Monday, April 27, 2009

My review of Citi Field - summing it up

I don't even know what to say anymore. On Saturday, I went to a game in the most expensive, most beautiful clusterfuck in modern history.

If Fred Wilpon had wanted to build a new ballpark that reflected the deep 100 year history of National League Baseball in the city of New York to replace Shea, I would have said that was a good idea if he HAD to replace Shea. But he didn't build that ballpark. If Fred Wilpon had wanted to build a new ballpark that reflected the nearly 50 year history of the New York Mets to replace Shea, I would have said the same thing. But he didn't build that ballpark either. Fred Wilpon wanted to build a home for the Mets that reflected the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson more than the history of the New York Mets.

So we enter the stadium through a gigantic monument to someone who was part of pre-Mets baseball history. Complete with his number in statue form. If this were a shrine for NY NL Baseball, this would have been OK. Personally, I don't have any problem with Jackie Robinson and his accomplishments, but I just don't see this as necessary, at least not to this great size. Mets fans would have felt more welcome in the new park entering in a place that gave you a real sense of Mets history, and maybe including a small something from the NY Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. Their legacies together should live on with the Mets.

So we want to visit the Mets team store, and there's Jackie Robinson jerseys greeting you. Again, unnecessary. I'd rather see a Tom Seaver jersey. Or at least put Robinson, Willie Mays, and Seaver together on the jersey rack. The closest we come to anything Mets in the stadium is in the team stores.

There doesn't seem to be any markings of any team inside the stadium, save for the Rotunda and Mets team stores which seem either small and/or hidden, or the retired numbers. There's no banners or hangings that show you what team plays there, like there was at Shea. Those such things hang outside the stadium. There's no murals showing us the history of the club or any important players. There's nothing named after anyone with a Mets connection. The retired numbers hang in on the LF wall, but the championship banners did not make the trip. Flags fly on the poles in RF. But those flags aren't enough, especially on a day when they aren't flapping at all.

But this can all be fixed. It should be. Fred Wilpon just needs to wake up. There is no excuse for this type of disrespect to the fans' and team's history, and in some ways, damage has been done. Even the home run apple from Shea was targeted for the scap pile before he listened to the fans and found a home for it (though it's odd and out of the way, people are finding their way down there). The Shea scoreboard skyline made it over too, and sits atop a concession stand out in CF. But it's hidden from most of the stadium by the gigantic scoreboard. It would have been nice if it were part of the view from your seats.

Now on to bigger issues. Seating and pricing.

The Wilpons seem to be playing to what I call a "country club" atmosphere. They're catering to the well-off people, and frankly, exploiting them at the cost of taking away from the real fans. They're using big names on the seating chart like "Excelsior" and "Promenade" instead of carrying forward the names we know and love, "Loge", "Mezzanine", and "Upper Deck". They have all these exclusive clubs that just take away from the usable parts of the stadium. Club areas on every level. Frankly, I feel clubs are unnecessary. It creates a separation in the social (financial) classes and takes space away from the real fans. Despite the revenue generated by clubs and corporate suites/seats, this would all just go away if the fans disappeared, so this is an insult to the real Mets fans. We're the ones who show up night after night and make some noise and hang signs.

OK. Names are names. The real fans are pushed up to the Promenade, so we can watch the game together. It's unfair, considering the amount of affordable seats Shea had, that there's only room in the fans' club for so many people. But that's the cost of an "upgrade" by an out-of-touch owner. The seats are angled to be pointing at the field better, rather than the natural bowl that Shea had. The seats are more comfortable and have more legroom than those at Shea did. Wait, they are? I must not have been sitting in the area where the leg room was. There are so many bends in the stands that it creates obstructions.

But the concourses are wider. I'll bet that makes Cow-Bell Man feel good. Too bad nobody can see him there.

So we'll sit in our seats. What's this in front of me? It's plexiglass at the top of the stair landing, or it's an LED ribbon that I need to look over in order to see the field. What was so good about Shea was that from every seat could see, save for a few on Field Level down the LF and RF lines, because of the bowl effect. We could see with room to spare. Nothing was hidden. We get more intimate, a little closer, a different pitch in the rows of seating, and we find ourselves looking over heads, looking over glass and railings, and looking over these things that look like they're just there to block our view, and we can see part of a ballgame.

So can we pay for an upgrade to better seats? Maybe, but it'll cost you. The cost of everything suddenly went up. You can't splurge and get a good Field Level seat because that costs entirely too much money. I don't see the difference between the Field Level seats at Shea and the ones at $iti Field, except the cost. Does it come with club access so I can go someplace and watch the game on TV? If I wanted that, I wouldn't go to the ballpark. Maybe the next level up. It's not as bad, but it's certainly not the value we got in the Loge at Shea. And another club. Oh goodie. Even these obstructed view seats, for ticket plans and season tickets cost more than equivalent seats at Shea did.

Some of this can be fixed. But it would take some time, effort, and admission by the Mets ownership that lots of mistakes were made. So far, I haven't heard anything along those lines.

You know, I can't really find anything good to say about the game experience at this beautiful new ballpark. It looks like it was build with the architect's head in the sand. Even the press box, broadcast booth, and owner's suite have people sitting and standing in front of them.

The Mets world class home of Amazin'. Amazin' is right. It's amazing how bad a job was done here.

The Mets should have taken a page from the Boston Red Sox and embraced their ballpark. Fenway Park is almost 100 years old. That's old. That's older than 2 Shea Stadiums put together. And they're working on keeping it around for a long time. Nobody is Boston is crying out that they want a newer, larger stadium. I don't think any Mets fans cried out that they wanted this.

part 1 | part 2 | summing it up