Doug Behar walks the concourses and stands of Yankee Stadium surrounded by an unspoken nostalgia.
Baseball heroes of yesteryear donned in pinstripes line the brick walls—Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Joe DiMaggio, Derek Jeter—to remind Behar every day of the legends who not only influenced the history of the New York Yankees, but the game itself.
He can perfectly recall his first baseball game at the old Yankee Stadium, eagerly walking through the front gates at six years old with his father. To this day, he sees thousands of others enter the stadium with the same enthusiasm, which is what continues to inspire his work most of all.
“The one thing that we try to instill in all the event-day staff is that, no matter how many games we’ve worked in a row or how long the game is, for many of our fans, this may be their first time here,” Behar says. “There isn’t a day that goes by, or game that goes by, where we’re not entertaining somebody for their first experience. When you get to see it firsthand and you get to see the impact it has on you, it really speaks to that Yankee pride.”
Growing up in the Bronx, Behar would watch the Yankee teams of former years on a regular basis with his father. Behar is at the stadium year-round, but he can also distinctly remember the first time he saw the diamond in person. This was back in the 1970s, when the likes of Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter were adding to their Hall of Fame credentials. “When my dad took me to my first Yankees game, walking in and seeing the green grass for the first time and hearing the crack of the bat and smelling all the good smells of hotdogs and popcorn. . . It’s stuff that you really never forget,” Behar recalls.
Both the 1977 and 1978 team would go on to win the World Series, establishing a dynasty. With performances and team play so dominating on the field, the victory run earned Jackson the nickname Mr. October for how unstoppable he was during the playoffs.
But if Jackson earned the nickname Mr. October, Behar more than justifies a nickname of Mr. Year-Round.
He has been part of the New York Yankees organization for the past 20 years, most recently as senior vice president, stadium operations. Maintaining The House that Ruth Built doesn’t have an offseason. Handling everything related to stadium operations, Behar is in constant communication with almost every department—maintenance, guest relations, ticket services, medical, and more.
On both game days and for non-related events at the stadium, Behar can be found throughout the arena tending to a number of matters. As he explains, there is no such thing as a typical day. “At the root of what we do, safety, security, and providing a world-class experience is always going to be at the foundation,” he says. “I’m walking the gates when we open them. I’m in the concourses and stands making sure that we have the right flow and that the guests in the building are happy. I could be on the field pregame. It’s basically anywhere and everywhere, and it moves in a really organic way.” This also includes off-season events, such as concerts, football games, and soccer matches.
In 2009, Behar embarked on one of his largest endeavors in the team’s history when the organization opened a new stadium. Behar describes the experience as “incredible,” especially considering he is a lifelong Yankees fan who got to share the opening with guests and staff.
The new stadium may be about twice the size of the old arena, but Behar says it’s modeled to look and feel the same as the team’s former home. With wire and open concourses, the nearly 50,000-seating venue features countless food options and more places for social gathering. Even with new amenities, though, history adorns the walls just as it always has.
“Although it was going to be a new stadium, we wanted to remind everybody—all of our fans, players, employees—that we’re still the New York Yankees,” Behar says. “Our history is here with us and everything that we did, from making sure that we had replicated the iconic
structure of the old stadium, to having all sorts of different types of artwork throughout, whether on top of our concession stands or in corridors.”
Built directly across the street from the old stadium, all of the monuments and plaques were brought over after construction. Behar and his team have now set their sights on new amenities as well, including the Sunrun Kids Clubhouse. The 2,850-square-foot area is an interactive utopia for children, complete with Yankees-themed playground equipment, including oversized baseballs, bases, and baseball cards. Children will be able to play among colorful fixtures, including a 6-foot-high replica World Series trophy.
Behar also helped in creating more social gathering areas. Out in center field, above Monument Park and just below the scoreboard, is known as the Masterpass Batter’s Eye Deck. The area includes drink rails overlooking the field, concession stands, and a bar. Just below are two other landing spaces—Franks RedHot and the Toyota terraces, which are right over the bull pens.
There have also been a number of sustainability initiatives enacted that Behar says he is particularly proud of, including last year, when he and his team replaced the sports lighting. “When we opened up the stadium we had high-efficiency lights in, but we saw the opportunity with LED lights and we made the switch,” he says. “We’re currently saving 70 percent on our energy over the previous high-efficiency lights. It’s a really good program that we have there in place.”
In addition to the new lights, there’s a robust composting and recycling program, where the organization has instituted a zero-waste initiative. Behar says the organization is averaging about 80–85 percent diversion rate, which is not only high for New York City, but also in the recycling industry as a whole. Behar has also made strides toward water conservation with low-flow fixtures. These have resulted in savings of roughly 22 percent.
It’s not only within the confines of Yankee Stadium that the organization is making strides, but in the community at large. Behar says there has been a tremendous focus over the years for the Yankees to support their neighbors and local partners, working in conjunction with them to enhance the quality of life throughout surrounding communities.
“On a consistent basis, the Yankees partner with community-based organizations to host events at Yankee Stadium and dedicate several millions of dollars in resources to support various outreach efforts that focus on providing positive educational, recreational, and social outlets for New York City residents,” Behar explains.
All of this relates to “The Yankee Way” that Behar proudly describes. On a daily basis, he is in charge of providing a safe and secure environment that has fit the model of the organization from the beginning. When he was a kid, Behar and his father didn’t think they would see another dynasty such as the 1977 and 1978 team. Now, Behar has four World Series rings and has witnessed firsthand a new generation of Yankees soon to be in the Hall of Fame. As new amenities and features come to the stadium in the years to come, so too will new greats donning the classic pinstripes.
“Looking back, I got to see Derek Jeter play and Mariano Rivera play and Bernie Williams play and all these great figures,” Behar says. “A generation later, they’re going to look back at these players the way we did Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio and Reggie Jackson.”
A BRIEF HISTORY OF YANKEE STADIUM
One of the most monumental trades in the history of baseball occurred on December 26, 1919, when the Boston Red Sox traded “The Great Bambino” to the New York Yankees. Just two years later, the Yankees would purchase 10 acres of property in the Bronx, launching “The House That Ruth Built” with the construction of Yankee Stadium.
In 1922, construction commenced on Yankee Stadium, and in just 284 working days, the state-of-the-art arena was ready for its inaugural game on April 18, 1923, versus the Boston Red Sox. By 1928, the stadium underwent renovations. The triple-deck grandstand in left field was extended beyond the foul pole, and the right-field grandstand was extended in 1937, allowing upper-deck home runs in both directions. Because of these expansions in 1937, the wooden bleachers were replaced by a concrete structure, and the distance to center field dropped from 490 feet to 461 feet.
The stadium would remain relatively unchanged until the 1966 season, but it was then completely remodeled in 1973. The remodeled Yankee Stadium opened on April 15, 1976, and the new stadium would host back-to-back World Series titles for the team in 1977 and 1978.
The 2008 season was the final one for the team in the old stadium, as a new facility was built directly across the street. The last game was played on September 21, 2008, with the Yankees defeating the Baltimore Orioles. Following a grand send-off ceremony, Andy Pettitte became the winning pitcher that day, and Mariano Rivera recorded the last out. Jose Molina hit the last home run in New York’s emotional victory over Baltimore, bookending Babe Ruth’s shot to open the building in 1923.
In the stadium’s inaugural 2009 season, the Yankees broke in their new home in grand fashion by winning their 27th World Series title in team history.
The Action Environmental Group has been a proud partner of Doug Behar and the New York Yankees for over a decade. The Yankees’ commitment to the environment is unrivaled. Whether it’s organics, mixed recyclables, or a more sustainable lighting system for the stadium, they are truly an environmental leader.
Unity Electric is proud to be a partner in maintaining Yankee Stadium’s infrastructure. Last off-season, we successfully completed the state-of-the-art upgrade of the stadium field lights to LED, which improved the in-park experience for players and spectators alike. We are currently working on a Kids Clubhouse, Batter’s Eye Deck, two open air areas for guests to mingle and socialize, and a new sports lounge.
Doug’s vision drives continued innovation. Unity looks forward to working with him and his team on enhancing the ballpark, improving sustainability, and expanding its usability as an entertainment venue.