With a New Breed of Fans, Even the Yankees Must Adapt
By FILIP BONDY
A children’s playground at Yankee Stadium is part of the team’s effort to cater more to families.
Yankee baseball is no longer quite enough to fill all the seats in the Bronx, at least not for a new generation of multitasking, jaded fans. That overdue admission has led to restructuring of both the facilities and the ticket pricing at Yankee Stadium, where attendance has been creeping downward and the starting rotation features more potholes than the Grand Concourse.
So on Tuesday the Yankees unveiled the stadium’s new features, which include a picnic area, refreshment terraces, charging stations for personal devices, a lounge equipped with televisions tuned to other sports events, and a children’s playground complete with breast-feeding facilities. The idea is to offer more options and to cater more to families, officials said, in response to surveys sent out during the past few seasons.
“The answers have been pretty consistent,” Kevin Dart, vice president for ticket sales, service and operations for the Yankees, said after a media tour. “They want more family-oriented areas. Different fans enjoy the game the way they want to enjoy it.”
Unspoken on this media tour was the threat that the resurgent Mets are making to the Yankees’ traditional status as the No. 1 team in New York. Last season, the Mets cut in half the gap in tickets sold by both teams, with the Yankees — who have made it to the postseason only once in the past four seasons — now fewer than 300,000 ahead.
And a Quinnipiac University poll released last week found that 45 percent of New York fans now favor the Mets, compared with 43 percent for the Yankees, which is well within the 3.6 percent margin of error.
So it is a virtual tie, which should be further evidence that the Yankees need to do something — sooner than later — to resist the Queens incursion. Sure enough, the official Yankees website was selling a $45 Pinstripe Pass for the home opener next Monday, a package that included both a seat to the game and a drink.
And with the restructuring, any fan can now find plenty of places to purchase that drink, including the new Toyota Terrace adjacent to the Bleacher Creature loyalists in right field. The obstructed-view bleacher seats in left and right fields have been removed to make way for concrete terraces that sell mixed drinks for a minimum $15 charge.
This juxtaposition is not lost on the Bleacher Creatures, who still pay just $20 for each ticket and do not plan to add $15 to their tab by walking a few yards to buy a margarita. Tina Lewis, a leader of the bleacher group, said the children’s playground and picnic areas were good ideas. She had no problem with construction crews’ ripping out the 1,300 unpopular obstructed-view bleacher seats.
The Toyota Terrace, however, was a bit over the top — at least, in her opinion.
“What is this, a black-tie event?” said Lewis, who prefers Gatorade to gin and tonic. “I can just about guarantee the Bleacher Creatures don’t drink mixed drinks. Just as long as these fancy-schmancy people don’t come over to Section 203, it’ll be all right.”
The Yankees have also introduced so-called dynamic pricing, which alters the cost of tickets based on supply and demand. In this way, purchasing a seat at Yankee Stadium is not unlike buying a ticket on United Airlines. Prices for the same seat may vary, day to day, according to how many of them are available. The actual opponent matters less than the projected vacancies.
For the Yankees, this is all fresh ground. But other franchises with far fewer championship banners have been hustling like this for years. Having learned their lesson, Yankee officials vow they will continue to keep up with the new generation’s whims, preferences and limited attention spans.
“We’ll always keep evaluating,” Dart said.
It is a new day, a new pitch in the Bronx. If the Yankees’ starters could pitch as well on the mound, marketers might not have to hustle quite so hard.