Seminole Tribe plays ball with NY Yankees

By Sandra Hale Schulman
Hollywood, Florida (NFIC) 7-08

Batter up now has a new meaning. In an unusual move, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the New York Yankees are teaming up on a chain of high-end steakhouses, the first expected to open next spring at the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The Seminoles will also build a 7,000-square-foot Hard Rock Restaurant in the stadium, executives from the tribe and the team said.

It may seem like an odd pairing, but it underscores the increasing clout and world recognition of the Hollywood-based tribe. In 2006, the Seminoles used their casino fortune to purchase the Hard Rock Hotel and Restaurant chain for $965 million, and they have since expanded its global footprint.

“This is just a tremendous endorsement of the [Seminole Hard Rock] brand to have the most famous sports franchise in the world choose us to be a partner,” said Jim Allen, the president and CEO of Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment. He said the Seminoles plan to open at least 25 steakhouses, called NYY Steak, at Hard Rock Hotels, including those under construction in Panama, Dubai, Macao, Palm Springs and Atlanta. NYY Steak will be modeled after the signature Council Oak Steak & Seafood Restaurants at tribal casinos in Hollywood and Tampa. Named for a sacred tree on the Hollywood Reservation, those restaurants will not get new monikers or makeovers. 


Although the tribe is one of Florida’s largest cattle growers, there are no plans to use Seminole beef any time soon, a tribal spokesman said. In a star studded Yankee Stadium announcement that featured Seminole council member Max Osceola and Yankee star Alex Rodriguez, executives said while NYY Steak will be upscale, the adjacent Hard Rock will stick to the rock ‘n’ roll theme seen around the world – but with a New York flavor.

On display next to them was a 10-foot electric guitar painted white with Yankees’ pinstripes. The Yankees will move into the $1.3 billion stadium next season. It will also feature a martini bar, a sports bar and three retail stores. The new ballpark will replace the 85-year-old Yankee Stadium, which lacks many of the amenities of modern ballparks. Rodriguez signed the 10-foot Gibson guitar replica, which will be displayed outside the stadium. The tribe also agreed to donate 26 guitars to two Bronx-based youth groups.

Talks between the tribe and the team began when the Yankees sought an upscale restaurant for the new stadium, which will open next to the old stadium where Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle once played. Allen said he and a Yankee official had an unidentified “mutual friend” who introduced the entities and got the process rolling. The tribe beat out about 50 other restaurant owners looking for the prime spot, Allen said. Osceola said the Yankees have been his favorite team since he paid $1 as a kid to sit in the bleachers and watch them play spring training games in Fort Lauderdale.

“I used to go to the games with my father [in the early 1960s] to watch Elston Howard and Mickey Mantle and all the legends,” Osceola said. “Now, to think that the tribe would be partners with a team that won 26 World Series is pretty amazing.”