I know a woman of fairly advanced years who, over the past five decades, has owned four different Boston Terriers, each with the same name, Skippy. The logic behind her persistence is a vague, nonverbal hope that somehow mortality might be extended indefinitely, or at least seem to be.
That lady reminded me of the new Yankee Stadium, which last week opened to the public for the first time. Like the equally new Citi Field, which will be home to the Mets, it was designed by Populous, formerly known as HOK Sport Venue Event, a 25-year-old architectural firm that designs stadiums and nothing else.
The overriding logic of this latest effort at East 161st Street and River Avenue is to Look And Feel As Much As Possible Like Its Predecessor Across The Street. Surely there are differences in design, but little to disrupt that consoling sense of continuity that Yankee fans apparently crave. A sense of continuity was not so important at the new Mets ballpark, since that team is far younger and as such is an upstart, architecturally and in other respects.
And so the new Yankees building is clad in a soothing expanse of Indiana Limestone, and its architectural detailing, like that of the older building from 1923, is graced with a triumphal entrance, as well as giant-order bay windows that divide up the facade. In one of its most aggressively historicist maneuvers, the fret-work frieze above the bleachers closely resembles that of the old stadium. And in yet another tug at the mystic chords of memory, the interior is furnished with a great hall, packed with images of the Yankees immortals of better days.
Beyond that, the new stadium promises to be far more user-friendly. With around 8 percent less capacity, it provides fans with almost 20 percent more legroom. In a sign of how plutocratic professional sports has become, it has 56 luxury suites, compared with 19 in the older venue. Equally revealing is the fact that retail space has doubled, the video scoreboard has tripled in size, and there are far more elevators and bathrooms to serve the public.
Unfortunately, despite the many millions of dollars of public monies that have subsidized the new stadium, tickets will be much more expensive than in the past, underscoring baseball’s transition from populist entertainment to something more suited to the middle class and above.