Last week, with the help of “Captain Clutch Robert Curci” (look it up, that’s actually his full name), I had a chance to check out the New York Mets’ new digs for the first time. And boy, was it not Shea Stadium.
There were a lot of different elements that played into my review of the park, so I broke the review down into down into several different categories. Each element has a one to ten score, with ten being the highest. We will average these out and get the final grade for Citi Field.
1. The Stadium and Aesthetics: 10 points
It is going to take a lot of getting used to, but the Mets finally play in a place where it is not okay to urinate on the walls. I actually had some initial concern that this stadium was going to be too nice, especially with the hype of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.
You see, baseball is one of those unique events where you kind of want there to be a little dirt in the stadium. There should be beer spills and peanut shells flying everywhere. So I really wanted to make sure that the guy sitting in front of me was not wearing a full suit with a Bluetooth device in his ear and a tile floor under his new loafers. Luckily, the new digs did not disappoint.
There are two normal entrances to the stadium that are very nice and brand new, but more importantly, just look like a regular stadium’s entrances. Then there is the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, which is half entranceway and half shrine. It is far and away the coolest and most inspirational thing I have ever seen in a stadium; and when you consider that half of the Mets’ color scheme was derived from the Brooklyn Dodgers, it is very fitting.
But once you make it into the stadium, you are really treated to something awesome. There are only three decks in this park, as opposed to Shea where you could literally sit in the upper deck and hi-five the air traffic coming from LaGuardia. So every seat is closer to the action, and the seats are also drastically more spaced out, including two decks of seating lining every part of the outfield except for straight-away center.
Everything is nice and new, from the seats to the bathrooms (the urinals are literally ovals that pop out from the wall. You feel like you are William Shattner every time you pee). Perfect score in this element.
2. Pricing and Concessions: 7.5 points
Especially since Citi Field had significantly more private funding than Yankee Stadium, I was expecting an incredible hike in every concession price. Not only did most of the prices stay the same, some of them went down, including the most important price for a ballpark: Beer.
That’s correct, ladies and gentlemen. After last year’s $7.25 beer price to close out Shea Stadium, beer at Citi Field is $6.50, which is really only 75 cents more than it would be at your local bar. Good work, Wilpons.
There were some higher prices, but most of the prices were for a totally different menu that included sushi, lobster rolls, barbecue ribs and sandwiches, and all sorts of grilled seafood.
More importantly, the food was really good, which is a monster step up from Shea Stadium, where the food was really bad.
The price of a fitted hat in the stadium went up $6, but you usually wear hats for a long time, so I consider it an investment. The only real ball buster is a Mets hoodie, which is priced at $70 (or three upper deck tickets).
There was really only one serious issue that I took exception to, and it cost the stadium a lot of its luster…the ticket prices.
Now, the good news is, cheap seats are still available. Most of the upper deck is $20 or under. And that is especially good when you consider the fact that this stadium’s upper deck is equivalent to Shea’s mezzanine.
The problem lies the second you want to get out of the upper deck, when all of a sudden the prices skyrocket up to $700. And I don’t care what anyone says. A $700 ticket to see one of a team’s 81 home games is absolutely absurd.
Keep your eye on the television broadcasts at this stadium to see what I mean. When I went last week, the stadium was 90 percent full, with literally the only empty seats being the club seats behind home plate, which I would say were only half-filled. Usually the best seats are the first to go; but not when they cost $700 each. For god’s sake: $700.
3. The Field Itself: 9 points
Shea Stadium, in terms of design, was about as conventional as they come.
Citi Field is Shea’s prettier younger brother who happens to have severe Attention Deficit Disorder. While nearly every infield in baseball is exactly the same, it is the outfield of Citi Field that creates what can only be described as “an experience.”
For starters, there is literally less than two feet of foul territory as soon as you pass the base on either the first or third baseline. So every hit is either a fair ball or a wild foul. Obviously, the outfielders are going to have a ton of ground to cover. But the home run fence is really what puts it over the top.
Right-handed hitters pulling a ball to left will remind fans of the old Shea days, but from there it gets a lot less conventional.
The home run fence goes nearly perpendicular to the third base line all the way to center, where it forms the top half of a trapezoid, connecting to center and left. In addition to center field being in a different time zone, the homerun fence in dead center also inexplicably grows about five feet in height.
I am totally serious when I say that center field is in a different borough. You won’t see more than five centerfield homeruns this entire season.
But then it gets really crazy. In apparent homage to the old Ebbets field, the right field fence gives Citi Field a Fenway-style short porch. Lefties are going to have a feast in this ballpark.
Now, some of this may indeed be a baseball purist’s worst nightmare, but baseball is a sport where there really is such a thing as home field advantage. And for the first time in franchise history, the Mets have it. There is no outfield trio in baseball that will be able to play Citi field the way the Mets can, and that creates an incredible advantage.
The five or six hard angle cuts in the home run wall also give routine doubles the potential to turn into inside-the-park home runs.
I give it a nine for the sake of adventure.
4. It’s Not Shea Stadium: 10 points.
You have to have gone to Shea Stadium a lot to really appreciate this. It’s like every prisoner in America was just given a 52 inch flat screen and free cable.
5. Overall Score: 9 points.
A solid “A” for Citi Field. I can add a plus sign when the team stops disappointing me.