Yankee Stadium – New York City FC
Photos by Dave Hanson and Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
Yankee Stadium 1 E 161st St Bronx, NY 10451
Year Opened: 2009
New York City Football Club got their start in 2015 as the 20th expansion franchise in MLS. Owned by Premier League club Manchester City and the New York Yankees, the team began to play at Yankee Stadium with the expectation that a soccer-only venue would be constructed somewhere in the five boroughs in the next few years.
As the club begins their fourth season, however, there is no sign of that new stadium on the horizon. One proposed location for a new facility, which is actually outside the city proper, will instead be used for the Islanders new arena and no other options are currently being explored. This is bad for both NYCFC and the Yankees. Last season, changes to the baseball schedule forced City to play two home matches elsewhere, Rentschler Field and Citi Field. The constant changes to the turf as the soccer field is laid down and then removed is not good for the long-term health of the infield, although no problems have arisen so far.
So what it is like attending a game at the only baseball stadium in the MLS? As you might expect, it leaves most fans singing the blues.
Food & Beverage 3
Most concession stands are open for NYCFC, and the variety is good though prices are the same as when the Yankees play, which is far too much for an MLS game. As well, all items are now priced to end at 9 cents, such as the Bronx Bomber hot dog for $7.29. Other options at the NY Grill portable stand include bacon on a stick ($6.89) and Italian sausage ($8.09) while the NYY Steak next to it has 3 beef sliders ($10.99) and a steak sandwich for $14.69.
The Triple Play Grill is a permanent stand and hungry fans will opt for the value bucket of 8 chicken tenders and a pound of fries for $19.69. Frugal fans can have a grilled chicken sandwich for $6.39 or a New York pretzel for $4.89. Many other stands can be found around the concourses, so get there early and have a look to see what appeals.
Coors Light is the official supplier of beer, and a regular beer is just $5.59, while a larger one is $10.89. Specialty beers include Stella Artois and Goose Island for $11.89, while a giant can of domestic beer is $12.99 and premium and extra 90 cents.
Pepsi products are available with a souvenir size going for $5.89, while bottled water is $4.79.
There are sit down eateries as well, such as the NYY Steakhouse and the Hard Rock Café inside the Great Hall. As well, you can bring in your own food and water, as long as it has not been opened.
NYCFC is the only MLS club to play in a baseball stadium, and the atmosphere suffers as a result. The club does try to spice things up with a band called City Beats who play outside on River Avenue before and after the game, but once inside, you will quickly remember that this is Yankee Stadium.
The field is set up to run from first base to left field, so there are no sideline seats right next to the pitch, at least at midfield. The best location on a sunny day is in the bleachers between sections 201-203, but these are uncomfortable benches and not padded box seats that you would expect for the price you pay. Not only that, but you won’t be able to see the main scoreboard.
The other set of bleachers (235-238) is the supporters’ section and this is the loudest place in the stadium. You will not be sitting down if you choose to be in this area. My favorite place to watch the game is from the batters eye between the two bleacher sections. Although you are standing for the game, you have a small table to rest a drink on, and there is no one in front of you.
Even with the upper deck closed off, the stadium is too big to really generate a lot of consistent noise throughout the game. An in-stadium host and DJ try to get the crowd fired up before the game, but that energy doesn’t last much past kickoff. For youngsters and those young at heart, a fan zone can be found behind the batters eye where fans can get their hair or faces painted for free.
Before the players walk onto the pitch, a Tunnel of Honor is formed with uniformed members of the NYPD and FDNY lining up on either side of the procession. This is a nice touch and adds a bit of ceremony to an otherwise pedestrian experience.
After the match, regardless of the result, the final 11 on the pitch have signed mini-balls and throw them out to fans, so stick around and sit down low if you want to get one.
Overall though, it is tough to overcome the limitations of playing soccer in a cavernous baseball stadium. No doubt the team and their fans will be best served by a new facility that allows them to be closer to the action.
The Bronx is not a great place to hang out in general, but the area just east of the stadium on either side of 161st Street between River Avenue and Walton Avenue has a few places worth checking out before or after the game. All of these do very well for Yankee games and are usually a little less busy for NYCFC.
Stan’s Sports Bar is the most famous, while Billy’s Sports Bar is not far behind. For a quieter spot, try the Yankee Tavern instead. Craft beer fans should head to the Bronx Drafthouse. In terms of food, the Crown Diner offers affordable comfort food, while the Eating Tree serves of Jamaican fare.
In their fourth season, NYCFC has established a good fan base, many of whom seem to be entire families, which is good to see. Still, they did not sell out the home opener and although average attendance was over 22,000 in 2017, there is room for improvement.
Those fans in attendance are knowledgeable about the game and the team and I haven’t seen any overly drunken behavior in the many games I have attended. A more raucous crowd would doubtless be appreciated by the players, but as mentioned, it is tough to generate much enthusiasm in a ballpark.
Getting to Yankee Stadium from Manhattan is easy as there are two trains that make the trip to the 161st Street stop – the 4 and D. The B train also serves this station, however it does not operate on weekends, which is when most NYCFC games are held. If you are attending a weekend match, check MTA’s Weekender site for updates to the train schedules as there is always maintenance and sometimes trains don’t even run.
If you are driving, you should be able to find street parking in the residential areas nearby, but this is not the recommended option. If you have a party of 3 or so, consider a ride-sharing service or a taxi.
Security can be slow if you arrive just a few minutes before kickoff, so try to get there at least 30 minutes before and use Gate 8 if the main entrance is too crowded.
Inside, the upper deck is closed off for all matches except those when New York Red Bulls are visiting, but the remaining concourses are generally free-flowing. After the game, there may be a small delay in exiting the stadium but nothing that you would find frustrating. Concessions are not busy before the match and you can easily get something before the game without any waiting, but if you are hungry at halftime, expect to wait. Similarly, restrooms do see lineups at halftime and after the game, but these move very quickly.
Return on Investment 2
Tickets start at $30 for general admission, which is a bit steep. The next price up is $32 for end zone in the 200 level, then $38, $40 for the bleachers at midfield, and continuing up to $78 for the lower level seats at midfield (along the third base side). From 2018, NYCFC has an agreement with StubHub, so they will be the best place to look on the secondary market. Note that all season ticket holders use a card to enter, so there are few hard tickets to be found outside; if you are a collector of this disappearing type of souvenir, best is to use the box office. Looking at the ticket prices and food prices, this is not the most affordable MLS experience out there.
Monument Park is open before the game and worth visiting for anyone who has yet to see Yankee Stadium. The Yankee museum has been open in the past but was not during the first two games of the 2018 season. If it is open, it is rarely busy and you can really take your time there when compared to visiting during a Yankee game.
The smokestacks in front of the supporters’ sections are set off before every match, after every goal, and to close out every home victory.
NYCFC is aware that playing as the second tenant in Yankee Stadium is not ideal, and they are committed to finding a new home. The latest idea involves a 26,000-seat soccer-only stadium in an area of the Bronx about two miles from the stadium. The new venue would be part of a larger mixed-use development, which would include retail, affordable housing, and a community park. Dubbed Harlem River Yards, the concept is just in the introductory stages, but it does look promising and if it proceeds, would be completed by 2022.
It’s definitely something to look forward to for City fans, who are doubtless getting tired of having their team play in a ballpark, even one as impressive as Yankee Stadium.