someone buys the new Pinstripe Pass or has a regular seated ticket, they should be nice, particularly if you’re towards the front of the terrace area. The kid’s clubhouse and the assorted charging stations show that the team is at least making an effort to listen to fans, so it will be interesting to see the reception to those new amenities. If you get to the park this season, make sure to try these out and form your own opinions.

(Here are all my photos from yesterday’s trip to Yankee Stadium.)

Biz Briefs: ESPN games, Legends Hospitality, Roger Waters

Notes! Everyone loves notes!

For Yanks, first half features three three ESPN Sunday Night Baseball games

ESPN released yesterday its slate of Sunday Night Baseball games for the first half of the 2012 season, and the Yankees, obviously, will be a prime player. Shockingly, two Yankees/Red Sox games will air on the World Wide Leader. Those will be on April 22 and July 8 when the Yanks trek up to Boston. ESPN will also show the Bombers’ first Sunday night meeting with Albert Pujols and the Angels on April 15.

As ESPN reminds everyone, former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona will be replacing Bobby Valentine in the booth this season. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles broadcast duties during that April 22 meeting between the two long-time rivals. I enjoyed Francona’s work during the playoffs when he filled in for an ailing Tim McCarver during the start of the ALCS.

Dave Checketts to head Legends Hospitality Management

Long-time fans of the New York Knicks will remember Dave Checketts as the president of the team who oversaw their spate of deep runs into the playoffs in the early and mid 1990s. Now the chairman of the group that owns the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, Checketts will be joining Legends Hospitality Management, the joint venture amongst Goldman Sachs, the Yankees and Dallas Cowboys that oversees concessions and sports marketing. Checketts, according to The Journal, “envisions building Legends into an international sports-marketing and entertainment business that advises franchises on media strategy, financing and building stadiums, then helps sell tickets and suites and handles concessions.”

As long as he doesn’t pull the sports marketing equivalent of trading Patrick Ewing for Glenn Rice on Legends Hospitality, the company will be in fine hands.

Roger Waters to play “The Wall” at Yankee Stadium

Finally, I’ve saved the best for last: The Yankees announced yesterday that Pink Floyd songwriter Roger Waters will bring “The Wall” to Yankee Stadium this summer. On Friday, July 6, Waters will perform at Yankee Stadium. Tickets go on sale on Monday, January 30 at 10 a.m.

The Waters performance though is almost an after-thought compared with the teaser in the press release. “In the near future,” the club said, “the Yankees will make additional announcements regarding other major acts that will be performing at Yankee Stadium in 2012. Information will also soon be available about other sporting events that will take place at Yankee Stadium during the summer months.”

Via RAB’s Twitter account, we speculated that the additional announcement could concern Bruce Springsteen. The Boss is on the road this year, and while he’s in Europe for much of May, June and July, the Yanks are out of town from September 3-13. It would be the perfect time for a concert, and it’s hard to find an act as major as Bruce on the road this year. We’ll keep an eye on this one.

Eying a 42nd Street stadium once upon a time

Had the Yanks moved to the West Side, the skyline could have risen dramatically behind the center field wall. (Via StadiumPages.com)

In the eyes of the world, the Yankees and the Bronx go hand in hand. Since 1923, the Bombers have stood by the Bronx, sometimes tenuously, as the borough has been shaped and reshaped — by Robert Moses, by white flight, by riots and fire, by a recent renaissance. Although George Steinbrenner tried to move the Yanks to Manhattan or New Jersey, he never could escape the Bronx, and the Bronx has never escaped the Yanks either.

But what if the Yankees had never set foot in the Bronx in the first place? Up until 1923, after all, they were denizens of Manhattan, first at Hilltop Park at Broadway and 165th St and later the Polo Grounds. It wasn’t until the early 1920s that the Yankees’ owners knew they were heading to the Bronx, and shortly after Colonels Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston and Jacob Ruppert bought the team, the two eyed a Manhattan location.

In a 1915 letter recently placed up for auction and espied by The Post, Huston talks about his plans for a new stadium for the Yanks. The letter, which is basically a plea to AL President Ban Johnson to keep the Yanks afloat financially, discusses potential new stadium sites. “We have canvassed the feasibility of the 42nd Street site for a ballpark,” the colonel wrote. “Col. Ruppert and myself will be with the Club when it reaches Chicago, and we will be glad to discuss the subject with you then.”

I’ve tried to do some research into the history of Huston’s idea, but information is hard to find. Even as early as 1915, the Yankees were already eying the Bronx, according to contemporaneous reports. Even the upstart Federal League had hoped to move a franchise into the Bronx. Nary a mention of a Manhattan site could be had.

As a New York City history buff, I wanted to know where the Yanks would have played along 42nd St. By 1915, The Times had already moved to Longacre Square and had erected its namesake building while the New York Public Library had taken over the Croton Reservoir. Grand Central Terminal, of course, was already in place as well. So the Yanks could have set up shot on the East Side where the United Nations is today or along the West Side near the current entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. Either way, the geography and orientation of one end of Manhattan would have been upended for all of history.

Imagining the Bronx without the Yanks and a Manhattan with them for eight decades is a tall order. The isle of Manhattan would have had significantly different transit patterns as a stadium along 42nd Street would have required train service to the edge of the city while development in the South Bronx would likely have taken a different path as well. Would the Dodgers have relocated to the Bronx instead of Los Angeles during their hunt for a new stadium? What would William Waldorf Astor had done with his lumber yard at 161st St. anyway?

Of course, the idea of a Manhattan stadium is one that kept finding ways to creep back into New York history. In the 1950s, the Dodgers flirted with the idea of a West Side stadium, and of course, the Yankees kept talking about moving to the 34th St. area. In the early 2000s, Mayor Bloomberg tried to promote a West Side stadium for the Jets as part of the city’s bid to win the 2012 Olympics.

But none of it came to pass. The Yanks found their home in the Bronx and never left. The Dodgers jetted west for Tinseltown while the 2012 Olympics bid died a glorious death. Even the Mets, once vaguely rumored to be eying the West Side as well, stayed put in Queens. A big stadium never came to 42nd Street, and Pete Siegel, owner of the auction house selling Huston’s letter, put it best: “It’s incredible to think what could have happened, how one paragraph in one letter could have changed the entire landscape of the city.”

Biz Notes: Winter Classic, sponsorships, schedule changes

As Tom Kaminski in Chopper 880 continues to chart the demolition of Yankee Stadium, we have some business stories to tackle concerning the Yanks and their new home.

Will the Yankee Bowl interfere with a Winter Classic?

On New Years Day in Boston, the NHL will host its second annual Winter Classic. The Bruins and the Flyers will face off on a hockey rink in Fenway Park, and it will be very, very cold. Still, the event has been a boon for the beleaguered NHL, and the league would love to host a marquee event on the grandest stage in baseball. To that end, Sean Leahy of Puck Daddy explores just how soon it will be until Yankee Stadium could host the Winter Classic. The answer, unfortunately, is not too soon.

Leahy’s piece delves in depth into the inter-sport problems. Because the NHL requires a seven-day build time to prep the outdoor venue for a hockey game and because the Yanks have committed to hosting a bowl game and perhaps another college football game at Yankee Stadium over the next few winters, the schedules simply do not work out. Leahy notes, though, that hockey could either host a New York Winter Classic at CitiField or the new football stadium in New Jersey. Otherwise, the league could build up the event in smaller markets and make a New York debut on New Years Day in 2014.

I’m not a huge hockey fan, but it would be great to see the Winter Classic come to New York and Yankee Stadium. Bringing the NHL’s top regular season event to baseball’s center stage would truly be special.

Yomiuri Shimbun out but 2010 sponsorships top 2009 figures

On Friday, Sports Business Journal had an update on the state of the Yanks’ sponsorships. After winning the World Series, the Yanks have seen their sponsorship rates for 2010 already surpass the 2009 figured. Team officials declined to name a price or the number of new sponsors, but Yankees COO Lonn Trost was pleased with the current pace of activity. “We have already exceeded last year’s sponsorship revenue and continue to track very well on that,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, SBJ notes that the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Japanese newspaper who had been advertising in the outfield since 2002, neglected to re-up their deal with the Yanks. While many are inclined to blame the departure of Hideki Matsui for the end of this deal, Trost told SBJ that Yomiuri had already declined to renew, citing a distressed global newspaper industry.

SBJ also notes that the Yanks are “performing several facility tweaks” to the new stadium but adds that the “second-year punch list is relatively small compared to those for other recently opened ballparks.” The trade notes that the grandstand will now include “party deck” but declined to reveal more. We’ll have more about that once we uncover the details.

Yankees, Sox adjust opening week schedule

Finally, we end with some news on the first week of the season. The Yankees and Red Sox have officially closed their two-day gap at the beginning of the year. Opening Day will still be on a Sunday night in early April in Boston, but game two of the season will now be on Tuesday, April 6. Game three will be Wednesday, April 7, and both teams will be off on Monday and Thursday. All three games that week will be at night, and temperatures are expected to be in the low 40s come first pitch. Starting the season in Boston at night strikes me as foolish, but that’s the way it goes.

Quick Links: YES ratings, fan rankings and more

I have a few Yankees articles open in various browser tabs. Time for a link dump of Yankee news and features.

We start with the YES Network and their ratings. As the Yankees were rolling over the competition en route to a finish in first place in May, the team’s RSN found itself enjoying record-setting ratings. YES averaged a 4.50 household rating in the New York area for the month. This mark is a record for a New York-based RSN broadcasting baseball, and in lay terms, it means simply that a lot of people are watching the Yanks on TV. Welcome to the bandwagon, friends.

Despite this popularity, in a new study, Forbes ranked Yankee fans in the middle of the pack in terms of value. By dividing broadcast revenue, gate receipts, sponsorship money and other revenue sources over fan base population, Forbes has ranked baseball teams by the amount per fan they draw in. The Yankees draw in just $45 per fan.

Forbes’ writer Christina Settimi called that a “middling” total, but their equation seems flawed to me. Calling the entire population of a metropolitan area the potential fanbase ignores the reality that the vast majority of city dwellers just aren’t interested or can’t go to games. How much the Yankees draw in per fan at the game and through their TV and radio broadcasts would be a far better measure of fan value.

In non-business news, the entire country of Taiwan has been living the ups and downs of Chien-Ming Wang‘s rocky season. Marc Carig interviewed various people from the Wang-crazed nation, and it’s clear that the islanders did not like how the Yankees treated their struggling hero. It’s hard to grasp just how big a deal Chien-Ming Wang is in Taiwan.

Finally, check out the new photoblog Demolition of Yankee Stadium. Yankee fan Joe Mazziliano is running the oft-updated site with pictures from the destruction of the House that Ruth Built. He promises fresh content until the replacement parks are open, and with photos from inside and outside of the stadium, his site provides a visual log of the final days of Yankee Stadium.

Quick hits: Wells, toilets and YES

No, this isn’t some odd Sesame Street style game of “One of These Doesn’t Belong.” It is, instead, three short stories all rolled into one post.

David Wells to join TBS broadcast

Outspoken former Yankee David Wells has signed a multiyear deal to join the TBS baseball crew. He’ll be serving as an in-game analysts for TBS’ baseball broadcasts throughout the year. We’ll have to see if he can announce with a hangover as well as he can pitch with one. Ostensibly, he’s replacing Harold Reynolds in the booth, but those are big shoes to fill. I’m going to judge him based on whether or not he thinks Joba should be in the starting rotation.

YES, on FiOS, to be available nationally

Good news with a bad twist for Yankee fans living outside of the New York area: The YES Network has become the first regional sports network to earn national distribution of sorts. As Maury Brown reported earlier today, the HD version of the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network will be available nationally on Verizon FiOS’ Extreme HD packages. That does not, however, include game broadcasts for either the Yankees or Nets. Baseball’s territorial rules do not permit it.

Toilets for Everyone and an Accessible Stadium

With New York City officially opening two new baseball stadiums this week, the local papers are going all out in their coverage. Yesterday, The Times covered the topic of toilets. New Yankee Stadium will have 30 percent more toilet fixtures than the old park, with the following breakdown: 369 women’s toilets; 98 toilets and 298 urinals for men; and 78 unisex bathrooms for families and luxury suite patrons. I can personally attest to the bathrooms at the new stadium. They’re clean, roomy and much, much nicer than those at the old park.

In other stadium news, Yanks’ COO Lonn Trost and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York touted the accessibility of the new stadium this afternoon. While the new park had to be ADA-compliant, the federal government has praised the new stadium as going above and beyond the call of duty. Most notable is the accessible paths to the field. Fans in wheelchairs can now enter the field during stadium tours.

Yanks’ stadium debt hits $1.3 billion

As the Yanks prepare to open their new ballpark in a few weeks, Sports Business Journal reports that the team took out another $100 million loan to cover final cost overruns. The total debt incurred by the team to build the stadium now stands at $1.3 billion, but according to SBJ, analysts are projecting healthy finances for the Yanks. According to sources, the team projects to $450 million in revenue for 2009, and while the team must dole out payroll and revenue sharing payments, the Yanks still stand to be one of the higher grossing clubs — if not the highest — in all of baseball.