I recently visited New York City and attended Yankee Stadium for the last time. The House That Ruth Built is in its final season and a new Yankee Stadium is being built next door. Similarly, there is a new stadium being built adjacent to the Mets’ Shea.
The reason this is newsworthy is because of the size, historical designs and cost of these ballparks. The new Yankee Stadium is estimated to cost $1.4 billion (with a “B”) and the new Mets’ park close to $1 billion. Throw in overruns and you can easily add another 10 percent to the mix.
The new Yankee Stadium will look like the original 1923 Yankee Stadium from the outside. Its inside will be full of every modern amenity imaginable. As for naming rights, I don’t think that’s part of the plan because the words “Yankee Stadium” are already etched into the facade in rich, metallic gold.
The new Shea, known for now as Citi Park, is modeled to look like old Ebbets Field from the outside. It boasts a Jackie Robinson rotunda at its home plate entrance. It, too, will be crammed with modern amenities and creature comforts.
Both parks will open in April 2009.
How long do you suppose it will take before MLB team owners in cities like Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, etc., start making the claim that they can no longer compete in their outdated ballparks? My guess is that the new New York stadia will raise the bar twice as high as it is now — and that talk of new stadiums in cities that have ten to twenty year old parks will begin in earnest.
When Comerica Park was being designed by the Ilitches, there was speculation that they would borrow the look and feel of Tiger Stadium to make the transition easier for the fans and to capitalize on the team’s rich stadium history. Instead, Comerica Park turned out to have no correlation to Tiger stadium whatsoever. In fact, a Tigers employee once told me that the Ilitches were so bitter about the stadium debate at the time, they went out of their way to make it as different from Tiger Stadium as possible — out of spite.
The designs of the New York parks is proof to me that there is tremendous value in the history of old stadiums. Both teams could have had anything they wanted. And both teams chose to honor baseball history instead of running away from it.
Who knows? Maybe the next Detroit ballpark will be built to look exactly like Tiger Stadium. And from the trends that are unfolding, it could be here before you know it.