Right now, the Yankees are flourishing on the field. Aaron Judge hits a new towering home run seemingly every other day. Gary Sanchez is excitable. The team is 27-17, leading the AL East by 2.5 games. But, if you watch the Yankees on television you still see a stadium littered with empty seats.
In the New York Times, Billy Witz writes that the ticket and suite sales have been languishing:
But even those selling points have yet to turn around attendance at Yankee Stadium, where ticket and suite revenues through last season had fallen by a staggering $166 million since the end of 2009, the year the Yankees christened the new ballpark with their last World Series title.
The financial figures, from the public filings the Yankees are required to make on their stadium bonds, represent a 42 percent loss in ticket and suite revenues over the last seven seasons. And despite the team’s compelling play this season, attendance through the first quarter of their home schedule is down from the same point last year.
The story notes that 3,793 fewer fans are coming per game than last season, and that only the Mets’ and Royals’ attendance have tailed off more significantly. A few things, such as a rainout causing a double-header and not yet hosting the Red Sox are factored into this, but are hardly the underlying causes. The only silver lining is that this saves them a little bit of money in luxury tax disbursements. The franchise is scrambling in every which way attempting to get young fans through the turnstiles.
The Yankees only have themselves to blame for their current predicament. They had one of the true cathedrals in sports and they threw it away for a garish symbol of opulence. A reminder of the mid-oughts in which subprime loans propped up gilded financiers, the new Yankee Stadium was outdated the day it opened.
Instead of opting to rehab their classic stadium, like the Red Sox and Packers have done to great success, and which the Cubs are in the process of doing, the Yankees chose to separate their highest paying fans from the proletariat by an actual moat.
In an age of endless entertainment, your stadium experience really needs a high VORP to get you out of the household, especially when a schlep both ways is involved like it is with the Yankees.
Their core audience doesn’t care about bells and whistles like a butcher shop or pristine, glistening floors. They want an atmosphere where you feel a part of something special. Yankees’ brass miscalculated when they felt that the ghosts of monument park would be transferable to a new venue. Instead, they were replaced by an antiseptic shopping mall.
I grew up in Connecticut, transfixed by the Yankee mystique. Things started to shift when they shipped off the lovable David Wells for the detestable Roger Clemens. In the 2000s, they signed one mercenary free agent, devoid of personality, after another. Players like Randy Johnson, Jason Giambi, and Johnny Damon came in clean-cut — trim those sideburns! — which stripped them of their powers. No need to rehash everything with A-Rod. They were finished with Bernie Williams when he wasn’t finished yet.
While some remnants of the past remained with Rivera, Pettitte, Posada, and Jeter, by 2009, when the new stadium opened and more than half the seats behind home plate were empty, it just wasn’t fun anymore. I renounced my fanhood in the team, and haven’t come close to regretting it.
By the looks of things, there are a lot of like-minded people, and it’s made a measurable difference.