The idea of replacing Shea Stadium took a long time to become a reality. As far back as 1995 the Wilpons were in negotiations for a new stadium to replace Shea. The move seemed great for Mets fans; Shea opened in 1964 and had not been maintained well during its years of operation. Shea had been designed, at least partially, for football as well as baseball (I say partially as someone who went to many football games there, it was a bad football stadium). With the Jets long gone a new retractable domed ballpark could be built purely for baseball giving fans a much better experience than Shea. The idea, the initial idea, was a good one. Yet somewhere from idea to execution we became saddled with one of the worst modern baseball stadiums built. And worse, this is after many needed changes were already made. Citifield is a combination of poor facilities planning, a misunderstanding of the overall baseball market, and a serious lack of knowledge of what Met fans value. Let’s look at everything that has been done wrong with the monstrosity that is Citifield.
Where’s the Dome? For fun let’s begin with the roof that never was. The single best reason to build a new stadium was to have the dome. The New York Metropolitans have a very fitting name as the team’s fans are now sprawled over five boroughs, Nassau and Suffolk, Westchester, and points upward. And no matter where you live, the world we live in with longer work hours and two income families is not designed for making a decision on whether to attend a game at the last minute. Given the time commitment for many, and of course the price, the potential of rainouts and rain delays are not an inconvenience. They are a deal breaker.
There are very few good seats. The ballpark that began the entire wave of new ballparks was Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Designed for baseball only, it has very few bad sightlines in the entire park and a very high percentage of seats in foul territory. The most basic rule of watching baseball is the closer to home plate the better the seat. Now, the Wilpons know this (if you don’t think they do check out the prices for “Delta Club” at Citifield), and yet put together a baseball only stadium with far more seats in fair territory than the stadium it replaced. All while reducing the overall capacity by 8,000 or so seats. Think about all the downright terrible seats at Citifield. Twelve sections dedicated to Left Field Reserved and Left Field Landing are just brutal, unless you really want to spend the day looking at Jason Bay’s ass. On the right field level you have seven terrible sections of seats (right field reserved and Big Apple seating) before discussing the five horrendous sections of seats in the Pepsi Porch that are so far away from the game only animals want to sit there. Finally, the countless Promenade Level outfield seats that are the equivalent of watching a game from the #7 train platform. Had enough yet? Well, sorry, but that is not it. Most of the rest of the seats have obstructions, with choices like do you want to be able to see left field or right field?
The place was built with insane playing field dimensions. Now to Sandy Alderson’s credit he has rectified this some but didn’t anybody have a tape measure when they built Citifield? Even while Shea was crumbling it had such great playing field dimensions. It wasn’t a bandbox or a cavern. It was a “pitchers park” but fair, and after playing there close to fifty years we had built a Mets team tradition and history around those dimensions. So keep them. You own the Mets. Celebrate that, and get over the fact that the Dodgers left Brooklyn. This gets us to my last point.
The Mets play at Citifield, the New York Mets. When Citifield opened it was hard to figure that out. Blue and Orange was out. We had a giant rotunda with no Met representation. No Met Hall of Fame. No statues of Gil or anyone else. We have not been an expansion team for a long time and we have our own rich history. It was nowhere to be found. The original Apple, saved by fans through petition, was banished to a spot out in the Bullpen Gate, across from the chop shops, the gate used by eight fans a season.
Now some of these errors have been corrected (finally, our Hall of Fame), while other very serious problems such as the sightlines are uncorrectable. It is a shame because it will be a very long time before there is another stadium for the Mets. And everything is not bad. There is plenty of good food and yes, the bathroom situation is way better than Shea. I like the legroom and I’m a big cup holder guy. But this is a once in a generation or two thing, a stadium, and the success rate needs to be close to 100%. The Wilpons failed miserably with Citifield which will cost us and them for years.
POSTSCRIPT from James:
I have to add that the silly shot of Jeff Wilpon in the hardhat cracks me up every time. He’s like a little boy in a cowboy hat. But really it reminds me of the 1988 Presidential Election, and the famous Michael Dukakis photo op that tanked. Separated at birth?