Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

New stadiums, old complaints

A recent story in The New York Times about some of the seating at the new Yankee Stadium brought back some memories.

It must have been 1975 or 1976, and my friend John from 80th Street in Elmhurst showed me an ad in the Times. The rock group Pink Floyd was going to be playing Madison Square Garden as part of its “Animals” tour. Did I want to go?

I said yes. I was into all the big rock bands of the time that are still around today, albeit a few with replacements for guys who died of drugs, alcohol or whatever. Pink Floyd’s music annoyed my parents, which was a plus (remember, this was pre-“The Wall”) and I had never been to a concert before.

I had heard one might meet girls at such an event, and I was keen to see if my charm and ability would work as the dulcet tones of “Money” or “Sheep” sounded through the Garden.

John ordered the tickets and they came in the mail a few days later. Stamped on them were words: “OBSTRUCTED VIEW OF STAGE.” That worried me.

Actually, while we did have an obstructed view, we were high enough up that we could see most of the stage, and even some little beings holding guitars, doing something on keyboards and pounding on drums. Since they mostly stayed in one place, we saw everything, including the big movie screen and the giant inflatable pig that soared over the crowd.

All in all, it was a great concert. Of course, I didn’t meet any girls (and little did I know that that wouldn’t change and so far hasn’t.) We didn’t care that we didn’t see all the stage. Pink Floyd played, I listened and we only remembered how high we got. (If you get my drift.)

People going to see the Yankees play at their stadium and the Mets at Citi Field have discovered to their dismay that those cheap outfield seats suffer from a similar malady that I encountered at the concert: their view of the field is obstructed.

Some folks who paid lots of money to scalpers for cheap seats in left field at Yankee Stadium learned that they cannot see anything in right or right-center field.

As Joshua Robinson reported on April 17 in the Times:

Yankee Stadium’s Section 201 may be nearly 500 feet from the front row of Section 20, but in dollar terms, it is much further than that.

Section 201 is one of the two blocks of seats that flank the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar in center field, leaving the fans there with a heavily obstructed view of the outfield. For the regular season, the Yankees have priced those tickets at $5.

Staring back at them are the front rows of Sections 17B to 22, which bends from dugout to dugout behind home plate and includes the 100 most expensive seats in the ballpark. They range in price from $2,500 to $2,625, and the Yankees have had to spend money advertising their availability.

The picture with the story makes it clear that even plays at first base are a mystery if you are in certain seats.

 Of course, there were other ways to see the game from the cheap seats.

They were helped out by three televisions bolted to the wall of the sports bar that showed a live feed of the game, though many fans said a few extra screens would have been appreciated, particularly in the glare of the sun.

 It is practically a New York tradition to declare, no matter where one sits at a venue, that “Our seats sucked.” Still, paying admission to a game and then having to watch some of it on a video screen makes me wonder why people didn’t just stay home and watch it on TV. Granted, you have to deal with the inane commentary and endless close-ups of fans between pitches, but at least it’s a lot cheaper. And with some tickets crossing the $1,000 mark for a single game, you can get a nice big-screen TV.

I only went to two games at the old Yankee Stadium. My first was when I was in CYO baseball as a pre-teen. The Yankees were playing the Tigers, I think, and we sat in the bleachers. The stratification was obvious to us: no vendors, no yearbooks and scorecards for sale, and home plate was far, far away. My second game was with my friend John from the Pink Floyd concert, and we saw the Yanks in one of the Billy Martin era. We had decent third-base side seats, as I recall, though some Yuppies showed up in the third inning with their wine and dinners, sat behind us, and one of them spilled wine on my friend’s hockey jacket. He was pretty pissed off.

My fondest memories of the Mets and Shea Stadium were in the mid- to late-70s, when the Mets really stunk up the National League. John and I would buy general admission seats, which were less than $5, watch the first couple of innings from the upper deck, and then walk down the ramps to the next levels and just claim unsold seats closer to the field.

The ultimate from our perspective was to get into the field boxes. I guess a lot of people had the same idea we did because the stadium managers later erected a chain-link fence around the field-level entrances and had guards checking tickets to make sure no one bought cheaper tickets and sneaked in.

So we found a way around it by simply finding the spot in the second level where the wall was at its lowest, and just hopping into the field boxes. I remember one doubleheader where we ended up just on the first base side of home plate. We were so close, we could hear the catcher grunt when he caught the ball. Of course, they weren’t checking tickets on the way out, so we weren’t caught.

Soon, the stadium management got wise to the wall-jumpers, and put up a fence.

Today, when you can’t even leave your seat to go to the john during “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium, the idea of sitting where you’re not supposed to is anathema. I suppose the joy of buying a cheap ticket and just moving into an unoccupied and more expensive seat is another of those sacrifices we have to make for the safety and security of our nation.


April 18, 2009 - Posted by | Living in the modern age, The business of sports | , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I can’t imagine a stadium — or any venue — being built today with obstructed views. The Yankee architects failed.

    On a related note, did you see the story about the Yankee and Mets unsold primo seats?

    Comment by Alan Shaw | April 24, 2009 | Reply

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