FLUSHING, NY – Don’t blame the Mets for Citi Field not being Shea Stadium.
It’s not supposed to be.
The new building in Queens is quite a site to be seen. It’s everything Shea Stadium was not, while still maintaining the charm that the Mets have enjoyed at home for the past 44 years.
This is not a cathedral, like the Old Yankee Stadium. Nor is it a confessional, as my friend Wally Matthews coined Shea during the ultimate week of the 2008 season. And it certainly is not a mall of commerce, which the Yankees are planning on opening on the other side of 161st Street in a couple of weeks.
No, Citi Field will be a fun little carnival with the patrons in mind throughout the stadium.
Credit the Mets for thinking of the fans when building this park. There are plenty of concession areas, tons of bathrooms – although it does have strange urinals – and even a place to keep the young kids occupied for a few innings.
Plus, as an added bonus, the Mets actually lowered prices on many of the munchies, an average of a 6% decrease on burgers, soda, water, and even beer. Unlike the Yankees, who feel the need to just charge more everywhere, the Mets are giving their fans somewhat of a break.
All of this gives Citi Field a family atmosphere. Unlike the Bronx where children are supposed to be seen and not heard, kids are a welcome sight in Queens. The fan fest, all the way out past center scoreboard, features a waffle ball field and other kid friendly activities. It’s a smart move by the club, since young kids seeing the Mets eventually become adult Met fans.
Right by the fan fest are the Blue Smoke and Shake Shack stands. Topped with the skyline of the old scoreboard from Shea, these will be the concessions the fans will want to purchase, as the signature restaurants raise the bar of the food in Queens.
Also in center – actually right center – the bridge over the bullpens will allow the fans to keep the relievers honest. And the open concourse will help the fan keep tabs on the game. Go down the stairs behind the ‘pen and the old Home Run Apple is proudly on display.
Of course there’s also the Jackie Robinson Rotunda behind the plate, a museum to one of the more important figures in baseball history.
Even with all of the amenities, Citi Field will be fan driven. A friendlier confine will bring the action closer to the crowd. And although there are less seats a more intimate setting will make the place pretty intimidating for the opposition.
It’s actually hard to argue with the Mets decision to make the place seat only 42,000. Shea was rarely full over the years and mid-40,000 crowds still make the place feel empty. A packed house almost every night will put the pressure on the opposing team.
That will make Citi Field well…fun. And that is what the Mets want. With so many problems in the world today, baseball is supposed to be an escape. And today, a little over 22,000 fans experienced that for the first time in the new building with Georgetown beating St. John’s.
Sure there’s work to be done before the official open on Apr. 13, as the Mets need to put up the retired numbers, pennants, distance markers, some ads, and a few more leftovers from Shea. But this soft opening was a rousing success. The way baseball should be.