Archive for Yankee Stadium

If you braved the rain mist and sat through the Yankees and Orioles game last night, the Yankees have announced that you are entitled to a free Grandstand or Terrace level ticket for a future game this season (excluding Old Timer’s Day and series against the Mets or Red Sox). Obviously the tickets are subject to availability, and you have to bring your valid ticket from last night’s game to the ticket windows at the Stadium to redeem the offer. That’s one way to get people in the park, eh?

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The following post is written for commenter Ross in Jersey, who told me he would donate $1 for every Tex RBI to the RAB Pledge Drive if I wrote an entire article without periods or ending punctuation and still had it make sense, and I figured  the flame comments I’d get from people lacking in reading comprehension were a small price to pay for helping inner city kids

"It's April, so I can only hit home runs when 40,000 no ones are here" (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

One of the reasons the Yankees are such amazing winners is that they have the financial power to make up for a lacking farm or surround the farm talent with high-powered free agents like CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira, and one of the places that that virtually unlimited cash flow comes from are the droves and droves of fans that pour through the gates of Yankee stadium to see these people play – the “Yankee Universe,” as it’s been coined by the Yankees organization, is one of, if not the biggest fan following in professional sports, and plenty of fans are at home ready to shell out cash, hop on a subway, train, car or bus and head to the House that Ruth (or perhaps Jeter, nowadays) Built, and people take notice when the seats aren’t filled in the stadium in the Bronx – no matter what the reason is for that and regardless of the numbers that count or the rest of the stadiums around the country, and quite frankly, the attention that has been drawn to the record-setting lows in the new stadium (sounds scary now, huh?) is pretty absurd

The record-setting low that was set for attendance in Yankee Stadium 3 was 40,267 – only 40,267, really – and that seems like a decent number of fans to turn out for one game in any sport, in any organization, and keep in mind, it doesn’t matter to the Yankees how many people actually show up to a game, just how many people buy tickets, because even if you make the stadium look empty on TV (and on a cold day, Legends needs no help with that, zing), you’re still contributing to the massive Yankees cash flow, and honestly the bottom line is all that matters when we get down to the nitty gritty of the whole thing, because looking embarrasing on TV does not pay Mark Teixeira, but buying a season ticket package and deciding not to go to a game does

Those people with season tickets who decided not to come are not, by default, Yankee haters, nor does that make them terrible fans, especially because a usual April day in New York is chilly, with a cold breeze and often rain and the third game of the year has no leverage for people to brave the weather to show up, such as is the case during Opening Day – that record low was set on a cold (average 49°F, with a low of 41°F), rainy, windy day – just the kind of day no one wants to be outside for an extended period of time for, and if you have season tickets and don’t mind blowing the money, the perfect day to skip a ballgame or StubHub your tickets, and unless you’re desperate to see the Yankees, no one on StubHub is flying to pick up tickets for such a miserable day, and that’s really what it comes down to after all – people go to ballgames to have fun, after all, and sometimes the weather just makes having fun impossible, and so there’s no reason to show up

For a little perspective on the matter, a table:

Obviously, small sample size applies, but all of these teams have played two different teams at home, and I’m fairly sure that the oh-so-terrible showing of 40,267 fans will not lead the Yankees to become bottom feeders or force them to start shedding salary – what matters to the team’s wallet is how many tickets are sold, not how many people show up, and the wallet is the most important part of an organization that uses its massive financial might to help itself win

Moral of the story: no one likes going to a baseball game when it’s miserable out, even if your team is amazing, even fewer people are interested in low-leverage April games that happen to fall on those miserable days, and the Yankees, once again, have the power to make something that means absolutely nothing newsworthy

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The Yanks' own subway trains are going the way of the dodo. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

The Great City Subway Race has been much on our minds lately. We were shocked when Opening Day brought about changes to the race, and with Yankee-themed trains replacing the MTA’s B, D and 4 lines, we learned how the Yankees and the MTA were at odds over the race’s sponsorship. For Yankee fans who enjoy the silliness of it all, this story has a happy ending.

As Mark Feinsand reported and MTA sources confirmed to me, the B, D and 4 trains will return to the scoreboard tonight. The Yankees and MTA have settled their differences, and the race will retain its sponsorship while featuring a public service announcement urging fans to take mass transit to and from the game. For its part, the MTA said it is “glad the B, D, and Jason Zillo’s beloved 4 train are back as part of the fan experience at Yankee Stadium. The Subway Race will continue to remind fans that taking the train to the game remains the quickest and least expensive way to get to the game.”

Thus ends our long national nightmare. RIP Road Gray, Pinstripe and Midnight Blue. We hardly knew ye.

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The Yankees have replaced the B, D and 4 trains with their own subway colors. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

When Opening Day dawned at Yankee Stadium last week, fans watching the between-innings entertainment were in for a shock. The Yankees had changed the Great City Subway Race. Instead of featuring the MTA’s familiar 4, B and D trains, the subway cars were now labeled Road Gray, Midnight Blue and Pinstripes. Gone was the connection — albeit a tenuous one — to New York City.

In the ensuing days, fan response has been loud and negative. What started out on my part as an amusing look at the changes has turned into something personal for others. A group dedicated to bringing back the subway designations has popped up on Facebook and already has over 130 members. Others now find the subway race a shell of its former self. It’s just another part of the constant barrage of stadium noise.

Behind the scenes, rumors are flying. At first, it sounded as though the MTA had asked for licensing fees from the Yankees, but as I dug deeper into the behind-the-scenes goings-on, that story changed. In fact, this is a tale that has its origins in the original subway race at the new stadium.

When the Yankees first started the subway race, they asked the MTA for permission to use the transit agency’s intellectual property. The subway bullets, after all, are MTA trademarks, and the authority granted that permission, for free, as long as the Yankees did not attach a sponsor to the race. Here, the story gets a little fuzzy. The Yankees had long had Dunkin Donuts sponsoring the race; the 4 train was frequently slowed by a jelly donut in the tracks. The MTA though didn’t seem to notice a sponsor had signed on until last year when Subway took over.

Following the 2010 season, MTA sources tell me, the authority attempted to reach out to the Yankees to discuss the subway race sponsorship. At no point did the MTA ask the Yankees for money, and one person with whom I spoke said the MTA had no plans to do so. Rather, they were going to ask the Yankees to append a public service announcement to the subway race urging fans to take mass transit to the game. The Yankees though never returned the MTA’s calls, and the authority never had the chance to make this offer.

When reached for a comment, an MTA spokesperson was guarded. “The video race was considered a method to promote taking mass transit to games,” Kevin Ortiz said. ” We are disappointed the Yankees decided to change the look of the trains.” The Yankees had no comment.

So that’s where things stand right now with the subway race. I doubt we’ve heard the end of this, but the Yankees and the MTA appear to be at an impasse. I’m hoping the real subway bullets come back, but in the meantime, I think I’ll root for Pinstripes. It’s a classic look.

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I haven’t had a chance to take a tour of the New Stadium yet, but if it’s anything like the tours of the Old Stadium, they take you into the clubhouse but you weren’t able to roam around. They roped you off close to the door and that was it. The new clubhouse is apparently gigantic, which isn’t surprising, and Marc Carig recently took us on a little tour of the place. The veterans get the prime real estate near the door to the player’s only lounge, etc., and Phil Hughes moved into Andy Pettitte‘s locker while Ivan Nova took Hughes’ old spot. If those two can fill those pair of shoes, it would be amazing. Anyway, check it out, gives you a nice little visual of the clubhouse.

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For the league's most transit-accessible ballpark, Yankee Stadium is surrounded by too many parking lots.

Throughout the last few years, I’ve followed the Yankee Stadium parking problems fairly closely. It fits in quite nicely with my urban planning hobby, and it also highlights the institutional problems with urban development planning in New York City. Essentially, the city added over 2500 parking spots in the South Bronx as the Yankees decreased stadium attendance and Metro-North opened a new station to serve the stadium. When the city’s Economic Development Corporation picked a company with a history of defaulting on its bond payments, well, nothing good could come of it.

As early as September, we first heard that Bronx Parking was in trouble. Their revenue stream fell far short of projections, and the company was, as recently as mid-March, in danger of defaulting on its bond payments. We had already reported in October that parking prices would increase 50 percent for 2011 with more rate hikes on the way.

Today, just a few short hours away from Opening Day and as fans from all over prepare to drive to the stadium, we know that parking prices at the Yankee Stadium lots will be $35 per car this year. That total could increase to $42 in 2013 and to $55 by 2015, Bloomberg News reported.

As the parking new percolates throughout those who rely on the garages for safe storage of their automobiles during the season, the good news for Bronx Parking and its bond holders is that the company will not default on its payment due tomorrow. For now, it can still dip into its reserve fund to meet its obligations. Still, Bronx Parking is changing the management of the garages, filing more detailed expense and revenue reports and working to improve signage along the Major Deegan to draw in more paying customers. As Juan Gonzalez of The Daily News noted, the city doesn’t expect to receive the $17 million in back rent any time soon.

For years, this parking issue has been on the minds of South Bronx residents and politicians. Those who do own cars — a small percentage of the area’s permanent residents are car-owning households — already bemoan the state of parking on game days. The city bars parking in a 10-block radius around the stadium, and while the Community Board is hoping to develop a residential parking permit plan, for now, residents must constantly move their cars during the season. It is far too expensive to park long term in the stadium lots.

Beyond those concerns though, most South Bronx residents wanted parks, not parking lots. They knew the stadium parking supply would far exceed demand and repeatedly asked the city to scale back its parking plans. Some folks think Bronx Parking should ask the Yankees to attempt to sell the spots, but with so many transit options, the number of spots is simply egregious. It was a bad planning decision five years ago, and one with which the city must live for the foreseeable future.

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Too many parking lots surround Yankee Stadium.

The conundrum over the Yankee Stadium parking lots is one I’ve focused on frequently over the past few months. The corporation awarded the rights to run the lots has been struggling financially since early September, and despite looming rate hikes, the Bronx Parking Development Co. is about to default on its bonds.

As Crains New York’s Hilary Potkewitz reported yesterday, the company is in dire straits, and the neighbors aren’t happy. Many in the South Bronx had protested the parking lots surrounding the most transit-accessible stadium in the majors, and residents now aren’t happy. Potkewitz reports:

Bronx Parking Development Co., which runs the garages for the new stadium, faces an April 1 due date for a $6.8 million interest payment on bonds issued to fund construction of three facilities. The company had to dip into reserves to make a similar payment in October, and—barring a last-minute renegotiation—all signs point to a default this time.

A default could set up a seizure by bondholders and would leave the garages’ future in question. The property, which covers some 21 acres, was part of parkland taken over to make way for the current incarnation of Yankee Stadium.

The potential irony has some in the community seething. “Our community loves its parks, and we could always use more,” said Pastor Wenzell Jackson, chairman of Bronx Community Board 4, which includes the stadium and the surrounding area. “Now there’s just empty parking garages that are not benefiting the community.”

With that news in mind, there are of course many questions surrounding the lots. Chief among them is the why of it. Why are Bronx parking lots so empty? According to those who run the Bronx Parking Development Company, the answer is a mixture of supply and demand. The company claims that the lots were, at most, 60 percent full during game days, but those running it also claim that the Gateway Shopping Center has been siphoning off cars for far less.

To park in the stadium lots costs well over $20 a game while Gateway charges under $5. Officials claim that 800 cars per game are taking advantage of the price discrepancy, and thus, the company is raising rates to $35-$45 per car in 2011.

Furthermore, the Metro-North stop has been a hit as well. Bronx Parking executives claim that they are losing money as nearly 4000 fans per game take commuter rail to the stadium instead of their cars. From an urban policy perspective, I believe Metro-North provides a better route to the game than a car does.

So what’s next then? Ruben Diaz, Jr. wants to create artificial demand for the parking lots by building a hotel in the South Bronx. “We’ve been working diligently to bring a top-flight hotel to the area near Yankee Stadium,” the Bronx Borough President said in February. “As many of you have heard, the Yankee Stadium parking lots are facing severe financial problems, and we believe one of the garages could be used for the hotel development.”

Still, others would prefer to see the city cut bait on the parking lots entirely. “The first step should be to reconsider how they’re using these parking lots,” Lourdes Zapata, an official with the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp., said to Crains. “Looking at them exclusively for parking is a shortsighted way of looking at development in this area.”

Of course, New York City’s approach to development around Yankee Stadium has always been shortsighted. The city treated the ballpark as though it were in the suburbs and not amidst three subway lines, a ferry and commuter rail with little need for parking. Now, we’ll all pay the price in reduced public space and much higher parking rates. The lots should go, but for now, the prices will just continue to spike ever upward as fewer drive to the stadium.

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A few days ago, someone I know pointed me to 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.

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(click for larger)

As you probably know, the Yankees played in Shea Stadium during the 1974 and 1975 seasons while Yankee Stadium was being renovated. Field level seats ran just four bucks, and although I wasn’t alive back then, that still strikes me as pretty cheap. Anyway, thanks to Craig Robinson of Flip Flop Fly Ballin’ to sharing.

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That graphic comes courtesy of Beyond The Box Scores’ Justin Bopp, and it shows AL East attendance figures over the last ten seasons. The Yankees have dominated in this department, accounting for no less than 25% of the division’s total attendance during the last decade. Keep in mind that Fenway Park has a capacity of 37,000 (give or take), while the new Yankee Stadium can accommodate just over 50,000. The ballpark in the Bronx at 85.2% capacity still boasts more people than a sold out Fenway.

Attendance is the root of the money making machine known as the Yankees, because it allows them to sell ad space at ridiculous prices and reap the benefits of the YES Network cash cow. As long as the team remains competitive, attendance will be strong and so will the revenue streams.

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