I remember back in the mid-1990s driving to Yankee Stadium with a friend from Connecticut for a ballgame between Seattle and New York. The Yanks were slowly coming out of their decade long funk and it was a chance to see Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime as well as an exceptional Mariners team.
We parked, walked up to the box office, and for $20 a ticket we had field level seats along the first base line. I don’t remember how the game turned out for the Bronx Bombers but all-in-all it was a great way to spend an evening in the summer.
I’ve been thinking about this night recently because single-game tickets for the Yankees went on sale this week. I’ve spent a good bit of time trolling Ticketmaster with some fairly depressing results.
I looked into getting tickets for the opening series at the stadium against Cleveland. The moment of gratification I felt when four tickets popped up for my request was tempered when I saw the $900 price tag per ticket. Yes, for a mere $2,700 I could treat the family to similar seats that I got for $40 a little e more than a decade ago. I let those tickets go.
I tried a few other games, the best I could do was a pair of $375 field level seats for a series against Detroit in July. The priciest, a whopping $2,700 a ticket for seats against the world champion Phillies, albeit 5th row, field level seats. Sorry Yankees, at those prices I need a seat in the dugout next to Derek Jeter, perhaps a ride home from Jeter after the game as well.
It’s been well-chronicled this past week what cathedrals have been built in the Bronx for the Yankees and over in Queens for the Mets. It’s also been well-chronicled what premiums have been paid by fans to see these monuments to baseball extravagance.
Little has been written so far about what has been lost. The days of the average fan walking up to a gate and gaining entrance may be gone, at least in the short-term. Little has been mentioned how the pursuit of corporate-cash in the form of premium seating and luxury-box style amenities will change the atmosphere of baseball in New York.
Despite the sky-high free-agent salaries, which in the past were driven mostly by television revenues, a night at Yankee stadium always had a blue-collar feel. From the bleacher creatures-to the field level there was no mistaking it for opposing teams. You were in hostile territory, expecting harassment from hard-working citizens of the tri-state. Will the $2,500-a-ticket corporate clients manning the lower bowl of the stadium display the same passion? I’m not optimistic.