Yanks team up with Hard Rock

Yanks team up with Hard Rock

NEW YORK -- Over the very spot where home plate will be installed at the new Yankee Stadium, Alex Rodriguez leaned over and added his looping signature to the "sweet spot" of a pinstriped guitar.

It was, the Yankees hope, a perfect intersection between Major League Baseball and the world of rock and roll. The franchise announced Wednesday that they have agreed to enter into a long-term agreement to open a 7,000 square-foot Hard Rock Cafe at the new Yankee Stadium.

Located at the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue, the Hard Rock Cafe will be open year-round, with or without a ticket to a Yankees game. Located near the Great Hall entrance in right field, it will be adjacent to the newly branded NYY Steak, a prime steakhouse that will be operated all year as well.

"Adding popular and premier dining options such as the Hard Rock Cafe and NYY Steak was done with our fans in mind," said Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost. "The new Yankee Stadium will be a destination that fans of every age and from around the world can look forward to visiting throughout the calendar year."

With construction workers milling about and wearing hard hats, the Yankees made the announcement on Wednesday, in the first official press conference held at the new stadium. Concrete installation is complete, and as trains rumbled past what will be the center-field scoreboard, second-deck blue seats were already visible running from the right-field corner to the boxes behind home plate.

"It has been so overwhelming -- these construction workers and everybody are working so hard to get this done," said Yankees vice chairperson Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal. "It's such a dream. I think a lot of us worried about this move, but this has been the most amazing structure. I think it's going to be so fan-friendly, and there's going to be a little bit of something for everyone."

The Hard Rock Cafe will open under an agreement with Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment, while the NYY Steak restaurant will be operated by YGE Steakhouses, an affiliate of Yankees Global Enterprises, in conjunction with Hard Rock Entertainment. Subject to MLB rules and regulations, Trost said that the possibility of future NYY Steak franchises -- nationally and internationally -- would be explored.

Seating for 245 guests will be provided at the Hard Rock Cafe, along with a full bar and a patio. Though the restaurant will not feature views of the playing field, Trost said it will be outfitted with more than 1,000 enhanced Internet Protocol Televisions, making every set also a computer. A membership restaurant on the suite level in left field will feature viewpoints of the stadium.

The Yankees interviewed more than 50 prospective restaurants for the 7,000-square foot facility, but Hard Rock CEO James Allen said that the link between the Yankees and the world-famous music restaurant brand was a natural fit.

"I always say to my friends and family -- go to any airport in the world, and if you don't see a Yankees hat or a Hard Rock shirt, you must be blind," Allen said. "They truly are two of the greatest icons in sports and the restaurant and hospitality industry. We're so proud today to be able to be partners with the New York Yankees and be part of this tremendous building."

In conjunction with Wednesday's announcement, Hard Rock announced that it would donate 26 guitars to two Bronx-based programs, Highbridge Voices and Renaissance E.M.S., which focus on music, entertainment and sports. If the Yankees accomplish their goal of winning the World Series, a 27th guitar will be added.

"To us, this isn't just a restaurant that's going to be here at the Stadium," Allen said. "We truly want to be part of the community."

The 31,000-foot Great Hall will be one of the more striking features in the new Yankee Stadium, a location for fans to enter the stadium and linking access to the team store, museum, a banquet and conference center as well as the Hard Rock Cafe and the NYY Steak restaurant. It will run all the way from right field to Gate 4 behind home plate, where a martini bar will be located.

"Everything is going at a tremendous pace," Trost said. "I look at it and say, 'How could they have done so much?' And then I look at it and say, 'They have a lot to do.'"

Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrion Jr. said that marquee restaurants like the Hard Rock and NYY Steak will attract visitors to the area and provide new dining choices for the community.

The area has come a long way in three decades, Carrion said. He recalled the famous comments made by sportscaster Howard Cosell during the 1977 World Series, when helicopter footage showed a building fire, prompting Cosell to exclaim, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning."

"That image carried all over the world and was etched in peoples' minds," Carrion said. "I'm sure that he and all of the people who listened to those words could not have imagined a day such as this, where the Bronx is not burning. The Bronx is hot with opportunity."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.