This is a weekly feature in which I (and maybe you, too, readers) detail the various reasons for hating your ballpark. This week: The New York Mets' Citi Field.
Shea rebellion: I direct your attention to Chapter 2 of Who Is This Tory Muppet and Why Is He Yammering About Baseball? George Will's subject is the birth in the 1960s of the multi-purpose stadium. He writes: "Almost everything about the 1960s, from politics to popular music to neckties, was marked by wretched excess." Now, one should remember that George Will is a pundit who seems to have a built a political philosophy out of a profound and unshakable fear that he was the only guy not to get laid in the '60s. (He is also maybe the only person on earth who'd place Shea Stadium on the same continuum as, say, Procol Harum.) George Will, to state it plainly, doesn't know dick. Not about the '60s. Not about baseball. He is wrong. Wretchedly, excessively wrong.
And yet, remarkably, the public seems to share Will's view that the old doughnut stadiums were some misguided fashion of a thankfully bygone era, a sort of architectural Flock of Seagulls. No ballpark's closing was as little lamented as Shea's, even though what replaced it, the enormous Geico advertisement known as Citi Field, is far more soulless, aloof and, yes, excessive than Shea ever was. (I'll grant Citi this: It is fully cognizant of the team's rich history; unfortunately, that team is now located in Los Angeles.)
It's too bad. For all their faults, Shea and its multi-purpose cousins represented an idea of a sports facility — versatile and utilitarian and forward-looking — that we might eagerly embrace today if owners hadn't spent the past 30 years convincing us they were all uninhabitable blights. I asked stadium guru Neil deMause for an estimate as to how much a Shea replica might cost today. He e-mailed: "I remember a calculation from the '90s that to rebuild Wrigley from scratch would cost something like $100 million — add in inflation and that Shea is bigger, and maybe $250-300 million? Certainly far less than Citi's $600m, anyway."
"There were no excesses in those stadiums," architecture critic John Pastier says of the multi-use stadiums. They were "economically very sensible," he says. "The Kingdome cost $70 million and could house every possible activity you could think of, and then they spent well over a billion dollars to replace it with three different structures and they actually lost functionality. You could no longer do Final Four basketball the way they had before. You could no longer do political conventions."
The doughnuts were egalitarian (despite the usual claims that Citi is more "intimate," the seats at Shea were actually closer to the field). They were built for mass entertainment of all kinds, which is why Sid Bernstein and the Beatles chose Shea for their first U.S. concert venue. They were cheap and ugly and did their job at relatively little cost to the common weal, and they were quickly supplanted by big, bright shrines to the kind of wretched excess George Will can get behind: making money.
The view from the stands (everything sic'd):
I'm from Philly but live in New York. A couple friends and I went to the game in early June when the right field corner would ultimately be christened "Utley's Corner."
First of all, it's ridiculous that Mets fans continue to talk shit to us at all after 2007 and 2008, but there we were, being told over and over again that the Phillies "suck." It was like walking through 1946 Berlin and having people talk shit about the Luftwaffe to you.
Anyway, during the game, the Mets took an early 4-1 lead, but my friends and I didn't bat an eyelash as we were, y'know, playing the New York bastard Mets. Of course the Phillies came back to force extras. Before I go on, the stadium itself is a piece of shit and looks like it was designed with Legos by a kid with ADD. Just these weird random shapes jutting out everywhere with no sense of symmetry whatsoever. Also, the food blows.
Anyway, the whole place started to empty out around the 7th, despite it being a tie game. No idea what it would take to sell that place out and fill it up because, as seen on TV, not only do the seats behind the plate stay empty for the entire game, but so did most of the rest of our row, and section. And if they can't fill it up for the WFCs, one of their most hated rivals, in the middle of what was, at the time, a pennant race (hahaha), what does that tell you? When asked, most of the fans around us identified themselves as Yankees fans. All except one.
Around the 3rd inning, a dude in a Mets cap and his friend in a Phils cap came in two rows ahead of us. I recognized the guy in the Mets cap immediately as Finch from American Pie.
For the rest of the game, whenever something good happened, my friends and I were whooping it up and cheering with his Phillies friend because he was literally the only other non-Mets/Yankees fan in the section. And while a few people were getting their picture taken with him, we completely ignored Finch. But my friends and I agreed, "When we take the lead (as if there were ever any doubt), lay into Finch." Long story short, after Chase hit that bomb, Finch from American Pie gave us the finger.
It was one of the most gratifying moments of my life as a Philadelphia sports fan. Thanks Citi Field! (Brendan Burke)
Some of the largest signs in the outfield are: Buy and sell golduscoins.com, Arpielle equipment (read tractor) rentals, and freecreditreport.com. What, exactly, does this say about the people of New York? (Matt D.)
Let's go with the obvious one: it's the home of the Mets, yet it took them until August to actually have more reminders of the Mets than the Brooklyn Dodgers. I walked in the main entrance, and could've sworn I heard the ticket taker say "Welcome to Ebbets Field." Yes, we all know Fred Wilpon would rather have bought the Dodgers and moved them back to Brooklyn so that his daddy would say that he loves him. But leave the Dodger love to, oh, I don't know... the Dodgers, perhaps? (Ron Baker)
I went to an auction of Shea Stadium memorabilia last month. Mets fans were there, times were had. Among the lots was the vinyl banner of the artist's rendering of Citi Field from 2006, when the Wilpons were still selling the public on the idea and construction was just starting. The thing went for ~$60, which was ridiculous considering I got two other banners and three pieces of the box seats for the same price, and it was an auction of Shea Stadium stuff (a lot of good stuff went that day, Tom Seaver's locker chief among them), but that's not the issue here. The issue, as pointed out to me by another fan, was that the artist's rendering had more to do with the Mets then the real Citi Field does. Supposedly, they've recently renovated the stadium so that it's more Mets-y, but shouldn't a stadium designed for the Mets (unlike Shea, which was multi-purpose) be designed with the Mets in mind? (Zach)
When you first walk into the Jackie Robinson Rotunda you notice how much it looks like the pictures of Ebbets field you've seen. As you walk in, you see the six foot tall "42" statue in bright, Dodger blue. Then you look up and see a picture of Robinson and couple of other Dodgers in mid-celebration of their '55 World Series Title. Look right from there and you see a picture of Robinson with Walter O'Malley, then a picture of Robinson is his UCLA track uniform at a long-jump event a the Coliseum.
What do all of these things have in common? The Dodgers (even the Coliseum). Now, as an L.A. native and big time Dodger fan (yeah we exist) living in New York, I should be honored... and I am. For the Mets to honor Robinson in the city that he broke the color barrier is amazing and I have nothing bad to say about it. But I found it a bit insulting (to Dodger fans AND Mets fans) to see the tribute as such a big tribute to the Brooklyn Dodgers. You already stole your logo from the Giants, now you're stealing history from the Dodgers? (Scott B.)
We have a tribute to Jackie Robinson who never played for us (the son-of-a-bitch retired rather than play for the Giants for God's sake). We have a "Pepsi Porch" although taste tests prove we vastly prefer Coke. We have a big Modell's sign but I'm not sure why. We have GIGANTIC OUTFIELD WALLS so we'll never see a homer-stealing catch (only one of the most exciting plays in baseball along with the triple, the steal of home, and anytime that stripper with the big boobies runs out on the field to kiss the third-base coach).
What we don't have is any sense of our own history. Apparently our history is a gigantic apple, the neon frieze that used to be over the scoreboard, and Ralph Kiner (another SOB who never played for us).
I know, it takes a lot of lovin' to make a house a home but I'm not so sure I have enough love in my heart for this place. (Mmole)
Citi Field looks like it was the aborted love child of countless different stadiums. "Oh let's put an overhang in the outfield like Tiger Stadium!" "Busch Stadium's brick entrance is nice, lets use that!" Only the Mets could manage to take the best parts from some of the most beautiful and classic stadiums and have the end result look like absolute shit.
Some other things to note: There are over fifty advertisements from foul pole to foul pole in Citi Field, likely a side effect of Mr. Wilpon's lack of understanding Ponzi schemes. The team's championship banners were on a brick wall facing away from the stadium, invisible to anybody watching the game, until they were finally moved about a week ago. The bullpen is under a fucking canopy for some reason. The entire outfield wall lacks any semblance of symmetry, and throughout the whole field there must be about a hundred different heights for the outfield fence. The tops of the dugouts are red and black. Why? Not a fucking clue. And when faced with criticism about the field, the Wilpons sloppily added a third video monitor in the right field corner, apparently hoping that they could distract the fans form the shittiness of the stadium by just adding more shiny TVs.
It would take me too long to describe how almost every non-field level seat has an obstructed view of some sort either from unnecessary plexiglass or an abundance of poorly constructed railings, but by now you probably get the idea. Lets just say that the aesthetics of Citi Field make it perfectly deserving of that hideous and embarrassing Domino's Pizza logo it was adorned with. I miss Shea. (David V.)
Went to see the Reds on a Sunday afternoon. Brian Schneider hits a HR,...everyone goes ape shit....the Apple makes an appearance for the first time in the previous eight home games. Fernando Tatis then goes yard for back to back HR's. But no Apple! Where's the F'n Apple? People get restless,...then the chants start..."we want apple....(clap clap...clap clap clap), we want apple...(clap, clap....clap clap clap). No Apple. Then people get mad...and they start booing....THE APPLE!!! Make no mistake, they were booing the Apple!!! Newsday did a story about it the next day. Apparently it takes the apple 105 seconds to recharge after it is "deployed", at least that was the official explanation given as to why the apple could not rise again after the second HR,....but that doesn't explain why a good ten minutes went by before the Apple came out again..., between innings if I remember correctly.. (Jim H.)
I went to Citi Field a few weeks ago to catch the day game of a double header against the Rockies. I am not a Mets fan but I was excited to see the new ballpark. Aside from the painfully awkward shrine to Jackie Robinson, a great player who never played for the Mets and played for a team that STILL EXISTS, the stadium is what you'd expect. Corporate, boring, and no sign that the Mets actually play there. However, my favorite part of the game was during the national anthem when the videoboard scrolling the words crapped out and flashed a giant question mark during the entire song. (Catherine R.)
yeah, i have a citi field experience. i watched the new york mets play during the 2009 season. (dylon)
Photo via beau-dog's Flickr account.
Next up: Dodger Stadium. Got any horrible experiences to share? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.