So Squawker Jon and I visited Yankee Stadium last night. The new ballpark reminded me of seeing a Hollywood actress of a certain age who has had some work done. She looks like she used to in her heyday, but different at the same time, thanks to Botox, Restalyne, and facelifts.
The new Yankee is like the old one, but with lots of plastic surgery. In some parts it looks better; in others, it looks worse.
Here are my thoughts on the Stadium, in a variety of categories:
The outside looks great, although Squawker Jon thought the big Johnny Damon photo looked more like Oliver Perez. And while much of the stadium looks like the old one, like the field itself, and the outfield walls, the interior is different.
Great Hall aside, in many parts of the new Stadium, the inside is actually uglier than the old Stadium. A dingy-looking off-white/grey cinderblock "style" predominates. It's very industrial and sterile. And what's up with all the pipes? It looks terrible. It's all like the "before" on a TV design show. If only Oprah could send "Knock, Knock, It's Nate" Berkus to fix things!
And the ramps are not only uglier than the old ballpark, but they seem to take much longer to get up to even one level than before. As the Mets Police blog noted, they look like something you'd see in a NYC public school.
For $1.5 billion, I was expecting awe. Instead, I felt like I was late for class.
Oh, and Monument Park is a joke now. While we didn't get to go in, we had a good view of it from our seats. But most of the fans in the ballpark can't even see it - it really is more like Monument Cave. Or maybe it's like the last scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," where you see the warehouse filled with crates filled with treasures.
And there are these really ugly cinderblocks - dark grey this time - in Monument Park. Also, everything looks plopped together. The whole thing reminded me more of Monument Garage Sale than anything else.
The hundred-million-dollar, 101-foot video screen is phenomenal to look at, though, even if they did dumb down the scoreboard games. They had the numbers game featuring Mark Teixeira's number minus Derek Jeter's number equals whose number. Are you kidding me? I did like the match game video thingy more - instead of photos of the players, it's set up like "The Brady Bunch," with the Yankees moving around and looking at each other.
The Mohegan Sun Sports Bar not only is unappealing to look at, it also killed the fans' views in those bleacher sections. I did like the way people gathered to watch the game at the top of that monstrosity, though, where the food stands are - they seemed to be having lots of fun.
The good news is that we got $60 Main Outfield seats in the new Stadium for $12 each. The bad news is that these seats are really worth about $20 or $30. $60 is way too much for them, which is why our section was only about 2/3 full.
But at least the fans where we were sitting, in the main outfield section by left field, were pretty enthusiastic. They cheered Johnny Damon so much after his homer that Damon did that finger-point thingy in left field back at us. Nick Swisher got huge cheers as well just for, well, being Nick! Good stuff. Not sure how the whole ballpark sounded on TV, but our section was at least paying attention to the game, and stayed until the end.
Not so good was that I heard several "Boston sucks" chants throughout the ballpark. As longtime readers know, I always mock Red Sox and Met fans for chanting "Yankees suck" when the Bombers aren't even in the stadium. I hate to see Yankee fans doing the same thing, when it's not a Yankee-Red Sox game.
While our section wasn't full, it looked jam-packed compared to the expensive field-level seats. My guess is that maybe 35-40% of those seats were full. You get the feel of being at a spring training game or something. Those empty seats are another ballpark monument - to greed, that is.
On the other hand, the grandstand and bleachers looked pretty packed. It really is the Titanic effect, where the poorer fans are huddled together, and the rich people are in the lap of luxury.
Oh, and all that floor-to-ceiling glass for the fancy restaurants really bugs me. I felt like I was like Stella Dallas standing outside Tavern on the Green, with my nose pressed up against the glass.
All that catering to the rich people, but, as the Fack Youk blog put it, the upper crust are just not that into the Yanks, given how few of them are actually showing up!
Speaking of which, perhaps the Yankees could hire Baghdad Bob to read the attendance figures for each game. Because the Yanks' "official" attendance of 42,065 for last night's game is about as credible as something that the former Iraqi Information Minister would say. At best, there were 35,000, and it probably was more like 32,000.
On the one hand, there are many more food stands, with tons of variety On the other hand, the food is way overpriced, even for a ballpark, and what we had wasn't all that, given the price. The Lobel's steak sandwich was perfectly fine, but for $15 I expected a sublime experience, which I did not get. And the garlic fries were a complete waste of time for $9.
Compare and contract with Citi Field's food. Their tacos, shack burgers, and ribs were not just delicious, they were all under $10. And their beer is not only cheaper, but there are many more varieties. Yankee Stadium did have a Beers of the World type stand, where we got a good, albeit pricey, Blue Moon Ale, but there is no signage for the stand. Also, there were a lot of closed food stands already at the ballpark - not a good sign.
The difference, in a nutshell, between the food fare in both ballparks is this. Both ballparks went after name brands to provide their food options. But Yankee Stadium went for places known more for atmosphere than for good food, like Hard Rock Cafe, Johnny Rocket's, Moe's, and Brother Jimmy's. Citi Field picked chefs, like Danny Meyer, Floyd Cardoz, and Dave Pasternack, whose restaurants are known for great food and great value. No wonder the food at a Mets game is so much better.
And I still don't get the mystique of watching the Lobel's butchers at work. Maybe rich people have staff who do their shopping for them, so they don't actually get to see a butcher slice meat, but for the rest of us, we can go to any grocery store and see the same show. What's next, we have a windowed exhibit with that overpriced Stadium sod where we can watch grass grow? Sheesh.
This is one area that is much better than at the old ballpark. The employees there are much nicer, and much more helpful, than they ever were at the old Yankee Stadium. And security is much easier to go through - the lines zip by very quickly. Also, the food lines move pretty fast. And there are no bathroom lines. Yay!
Jon and I had a good time, and we didn't hate the new ballpark, but it's not quite home either. And I don't understand why a $1.5 billion stadium could have so much of an uninspired design in so many places. The money must have gone to amenities and design for the rich people's suites or something.
The Stadium still needs some work, like better colors, more photos of Yankee memories, and an increased emphasis on the regular fan as opposed to the corporate fatcat. Maybe the atmosphere in the park would have been fine two years ago when the economy was bopping along, but the Stadium's outrageous prices, and the ballpark's exclusionary attitude, are already out of date. Most of this stuff is fixable, but the question is whether the Yankee management has the will to do so. And unfortunately, at the present time, they don't seem to have the will to fix a thing. Bummer.
What do you think of the new Yankee Stadium? Leave us a comment!