...you know where I'm going.
As cynical as I was during CitiField's construction process, I couldn't help but be a little excited attending the ballpark's soft opening featuring the baseball squads from St. John's -as the visiting team- and Georgetown last Sunday. On the ride there, if I wasn't certain which major league team called the ballpark home, I was painfully reminded by the same miserable cold and wet weather that closed out Shea Stadium. That was a shame, because it killed any chance of a festive atmosphere -outside of one St. John's cheering section in the 'Promenade:' I'll get to the stupid section names later.
Upon arrival at the Mets/Willets Point station, -good for the MTA for attempting to get something out of the Mets and Citi- you're spit out into the entrance plaza with some token tree and flower patches sprinkled in to try to differentiate it from the adjacent parking lots. The grand entrance, the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, is a hulking mass of fake brick arches and massive steel trusses that along with the cheap looking escalators evokes a subway station much moreso than Ebbets Field. Would it have killed anyone to put some skylights over the space and not make it seem like an entrance cavern? Like what the Yankees did in their entrance plaza? Anyway, the rotunda has some nice posters of Jackie Robinson, though there were still a few open slots left to be filled. While this is a great gesture to one of the most important athletes in American history, where's the love for Branch Rickey? I'll get to the very, very, very uneven 'tribute' to New York National League baseball later as well.
Moving on, the concourses are wide and lined with plenty of concession stands and restrooms, but the exposed metal decking of the floor above is more appropriate for a warehouse, not a ballpark -wasn't this supposed to be a departure from austere and minimalist designs of the 60s? How about a hung ceiling at least? Or get creative and make it vaulted. The only highlight of my time there was seeing Jeff Coup-, er Wilpon strolling around with an associate, probably trying to overhear conversations or go over punchlists. The centerfield food court offers a great selection of food, including tacos/burritos, Danny Meyer's Shake Shack and Blue Smoke as well as a grocery -very generic, shoulda used local context and model it after a Corona bodega- that sells packaged salads, sushi and most importantly Mamma's of Corona's heroes. Thankfully, the skyline that graced the top of Shea's Gambler's Scoreboard™ has a new home on top of the Shake Shack and Blue Smoke -the original apple unfortunately is in a dark corner under the bullpen bridge: cave troll treatment. Speaking of the Gambler's Scoreboard™, it's successor pales in comparison. It's an obstructive little row of scores over the left field upper level seats that considering how much empty ad space the park has around the jumbotron and outfield wall, they may as well have put a newer, bigger one, like what's done in the parks Pacific Northwest cousin, Safeco Field. The ads that are there consist of an embarrassing array from the likes of Bob's Discount Furniture, Alliance Building Services (???) and an equipment rental company whose name I can't even remember. All that's missing are ads for pawnshops and Denny's.
A word of advice when navigating the ballpark, unless you want access to the Mets' offices -with gorgeous chop shop views- do not take the staircase on the promenade level behind center field and next to the mechanical equipment. It takes you straight down to the exit at street level, or if you're adventurous you can attempt re-entry by walking through the inner ring that connects to the clubhouses and press room -which by the way looks great, Jerry Manuel is gonna love talkin gangsta with the press after games- and eventually the elevators that can send you back up to your choice of the Metropolitan, Empire, Sterling (nice Wilpon schill) or Promenade Levels. I would've loved to have seen Coup's Stoop, Bernie's Bench or something a little more creative, but that's just me. That's probably one way the Mets differentiated the park from its peers in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, because if you didn't know any better, you wouldn't be able to tell where you are if you were sitting in the middle of the park.
I suppose the one instance of 'creativity' evident in the park are the 'homages' to the New York Giants in the form of black and orange garbage receptacles and outfield wall. Yeah, so deep, I can see Willie Mays snagging flies in center field and throwing his gum away in a trash can... The Phillies, who had no need to even reference their much more successful cross town rival, the Athletics, put up a nice exhibit chronicling the history of Philadelphia baseball: if HOK and the Mets are gonna use templates from every other new park, where was this one? The Giants were the class of New York National League baseball, but you wouldn't know it, at least according to ol' Fred. We've to thank Fred 0as well as co-conspirators Mayor Giuliani and George Steinbrenner- for these new parks, because if he and George didn't leave their parks in such disarray, there wouldn't have been enough clamor for replacements. Dodger Stadium is as old as Shea and even older than Yankee Stadium II and is in great shape. Where have you gone, Nelson Doubleday?
There's so much more I can vent about, but I don't want this to become a dissertation. As the old saying goes, I root for the laundry, so I don't care where the Mets play, as long as I can go to games every once in a while. At least I can stuff my face to avoid thinking about CitiField's shortcomings. Oh well.
LET'S GO METS!!!!