Why Are We Building a New Yankee Stadium?

A plan for a new Yankee Stadium that includes a new Metro-North station is better than a plan for a new stadium that relies on constructing new parking facilities, which, unbelievably, is exacly what Charles Gargano was talking about doing. But that doesn’t mean that the plan for a new stadium is worth pursuing. In the bedrock underlying this whole issue is a question, Why do we need a new stadium?

One would think that baseball fans would be the ones cheering as the Yankees pursued a new stadium. But they’re among those in the forefront of the criticism. Why? Three letters to the editor of The New York Times today give three compelling reasons.

Corey M. Goodman of Manhattan draws a parallel to Penn Station’s destruction, and notes that he prefers attending games in the House that Ruth Built:

Just stepping inside always sends shivers down my spine, evoking thoughts of the countless events, names and faces that have thrilled millions of people for the past 80 years. Not to mention the overwhelming sense that I, too, am part of that story just by being there.

Talk about steeped in history! Ballparks.com explains:

For forty years, Yankee Stadium was home to a steady stream of championship teams. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig passed on their legacy to Joe DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto, who then passed it on to Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. So mighty were the Yankees, and such a draw was the team and its stadium, that by 1958 the the Giants and Dodgers, New York’s other Major League Baseball teams, had moved to California. For four years, from 1958 through 1961, there was only one place to go to watch Major League Baseball in New York City.

The second letter, from Doron Steger, notes that that the new stadium would actually be smaller than the current stadium!

The Yankees are building a stadium that will seat up to 4,000 fewer fans than the current stadium. This would not be a problem if the current stadium were underused, but it’s quite the opposite. Most Yankee home games last year were sellouts or near sellouts. In effect, the Yankees will be denying entry to the new stadium to some 4,000 people each game.

You have a team with the highest attendance in the nation and you build a new stadium to restrict attendance? It would seem this whole thing is just a ploy to decrease seat supply and jack up ticket prices. Screw that! I’ll become a Mets fan.

It’s possible the Yankees have too much money at their disposal to use weilding influence on projects like this. Mitch, in a comment on an earlier post, draws our attention to an NPR interview with a man who, as Mitch notes,

grew up near Yankee Stadium in the early 40s told how he used to collect Yankee autographs: he waited by the subway entrance and caught the players as they came to work.

Now the Yankees drive their Hummers to the games, as far removed from the fans as they can be. Wow, how times have changed. The very thought of a Yankee taking the D train up to the stadium is absolutely unthinkable. So, apparently, is the idea of the wealthiest team in baseball being happy with the storied stadium it already has.

The third letter is from Jeremy Colangelo-Bryan, an urban planner, who notes,

The highways around the stadium are severely congested, and local development projects will generate more traffic. The transportation component adds parking and lacks committed public transportation improvements.

He goes on to suggest something that seems to have been not considered in this plan (which Mr. Goodman from above and others would probably object to for historical reasons):

The stadium should be constructed on the current stadium site, while the Yankees play home games elsewhere for one season.

Gasp! How could he even suggest that? Well, it’s precedented. As we learn from Ballparks.org, “During the 1974 and 1975 seasons, the Yankees played at Shea Stadium while the city made major renovations to Yankee Stadium.” That two-year exile doesn’t seem to have diminished their standing in the major leagues. Mr. Colangelo-Bryan also points out the somewhat relevant fact that

Extensive research has found uniformly that new sports facilities create no positive local economic impacts.

That is true even when one is building a new stadium, not simply replacing one that already exists. And in this case, since they’re decreasing the number of fans who can attend games, they’re probably decreasing the “multiplier effect” economic spillovers to the local community. We’re spending taxpayer dollars to reduce patronage at local businesses?

Why on earth are we doing this again? The conclusion to draw from this is that the government is using taxpayer dollars to build an expensive, smaller, unnecesary new stadium that the community opposes and the fans don’t want, and parking lots that would generate more traffic. If you must build a new stadium, build it bigger than the original so more people can enjoy the games, build it on the site of the existing stadium to avoid taking parkland, and do everything you can to reduce traffic by encouraging people to take mass transit, which is the best way to get to or from a large sporting event. But the best course of action would be to save the public money for the worthy places where it is needed. Build the new Metro-North station next to the existing stadium (which is closer to the rail line anyway), and stop trying to fix what isn’t broken with a solution that’s worse than the original.

A Yankee Victory, a Loss for the Fans [NYT]
Yankee Stadium Rail Station ‘Not in the Cards’ [S&F]
‘Hey Mister’: A Boy’s Pride for the ’43 Yankees [NPR]
Yankee Stadium [Ballparks.com]
Save Our Parks!
Projects Moving Forward [S&F]
The Transportation/Winning Connection [S&F]

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3 Responses to Why Are We Building a New Yankee Stadium?

  1. peakguy says:

    I think as long as I’ve been alive the Yankees have been threatening to move to NJ. So has the stock exchange. Frankly I think the city underestimates it’s hand, but I guess after watching the Giants (baseball), Dodgers, Jets, Giants (football) all move away, they want to preserve what they have, and bring one over from NJ (Jets or Nets). I actually think they are simply scared of losing a team on their watch and incurring the wrath of the fans. It’s about status, not economic development.

  2. aaron says:

    i actually think the current yankees stadium is an absolutely horrible place to watch a ballgame. in part, due to its hugeness but mostly because of the way they constantly blare electronic media at you during every moment in between innings. (i love wrigley in chicago where it’s just pure baseball). i’d be OK with a new stadium if it were a more transit-oriented development.

    btw, i’ll have to ask my friend about this again, but my understanding is that the real reason why the yanks can do a new stadium is because they have the highest payroll in baseball and are subject to a massive “luxury tax.” however, one way out of the lux tax (which essentially funds your competition) is to put that money into a new stadium. so, the $ that the yanks are putting into the stadium is essentially money that’s gone anyway. this is basically a free stadium for them. or so i heard. i’ll try to double check it…

  3. Stiletto Sports Jen says:

    You really summed up everything I have been thinking about this horrible idea. Thanks for sharing. I’m trying to write a piece about the Stadium and I can’t really put it into words because I get so angry

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