New Stadium, same old tradition
Yankees make sure that new home feels like old one, with additions
Things are going to be different. They have to be. The old Yankee Stadium had been around for eight decades plus another half dozen years, and times, quite frankly, have changed.
Scoreboards are bigger and lights are brighter. Luxury boxes have become the norm. The things that were in vogue in 1923, in the Roaring '20s decade, aren't all still popular in a time of Blackberries and Twitter. So to start from scratch -- to lay a new cornerstone and to pour new concrete and to install 52,325 new seats -- the Yankees had to take some risks.
The fear, of course, was that things would be too different. And the Yankees took pains to avoid that, drawing up a blueprint that looked and felt -- apart from a few upgrades -- almost exactly like the old one.
They wanted it the same. And they made it the same.
"If you loved Yankee Stadium, it's still Yankee Stadium," chief operating officer Lonn Trost said. "We just moved it a little."
They moved it across the street, installed the requisite bells and whistles, and now they're ready to open the doors. The seats are in place and the scoreboards are mounted. The luxury suites are furnished and the concession stands are stocked, ready for the first of two exhibition games against the Cubs on Friday. And the Yankees would like to think that all the history of the old park has already made its way into this one. That the familiar aura -- that old Yankee mystique -- remains.
It was the most important stipulation the Yankees made in their stadium plans, from the moment they began designing the park. Their task was to provide their fans with all the conveniences of modernity, without disturbing a single ounce of tradition. And the Yankees believe that they've accomplished that.
"I think it's exceeded my goals," Trost said. "It's exceeded my desires by a lot. Every single thing about the stadium, every visual, every amenity, every restroom, every office, every suite, every banquet [room], every bleacher location, has exceeded what I was hoping we'd get."
And so upon entering the new Yankee Stadium, fans will see a high-definition video screen hanging in the Great Hall, an otherwise classically designed tribute to Yankees history. They will grab food at NYY Steak and the Hard Rock Café, full-service restaurants within spitting distance of Monument Park. And they will watch the same old game of baseball -- the one that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played way back when -- from some of the most luxurious seats in professional sports.
It's Yankee Stadium with a twist.
"All the stuff that we liked from the old stadium will be the same in the new stadium," catcher Jorge Posada said. "Obviously, for the fans there's going to be a lot of things new, but for us, we wanted to keep everything the same -- the playing field, the dirt, the grass, the lights, pretty much everything."
But placing 21st-century amenities into an 86-year-old design is no easy task. Tinker too much, and the risk of damaging that signature Yankee Stadium atmosphere increases.
So Trost, his team of Yankees executives and the HOK Sport global architecture firm examined every detail of the old Yankee Stadium, replicating all that they could. Many of its signature features, such as Monument Park and the decorative frieze, were easy to snap into place. And what the Yankees hoped was that in doing so, they would be able to transfer some of the more intangible aspects of the old stadium -- "the ghosts," so to speak -- along with them.
It was a different sort of process than, say, replanting Wrigley Field's ivy or reconstructing Fenway Park's Green Monster. More than any single architectural quirk, Yankee Stadium's charm was founded upon the success of the teams that played there. That's hard to recreate.
"We think this is a living museum with all the history that is here," Trost said. "What we tried to do was make it look like Yankee Stadium."
Whether or not they also replicated the feel will take some time to determine. But the players, the management, the ownership -- nearly everyone seems convinced.
"I know it's going to be a spectacular stadium," said closer Mariano Rivera, the longest-tenured Yankee. "A magnificent stadium."
"We're still in Yankee Stadium," Trost said. "When you see the batters and you see the pitchers and you see everything we've done, the history and the tradition, it's now here."
Posada will be one of those batters, Rivera one of the pitchers. Derek Jeter will be there, as will Andy Pettitte. And perhaps it will be those four -- the links to the Yankees' four most recent World Series titles -- who will likewise link the new Yankee Stadium with the old one. More than any coat of paint or decorative feature, the Yankees hope that winning will be the common thread.
"We still have great players on the field," Trost said, "so we certainly hope that we'll be able to accomplish what we did in 1923 in 2009."
That year, six months after opening the original Stadium, the Yankees won the World Series for the first time. It's no secret that they're aiming for some similar success in a conspicuously similar park.
"To me, I hope for just the same," Rivera said. "To me, it's still Yankee Stadium."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.