July 25, 2014
Introduction by Joe Eskenazi. Photographs by Nathaniel Downes.
The first thing to hit you when you walk through the front door of The Gotham Club, the swank new private establishment at AT&T Park, is the smell. The aroma of soaked earth and freshly cut grass hits you and it hits you hard. Baseball is a game steeped in nostalgia and this odor conjures up memories of youthful trips to the ballpark and long summer evenings on the diamond.
This is a pleasant experience, to say the least. But this is not the smell of The Gotham Club. Head up the stairs and you're hit with a blast of old wood. And, yes, old money.
It would be very easy to grow cynical upon entering this supremely upscale private club housed within the team's right field out-of-town scoreboard. It's a testament to the rich history of the ballclub whose games you're not watching. It's a chance to look down upon players, many of whom grew up in abject poverty, while sipping on a $12 draft beer.
And yet, the level of care and detail put into the construction of this place -- which officially opens Friday, but, likely not for you -- is breathtaking. Books of the sort obtained at a centenarian's estate sale are on the shelf above the flat-screen TV -- three whole volumes of Carl Sandburg's writings on Lincoln -- while an alarmingly complete trove of Giants literature is on the lower shelf.
Yes, Arnold Hano's "A Day in the Bleachers" is here.
The couches are all overstuffed, the stools are topped with baseball glove-like leather, and there's a Cooperstown-level of ephemera here. Joyous club members may receive the honor of operating the out-of-town scoreboard (An honor for a tippler; a job-duty for an employee).
The nitty-gritty: It'll cost you $2,500 to join this club, plus around $1,500 a season. You also have to be a season-ticket holder -- or a current or former Giant. Membership will be capped at 1,000 (non-Giants) while spatial relations are assessed, and then, likely, allowed to grow. Right now, 700 season ticket-holders are members.
The drinks are delicious -- and expensive. The food is divine -- and expensive. But, if you have to ask how much it costs -- perhaps you can't afford it.
This is a gorgeous place. Everyone would appreciate it. Not everyone will see it.