Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Taxpayer Field Review

I made my first trip to Citi Field – otherwise known as “The New Shea Stadium,” or, better yet, TARP Field – last week. On my way home, I thought about all the things I’d write about in my review of the place, but since I’ve had my head up my ass for two weeks, I never wrote it. Now that my head is out of my ass, here are my impressions of the place.

First, the positives:

Accessibility to public transportation:
This is the highlight of Citi Field for me, because I like taking the train – either the Long Island Railroad or the 7 train – to games. I know this is simply a function of having the stadium in the only spot and in the only orientation where it possibly could have been built, but I like how the rotunda – the main entrance, which brings you into the stadium behind home plate – is right there when you get off the platform. At Shea, getting off the subway or the LIRR dropped you directly in middle of a massive clusterfuck, and unless you knew your way around, it was tough to get your bearings. Citi Field, if nothing else, is orderly.

It looks better, at least when you first arrive:
Citi Field is attractive. It’s clean, organized and looks exactly like what the architects were going for – Ebbets Field on the outside, and a Polo Grounds interior. It looks stunning on the walk-up.

This stadium has the best sports arena/stadium urinal configuration I’ve ever seen. There are more bathrooms-per-capita then there were at Shea – or anywhere else I’ve ever been, for that matter – and urinals are spaced nearly three feet apart. Since I often suffer from stage fright – and a major aversion to “pecker checkers,” – this is crucial. I love when architects and engineers draft plans with me in mind.

Walkways: They’re nice and wide, and the main concourse – we sat field level – runs all the way around the stadium, allowing you to see the game, for the most part, from wherever you are. If you have to get up to take a leak in the middle of an inning – this is just a hypothetical, since I don’t advocate this – you’ll be able to get back to your seat within a batter or two, and since they’re piping the broadcast into the bathrooms, you won’t miss any game action.

Food choices:
I’m not planning on taking advantage of everything in this regard, but the variety here is pretty f-ing amazing, and the prices aren’t that bad. When games are sold out, however, getting around the outfield food court is going to be a bitch because all the novelty concessions – Shake Shack, et al – are clustered in one place. This was a particular pain in the ass in the half hour before the game started.

Bullpens: The bullpens at Shea run parallel to each other, with nothing in between but a chain link fence – and they’re both wide open for people to look in from an area that’s open to the public. Right now, this is simply a curiosity, but when things get hostile – games against the Yankees or Phillies, for example, or in the playoffs – I can see opposing teams complaining about this configuration. You go down a flight of stairs, turn left, and you’re twenty feet away from the opposing pitchers as they warm up. When New York fans get over the initial novelty of this arrangement, it’s going to be a problem.

The negatives:

Who’s the home team?: The entire place is green and black. If I blindfolded you, brought you to Citi Field, and dropped you in the concourse, I’d defy you to tell me who plays there. Nothing about the place tells you it’s the Mets’ home field. Say what you will about Shea, but there was no mistaking who played there. It’s like Citi Field is embarrassed to be the home of the Mets, which, while understandable, isn’t exactly the way to rebuild pride in the organization – pride we haven’t felt since the late 80’s.

Too many seats in a row:
At least in the outfield field level seats, there are 20-30 seats in a row, which means if you’re sitting in the middle, and you have to take a leak or want to get something to eat, you’re kind of fucked. At Shea, you didn’t have to walk over everyone when you needed to go somewhere.

Poor sight lines: They weren’t kidding about this. Virtually every seat in the outfield is obstructed view. We sat in the 8th row, on the field, in left, and you couldn’t see the leftfielder catch balls on the warning track. Additionally, because they tried to be so cutesy with the contour of the outfield wall, you can’t see major chunks of the outfield and fly balls get lost. If they’re caught, it’s only a rumor from this vantage point. You also can’t see the main scoreboard out there because of the overhang. You know you have too many contrived quirks when it detracts from fans’ enjoyment of the game. Predictably, they’ve outsmarted themselves here.

Strange attire: This is kind of a random one, but why are the ushers and ticket takers at Citi Field wearing jackets in the Philadelphia Phillies’ colors? This is a rather curious touch, especially when the Mets are currently engaged in a hostile rivalry with the Phillies. I hope they rethink this.

The verdict:
All things considered, I don’t really like it. It’s here, and it’s a done deal, so I’m going to have to live with it, but they could have done a lot better. The shitty sight lines are the dealbreaker for me. Since I actually follow the team, and follow the game when I’m in the stadium, it’s a royal pain in the ass to not be able to see 100% of the action. That never happened at Shea, because the place was virtually symmetrical and everything was wide open.

I’m looking forward to my first fight in the stands, though. Have to christen the place somehow.