(photo from the Bridge and Tunnel Club)
Last spring I appeared on SNY’s MetsWeekly and said that I would not miss Shea Stadium. To me, there was nothing particularly special about the symmetrical, circular, cement structure that was cast from the cookie cutter of multi-use stadiums that became all the rage in the late 1960s and 1970s. And while there are memories of Shea I’ll always cherish, I stand by my original feeling — there’s nothing about Shea Stadium, the structure, that I’ll miss.
My dispassion for Shea was partially due to watching baseball games at Camden Yards, Turner Field, Nationals Park, and other “modern” ballparks. These new parks “got it”, meaning, whoever built them understood how to best connect the fan to the game, and make three hours at the park an enjoyable experience. After visiting a stadium like Camden Yards, I felt jilted upon walking into trash hole that was Shea. As a result, I looked forward to the opening of Citi Field.
Maybe my expectations were too high, because I’ve come away slightly disappointed. In comparison to Shea, it’s no contest — Citi Field is a much nicer place to visit, being new and comfortable and filled with features that place it miles away from Shea. But Shea Stadium was not where I set the bar, it was the other “new” parks (Camden and Turner are both over 10 years old now) — and compared to those, Citi Field falls a little short on delivering to the common fan.
Again, Citi Field is a beautiful park, a wonderful place to watch a ballgame — if you can afford it. I could do without all the Ebbets Field and Dodgers reminders, but the Wilpons’ fascination with Brooklyn doesn’t bother me nearly so much as what I’ll boil down as the “exclusivity” of the place.
I get that the park was built for revenue generation, and to take advantage of the Wall Streeters and corporate flunkies who have money to burn. That’s cool, I’d do the same thing if I was in charge. But there were some details here and there that give me the feeling that the average joe will be visiting a lot less often than he did Shea. In my first experience at Citi Field, the park was hosting a relatively meaningless college game on a cold and rainy Sunday in late March, yet already the pretentiousness of the place was apparent, whether it was the empty seats behind home plate, the glass-walled restaurant in left field, the $10 sandwiches, or the various “members only” clubs that identify seating categories and deny access to simple schmucks like myself.
The great aspect of the many modern ballparks is the ability for fans to enter for a nominal fee and roam around the ballpark, watching the game from various vantage points — both indoors and out. Multiple seating areas and stand-up bars make it easy for the transient fan. Perhaps you can’t get into the special members-only club and sip martinis with a corporate CEO, but at least you have the freedom to roam around, socialize, and take in the game from any of several angles — that’s the equalizer. From what I’ve seen and read, that equalizer may not exist at Citi Field. There’s no “general admission” or “standing room only” tickets listed on Mets.com, and the bleachers have gone the way of the dinosaur and the phone booth. “Promenade Reserved” is the cheapest ticket, ranging from $11-$27 depending on the game (apparently some teams are less “Major League” than others), so I guess that’s the equivalent of cheap nosebleed seats. But is that price low enough to bring in the economically challenged family more than once a year? Or is it the cost of the “experience” at Citi Field high enough to “keep the riff-raff out” ?
Bottom line: Citi Field is a beautiful place to sit and watch a ballgame. My hope is that every Mets fan gets a chance to do so.