David Howard Answers Citi Field Complaints

In case you missed it, Mike Francesa’s radio show yesterday elicited many calls about Citi Field, particularly in regard to sight lines and obstructed views. Eventually, Mets EVP of Business Operations David Howard called in to answer the deluge of complaints.

Following is a summary of some of the issues Howard addressed, along with some of my witty commentary in italics.

On Citi Field being an homage to the Dodgers:

“There is NO homage to the Dodgers! There is, an appropriate tribute to a great American, someone who singlehandedly probably did more for the advancement of civil rights in our country than anybody, and by the way did that in New York … so we think that’s entirely appropriate, we’re honored and proud to do it … Rachel Robinson is thrilled … it’s not about the Dodgers, it’s about Jackie Robinson and all he did for America …”

No argument on the importance of Jackie Robinson to our country and our history. And while I respect Rachel Robinson, I don’t know why it matters that she’s thrilled. And for a field that isn’t an homage to the Brooklyn Dodgers, there sure are a lot of reminders of Ebbets Field around the new building.

On why there is no shrine to the ’69 Mets, ’86 Mets, and Mets history in general:

We’re extraordinarily proud of our history … We’re still sort of doing the refinement here. We’ll have appropriate … oh, uh, we’ll roll out additional elements … we’ll recognize that, celebrate that … “

In other words, including Mets history wasn’t considered until the entire fanbase spoke up in protest. Typical knee-jerk reaction by this organization.

On the obstructed views, poor sight lines, and losing sight of the ball in the outfield:

“Here is the issue, this is with regard to seating in fair territory in the outfield, which is something different that we have at Citi Field, that we really did not have much of at Shea Stadium. … the reality is … a little seating we had in fair territory in the outfield at Shea Stadium did have some blind spots on the field, it is NOT obstructed. The way we characterize “obstructed” is if you have an obstruction, something in front of you — a beam, a pillar, something that’s blocking your view. That’s not the case here. It is a function of the geometry of the building. And it is a conscious decision that we made along with the designers and the architects, that we wanted people to be lower and closer to the field, and have great views, and great views of the action. By doing that in fair territory, you are going to have situations where you are going to lose certain blind spots in the deep outfield of those sections. That is something we understood to be a factor. It is true in every new ballpark that has seating in the outfield …”

Thank you for providing YOUR definition of “obstructed”. Silly us, thinking “obstructed” would mean “not being able to see the entire field”. Please now define for us “great views” and “great views of the action”. Because not being able to SEE the action is, to me, hard to define as a “great view”.

Does Camden Yards have seats that have that problem?

“If Camden Yards has …. I don’t know … I haven’t sat in Camden Yards … but if they have fair territory seats … we had HOK, who obviously designed all these ballparks, give us comparative perspectives from all their ballparks in the outfield, and, it’s in every ballpark.”

Let me get this straight … you are the EVP of Operations, assumedly someone with some level of input on the building of Citi Field, and you HAVEN’T SAT IN CAMDEN YARDS? Really? The ballpark that set the standard for all modern parks? The one that remains one of the best when it comes to total fan experience? Huh.

So there’s no way to build a field and have a full view of the outfield? There’s no way to do it? It cannot be done?

The only way to do it is to pull the grandstand back and high and to increase the rake of the seating structure to the point where you compromise the entire experience. Now you’re very far away from the field, you’re high up, you feel like you’re on an extreme slant and feel almost unsteady walking up and down the stairs — that’s the way to do it, just to capture the last few feet of the outfield. Again, we did not feel that was the way we wanted to go. The seats are great seats, the value is tremendous. I understand people have their own point of view, but, when you sit in those seats in the left field promenade, it is a GREAT sightline. Yes I understand that if there’s a fly ball hit to the wall, you’re going to lose it, we do have, you know, TVs extensive, high definition televisions everywhere, you know, we do, we made that accomodation. Again, it’s a It’s new to our fan base … but the seats here, compared to the Shea Stadium upper deck … those seats, as a rule … those seats … were horrible seats, they were terrible seats, they were high and far and the sightlines were atrocious. The seats in the promenade level at Citi Field are spectacular by comparison.

First, yeah, the upper deck at Shea wasn’t great, but at least you could see everything that was happening. Second, here’s a wild idea: how about NOT putting seats in fair territory? Crazy, I know, but it works pretty well in, um, CAMDEN YARDS!

On the obstructed … er … limited views in the left field promenade:

Yes I understand the issue in the left field promenade reserve, I understand the issue with the Pepsi porch, that was, again, intentional, to bring the seats low and close, and overhang the field, it’s a great perspective, it’s very cool, it’s very popular, we understand the concern, it’s the lowest-priced seat in the building, it’s still a great seat, and we still feel we’re delivering a tremendous value to our customers.

Oh, I didn’t realize it was cool and popular to not be able to see the game … I feel much better now, thanks! Tremendous value? Customer? Did I just walk into K-Mart?

On the issue of being able to walk around and feel free at the field level where there are great direct open views to the field and on multiple HD TVs all over the place, but not having the same experience upstairs (i.e., where we poor folks sit), where it is open but difficult to see the field and there are few TVs

“Yeah … the promenade concourse is as wide as the old field level concourse was at Shea Stadium, and it is an open deck so it is open to the field and we have televisions throughout that level at every concession stand, so if you are going to a concession stand, yeah you will be able to see the action on TV.

“All three levels are open structures with views out to the field. Obviously on the field level and Caesar’s Club level you have a better sightline to the actual playing field. On the Promenade Level, it is a little bit higher, you probably have to be a little bit closer in to actually get a view but you still have good standing room views from the Promenade Course to the field. You may not see if you’re walking in the middle of the councourse, but that concourse is more than double the width of the old upper deck level concourse at Shea Stadium …”

OK, so, if I’m standing on line for food and beverages, there’s a TV. As for seeing the game directly, I’ll have to hope no one’s already standing at the edge. But luckily the concourse is nice and wide so I can take a stroll, such as if the game is a blowout and I’m uninterested in seeing the game.

On the high walls:

“The theory was to bring people closer to the action while still making it a pitcher-friendly ballpark … part of the intentional point of view that we wanted this to be pitcher-friendly … “

Good for Johan, bad for David Wright. For the record, I like the idea of a pitcher friendly park. (See? I’m not always negative.)

On the a vast amount of outfield to cover:

“We think that’s an advantage for us … we do think we have very good defensive outfielders, and we think Daniel Murphy will make himself into a good defensive outfielder, but in terms of Carlos Beltran and Ryan Church, they are two of the better outfielders in the National League … we do have some speed offensively as well where we think we can take advantage of the large outfield …”

And in two years when all three of these players are gone? Just curious.

On the parking issues:

“Two significant things about the parking, number one is, we now operate it, and we think we’ll do a better job of driving a better customer experience with regard to parking. … parking will be a significantly better experience all the way around … from a concessions standpoint … based on the last four events … we have been setting records — not just Mets records, but records for Aramark — in terms of business that we have done, so there’s no question that this ballpark, especially with regard to the infrastructure, and the way we have designed the food and beverage and the merchandise layout, it has responded very well.”

Customer experience? Again, am I at a mall or a ballpark? And who asked you about your concessions sales? Why do you think we care that you’ve set things up perfectly for people to spend their money, especially in this economy? Thanks for sharing, I’m absolutely thrilled that the Wilpons are making money. They sure need it.

On whether the concessions sales records were due to volume, menu choice, or because it’s more expensive:

“Our average concessions prices are 6% less than they were last year … we have a lot more options, tremendous quality … it’s a really very well laid-out plan with regard to making sure people can be served quickly, promptly, and in a very comfortable fashion. I think it’s shown very well just in terms of the amount of business we’ve been doing.”

Again, so glad you’ve worked out a way to make it easy for me to hand over my money to the Wilpons. Thank you!

On complaints about the scoreboards:

“I’m very surprised to hear any complaints about the out-of-town scoreboard … I can’t imagine why there’d be any issue with the out-of-town scoreboard … I think part of that issue is people getting familiar with where the information is, and where to look … “

Oh, it’s not you, it’s me, I get it. Stupid me. Usability is about me getting used to how you believe things should be, not you understanding my needs. Duly noted.

On the green seats:

“The green we felt is a classic color for a classic ballpark, it was the color of the seat of the Polo Grounds … blue seats … the royal seats don’t work well because it’s too light, and it oxidizes fairly quickly … going navy blue, there’s another team in town that we felt would go navy blue with the seats … the deep green … we think it’s a beautiful color, we’ve gotten very positive comments about the look of this building … the green seats extend essentially the green of the field into the stands …”

Yeah, the Mets would never want to do something that the Yankees might do — the Mets are ALWAYS trying to be very different from the Yankees. I’m glad about the green seats, actually. At least something from the Polo Grounds was included. I mean, the Mets did actually play there, and not at Ebbets Field, prior to Shea Stadium.

You can hear the whole interview here.

citi field

About the Author

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.

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