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.
That view in the left field upper deck is embarrassing. Never will I pay $$ to sit up there. I feel bad for those who bought season tickets and weren’t told about it.
Yes, this includes Camden Yards. And PNC Park. And AT&T Park. They were all designed by the same firm. If you sit in the last row of the outfield promenade, you will miss some of the action in the outfield. That’s why those seats cost $10. Just about every stadium ever built has this issue, going back 100 years. Deal with it.
And there around a dozen ENORMOUS Mets banners on the outside of the ramp behind left field. There are also around 20 banners depicting former and current Mets players lining the outside of the stadium. The apple has a huge Mets logo on it. The old “skyline” on top of the Shea scoreboard sits beyond centerfield. There are Mets logos on the dugout, on every single seat at the beginning of an aisle in the entire stadium, and on the beer bottles. What more do you want? A 30 foot bronze statute of Tom Seaver? He’s not dead yet.
And people wonder why our fanbase has the reputation of being chronic whiners. Some people are just never happy about anything, I guess…
His response to the lack of Mets history in the ballpark was dumbfounding, but I’ll admit I have no problems with the scoreboard layout (except that the K board is gone).
Shea did have the limited view issues, too. There were just so few of them that no one made a fuss. Of course, that would’ve been avoided if they decided to stick an extra deck of cheap seats on the building instead of placing crappy cheap seats in fair territory.
And I’m sure the seats are green because that was the cheapest paint color.
What I do not get is why the walls are black??? He mentions paint issues on the seats, but obviously the visible part of the walls are pads rather than painted metal or wood, and there are plenty of blue pads in the world (see, e.g. Yankee Stadium, old and new).
Most of all, I am so ticked at the Front Office for admitting that including METS history and names in the ballpark is an afterthought. To have areas/features of the ballpark named “Ebbets Club” rather than “Shea Club” or “Seaver’s Suites” or “Agee’s Landing,” “Mex’s Mezzanine,” etc is inexcusable. Instead we get the aforementioned Ebbets Club, “Excelsior Level” or whatever it is called, “Empire Suites,” etc.
If they are reserving the generic NY-state themed names like Empire for future paid sponsor names, how about statues around the ballpark of Mets greats like Seaver, Agee, Koos, Mex, Darryl, Doc, Rusty, Piazza, etc. etc.? This is not rocket-science. I mean, at Safeco, the Mariners have more history and stuff from the former minor league Seattle team than the Mets have about METS history at Citi – same in Citizens Bank regarding more Philly A’s history than the Mets have about METS history in our own ballpark!
Really – it is simple – change some names to Mets-themed ones, or add statues, throw in some large color photos of great people and moments from Mets history scattered around the concourses, and change the wall to an appropriate blue with orange distance markers/homerun line…and the place would be perfect.
Other than these issues, the stadium is great….but to totally ignore Mets history and personalities and the absense of Mets colors are disappointing to say the least.
“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 a homage to the Brooklyn Dodgers, there sure are a lot of reminders of Ebbets Field around the new building.”
The stadium itself is influenced by all parts of prior New York sports and culture and not only the Dodgers. And anyway, the Mets do owe a lot to them because if it hadn’t been the Dodgers who moved to Los Angeles the Mets probably wouldn’t be around. So yes, the Dodgers do deserve to be credited in the new ballpark, being that they were a very important part of New York sports history.
“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!”
The point isn’t that you are giving the money to Wilpon. It is that you are getting great food that you used to have to pay more for at Shea Stadium while the only thing you could buy there was a hot dog or a pretzel. Let me also remind you that the money that is spent by fans at Citi Field is ultimately what plays a major part in funding the Mets organization.
“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?”
Saying that people are “not able to see the game” is stupid and ignorant. If you think that not being able to see a sliver of the least important part of the field means that you can’t see the field, maybe you should just move to Baltimore and become an Orioles fan so you can see games at Camden Yards and stop spreading this trash called writing around New York.
What I want most from a ballpark is to be close to the action. It sounds like there is no argument that Citi is a cozy ballpark where you are much closer to home plate from nearly every seat than was the case at Shea. I also like the fact that the new layout invites people to walk around and see the game form differnt areas of the field.
You genuinely sound like one of those fans that loves to be angry and takes saitsfaction in finding fault. It amazes me how many people enjoy finding the dark cloud within any silver lining.
Look, we are closer to the field. Closer to our icons and heroes. Closer than ever before!
Do you really need to see 100% of the field? Come on! If you want to see 100% of the field, go watch it on TV!!!
Nobody is 100% perfect and neither is CitiField. Jeff Wilpon is a great, great man and should be thanked publicly and personally for all he has done for Mets fans.
Thank you, Mr. Wilpon!
There is NO ballpark that is completely perfect. Yes, I would like to see an increased emphasis on Mets team history and favorite Mets players from the past. No, I don’t understand the tribute to Jackie Robinson, who never was a Met, no matter how great a player he was and no matter what he did for the social fabric of our nation. Yes, there are SOME sightlines that don’t allow fans to see a SMALL SLIVER of the outfield in CERTAIN, generally very rare situations. No argument. Big deal. Shea Stadium had the same problems in some places. But PLEASE, just put a lid on your constant bitching, will you?
You’ve got to take into account the OVERALL fan experience, and it’s not a LITTLE better, it’s MUCH, MUCH better than the fan experience was at Shea. EVERY new park has kinks that have to be worked out when they open up. I have faith that as time goes on, Mets management will tweak Citi Field to respond to Mets fans suggestions wherever possible. It will, however, NEVER be completely perfect (nor will the new Yankee Stadium or any other new Major League park), so stop criticizing, PLEASE!
Citi Field is a TREMENDOUS improvement over Shea Stadium, and we should be grateful it was built as it was. I feel MUCH closer to the field and the players, it feels more like a minor league park in that respect (which is VERY GOOD!), I commend the Mets on it’s OVERALL design, and look forward to gradual improvements where possible.
In the meantime, PLEASE just stop your endless idiotic ranting and start enjoying!
As for the people criticizing me for criticizing the Mets, Citi Field, and the Wilpons:
1. I’m assuming you are NOT one of the people who spent several thousand dollars for season tickets, only to find out their view of the field was obstructed.
2. I think it’s absolutely important that people voice their complaints, here, on the radio, and in every other public medium. If the negatives are not point out, the Wilpons won’t hear about them and think that everything is OK. It should be considered “constructive criticism” and should be welcomed with open arms by the Mets as an opportunity to respond, make things right, and truly deliver an outstanding FAN (not customer) experience.
3. Camden Yards and other new ballparks have very few obstructed views. They also print “obstructed view” on the tickets for those seats. They also charge less for those tickets. And yes, there are “$10 seats”, but those are for Tuesday afternoon games against the Nationals. But I suppose I should just shut up and be happy that the king of Brooklyn was kind enough to offer me that pittance. I WILL watch the games on TV (for the record, I’m a bitter New Jersey native, but not sure if that’s “typical”).
I also have direct responses …
“The stadium itself is influenced by all parts of prior New York sports and culture and not only the Dodgers.”
Really? I missed that. Please provide an example, other than the green seats, that is influenced by a NY sport or team or culture that is not tied to Brooklyn and/or the Dodgers. Pictures would be nice, upload to Flickr and send us the link.
“… the Mets do owe a lot to them because if it hadn’t been the Dodgers who moved to Los Angeles the Mets probably wouldn’t be around. ..”
Really? What if the Dodgers left and the Giants didn’t? Would we have the Mets?
“The point isn’t that you are giving the money to Wilpon.”
OK, then who is ultimately receiving the revenues? Mayor Bloomberg? This notion that the Wilpons built the stadium for the fans is absolutely ludicrous — they built it for two reasons: one, to make more money and two, to fulfill Fred’s ego. That’s not me being negative, it’s cold hard facts. But I’m sure the Kool Aid tastes great — just like the ten-dollar pulled pork sandwiches and sushi that I won’t be buying at Citi Field.
“Let me also remind you that the money that is spent by fans at Citi Field is ultimately what plays a major part in funding the Mets organization.”
You mean like how they went out and signed Manny? Or Orlando Hudson? Or Derek Lowe? Or Adam Dunn?
“If you think that not being able to see a sliver of the least important part of the field means that you can’t see the field, maybe you should just move to Baltimore and become an Orioles fan so you can see games at Camden Yards and stop spreading this trash called writing around New York.”
I’m not a writer, I’m a bottom-feeding, scumbag blogger. That means I start conversations and speak my mind and take a stand for what I believe in.
The point about Camden Yards is that it is the standard, and it works. Why re-invent the wheel?
As for not being able to see “a sliver of the game”, I’d like to know how you would feel if you paid top dollar for playoff tickets and then was not able to see “The Catch” by Endy Chavez, or “The Catch” by Tommie Agee, or the game-winning homerun by Robin Ventura? But hey, as long as “you’re there”, right? You can always watch the highlights the next day, and lie to your grandkids describing how great it was to “see” that catch.
“You genuinely sound like one of those fans that loves to be angry and takes saitsfaction in finding fault.”
We report all angles here, positive and negative. No fence-sitting, either. It’s all real here. Get used to it, or pick up your pompoms and visit another blog. No offense taken.
We don’t expect perfection. We also don’t expect to be gouged by a 30% increase in ticket prices (the increase occurred prior to 2008, so the Citi Field tix wouldn’t seem so exorbitant) and then have seats that have limited views of the action.
Further, we do expect, after so many of these stadiums have been built, to continue pushing toward perfection and improvement, rather than going backward.
My guess is that HOK had some very good ideas on how to deliver an outstanding fan experience and truly “great views of the action”, but the Wilpons chose to tweak things for the sake of tweaking / putting their mark on the design.
I’d instantly trade in “quirky” for “cookie cutter” if it meant more fans would see all the action. That IS the point, isn’t it? To see the game?
I’m not sure what those teams definitions of obstructed view are. I know the Red Sox define obstructions as an object that blocks a fans view of action between homeplate and second base. So if that’s the definition used by the Mets, those seats in the LF promenade wouldn’t be considered obstructed because you have a pretty good look at the infield. (Save for the seats behind the stairwell partitions, which I would call obstructed)
For me it’s a tough call. I purchased by 15-game plan in Left Field knowing I would have an outfield obstruction. Personally, I wanted the novelty of sitting in fair territory, an opportunity that had been largely lacking at Shea. But I can see how some fans would be upset, especially if they haven’t they weren’t all that familar with modern ballpark architecture. The Mets could have done a better job of educating those potential buyers about the advantages and disadvantages of the “cheap seats”
All in all, I do love the new park and I think fans will warm up to it, once we build some new memories. Though I think we’ve all learned that perhaps the “cookie-cutter” era of stadiums wasn’t all bad.
I think a lot of the complaints have to do with the combination of exorbitantly increased prices, massive pre-hype, and the resulting high expectations from the fan base. The timing, of course, is awful — in this economy everyone is going to be especially critical when it comes to parting with their money. Selling the naming rights to a company that is now being bailed out by taxpayer dollars certainly doesn’t help, either. Oh, and the team’s sudden tightening of the purse strings this winter, after a second consecutive collapse (and an ill-fated ponzi scheme), did not go over well. Add all that to the fact that Fred Wilpon made it clear that the park is an homage to his childhood memories of Ebbets Field and the Brooklyn Dodgers, and it’s no surprise that many fans are looking for reasons to bash the place.
Citi Field is a much, much nicer ballpark than Shea Stadium. However, because of the above mentioned details, it also serves as a punching bag for fans to unleash their pent-up frustrations on the organization and ownership that has continually delivered disappointment.
– It is an amazing experience to be able to walk the entire perimeter of the ballpark and stop to watch wherever you want. You get some amazing angles.
– Everything is so much closer to the field. You genuinely feel the coziness as is the case at Wrigley or Fenway.
– There were minimal lines for the food once the game got started
– TVs everywhere …at concessions, when walking around, out by the Shake shack..
– Radio coverage of the game in the bathrooms! NICE!!!!
– Wide variety of food selections
– I want to restate the first point again…mobility. I had great seats but the best part of my experience was walking around. You can see the game from everywhere. It is so much fun going out behind Beltran in Center and getting the TV-camera view, or going behind first for a differt look. I don’t thonk I’ll ever watch a full game there from one spot regardless of where my seats are….why would you?
I will freely admit I am an eternal optimist and am almost always looking at the glass as half-full, so as Joe mentioned, my pom poms and I may not be on the right blog, but I would urge anyone who is bad-mouthing Citi to spend an eveneing there first. It is a great place to enjoy a Met game.
I grew up watching games at Shea. I’d been going for 39 years..saw my first game in 69 as a 6 year old. I have amazing memories of the place and I miss it. This however is a very different experience and, pure-and-simple, a much better place to watch some baseball.
And the Jumbotron that overlooks the big Shake Shack-Blue Smoke plaza mimics the one in the park (it shows only player stats and not a live feed of the game, as the TVs at the seats do, meaning that the folks milling around there have no idea what is going on down on the field). How stupid.
Overall, this ballpark is missing a lot that it shouldn’t be. Common sense in the design process was far from perfect. It feels much like U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, not a very successful venue (from a design perspective), with some nostaglic frills thrown in. That’s a shame.
My other complaint goes back 10 years now, Can we please go back to the old pinstripes and darker blue hats!! and get rid of any and all black in the uniforms. Even the gray road uniforms have black outline – Black is not a Met color, please get rid of it!
Stadiums build with some public money in order to extort more cash via luxury booths and jacked up prices from the fan base and corporations–while ending up eroding the non-wealthy fanbase– are going to continue to be lightning rods, folks, so get used to it.
The complaints are entirely legitimate and testimonials as to how wonderful the park is have no bearing on that. If you pay big $$$ for a ticket in a brand new park and can’t see the *&!# playing field, you should be pissed if you’re not a tool. From the pictures I’ve seen, it’s mind boggling they would build obstructed views into the plan, and not have tunnel like entrances rather than those stupid stair landings where casual fans stand during game action picking their noses and looking for their seats.
Why aren’t people asking HOK some questions?
HOK obviously builds some pretty dumbass features into their parks and the Mets suits didn’t catch on or didn’t care. Not as bad as the preposterous obstructed views in the Spankee stadium bleachers, but only tools go there regularly anyhow. Guys like Dave Howard live in a bubble of lies and justifications and if no one ever calls them out we definitely will never see any improvements.
Just a suggestion to solve the “blind spot” problem:
As soon as the ball is “in play”, the jumbotron (or whatever its called) should IMMEDIATELY go to the live feed…this way, if the ball rolls in the outfield corners, you can just look up, and see what’s going on.
Right now, they just show a still pic of the player at bat, and don’t go to a live feed till way after the play is over. Is there a rule against showing the live feed while the ball is in play? (I understand that a live screen BEFORE the ball is in play would interfere with the batter…I’m talking someone pressing a damn button after the ball is hit).