Yanks break ground for new stadium

Yanks break ground for new stadium

NEW YORK -- Armed with shiny baseball bat shovels and Yankees hard hats, those responsible for bringing a new stadium to the New York Yankees and the Bronx dug in on Wednesday.

On a bright, sunny day in the Bronx, the Yankees broke ground on the new Yankee Stadium just across the street from what will ultimately be known as the old Yankee Stadium.

The date, Aug. 16, is already famous in Yankees history as the same date on which Babe Ruth died 58 years ago, but it will undoubtedly take on a new meaning after Wednesday.

The new Yankee Stadium will open in 2009, replacing the third-oldest stadium in the Major Leagues. Yankee Stadium has held up for 84 years, surpassed only by Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.

"This new stadium will present new comforts, new features and be state-of-the-art in every way," Yankees president Randy Levine said. "It will be the most spectacular fan-friendly stadium ever built."

A large artist's rendering behind the speakers showcased the $800 million stadium's majesty. Detailed pictures showed how modern the ballpark will be.

Yet when legendary public-address announcer Bob Sheppard's voice came over the loudspeakers, it was a reminder that the new Yankee Stadium won't move on without its franchise's rich history.

"Welcome to the future house of the New York Yankees," Sheppard said to lead off the groundbreaking ceremony, which was located in Macombs Dam Park.

"Four score and three years ago, George Steinbrenner's forefathers moved the Yankees across the Harlem River from the Polo Grounds to their new home in the Bronx," New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "And the rest is history -- the most fabled history in the long saga of the summer game.

"Today, we're opening a whole new chapter, an exciting chapter in that history. This new Yankee Stadium will honor this franchise's brilliant past while creating a new home field worthy of the greatest team in professional sports."

The new Yankee Stadium will seat fewer than the current stadium, but it will have 60 luxury suites, including three outdoor suites and eight party suites. It will have many restaurants, larger concourses and entertainment areas.

But the Yankees will also carry over some of the time-honored traditions of their current stadium. The field dimensions will be the same, and Monument Park will be transferred to the new park.

The design will even go further back to recreate some of the original park's features. It will have the tall cathedral windows, auxiliary outfield scoreboards, a right-field Yankees bullpen and a frieze on the roof, which is commonly known as the façade and was a feature of the original stadium.

"Let us rejoice today and celebrate as we have a new chapter in Yankee history, firmly anchored by the past in tradition, yet dreaming of future championships and rich memories for generations that lie ahead," said Stephen Swindal, general partner for the Yankees.

The generations that lie ahead, boys and girls from seven Bronx community programs, marched into the concourse to a large applause. They are part of what Bloomberg said will be a resurgence in the South Bronx with the stadium's construction.

"It's a pleasure to give it to you people," said principal owner George Steinbrenner. "That's what we're doing. This is for you people."

Along with the $800 million the Yankees have fronted, the city and state are pitching in more than $200 million to build recreational parks along the waterfront and other facilities around the ballpark.

A hotel, convention center and $45 million Yankee Stadium Metro-North Station are also in the plans. Four new parking garages will be built, creating approximately 10,000 vehicle spaces.

Bloooberg said that the stadium's construction will create 6,500 jobs during the next four years and up to 1,000 permanent jobs. The city will spend $1 million in training Bronx residents for the construction.

"No one will ever forget the House That Ruth Built, least of all today, on the anniversary of his death," New York City deputy mayor Daniel Doctoroff said. "But this will be the stadium that built the Bronx."

The children from the Bronx spent much of the morning waving Yankees flags and cheering at the constant vows to beat the rival Red Sox in the new stadium.

"This is a great day for New York as well as for the Yankees," New York governor George Pataki said. "In the first game played in Yankee Stadium, the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox. So many years later, the Yankees are three games ahead of the Boston Red Sox.

"And while we are going to have a new Yankee Stadium, some things will never change, and that is the Yankees will always beat the Boston Red Sox -- with occasional exceptions."

Commisioner Bud Selig and Hall of Famer Yogi Berra were among the dozens of dignitaries and guests on hand. Selig was one of many speakers to harken back to baseball memories, saying few ever forget their first trip to a ballpark.

"This is truly an historic occasion, and I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to be here today," Selig said. "How many of you have the distinct memory of attending your first game with a parent ... and experiencing the breathtaking expanse of green?

"The ballpark itself is central to that experience; the ballpark is a cathedral, a place for comfort. ... Yankee Stadium is one of the most revered, the most famous arena in the country, if not the world. I look forward to the day when I [can] walk into the new Yankee Stadium with my granddaughters, knowing that they're experiencing a moment that they, too, will never forget."

For the Yankees and their fans, the date Aug. 16 will again be a date they won't forget. That is, until the day the new Yankee Stadium opens. Then, it will be a time for all new memories.

Ryan Mink is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.