Billy's Sports Bar by Yankee Stadium Finishes Huge $4 Million Expansion

By Patrick Wall on July 1, 2013 8:49am 

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 The popular tavern on 161st Street renovated an abandoned movie theater behind the bar.
Billy's Sports Bar Expansion
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CONCOURSE — If the name Billy’s Sports Bar calls to mind a dive with a couple dusty TVs and bowls of peanuts on the bar, think again.

Thanks to a three-year, $4 million renovation that tripled its size and quintupled its capacity, the tavern by Yankee Stadium is now more club than watering hole — which is what the owners were after.

“We’re not only a Yankees bar,” said co-owner George Manesis, who ticked off plans for concerts, screenings, soccer-game viewings, fashion shows and more in the new expanded space. “That’s our goal. That’s why we did this.”

Billy's opened in 1998 in what was once the lobby of a movie theater on 161st Street in a building that still bears traces of the former theater's Art Deco façade.

A few years ago, the bar and restaurant's three owners decided to clear out the abandoned theater auditorium in the back of the bar — a first step that required eight months and 75 large trash containers — and then renovate it for use.

Construction finished in September on the new space, which can be accessed through an entrance on River Avenue as well as the front door on 161st Street.

It had a soft launch in April at the start of the baseball season and has been open on game days since.

The massive expansion consists of three levels and 22,000 square-feet, including an almost-finished outdoor patio on the second floor with potted palm trees and a bamboo bar that will eventually serve frozen drinks, all in the shadow of the elevated 4 train.

The new space allows for nearly 2,600 people — with seating for 300 — compared to a capacity of about 500 before the renovation.

If the expansion’s sheer size is impressive, so are its amenities.

They include: two giant projectors worth a combined $75,000 pointed at screens affixed to the venue’s multistory brick walls; 275 color-shifting LED lights along the ceiling, balconies, columns, stairwell and bar; rows of flat screen, high-definition TVs along every wall; and some 30 dangling chandeliers.

In other words, the owners went all out.

“We all put mortgages on our houses,” Manesis said.

The owners are planning a grand-opening event in September.

Beginning next month, they hope to start hosting events in the new space — eventually building up to three per week, Manesis said. For certain sorties, they’ll even offer valet parking, he added.

In the meantime, some patrons are still getting used to the new look.

On Billy's Yelp page, amid gripes about loud music and pricey drinks mixed with praise for the lively atmosphere, several reviewers returned to a particular new addition — the chandeliers.

One person asked the owners to explain what they're doing in a sports bar. Another just marveled, “Fancy!”

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