In May, I posted “House of Steinbrenner,” the gist of which being that win or lose in 2012 (they lost), a decade ago and two decades ago it was exponentially more fun being a Yankees fan than it is today. Mostly because the stadium experience has declined dramatically — and, not coincidentally, in direct relationship to George Steinbrenner’s declining health. That was a somewhat downbeat rant, so now something more constructive. With the heart of the off-season upon us, 5 things the Yankees can do for fans at Yankee Stadium in 2013:
1. Other than via static posted advertisements, don’t monetize the in-game experience. Modell’s “Gotta Go to Mo’s” theme song plays when the Yankees steal a base. It shouldn’t. Fans will appreciate keeping the gameplay sacred.
2. Make a concerted effort to fill every seat in the lower deck for every game. This is a big one, because it zeros in on the biggest difference between the new and old stadiums: energy. In the old stadium, you had that famous Yankees fan energy, which could reach a fever pitch even in April, because 1) the three main decks were stacked tightly, amplifying sound; and 2) many of the best seats in the stadium were controlled by long-time fans.
In the new stadium, you have a vastly different configuration in all regards, but it can be fixed if you put more fans closer to the field. Create a program by which premium seat owners can put their seats up for auction, no reserve, 2 hours before the start of the game, say. Opting in to the program could come with a moderately discounted annual season ticket price, or season ticket holders could simply have the resale price debited back to their accounts, or both. (This creates headaches around the all-you-can-eat club level experience, obviously, but there are ways of handling the logistics and the benefit to the stadium and fans vastly outweighs these problems.)
3. Fix the food. The Yankees are the greatest sports franchise in the world in the greatest restaurant city in the world, so why is the food at Yankee Stadium such absolute garbage? If you’re not a Legends ticket holder, the best thing to eat in Yankee Stadium is the meatball parm sandwich found at the Parm kiosk in the Great Hall. Said kiosk is maybe 8’ wide and it’s massively inconvenient to get to if you don’t pick something up on the way in (and if anyone really knew about it, the lines would be three innings long). Meanwhile, on offer quite widely: mediocre-at-best sliders, fries, hot dogs, chicken fingers, sausages, pizza and ice cream. Re-trade a couple of vendor contracts, take a modest loss and do something here for fans. For instance, take one of the Premio sausage stands on each level (there are six throughout the ball park) and make it a curated station that features independently operated New York restaurants.
4. Hire a visual design company to completely rethink the graphics experience at the stadium. See Diamond Vision image above for an example of the current approach. It’s time for an upgrade to a Yankees-grade graphics package.
5. Start integrating technology in a meaningful way. Follow the Yankees large pool of beat writers on Twitter during a game and you’ll have a massively more informed, entertaining game watching experience. Their commentary is excellent, and the Yankees should package it up for average fans. Plus, the media has access to all sorts of stats fans would love to have, too. In the past this would have been a tough ask. In 1996, we manually updated a large packet of statistical info every day, then copied, stapled and distributed it to the media. Today, the process is entirely digital, available via a credentialed online area of MLB.com. There’s no reason why fans shouldn’t get access in their seats, too, via an in-stadium app.