Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
The Future is Now
2008-04-09 05:35
by Alex Belth

I caught bits and pieces of the home opener at Shea yesterday and was struck by the backdrop of the new park that is sitting just behind the outfield. Last season, the construction looked like something out of Waterworld, but now the facade of Citi Field looks almost complete. It was a surreal but arresting image, one that has me curious to get out to Shea and see it up close.

Neil deMause, a freelance writer and contributor to Baseball Prospectus, has been following the construction of the two new stadiums in New York. I haven't been paying close attention to the dollars and cents of it all, but here are three pieces by deMause that detail what's what (one, two and three). deMause is unabashedly critical of the financing of both parks, which again brings to mind Robert Lipsyte's SI story about the rennovation of the old Yankee Stadium, "A Diamond in the Ashes" (April, 1976):

Myles Jackson, a lineman on Michigan's 1951 Rose Bowl team, was not born in the Bronx, as Abrams and Garelik and I were, but he lives there now, a block from Yankee Stadium. Four years ago, rebuilding himself after a business failure, he found an inexpensive apartment in the neighborhood, which is basically commercial and industrial. The Bronx Terminal Market is nearby, and the Bronx County Courthouse stands on the highest hill.

Sometimes Jackson spent a dollar to sit in the bleachers. I have done that, too, and it can be a soothing place, as public or private as one might need it to be, a sun deck, a gambling casino, a patio from which to see green, a tree house of old August fantasies.

And sometimes Jackson went to jog in Macombs Dam Park, which includes a football field ringed with a cinder track that lies literally in the shadow of the Stadium. The track was poorly maintained by the city; it was often unusable. When the Stadium was closed for renovation after the 1973 baseball season and the little park deteriorated even more, Jackson became angry enough to found a local organization called the Committee to Save Macombs Dam Park.

"Yankee Stadium is a symbol of the value system by which this city, this country, bases its decisions," he says. "They can spend all that money for a stadium, but when it comes to a little more for a recreational facility that will really enhance the quality of life through sports, there's just nothing left."

But symbols and chemistry are the name of the game, whether your city is New York or someplace else, whether your game is baseball or some other sport. The "new" Yankee Stadium is not the all-weather, all-purpose facility New York needs. But as an example of the state of the art of cosmetic architecture, it is a handsome improvement. When I take my son to his first major league game, it will be in a brighter, airier, more comfortable ball park. The pillars that obscured the view of too many of the old 65,000 seats are gone, replaced by a steel cable-counterweight system of the type used to support suspension bridges. Gone will be that chilling dankness of Giant football Sunday afternoons, when the pillars cast late-fall shadows on the seats behind them. Of course, gone, too, are the Giants (to New Jersey), and gone are 11,000 seats, a million baseball seats per season.

...Perhaps the most luxurious new appointments are the 19 private lounges, complete with televisions, wet bars and bathrooms, that open onto 14—and in two cases, 30—reserved seats in the second deck behind home plate. The larger lounges go for $30,000 per season, the others for $19,000. The first was rented by the Yankees' principal owner, George Steinbrenner III, recently returned to active participation after his suspension from baseball following his felony conviction for illegal Presidential campaign contributions.

Ironically, one of Steinbrenner's first public actions since his comeback was the edict last month that in the interest of "order and discipline" players may not wear beards or long hair. "I want to develop pride in the players as Yankees," Steinbrenner explained.

Yankee Pride costs a pretty penny. And it ain't so cheap out in Queens neither.

2008-04-09 10:28:41
1.   Sliced Bread
Ah, the glory, and the gluttony of the new stadiums. Nero would have approved.

Dollars aside, and forget nostalgia, until park space is returned to Yankee Stadium's neighbors I can't get the least bit jazzed about the new joint.

Even then, kids are going to have to play ball on the roofs of Stadium parking garages ('cept they won't be allowed when the Yanks are in town), just so the "rattle yer jewelry" crowd has a fancy place to sit? Damn shame.

Shea? Whatever. But even a shiny new home for the Mets won't conceal the eggy stench of lowtide in nearby Flushing Bay.

Enjoyed that read from the vault, Alex.

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