Stadium Preview

Is Yankee Stadium Up to Snuff for NYCFC Matches?

Ben Jata attended Wednesday's Liverpool - Manchester City match in the south Bronx, but not to see Steven Gerrard or Yaya Toure. He was analyzing the viewer experience, and he has great insights to share.
BY Ben Jata Posted
August 01, 2014
12:42 PM
NEW YORK—Liverpool and Manchester City squared off Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium in front of roughly 50,000 fans. The atmosphere was rambunctious. The level of play was decent. Yaya Toure made an appearance. Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling had superb strikes, Stevan Jovetic had two not-so-special tap-ins. Liverpool won on penalties and Henderson was the Man of the Match.

Ok. Now that we got that out of the way, let's talk about what really matters: The stadium. The field. The view. The New York City FC experience come March 2015.

Having been to Yankee Stadium a few months ago there was a general sense of what to expect from the aforementioned topics, but attending Wednesday night's game helped complete the picture.

The View

Before kickoff and during the game I ventured through the stadium seeking views and snapping pictures from as many sections as I could. By the time I left I had seen parts of the game from nearly every section at the 100 level, multiple locations in the 200s, and even a little bit in both the 300 and 400 level sections.

My take on the view? It's better than you'd imagine. With NYCFC planning to block out the entire 300 and 400 level sections, two sections in center field (which would have obstructed views) and multiple sections behind home plate, most of my concerns with regards to "the view" have been absolved.

The only real issue I have with the setup is that there's only one large video screen for replays, and it's located in center field. Ideally, it would be nice to see another one across from it above home plate so that fans in the outfield can follow along too.

The Camera (view on TV)

The angle and location from which the game will be broadcast on TV, as long as it coincides with what we saw last night, could be up there with some of the best in MLS. This can have a huge impact on how people feel when watching a game on TV. Not only for "normal" fans, but for those involved in data analytics as well. Ask my Opta colleagues about camera views/angles and they'll tell you how extremely important they are for tracking players and recording statistical data.

In Seattle, the normal camera view is shot from a much higher angle, which at times can make it very difficult to track and identify players. Roughly half the pitch is in focus.

The main camera used for the game at Yankee Stadium is located by third base at the front edge of the 200 level section. The setup will keep about one-quarter of the pitch in view at all times. This will make the game much more pleasing to the eye, especially for those catching the game at a crowded bar or on a smaller TV.

On top of that, the replays were just as good if not better. I saw at least 5-6 different camera angles on the big screen in Yankee Stadium so I can only assume I missed a few as well. Just watch the clip above. This is how games should be shot.

The Pitch

Roughly one-eighth of the field is covered by grass that will have to be removed before and after each game, or at least before the Yankees can play again. Most of it covers the dirt located between first and second base.

There is also another little section near the corner flag in center field which will have to be taken up after each game.

In the first half there were three or four instances in which players lost their footing on the freshly laid grass right around where the first baseman would stand during most at-bats. I thought this was going to be an issue for most of the night, but after a few occurrences early on, the players didn't seem to have much trouble the rest of the game.

The ball looked like it played just as fine in that area as it did in the outfield grass. But then again, I can only attest to what it looked like from the stands. Curious as to what the players thought of that particular area.

With its dimensions—110 x 70 yards—NYCFC will have the smallest field in Major League Soccer when it begins play in 2015. However, I didn't find it to be significantly smaller than the 120 x 75 pitch located at Red Bull Arena.

And if we're comparing it to some of the smallest fields in MLS, Providence Park and RFK Stadium (both 110 x 75), CenturyLink Field (114 x 74) and BBVA Compass Stadium (110 X 75), it really isn't that much smaller.

The Atmosphere

The crowd for the Liverpool vs Manchester City match was roughly three-to-one in favor of Liverpool and a sea of red dominated the soon-to-be NYCFC supporters section in left-center field. I walked around for most of the second half and got to experience most of the goals from different areas throughout the stadium. When Sterling scored I was buried deep within a strong Liverpool section. When Jovetic scored his second I was near the City supporters behind the goal.

The crowd was electric. The stadium roared every time a goal was scored or a controversial call was made (or not made). It gave me chills.

With NYCFC eliminating the 300 and 400 level sections for games I'm expecting the crowd to be just as intimate (if filled to capacity, of course), but nowhere near as loud.

The Liverpool supporters were very vocal, with thousands of dedicated from all over the world to coming to watch them play. One can only hope for a similar atmosphere during NYCFC games, but with at least 20-25K fewer fans sitting in the stands it will take something magical to recreate what it was like on Wednesday night.

The Fans/Supporters

I'm a fan of MLS and I live in the Greater New York City area (Queens), so I'm excited for NYCFC to start up in 2015. Unfortunately, not all fans, including those who support the New York Red Bulls, will voice the same sentiments. But why?

Is it because fans are switching teams? Like the guy below, who was featured in a New York Daily News article on Wednesday about a Red Bulls fans who'll now be supporting NYCFC. Here's an excerpt:

Michael King, a 43-year-old Man City fan from Neptune, N.J., said he was a Red Bulls fan but is switching his allegiance. 'Because I'm a Man City fan and I'm a Yankees fan," said King, who took his wife Heidi to Wednesday's match. 'The fact that my Premier League club is buying an MLS team, I'm switching. I've already bought the gear.'
Is it because people who never went to a soccer game in Harrison, N.J., are now turning their attention to a new team just because they'll be playing at a location closer in proximity to their house or apartment?

I spoke to two fans (in their mid-to-late 20s) sitting next to me during the game. One fan was from England, who had been living in Long Island for several years now. And the other, a San Jose Earthquakes supporter, had just moved to NYC from California in the past year.

Both had favorite teams outside of MLS (Newcastle and Barcelona) and love the game of soccer, but neither had ever been to a New York Red Bulls match.

They both said that the main reason they were at the game Wednesday night was to scout the section they wanted to sit in for NYCFC home games, and that they would likely be purchasing season tickets for the new MLS club sometime soon. They talked about joining the supporter's club as well.

They didn't comment as to why they didn't like Red Bulls or why they hadn't attended a game at Red Bull Arena, but they did cite distance as being one of the primary reasons for being interested in NYCFC.

After the game I also spoke to a Brooklyn native who plays soccer multiple times throughout the week. He had been to Red Bulls games before, but didn't enjoy the commute. He said that from his place in Brooklyn he can take one train and be at Yankee Stadium within 30 minutes.

He wasn't interested in buying season tickets, but he did say that he'll likely be attending multiple games in NYCFC's inaugural season and that acquiring David Villa and Frank Lampard definitely helped.

With that said, it seems like NYCFC is on the right path to getting fans in the seats come March 2015. Their official supporter's group, The Third Rail, has more than 500 paid members already and most of them hold deposits on at least two season tickets each.

It should be exciting to see how it all plays out when the 2015 MLS seasons gets underway.

Have you seen a soccer match at Yankee Stadium? Any thoughts to share? We'd love to hear your take below.

Ben Jata is an American Soccer Now contributor and an Anaylst at Opta Sports. Follow him on Twitter.

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