As previously advertised, I attended the Yankees/Cubs exhibition game at Yankee Stadium Friday night (otherwise known as the first ever game in the new building.) Impressions? I have a few.
The first thing you notice when you step off the 4 Train and make a left to the new buildingÂ instead of a right to the old one is the sheer size of the thing.Â It’s massive! And you walk up to the front of the stadium, as opposed to the old park, which was situated so you got off the subway and were behind the building.Â Another nice plus is that they’ve lined the entire side of the stadium with turnstiles, so the wait to get in is much shorter than before.Â And the technology! They don’t tear your ticket or even scan it themselves. You just hold it under a scanner yourself, and the turnstile unlocks. It’s like the self check aisle at the supermarket, except that it works and you don’t have to go ask for help because you don’t know where to insert the cash.
Once inside, you enter into the stadiums outer-shell, called the Great Hall. It’s really quite beautiful. But it’s still very new, and kind of smells like Marshalls. You know that smell? It’s like a combination of fresh paint and ceilings that are too high. And if you buy a shirt at Marshall’s, it always has a faint touch of that smell, no matter how many times you wash it.Â I imagine the Marshall’s smell will eventually subside at Yankee Stadium.Â From there you have access to all the different levels of seating at the stadium. The first thing I did when I walked in was follow the signs to Monument Park. It’s up a ramp, towards the bleachers.Â That’s a nice change from the old park, also. The bleachers are not cut off from the rest of the stadium.
Unfortunately, when I got to the top of the ramp, I found out that Monument Park is not yet open. Considering I went to the old stadium hundreds of times during the first 30 years of my life without ever visiting the original Monument Park, it wasn’t too much of a loss. I’ll check it out next time.
So, back down the ramp, and onto the most impressive part of the new Stadium:Â The concourse.Â It’s incredibly wide, and has a full view of the playing field from almost any vantage point, so you can go get something to eat witout missing any game action. Plus there are flat screen HDTV’s every ten feet or so.
Now, as far as that food is concerned. HOLY CRAP! You’ve got you’re traditional stadium concession stands, which have hot dogs, peanuts, candy etc, etc, etc. Then you have your specialty stands. One is called “Garlic Fries” (guess what they serve), one serves pizza, one serves italian sausage, there’s a couple of Johnny Rocket’s locations, there’s a Brothe Jimmy’s BBQ, and there are a number of Cheesesteak places. (More on that in a minute). And this is all before you get to the Yankee Stadium Food Court, which has a Carvel, a sushi place, a noodle bowl place, a Boars Head Deli, and standing tables. And agai, you can see the game from all these places.
Now, here are some of the negatives on the concession front:
-Beer is expensive, even by Major League Baseball stadium standards. Bottles are 9 bucks. Small Draughts are 8.50 and large draughts are 11 bucks. Yes. I paid 11 dollars for a large draught glass of Beck’s Beer.Â But, they do sell numerous brands of beer, including Heineken Light, which is the choice of the men in their late 20’s and early 30’s. So, why did I drink Becks? Because I made the mistake of going to the Johnny Rockets stand to get mine, and they only had one brand.
-Thanks to a law in New York City passed by Mayor Bloomberg and Health Commissioner Thomas Freiden, all fast food menus must include calorie counts. That means you know exactly how bad whatever you buy is for you. A bag of Peanuts is like 1200 calories! I didn’t even look to see the number next to the Johnny Rockets double cheeseburger. Luckily, they ran out of burgers by the third inning, so no one had a massive coronary on the first night.
-The New Yankee Stadium features Pepsi products instead of Coke. But it does have many more varieties of soft drink, as opposed to the old stadium, which had Coke, Diet Coke or Sprite.
-America loves Cheesesteaks! There were about 4 different Cheesesteak locations and the lines at those spots were ridiculously long.
-There was no line at the Mexican food area. I don’t understand why. It looked tasty enough. People seem to like nachos and burritos and such. I guess it’s not great ballpark food, because no one enjoys making visits to ballpark restroom stalls. (on that topic.. I figured if I was ever going to deuce at a baseball stadium, this was the night to do it. The bathrooms had never been used before, so in theory, the stalls should have been pristine. But, I went in and took a look around the 2nd inning, and it was already too late. That is an experience I will simply never cross off my bucket list.)
In addition to all the concession stands, there are three sports bar and grills, a fourth bar, and a Hard Rock Cafe. You need special tickets to get into a couple of the sports bars, and the other one had a really long line, but the Tommy Bahama bar on the second level is open and relatively roomy. There’s also a steakhouse, though I think you have to enter it from outside.
There is a Yankee museum, a Peter Max Yankee art gallery, a Steiner sports collectibles gallery, and two HUGE team stores.Â Also souvenir stands all over the place.
I sat in section 405, which is the last section of the upper deck in right field. Definitely nosebleed seats. But I still had a pretty good view of the action, though deep right field was out of my view.Â I also found something of design flaw. The tunnel leading up to the section has stairs on both sides, but one of them emptied out in front of a seat. So people would walk into the section and have nowhere to go, until they turned around. It’s not a huge annoyance for the people walking up and down the steps, but the guy sitting in that seat had confused people standing in front of him all night.
The actual field of play has the exact same dimensions as the old stadium, though there is less foul territory behind homeplate and in the left field corner. That means, once you sit down and start watching the game, you can’t tell much of a difference from past years.
The scoreboard, however, is miles and miles beyond the one across the street. The centerpiece is a huge video screen, with a smaller screen on either side. One of the smaller ones shows the lineups for both teams, along with partial box scores. The other one shows out of town scores, complete with who’s at bat in each game, how many men are on base, andÂ a pitch by pitch count. There’s also a small manual scoreboard at field level in left field.
The seats are wider and there is more leg room.
There are many more bathrooms for both men and women.
As has been widely reported, the longtime voice of Yankee Stadium, Bob Sheppard is not yet manning the public address mic in the new building, and there is a good chance the 98 year old will never return. That makes a huge difference. His voice drips with gravity and class, and stands out from every other run of the mill PA person in ballparks throughout the country. His replacement on this nice was Paul Olden, a perfectly acceptable broadcaster who actually did Yankee games on TV for a couple of years in the 90’s. He’s also done PA work at lots of stadiums and was the voice of the Superbowl for many years. Still, he is not Bob Sheppard.Â The generic voice making the announcements took something away from the experience. (Derek Jeter is still introduced by Bob Sheppard. They play a tape every time the captain comes to the plate. Just the latest example of how Jeter “gets it.”)
I bought a program, since I figured this is a pretty historic occasion.Â Â Its been many years since I’ve bought a program at a game. They now cost 10 dollars, but they still come with those little pencilsÂ so you can keep score. One problem, though. My program did not have a scorecard insert. I don’t know if they were all lacking that, or just mine. Either way, it was a little disappointing. (On a side note… Fathers, please teach your sons and daughters how to score a baseball game. It’s a great little tradition. It’s uniquely American. And it keeps them involved in the game, which in turn, prevents them from getting bored and asking for more ice cream.Â I think baseball scorecards may actually be an interesting solution to the childhood obesity epidemic. That is also uniquely American. See also: they ran out of hamburgers in the third inning.)
So, that’s it. It’s a great building that gives you plenty to do, but keeps you involved in the game. The experience wasn’t perfect, but no experience ever is. Plus, it was the first night, and they have lots of time to work out the kinks.
(I didn’t take these pictures. My shitty camera phone was not up to the task. They are from here.)