Today I was lucky enough to recieve a tour of the new Yankee Stadium. I've been meaning to write a full critique of it for the site, but I both wanted to experience it first hand and also haven't had the time. That said, here are my first impressions. I will post many of the photos and videos I took very soon, as well.
For me personally, coming to any conclusions from my new visit to the new Yankee Stadium is quite difficult. First and foremost, I know so much about it. For months, I've rabidly eaten up pictures as they've arisen, and followed as well as I can every decision made in construction. Thus, very little of what I saw was actually new to me, although it was the first time I saw it in person. Almost ipso facto, the big shiny parts of the new structure (for instance, the frieze or the main video screen) were kind of lost to me- it's not that I didn't notice them or wasn't impressed by them, but I barely paid them any mind as, having seen so many pictures, I had already internalized them to such a large degree.
The situation certainly wasn't aided by the combined facts of our tour moving so very quickly, thus giving me little chance to experience the building at my own pace or direction, but also the pressing need to take as many photos as I could in that time. Indeed, I wonder if I had the same amount of time in the same spaces but had free roam to experience, my views might be more substantial. As is, I am simply overwhelmed; not specifically impressed or not impressed but rather find it hard to come to any firm conclusions, even emotionally. I'm sure having roam of the place during an actual game, at my own pace, will give me a much better feel.
I know it's a clichÃ©, but to a certain degree photos do not do the building justice. Oh, they certainly document the spaces decently, but they can't convey the sense of scale. I watched the building rise from across 161st , and from that vantage point I found it handsome but unimpressive in stature. It's amazing the difference that 100 feet makes- walking next to the finished building for the first time since the construction barriers came down I couldn't help but be overcome by the sheer size of everything.
First and foremost, I had the experience of coming off the Macomb's Dam Bridge exit off the Deegan on a beautifully sunny morning, and driving around the apex of Yankee Stadium to reveal yet another Yankee Stadium. The effect was amazing. Walking around is quite something: everything is simple, but the scale is gigantic. For instance, I had in the past been wary of the size and unpainted nature of the medallion on gate 4 would make them disappear- they don't in person, such is the size of the building. To give some sense of the scale, the letters that make out "Babe Ruth Plaza" are around 4 or 5 feet in height, meaning their tops are six or seven feet off the ground. The banners in the Great Hall must be 5 or 6 feet wide, they are simply gigantic approached from the bottom. Even going up the center staircase in the Great Hall and looking out over the structure of the Main level and the tops of the concessions for the Field level was something photos don't convey- the structure is large, and details that seem perhaps overly simple in a photograph take on a new light when viewed up close and in person due to their scale.
One thing I was conscious of, as were the architects, was that this is a brand new building, and they wanted to bring that across. It certainly isn't a copy of the 1923 building, but rather, as many others have said, a modern interpretation of it. As such, the things like signage, while they may look bland and 'airporty' in a photograph, actually blend right in the the building. In many ways, it is sleek- a mixture of textures and materials that come together into a form inspired by the old building, but not dependent on it. That said, it certainly is not what many, myself included, feared: a modern ballpark wrapped in a decorative facade. Rather, from the facade to the interior to the bones of the structure, it is a new building, one guided by the old but entirely a new interpretation. It never feels or looks like a copy, nor is their anything old timey or cloying that feels cheesy, false, or out of place. In other words, the building stands or falls on its own merits; I think many peoples' fears, and perhaps also their hopes' (in that many, I have gleaned, wanted something more along the lines of a copy), have been premature. The building needs to be experienced first hand.
It is harder for me still to describe the non-public areas of the stadium, as like many major leaguer's would say, "I'm just happy to be here." It's not quite being star struck, but rather unprepared to walk through these areas, which will soon have so much importance. That said, much like above, the photos tend not to do a good job of illustrating how well things are laid out in the building. The dugout tunnel is probably 15 feet wide, with a restroom accessible from the outside of the double doors heading inside. Right through those doors, you immediately enter a large space- the indoor batting cages; unlike the old stadium there is little pomp about it- if you didn't know what was behind those double doors you wouldn't guess. Turning and heading up stairs (or, I might add, a wheelchair ramp) you enter a hallway which connects both things like bat storage and the like and also opens directly into the clubhouse. The rest of the interior of the space is a bit labyrinthine, but I get the sense that once it's full it will function very well. Seeing the spaces come together, attached, gives them a life that seeing them in photos, separate from one another, does not.
As I said, I tended to be bit overwhelmed to come to any strong conclusions about the building, especially not being able to take it at my own pace and being so prepared. But I will say, in retrospect, everything seems to "work," and to the best of my knowledge work well. The entranceways lead to huge concourses, the stands are very well proportioned in person, the look and style of the building is uniform and handsome. Even the newer darker seat and padding work great- they are an excellent counterpoint to the white steel and sandstone-colored brick and concrete. All I can say was that the building surprised me, which is something given how much exposure to it I've had. I'm excited for April to come around and give me (and the rest of us) a chance to experience the building in action in further detail. Though it is covered with reminders of the Yankees' Past, it isn't, in my opinion, simply slathered with history in order to force a link. Nor is it a copy of any other building, including the old stadium. Rather, it is very specifically a new building that directly calls back to its predecessor. It isn't cloying, nor is it forced, but rather it simply works. From that starting point, the building will rise or fall on its own merits, and from what I've seen, I'm strongly inclined to lean towards the positive.