Business slow for suites at new Yankee Stadium

NEW YORK -- Selling suites may not be so sweet a business for the New York Yankees in these tough economic times.

Seven luxury boxes down the foul lines priced at $600,000 remain available for the 2009 season, the first at the new Yankee Stadium. The team still had seven available in August, too.

"There's no getting away from the fact that the world is different than it was, so traffic slows," chief operating officer Lonn Trost said Tuesday. "So you don't have 10 people banging on the door. You may only have two people."

Trost said in August that 44 of 51 suites priced at $600,000 to $850,000 had been committed and that the $650,000 and $850,000 suites had sold out.

"We're entertaining proposals from different folks," he said. "I'm not going to put them into the sold column until somebody sends me an e-mail and says, 'Done.' It's so hard to say close when you get attorneys involved and you start fighting over terms, and we don't want to change terms."

He said in August that 3,500 of the 4,300 premium seats had been sold, including the $500 to $2,500 per-game tickets near home plate in the first nine rows of 25 sections ringing home plate.

Speaking after a news conference to announce a technology agreement with Cisco Systems Inc., Trost didn't have an updated figure on premium seats and said it was too early to determine how well season-ticket sales were going for the $1.3 billion ballpark.

"We can see that the economy is affecting the traffic that is coming around," he said. "Listen, nobody can avoid it. We recognize it. You wake up in the morning and you see it. So we're trying to work with our fan base and understand what their needs are."

He also said the pace of business deals had been impacted by the economic downturn. New York has been working on completing an agreement with Bank of America.

"Things are slow to come to fruition, but they're getting there," Trost said.

The Yankees hope to move into their new ballpark on Jan. 16 or 23. The Mets began operating from their new Citi Field offices on Sept. 22.

Trost said construction was about 12½ days ahead of schedule, that interior work such as cabinetry and carpeting was under way and that the new Metro-North railroad station outside the stadium should be open by the third homestand, which starts May 15. The ballpark's formal opening is April 16 against Cleveland.

"Bad weather or snow or cold should have nothing to do any further with what we're doing," Trost said.

Minor demolition of the old Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923, will begin in January, but the substantive dismantling of the House that Ruth Built won't start until midsummer.

The ballpark's owner, New York City, still hasn't reached an agreement with the team on selling off memorabilia from the stadium.

"We're negotiating," Trost said. "They have views and we have views. And they have attorneys and we have attorneys. We'll get it done."

Yankees general partner Hal Steinbrenner, appearing with Trost, talked generally about the Yankees' free-agent plans. New York is focused on starting pitching, with CC Sabathia likely the No. 1 topic.

"We're going to figure everything out by Friday," Steinbrenner said, referring to the first day free agents can negotiate with all teams. "Everything has been discussed. We know, I think, at this point what our weaknesses are, and we have a pretty good idea of what's out there now."

Like their father, brothers Hal and Hank Steinbrenner figure to be involved in free-agent recruitment. Hal said he had spoken with agent Scott Boras last offseason.

"There's no doubt Hank and I need to get out there and spend some time with some of the agents," Hal Steinbrenner said.

New York figures to have another $200 million-plus payroll.

"We're going to pursue the market aggressively as we do every year," he said. "The philosophy has not changed."