I remember sitting in my living room on a warm April day in 2006 watching the Yankees play the Orioles.
During the broadcast, Michael Kay announced that the Yankees would officially be going through with the plan to build a new stadium, and that ground would be broken later that summer.
Like most Yankee fans, I was devastated. I thought that nothing could replace Yankee Stadium, and besides, there was nothing wrong with the old one! As a naive 14 year old, I had not yet fully grasped the impact that business and money had on professional sports.
When the new stadium opened in 2009, there were mixed reviews. Fans enjoyed the wider concourses, cleaner bathrooms, and new food selections. However, a lot of these positives were drowned out by complaints about ticket pricing, a decrease in noise level as well as an overall corporate feel to the new place.
There were pockets of empty seats in the premium seating areas that were quite noticeable, especially on TV. The general reaction from fans was that while the new stadium was shiny and pristine, it didn’t make up for the grit and history that filled the old place.
After the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, the team slowly started to decline, and interest in the stadium, as well as the overall team, was waning. Fans just weren’t motivated to come to the new stadium to watch guys like Stephen Drew and Brian McCann.
The team was boring, and the stadium seemed stale. The Yankees had very few sellouts from 2012 through 2016. (Save for a few monument park ceremonies and retirement celebrations, of course.) I started to legitimately wonder if the Yankees had lost their home field advantage that had helped carry them for so many years.
But then in 2017 something rare happened- the Yankees decided to break from tradition and make some adjustments. They added the Master Card batters eye in center field, where fans could meet for a beer before games. They added a kids club, phone chargers throughout the stadium, as well as Budweiser party decks in the 300 level. The team also introduced the pinstripe pass, which gets you a standing room only ticket and a 12 ounce beer for only 15 dollars.
The results were almost immediate, as attendance climbed in 2017. Part of this was obviously due to the fact that the team was playing better. However, by catering more toward younger fans, the team had created a more exciting and intimidating atmosphere that had been missing since 2008. This was never more apparent than during the 2017 playoffs, where the yanks went 5-0 at home, and the place shook, rattled and rolled like the old one used to.
I know people miss the old stadium, and believe me, the new stadium isn’t perfect. I wish the upper deck still hung over the field, and I wish monument park was still in left field and more visible. But as Derek Jeter said in 2008, it’s up to the fans to bring the old memories across the street and carry on tradition in the new place.
It took 10 years, but I think we finally have.