THE METSGRRL CITI FIELD PREVIEW.

If you are looking for information about Citi Field, I would refer you to my comprehensive Citi Field Guide instead.

[Welcome to readers from MetsBlog, Baseball Musings, Baseball Fever and everywhere else.]

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It is difficult right now for me to put into words how and what you will feel when you walk into the new Mets ballpark for the first time. I have been sad, and angry, and with the downgrade of my planholding and the loss of the People’s Seats I have felt seriously disenfranchised as a fan. The demise of Shea was heartbreaking, even for a newbie such as myself. It was tough to find joy in “our new world-class home” when it seemed like the Welcome mat was not out in that home for average schlubs like you and me.

An awful lot of that has shifted with my tour of the new ballpark today. It was like that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy wakes up and everything is in color. It felt odd, because I am not used to being comfortable when I go see the Mets. I am not used to having room. I am not used to things being carefully thought out and well-planned.

I will get used to this. I am ready to get used to this. It will be so good, so very very good, to finally have my home ballpark be near the top of my all-time favorite ballpark list.
Citi Field is breathtakingly beautiful. It is absolutely stunning. Everything that Jeff Wilpon has said about it is true and then some. (it is very hard for me to type that sentence.) You will walk in the first time and be speechless, because they did such a terrible job in trying to describe it to fans. That’s because the people doing the describing were, at best, professional fans, and at worst, people parroting the party line.

The worst disservice was probably the fact that everyone dismissed it as just another HOK ballpark, as though there was some cookie cutter that HOK dropped down from the sky. It does not feel like anyone else’s ballpark, which is what I was worried about. Yes, there are elements that will seem familiar, but they are not identical. The ironwork is the best example I can think of. It’s a visual theme in Pittsburgh and in Arlington as well, but you’re not walking into Citi Field and thinking, “Oh, yeah, ironwork, just like X ballpark.” Yes, there are similarities, I’d be stupid to suggest otherwise. But cookie cutter it is not.

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The space. Everyone talks about bigger seats and more legroom and the width of the concourses, but what’s tough to visualize is what the sum total of all that new room does. The ballpark is already remarkably spacious but the use of open public space just makes you feel comfortable. You know that cramped feeling you had at the end of a game at Shea, especially if the Mets lost? You won’t have that here.
The aisles aren’t cramped, the concourses aren’t cramped, the food plazas aren’t cramped, and dear god in heaven, the SEATING is not cramped. I will not be massaging my bad knee by the top of the 5th inning any more. It will increase your enjoyment of Mets baseball exponentially, especially if the team is any good. If they are not, at least you will not go home with aching body parts.

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The other thing that will get you is how intelligently they thought about the access points. They make it easy to get everywhere, and they put in multiple ways to do so. You’re not going to be stuck with five sets of incredibly inconvenient ramps that don’t take you where you want to go. You are going to feel incredibly liberated, compared to how you felt sitting at Shea during a game. If you ever had to make the trek from the upper deck to the mezzanine just to get your kids chicken fingers, this will make you happy. And unless you’re jonesing for Shake Shack or one of the speciality restaurants, you’re probably going to be fine with what’s near you, and what’s going to be near you is probably going to be A LOT.

Of course, we wanted to check our our seats. I think we did pretty well, but tell me what you think. This is from row 14 of section 514.

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Even our tour guide was impressed we had done so well. The only down side is that we are going to be windier than we were before because the top of the stadium is chain link and we are only three rows from the top. However, we are also getting a little bit of cover, and I imagine that will come in handy from time to time.

So this is the part where I say, “You know how they kept saying how even though you might be higher, you’re closer to the field, and I kept saying, ‘Yeah right, idiots, do you think I’m stupid, you’re just trying to spin it so everyone who got relocated from the mezz isn’t pissed off.” I am almost sorry to report that they’re telling the truth. I know, I know. You don’t believe me either. I don’t know if it’s an optical illusion – part of it is – but by moving the backstop back, home plate is brought in closer to the stands. The final proof will be when I am sitting in those seats and taking photos of actual baseball players. I should have done that today, but instead we just – enjoyed the view.

My number one priority was to find out was if I was going to be able to shoot the games from our seats. Other photos people have taken from our section seemed to put glass dividers and railings in the way. I was thrilled to be able to test it for myself and ascertain that I will be just fine. It will be a much different vantage point, but I think it will be better, also given that I made an off-season purchase of a new zoom lens.

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My number two priority was to ascertain my distance to the ladies’ room.

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It’s a little further away than at Shea, and since we’re behind home plate, we can’t see what’s going on (it is not a true 360 view on any level due to the club facilities and luxury boxes) but there is no shortage of bathrooms here.

My third priority was to find out if the rules for access to BP were going to change. They are NOT. The same gate opening time and access down to the field that you had at Shea will prevail at the new park. Given that the Mets have one of the most generous BP policies in MLB, I would have been very sad if that had changed.

The club rooms are stunning. The party suites are comfortable and beautiful and the view they have of the game – if you have a party, you’ll actually be able to watch the game and enjoy it, instead of being stuck out there above the Armitron clock and not seeing anything. (This is somewhat of a plug, since our guide went out of his way to show us all of the group seating options.)

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I was never in the press box at Shea, but have listened to everyone from Gary, Keith and Ron to Adam Rubin and John Delcos bitch about it. Since every ballpark tour in the country takes you to the press box, we have now seen a few. Ours is pretty damn nice.

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The Old Apple is there, where we can all enjoy it:

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It did not ever occur before to me how large it obviously had to be, although the new one is allegedly bigger.

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The bullpens will not be as accessible as we previously thought. The Mets are the upper bullpen*, but it is covered. You can, however, have a clear view to it from the same entrance where the Apple is located. (*Note: this is what our guide told us. We specifically had heard otherwise, so we made sure to ask him about it twice. Other people have heard other things and they are probably right. We’ll know for sure in a couple of weeks.)

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The best party suite, in my opinion, is the one at field level. I am going to make something happen in this space some day, mark my words.

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The skyline was just installed a few days ago. This is out in center field, and is the area for the specialty restaurants and near the wiffleball field for the kids.

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The area around the New Apple is the equivalent of the bleachers – except it’s not freaking bleachers, you’re not quarantined away from the rest of the ballpark, and you have better proximity to the good food than almost anyone else. They also have a Green Monster-like area with tables just adjacent. I hate sitting in the outfield, but this might be fun when friends come to visit.

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The Jackie Robinson Rotunda is still being frantically worked on. But they did such a fabulous job on this space. I am thrilled that this is the entrance that serves the people arriving by train, instead of turned the other way to serve the people arriving by car. (Take that, Robert Moses.) This will be the face of our new ballpark to the world, instead of Gate E – which certainly had its charms, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not going to be stubborn and curmudgeonly and insist that Gate E was better.

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Another thing being frantically worked on is the large pile-of-rubble-that-used-to-be-Shea. I would not count on parking there for a while. (I realize that many of you will never park there, but am providing the information as a public service.)

When we arrived at the stadium, there was a lot of confusion because in addition to all the tours, today was the day they were testing the plumbing. Hundreds of people arrived whose job it was to go into the bathrooms and guided by the public address system, flush the toilets en masse. (“It’s flushing in Flushing,” was the saying I kept annoying TBF with.) We found a security guard, and tried to explain why we were here.

1) She was kind
2) She was pleasant
3) She was helpful
4) She had the right information

I’m sorry, when was the last time that happened to you at Shea?

Our tour guide mentioned that security and the ushers were being trained, something he had not ever seen happen before. If this security guard is any example, they are off on the right foot. It was a huge complaint of a lot of us over the past couple of years, how we are treated like anything but valued guests in what’s supposed to be our house. I am seriously optimistic. Our guide also mentioned that part of the training is KEEPING PEOPLE OUT OF THE AISLES DURING AT-BATS, and also that it will be easier for them to do so given the improved access control. Perhaps my prayers have been answered at long last and I will no longer spend the game yelling, ‘DOWN IN FRONT – HEY PINK HAT – MOVE IT.’

The last thing I will say is this: everyone has been coming down hard on Fred Wilpon for making Citi Field into some kind of shrine to Ebbets Field. Even my father asks why they had to make it look like Ebbets Field, because Ebbets Field was gone. When you are inside, you are not thinking of Ebbets Field or the Brooklyn Dodgers. You are thinking, “Finally, a place where I can sit and watch baseball and be comfortable and not be grossed out by flooding bathrooms or waste innings waiting in line for crappy food.” You will enjoy coming here. (Unfortunately, so will an awful lot of people who don’t care about baseball, but that’s unavoidable I think.)

Yes, I am still angry at the ticket prices, and how they transitioned people from Shea to Citi, and the poor communication, and I still hate the name of the place, which becomes more and more inappropriate with every passing day. But they did us good with this ballpark. When I was sitting out on the suite level, I was struck how they were able to execute the suites into the space without sacrificing too much of the cheap seats. An awful lot of very careful thought went into the planning of this ballpark, and to do anything but acknowledge it with respect would be wrong. I am sure I will have complaints once it is open, but I have finally turned the page on 2008 – yes, I realize I was coming down to the wire there – and am thrilled for the 2009 season.

I will be happy to answer any other questions that I am able to, so feel free to go for it. I apologize that the photos are not as comprehensive as I would have liked, but I was enjoying being overwhelmed, and experiencing it, instead of documenting every last thing, and our tour guide – while solicitous and accommodating in the extreme — did still have other tours he had to give today. Also, the place is still very much under construction – everyone had to wear a hardhat, and not every area was open to the general public. I will make up for the omissions at the St. John’s game next weekend.

Shortcut to all the photos

Disclaimer: this was just a standard tour that I booked as a member of Club Mets, I got no special access or anything like that. We just had a good tour guide and we asked a lot of questions.

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