Take Me Out to the Mall Game


Time is running out for Shea and Yankee stadiums: By Opening Day, the skeletons of CitiField and the new Yankee Stadium (no corporate name yet, though “Yankee Stadium at JP Morgan Chase Park”
remains a possibility) should be rising from the Flushing muck and Bronx turf. With the state and city having signed off on the teams’ cash subsidies and tax breaks— about $340 million for the Mets, $380 million for the Yankees—it’s time to ask: What are New Yorkers getting for their money?

The new Yankees field features the historic dimensions of the old one: 318 and 314 feet down the lines, 399 to “Death Valley” in left-center. Of course, “historic” is relative: The current dimensions were only set in 1988, when the wall was moved in to help new slugger Jack Clark clear the fences. (It didn’t work: Clark’s slugging percentage fell from .597 to .433, and he was promptly exiled to San Diego.)

The upper deck of the new Yankee Stadium will be about the same height as the old, though with the last few rows trimmed off. (The old park holds 57,545; the new one will seat 53,000, plus 1,000 standing-room.) The new top tier, however, will be set back an extra 30 feet from the field, to keep the high-priced patrons below out of shadow. This less compact design also risks snipping a few decibels off the stadium’s signature crowd roar.

On average, baseball teams have hiked tickets by 41 percent their first year in new homes. A city economic study projected even greater sticker shock in the Bronx, with the average ticket rising to $57, from $28 currently. At that rate of increase, Bleacher Creatures would be paying $24 a pop to chant “Box seats suck!”

Following the 2008 season, the current Yankee Stadium will be razed to make way for new softball fields to replace those in now obliterated Macombs Dam Park. (Plans to retain a small chunk of the grandstand have been abandoned.) The $24 million demolition tab will fall on city taxpayers, part of $195 million in city money—up from $130 million one year ago—now budgeted for stadium-related “infrastructure.”

Three new parking garages will cost $320 million: $70 million from the state, the rest from a private developer. Unfortunately, more than a year after the city started its search, no developers have signed on—leaving the possibility that taxpayers will have to ante up more cash.

Several rows of box seats at the new Yankee Stadium will wrap around the front of the new bleachers. Two words: target practice.

Artificial scarcity is all the rage in baseball: Last year the Oakland A’s covered their upper deck with a tarp, reducing capacity to a league-low 34,000. The Mets are downsizing from 55,601 seats to 42,500, with room for another couple thousand fans to stand. The goal is to re-create the “Fenway Effect”: Sell out the season before Opening Day, letting your team lay off ticket staff and plan precisely how many hot dog salesfolk to hire. And, of course, jack up prices once fans realize they have to scramble to get in.

No one will miss Shea’s circular shape— designed to accommodate football—which leaves patrons behind first and third watching the action across a vast gulf. Down the lines, CitiField will bring fans closer to the action; behind home plate, you’d be better off at Shea.

The Jackie Robinson Rotunda is mod- eled after the fabled entryway at Ebbets Field. If CitiField is a modern-day Ebbets, though, it’s one on HGH: Where the Dodgers park stood 60 feet high and occupied a little less than six acres, CitiField will soar 116 feet above ground level and take up 11.5 acres.

Expect a large sign advertising Citigroup, which is paying $400 million over 20 years to use the Mets’ new home as Queens’ largest billboard. None of that money will be shared with the city—so the Mets, after the MLB revenue-sharing rebate for construction expenses, will end up paying less each year on stadium costs than on Shawn Green.

With the luxury-box market tanking, the teams will build a relatively modest 50 to 60 suites, instead opting for more premium-priced “club seats,” which offer roomier seating. Their extra legroom comes at a cost, though, forcing the cheap seats behind them to be pushed skyward.

Like other “mallparks,” these two offer a smorgasbord of upscale restaurants and food courts; Yankee fans will have to traverse a 100-foot-wide concession concourse before reaching their seats. One open question: Will the teams ban outside food at games, as others with new parks have done? (In Philadelphia, the resulting uproar was dubbed “Hoagiegate.”) Fans might want to practice smuggling techniques at the Brooklyn Cyclones’ KeySpan Park, where hot dogs from nearby Nathan’s are deemed contraband—though you’re welcome to buy them inside the gates at ballpark prices.

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