The first similarity Yankee fans will point to in comparing the “old” Yankee Stadium and the “new” Yankee Stadium is that both stadiums saw the Yankees crowned Major League Baseball champions in their inaugural season-1923 and 2009 respectively.
The New York Yankees own by far the most Major League Baseball championships, having won the World Series 27 of the eye-popping 40 times they’ve won the American League pennant since their inception in 1901 (as the Baltimore Orioles for two years, then the New York Highlanders for ten years before becoming the Yankees), and are one of a handful of teams that could make a plausible case as the greatest, most celebrated sports franchise in history.
So it’s not surprising that Yankee Stadium has been such an iconic ballpark. The Yankees’ move to Yankee Stadium in 1923 (from the Polo Grounds, which they shared with the New York Giants) was made necessary by the overflowing crowds eager to see Babe Ruth and his cohorts in action, and was made possible by the revenue generated by those very same overflowing crowds, hence the moniker “The House That Ruth Built.”
Moving from the original Yankee Stadium to a new ballpark was talked about for decades, with the decision always being to instead find a way to renovate what already existed, including pretty much an entire rebuilding in the 1970s. Finally Yankee ownership decided that Yankee Stadium had reached its limit of possible improvement, and that the inevitable could be delayed no longer.
But ownership also decided to make the change as smooth as they could and to honor the tradition of Yankee Stadium by retaining as much as possible of the style and atmosphere of the old stadium while still adding all the modern perks and amenities of a state of the art ballpark. This was in keeping with the strong “retro” trend of ballpark nostalgia, started by the building of Camden Yards in Baltimore in 1992, to evoke the “golden age” of homey, welcoming, centrally located ballparks of the first quarter of the 20th century (such as the original Yankee Stadium itself, as well as the two hardy survivors of that era-Fenway Park in Boston, and Wrigley Field in Chicago).
For one thing, the name was retained. The new Yankee Stadium would still be Yankee Stadium, rather than being named for whichever mega-corporation was willing to pay the most to turn yet another part of the human experience into a perpetual commercial.
The new Yankee Stadium was also located in the same Bronx neighborhood as the old, right across the street in fact.
But let’s look at some other comparisons between old and new:
1. The dimensions of both stadiums are the same down the right field line, to right-center, to centerfield, to left center, and down the left field line.
This is a bit misleading though. In point of fact, the layout of the new field is subtly different, with two significant consequences. One, it is more fan friendly in bringing more seats close to the field, and two, it is more of a “hitter’s park.”
The outfield wall is closer to a straight line between the measure points, rather than curving outward. This means that a ball hit to straightaway right (i.e., between the measure points of the right field foul line and right-center) does not have to travel quite as far as in the old ballpark to be a home run, and similarly for left field. Furthermore, the seats behind home plate and along the right and left field lines are substantially closer to the field now, meaning that foul balls are much less likely to remain in play and be caught as outs. So hitters have a lot more “second chances.”
2. Seating capacity is actually slightly lower in the new stadium, but is more comfortable (or at least more accommodating to the ever expanding size of Americans, filling up on those “peanuts and Cracker Jack”).
Stadium capacity is down from 56,886 to 52,325. Seat width has gone from 18 to 22 inches in the old stadium, to 19 to 24 inches in the new. The space between rows has gone from 29.5 inches in the old to 33 to 39 inches in the new. And now the seats come with built-in cup holders.
3. One way that modernity has certainly been served is that the new Yankee Stadium continues the sports stadium trend of making sure rich people don’t have to mix with the riff raff to see a ball game. So-called “luxury suites” have increased from 19 to 56, to go along with 410 new “party suites.”
4. Beyond that, there are miscellaneous comforts and amenities galore compared to the old Yankee Stadium.
There are substantially more concession stands, restaurants, lounges, restrooms (including new “family-style” restrooms), and souvenir stores.
There are 16 elevators, up from 3. The concourses are nearly twice as wide. The video scoreboard is about seven times as many square feet, and is high definition.
Not that any of it matters a whole lot if you can’t field a competitive team. But that would not seem to be something the Yankees need to worry about for the foreseeable future.