Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ballpark Review - Philadelphia

Forgive me for saying this (my blue pinstripes may be taken away for this), but I went to the baseball stadium in Philadelphia on Sunday and enjoyed the ballpark. The Mets lost (so what else is new). But my friend and I walked all over the ballpark and we really liked it.

There was a great atmosphere in the park. The home team is in first place. The fans were all into the game, and the day. Cheering on their failing closer and other stars. Making noise mostly without being asked to do so. Almost everyone there was wearing a Phillies jersey of some sort (they have a few different types, all represented in my section), and none of these were cheap knockoffs (and not saying all of our Mets jerseys are, and meaning that the proper colors were used for the name and number of the back of the jersey). The seats are all Phillies-blue (it's a seldom used color, but it's there), and it was a really good visual contrast with the fans in the seats wearing different whites and reds, showing you all of the team's colors. It was good. It was fun.

Walking around my eyes started seeing many comparisons to Citi Field. A Phillies fan may come to Citi Field and call it a cheap knockoff of the Philly park. So let me begin the comparisons in the outfield area.

They had lots of open space, wide and open concourse, varried concessions, sunshine, and just a feeling that this park belonged to the Phillies (I couldn't quite put my finger on it). The outfield area is the most unique. Wikipedia describes Ashburn Alley better than I do. Hidden behind the pictures on your TV is a Phillies Hall of Fame. A big, but not eye sore-big, scoreboard is over there too. And bullpens that you could spit into.

Except for the food, Philly set up the space better. A bar and grille named after a popular broadcaster (Harry the K's after Harry Kalas) - does anyone want a place at Citi Field called "The Happy Recap" named for Bob Murphy? A BBQ pit named after another well liked player ("Bull's BBQ" for Greg "The Bull" Luzinski, or for the Mets, "Rusty's"). The whole open area named for a popular Phillie player and broadcaster (how about Casey Stengel Plaza at Citi Field, I like it for the area above the Rotunda on the Promenade level).

Inside, where the color of the brick fits the Phillies scheme, there's plenty of Phillies stuff inside, but otherwise almost identical to Citi Field. Except that I noticed something while going over the pictures, something that Citi Field was lacking that I just couldn't put my finger on. Sunshine. The Philly ballpark main concourse is at street level, so the entrances from outside go right there. Openings in the brick castle. As someone once sang, "Let the sunshine in" (or was it "Let the sun shine in"?). The two parks were so alike that the layout of the concourse and steel in RF and the bridge from the 2nd concourse above me to the RF area looked almost exactly like Citi Field. Another thing inside, and a few of my blogger-friends can appreciate me saying this, were hanging banners of different Philly players. Something greatly missing at Citi Field.

Citi Field's Excelsior level seemed to be modeled after the second deck in Philly. My friend and I went up to our seats out in LF (this part is miror image from Citi Field - Citi has the LF landing and Philly has it in RF). We got up, went to walk, got two sections over, and got stopped at the entrance to the Hall of Fame club. The RF side looked bigger but we never got over there. Many suites, and many were full for a Sunday afternoon game. Their seating comes out to meet the regular folk.

Upstairs to the very open upper level (I think they call it the Terrace there). Very similar design to what Citi Field has, except for one big thing that I noticed in the pictures. There are no back walls, so it feels real open and the sun shines in (concessions along that side did have back walls though, but the concourse wasn't completely enclosed0. Even the staircases are open, and not enclosed (probably bad in a rain storm, though, to be open). This level also had a Phillies feel. Even the steel beams in the ballpark are the old Phillies maroon color.

They did appear to do something better in Philly - access to the upper seats (the seats above the concourse). It's a staircase underneath the seats that winds up to the middle of the section (think of the seats behind home plate at Citi Field where you basically walk over the club into the seats). So the fans in the first rows aren't distracted by those plexiglass railings and barriers, or even by people entering the seating area. That's really the way it should be.

One other thing that I saw on the LED ribbons was something that said "Welcome to Citizen's Bank Park - Home of the Philadelphia Phillies". Has anyone seen something similarly worded at Citi Field? Maybe I just didn't notice. My friend didn't recall seeing one.

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  1. i've never liked Citizen's Bank Ballpark. I didn't like it when I first saw it in 2005, when I saw it again in 2006, or any time since. To me, while it does have _some_ uniqueness in the outfield, it struck me as very generic. I liked it better than places like RFK and the Oakland Colliseum. But give me Fenway, Petco, Angel Stadium, SF park, Wrigley, Citi any day.

    You can debate wall placements and staircases all you want, but those things are so minor that they barely factor for me.(btw, moving the staircases back would've required push the upper deck up or down, either limiting view from the concourse or making the seats further away. The closeness and intimacy is what they were going for) I love Citi Field so much more. I don't really get what people like about Citizen's Bank (our name is better too), especially now that we have Citi.

    The Blue that they barely use, or the old Philly Maroon? We come from the Giants, and i know people want to forget that, but the seat color and steel color is reminiscent of our first home. Obviously the Mets need more banners and flags and orange. I do agree that when you first enter Citi (via rotunda and area behind home plate) that it's dark. But the you emerge into a huge expanse of openness, and I definitely feel like Citi is more inwardly focused towards the field than outward to let sun in. you're not there for the view.

    I feel like it's easier to circle Citi and stay focused on the action. Some of the staircases at CBP feel like you're actually outside the stadium (the huge one in RF for instance. Yankees have this problem as well)

    I'm pretty sure the LED ribbons do say welcome to Citi Field/Mets or something to that effect. I don't remember now though. The scoreboard greats us with a lovely Lets Go Mets, which is cool, although I wish it had an exclamation point. well, 2.(http://www.ceetar.com/optimisticmetsfan/2009/05/22/new-citi-field-scoreboard-idea/)

  2. I figured that my liking the Philly ballpark would raise some debate (though I won't engage in a debate of names of 2 sponsored ballparks). In a way, you are right that it's generic, almost cookie-cutter like with a very updated design. I haven't been to most of those ballparks, new or old, yet. Wrigley, Dodgers Stadium, Fenway are all probably better than both of these.

    Some of the points that I made in my post really came out of criticisms that I've heard (and said) about Citi Field (which I don't like, at least not yet). My friend and I went to find the comparable seats in Philly to what we subscribe to at Citi and found it to be a bit higher up and maybe a bit farther out in Philly. But I'd take that in exchange for the obstructions we have with RF at Citi.

    And there has to be a lot said for what may seem like little things in the ballpark (color scheme, however intentional or not it was), sunshine, banners, and names. The Mets left out a lot of those little things. Citi Field feel better with Casey Stengel Plaza, the Gil Hodges Bridge, the Happy Recap, and Rusty's. And I do like your idea of "Let's Go Mets!!" on the scoreboard.

  3. nah, banners and names are not little things, and I hope they amend those. (And I'll get much more joy out of having a ceremony to name them too.) I think the color of the walls, the seats, placement of ads, and such is pretty minor. And was basically a personal choice that some will like, and some won't. I happen to like the tribute to the Polo Grounds, and the Rotunda, and I think/hope most fans would be a little less hateful if after they walked through the rotunda there were more Mets banners and symbols. Supposedly there already are (I haven't been there in a couple of weeks). I wish they'd go back to naming Left Field Landing, Coogan's landing actually.

    The closer seats vs. obstructions thing is the same debate as 44k vs. 57k in capacity. The Mets chose small and intimate. That's what they wanted to do. If It was up to me I'd have built a whole new deck and bumped up capacity to over 60k. (From a business standpoint, the extra money it would cost to build and run a 'cheap seat' grandstand would probably not be recooped for decades) This isn't so much a Mets point as a 'business/expense of baseball' point with more expensive stadiums and harder to afford the 'good' seats. But it's a trade off that they chose to make and it does as much good to criticize it as to criticize the color scheme of the yearly ads (which I've seen people do..)

    We didn't get a good test of Citi in pressure/big game situations because of the injuries. But so far it feels like it might be really cool. I like the intimacy and i'm quickly learning what seats are not in my 'acceptable' range. I've learned that the LF fair territory seats are probably the worst area to sit, and I'll take the option of 503 over 528. I happen to think the Left Field Landing seats, if you're not in the first two rows, are the worst, and definitely overpriced. I think a lot of the early criticism came from people that bought season tickets/plans in areas like 526 and really had no idea what the seats were like.

  4. I like the idea of a ceremony to name (or maybe also unveil) player banners. you're right that some of the color and other visual choices are minor, but i didn't think much of them until I saw better use of them (and maybe those choices were an accident in Philly).

    I had written a while back (I think) about what Citi Field should have been (a place to honor the NY Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, and NY Mets). The Rotunda would have been a great place for some of that, but it's going to be too hard to justify changing it away from Jackie Robinson, who would be at the top of the list of old Giants/Dodgers to honor.

    there certainly have been faults with Citi Field (different ones in different eyes). the debate of "worst seat(s)" could be its own post. I would like to nominate sec 405 right where the stands change angles towards RF. i've only sat in 3 different seats at Citi Field (LF in the upper deck included), and I've probably written about each of them.

  5. Everyone has different opinions indeed. Which is why no matter what they did people would be pissed.

    I may have read that post, and I think I saw it mentioned in fafif about honoring NY baseball in general. Include the Negro League teams in there as well, hell, even include the Federal League teams. (Maybe even the Newark one) The Mets are the representation of New York baseball, and they can easily run with that. (And of course, the Yankees are from Baltimore)

    I like the Rotunda as is. (symbolically, you enter the Mets stadium through the Dodgers. same way we came into the league) There is plenty of room to add stuff anyway. As long as they do it.

    I've been at Citi only 8 times this year, due to financial issues. (mine, not theirs). the St. Johns exhibition and the Red Sox exhibition and then 6 regular season games. I'm very happy in general with it. I avoid outfield seats anyway (although 405 is prom infield i think) That change of angles is a pain. I didn't think it was that horrible, as you can still see 95% of right field. (I saw a picture of Shea with basically the same obstruction)

    I sat in the LF outfield for the st. johns game. the 400/box section though, which was nice. pretty much no obstruction, that the 500 seats behind have.

    I had no issues with any of the 'between the bases' seats on the promenade level.

    I sat in the Pepsi Porch once (foul territory, fair is better) and loved it. I didn't think I would, they're basically outfield seats, but there's something about them that are nice.

    And I sat in section 104, which is the first fair section on the field level. We were in the fourth row (which is the first row behind the camera well by the pole.) I loved those seats as well, with the exception of seats 1 and 2, where you had to peer around the foul pole the entire game. It's a pretty cool angle, because you're low down (not like Loge at Shea) enough that it almost feels like you're on the field, and you get a really cool view of the RF and fly balls hit at you.

    I've also walked around. The bridge is a wonderful (and popular) area to watch the game if you can get a spot. especially if you just grabbed a bite to eat. rather than rush back to your seat, stand and watch, then return between innings. It's actually better to stand on the promenade than the field, because you don't have anybody walking in front of you, and it gets crowded down there. Pretty much any fair section up top provides great views while standing. Even can lean against the staircases and be in no ones way. I usually pop from section to section so I can watch the game while moving towards food or a bathroom or something.

    (I should write this up as my own post/analysis of where to sit at Citi)

  6. yes, I remember saying that the Negro Leagues should be included (basically, NY team except for the Yankees since they have their own park).

    I never thought about the symbolism of entering the Mets stadium through the Dodgers. but it should be complete and include the Giants (I had joked when the ballpark design first came out and said that it should have the Polo Grounds' 500 ft CF).

    405 is actually considered Prom outfield (prom infield seats don't lose sight of RF while the prof outfield seats do). one section over is a lot more money.

    a lot of the different views that you've sat in are more expensive seats that I generally have stayed away from. one comparison with Philly that I didn't bring up was the prices - the comparable seats to what I had in Philly (in LF on the 2nd level went for $27) are minimum $45 at Citi Field (comparable seats and comparable game would actually be $90 at Citi Field).

  7. Well yeah, Starbucks in more expensive in NYC as well. Hard to compare prices. I paid $24 a ticket to go see Harry Potter in IMAX 3D.

    The tier stuff is killer too. the Pepsi porch isn't too unreasonable(non first two rows) (I think my game was Silver) the 104 section was a game against the Pirates, it was either Value or Bronze. Still expensive considering, but not unreasonable. (depending on your definition) Obviously they hit you hard for yankees/opener. And in general there are fewer of the reasonably priced seats than there were at Shea. Not as easy to walk right up gameday. It adds up. I'm glad I did it though, because now I have a good sense of some of the different areas and if I was going to try to buy a good seat to a game as a present, or happened across some money. One thing I wanted to do that I didn't get to do was take advantage of some of the sales and try to get a Ceasers Club ticket to a value game when it was almost reasonably priced and check that out. My impression has been that the middle level type seats/baseline box/etc are too expensive for the average fan and too far away/not nice enough for the fan that can afford it.

    I didn't get to CBP this year so I have no fresh comparison. I liked my behind home plate terrace seats, but felt too far away for my second deck RF/outfield seats.

  8. I'd like to see what life is like in the Pepsi Porch. And even around 3B. I'll be in CF for a game in October. I did find seats behind or near home plate in the Promenade the best. Next season if I'm not tied to a ticket plan, I can experiment more. At least if I get bad seats, I can move, like you said, to the Gil Hodges bridge to watch. I do think that CF would be better if the big scoreboard wasn't blocking the view of the field.