Thoughts on Yankee Stadium’s changes for 2017

“Enhancements” are coming to Yankee Stadium. That’s how the Yankees termed the upcoming changes to the ballpark that will be in place for the 2017 season.

“We have listened to our fans and ticketholders and their top requests were for more family-friendly and socially-oriented spaces at Yankee Stadium,” said Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. “Yankees fans will now have many more dedicated areas for spending time with Guests who have tickets in other sections of the Stadium, allowing all Guests to be able to enjoy the game from multiple vantage points while having unique food and drink options available to them. We are also especially excited to provide an engaging children’s play area for families to utilize prior to and throughout the game. Having these types of spaces in Yankee Stadium is fundamental to the expectations of our fans, and we look forward to making them a huge part of the Yankee Stadium experience in 2017 and beyond.”

Below are my thoughts on the new features added, along with commentary on parts of the stadium that I still lament.

What’s new

MasterCard Batter’s Eye Deck:

Located on the 200 level in center field with a clear, sweeping view of the entire stadium, the MasterCard Batter’s Eye Deck will be expanded to 3,500 square feet and will include drink rails overlooking the field. This outdoor gathering space will feature craft beers, cocktails and a large selection of food options.

I’ve stood out in this area before, and while it is a neat perspective of the field looking directly toward home plate, it never seemed so crowded that it needed more space. I guess the expanded drink and food menus are expected to attract more people to the area, which is obviously what the Yankees are going for here: another revenue driver. If it’s as popular as the Yankees hope, the rest of the stadium will look even more empty than it has in recent years. Doesn’t seem like ownership cares about that, though. The atmosphere of the old place is long gone and not returning anytime soon.

Bullpen Landings:

The new left- and right-field Bullpen Landings (on the 100 Level in the former Sections 239 and 201, respectively) will be open-air social gathering areas which will overlook the visitors’ and Yankees’ bullpens. Both landings will feature their own specialty food and drink options. Drink-rail locations at the landings will have power/USB outlets. All obstructed-view seats in the Bleachers will be removed.

This is one update that I like quite a bit, even though it somewhat contradicts my previous comment about additional empty seats. I’ve been to other ballparks that have decks overlooking the bullpen, such as Philadelphia, and have enjoyed my experience getting an up close look at the relievers going to work. The seats that are being removed to create this area were the worst seats in the house with obstructed views of about half the field. It’s mildly surprising that the Yankees willingly eliminated more than two thousand seats, but this should be better use of the space. Nonetheless, it’s important that the Yankees make amends to any season ticket holders in those two sections.

Right field bullpen landing

AT&T Sports Lounge featuring DirecTV service

The new AT&T Sports Lounge featuring DirecTV service at Section 134 on the Field Level will include a full bar with craft beers and cocktails. Tables, stools and large-screen televisions tuned to the Yankees broadcast and other live sporting events will provide a sports bar atmosphere on the Stadium’s main outdoor concourse in left field. Additionally, power/USB outlets will be available for charging phones or tablets.

As a person who likes to buys a ticket to actually watch the game, I have absolutely no interest in things like this. If I want to go to a bar to watch other games, I’m going to do it outside of Yankee Stadium where it’ll be far cheaper for food and drinks and not cost me the price of admission. Apparently, this is what fans and ticketholders wanted, according to ownership. Can’t wait until this leads to even more empty seats.

Budweiser Party Decks

The 300 Level of Yankee Stadium will include Budweiser Party Decks at Sections 311 and 328, featuring shaded stand-alone bar areas serving beer, cocktails and food. Drink-rail and barstool seating will provide fans a relaxed and casual setting from which to enjoy sweeping views of the field and game action.

Don’t care for it, it’s just more of the same.

Sunrun Kids Clubhouse

The Sunrun Kids Clubhouse will be Yankee Stadium’s first-ever children’s zone. Shaped like a mini-baseball field with a soft artificial surface, the 2,850-square-foot area will be located on the 300 Level in right field and will be outfitted with Yankees-themed playground equipment, including oversized baseballs, bases and baseball cards. The Sunrun Kids Clubhouse will be accessible to all Yankee Stadium Guests.

I imagine that it’s difficult to get one’s children to sit still for nine innings, so this will be a welcome addition for families attending games next season. That being said, it’s still prohibitively expensive for a family of four to attend a game, even in the upper deck. Face value of grandstand tickets (400-level) can be anywhere between $16 and $31, which is a significant outlay before any parking or concessions.

The new kid-friendly area

Newly Available Affordable Tickets

Once the Stadium enhancements are complete, more than 200,000 additional tickets priced at $15 or less will be made available for the 2017 regular season. These tickets will be in addition to the traditional individual-game ticket specials the Yankees offer, such as MasterCard $5 Games, Half-Price Games and Youth Games. Later this year, additional information will be released regarding the Yankees’ 2017 ticket initiatives, ticket specials and pricing, including the introduction of variable and dynamic pricing.

On average, the franchise is adding just under 2,500 $15 or less priced tickets per game in 2017. At first glance, this sounds great. However, and I hope to be proven wrong, I’d bet a lot of these seats will be offered for undesirable games, such weeknights during the school year. We’ll see.

What I wish would be changed

The Moat

This is unequivocally the worst aspect of the ballpark. Nobody is ever sitting in the seats because they’re inside at a grandiose buffet offered to those ticketed attendees, which creates an incredibly ugly picture on TV. Moreover, this blocks off fans (primarily kids) who at most ballparks are able to go right up to the dugout during batting practice to get a fantastic perspective, regardless of where their ticket is during the game. Unfortunately, it’ll never be removed because because of the bottom line benefits the Yankees obtain from it, but at the minimum, the Yankees should allow better pregame and batting practice access to all fans in this area.

Monument Park

It will remain buried behind center field, which has been a major disappointment since the stadium opened. I can’t recall where I saw this idea, but it was a good one: try to stack both bullpens in right field while moving Monument Park back to left center field, similar to the previous iteration of Yankee Stadium. While I do like the bullpen landings, they probably make this idea unrealistic for the time being. For shame.

Still hidden.

Ease of passing through security

On many occasions, it’s taken numerous fans over a half hour merely to get into the stadium. My worst experience was the 2015 Wild Card game, which was a legitimate 45-minute wait. I was fortunate enough to be at the Stadium early enough that I didn’t miss first pitch, but thousands of other fans not only missed the start of the game, but also the first few innings. Some sort of overhaul is necessary.

Pricing of 300-level (Terrace) tickets

I know most tickets in the stadium are pricey, but this cost to sit in this section befuddles me. Compared to the 400-level, these seats aren’t much better yet are far more expensive. The entire area behind home plate is the Jim Beam suite, which costs $95 to $115 per seat. And it’s not a suite, it’s a glorified grandstand with a bar behind it. Infield sections of the terrace go for $42 to $95 – what? The outfield portion of the 300s goes for $24 to $46, still ridiculous for the part of the stadium its located.

This level is no different than the lower portion of the old Yankee Stadium’s upper deck, which was actually a better seat because the old upper deck was much closer to the field. Yet, the prices are astronomical. I just don’t get it. Maybe these newly added $15 or less tickets will alleviate this, but somehow I doubt it.

What are your thoughts on the additions to the stadium? Is there anything else you’d like to see added?

Image renderings from Yankee Stadium Enhancements page.

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