Citi Field

The Turner Field review brought out a nice debate among the commenters about the ballparks of the NL East. Namely, which of the parks was least disappointing? Was it Turner, which is too large and not intimate? Nationals Park, which looks like an office building from the outside? Citizens Bank Park, which feels extremely contrived? Marlins Park, which feels a little too mall-like to be an authentic ballpark? Or Citi Field, Fred Wilpon’s attempt to bring the Dodgers back to the East Coast? Alas, my answer to that critical issue will have to come another day. For now I’ll just focus on the new park in Queens.

Jackie Robinson Rotunda from top of escalators

Jackie Robinson Rotunda from top of escalators

As much as the Mets are Wilpon’s team, Citi Field can easily be called The House that Bernie Madoff Built. By the time reports about Madoff’s Ponzi scheme surfaced in late 2008, the bulk of Citi Field had been built. With only a few months to go before the stadium opened, all that remained was some finishing work and to button up the ballpark. All of the expensive parts had been installed. Initial reports had Wilpon losing enough money that he’d have to sell the Mets. It turns out that Wilpon turned to Madoff to set up investment vehicles for various Mets employees. A lawsuit brought by defrauded Madoff investors sought as much as $300 million from Mets (legacy) ownership. They settled for $162 million. The extent of Wilpon’s and Howard Katz’s complicity will forever remain alleged, not proven. Which means that if there was any justice in the world, Wilpon should’ve been forced to sell the Mets.

Yet Wilpon remains, cutting payroll $40 million a year until debts are paid off, quashing hope among Mets fans. Even phenom pitcher Matt Harvey couldn’t escape the Wilpon taint, as his season was cut short in late August thanks to a bum elbow (he got Tommy John surgery last week). No matter, the Mets have a nice ballpark, right?

The thing is, they do have a pretty nice ballpark. Sure, the silly outfield dimensions had to be pulled in to encourage more offense. The Mets Hall of Fame was horrendously belated. At least it’s there, right next to the rotunda. Citi’s spacious, has good concessions and all of the amenities needed to bring in the big revenue when the team starts to contend again. The façade looks reminiscent of Ebbets Field (Wilpon’s obsession) from the outside. It looks nothing like Ebbets (AFAIK) from the inside. The rotunda is impeccable, yet feels somewhat removed from the concourses and the seating bowl.


Citi Field grandstand behind home plate

Look carefully at the picture above. How many glassed-in levels do you see? If you guessed five, you are correct. Behind the plate there are the very exclusive Sterling Suites. Above that is another suite level, then another suite level, then the press box, and finally the promenade club along the upper deck. Every new park provides another example of the stratification of moneyed fans. By this measure, Citi Field is among the worst offenders. That’s the kind of modern, business-driven compromise we’ve come to expect of new ballparks. There are mini rooftops behind the plate that could be perfect places for, oh I don’t know, seats? Just a thought.

Citi Field was built in the parking lot between Shea and the industrial wasteland of Willets Point, much the same way Great American Ball Park went up in the shadows of Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Unlike Riverfront’s enclosed cookie cutter design, which required to have the outfield stands demolished to accommodate the new ballpark in a very tight fit, there was enough space for Citi Field in the lot. Another proposal to build a new form of multipurpose stadium for both the Mets and Jets came and went quickly, allowing then-mayor Rudy Giuliani to focus on separate ballparks for the Mets and Yankees while the football teams partnered up for MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. Building on the same site allowed the team to utilize existing infrastructure, which includes stations for the #7 subway, Long Island Rail Road, and proximity to the Grand Central Parkway, Van Wyck, and Long Island Expressways.

It’s telling that Citi underwent significant changes in its first two off seasons. Bullpens were moved around, the Mets Hall of Fame was added, and the fences were brought in last year. All that generates the feeling that the ballpark was the product of ticking features in a checklist, rather than designing the park holistically. Misgivings have only been magnified by the enormous amount of negative press surrounding the team and ownership. Over time this should subside, and what will remain is that Citi Field is a substantial improvement over Shea, albeit an extremely expensive one. Both Shea Stadium and Ebbets Field lasted 45 years for the Mets and Dodgers, respectively. Hopefully the Mets can get at least 45 years out of Citi Field.

23 thoughts on “Citi Field

  1. I didn’t know that Mr. Wilpon tried to lure my Dodgers back to the East Coast (presumably Brooklyn). If that ever happens, I’d be a bigger Dodger fan than I am now!

  2. @Matt – That comment was in jest. What I meant was that Wilpon tried to remake the Mets as his childhood Dodgers. The proof is Citi Field.

  3. Oh, okay. Didn’t realize that was a joke. My bad. Still, I stand by the latter part of my statement. It would be cool to see the return of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

  4. Good Lord Raiders is right RM. What the fuck was that?!!! OK, just based on your excellent photos (obviously never been to any of the NL East yards), Citi Field is my favorite. It just looks clean and comfortable IMHO. Beautiful rotunda, Mets HOF and (again) large, spacious concourses. I’ve always loved the look of polished concrete flooring and exposed steel beams; almost loft-like. And again, this yard is out in the middle of nowhere! Again, for us, downtown ideal. But if it can’t be, something like Citi Field at Warm Springs could definitely work. (I know pjk, I know…)

  5. BTW RM,
    I’ve been to Ebbets! Well, not really, but I’m assuming the computer generated version in the movie “42” was pretty accurate. Looked awesome!

  6. @Tony D.- Yeah 42 was pertty good. I am sure they left stuff out, you know rated G or PG13 and all.

  7. RM, “The House that Bernie Madoff Built” is the perfect nickname for Cit Field. It is no coincidence that the Mets have had losing seasons in every year since they had opened Citi Field back in 2009. One would think that teams would attempt to stock up with talented players and attempt to have a winning team out on the field, to coincide with the opening of its new ballpark. Not the Mets under the Wilpon ownership, who viewed that the newness of a ballpark would be enough to attract fans. RM, You know how I feel about Citi Field. Maybe if the Mets ever do get a decent team, my attitude about the ballpark would become more favorable. The Wilpons took out any real enjoyment about attending a game at Citi Field with the crappy Met teams that have been playing there ever since the ballpark opened.

  8. Matier and Ross reporting A’s might play next two seasons in SF, and then leave the Bay Area.

  9. re: first step toward moving the A’s out of the Bay Area.

    …Is this what it will take for the Oakland-only folks to believe that a new Oakland ballpark is not going to happen? Losing the team forever? I can fully believe MLB would rather move the team far away than go with a San Jose solution.

  10. re: Matier and Ross report

    Oakland’s belief that it can play hardball with the A’s and MLB because the team has no place to go is really, really not looking so hot right now.

  11. I always thought that the A’s would be temporarily playing at AT&T Park at some point as part of a compensation package to the Giants for allowing the A’s to move to San Jose. It looks as if it may be coming sooner than expected. I thought that if the Raiders eventually do agree on a deal for a new stadium at the Coliseum site, the A’s would anyway be forced to vacate the Coliseum in about two or three years from now.

  12. It looks more like the A’s would park at ATT Park for two seasons while MLB shops the franchise around to other cities. “Hey Portland, San Antonio, Las Vegas, etc – this is YOUR chance to host Major League Baseball! Let the bidding begin!” The Giants get their ultimate win, and A’s fans – Oakland-only and anywhere-in-the-Bay Area varieties – lose big forever. MLB has to know by now that Oakland is never going to help pay for a ballpark and a ballpark without public funding is simply not viable in Oakland. Game over. San Jose, meanwhile, remains “Giants territory” and MLB refuses to fight the Giants on this.

  13. Sorry, didn’t mean to hijack the thread on my vote for “tied for least crappy stadium” in the NL East.

  14. I guess M&R don’t think of San Jose as being in the Bay Area 😉 What are those two clowns full of again? (hint: rhymes with it)
    @pjk, will you just stop with the Portland, San Antonio, Vegas nonsense!…

  15. Tony D: I hope it IS nonsense. But right now, we see no solution emerging in Oakland – the city won’t pay for a ballpark and there is no magic billionaire ready to lose Big $$ to build there (not to mention no viable site anyway) – and MLB has done nothing but reaffirm the Giants “rights” to San Jose for many years. What’s going to be easier for MLB – pitch the team to eager investors in other parts of the country, who can probably get public funding, or fight the Giants just to get another privately funded ballpark in San Jose? MLB hates privately funded ballparks.

  16. ML’s scenario of a a temporary A’s home at Sacto, and booting the SF gnats affiliate out of San Jose appears more believable – and more desireable. MLB appears to be very annoyed with the SJ vs MLB lawsuit – and wants to avoid it.

  17. Wolff said the A’s have other options if a lease cannot be worked out with Oakland city officials, the A’s must have anticipated this and have a plan. Matier and Ross are idiots.

  18. Just read the Chron M&R piece on the A’s possibly playing at AT&T Park. The A’s playing at AT&T appears legit. The moving out of the Bay Area portion is just classic M&R contrived bull shit that favors all things SF and Oakland; I.e nothing there except their stupid opinion re A’s leaving the Bay. I guess if the A’s can’t make it a go in Oakland they’d rather see them leave the Bay Area entirely then move to SJ. Relax pjk and take a deep breath…

  19. Duffer, unless M&r are talking about the backup plan Wolff alluded to…

  20. Maybe it is having grown up with the old Coliseum and its very open outfield with the Oakland hill view (and the subsequent pain of having that expansive view blocked for the comparatively clostraphobic Coliseum we have today), but I’ve never liked enclosed parks. And Citi seems to be one of if not the most enclosed of the non-dome stadiums in the league. And the upper concourse seems to do little to assuage that feeling. Maybe it’s because there really is little around Citi Field to look at, but I feel like it would have been better served by being a more open park like it’s oversized predecessor Shea was…

  21. @Dan,
    I have no doubt the AT&T Park portion of their reporting is correct. M&R cross the threshold of idiocy when they insert their A’s leaving the Bay Area bull shit; Giants having the whole market to themselves. WTF?!! Those didn’t come from a source; it came out of their you know what… (and for that they are idiots)

  22. @Dan – it’s possible, however at the time, the giants mgt. stated that they had no interest in sharing phone booth park with the A’s. One would believe the A’s have other plans, staying somewhat locally at Sac, rather than playing a few years at San Antonio, for example, would make more sense for the A’s.

  23. What’s interesting is why is MLB asking the Coliseum Authority for a 2 year lease extension? With planning and the permit process wouldn’t it take 3 years to get a stadium built in San Jose? Would a 2 year extension fit a relocation scenario? (just asking Tony, don’t get excited)

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