Not only is Major League Baseball's Opening Day right around the corner, so too are the debuts of two new baseball stadiums in New York--Citi Field, new home of the New York Mets, and the new Yankee Stadium.
There are plenty of intriguing story lines around the opening of these new sports venues. Both are expansive and premier ballparks which open in an economy that is about bailouts and Bernie Madoff. Both open in the biggest city and media market in the U.S. Both open next door to where the prior stadiums sat. Both began construction in 2006, cost their teams $2.3 billion but were made possible by $1.2 billion in city and state-funded infrastructure and tax breaks. And, both have had to deal with a weakened economy's impact on the sales of upscale seating options.
Since 1990, 19 new baseball stadiums have been built in the U.S. But, only one new sports park was built in the New York area during that same time--Arthur Ashe Stadium, site of the U.S. (tennis) Open. The openings of Citi Field and Yankee Stadium II represent the first new sports architecture in the five boroughs in a major sport in 20 years.
The new Yankee Stadium is most like its predecessor, from its facade to the familiar field layout. From the outside it looks very similar to the original stadium. So, this venue is less about changing what was and more about changing the little things that enhance the spectator's visit--wider concourses, cushier seats, better and more concession options and, of course, improved restroom facilities.
The new Shea...er, I mean Citi Field, is a radical departure from the prior stadium. Shea Stadium joined other multipurpose stadiums like Busch Stadium (St. Louis), RFK Stadium (Washington), and Three Rivers Stadium (Pittsburgh), which were built in the 1960's and 1970's and incorporated one venue for both baseball and football. The closing of Shea means that only the Oakland Coliseum remains as a major market stadium where two professional franchises play in these two sports.
The controvery around Citi Field has to do with the economic bailouts which have occurred for financial institutions and what that means to how these companies spend their marketing funds. For many, naming rights on a new stadium seems counter to the spirit of the bailouts.
Both promise to be outstanding facilities. However, as some have pointed out, Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago have weathered the "new stadium architecture storm." Was Yankee Stadium, in particular, in dire need of being replaced? It's too late now--the House that Ruth built is no more...the House that George (Steinbrenner) built stands in its place.