Running The House That Babe Ruth Built

Behind Yankee Stadium’s bright lights, manicured outfield, and cracker-jack vendors is Doug Behar. Inside his job managing the stadium of the biggest team in baseball.

Doug Behar, vice president of stadium operations.

In 1997, two years after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Doug Behar began an internship with the New York Yankees. Internships are never glamorous, but going to work each day at the House That Ruth Built was something none of Behar’s former classmates could boast. The internship, however, was short-lived, but only because Behar was hired by the Yankees’ marketing department three months later. One promotion led to another, and, before he knew it, Behar had been with the team for 15 years. In 2011, he became vice president of stadium operations.

Strangely, “stadium operations” seems entirely too specific and too general at the same time. What does Behar do exactly? The better question might be: what doesn’t he do? “I handle everything related to the stadium,” he says. “That means that on any given day I communicate and coordinate with electricians, engineers, guest relations, food services, ticket services, medical—the list is endless.”

Yankees Facts

In 2008, during the last year at the House That Ruth Built, an average of 50,000 fans attended each game.The highest paid player in Major League Baseball is New York Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez. In 2012, Rodriguez raked in $30,000,000, which is nearly $6 million more than the second-highest paid player, Vernon Wells, of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.The New York Yankees insignia was first created by Louis B. Tiffany, of the famous jeweler Tiffany & Co., in 1877.It was recently announced by the Yankees’ managing general partner & cochair, Hal Steinbrenner, that the Yankees’ payroll would be cut by about $20 million, down to $189 million, within two years. The last time their payroll was less than $190 million was in 2007, when it was $189,639,045.The Yankees have $75 million committed to four players in 2013: third baseman Alex
Rodriguez, pitcher C. C. Sabathia, first baseman Mark Teixeira, and shortstop Derek Jeter.

Many high-ranking individuals will tell you that every workday is different, but when Behar tells you there isn’t a single day that he spends with the Yankees that can be described as “typical” he’s being entirely honest. “Anything can come up on any given day, and there’s nothing typical about it,” he says. “Everything is situational, and, for the most part, we’re addressing needs as they arise. Today, we might have to address issues with security; tomorrow, something might come up with the recycling program. A lot of what I do requires flexibility. For the playoffs, we won’t know where we’re going to play until after the final game. Eight different scenarios can play out and we have to prepare for all of them.”

During game days Behar can be found all over the stadium: in the operations box watching security cameras and taking phone calls, tending to matters at any given place in the stadium, or walking the stadium, attempting to catch issues before they become a problem. The off-season, though less hectic, was never a time of rest and relaxation for Behar, but things have picked up considerably in the past few years. During this five-month span Behar is responsible for the usual stuff: analyzing policies and procedures, maintenance improvements, and negotiating collective-bargaining agreements with several trade unions and managing those relationships on behalf of the Yankees. But now Behar’s off-season also includes preparing for college-football bowl games, concerts, boxing matches, and soccer games.

Part of the reason for the recent upswing in off-season activity is due to the new state-of-the-art Yankee Stadium. The original stadium existed from 1923 to 2008, and the new ballpark was constructed across the street on the former site of Macombs Dam Park. The new stadium opened April 2, 2009, and along with it came a world of new possibilities and a great deal of challenges.

“Leaving the old stadium was definitely bittersweet,” Behar says. “It held so many great memories for me, but making the move was also very exciting—and intense. We had to get people acclimated; they were walking into an entirely new building and they didn’t know where anything was. In addition, there were 40,000 items on our punch list, which means 40,000 individual things that had to be completed: everything from putting handles on doors to painting. In terms of my job, not a whole lot stayed the same; it was a new job in many respects. The new stadium meant we were transitioning into a multipurpose facility, so there were new people and departments I had to get accustomed to working with, while also meeting the needs of the existing departments.”

Behar is too humble to admit being a critical part of the team responsible for the strategy, design, and construction of the new Yankee Stadium. But, not only did he oversee the transition from the old stadium to the new—he even oversaw the addition of a rooftop deck on the Terrace Level and a major multimillion-dollar renovation of the Delta SKY360° Suite.

People may be pouring into the stadium to watch the Yankees, and the fans may scream and shout for mega-famous players like Derek Jeter, but, truth be told, none of it would be possible without people like Behar. The Yankees are a world-class team and visitors to the stadium have high expectations, and Behar and his staff never let them down. No detail is too small, and the mythos surrounding the Yankees never gets lost on the vice president.

“History is made here every day, and every day that I walk into this stadium, I know that I’m lucky to do it,” Behar says. “We have fans that can—and will—travel the world to see the Yankees, while others can only come to one game a season. We want to provide an exceptional experience for them and everyone in between. Regardless of the game’s outcome, you feel the Yankee mystique in this stadium. We want to make each fan’s experience so memorable, that they tell the story for us. If you come here for a game and what you remember about that day is the smell of the popcorn, the look of the field, or the high five you got from another fan, we did our job.”