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Yankee Stadium


Ruthian size, price tag and sponsorships

The New York Yankees don't do anything halfway.

Ballpark Stats

Team: The New York Yankees
First game: April 16, 2009, a 10-2 loss to Cleveland
Capacity: 52,325
Architect: Populous (formerly called HOK)
Construction: Turner Construction
Price:  $1.5 billion, including financing costs
Home dugout: First base side
Field points: East by northeast
Playing surface: Kentucky bluegrass
Betcha didn't know: There are an incredible 444 points of sale for concessions in the ballpark

When you first spot their new $1.5 billion (yes, "billion" with a "b") home, you will be shocked by its immense size. Indeed, the "footprint" of the new facility occupies 1.3 million square feet, or a full 63% more than the old House That Ruth Built -- which itself is a mislabeling of the team's previous home. Babe Ruth wouldn't have recognized the ballpark that the Yanks moved out of in the fall of 2008. That's because the original structure that dates back to 1923 was largely torn down following the 1973 season, forcing the Yankees to share Shea Stadium with the Mets for two seasons while a new stadium was built in the same spot in the Bronx. That's why it always struck me as odd that journalists and many fans were so sentimental over the closing of the second version of Yankee Stadium in 2008. True -- some of the foundation and outer walls were from the original facility, but what made its debut in 1976 just wasn't quite as historic as everyone was saying in 2008.

But let's talk about something that is historic! The brand-new ballpark, which some might justifiably refer to as Yankee Stadium III, both embraces history and makes history in ways that no other franchise could even contemplate.

First, it embraces history in a way that is unmistakable. It's not too strong to say that you're beaten over the head with the team's storied past as you walk around the stadium. It's everywhere, and you are reminded constantly that you're in the home of the fabled New York Yankees, winners of 26 World Series. It's not a "fun" telling of history, though. It's a very serious, solemn telling of the Bronx Bombers' past. This is in very, very stark contrast to the Mets' new home just a 7.7-mile drive away. Much more on the enormously different approach of the two new NYC facilities will be in our review of Citi Field, but suffice it to say that the adjectives "solemn" and "reverent" apply only at Yankee Stadium, not Citi Field. One glance at The Great Hall (pictured above) tells you that.

That's not to say that the new stadium in the South Bronx isn't impressive. It certainly is ... and it sure should be, seeing as how it cost a billion-and-a-half dollars. And that's the way that it makes history, as the most expensive sports facility ever built.

Did the Yankees and their fans get their money's worth? Well, when that many dollars are spent, expectations can be awfully darn lofty. Yes, it's an incredible place, as we will see, but my personal opinion is that Citi Field, at $800 million, was a tremendously better value than the Yanks' $1.5 billion.

So let's take a look at the four categories that we always examine in our in-depth reviews: the ballpark's location; its exterior; the architectural design on the inside and the game-day experience for the fans.


The
setting

If you liked the location of the Yankees' old home, you'll like the new one. If you didn't like it, well, you won't find the new location an improvement, because it's directly across 161st Street from their 1923-2008 home.

This is indeed in the South Bronx. The Bronx is one of New York City's five boroughs, and it has a reputation for being, well, dangerous. I've never wandered more than a few blocks away from the site of the new and old parks, so I can't vouch for its safety or lack thereof.

I can tell you, though, that I honestly enjoy walking around the neighborhood that surrounds the stadium. Both in 2008, when I came to take a tour of the old park in its final season, and when I came to take a tour of the new place in 2009, I had several hours to kill between the tours and the games later in the day. I had a great time wandering up the hill along 161st Street going east from the ballpark, shopping in the endless souvenir stores and eating in truly authentic New York delis. And I felt absolutely safe the whole time.

One oasis that warrants a pilgrimage up this hill is Lou Gehrig Plaza (above left). This garden in the median of 161st Street looks like it's been here -- and lovingly cared for -- for decades. And from this somewhat elevated spot, you can look down the hill at both the new park and old (above right, with the old park on the left and the new on the right).

But it's also noteworthy what's on the opposite side of the Stadium. To understand the relevance of this, we must digress for a short history lesson.

The Yankees had been tenants of the Giants in the Polo Grounds from 1913 through 1922, when Colonel Jacob Ruppert decided his team (with a young phenom named George Herman Ruth) needed its own ballpark. He didn't look far for a site, paying $600,000 for a lumberyard almost directly across the Harlem River.

And, indeed, from 1923 until the Giants moved West in 1957, the two teams did battle little more than a mile apart. In fact, the 1923, 1936, 1937, and 1951 World Series merely jumped back and forth between the two parks, as the AL Yanks slayed the NL Giants all four times.

Demolition of the Polo Grounds began in April 1964, and public high-rise housing was built in its place. There are no remnants of the old park, but it is worth walking across the Macombs Dam Bridge from Yankee Stadium to visit the site, where you will find a plaque showing where the playing field used to be. Note: you'll have to hunt for the plaque, because if you go to the offices and ask where they are, you'll basically receive a blank look. Also, I recommend you visit this area only in broad daylight.

Technically, new Yankee Stadium was built on the sports fields in Macombs Dam Park. The loss of these fields was decried by a number of community organizers (this is New York, remember, not Chicago, so none of them were elected President of the U.S.), and the Yankees and the city are working to replace the playing fields lost to the Stadium. In fact, the surface level of the new parking garage between the old and new parks has fields on it (above left, with the old stadium still very evident on the left side of the shot), and when old Yankee Stadium is finally dismantled, the plan is to build several youth baseball fields on that exact spot, with the ten-acre park to be called Heritage Field. You have to admit that this is quite fitting.

Just as was the case with the old park, the new digs are served well by New York City's transit system. You can take either the B or D lines from the west side of Manhattan (Yankee Stadium Station, of course, which is below ground) and the Number 4 IRT train from the East side of Manhattan (161st Street/Yankee Stadium Station, which is above ground). The latter is actually elevated over River Avenue at this point, which is just beyond the outfields of both the old and new parks. The photo above right was taken looking south on River Avenue, with a new parking garage adjacent to the new stadium's left field on the right side of the image.


The
exterior

You've probably heard that the new Yankee Stadium was supposed to resemble old Yankee Stadium. While this is true for the outfield dimensions, what you might not realize is that it was the 1923 version of the ballpark, not the rebuilt 1976 facility, that was to provide the model for the new park's architecture.

Nowhere is this more true than in the new park's exterior. While the old park across the street had a little bit of a gray, dingy hue to its external walls, the new edition is a gleaming, lighter color, with a stateliness that is fit for the capitol building of a superpower.

If you look at photos of the the remarkable $2.5 million building that Colonel Ruppert built in 1923, you can't help but notice the tall, formal walls that surrounded the entry gates. That was the look that HOK (now known as Populous) had in mind as it was designing the exterior of new Yankee Stadium. And the gleaming gold letters spelling out YANKEE STADIUM are carved into huge blocks of limestone that surround the gates and windows.

Gate 4, shown above, is the one that is behind home plate. You can also see where 161st Street is about to dip underneath the Macombs Dam Bridge extension road that connects to Jerome Avenue, and the huge baseballs imprinted into the cement on the walls.

This entry probably isn't the one that is most heavily used, since it's not as close to the subway stations and all of the parking structures that are a block away along River Avenue.

This look also is used at two other entry points. Gate 2, which is on the extreme northern part of the stadium's footprint along Jerome Avenue (above left) is where I saw a number of limos dropping off passengers. It's also near the completely new parking structure called the 164th Street Garage.

Perhaps the most used entry, though, is Gate 6 (above right), which is closest to both the underground and above-ground transit stations at the intersection of River Avenue and 161st Street. This gate brings you into the Great Hall (much more on that later) and is close to the large retail store and the Hard Rock Cafe that is actually inside the stadium. Note that unlike Gates 2 and 4, there is no glass in the openings above the gates here. That's because the immense Great Hall on the other side isn't enclosed.

Gate 8, which is the main access to the outfield bleachers, is along River Avenue. It's not as glitzy as the other three main entryways, but it doesn't need to be, because the view of a tall, stately entry would be obscured somewhat by the train tracks that run over top of the street here. There is one special touch along the exterior of the stadium at this point, though. A series of color panels well above eye level show photos of current Yankee players.

Finally, Babe Ruth Plaza (above) is on the first-base side of the stadium. It's a little lower than the walkway that hugs the exterior of the park, putting it at street level. This is probably a likely place for fans to be dropped off from cars.


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