September 27, 2008
Goodbye Shea, Hello CitiField Roundtable: The Geeks, Part II
by: The Geeks on Sep 27, 2008 1:48 AM | Filed under: Articles

Yesterday, the geeks shared their memories of Shea Stadium. Today, they finish our week-long series bidding adieu to Shea by looking forward to CitiField.

What are you looking forward to most about CitiField?

Aaron: What I’m looking forward to most about CitiField is the possibility that I don’t have to go on an involuntary hunger strike on days that I go see a game. Although the food distributor is still Aramark, I’m guardedly optimistic that the Mets’ brass took the opportunity to improve what to me is the worst selection of food options in any ballpark, anywhere. Even Yankee Stadium had those cheese steaks in the lower level behind home plate. The Mets had . . . “gourmet” popcorn? Also, it would be great to walk around the entire ballpark next year, but, to be honest, a lot of the time I just stay in my seat (not that there was any reason to do anything at Shea other than watch baseball).

Dan: I can’t say that there’s much in particular I’m looking forward to. I can assure you I’m emphatically not looking forward to the inevitable Ticketmaster waiting rooms that await me in February.

But things that are new are exciting and fun. I am most looking forward to getting to a game right when the gates open, then strolling throughout the stands, marveling at the myriad of concession stands and interesting seats.

Chris: The millions of dollars it will bring into the Mets, hopefully with most of it being used to make their team or organization better. If the park doesn’t look like all the rest of the new parks, it will be a bonus, because this is just another cookie cutter new age park designed to line up luxury suites, in my opinion. But I’m not counting on this, and neither should you. Also, the restrooms.

Chuck: I am mostly looking forward to comfortable seats at Citi Field which are bigger, more comfortable, and provide better sight lines to the field (anyone who has sat behind third base at Shea knows they will go home with a stiff neck) while in a more intimate environment.

Milo: The new players! I think that along with the new ballpark will come a sense of excitement for the future. The Mets will continue to focus on developing their farm system after this season (Thanks in part to the Johan Santana trade), and I think it will be very cool to see Jonathan Niese, Fernando Martinez and maybe even Wilmer Flores make their Mets debut in a brand new stadium.

Alex: Like Dan, I’m most excited for my first stroll through the stadium. For the most part, if you’ve seen one of the new parks, you have a pretty good idea what to expect at CitiField. But there will be room for details and personal touches, and I am curious how the Mets will incorporate them, because that’s going to be the sort of thing that will separate one park from the others.

Would you like to see Citi Field be a pitcher’s park like Shea? Would you like them to carry over the apple?

Aaron: I really am hoping CitiField becomes a pitcher’s park (that’s part of the reason why I posed the question, to see if other people agreed). I like watching pitcher’s duels/close games more than slugfests, and I’ve always felt that part of the Mets “character” is their reliance on strong pitching, from Seaver to Gooden to Johan Santana now. Not playing in bandbox also means, on the whole, you have to rely on more well-rounded players, like Reyes, Beltran, or Wright, as opposed to softball slugger, to power your offense. Overall, that makes for a much more exciting team. I’ll take a Jose Reyes triple any day over a Ryan Howard Home Run (maybe).

And if they don’t carry over the apple, I’m defecting permanently to the Rays.

Dan: Apologies for the boring answer in advance, but it’s been statistically demonstrated that it’s easier to build a winning team in a pitcher’s park than a hitter’s park. Plus I like pitchers’ duels.

Chris: Yes, I think the National League style of play is better suited to pitchers’ parks and it would be way too much of an adjustment after years of Shea to have to get used to playing in a hitters park. I am not so endeared to the Apple that I think we need to carry over the new one, but I would like an apple. It’s one of the few things that differentiated Shea from other parks.

Mike: The great Mets teams were known for their pitching. It would be a travesty to replace the legend of Seaver and Gooden with bloated home run totals and team ERAs. As for the apple . . . who doesn’t want the apple?

Milo: If I had to choose between a pitcher’s or hitter’s park, I’d choose the pitcher’s park, but I’d like to see CitiField be somewhere in the middle. I don’t find it any more entertaining to see the Mets play in Citizens Bank Park or a pitcher’s park like Nationals Stadium. As long as the dimensions aren’t ridiculous in either direction, I’m sure I’ll be perfectly content with CitiField.

And as far as the second question goes: No. If one of the main themes of Citi Field is ditching the older, more outdated stadium, why bring along its crappy, peeling, beat up paper mache excuse for an apple? Make a new apple! A bigger, better one! One that shoots fireworks!

What do you think, if anything, should be done about the surrounding area (Willets Point) in the wake of the new stadium? Do you think that’s a problem?

Aaron: Walking around almost any of the other ballparks around the country gives you a good idea about what Shea Stadium is missing. In any of the good new ballparks, like San Fransisco or Baltimore–and of course the old, such as Fenway or Wrigley–part of the experience is not simply being at the ballpark but also taking in the surrounding area, where you can buy knockoff jerseys, eat ballpark food for street prices, mingle with other fans, etc. In some places, the ballpark is actually integrated into the downtown area of the city. It’s not fair to ask the latter of Shea Stadium, but Willet’s Point to me is not just lacking for restaurants or other places to congregate, it’s completely, almost unimaginably, disgusting. The only ballpark I’ve been to with no surrounding commercial development was Dodger Stadium, which makes up for that by being in the middle of a beautiful park, having a “THINK BLUE” hollywood sign, and providing great views of the downtown LA area. From Shea Stadium, you’ll find Manhattan if you’re looking for it, but Shea is built especially to showcase . . . downtown Flushing. Even Port St. Lucie has a better atmosphere around the ballpark than Shea. If the Mets ever want to make CitiField an elite baseball experience, they are going to have to push for a complete overhaul of the surrounding area. Even tacky, generic blandness, like Chili-esque places (shudder), would be better than what’s there now.

Dan: Having been a New Jersey suburbanite for the last two-thirds of my life, I can honestly say that my Shea experiences begin and end at the 7-train stop or the parking lot. I know very little about the surrounding neighborhood, other than that it’s full of scrap yards, and that Mayor Bloomberg described Willets Point as a “euphemism for blight.”

If you’re into this sort of thing, there’s a hell of a nightlife that’s a quick 30-minute train ride from Shea or Citi Field, so I can’t say I’m too personally concerned by the surrounding neighborhood. It’s certainly an important political issue for New York City residents, but I think it’s a bit miscast as a baseball issue, and, as much as I love to talk politics, I don’t do that here.

Mike: After visiting Turner Field, a stadium in the middle of an undeveloped area is a drag. Developing the area would be great for baseball fans, but the community needs to be well compensated.

Chuck: If there were a way to detonate a bomb to level the half mile circumference around Citi Field without harming the stadium or any of the city’s residents, I would be all for it. The area is awful. Yankee Stadium isn’t exactly in Dubai, but at least you can go get a beer and hang out at Stan’s with other Yankee fans. At Shea, your only social option would be to rub elbows with the purveyors of the fine chop shops across the street. Good times.

Are you excited about Citi Field, and do you think there is enough differentiation among the new “mock-retro” ballparks (CitiField, Camden Yards, New Yankee, New Busch, etc.) to make them unique? Along the same lines, what, to you, makes a good ballpark?

Aaron: I know that the Wilpons have been bent on a Ebbets Field memorial for quite some time, and anything is better than Shea Stadium, so I’m not too surprised, or upset, that CitiField is looking like a retro-style ballpark. Not to mention, because of the area, there’s not too much “exciting” you could do with the model that takes advantage of surroundings. Because New York has such a strong baseball tradition, it’s fine to have a ballpark that pretends to be old. Unlike, say, Minnesota. So can the retro movement end here please?

A good ballpark has some combination of:

* good food
* good views of the field
* good views of city landmarks/skyline
* an attractive color scheme
* some kind of unique features, like the Green Monster or the Apple
* a name that isn’t sold to a sponsor
* an attractive and vibrant surrounding area

Dan: Camden Yards started an avalanche of predictability and cookie-cutterishness in new ballparks, but I have to say: many of the things about the new ballparks are intrinsically good ideas.

– Open concourses: it’s good to be able to see the field while walking around.
– Seats that face the field: this one is obvious.
– Cup holders: nice to have a place to keep your drinks.
– Wide seats/aisles: stadium architects have come to grips with the reality that Americans have gotten bigger over the past few generations.
– Seating in the outfield: you can fit more seats in a stadium if you use the space in home run territory for seating
– No isolated sections: bleacher sections should not be cordoned off from the rest of the stadium; you should be able to walk from section to section, exploring the various food items, etc. Progressive Field in Cleveland does this well. Yankee Stadium’s bleachers are entirely separate from the rest of the stadium, and I wouldn’t design a new stadium this way.
– Low-elevation upper decks: it’s nice to be able to see things from the worst seats in the house
– No obstructed view seats: it’s generally unpleasant to sit behind a pole at a baseball game.

I don’t feel that it’s too much of a stretch to say that these things should always be considered in building new ballparks. Simply for the sake of something new, I would like to see something unexpected in the next new park. But it should incorporate all of those things.

And having seen a fair number of stadiums, fan enthusiasm trumps anything about the stadium itself, as far as getting a great experience. There’s absolutely nothing comparable to a game at Wrigley, poor sightlines and obstructed views be damned.

Chris: I’m really disgusted by the majority of the new ballparks and just how completely dull and lifeless they are. I don’t really think the fans should be footing the bill when the majority of the massive improvements made to the ballpark don’t really benefit the fans that much. Cupholders on seats are a plus, and better services for the handicapped and bathrooms are also good improvements. Other than that, I don’t think it really adds much to the experience.

I think purely as a fan, I like my ballparks to be distinctive. Unique dimensions are a good start, as they provide a bonus to players who play 81 games a year there instead of 3 or 9. I think a beautiful skyline is worth building towards. I don’t think anyone has really taken anything near this tact with any of the new ballparks. Sure, some of them are hitters parks with short porches, some of them have enough space in the outfield for the ball to roll for days. Really the most distinctive feature in any current ballpark is Tal’s Hill in Minute Maid Park, and thats not even something that I find aesthetically pleasing.

I don’t have much hope for the business side of baseball to ever make ballparks that appeal to me as a fan, because I know better. But if someone could build some distinguishing features into these hundred-million-dollar facilities, that would be a good start.

Mike: I am looking forward to seeing the park, but fans are what makes a ballpark experience fun. The Park itself is just brick and mortar.

Chuck: I do think there is enough differentiation amongst the newer parks, mostly in the way of field design. If CitiField’s concourse is as wide open and comfy as the newer parks (Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, etc.), then I’m all for it. The field itself is what gives the stadium its personality and, from what I can tell, Citi Field will provide plenty of personality.

As for what makes a ballpark, I’ll say intimacy, convenience (parking, manageable bathroom/concession lines, etc.), and fan base. You could have the nicest stadium in the world aesthetically put in Miami, but those fans will leave the building half-empty, taking away from what could be an enjoyable fan experience.

Milo:The Mets have needed a new stadium for quite some time now, and it should be a captivating place to watch a ballgame. One thing I like about the new retro stadiums is that there are still remnants of the franchise’s history remaining. The new Busch Stadium has images of Rogers Hornsby and other Cardinal greats on the left field wall, as well as the Gateway Arch in the background. Camden Yards has the B&O Warehouse behind the right field fence. The New Yankee stadium will be a complete waste of time, much like the old Yankee Stadium. I’m completely on board with the new stadiums’ bandwagon.

What makes a great ballpark? One without Aaron Heilman in it! Hi-yo!

Definitely one with fans who are into the game. I hate Citizens Bank Park, but when their team’s down nine runs and a Phillie gets a hit, you can hear the momentum building in the crowd. Shea Stadium’s always rocking when the Mets begin to mound a rally late in games, its that kind of atmosphere that I hope carries over to CitiField.

Alex: The retro parks definitely are a little same-y. But they have improved a few things, and chief among those are the open concourses. I was shocked how much of a different it made when I first walked into Citizens Bank Park, the first new park I’d visited. Not only is it nice being able to see the field from almost anywhere, but it really helps unify the design of the venue. Closer upper decks with lesser slopes are a huge improvement, too.

In the end, the ballparks that history fondly remembers are the most unique ones with interesting architectural features. Fenway’s Green Monster, Wrigley’s bleachers and ivy. I really think history will be kinder to Chase Field in Arizona, the only truly unique new ballpark out there right now.

One Response to “Goodbye Shea, Hello CitiField Roundtable: The Geeks, Part II”

  1. Comment posted by swoboda on September 27, 2008 at 12:31 pm (#864601)

    I am looking forward to the Mets getting new washing machines. The current ones shrink the uniforms. They fit ok for the few few months of the season, but by the end of the season, they really make the necks of the shirts really tight, making the Mets Choke Every god damn year.