THE METSGRRL GUIDE TO SHEA STADIUM.
Hi there. You probably want to take a look at my GUIDE TO CITI FIELD, given that Shea Stadium no longer exists.
In honor of the last season, for those of you out-of-towners headed for Flushing to see the old gal before they knock her down (can’t implode buildings in the NYC limits any more), I present to you The MetsGrrl Guide To Shea Stadium. Obviously, this is not for the people who are out in Flushing every week. I looked and looked for a good guide to Shea, and couldn’t find one. Since I’m relatively new to the joint, I judged myself most qualified to write one.
I’ve closed the comments because it wasn’t being helpful any more, and too many potential visitors were leaving comments looking for advice instead of writing in.
Last updated: July 22, 2008: I keep updating based on search queries I see come into the site. Here’s a summary list of the most popular requests:
- There is no bag check at Shea Stadium, but you can bring bags, water, and food into the stadium. You can bring soda or any other non-alcoholic drink in a plastic bottle. You can also bring sunscreen.
- There are no bars, restaurants or things to do near Shea.
- There is no detailed seating map beyond the one that’s on the Mets’ web site. We’re losing the stadium this year, no one is going to do one now.
- Obstructed view seats are noted below.
- Where to sit is discussed ad nauseum below.
Unless you’re trying to come to see the Subway Series, a Saturday game, or flying thousands of miles, you probably don’t need to buy tickets months in advance if it’s just important for you to be in the stadium. Keep in mind, however, you’re not the only one thinking this – there are hundreds of thousands of people in the Tri-State area who want to take Grandpa or the kids or their nephew to Shea one last time. So ticket sales are up this year and it will be harder than it’s been before to get tickets.
Mets.com is your friend for ticket purchasing, or you can call 718-507-TIXX. They are still not in bed with Ticketbastard, so enjoy the quaintness of our ticketing system for one last year. If you don’t like what you’re pulling, pick up the phone and call until you get someone who knows the system well and can help you out. Not all ticket operators are equal. You want to find the one who can say, “Well, I can put you in row K of Section 1 but if you’ll sit in Section 4 I can put you in row C.”
Important: Just because the ticket system online says that you’re getting “best available” does not necessarily mean that you are. Let me stress this again: if you do not like what you pull up online, pick up the phone and call. You are not dealing with a Ticketmaster operator, you are dealing with someone who will likely know the vagaries of the Mets ticketing system and can help you get something better. If you live overseas, you are better off waiting until you can call than buying anything just to get in the door. And if you read this guide only to discover you’ve bought a crappy seat, call the Mets: in the comments below, people note how they went through the same thing only to have the Mets exchange their tickets for them.
Secondary market: You can also try StubHub (now that MLB is in bed with them), but be prepared to pay. A lot. A heckuva lot, if you’re coming from out of town, and are used to lower ticket prices. There is now a StubHub pickup window at Shea, and fairly decent buyer protection. I have seen some incredible bargains there, but I have also seen a lot of overpriced crap there. Caveat emptor.
Day of Game: There are ticket windows at gate E (the first gate you come to after getting off the subway) and gate A, all the way on the other side of the stadium. If you are in town ahead of time, you can go to the Mets Clubhouse Shop on 42nd St., right near 5th Avenue, and buy a ticket there. Do not expect great knowledge of the ticketing system or the Shea seating chart, however. Keep in mind that service charges apply to all purchases except those at the stadium. However, these are not Ticketmaster-type charges, they’re still somewhat reasonable.
WHERE TO SIT
Field level seats, if you can find them, will be out along the foul lines, far away from first or third bases. Want something better than that? Be prepared to pay, because you will only find them on the secondary markets. It’s worth it, but you’ll pay double what you’re used to, unless you are from Boston or Chicago.
Loge: I hate the loge and would never recommend you sit there. This is my own personal bias. I have good friends with plan tickets on the loge. I enjoy visiting them from time to time. I still prefer our seats. If you are going early in the year, it will be warmer down there than anywhere else. If you go later in the year, you will feel like you are sitting in a hot, humid cave. I am not going to deny that sitting in the loge boxes right behind home plate is an awesome ticket – IF you can find one and are willing to pay the price for it. The point of this guide is to address what your average fan is going to find available for purchase.
Mezzanine: I love the mezzanine. I think it’s the best place to sit at Shea. Mezz regular or mezz boxes, you can’t really go wrong. Plus, most of the mezz reserved is covered, but it’s a high enough distance from the seats to the overhang that you don’t feel like you’re in a cave, like you do on the loge (in my humble opinion). The concessions and bathrooms are not quite field level quality but not bargain-basement upper level mode. Seriously, do not underrate the mezzanine at Shea.
Upper deck: Like the bleachers at Wrigley, the upper deck is the place to be on a Friday night of a big game or a Saturday, and if you’re coming to visit, I’d tell you to sit there for the real Shea experience. You have to try it at least once. There are no-alcohol sections available and sometimes it’s easier to get a ticket there than anywhere else. This is a situation, however, that you are better off calling the ticket operators and seeing what is available. They are the ones who can take you out of row K in Section 2 and put you in row B of section 4.
Obstructed view note: Rows K and L in the loge and Rows N-O-P on the mezzanine are obstructed view. You won’t see the scoreboard/diamonvision/high popups or foul balls. Avoid at all costs, unless it’s one of those ‘have to be there’ kinds of games. As noted above, if you find that you have somehow ended up with one of these seats, or somewhere very near them, call the Mets and see if they will exchange your seat for you.
Bleachers: Our bleachers are really pathetic. They used to be free entrance with a Pepsi can on Wednesdays. They used to be $5 with a Pepsi can. Now they’re $10, or $20. I will sit out there once this year for historical purposes before the bleachers are gone. Now, understand that I actively dislike sitting in the outfield (except maybe at Wrigley) so I admit that I am the wrong person to talk about this. It’s the usual deal with the separate entrance, limited concessions, and sitting next to The United Chartered Accountants Society of Great Neck on their yearly outing.
GETTING TO SHEA
Subway: Take the 7 train to the Willets Point/Shea Stadium stop. The 7 train runs right through the middle of Midtown Manhattan on 42nd Street and cannot be easier to find. It starts at Times Square, stops at 5th Avenue near the library, and then again at Grand Central before heading under the river to Queens. It takes about 30-35 minutes from Manhattan to get to Shea via 7 train.
All trains stop at Shea, but you really want to get an Express train. How do you know it’s an express train? Either the conductor will announce it, or someone on the platform will. You cannot go by the signs on the front of the train or on the individual cars – why, that would just make too much sense. You can also stick your head in the car and ask, “Express or local?” and someone might answer you. If you get on the train at Port Authority there is one side of the platform that is for the express and one side for the local, so you can’t miss it. Yes, there are all sorts of indicators, but as a New Yorker, I still don’t trust them, and instead rely on the announcement, asking someone, or the MTA employee on the platform with a megaphone yelling, ‘EXPRESS! EXPRESS! EXPRESS!” However, if you find you’ve gotten on the local instead, don’t panic. Sometimes I actively choose to get on a local so i can have a seat. It’s going to add 10-15 minutes to your travel time.
You cannot get lost on the 7 to Shea. Every week during the season I get on the train and since I’m by myself and usually reading a book, there is some group of tourists that decide that I am friendly and therefore the person they are going to ask questions of/watch/pay close attention to, just to make sure they don’t miss their stop. I could understand this anxiety if the entire train route was underground, but given that most of it is not, and you can actually SEE Shea as you approach the station, as well as take your cue from the 3,458 people wearing Mets gear that get off at that station – you can’t miss it. Really. I swear.
And for the love of all that is good and holy, PUT ENOUGH MONEY ON YOUR METROCARD SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO WAIT IN LINE AFTER THE GAME. DO IT NOW, I’LL WAIT. This means that when you arrive at Shea Stadium, if you don’t know how much money is on your Metrocard, go to the little booth at the bottom of the stairs and check. If you don’t have any money left, put more money on the card NOW. Otherwise, you will be That Person who fights the crowds and gets to the turnstiles only to see the INSUFFICIENT FARE message flash, and then have to fight your way against the tide of the thousands of people fighting their way up the stairs to the subway and go back to the booth to put more money on your card. We hate people like that.
LIRR: Unless you are going to the game with your aging Uncle Marvin from Massapequa, don’t wimp out and take the Long Island Rail Road (aka the LIRR) from Penn Station. You will miss the experience of being on a New York City subway with New Yorkers and New York baseball fans and fans of the opposing team. Those people will be on the LIRR but it’s just not the same. It is a little bit faster to take the LIRR, but it also costs a little bit more money. TBF says, buy a roundtrip ticket in advance.
If you look in the comments, you will see all sorts of people make a case for the LIRR. To me, coming to New York City to go to a game at Shea Stadium and not taking the 7 train is wimping out and missing a big part of the experience of seeing a baseball game in New York City. It’s Disney-fying the experience. There is nothing wrong or unsafe about the 7 train. I believe that real New Yorkers take the subway. Now, having said all that, if you think like John Rocker, and don’t like being around people of different colors, backgrounds and ethnicities – um, well, don’t come to New York.
GETTING HOME FROM SHEA: The MTA and the City of New York blessed us last year with express trains home from Shea after the game. So what used to take 45 minutes now takes about 20. If you are going back to Manhattan, you can get on any train, but listen to the people yelling and pointing “EXPRESS! EXPRESS!” because you want one of those. Otherwise you will be on the milk train from hell. This year, there is a new Super-Express (seriously, that is what they are calling it) and it basically skips 3 stops that are normally express stops to shorten the journey to Manhattan even more. (Those stops being Junction Blvd., Hunters Point, and Vernon-Jackson.) If you are staying in Manhattan this will not impact you except to get you back home even quicker.
IF YOU HAVE TO DRIVE: Parking is expensive ($15) and hard to come by so just get there early and suck it up. There will be traffic and you need to just get there early. There is no shortcut or way around it. And no I am not giving you hints on where to get free parking. We need that.
SECURITY AT SHEA
Things were starting to get weird last year — more and more people were reporting that they were getting hassled for items that they had brought to Shea every game for the last seven years. It doesn’t seem to have increased at this point, 4 weeks into the season.
Unlike the House of Evil, you can bring bags into Shea. There is a size limitation but I’ve never seen it enforced. There is no bag check at Shea, but unless you were bringing your golf clubs, I’m not sure what you’d need to check. I think that if you were a tourist coming to a game on the way to the airport, they would probably work with you – but on the other hand, if you bring an enormous bag in, I don’t know where you’d put it. The aisles are small.
If you are coming for a big game, or the Subway Series, or something like Fiesta Latina or Merengue Night, be prepared for very long lines to get in, and to be frisked by off-duty guards hired from Riker’s Island, which is not that far from Shea. (I’m kidding, but that is what it feels like.) Allow extra time to get into the stadium, if you cut it close you will not see first pitch. Get there at least one hour before game time. Shea security on big nights is nowhere near as draconian as it is in the Bronx, I can say with some pride.
Finally, if your ticket says gate D or E and the lines there are three miles long, keep walking around until you get to B or A. No one will say anything to you, and those gates are not as crowded because they’re further from the subway. Keep in mind that most people just walk into the first line they see and there may be a shorter one for the same gate, coming from the other direction.
They have separate lines for people with bags and for people without bags, but many times, the line for people without bags is longer than the bag line because of the lemming factor above.
PRE-GAME AND BP
Shea has one of the more generous access policies for batting practice, opening 2 1/2 hours before the game, and letting you go all the way down to the field right behind the dugout. The only area that will be off limits to you is right behind home plate and the seats from the edge of the dugout to behind home plate. There are exceptions to this, and the problem is that they don’t necessarily let you know this ahead of time. We’ve gotten there for BP and walked onto field level only to be stopped at the entrance to the seats. If that happens, head around the concourse to the outfield and try to get access that way. If that’s closed, you’re out of luck. Have a pretzel and go look for Mr. Met.
Gate C, all the way on the other side of the stadium from the 7 train exit, is where you go to get access to Shea for BP. There will be a line on weekends and in the summer.
For the most part, Mets players do not sign autographs behind the dugout. Maybe they do on some random Wednesday in April, but if you think you are coming to Shea with your David Wright 8×10 on a Saturday in June, please, keep dreaming. Even when Shea is dead there is almost no one who signs autographs in the infield. Whenever I see someone with kids behind the dugout, I send them to the outfield, where the pitchers and some of the position players will sign autographs. Shea in general is not a great place for this kind of thing and the Mets are also not terribly autograph-friendly no matter where they are.
BP is, however, a fantastic place to take photographs. I wouldn’t suggest you go behind the dugout but rather head for the front row right behind the photographer’s pit on either the first base or third base side. If you are behind the dugout you will deal with no less than six dozen 10-year-olds who will squeeze in right behind you and scream at David Wright and jump up and down, and they will throw their arms up in front of your camera ruining every shot. Take my advice, move down the line and you’ll have more peace and better photos.
FOOD AT SHEA
It is with great sadness I have to inform you that the food at Shea Stadium categorically sucks, with a few exceptions. However, in another generous move that will undoubtedly end with the Citi Field era, you can bring an entire picnic into Shea Stadium unchallenged. That’s right, you can bring food into Shea. You can even bring in drinks as long as you don’t have cans or glass bottles. (You can dump a can of iced tea or soda into a plastic bottle, too. They might open it and smell it but you can get in.)
Mama’s of Corona is the one exception to the ‘food sucks’ rule. You can get their sandwiches on the field level (even after they have thrown people out) but you will have to ask how to get there – they have a walkway cordoned off. There is also a stand on the mezzanine around the first base side. There is also sushi available on the field level, but i have never been brave enough to eat it at Shea. Otherwise, there are hot dogs (Nathan’s), fries, hamburgers, and chicken fingers, as well as sausage and peppers. Kosher concessions are on every level, except of course Friday and Saturday. The ice-cream-in-a-helmet is available everywhere and is from Carvel, so it’s one of the yummier things.
COFFEE: There is a Dunkin Donuts on field level that serves coffee in an adequate-sized container. To get there, go in Gate E, turn right, go up the escalator, and follow the food concessions around. Otherwise, you will pay $2.50 for a thimble of coffee everywhere else in the stadium.
BEER: We have Crap and Crap Lite. You can get premium beers if you get off your butt and go inside the concourse. Also those Smirnoff ice things. (You can tell how much I drink at the games.) This year we found a Brooklyn Lager stand on the mezzanine so we have officially broken the “we don’t drink at Shea” rule. At $8, we would rather wait and have a refreshing beverage from my local bodega, the God Bless Deli & Grocery, for $2.
FOOD NEAR SHEA
There is nothing.
No, seriously, I’m not kidding. Shea might be a New York City ballpark, but it might as well be in the suburbs. It’s in the middle of a enormous public park (it’s where the 1962 World’s Fair was held, and is home to the Unisphere, which music fans will recognize from the first Beastie Boys album, and tennis fans will recognize from the US Open*) and surrounded by highways on two sides. There are no bars nearby to hang out in or restaurants around the corner to stroll to. Think Miller Park more than Wrigley or Fenway. There’s nowhere to meet, nowhere to hang out, nowhere to get a quick bite either before or after the game. It sucks.
Now, I know someone’s going to come in here and comment vigorously about whatever dive bar is six blocks away from Shea down Roosevelt. Let’s be real: for all intents and purposes, there is nothing near the ballpark. I will also add that there is likely excellent Latino food down Roosevelt near Shea. But it’s a hike, it’s not like going to Fenway or Wrigley or even that dump in the Bronx. Remember, Shea is not surrounded by a neighborhood. Shea is surrounded by a park, highways, rail lines, and a body of water.
There are also no vendors anywhere near Shea. That’s always puzzled me a little bit, but the city must shut down anyone who gets enterprising. So you can’t even find your discount peanut guy or your half-price snack person or your $1 bottled water hawker down the street somewhere.
If you’re coming from Manhattan, there is a good food court downstairs in Grand Central that I’d recommend for before-the-game eats. We ate there almost every night during the 06 playoffs and it was a good option that kept us close to the train and wasn’t too expensive. After the game, if you’re adventurous enough, go to Flushing for Chinese or Korean food. There are many 24-hour joints just one stop away from Shea. Of course, if you do that, you are on the milk train back to Manhattan since the express will not be running any more. You can also get off the 7 in Jackson Heights and have great Indian food, but those places generally don’t stay open that late.
I realize that this is about the moment that you realize that yeah, a chick is really writing this, because I guess no guy ever worries about the state of the bathrooms anywhere they go. Shea was purposely built to have adequate women’s facilities and I find this to be true for the most part. However, if you are in the upper deck on a weekend, they will flood and be gross, especially the men’s rooms. Sorry about that. But, you will find lines at the men’s facilities as often as the women’s and I find a certain poetic justice in that. There are family rest rooms on every level.
Unless it is the middle of July or August, I do not care how warm it is when you left the house, or how sunny it is in Manhattan. It will be 10 degrees colder at Shea because of the wind that blows in from the water. Shea creates a wind tunnel. You will be cold. You can bring a bag in, so bring that sweatshirt. There is nowhere you can go to hide or warm up. Trust me, I speak from experience. At least once a year I underestimate the cold and I am miserable for the entire game.
You can find the best mascot in the Major Leagues out greeting his people before games. He is usually found before the games on the field level, out towards the bullpens. Sometimes they even have formal “Mr. Met is out near the Dream Seats, go get your picture taken” events. He doesn’t get to the upper decks very much although that did start changing last year.
The Mets promotional calendar is here. Forget about getting bobbleheads. Even though the boxes say “not for children under 5″ they only give them out to children under 12. Some people have luck standing just inside the turnstiles and waving $20 bills at parents. Otherwise, eBay is your friend later.
As previously warned, the Latino-themed evenings treat everyone like criminals. However, the Mets are fond of the various ethnic heritage nights, and if you get there early enough, you’ll be able to enjoy ethnic dancing from whichever culture is being celebrated. (For those about to launch into me for being xenophobic, I invite you to read last year’s tale of Jewish Heritage Day.)
Because we don’t have open concourses, there is the sprint between sides and innings, but there are also an awful lot of people who don’t observe that courtesy and will get up and down and up and down and up and down and OH MY GOD, COULD YOU WAIT FIVE SECONDS UNTIL DAVID WRIGHT FINISHES HIS AT-BAT? Thank you. It is New York, so feel free to open your mouth and use it. Being quiet and polite will have zero impact. Friday nights are the worst, any big event night comes in second.
If you walk through the tunnel wearing garb of the opposing team, or looking like you don’t know where you’re going, you will likely get accosted by an usher, who will take you to your seat and wipe it down with a dirty rag, and then stick out his hand for payment for doing so. The going rate is $2 a seat. You have been warned. However, do not expect them to do much of any use, except chase interlopers out of empty seats they do not have tickets for. Every once in a while you will find an usher who is useful at keeping the tunnel clear, but it’s not often.
I generally believe that the Mets cannot seem to grasp the concept that people want to go to Shea and Buy Things and do a crappy job in making merchandise available for purchase. Up until 2008, the Team Store at Shea is located inside the stadium, on the field level behind home plate. It is tiny, almost always out of stock of the affordable items (but even last year had like 12 Kaz Matsui personalized jerseys for sale, still), and you will wonder why you waited in line. Keep your receipt out after you pay for your purchase because a grumpy usher will treat you like a shoplifter first and a valued customer second (sorry, wait, kidding about the valued customer part) and demand to see it before they will let you leave.
In 2008, in a move uncharacteristically intelligent, they opened up a temporary store outside the stadium, just as you get off the subway, near gate E. They are open even when the Mets are out of town! I thought they had a great selection, TBF bitched about how nothing was blue and everything was black. That said, it is a more pleasant shopping experience than the Team Store inside the stadium, I haven’t seen any lines yet (not even on Sunday), and the selection appeared to be reasonable. I would still not count on being able to buy exactly what you want, but if you are just looking for a souvenir, you will not go home empty-handed.
This year, there is a line of Shea Stadium commemorative merchandise. However, I would urge you to not count on being able to find a good selection of these items at Shea, and make your purchase at the Mets Clubhouse store on 42nd Street, not far from 5th Avenue.
There are merchandise concessions on every level, but if you are in the upper deck, stop in the mezzanine to make your purchases before heading up. Every store has different items, so you may have to check a few to find what you want. The concessions that are accessible from the outside are largely useless.
I like going here once a year, although I agree with my girlfriend Coop that it’s not very baseball. However, my recommendation to you is, if you are coming on a weekend, go for Sunday breakfast with Mr. Met. You get to see the Diamond Club, the place will be empty, the brunch is yummy, and you get all sorts of bonuses (t-shirts, etc.). Keep in mind that this is an event mostly aimed at children (something that didn’t occur to either of us before we went) so it’s kind of like going for breakfast with the characters at Disney. If that doesn’t bother you, you will enjoy yourselves. There also aren’t that many people willing to get to Shea at 9 in the morning, as opposed to the people who line up before games (not kidding).
The food is very good, btw. Last year we went when the Cubs were in town, and they had Chicago-style hot dogs – and did them right. The brunch was super-yummy.
- Upper deck, far left field: Tommy Agee hit a home run into the upper deck in April 1969 – still the only ball to reach the upper deck in fair territory — and there’s a marker on one of the staircases commemorating it.
- Retired numbers: in left field on the field level, adjacent to the visitor’s bullpen.
- Bullpens: They are all the way out in the outfield corners and there is no public access, except for going all the way out to the edge of Shea on the loge level and hanging over the side. You can do this before the game starts. The visitor’s bullpen is the one with the gigantic Dunkin’ Donuts cup inside it.
- Home Run Apple: Will be up before the game starts, out in center field just over from the bleachers.
- World Series Trophies: are near the entrance to the Diamond Club. You can see them by going to the Diamond Club store, which is open to the public. Ask an usher for directions.
- Designated Drivers: Get a free small soda. You can sign up and get a voucher on every level near home plate.
- Fan assistance booths: I don’t know what they would help you with, because you can’t even get a bandaid from them, but they’re behind home plate on every level.
- There are no proposals at Shea, so you won’t have to suffer through that. We do have a Kiss-cam, though. However, unlike Philadelphia, our idea of fun is not putting the camera on two male fans of the opposing team. (Make your jokes about the City of Brotherly Love now.)
- Citi Field preview center: This is on the loge behind section 9. They only let in 20 people at a time, so if you are there early (say, BP has finished) you might want to try getting in line for it. Obviously the point is to convince us all to upgrade to a full season, but they do have some cool VR that will show you what the vantage is like from different points inside Citi Field.
THINGS TO NOT DO AT SHEA
- The roll call. Go to the Bronx if you want to pull that shit.
- The Wave. I don’t care if someone wearing a David Wright jersey starts it first.
- Wear gear of a team that is not playing the Mets. I’m not talking about the two guys from Kansas City wearing their hats while touring every baseball stadium in America. I’m talking about the morons who show up decked out like their team was actually playing.
- Start the “Yankees suck” chant unless we are actually playing the Yankees. This isn’t Boston.
- It’s not our tradition to throw back home run balls of the opposing team, but we respect people that do. At Shea, however, you might have to suffer through an announcement about how it’s against the rules to throw things on the field. My response to that is unprintable.
- Sing “Sweet Caroline” or whatever nonsense they foist upon us during the 8th inning. (Okay, I admit this is just me trying to quell this stupidity. Plenty of people sing along and enjoy it. Just don’t do it in section 12 or you’ll be glared at. Fiercely.)
Take a look around on MetsGrrl. Unless it’s obviously a wire photo or credited to someone else, I took the photo – so that should answer your question. I don’t believe they allow tripods, but unless you’re accredited and sitting in the photographers’ box, I’m not sure how that’s going to help you. Of course, MLB does not allow video cameras in ANY ballpark. I swear I once saw something on the Mets’ site saying ‘no detachable lenses,’ and went through great lengths smuggling my telephoto lens into the 06 playoffs – only to watch some guy with a lens six times the size of mine walk through security unchallenged.
Welcome to Flushing and enjoy your stay in the Big Apple. Please feel free to email at me (use the link in the left sidebar over there) if you have other questions.
Where to stay near Shea: See the section above about how there is nothing near Shea. There is a Holiday Inn we charitably refer to as “across the street from Shea” but it’s across the Grand Central Parkway, which means that walking there is a looonnnnng way, and then, there is nothing nearby in terms of amenities.
Shea is near La Guardia Airport, which also has its share of airport hotels, and you could cab it over to the ballpark, or get the shuttle to a bus to the subway to… you get the idea.
There are also hotels in downtown Flushing, some of which are actually supposed to be nice.
However, given that Shea is RIGHT NEAR the greatest city in the world, unless you have serious budget constraints, I can’t imagine why you’d stay out here. But there’s some guidance if you absolutely have to.