12
Yankee Stadium
43
9
4
5
0
3
2
19
85

New York Yankees

The House That George Built is the most expensive baseball stadium ever constructed. It’s also the most expensive to attend and the most elitist in terms of what you can access. Which I suppose, makes it a very New York place.

Modeled to look like old Yankee stadium, the new park is a huge success in certain areas: it offers maybe the single best food item in baseball, the exterior architecture is impressive, and it packs loud & large crowds that make every game feel like an event.

Management has done a nice job fixing some of the park’s flaws. There remains the big problem with the best seats in the house going unoccupied for much of the game (which looks awful on TV), and there are still some design quirks that can’t be forgiven, but the Yankees have dropped some of their stuffiness and have added several all-access areas that have improved this ranking by a few points.

It’s still crazy expensive, and their beer list is lacking. And its South Bronx neighborhood, while improving, may not be one that you’ll explore in any depth after dark. But it’s a bucket list stadium regardless of the placing on this list. I am by no means a fan of the New York Yankees, but (begrudgingly I have to admit) it’s hard to beat the excitement and energy of a game at Yankee Stadium.

STADIUM 43/50

Exterior aesthetics 10/10; Interior & Concourse Aesthetics 9/10; Sightlines & seating 7/10; Amenities & entertainment 9/10; Flow 4/5; Celebrating history 5/5; Scoreboards 5/5; Grand entrance 5/5; Sense of place 10/10; WOW Factor 22/30. Total 86 points divided by 2 for 43

The park was built to resemble old Yankee Stadium as much as possible. But with better stuff and a whole lot of $600 seats.

THE GOOD:

  • The exterior architecture replicates the old park and gives the new place a sense of import and gravitas. In an age where exterior architecture is largely forgotten, it’s nice to see some money spent here to create a true monument to baseball. It’s really good looking and feels of a different era.
  • Inside the park, The Great Hall also feels monumental. It’s the type of structure that I would have hoped to have seen in Washington’s park.
  • Speaking of monuments, Monument Park squeezes into a small place behind centerfield. A little tight given the crowds, but it’s a nice tribute to the most impressive collection of retired numbers and honored players in baseball.
  • The iconic frieze made its way over to the new park, giving the place an immediate identity
  • While largely enclosed, the stadium lets enough of the Bronx in to give it that New York grit. You can see the subway run past in right field which is a nice touch.
  • The scoreboard set up is perfect in the outfield
  • If you’re lucky enough to score field or main level seats in the infield, they are padded and very comfortable
  • The Yankees Museum on the second floor is impressive. A nice diversion either pregame, rain delay or if the game turns ugly by the middle innings. The museum does a nice job recounting the various eras of Yankees success and contains a strong collection including Thurman Munson’s locker.
  • Despite its reputation as the most corporate of teams (no mascot, no names on jerseys, no facial hair), the Yankees relented to the times and added a kid’s play area and several new shared social spaces to hang out before and during the game
  • To help justify their ridiculous price, the Yankees removed some seats in the higher parts of the infield box seats area, and added mini tables for fans to use to set their food and drink
  • The premium lounge areas, while outlandishly pricy, are indeed very, very nice

THE BAD:

  • The best seats in the house are unused. The moated “Legends Suite” area with the crazy-high ticket prices sit empty many nights; they’re either unsold, unused, or occupied by people more comfortable in the air conditioned dining area rather than the seats. Did they build too many? This seems to go against the very ethos of baseball and frankly is a deadly flaw of this park. My proposed rule: any seat on the other side of the moat that’s unoccupied by the Top of the 5th can be had for the balance of the game for $50.
  • The Batters Eye bar in centerfield juts out, obstructing the view from two bleacher sections. While the Yankees recently “fixed” this by turning those sections into social areas, it results in a reduction of the availability of cheaper seats. How the heck do you build obstructed view seats in this day and age? Clearly a big blunder.
  • With all the clubs and club seating, the affordable Grandstand seats got moved further and further up. They are high and quite far from the field.
  • By trying to faithfully recreate old Yankee Stadium, the new park stayed enclosed and kept the colors to grays and blues. While it was probably the right call for the Yankees, the net effect is a rather staid, serious-looking ballpark. Were they too reverential in their approach?

I’d summarize it as a stately structure with great amenities. It’s among the better stadiums in the game, despite lacking a big “Wow factor”, though I’m still trying to figure out how it added up to $2+ billion.

FOOD 9/10

Prices notwithstanding, Yankee Stadium’s offerings are the near perfect mix of more traditional ballpark fare, some fun local options, and upscale stuff accessible to all. In fact, it may have been a perfect score, except Parm is no longer a vendor, and those delicious chicken parmigiana “sangwiches” are no more.

If you want a sit down meal, both NYY Steak and the Hard Rock Café can be visited by anybody. If you prefer grab n go there’s the cheesy delights at Big Mozz and smoky goodness from Mighty Quinn’s BBQ. I spotted a new Benihana stand offering teppanyaki vittles and the Benihana schtick. You can also get sushi, fried avocado bites, hot chicken sandwiches, bao, Kalua pork, and good burgers (the Burrata Burger from City Winery and Bareburger’s bison burger were good period not just ballpark good). The regular Nathan’s natural casing hot dog with red onions, kraut and mustard works too. And the Yankee Milkshakes are sinfully good.

But the pièce de résistance is perhaps my personal favorite concession in the MLB (at worst, Top 3). The Lobel’s steak sandwich runs almost $20, and the cooking consistency is hit and miss. It’s sometimes overcooked; very rarely (ahem) it’s too bloody. But when you get a perfectly medium-rare one dipped just right, and garnish it with a little horseradish, fugetaboutit.

BEER 4/10

I’m amazed that Yankee Stadium doesn’t do more local craft. Maybe the price to get in is usury, so only the big boys can play. AB’s Blue Point is the main “craft” offering (admittedly, not my fave).

If you really hunt, you can find a decent IPA from Bronx Brewery, the ubiquitous Brooklyn Lager, and a pilsner from Catskill Brewing. But otherwise, if you’re trying to do something other than a Bud, Michelob, Stella or Heineken, you’re looking at a national craft beer brand like Firestone Walker, Goose Island or Anchor Steam, or imports like Guinness, Kirin, Warsteiner and Sapporo.

And be prepared to pay.

NEIGHBORHOOD 5/10

New York City has undergone a lot of gentrification over the years. Artisan sandwich joints, organic tea shops and Jamba Juices now sit in places that were formerly dodgy or even dangerous. The South Bronx hasn’t been entirely immune to that (I recently parked at a mall three blocks from the stadium that has a Target and an Applebee’s) but it’s still more of a classically grimy NYC neighborhood. The area immediately around the stadium is safer than it’s been since I can remember, but out-of-towners are probably better off not straying too far off the beaten path, especially post-game once the ballpark crowds thin.

There are a couple of good sport bars that draw old school Yankee die-hards worthy of a pregame visit, as well as a slew of souvenir shops, bodegas and non-descript eateries. If you’re visiting, there are many, many more NYC neighborhoods worth exploring over this one. But don’t feel as if you have to beeline to and from the subway station. The area around the park will start to get you into the proper New York state of mind and energize you before you enter the mother lair of Yankee fans.

COST 0/5

It’s stupid what it costs here to enjoy a game from a relatively-close-to-the-field seat. I know it’s New York, but c’mon. The Mets aren’t nearly as expensive, so don’t just blame it on that.

It’s one of the few ballparks where cost deters you from ponying up for an infield box seat. I struggle with the idea of paying $300 to see the Orioles’ 5th starter. Look at the secondary market first as you can probably do better than the box office. Concessions are also quite expensive, but not as bad as the ticket. It’s among my biggest sore points of any park in the game.

ACCESSIBILITY 3/5

The train is the best way there. The 4 and D subway trains (and sometimes the B) and the Metro North commuter rail stop right at the doorstep. Driving is a hassle in NYC period, though parking is not as stupid-expensive as one may think, especially if you use a private lot. But take the train.

WEATHER 2/5

NYC weather is better than Boston weather, and better than some Midwest weather, but still can be cold and rainy in spring, and oppressively humid in summer.

VIBE 19/20

I’m not a Yankee fan, but I gotta admit New York baseball fans help create an energized environment like no other. Brash, loud, proud and maybe a little in-your-face, they’ll annoy you when they’re at YOUR park, but galvanize you when you’re at THEIR park. They show up in droves most games: crowds are usually well over 40,000.

Bald Vinny leading the Bleacher Creature roll call is one of the best traditions in sport. Blaring New York New York after a win is cool. The in-game music even has a little edge: there’s attitude to the “Let’s Go Yankees” rally chant or the celebratory Westminster Quarter Chime sample from 2Unlimited’s Workaholic. I also dig some the little quirks like the PC Richards & Sons whistle after every Yankee pitcher strikeout, or the Bob Sheppard-esque cadence of player introduction.

I have a few quibbles:

  • The concierge/usher staff have been trained in the art of professionalism to the point that it feels a little fake. There’s almost a brainwashed coldness about them that’s borderline spooky.
  • Because of the value of the better seats, the team is crazy strict about checking tickets, making it real tough to get a better view with your “get in” ticket. And forget trying to get a peek at the premium amenities without a ticket; you ain’t getting in if your ticket doesn’t say so.
  • They borderline go overboard with the patriotism with the 7th inning rendition of God Bless America at EVERY game, not just Sundays.

But even with those minor nitpicks, I awarded a near-perfect score here. Yankee reverence is tempered by the “riff-raff” hard-core NYC fan. If you base a game just on the vibe, Yankee Stadium is among the best in baseball.

GALLERY


OTHER THINGS TO DO


Three fun NYC eateries:

  • Joe’s Pizza (Greenwich Village. Arguably Manhattan’s best pizza.)
  • Joe’s Steam Rice Roll (Canal Street Market. Cantonese rice-based “crêpes” filled with pork, beef, or curry fish balls.)
  • Katz’s Deli (Lower East Side. Packed with tourists wanting the see the When Harry Met Sally place, but with a worthy pastrami sandwich.)

Three places to imbibe before the game:

  • Bronx Draft House (Ballpark. The newest and nicest joint on the list. Let’s hope it has the staying power of the other two.)
  • Yankee Tavern (Ballpark. Venerable watering hole with a decent tap selection filled with die hards)
  • Stan’s Sports Bar (Ballpark. Old school dive on River St. filled with characters in pinstripes)

One bar in the area worth hitting:

Blind Tiger (Greenwich Village. One of the OG craft beer bars can sometimes feel a tad fratty, but a well-timed visit is a must for any beer nerd.)

Three craft breweries in the area worthy of your time:

  • The Bronx Brewery (3 miles from the stadium in the Port Morris neighborhood, known for their IPAs)
  • LIC Beer Project (Queens. Cool brewery known best for its hazy pale ale)
  • Grimm Artisanal/Interboro (East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Grimm specializes in funky Belgian-style beers, nearby Interboro is known for more traditional IPA and pale ales. Do both while you’re there.)

Three fun tourist attractions in the area:

  • Museum of Modern Art (Midtown. My favorite art museum in America)
  • Central Park (Several sites within the park, or just find a bench and people watch)
  • Times Square/Broadway (Locals avoid the area, but it’s a must see. Maybe go see a matinee show as your excuse.)

SUMMARY

Yankee Stadium is the heartbeat of vintage New York; a classic, well-known place filled with brash chest-thumpers who think their neck of the woods is the best. It does a nice job housing baseball’s most storied franchise by acting a little like a museum as well as being a ballpark. Its stoic presentation is filled with gravitas, but is offset by some of baseball’s most colorful fans. It’s a must-see park for any baseball fan, not just those touring stadiums. You’ll leave invigorated by the crowd, impressed by the structure, satiated from the food, and broke for the privilege.