Locals share their thoughts on NY ballparks

Note: This is not a review of either Yankee Stadium or Citi Field. It is a set of observations made with others. Full reviews will be out shortly.

citi-13-rotunda_pano

Jackie Robinson Rotunda

I had the privilege of having guides (of sorts) accompany me to games at the Mets’ Citi Field and Yankee Stadium during the current trip. For the Mets day game on Thursday, reader/commenter/blogger and Brooklyn native llpec endured my chronic lateness to join me. llpec has the unique perspective of having been to Ebbets Field, then transferring his allegiance to the Mets. On Friday and Saturday, I was accompanied by my old friend Erik, a Yankee fan since the Boogie Down era whose favorite player will always be the late Thurman Munson. Both have spent numerous games at the old Yankee Stadium and at Shea Stadium, so they were able to give me insights that can only be earned from multiple trips to these venues.

For llpec, Citi Field would be great if it wasn’t such a reflection of Fred Wilpon. He joked that anyone who complains about Lew Wolff should be a Mets fan sometime – then they’d understand what a bad owner was truly like. Given llpec’s anti-Wilpon railings I was almost ready to disregard some of his observations. But you know what? He was dead on.

When Citi opened in 2009, much was made of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, the grand entrance to the stadium behind home plate. It is huge and beautiful. The problem was that Robinson was never a Met. Wilpon chose to honor his old love of the Brooklyn Dodgers and their trailblazing legend. The idea behind the Mets’ original colors was to salute the two West Coast bound teams, the Dodgers and Giants. Yet there were no tributes to the Giants to be found. And there still aren’t. The Mets Hall of Fame, a lovely room off to the side of the rotunda, didn’t open until 2010, a year after the ballpark opened. The creation of the HoF was part of a mea culpa on Wilpon’s part.

Yet there are still touches that are troublesome. Corners are cut in many places. Toilets don’t have seat covers. Elevators are small and not numerous. llpec’s visually impaired, with virtually no peripheral vision. Citi’s accessibility is poor for a modern ballpark. Most access is through stairs, either at the rotunda or in dimly lit spaces on the concourses. Escalators are present, but they require additional movement along the concourses to reach them. The single ramp in the left field corner is so far away from the normal circulation patterns that I had to point it out to llpec. At Shea, ramps were a prominent circulation method, along with escalators.

About those escalators – in the last year at Shea, a fan died from a late game escalator fall. Since then the Mets have shut down and barricaded the escalators after the seventh inning, instead of running them in reverse in the down direction. Previously they only shut down the escalators while providing access to them in stationary mode. The deadly fall may have occurred when the fan tried to slide down the rail. His widow claimed that the escalator jerked to a stop, causing the fall. There have been instances in the past involving stupid (often drunken) behavior around escalators. Still, just about every team runs them in reverse at the end of each game. Not the Mets. Wait, there was one escalator I saw running in reverse at the end of the game – the one serving the plush Sterling suite level.

Even though the stadium’s final tab ran $900 million, it sure feels a lot cheaper than that, at least in the regular fan spaces.

—-

On the other side of the ledger is $1.6 billion Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. It’s an homage to the Yankees greatness and incredible wealth. Naturally, the only thing bigger than the tributes to the various Yankee players and teams is the tribute to late owner George Steinbrenner III. If Citi Field reflects Fred Wilpon’s cheapness, Yankee Stadium reflects Steinbrenner’s brash opulence. The oft-criticized Great Hall inside Gate 6, which is full of static and electronic signage everywhere, struck me as quite functional once I ignored all the bright lights. Access to the upper levels is easy, and the place holds many of the peripheral concessions and merchandise stands that would normally clog up the main concourses.

The big video screen inside Gate 6 looks bigger than either of the Oakland Coliseum’s DiamondVision screens. The elevators are huge and plentiful. Ramps are easy to get to, though when Erik and I were leaving via the right field ramp something smelled like a toilet (and there was no restroom nearby).

It doesn’t take much for opulence to give way to tackiness. Team stores are glassed-in, mall-like spaces. Drink rails on the lower concourse are all “reserved”. There are the ever-popular obstructed view bleacher sections in center field, blocked by a batter’s eye restaurant. The limestone facade and the back-by-request frieze hanging from the roof seem like anachronisms compared to the rather stark, modern underpinnings. There’s plenty of coated steel and mesh to offset any old touches.

We sat in the upper deck near the third base line for the Friday night game, then the left field bleachers for the Saturday afternoon game. Our upper deck seats weren’t nearly as close to the action as the old cantilevered upper deck. At the same time, it wasn’t as vertigo-inducing as the previous upper deck. The new bleachers are set back further from the field than the old ones, as the Yankees have chosen to follow the trend of expensive field level outfield seats first. Because of the Stadium’s generally hitter-friendly dimensions, the bleachers don’t seem as far from the action as I initially expected. Plus the bleacher creatures are no longer trapped there since they have access to the rest of the general concourses. The bleacher concourse is not perfect, as it requires stairs to connect to the regular field level (100) concourse. The corridor behind the outfield lower level seats is narrow and enclosed, perhaps the one place that’s most reminiscent of the old Yankee Stadium. It also lacks concessions and restrooms, requiring fans to walk to the main grandstand or up to the bleacher level to get either. The corridor provides access to Monument Park, though that only occurs only before games or during tours.

Erik and I also took a tour of Yankee Stadium. The tour is less a showcase of the stadium than it is a tour of Yankees history. Our first stop was the Yankees Museum on the main (second) level, followed by a trip to Monument Park, then some time in the visitors’ dugout. The tour felt severely rushed, as we were constantly being told not to linger for picture taking except at the designated areas. The team considers the Museum and Monument Park as separate museums within the larger museum that is Yankee Stadium. When you’ve won 27 titles, I suppose you’re entitled.

19 thoughts on “Locals share their thoughts on NY ballparks

  1. re: Wilpon chose to honor his old love of the Brooklyn Dodgers and their trailblazing legend.

    …of course, Citi Field, like Shea before it, sits on the same property in Queens offered by NYC Planning Director Robert Moses to Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley as a site for a new “Brooklyn” Dodgers stadium; Moses wouldn’t work with O’Malley to assemble the Brooklyn site O’Malley wanted. The rest is history… No tributes to the Giants? Wilpon sounds like my kind of guy.

  2. ML, any idea what they DID spend the $900 million on at Citi Field? I mean for that price I would have expected a palace at least meeting if not vastly exceeding places like Petco and AT&T.

    Also can’t say I’ve ever been surprised by Wilpon’s blatant love of the Dodgers over the Giants. I know it is anecdotal, but old people from the region I know or have heard always seem much more nostalgic for the Dodgers compared to the Giants. Don’t know if it was the unique and scrappy Brooklyn attitude and name or if it was nostalgia for Ebbets Field itself (which always seems to be considered one of the lost jewels of the classic ballpark era). But the Giants do come across as the third class citizen of ’30s-’50s NYC after the Yanks and Dodgers. That said, encorporating either the Giants or Dodgers, who are enemy ball clubs for the vast majority of fans, into a Mets ballpark at this point always seemed to me to be doing a disservice to the Mets and their own half century of history.

  3. Safeco inspired! These two? Well…at least they’re new. Aloha..

  4. I believe I’ll become a Met fan now – after this news!

  5. I like the entry way to Citi, but if Wilpon wants to build up his team it should honor teams like the Miracle Mets and the late 80s Mets that have created a legacy for the team. Robinson should be recognized, especially since this is the Outer Borough team, but this should be a Mets stadium. The place is stale, I do like the view of the field from the outfield section and I feel its more intimate than Yankee Stadium. Also, the concessions are alright, better than Yankees. Still it leaves a lot to be desired. No where close to Camden or Citizens Bank in my view.

    Yankees stadium I am not a fan of. I feel like its very stale, the color scheme is very bland and it is BIG. Its concessions are not that great and I just don’t really feel close to any of the action, unless I pay handsomely to be on Field level.

    ML, it was great to catch up with you, looking forward to a trip out to the Bay sometime early next year and meeting up again!

  6. I was at Citi this summer. Didnt know about the JR tribute until I entered the ballpark and found myself wondering what the connection was–hearing the explanation it doesn’t make sense to me–tradition belongs with the ballclub the player was part of–not because someone really wished that they owned a different club.

    I dont like the location of Citi–decent ballpark but surrounded by parking lots instead of a downtown—and it was way too commercial for me–fitting for NY but felt a bit Vegas to me–I did like being able to see the field from the concourse level as you moved from center field towards right–bottom line–looks nice but feels large and lacks any intimacy–not big on it at the end–

  7. I was only happy to have had the opportunity to provide to ML the personal observations of Citi Field from a long suffering Mets fan. As far as Ebbets Field was concerned, I was only five years old when I attended my only ballgame there during the Dodgers’ last season in Brooklyn. Amazingly, I was able to recollect and pick up details of Ebbets Field that only a young child would take notice of. My dad and I were without a team for five years, until National League baseball returned to New York. Ironically, had the Giants stayed in New York, we would have most likely would have become Giants fans. Thankfully, that scenario didn’t happen. Go A’s!

  8. Yankee Stadium III definitely feels like a Yankees’ ballpark. Personally I don’t like the aesthetic, but I acknowledge the effort that went into the design. From the façade outside to the Great Hall concourse to the sea of Yankee blue seats, there’s no mistaking where you are. It stinks of the Yankee mystique past and present. I also had an easy time getting there on the Subway.

    Citi Field is the opposite. Other than some tacked on blue/orange fences, that ballpark could be for any team. The Mets have 50 years of history, and I didn’t feel like any of that was effectively communicated by Citi Field. The Subway right isn’t any worse than Civic Center BART to Coliseum BART, but similar to the Coliseum, it sucks having the best post-game hangout spots 30-40 minutes away from the ballpark (not counting the time from street to parking lot). I know everyone’s different, but I say parking lots are no place for a ballpark.

    I know the Mets play within NYC limits, but it’s not too different than the A’s and Giants. Having “New York” in front of the Mets’ name makes all the difference.

  9. RM,
    Do real estate prices make in NYC contribute to the ballparks in no where scenario? Seems like there’s no way in hell a venue would be built in a prime downtown spot where real estate is $$$! Hence being 30 minutes from the action (?). Aloha..

  10. @Tony D.: Totes. Walter O’Malley was offered land in Flushing for a new Dodgers ballpark. He declined, partly based on location. NYC said, “whatev’z,” and continued plans on a Flushing ballpark that we all know as Shea Stadium. By the early 1960s, suburban populations had been growing rapid for nearly two decades. Building ballparks further away from urban settings, and close to suburban areas was cheaper, and seemed like a good idea at the time. If money were no object, I highly doubt Flushing would be very high on the list of desirable ballpark locations.

  11. O’Malley wanted to build apparently right where the Barclays Center (Nets arena) is today. It’s supposed to be near public transit and would have accommodated Dodgers fans who’d moved out further on Long Island. Moses wasn’t interested.

  12. If an NL team still played in Brooklyn, their popularity would rival the Yankees. I’m certain.

  13. everytime you do one of these reviews makes me salivate that one day we’ll see our own place of a baseball only park decked out in green and gold with a’s history everywhere both in and outside of the venue.

  14. Take a look at the standing arguments at the end of San Jose’s opposition brief. San Jose competes with FREMONT and Oakland for the A’s? Now, just as a matter of common sense–recondite economics and the technicalities of market defintion aside–did Fremont compete? Is that a “market”? Hell, is Oakland “competing”?

    First take, based mainly on the expert evidence San Jose submitted. Motions to dismiss focus on the actual allegations of the complaint and material that can be judicially noticed. The expert declaration is neither. So I susped San Jose is praying that they’ll get dimssed but with leave to amend to try to fix their A/T allegations. It’s sort of like watching a high drive land in the upper deck just to the left of the LF foul pole.

  15. Xoot finding “flaws” in San Jose’s argument; I’m shocked! (Sarcasm) BTW, Roger Noll rocks brah! (Headin home 😦

  16. @tony, blinded by bias vs. the Giants. Surprise.

  17. They can keep all these ballparks. I’m pocketing all the money you people blow on tickets, etc. I can’t hand over my wallet to these dolts like Wilpon.

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