I was given the opportunity to watch a game from the Legends seats at Yankee Stadium, that Goldfinger mini-plane of a section where the elite meet to eat and sometimes watch a ballgame. I came pre-jaundiced, ready to jump on anything that struck me as phony or artificial. Instead, I must report that I had a very good time. It is nice to feel pampered while watching a very exciting ballgame. In fact, if I have any complaint, the pampering was a bit distracting. Had the game been a blowout in either direction, the constant scurrying of waiters and fans fetching food back to the seats would have been a welcome event instead of something that frequently obscured the action.
The high-backed seats were far more comfortable than your typical ballpark torture device. However, they are not positioned perfectly; my seat was a little bit past the infield, and as the seats are not angled, sitting in a natural position would have provided a view only into the short outfield. Combine that with the view being frequently obscured by waiters, fans rising to help themselves to candy and buckets of popcorn (and duck, and sushi, and petit fours), and fans just rising to rise — even these seats play host to the ubiquitous jerk who thinks he can stand in front of you and film the first three innings on his cell phone while you can see nothing but his upholstered backside — and trying to watch the game itself could be a bit of a strain.
Security is also a constant presence, although now that I’ve been in the seats I better understand why. When the Stadium first opened, I was bothered by the concrete moats and Plexiglass barriers between the Legends seats (or “suites” as the Yankees call them) because they offended my sense of egalitarianism. Given that the way the Yankees have elected to set up their Legends benefits, it seems necessary.
Once you’re finally in (after showing my ticket four times and obtaining a wristband), you have free run of the place. Unless you buy alcohol, which is not included in the ticket price, no one asks you for money. This is true not only of the buffet in the main dining room (which is beautifully appointed), but in the subsidiary lounges in which you can, if you choose, fill your arms with food and take it back to your seat. It takes getting used to–I continually expected someone to tap me on the shoulder and say, “Hey! Aren’t you going to pay for that?” They never did. You already paid for it when you bought the ticket.
Some fans I saw were clearly unhinged by the concept. In several places the Yankees have tables piled high with candy for the taking. As I walked past, a couple unfolded plastic bags and were shoveling in piles of M&M’s and Skittles. “Halloween’s come early this year!” the man shouted hysterically. Late in the game, the waiters were making a point of giving the day’s excess away, so I don’t think the team wants to discourage this kind of behavior on the part of the paying customers, but I understand why they wouldn’t want to have those that did not pay able to walk in and start shoving filet of sole and boxes of Rasinets down their pants.
The downside to this policy is that security is a constant and obtrusive presence. They frequently popped into our section to check tickets, attracted, I think, by fans who came late to the section. This contributed to an atmosphere that was in direct contrast to the great friendliness of the waiters and the other staff I encountered.
Several times I heard fans ask for items that were not on the menu, and the waiters promised to make them appear. “Can you guys do a milkshake?” someone asked. “Sure we can,” the waiter said cheerfully (the waiter in our section not only looked like Heath Ledger, but also had an Australian accent — he lives, conspiracy theorists, working anonymously at Yankee Stadium). All of the food and drink orders are sent wirelessly back to the kitchen and brought out by a separate server, so deliveries are nigh-instantaneous.
Those fans that were found to have inappropriate credentials were escorted out of the section. One fellow, apparently slightly inebriated, became belligerent, telling the guard that if he insisted on removing him, he would talk to someone with the Yankees and “have his job.” “You do that,” was the reply, and the guard went about his business. Then the inebriate upped the invective, saying that the guard would be fired and “could go work at McDonald’s for seven dollars an hour.”
“What did you say?” the guard asked. The drunk repeated it. At that, the security guard touched his shoulder radio, called a police officer, and moments later the fan was removed from his seat. Many in the nearby seats applauded — there is no call for saying things like that, especially over a seat at a ballgame and a chance at all the chicken fingers you can eat. Later, I saw the same police officer as we left the ballpark. He was singing along to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” as if it were an official anthem, and maybe it is.
I wish I could give you a more thorough review of the food beyond it being plentiful. Somehow Heath Ledger gave everyone in my section but me a menu, so I never got a chance to have the duck sent out to my seat, and the buffet options were mostly too meat-centric for my vegetarian self. I stuck with pappardelle pasta in tomato sauce that was a bit on the bland side. The petit fours were delicious though, especially one with coffee-flavored icing. I confess I had two, but then, I could have had ten, or twenty, or taken out a bag and dumped the entire tray.
I was amused to see many adults enjoying ice cream sundaes in upturned plastic Yankees helmets, just as many of us used to get from Carvel when we were kids. I did enjoy sitting in the buffet area, with its dark blue and wood décor and its long bar and countless television sets set to the ballgame. Due to a train mishap (I will spare you my traditional rant on the sorry state of public transit in this country) I got to the ballpark only 15 minutes before game time, but I could see coming early and having a pleasant meal here. I noted as I exited through the same venue that the bar was still serving, and perhaps this is another privilege of being a member, not being chased out of the building the moment the game is over, but instead getting to linger over a beer or cup of coffee and savor the latest win, mourn a loss, or execute a hostile takeover.
I could get used to seeing games this way, though I’m not sure if I would want to, given that morbid obesity would rapidly tip over into simple morbidity were I to avail myself of the all-you-can eat environment too often. Greater self-control than mine is clearly warranted. I also felt oddly guilty, as if the whole exercise was overly decadent and indulgent. The heavy mix of people in suits and ties (including the “go work at McDonald’s” guy) reinforced the feeling that these seats were intended for a class of people who would take this kind of largesse for granted or paradoxically, feel that the premium they paid for the seats would entitle them to act like Hansel and Gretel and gorge themselves on the candy house in the forest, or unfurl sacks and try to cart it home.
That said, there is nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, and the thought that kept returning is that the Legends seats are a wonderful change of pace, and would make a terrific present for an anniversary, birthday, or graduation. Hey, something special is going on, let’s go see the Yankees in style. And if the other team happens to put Kyle Farnsworth on the mound in a crucial situation while you’re celebrating, so much the better. I don’t think the Yankees can guarantee that, but you may be so busy enjoying the amenities that you won’t notice.