News From Left Field


Yankees’ and Mets’ New Ballparks Open to Mixed Reviews

April 23, 2009 07:40 AM
by Denis Cummings
The Yankees and Mets have played before lackluster crowds in the opening home stands of their new ballparks.

Empty Seats a Common Sight at Yankee Stadium, Citi Field

The $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium and the $900 million Citi Field opened last week with much fanfare, but a week of games has revealed some shortcomings in each park. Surprisingly, many of the opening games were played before empty seats and quiet crowds.

Both stadiums opened with sellout crowds in the opening games, but there has been a noticeable drop since, with most games falling more than 5,000 fans short of a sellout. The drop is most glaring in the premium seating around home plate, where entire rows of seats have sat empty.

Prices for these seats, which range from hundreds of dollars to $2,625 for the top seat at Yankee Stadium, were set before the recession and are likely too high for the current economic climate. Even Yankees co-owner Hal Steinbrenner admitted that some seats “might be overpriced” after the team was unable to sell all its luxury tickets before opening day.

“Both ballparks were built on many of the same principles that are destroying our economy,” writes Newsday’s Wallace Matthews. “Both teams grotesquely, and artificially, inflated the value of their product, and did their best to create a false sense of demand by reducing capacity and trying to bully longtime fans into paying absurd new prices or risk being shut out.”

Additionally, many fans have found that their seats have obstructed views of the field. The Yankees agreed to drop the price of 1,048 obstructed view bleacher seats to $5 before the season began, but the Mets have not done so for tickets in the left field upper deck where fans can’t see much of deep left field.

Many fans and writers have noticed that crowd atmosphere at games isn’t as good as it was in the old ballparks. This is due in large part to ticket prices forcing away many loyal fans.

“There used to be a ballpark here, a raucous place where the fans were rowdy, the team was lovable and the game was fun, whether the Mets won or lost,” writes Matthews. “But they tore that one down and replaced it with a tomb—a ridiculously expensive tomb to be sure, but a place where the fans cheer as if they have one hand on their wallets and one eye on the train schedule back to Westchester.”

The New York Post’s Joel Sherman also notes that the architecture of the new Yankee Stadium has reduced crowd noise. “The claustrophobic feeling an opponent encountered in tough times is gone forever now,” he writes. “The upper deck no longer drapes over the action, but is rather higher and inclined away from the field. The bleachers—and their creatures—are now further recessed.”

Whether the crowds will improve as the year progresses remains to be seen. Each park has other shortcomings that fans and team officials hope can be solved before the season is over.

Yankee Stadium: “Coors Field East”

Yankee Stadium has thus far played as an extremely hitter-friendly ballpark, as the Yankees and Indians combined for 20 home runs in the opening four-game series. The ball is carrying especially well to the “short porch” in right field, where 14 of the 20 homers were hit.

“With the way the wind has been the last couple of days, right field is a joke,” one official told ESPN. “I would say at least three or four home runs in this series would be routine outs in nearly every park.”

Many observers are crediting the home run increase to a strong wind that has been blowing out to right field. According to a press release issued by AccuWeather, the strong wind is likely caused by the angle of the seating in the stadium, which is less steep than the old stadium.

“This shape could enable winds to blow across the field with less restriction,” it said. “In addition, the slope of the seating would also lead to a ‘downslope’ effect in the field which, depending on wind direction, would tend to cause air to lift up in the right field.”

Yankee officials hope that when the old stadium is demolished this summer the wind currents will change and have less of an effect on the game.

Citi Field: Home of the Mets or Dodgers?

Citi Field, built by the same architectural firm that has built many of the new ballparks across the majors, resembles many other ballparks and has little to distinguish it as the Mets’ home ballpark.

Mets fans feel that not enough has been done to honor the history of the Mets; many of the stadium’s historical touches, most notably the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, honor the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“It is the worst kind of slap at Mets fans that there isn’t a room, or a hallway, or a wing, dedicated—on the day the place opened—to the team’s history,” writes the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro.

There was a minor controversy after the Mets announced that they would erase an autograph written by Mets great Dwight Gooden on a restaurant wall. After fans complained, the Mets agreed to move the autograph to a more prominent place and to allow other players to sign their names around it. “This is a way for us to honor our past,” said PR head Jay Horwitz.

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