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Sunday, April 5, 2009

What I do not like about Yankee Stadium Three.

The Yankee Stadium opened in 1923.  The article the preceded the name for reasons that remain obscure.  The grandstand ended at the foul lines.  It did not achieve the dimensions and general configuration that is generally recalled until 1938 and even that appearance changed a lot until the first version ended in 1973 for renovations.  Yankee Stadium One had cold cathedral like qualities including huge areas of empty seats. The Yanks then played two seasons in Shea Stadium.
Yankee Stadium Two was the same building but with 1970s modernization that made it look like other fixed up parks such as Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, which had the same dull powder blue padding on the walls.  Yankee Stadium Two had the architectural spender of bell bottom pants. It was sad when visiting players, like the San Diego Padres during the 1998 World Series, would gawk at the messed up old park and delude themselves into thinking that they were observing something beautiful and/or historic.  I always thought that if you could bring back Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and place them blindfolded at second base facing home plate, remove the blindfolds, that they would not recognize the place.
Which brings us Yankee Stadium Three.  This, of course, is a new building.  The Yanks just played two final spring training games there against the Chicago Cubs.  I will attend a regular season game there later this month but I already have the following objections.
1. Location.  The three most important things in real estate.  It is still a lousy location.  If there were no baseball teams in New York City and you were evaluating locations to build a new ball park, this location would rank somewhere near number 518.  There is no public transportation hub.  The neighborhood sucks and will not improve.  It is not near highways that are convenient for New Jersey, Connecticut or Long Island.
During the 1980s I attended many computer conventions at the Javits Center in mid-town Manhattan on the west side, a few blocks from Penn Station, the major public transportation hub in this galaxy.  See where I'm going?  Way before former Mayor Giuliani proposed that the Yanks build their new park there I had the idea.  Glancing at a map (this was before the web and google earth) it was obvious that there is way more empty land south of the Javits Center than that occupied by Yankee Stadium Two and its parking lots.  One of the truly moronic objections was that there would not be enough parking.  Did I mention that it would be near 
the major public transportation hub in this galaxy?  If you lived other than in the Bronx or Manhattan and worked in Manhattan and were offered a ticket to that night's Yankee game at work you had to decline because there was no reasonable way to get home.  How absurd is that?
2. Where's the damn roof?  Retractable, of course.  If you build a billion dollar ball park in the Bronx why not improve it in some substantial way?  Instead fans are no more protected from the elements than they were in 1923.
3. Ad mania!  The ads are OVERPOWERING!  They are HUGE and everywhere.  I understand that the Yankees need to make money to pay for the park but the ads are out of scale even with the new enormous scoreboard.
4. Dimensions.  As written here previously, parks should have a uniform playing area, like football and basketball.  That's too much to expect but it should at least have symmetry.  Instead they kept the dimensions of Yankee Stadium Two.  Not the original dimensions of Yankee Stadium Two.  Not those after they brought in the fences to help Dave Winfield the first time.  They chose the final dimensions, after they brought in the fences for Dave Winfield the second time.  Same thing with the walls.  They look the same as the final walls, except with many more ads.  OK, it looks like Yankee Stadium Two in its dieing days.  Why?  Who cares?  That was a lousy look anyway, with its cutouts for the bullpens.
5. Bullpens.  In Yankee Stadium One the bullpens were alleys between the grandstand and the bleachers: Yanks in right, visitors in left.  In Yankee Stadium Two they placed the bullpens parallel to the outfield fence, removing valuable seating for fans.  They repeated that mistake in Yankee Stadium Three.  Why?
6. Screen behind home plate.  In both previous stadiums the protective screen was both vertical and horizontal, stretching up to the mezzanine, later called the loge, which sounded so pretentious when it was first heard at Shea Stadium.  Am I the only one who has noticed that batted balls are obscured on TV by this new screen?  Could they have overlooked this in planning?
7. Auxiliary scoreboards.  That's what those small scoreboards in right center and left center were called in the park in the 1960s.  They were electronic then, hand operated in 1956 during Larsen's perfect game.  Maybe around 1958 they went electric along with the new big electric scoreboard in right center at the back of the bleachers.  The old ones, whether electric or not, always seems to be white numbers and letters on black.  This new thing appears to be green.  Plus, it is flat.  The old ones seemed to have dimension.  The electronic one also protruded out several inches, providing a ledge that could be climbed on rare occasion such as the time Detroit's Al Kaline used it to catapult himself high enough to make a game winning catch.
8. Center field background.  This was supposed to be black to provide good contrast with the white ball so that batters could see the ball, except when there were huge crowds, such as during the World Series in Yankee Stadium One, and the Yanks would lower the black screen and allow fans to sit there.  In Yankee Stadium Two there was no seating in center.  In Yankee Stadium Three there is a black non-seating area above which there is a restaurant with black tinted windows above which is the HUGE scoreboard, all lit up to distract the batters.  So far no batter has complained but it seems likely that viewing one's own image and stats during an at bat will prove problematic.
9. Obstructed seats.  Hey, like Yankee Stadium One!  Remember all those polls that were removed during the 1974-1975 renovation?  That eliminated  obstructed seats.  It also moved seats further away from the field.  Those polls were holding up the grandstand, bringing it closer to the action and providing a roof over most fans.  Gee, why didn't they bring that back?
10. Metro North stop.  Great idea.  When I first moved to White Plains, NY in 1970 I did not have a car and tried to find a way to get to Yankee Stadium One via public transportation.  I failed.  One option, which a few people have used over the years, is to take Metro North, the suburban commuter train service, to 125th St. or all the way to its final destination, Grand Central, and then take the subway to the ball park.  I refused to do that.  It's too stupid but illustrates what a lousy location that is for a ball park.  The other option was to take Metro North to the Melrose station and walk several blocks to the ball park.  I found that very few trains stopped there and that it was impractical without special scheduling.  Ironically, The New York football Giants, as they were known to distinguish them from the more prominent baseball team, had such special service to Yankee Stadium One during their final seasons playing there in the early 1970s.  I used it at least once.  It was OK as there were plenty of Giants fans making what otherwise would be a dangerous walk between the Melrose station and Yankee Stadium One.  The games were in the afternoon and I would not have wanted to make that walk at midnight.  The new Metro North station at Yankee Stadium Three may be open by June 2009.  However, it is my understanding that only the Hudson line will have direct access.  The Harlem line, which services White Plains, and the Connecticut line will require that fans change trains at 125th St.  That does not seem like much of an improvement.  Fans can do that now if they are willing to run for their lives for a few blocks at midnight between the commuter train and the subway.  Plus, trains from Grand Cengtral stop running earlier than their previous end time of 1:30AM, so if the game goes extra innings, ... good luck getting home.  Have I mentioned how colossally stupid it was to build a billion dollar ball park in  the Bronx?
Yankee Stadium Three looks nice.  It looks like Yankee Stadium, mostly like Two but with the facade (more recently called a frieze) once again atop the grandstand as it was in Yankee Stadium One.  If they wanted to go retro, why didn't they go back to the old dimensions, including 461 in center as it was in 1961 when Roger Maris hit 61 home runs?  Or 490 when Babe Ruth hit 60 in 1927?  Then they could have brought the monuments back onto the playing field where they belong.  And if they really wanted to go back, they could have implemented the original design and completely enclosed the park with grandstand, creating thousands more seats, none obstructed.  Supposedly, they limited the number of seats to drive up the prices.

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