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Stadium design issues not obvious before use

This is an excerpt from Managing Sport Facilities by Gil Fried, JD


Although the new Yankee Stadium in New York is beautiful, the $1.5 billion facility (the most expensive MLB stadium built to date) is right across the street from the old stadium and has identical dimensions. However, within days of opening, the complaints began pouring in. People were complaining about more than just the high cost of tickets behind home plate, which were selling for more than $2,000 a game. What was the biggest complaint? The wind. According to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, “We’re dealing with some phenomenon that we don’t have our hands wrapped around” (Antonen, 2009). Within the first 23 home games, 87 home runs had been hit, making the park the favorite for long-ball batters throughout the league.

The culprit named by many is a jet stream to right field. Wind patterns are a critical element during the design phase, similar to sun movement patterns, rain, and other natural elements. The Yankees even conducted several wind analysis studies during the design phase and hired a specialized engineering firm to look at the issue before opening the stadium. Since public funds, along with private funds, were used in the construction process, opponents of the project started attacking the construction of a “bad stadium” (Antonen, 2009). Wind can affect not only home runs but also the patrons’ experience; fans do not like to watch baseball in swirling winds, under a scorching sun, or while wearing coats because of the cold weather. Fans for years braved the summer winds at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, where pins were given away in the 1990s for fans who were able to survive the cold temperatures and wind during extra-inning night games. The Yankees could possibly change the stadium’s roof slope, add material to the roof to move the wind, or raise the outfield walls. In 1994, after the Texas Rangers opened their new stadium, they added a mesh windscreen to the roof to alter the wind. In Philadelphia and Houston, the teams had to increase the height of the outfield wall in response to the wind’s effect on the number of home runs hit when the new ballparks were opened.

The Yankee Stadium example highlights how even in the most expensive stadiums there are going to be design issues overlooked or underestimated by the architects and builders. Only when a facility is actually used will some of these flaws come to light.



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