For the baseball fans among us, the subways often play an integral part in our enjoyment of the sport. If I’m heading to see my Yankees play in the Bronx, I’ll always take the B, D or 4 train, and if I’m venturing out to Coney Island for a Cyclones game or Flushing to see the Mets, the subways are always the way to go. In the Bronx, the Yankees have long embraced the subway by featuring the Great City Subway Race on the jumbotron, and although I’ve bemoaned the inaccuracies of the scoreboard entertainment in the past, the subway race is a quintessential Noo Yawk part of the Yankee Stadium experience.
Imagine my surprise then when, during the fourth inning of Opening Day, the subway race no longer featured MTA trains. Instead of the B, D and 4 trains, the Yanks were using three trains labeled Road Gray, Midnight Blue and Pinstripes. The animated contest still started at Herald Square and Grand Central, but the trains weren’t a part of New York’s subway system.
Once I got home from the game and thawed off from the cold, I got on the horn with the MTA, and authority sources told me the change seemed to stem from a misunderstanding. As I reported over at River Ave. Blues, when the Yankees first started the subway race, they asked the MTA for permission to use the transit agency’s intellectual property. The subway bullets, after all, are MTA trademarks, and the authority granted that permission, for free, as long as the Yankees did not attach a sponsor to the race. Here, the story gets a little fuzzy. The Yankees had long had Dunkin Donuts sponsoring the race; the 4 train was frequently slowed by a jelly donut in the tracks. The MTA though didn’t seem to notice a sponsor had signed on until last year when Subway took over.
Following the 2010 season, MTA sources tell me, the authority attempted to reach out to the Yankees to discuss the subway race sponsorship. At no point did the MTA ask the Yankees for money, and one person with whom I spoke said the MTA had no plans to do so. Rather, they were going to ask the Yankees to append a public service announcement to the subway race urging fans to take mass transit to the game. The Yankees though never returned the MTA’s calls, and the authority never had the chance to make this offer.
For its part, the MTA was disappointed. “The video race was considered a method to promote taking mass transit to games,” Kevin Ortiz said. ” We are disappointed the Yankees decided to change the look of the trains.”
Yet, this story has a happy ending as the Yanks and the MTA resolved their differences. The trains, as I noted at RAB, will return to the scoreboard tonight, and while the Yanks’ sponsorship will remain, the race will now conclude with a public service announcement concerning mass transit. “The Subway Race,” the authority said in a statement, “will continue to remind fans that taking the train to the game remains the quickest and least expensive way to get to the game.”
For the subways, all’s well that ends well. Yet, I wonder how the company running the South Bronx’s ridiculous $35-per-car parking lots feels about the whole thing. If the Yanks and the MTA are making a more vocal push to promote mass transit at the stadium, those parking lots, which shouldn’t have been built in the first place, will continue to remain empty.