On Monday, the Staten Island Yankees announced that they would no longer undergo a name change for the 2017 season due to missing deadlines for licensing set forth for teams. While the one-year reprieve might come as a welcome surprise to some fans, it is important to note that it is temporary and the team is still planning to go forth with the name change.
However, holding off on the change will allow the team to work on other issues they need to fix. Among these matters are the big two that fans continue to talk about, parking and concessions.
During the 2016 season, the team did not have access to the adjacent parking lots due to ongoing construction of the New York Wheel and Empire Outlets. Parking is of most importance since Staten Island is the most car-dependent borough of New York City due to inadequate public transportation options.
The lack of available parking was the number one reason for the severe downturn in attendance at games during the season, which saw an average of 2,250 fans a game from 3,221 fans in 2015. That 30% decrease in attendance represents the second biggest drop in team history.
Many fans have called for the team to have “out-of-the-box” fixes to the parking lot issue like running shuttles to other parking lots, which was already in motion. Some call for the team to open the train station underneath the stadium again. However, that is a decision that can only be left up to the MTA. In 2010 the MTA cut the service right at the beginning of the season citing lack of ridership to cover the costs. So, it is highly unlikely they will bring it back when the team is drawing its lowest crowds ever.
Some relief should be in sight for 2017; the New York Wheel garage is open as a valet-only option right now. While self-parking at the lot has been delayed, again, it is possible it will be available come June 2017. If not the team will find themselves once again in a bad spot where fans would rather stay home than deal with the hassle.
This is the second biggest gripe fans have with the team. Let’s face it, concessions at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark are bad, bland and boring. The team looked to be going in a good direction when in 2015 they had Pier 76 running the first base concession stand and Irishman’s BBQ serving up delicious food on the concourse. Aside from that, the food was still the standard ballpark fare. The team did try to bring in unique food options with fan-voted specialty hot dogs, but they did not catch on as hoped.
In 2016 stadium concessions took a turn for the worse, Pier 76 opted not to return and Irishman’s BBQ was nowhere to be found. This left only the traditional, overpriced ballpark food that is available everywhere. In one season the team went from pizza that was made in a real pizzeria to the ballpark version that left much to be desired.
How could they change things for the better? The first would be to bring in local vendors once again and limit the need to rely on the standard ballpark fare from Legends. Let’s face it; once Empire Outlets opens they will have to compete with gourmet food options that will be located in the Outlets’ food hall, so fans will have much more options for grabbing food before and after games. The team must figure out a way they could compete with that.
I for one would love to see Pier 76 back or bring in Daddy O’s BBQ to have a concession stand. How great would it be for Ralph’s ices to be served or pastries from Alfonso’s or another local bakery? I would like to see the team use the concessions as a chance to offer visitors a taste of Staten Island cuisine. It will complement the new and different food options that will be available in the Empire Outlets food hall.
Third on the list of gripes fans have with the team is the price. It is expensive for Short Season Single-A baseball. Ticket prices start at $9 for outermost sections to $18 for the infield sections. Compare this to 2001 when the stadium open when tickets cost $8 and $10 respectively. Adjusted for inflation that would mean the most expensive ticket would cost $13.63 if they raised it adjusting for CPI changes.
For comparison, the Brooklyn Cyclones charge $10, $14 and $17 for individual tickets when bought in advance and $12, $16 and $19 when purchased the day of the game. The Trenton Thunder charge $13 day of the game for their most expensive ticket. Division rival the Hudson Valley Renegades charge $15 for their most expensive ticket while the Independent Somerset Patriots charge $14.
Per the New York-Penn League Community Benefit Report done after the 2015 season the Staten Island Yankees made $192,460 in contributions to community organizations. This included funds raised in the school fundraising program, direct donations, 50/50s, ticket gifts and mascot appearances. In total $146,020 of that $192,460 was from donating tickets, mascot appearances, and gift baskets.
The 2016 Community Benefit Report has yet to be released, but it might paint a much different picture for the Staten Island Yankees. Up until 2016 most their community relations was giving away tickets, a practice that was stopped for 2016.
Minor League baseball is based on community, and the team needs to be more proactive in the community. That means getting out there and promoting it. This past season the team did not have a traditional “HOPE WEEK” due to how the season schedule was spaced out. It would be great to see the team adopt new community outreach ideas like Little League takeovers, field cleanups, a staff giving back day, etc.
This by far has been the team’s downfall since 1999. The Staten Island Yankees have been known as a team that lacks sufficient connection with its fans. The name change fiasco is a good example. Many people did not realize that the name change did not affect their affiliation with the New York Yankees. This is an area where they can only improve and must improve.
This is a big one. Aside from the brand-new Daktronics video board, the stadium is in much need of improvement. This past season a fungus ate away at the field, causing a less than quality playing surface for the team to play on. Also, the stadium electrical and sound system needs a massive upgrade. The lighting is also in need of an update, perhaps with something like the brand-new LED lighting that is at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton and Yankees Stadium in The Bronx.
These are just some of the issues the team must face and are just as important as changing the name when it comes to the overall improvement of the organization. Each one contributed to the downfall in the team’s popularity, and it won’t be an overnight fix. It will take years to rebuild the trust with the fans and bring them back in droves. No one expected the name change to be the magic pill that turns everything but at least holding off on it will allow them more time to fix issues before they sour another name.
With that said the team needs to use this time to revisit the finalists. The five names were the result of a rushed process that was based off fan input. None of the names were tied to the island and failed to connect with the community. The best thing for them to do is to do the research and find a selection of names that accurately represent the island’s history and culture. Let’s face it, naming the team after an internet hoax was never a good idea.