Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Yankee Stadium

I took a long-awaited trip out to the brand new Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon for a clash with the LA Anaheim Angels (not exactly a ding-dong local derby that one).

If Wikipedia is correct (and who could doubt it?), it is the second most expensive stadium ever built, after our own Wembley Stadium.

As the photo shows, it was literally built right next door to the 'house that Ruth built', the iconic but ageing original Yankee stadium it replaced.

As someone with a rather unhealthy obsession with stadia, it was pleasing to see so many design touches that acknowledged the history of the original arena, whilst filling it with all of the modern amenities that fans now demand.

Most notably the stadium exterior's faintly Roman air is a clear nod to history, whilst the famous frieze still hangs down from its roof.



Indeed, lubricated by a couple of pints as we made our way to our seats, the effect is so astounding that you look around and need to pinch yourself that anything has changed at all. As an only occasional visitor to the former stadium, it really was akin to an illusion.

I'm probably just getting old, but I find that my enjoyment of any sporting occasion that I attend as a neutral (ie. any not involving Charlton), is only whole if all but the most unavoidable hassles of crowds are avoided.

Thus the impact of entering the enormous 'Great Hall' atrium, heading up to the seats via one of several giant elevators, and then enjoying the spectacle from a seat with legroom not designed solely for Dennis Wise was very refreshing (as was the $10 beer incidentally on a warm day).


Although many attempts have been made to bring the interior of the old stadium into the modern age, the differences are surprisingly subtle.

The vertigo-inducing angles have been replaced with a shallower rake, whilst as a baseball-only stadium (unlike the previous one), all of the seats are gently clearly angled towards the play.

One interesting aspect of any visit to a baseball stadium, is that unless you are a true connoisseur then the most expensive seats are those that you should least crave.

Priced at a whopping $375 per game, the 'lower field' seats right next to home plate are particularly sought after, because they allow the spectator to pick upon every pitching nuance. However for safety reasons, you watch through a mesh screen.

Yet if you don't know your 'knuckleball' from your 'slider', then a cheaper seat higher up offers a fuller perspective. It's also easier to get to the bar.

The new stadium has 4,000 fewer seats, but three times the number of 'luxury suites', pointing clearly to where their priorities lie.

However, perhaps reflective of the team's poor recent form, the price of the most expensive corporate tickets has already been slashed to avoid the further ignominy of empty seats in full view of the cameras.

Fans may be left short of cash, but they should never be 'caught short' as there is 1 loo per 60 fans. If the stadium is filled to its 52,000 capacity, and thirsty fans make an average of two visits per game , then each facility will be used 120 times. No wonder adverts have cropped up in the toilets.

Whilst cost is clearly a factor (and the Yankees received considerable help from public funds), it's a shame that the design of most new English football stadiums is so lacking in imagination.

It seems some of the first post-Taylor Report new stadia were permitted a degree of architectural freedom eg. Huddersfield (1994), Bolton (1997), but others from Southampton to Swansea, and from Leicester to Reading, seem to have been designed from the same boring (but presumably cheap) template.

The new stadiums for Arsenal, Manchester City and to a lesser extent, Hull City do at least appear to be attempts to break the monotony. If Portsmouth ever get around to building their proposed new home meanwhile, it will firmly set an enticing new precedent.


Some of the recent lower division efforts meanwhile are truly depressing, seemingly distinguishable only by the colour of the seats. At least at the New Den, the imaginative architect used the brutality of numerous right angles, in order to be consistent with the behaviour of the fans beneath them.

It is worth acknowledging that there is more scope to be creative with baseball stadia, the horseshoe shape particularly providing room for some imagination, especially the design of the 'bleachers', the cheap but popular seats placed over the outfield fences.

Arizona Diamondbacks for example hire out a hot tub and pool for the enjoyment of fans, a fine concept in the desert, but one that might not work quite as well in Hull admittedly.


Whilst few hark back to the pre-Hillsborough days of crumbling terraces and restricted views, we may be destined to create a generation of functional arenas that lack any soul.

My favourite grounds are still those that have moved with the times, but retain an element of randomness, the mish-mash of stands, or the quirky way old has been bolted onto new. Think of the likes of Everton, Aston Villa, and Liverpool.

The Yankees appear however to have successfuly bolted new onto old it seems, retaining the memories but adding the comfort.


At 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article, i thought it was a very enjoyable read and one that i can identify with being a shrewsbury town supporter with a new boring and souless stadium.


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