Minor-League Ball Comes to Coney and Staten Islands

The stadium itself is all glass, colored cinder block, and neon, with an angled roof over the concourse that resembles a modernist offspring of the Dodger Stadium bleachers and a beach umbrella. The overall effect is garish without being tawdry—more New Times Square than old Coney Island. The Disneyfication effect extends to the suites themselves, which are furnished in Yuppie Bar Moderne and named for various Coney Island attractions: The Thunderbolt Suite, on the top level directly behind home plate, provides an excellent view of where its namesake roller coaster stood for 75 years before its abrupt demolition by the city last November.

Whether because of location or its pinstriped parent club, the Staten Island Yankees' home is less flashy, and somehow more likable for it. Built alongside the venerable ferry terminal, it features dark blue seats set among simple tan brick, and nice touches absent from the Cyclones park: on-field bullpens where relievers will warm up an arm's length from fans in the front rows (the Brooklyn bullpens are hidden out of sight in the outfield corners), and seats down the left-field line that slant toward home plate, à la Fenway Park, to minimize fan neck strain over the course of nine innings.

Here the lavish accoutrements are mostly behind-the-scenes: the spacious concessions facilities with walk-in freezer, the SIRT commuter rail station, where extra trains will be on duty each night awaiting the departing crowds. (Ferries will not be held, but will run on more frequent weeknight schedules on weekend game nights.) And if anyone dares question why city money was spent to build three, count 'em, three locker rooms (one for the home team, one for visitors, and one for setup of non-baseball events), it's state of the art, OK?

Fun 'n' games: baseball, Coney style
photo: Annie Chia
Fun 'n' games: baseball, Coney style

In both new ballparks, the best thing is the view. Coney offers the boardwalk and Atlantic Ocean to those in the top rows, and the genuine carnival atmosphere of the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel out past left field. (The conspicuous vacant lot in between was where the Thunderbolt stood; the Cyclones have denied asking for the ivy-covered wooden structure to be removed, but are nonetheless quick to brag about the view.) In Staten Island, all of New York Harbor from the Bayonne Bridge to the Verrazano Narrows is the backdrop, with the Manhattan skyline, Statue of Liberty, and freighters coming and going from the Jersey docks to distract anyone bored by the happenings on the field.

Still, that $110 million hovers like a ghost, visible in Coney Island's neon light towers, in the new ferry walkway and the cobblestone pavilion that fronts the ticket booths at Staten Island. Visible, for that matter, in the very presence of the teams, which were themselves yanked out of upstate Watertown and St. Catherine's, Ontario, by the lure of city-funded ballparks, much as a Los Angeles land deal first paved the way for the Dodgers to depart Brooklyn back in 1957.

Enjoy the view, then, and all that comes with it. You paid for it.

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