Members Only: The New Yankee Stadium

Stephen Guss

Just over ten years ago, at the birth of the most recent Yankee dynasty in 1996, fans paid $25 to watch one of the greatest Yankee teams in history from the best seats in the house, located just a few rows from the playing field. After most of the great players from the Yankees’ glory years left Yankee Stadium, ticket prices rose exponentially. In the eight years since the Yankees won their last World Series in 2000, those same $25 Field Championship seats have increased in price by 1000%. For those fans that could not afford to attend a game during Yankee Stadium’s final season in 2008, the New Yankee Stadium could prove to be even more exclusive locale than its predecessor.

According to Yankees.com, seats in the new Yankee Stadium that are equivalent to Field Championship boxes will be sold at prices of $500- $2,500 in 2009. In 2008, those same seats were sold for $250. The Yankees will also charge $1,000 for luxurious Legends seats, which will place fans in the first two rows.

Surely the new amenities found in the new stadium will be a vast improvement from the old Yankee Stadium, but it is difficult to imagine fans spending thousands of dollars to watch a team that hasn’t appeared in a World Series in five years. Every seat will be sold on Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium, yet many of the fans that purchase the tickets will not be watching the game on April 16.

Over the last few seasons, tickets throughout major league baseball have become increasingly out of reach for many fans. It may be close to impossible for a middle class family to enjoy America’s pastime from inside a stadium. Especially during troubling economic times, the community that surrounds the New Yankee Stadium may have to be content with how the stadium appears on the outside. Many of those same Bronx families who watched Derek Jeter grow up in the 1990s will never have the opportunity to see him retire in the new Yankee Stadium.

Although 55% of the seats in the new Yankee Stadium will be $45 or less, many of these tickets are gobbled up by ticket brokers like Stubhub and then marked up to meet the high demand. Also, if a family of four decides to go to a game, it would set them back at least $180 just for the tickets. Traveling and food costs have also increased dramatically in recent history. Many stadiums (excluding Yankee Stadium curiously) monopolize their overpriced food vendors by prohibiting outside food and beverage. Even the most modest Yankee Stadium family meal of four hot dogs priced at $5.00, French fries for $6, four drinks for $4.50, and two ice creams for $5 totals over $50!

The Yankees have taken a huge, but necessary risk by increasing their ticket prices yet again for the 2009 season. Their revenue is crucial if they are planning to continue to outspend every other team by signing big name players like CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira to the most lucrative deals. By setting ticket prices so high, the Yankees have even more incentive to win the World Series in the future, because they have to win to fill the seats. If it weren’t Yankee Stadium’s final season this year, attendance may have suffered greatly. In the years to come, after the excitement from the new stadium has worn off, the Yankees cannot afford to miss the playoffs anymore. If they continue to underperform, fans may not be willing to pay thousands of dollars to watch a losing team. The fan base may actually dwindle.

Just like the movies, baseball tickets used to be affordable for the masses. Kids and their dads could spontaneously purchase tickets to a game on any given weekend without denting dad’s wallet. Baseball is becoming an elitist sport in many of the big markets, and high player contracts and greed predominate. To score premium tickets to a Yankees game, one has to have a reliable connection to a Yankees sponsor or a season ticket holder who is willing to give away some of his seats. Baseball used to be America’s pastime, yet the majority of future Americans may never get to see baseball’s most prestigious franchise play in person.