I got my first up-close glimpse of the Mets’ new ballpark, Citi Field, this weekend. Needless to say it’s a vast improvement over Shea. The views are better, the concourses wider, the sound system more audible, the bathrooms more plentiful (and cleaner), and of course it’s a whole lot prettier, inside and out. Overall, I love it. But I’m not IN love with it.
First, the good:
The much-hyped Jackie Robinson Rotunda is stunning, inside and out. Symmetrical curving staircases, giant paintings of Jackie, enormous windows, and lots of dark gray steel and orange brick. There’s also a 10-foot-high, 3-D, Dodger blue number 42 where people will no doubt be taking pictures all year long. It did strike me as a bit odd to have such a grand tribute to a man who never played for the Mets and had no direct connection to them, but if any player deserves such a tribute, it’s Jackie. The whole thing is truly majestic and worth walking through even if you’re parked on the other side of the stadium.
The new home run apple looks great in dead center, and will look even better popping up after each Met homer. And the old apple from Shea is here too, just inside one of the outfield entrances to the stadium.
The field itself is beautiful. Gone are the dead patches of outfield grass we saw in Shea. And the outfield dimensions are quirky, with enormously deep gaps, and fences of varying height. Lots of foul ground in the infield, very little in the outfield.
The bleachers not only go all the way around the stadium but have multiple levels. I have to say it’s nice to see fans in the outfield. And, unlike at Shea, you don’t have to buy 100 tickets to sit there.
The bathrooms are located evenly and frequently throughout the building, and they’re all controlled by sensors, so you don’t have to touch anything. By midseason that will be a huge selling point.
Now, the bad:
Citi Field is kind of like John Mayer: there’s nothing specific to point to as bad, but there’s an overall feeling that it’s lacking somehow. What I mean is, it’s just as nice as the Nationals’ new stadium. And the Phillies’ new stadium. And the Reds’ new stadium. And the Rangers’ new stadium. In fact, it looks just like them. And that’s the problem. Aside from the home run apple and the rotunda, there’s little tying this stadium to New York, or even to the Mets. I feel like, with a few minor logo changes here and there, the stadium could be airlifted out of New York and dropped in any major city and fit in just as well.
The whole reason all these new stadiums were built was to replace bland, soul-less cookie-cutter stadiums. But what the architects at HOK Sport have done in several recent cases is simply replace the old, round cookie cutter with a nicer one. I expected more from the Mets, more from New York. I expected the stadium to have a soul.
Still, it’s gorgeous and comfortable and nicely appointed and modern and classic, and I’m going to truly enjoy my new summer home. It may have no soul, but its body is a wonderland.