Citi Field Report Card

Jon AlbaCorrespondent IApril 21, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 15:  An exterior view of Citi Field before the New York Mets played the San Diego Padres on April 15, 2009 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

On Saturday, April 4, the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Mets 9-3 in the second and final exhibition in Citi Field.  Not only this, but I received my first opportunity to check out the ballpark, which at about nine months ago I praised as the best of the two New York ballparks.  Was I correct? Let’s take a look, report card style.

Ballpark Exterior: A

When I arrived at the ballpark, the first thing visible was not Citi Field.  Nor was it even the nearby Arthur Ashe Stadium.  Instead, it was the pile of rubble that used to be named Shea Stadium.  Bent pieces of steel, broken concrete, all that fun stuff.  After taking in this site, I stepped off the 4 Train.  Immediately, the outside of the park was tainted by the horrifically long lines at the gate.  Eventually, more gates or at least division of gates will need to be added, or people will be looking at upwards of ten minutes for getting into the ballpark.  After this however, I was able to truly digest the beauty of the exterior.  A blatant copy of Ebbets Field, all are welcomed with the Jackie Robinson Rotunda (which will be touched upon later) and large portraits of famous Mets figures.  Columns of bricks with fans’ names  and messages (these were all pre-purchased) were aligned in front of the Rotunda, which immediately made the experience very fan oriented.  Unfortunately, the thing that taints the exterior is the ugly “Citi Field” logo.  The white and red simply does not match with the tan colored building, adding a bit of disgust towards it.  Overall though, an A will suffice for the exterior.

Ballpark Interior: A

“Blessed” with fourth row seats, the views are outstanding in the stadium.  Padded seats are aligned behind home plate, with exclusive access for these fans given to one of the many “club seats”.  I however was behind the Mets dugout, and had an exceptional view of both the team and the game overall.  No more than 30 feet from the field of play, field level seats are absolutely outstanding.  Beware of rain however, there is very little coverage due to the short upper deck.  For all of the Shea faithful, I promise this.  ALL seats are angled toward the field, meaning no cranked necks!  There is plenty of room between seats for legroom, and cup holders for every person as well. To be fair, I decided to travel into the upper deck to check out the view.  Once again, a very fan friendly view from almost anywhere on the field.  There are not many obstructions (with the exception of a few directly in right field), meaning most will be satisfied.  The first thing I did notice however is that I felt rather enclosed in the stadium, much more than that of Shea.  The 10,000 seat decrease is VERY noticeable, and contributes as the only fault in this ballpark. Once again, an A.

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Field of Play: B+

Good news and bad news to this.  The good is that Mets fans will undoubtedly experience a no-hitter in this ballpark somewhere down the road.  To hit a home run in this park, one will definitely need to get a hold of it.  Red Sox SS Jed Lowrie belted a grand slam to left center, and I mean BELTED.  While it is 384 feet to the wall (which could be considered average), it is at least fifteen feet high.  The bottom line is that no one will be seeing any Mets leading the league in home runs anytime soon. However, due note the Pepsi Porch in right field, which actually overhangs the playing field.  It will not be incredibly hard to bring it down the lines, 335 ft. and 330 ft. in left and right respectively.  With the 415 ft. needed to hit deep right center however, many doubles will be seen in this park.  Expect guys like Carlos Beltran to flourish in this category.  There is not a whole lot of space for foul territory, so do not anticipate many spectacular catches into the stands.  As a little spoiler to fans, bring your gloves if you are sitting on the third base side.  Good chance a ball will come your way.  Also, with wall heights being rather high, no Endy Chavez-like grabs this time around.  Ultimately however, this field really only benefits pitching, meaning the fans may lose interest.  B+ on this category.

Concourses: A

With a twenty two foot increase in width from Shea, there is absolutely little to go wrong with here.  At a staggering 43 total feet from side to side, Citi Field enables one to actually not be riding someone’s back when walking to their seat or anywhere else in the ballpark.  Something that I had never experienced at a stadium occurred here though.  People were actually able to watch the entire game simply by standing on the end of the walkway.  Say they had upper deck seats but wanted something on the first base line.  They could simply head down to field level, lean on a railing, and enjoy the game as if they were in a seat.  Spectacular views from the inside.  Also, plenty of high definition televisions were set up throughout, meaning not one pitch would need to be missed when standing.  The only issue is that they the ceiling is short and rather dark, possibly due to the fact that it is difficult for light to enter through the rather opaque glass.  Once again, Citi impresses with an A.

Concessions: C

The true downfall of this park.  Mets fans will be happy first off to know that the Grilled Sausage Stands that were made famous in Shea will continue in this park, that is about the only high point.  Overall, the food was not bad, and relatively decently priced as well.  One of the main priorities of the development was to provide more accessible food stands for fans.  While there are stands every three sections or so, the lines are killer.  The organization was horrific, with the lines intertwining with other stands.  Even some of the Grilled Sausage Stands were packed, with lines as long as one hundred feet long! The problem is that the stands aren’t strategically placed, and if the Mets continue to sellout, massive issues will result.  There are four restaurants, which had they not been completely been filled, would have been nice.  Certain seats have access to certain restaurants, so beware of that as well.  The team store was a huge disappointment.  While much larger than the Shea one, lines were once again out the door.  People are pretty much allotted a certain amount of time to be in the store to look around and purchase an item, which is a huge downfall.  While this could change in summer months, the concessions earn themselves a C grade.

Scoreboard/Video board: A+

Arguably one of the best pieces of the park, the scoreboard provides multiple and useful features for fans and players alike.  The HD scoreboard displays obviously the score, alongside multiple player stats, batting lineups, substitutions, scores from around the league, and several other parts.  The videoboard is exceptional as well, with one of the clearest pictures that has ever been put into public use. Located above the brand new Apple, it towers the rest of the ballpark. Instant replay is shown after ever great play, a huge assistance to the fans.  Tons of ad space available as well.  The designers hit these right on the nose.

Fan-Friendliness: A

Behind the center field fence and scoreboard lies an entire section devoted purely to the enjoyment of the fans.  There, spectators can find a mini-Citi Field designed exclusively for little kids to play wiffle ball, games, and several other events.  Keep walking and one will see several other Mets themed games, including a dunk tank (in which the person being dunked is wearing the respective opponents jersey) and even batting cages.  Also found near here and visible through the right center field gates, it may be possible to find a little certain fruit that was once found in Shea Stadium.  People can touch it as well as get spectacular photos.  Several games continue throughout the game, including the famous t-shirt launch and dance on the dugouts.  Every fan is involved, from ages 1-100, so enjoy this aspect of the park.

Bathrooms/Amenities: A+

Every guy’s dream.  The perfect bathroom.  Citi boasts bathrooms near every section, with multiple toilets for use in all.  The best part: They are all heated/air conditioned (pending on temperature outside).  This was especially relieving considering the wind was frigid outside at the game, and I noticed some people came in just to escape the cold.  The game can be heard throughout the room as well, with TV’s located in some of the upper end restrooms as well.  Alongside, the park is very friendly towards handicapped fans, including nearly eight times the amount of handicapped seating sections than Shea.  Elevators can be found near the rotunda, allowing much more efficient travel for some fans.  Vendors travel the stands as usual, hitting up every section until the seventh inning.  The Mets did a great job in assisting to the fans needs, so take advantage of these.

Best Feature: The Jackie Robinson Rotunda

Immediately upon entering the stadium, fans are greeted with one of the most inspirational figures in all of sports.  As you enter the rotunda, you will find several quotes stated by the former Dodgers superstar, most that apply to life in general rather than just sports.  Two master staircases stand on each side, with a couple of escalators thrown in the middle for the lazy fans.  The marble flooring is as smooth as your kitchen table, and the precariously placed pictures of Jackie’s life assist in captivating the true importance of his life.  I noticed that one of the most popular places was a statue of the number 42, where people were in lines ready to capture photos in front of it.  Video screens also can be found here, displaying famous moments in Robinson’s life.  Thankfully, most fans will enter through here, an excellent addition to the experience of this ballpark.

Worst Feature: Lack of memorabilia

When I entered the stadium, I was especially excited to see what Mr. Wilpon had in store in terms of teaching young Mets fans about their history.  The disappointing part: Nothing to be found.  I searched the entire stadium for even the least bit of memorabilia, only to find some little pictures of the occasional Met hero.  This, when compared to Yankee Stadium, loses considerably (Yankee Stadium itself contains a Yankees Museum amongst several other displays of history).  However, I did find several homages to Shea, yet I will not reveal them.  A hint would be to look into several of the restaurants and other services similar to this.  Very upset with Mets management on this one.

So all aspects considered, how does Citi match up to the predicted “A” grade that I designated back in July?

Overall grade: B+

Everything factored into thought, Citi Field is a GREAT place to catch a baseball game.  I wouldn’t call Citi Field as much of a ballpark as it is a stadium though.  Another product of the HOK Camden Yards-esque design, Citi matches up well in terms of satisfying the fans.  The game can be enjoyed from basically anywhere that one sits, which is a huge plus.  There are many dining options, all which need to be improved upon over the years however due to crowdedness.  Fans will not be bored though, and have many options as to how to spend their day.  Go to Citi Field expecting to cheer on your New York Mets though people, not as much to have the time of your life.

When all is said and done, Citi Field will match up in ways to Yankee Stadium, and fail to do so in others. I recently received an opportunity to check the stadium out once again, and my thoughts remain the same.  After having a brief conversation with Mets executive Jeff Wilpon, it appears the memorabilia issue will get solved soon. However, until I physically check out Yankee Stadium, Citi impresses myself as a baseball fan, and many other parks will take much to hold up to its name.


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