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Pricey seats keep Yankees away

AT new Yankee Stadium, the best seats have turned out to be the emptiest.

The most expensive spots in America's costliest ballpark have become an embarrassment packing a financial sting to the proud New York Yankees, as the Legends Suite section in the infield has been filled only once in the six games since the US$1.5 billion stadium opened last week. On most days, the 1,895 seats that cost US$500-US$2,500 as part of season tickets and go up to US$2,625 for individual games haven't been close to full. And as TV cameras pick up the patchy attendance with every pitch, it serves as a little tweak to America's richest baseball team.

"We're done talking about seats," Yankees president Randy Levine said.

But fans sure notice.

"I remember watching and you couldn't find an empty seat at Yankee Stadium. And now right behind home plate there's 15 to 20," said Aaron Feldstein, who scored a free ticket from a friend for Wednesday's game behind home plate - an area that costs US$325 as part of season tickets.

The Legend Suite section was about 80 percent empty, and the upper decks were a quarter empty for the game against the Oakland Athletics on a cold afternoon.

Yet another sign of how the best seats have been overpriced is their resale level.Legends Suite seats in section 27B, row 2, down the left-field line that originally sold for US$500 were available for US$225 early Wednesday on the online ticket broker Tickets in section 23, row 7, behind the visitors' dugout could be had for US$263, down from their US$850 original price.

"Yeah, we understand it's not full. We actually understand why it's not," left fielder Johnny Damon said. "It's tough for, you know, business owners to justify those seats. It's either have those seats or lay off people from work, and I think that during this tough time, people are going to want to put it back into their companies and put it back into people instead of spending that type of money for seats."

The team refuses to talk about the financial impact of the empty seats, but if every spot in the Legends Suite were sold, the club would gross US$1.63 million per game.

So what do the Yankees do until the economy rebounds? Drop prices now and anger fans who paid (very) top dollar? Or wait, endure the jokes, and wonder what the effect on the actual game is?

All those empty cushioned seats with teak armrests translate to less crowd noise, making Yankee Stadium a less-intimidating place to play.

Oakland's Jason Giambi, who spent seven seasons with the Yankees, said the new stadium was "kind of bigger and more spread out than the other one."

In the old ballpark, it felt as if the fans "were on top of you," he said. "That made old Yankee Stadium so great."


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