Originally published April 7, 2016
You’ve heard of the $13 beers, the top-down strategy of keeping the 99% out of premium seats, and other types of alienation in play when you see the New York Yankees at home. Sadly, the disciples of Steinbrenner were just getting warmed up with those twists on the modern baseball experience. On Opening Day 2016, we noticed one of the most offensive new quirks we’ve seen in a ballpark: mini-suites covered in dark glass that block the view of fans headed through the concourse from concessions stands to their seats.
Though in place for a few seasons now, it was our first experience with the latest form of elitist excess at the Stadium — something sure to make HBO’s John Oliver and his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cringe. We came across the obstructions walking to right-field box seats when, to our left, we noticed glass enclosures tinted dark blue standing between us and the field. The little party areas, which measure about 15 ft. by 10 ft., replace what were previously open-air spaces between the concessions stands and field-level seating. That open concourse the architects envisioned is officially closed.
Unlike pillars, ushers, railings, or other natural obstructions, these eyesores are neither part of the stadium’s original design nor a welcome distraction to anyone attending a game in the House the Boss Built. They effectively eliminate the ability for fans to experience the game while they return from buying a meatball sandwich ($14), two-foot cheesesteak ($27), or 12-ounce beer ($9.50). They also shut out fans in cheap seats who want a glimpse of what a premium location looks like, if only for a fleeting moment.
We’ve never seen or heard of a ballpark where fans walking to their seats were cut off from the action on purpose by a team. There is nothing inherently wrong with the boxes, mind you. If they had clear glass, there would be no issue. You would see the game around the folks enjoying a gin-and-tonic and bean dip inside their enclosures. But the Yankees’ decision to tint the windows creates another barrier between the corporate class and everyone else. It’s part of an ugly progression.
As a season-ticket holder who transferred into this pricey locale from the old, rough-hewn Yankee Stadium, I experienced firsthand how the new Bronx cathedral shifted its focus to the privileged class. Fans who had quality seat locations were by and large disappointed with the new arrangements across the street. There were whispers of ticket brokers and corporate clients getting priority, but no one knew for sure. (Personally, I let my ticket package lapse after the 2009 World Series.)
The more overt changes have been impossible to dispute, from the sky-high concessions prices to the private entrance and dining room that are part of the “Legends” experience. HBO’s John Oliver set his sights on these luxuries and highlighted comments by Yankees COO Lonn Trost that made new Stadium ticket policies sound like they were intended to keep millionaires separated from fans of lesser means.
Clearly, the Yankees did not create a stadium for the people when they moved the fabulously valuable franchise across 161st Street. New York has assumed separations for the super-rich and 99% already, so that part is to be expected. When they built physical partitions that began blocking the game from fans’ eyes, they crossed another line. This brand is about exceptional baseball and the thrill of the live event. Taking that away from fans — all fans — undoubtedly has The Boss rolling over in his grave.
Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY
[Editor’s note: The original version of this article stated the suites were new as of Opening Day 2016. In fact, they were added during the 2014 season.]