Neil DeMause visited the Mets' new home last night, and here's an early review:
- First, some caveats: Citi Field is a typical Populous modern stadium, with all that goes with that: Field-level seats close to the action, a wall of luxury/club seating in the middle, an upper deck that's higher than you'd expect at old-time ballparks, overly quirky outfield dimensions, more places to buy overpriced food than some (present company included) might think necessary. The Mets owners have been fond of comparing their new taxpayer-aided home to Ebbets Field; the comparison doesn't hold much better here than it did for Miller Park, which made the same claim.
That said, it's immediately clear that the Mets got most of the details right here, especially compared to their rivals across the East River. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda may be a bit of a ham-fisted nod to history (it didn't help that last night was Jackie Robinson Night, with a pregame ceremony featuring people wearing jerseys with words like "COMMITMENT” and "INTEGRITY” on their backs), but it's nicely human-scaled and functional compared to the Yanks' gratuitous Great Hall. Thanks to a relatively teensy 42,000 capacity, the upper deck isn't quite so distant as in the Bronx, about the equivalent of the back of the old Shea mezzanine -- Mr. Met could almost even reach it last night with his T-shirt cannon -- though the lessened seating has helped contribute to hikes in ticket prices.
And most of all, unlike the Yanks' new home, Citi Field reeks of baseball. There's plenty of attractive brick and steel, the scoreboards are useful but not overly imposing, and even the non-game attractions let you know that you're at a baseball game, not a mall: free batting cages and a Wiffle ball diamond out beyond centerfield for the younger set. (This was such an insanely huge hit last night, with my son among others, that I wonder if the Yankees are at risk of losing an entire generation of New York baseball fans here.) It may not seem like using brick-colored cinderblocks instead of grey ones should make a big difference, but it does.
By far, my biggest beef with the new ballparks -- all of them, I think -- is that the new upper decks are significantly farther from the field than the old upper decks. Which is simply to say that the new ballparks are built to accomodate the well-heeled fans, and everybody else can go fly a kite (literally; it gets windy up there!).
My other beef is that most of the new ballparks don't look all that different from one another when you're watching a game on TV. I suppose this has always been the case, with only the design paradigms changing. But it's a little jarring to turn the game on and see the Mets or the Yankees in their home togs and not immediately recognize the surroundings as uniquely theirs.
So, yeah. As much as I didn't really care for either of the old buildings, I already sort of miss them.