As an East Bay native who moved to New York City only 19 months ago for a new job, I have read with interest some recent conversation on this site about the new Yankee Stadium and am very glad that those who have had the chance to attend a game there have seemed to enjoy the place. I attended my first game there this past Tuesday night for the first game of the rain-abbreviated two-game set between the A's and Yankees. I feel compelled to respectfully share another perspective on the new Yankee Stadium, however, which is being quietly but widely panned here in New York and which, after its first homestand, is bordering on being labeled a failure and waste of money by the real locals who have lived here their entire lives, rooted for the Yanks since their childhoods and who are dismayed that the place was clearly not built with them in mind.
Now, I have a bias for things that are old, and obviously you can’t hold the new stadium's "newness" against it. And one's man's class is another man's foolish excess and to each his or her own. But I have sensed a sort of embarrassment among some Yankee die-hards over everything the new place has come to represent. One colleague of mine, for example, who had season tickets in the top deck of the old stadium behind the plate for more than two decades, was booted to new seats down the left field line because he couldn't afford the full season at the new prices the team was charging. Another colleague spent over $70 a piece on two tickets to the new stadium's second regular season game and ended up with seats in the second level underneath an overhang that hung so low no fly balls were visible. He says he was informed such obstructed views are why there are flat screen televisions literally everywhere you turn around. Again, one man's foolish excess is another man's class, but I find all the TV's (my first visit was last Tuesday night) wholly annoying.
A column in this morning's New York Times by one of the finest sports writers in the country, Harvey Araton, effectively sums up the feelings about the place of many New Yorkers: www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/sports/baseball/26araton.html?ref=sports
As for me, I was very turned off by just how much concrete went into constructing the place, and the fact that there seemed to be no real effort at architectural ingenuity. It is big, indeed - no denying that. But I also found it to be cold and uninviting and simply lacking any charm. The real Yankee fans are largely banished to the top edges of the place, and if there was little chance that a kid growing up in the same Bronx neighborhood that houses the stadium would ever be able to afford a ticket inside the old place, well, there is zero chance of that happening in the new one. Araton is right in my opinion to call it a "monument to excess" and to highlight the fact that the thousands of unpurchased and grossly overpriced seats will be a "continuous and televised reminder of a grand and greedy overreach."
I respect very much Red Sox President Larry Lucchino who says his organization's decision not to tear down Fenway but rather to put time and resources into improving and restoring it was rooted in a sense that there was no need to create an eighth wonder of the world, that there is in fact something timeless and soulful about simply "preserving a nice, little old ballpark."
The collapse of our nation's economy has wreaked devastating hardship on so many Americans. But it also has served as a very hard lesson to all of us about just how empty and ultimately destructive a rush to collect material wealth - simply for the sake of being able to lay claim to "fancy stuff" - really can be. It is nothing short of heartbreaking to me that for the blue collar, hard-scrabble New Yorkers that comprise the heart of the Yankee fan base, the new stadium that will house their beloved team will be little more than a perpetual reminder of that lesson.