New Stadium combines old and new
The Great Hall will join classic features like Monument Park
Navigating Yankee Stadium and finding all of its hidden treats and treasures may be a task that, as Joe Girardi said, takes an entire homestand to accomplish. But not everything is different in the move across the street.
The facilities may have been massively upgraded from the old building, with Yankees officials now calling their home "a living museum" -- a theme evident from the moment a fan enters Gate 4 at the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue, greeted by a recording of Lou Gehrig's "luckiest man" speech.
Inside the additional 500,000 square feet of space, the feel of the game has remained constant by design -- a fan may choose to have a lager at the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar or visit the Peter Max Art Gallery earlier in the afternoon.
But by first pitch, surrounded by the familiar sounds and sequences of the old Yankee Stadium, it becomes easier and easier to forget that you're across the street. The nine innings on the field still capture the essence of what a Yankees game should be.
"If you loved Yankee Stadium, it's still Yankee Stadium," Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost said. "We just moved it a little."
Along with the World Series championship trophies and contents of the executive offices, many of the same between-innings entertainment choices were transferred across.
If you loved watching the grounds crew drag the infield to "YMCA," they still do. Cotton Eye Joe does his jam on the screen. The cartoon subway cars still clatter in their video race. All that's missing is Bob Sheppard, but the Yankees hope the 98-year-old public address announcer will join them soon as well.
Perhaps most important for keeping with the experience, the Bleacher Creatures have kept on the tradition of issuing a roll call. What would be the top of the first inning without hearing, "De-rek Je-ter!"? The place keeps that.
"Everyone is going to enjoy it -- from the coaches, the players and even more importantly, the fans," Jeter said.
Monument Park also came over in its entirety, relocated behind the center-field fence and open until 45 minutes before first pitch on game days. Fans should find the new Stadium geared to modern needs and expectations, as approximately two-thirds of the stadium's seats are in the lower half of the building, which reverses the arrangement at the old Yankee Stadium.
"In the old days, you were there because of tradition," said Peter Tymus, a Yankees fan from Long Island. "This stadium is so nice, you want to be here just because of the stadium. The stadium now is a big drawing card. It just has a really nice, welcoming sense of place."
One signature meeting spot will be the Great Hall, a 31,000-square-foot space located between the stadium's exterior wall and the interior of the stadium. Spanning from Gate 4 to Gate 6, it is covered overhead with massive open-air archways, bearing large banners of Yankees ranging from Babe Ruth to Paul O'Neill.
"The Great Hall is the most impressive aspect of this building, I think," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "I think it's architecturally unique. You don't see that in stadiums. I think that's fantastic."
The Great Hall is adjacent to the NYY Steak restaurant and the Hard Rock Cafe, just the beginning of the dining and retail options available for fans. There is a 5,825-square-foot Home Plate Store in the Great Hall near Gate 4, a New Era Yankee Stadium flagship store on the Main Level, and the Great Hall Store at Gate 6, which will be open year-round.
Among its 444 concession points of sale, Yankee Stadium also features a martini bar and two food courts -- one in the bleachers, the other near Section 126 on the field level -- offering traditional baseball fare as well as sushi, garlic fries, Boar's Head cold-cut sandwiches and more.
"Variety is providing the fans with what they're looking for," Trost said. "That's why we have a number of food court areas, a number of concession stands and two restaurants. Everything we've found that the fans wanted, we were able to provide."
There are also membership restaurants, including the Audi Yankees Club on the H&R Block Suite level and the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar above Monument Park in center field. If fans have questions, the stadium can even answer you: fans can text to NYY00, where staff will reply and dispatch security, guest or medical services to the appropriate location.
With so much to see and do, fans will be invited to show up early to Yankee Stadium to explore and watch batting practice. In 2009, Yankee Stadium gates are to open approximately three hours prior to the scheduled start times of games for fans with tickets.
Entry is available from the stadium's four access points: Gate 2 on Jerome Avenue south of 164th Street, Gate 4 at Jerome Avenue and 161st Street, Gate 6 at River Avenue and 161st Street, and Gate 8 at River Avenue south of 164th Street.
Ramps are located adjacent to Gates 2 and 6, while the stadium is equipped with 16 elevators -- eight in the Great Hall and two each at the Gates. The quickest route to the grandstands appear to be through Gates 4 and 6.
"It feels like an aircraft carrier," said Yankees fan Michael Feldstein of Holbrook, N.Y. "It's so big. We kept watching this on TV, and you just can't believe how sharp and crystal-clear the HD screen is. The Yankee Stadium I went to my whole life was a remodeled Yankee Stadium. This one holds true to form with the old one."
Need tickets? They are available at a total of 26 windows within Yankee Stadium, including 19 by Gate 4. Four windows are located by the bleachers and three are within the stadium itself.
This season -- and for many to come -- people will enter by scanning those tickets digitally, the gates opening to the voice of Bob Sheppard: "Welcome to Yankee Stadium."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.