I admit it.  While everyone else was making a big hoopla about saying goodbye to Shea Stadium last season I was ready to take a sledgehammer in hand and start demolishing the place by myself (even more so in September when the Mets collapsed yet again).  No, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to Citi Field, but Shea was the worst park in the game and a lousy place to watch baseball.  That’s not to say there weren’t some great memories in the tired old place, but no fans in baseball deserved to have that stadium inflicted on them.

Brand new Citi Field Park
Photo by p.of.c., used under creative commons license.
Over the past two years I watched as Citi Field went up. I could see the different stages of construction from both Shea during the season last year and from the Whitestone Expressway each time I drove by.  I had to admit, the park looked pretty good as it went up, so when I was offered some preseason tickets to see the Mets and Red Sox tangle I just had to go and see the new park.

To be fair, I wanted to see the park a couple of times before I wrote a review, and now that the rubble of Shea has finally been cleared from the parking lot, I’ll share my thoughts with you.

While overall I would say that Citi Field is a world class ballpark, it isn’t exactly breaking much in the way of new ground in its design.  Like most of the stadiums built for baseball since the early ’90s the design is, well, somewhat cookie cutter.  While they aimed hard to create a synthesis between modern ballpark and nostalgic ballpark of yesteryear, they didn’t really hit that mark.  This isn’t Ebbets Field and doesn’t evoke feelings of it in any but the most superficial of ways.  In fact, this stadium seems more like a hybrid between Coors Field in Colorado and Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia than it does Ebbets or any old time field.

My first visit to a ballpark usually involves a lot of wandering, checking out the unique features, the quality of the concessions and of course checking out the view from the seats.  It’s the seating which concerns me most, and it’s on those grounds that I get my overall feel for the place.

Once you get beyond the obscene pricing, there is a lot to like about the seating at Citi Field.  Perhaps the most important aspect of it is that almost every seat, especially those in the upper deck, is closer to the action than it would be at Shea, but also that the seats are properly aligned and actually face the infield.  Sadly, the architect’s HOK Sport of Kansas City (who also have designed most of the other stadiums built in the last two decades) seem to have forgotten all the lessons they learned when designing seating for upper decks -- leading to sections with poor lines of sight, partial views and views obstructed by people coming and going.

Happily there aren’t too many really bad seats, so that can largely be overlooked as a flaw to concentrate on the many good features of the ballpark -- and there are a lot of them. The highlight might actually be the promenade level walk around the park with outstanding views and top notch ballpark food.  Family friendly features are sparse compares to many other parks but include Fanfest with a scale replica of Citi Field for the kids to play in, a dunk tank and several other games, as well as a Mets shop full of kids only merchandise.

Some of the more unique features include the open bullpens that can be viewed through chain link fences at eye level down outside the Bullpen Gate (one of the park entrances), the Jackie Robinson rotunda (which I have to admit puzzles me a bit since the Mets really had no connection to Jackie), a strange little deviation in right field wall which was added to create some character on the field and three club level patios which are only accessible to those buying some of the more pricy tickets.

On the whole, it’s a great place to take in a game, but it doesn’t stack up well compared to a lot of its peers of the last few decades, except perhaps in terms of food, audio-video system and closeness of even the upper deck to the playing field. 

Still this place rates 2 out of four balls. Don’t look for a lot of unique personality.  It seems a shame that they replaced cookie cutter Shea with a stadium design that in itself has become rather “cookie cutter” over the last 20 years.

Virtual Citi Field Walkthrough: